In the Roman Church’s traditional calendar, on September 3 (Novus Ordo, August 21), we celebrate the feast of St Pope Pius X, who reigned from 1903 until August 1914, the very eve of World War I. He was a great teacher and warrior for the truth. Would that his efforts to stamp out modernism had been longer-lasting.

I recently drilled into Pius’s excellent encyclical Acerbo nimis of 1905, on the importance of sound catechesis and how poor, or good, doctrinal teaching affects not only the state of the Church but also wider society.

Let us not forget that the Church didn’t begin in 1962. We must open wide the abundant pantry of papal teaching and savour its nourishment. It is amazing how fresh and pertinent it is, even after many decades or a century and more. Here is a sample:

We by no means wish to conclude that a perverse will and unbridled conduct may not be joined with a knowledge of religion. Would to God that facts did not too abundantly prove the contrary! But we do maintain that the will cannot be upright nor the conduct good when the mind is shrouded in the darkness of crass ignorance. A man who walks with open eyes may, indeed, turn aside from the right path, but a blind man is in much more imminent danger of wandering away.

Furthermore, there is always some hope for a reform of perverse conduct so long as the light of faith is not entirely extinguished; but if lack of faith is added to depraved morality because of ignorance, the evil hardly admits of remedy, and the road to ruin lies open. How many and how grave are the consequences of ignorance in matters of religion! And on the other hand, how necessary and how beneficial is religious instruction! It is indeed vain to expect a fulfilment of the duties of a Christian by one who does not even know them.

Given that today we are in far sorrier shape regarding morality than in the pontificate of Pius X, the saintly pope’s admonishments and solutions provide great wisdom as we look to our present duties and the care of souls. Are the preaching and catechesis where you are both sound and clear? Let us train up catechists and return to the teaching of basic Christian truths and unambiguous Catholic doctrine.

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