Pope St. Pius X, Motu Proprio, Praestantia Sacrae Scripturae - On The Decisions of The Pontifical Biblical Commission
November 18, 1907
In his encyclical letter Providentissimus Deus, given on November 18, 1893, Our predecessor, Leo XIII, of immortal memory, after describing the dignity of the Sacred Scripture and commending the study of it, set forth the laws which govern the proper study of the Holy Bible; and having proclaimed the divinity of these books against the errors and calumnies of the rationalists, he at the same time defended them against the false teachings of what is known as the higher criticism, which, as the Pontiff most wisely wrote, are clearly nothing but the inventions of rationalism derived from a misuse of philology and similar disciplines.
Our predecessor, too, seeing that the danger was constantly on the increase, and desiring to provide against the consequences of the propagation of rash and erroneous views, by his apostolical letter Vigilantiae studiique memores, given on October 30, 1902, established a Pontifical Council, or Commission on biblical matters, composed of several Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church, distinguished for their learning and prudence, adding to these, under the title, Consultors, a considerable body of men in sacred orders, chosen from among the learned in theology and in the Holy Bible, of various nationalities and differing in their methods and views concerning exegetical studies. In this the Pontiff had in mind, as an advantage admirably adapted for the promotion of study and for the time in which we live, that in this Commission there should be the fullest freedom of proposing, examining, and judging all opinions whatsoever; and the letter also ordained that the Cardinals of the Commission were not to come to any definite decision until they had taken cognizance of and examined the arguments on both sides, omitting nothing which might serve to show in the clearest light the true and genuine state of biblical questions proposed for solution; and when all this had been done, that the decisions reached should be submitted for approval to the Supreme Pontiff and then promulgated.
After mature examination and the most diligent consultations, certain decisions have been happily given by the Pontifical Biblical Commission, and these of a kind very useful for the proper promotion and direction on safe lines of biblical studies. But we observe that some persons, unduly prone to opinions and methods tainted by pernicious novelties, and excessively devoted to that principle of false liberty, which is really immoderate license, and in sacred studies proves itself to be most insidious and a fruitful source of the worst evils against the purity of the faith, have not received and do not receive these decisions with a proper obedience.
Wherefore We find it necessary to declare and prescribe, as We do now declare and expressly prescribe, that all are bound in conscience to submit to the decisions of the Biblical Commission, which have been given in the past and which shall be given in the future, in the same way as to the Decrees which appertain to doctrine, issued by the Sacred Congregations and approved by the Sovereign Pontiff; nor can they escape the stigma both of disobedience and temerity nor be free from grave guilt as often as they impugn these decisions either in word or writing; and this, over and above the scandal which they give and the sins of which they may be the cause before God by making other statements on these matters which are very frequently both rash and false.
Moreover, in order to repress the increasing audacity of many modernists who with every sort of sophism and artifice strive not only remove power and effectiveness not only of the decree Lamentabili sane exitu, which came by Our order from the Sacred Congregation of the Holy Office on July 3, 1907, but also of Our enciclical letter Pascendi dominici gregis of September 8 of this same year , we renew and we confirm, in virtue of Our apostolic authority, as well as that decree of the Supreme Sacred Congregation, Our enciclical letter, adding to the pain of excomunication for those who contradict them; and we declare and we deliberate that anyone who has the audacity to support, that which God does not permit, any proposition, opinion or doctrine condemned in one or the other documents cited above, will be subject to the same censorship of which the teaching head of the constitution Apostolicae Sedis, that is the first of automatic excommunication reservered simply to the Roman pontiff. This excommunication then is independent from the pains in which those who maintain in order to some point of documents mentioned can incur, as propagators and defenders of heresies, if their propositions, opinions or doctrines are heretical, that to the adversaries of the two mentioned documents fall more than one time, especially when combatting the errors of the supporters of the modernism, synthesis of all the heresies.
Taken these provisions, we recommend newly with force to the diocesan ordinaries and to the superiors of the Religious Institutes the desire to supervise with attention the teaching, primarily of the seminarians; in case they are completely found imbued with the errors of the modernists and supporters of dangerous novelities, or too little docile to the prescription of the Apostolic See in any way published, the interdicts from all the instruction. Likewise, they are to exclude from the sacred orders those young men in which there is serious doubt that the condemned doctrines or harmful novelties have been corrected. In the same way we exhort them to carefully examine the books and the other publications, certainly very diffuse, that introduce opinions and tendencies similar to those condemned by means of the enciclical letters cited above; take care to eliminate them from the catholic bookcases and much more from the hands of the young men who study and of the clergy. If they will handle all this with sollicitude, they will promote a true and solid intellectual formation, to which maximizes the sollecitude of the sacred episcopate.
All these things We will and order to be sanctioned and established by Our apostolic authority, nothing to the contrary notwithstanding.