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Pius IX, problems in the Church, and the plenary council

By Jeff (articles ) | Mar 21, 2003

150 years ago today, Bl. Pius IX issued Inter multiplices (, an encyclical epistle pleading for unity of spirit within the French hierarchy.

After praising the fidelity and vigor of the Church in France, the pontiff deplored the lack of unity among bishops. "Your greatest aim," he wrote, "should be unity among yourselves. We want you to confidently consult Us and this Apostolic See to remove controversy in all matters of whatever kind." The pontiff then urged the bishops to do a better job educating seminarians, to promote sound publications, to correct heterodox writers, and to cultivate in the French laity "a more filial affection and obedience to the Apostolic See" so that they may "venerate it and accept it with complete obedience; they should execute whatever the See itself teaches, determines, and decrees."

This largely forgotten encyclical helps put the present state of the Church in America in perspective. Divisions among bishops, problems with seminaries, harmful writings, laity disloyal to the Holy See -- there's nothing new under the sun, even if the magnitude of the problems is greater today.

Pope Pius did note that "We joyfully recognize how eagerly you strive to obey Our desires and admonitions to celebrate provincial synods"-- which brings to mind last year's proposal for a plenary council. If I recall correctly, an ad hoc committee chaired by Archbishop Buechlein was formed in November to consider the idea, and the considerations were to take at least 18 months. Fellow Off the Record commentators: Have any of you heard any more about the status of the proposed council since the idea was sent to committee?

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