Find accurate definitions of over 5,000 Catholic terms and phrases (including abbreviations). Based on Fr. John Hardon's Modern Catholic Dictionary, © Eternal Life. Used with permission.
Ancient Catholic rites practiced by the Chinese whom the Jesuits converted to Christianity in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. These rites allowed the honoring of ancestors and the paying of token respect to Confucius. The Jesuit missionaries, notably Matteo Ricci, S.J. (1552-1610), considered these rites essentially cultural and not religious and consequently not compromising to the purity of the Christian religion. It was also believed that their practice would make the people more tolerant of Christianity. Other missionaries objected and much misunderstanding developed. In the Apostolic Constitution Ex illa die, Pope Clement XI in 1715 and Pope Benedict XIV in 1742 forbade these rites to be continued among the converts on the ground that they had a basis of superstition that could not be overlooked. The Holy See, feeling that Ricci's error was one of judgment and not of faith or morals, forbade anyone from saying that the good missionary had approved idolatry.