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St Pius X: the son of a village postman who urged modernists to be ‘beaten with fists’

St Pius X (August 21) had a saintliness that no one who knew him doubted

By on Wednesday, 22 August 2012

‘A man of God who knew the unhappiness of the world’

‘A man of God who knew the unhappiness of the world’

Pius X (1835-1914, pope from 1903) is often remembered today as the pontiff who led an uncompromising crusade against modernising theologians such as Alfred Loisy in France and the Irish Jesuit George Tyrrell. Such thinkers, Pius believed, were undermining the objective supernatural character of the Church and reducing religious faith to a matter of individual taste.

In July 1907 the Pope’s decree Lamentabile Sane Exitu formally condemned 65 modernist propositions. Subsequently all the clergy were required to take an oath against them.

Unquestionably Pius X pursued his quarry with animus. “They want to be treated with oil, soap and caresses,” he said of his antagonists. “But they should be beaten with fists. In a duel, you don’t count or measure the blows, you strike as you can.”

Latterly, the Society of Pius X, founded by Archbishop Lefebvre in 1970, has helped to keep alive the image of that pope as an intransigent obscurantist. In fact, no leader of the Church since the Council of Trent had inspired so many important changes in Catholic life. 

Those who knew Pius X at close quarters never doubted his saintliness, as “a man of God who knew the unhappiness of the world and the hardships of life, and in the greatness of his heart wanted to comfort everybody”.

Giuseppe Sarto was born at Riese, near Venice, the second of 10 children of the village postman and his seamstress wife. After 17 years as a country curate and parish priest he directed a seminary at Treviso, before becoming Bishop of Mantua in 1884 and Patriarch of Venice in 1893.

As pope, Pius X strongly encouraged the frequent reception of Holy Communion, which, he made clear, should be available to young children. His many reforms included the codification of canon law, the reorganisation of the Curia, the reform of seminaries, the restoration of plainsong and the rearrangement of the breviary psalter so that all the psalms should be recited.

He also revived the theology of St Thomas Aquinas and established a commission of Benedictine scholars to restore the original text of the Vulgate.

Abroad, he sternly resisted state secularisation in France, not least in education, and refused to acknowledge the Associations Culturelles appointed to control ecclesiastical buildings in that country. Rather than submit to Republican bullying the Church gave up its property in France.

Ever conscious of the Church’s exclusive mission to the world, the Pope refused to receive Theodore Roosevelt after the former American president had lectured to a Methodist congregation in Rome.

Pius X suffered a stroke in 1913. Having long warned against the danger of European conflict, he died just after the outbreak of the First World War. Celebrated as a miracle-worker, he was canonised in 1954.

  • Mike Bizzaro

    The “sspx” heretic cult rejects Catholic Dogma as strenuously as Satan’s vatican-2 heretic cult (which was founded in 1965 at the Vatican) … like V-2 the “sspx” has nothing to do with the Catholic Church.

    Levebvre descended into Hell forever, I list outrageous heresy of the “sspx” on Section 105 of

    The “sspx” cult, founded as a sub-group of the vatican-2 cult in 1970 … was nothing but an operation to mis-direct the expected “opposition” to the vatican-2 apostasy … a common tactic with revolutionaries. 

  • Adrian Johnson

    Pope Pius X warned against the Freemasons, and most Catholics have forgotten or dismiss his warnings with embarrassed references to “conspiracy theory.”  Nevertheless the Pope was guided by the Holy Spirit to do so.  Many prelates responsible for the liturgical abuses under the banner of “the spirit of Vatican II” proved to be Freemasons, as also those who have brought the Vatican banks in to disrepute with links to the Mafia.  

  • sclerotic

    Pius X confused faith with reason. Reason proceeds by the employment of such tools as logic. Faith is a virtue not a metaphysics. It is faith that tells us that God is three persons, metaphysics seeks to establish that such statements are not absurd but it can tell us nothing of God. By reducing articles of faith to the status of propositions (and demanding oaths of loyalty to those propositions) Pius froze the language of public expression of the faith leaving the catholic church struggling to find new ways of presenting her beliefs to a world which no longer employs aristotelian categories. It is why he is beloved of conservatives but irrelevant to the kerygmatic mission of the church.

  • teigitur

    I think you need help.

  • Charles Byrne

    The claim that the Society of St Pius X “has helped to keep alive the image of that pope as an intransigent obscurantist” is very unfair, and even nasty. It seems that almost every self-confident Catholic nowadays loves to take a snide swipe at the SSPX.

    Obscurantism (from Webster): “opposition to the spread of knowledge: a policy of withholding knowledge from the general public”; or “being deliberately obscure.”

    “Intransigent obscurantist” – Notice that the rest of the article is not written in such language. It’s funny how people often beef up their use of “big words” when resorting to such attacks.

  • Gildaswiseman

    and reason go hand in hand. But what is faith? The catechism teaches
    us that it is ‘ A supernatural gift from God which enables us to
    believe without doubting whatever God has revealed’. God gave us a
    holy and saintly Pope who revealed the mind of the Church and its
    Magisterium in his fight against the destructive forces of liberalism
    and modernism. The Kerygmatic mission of the Church is to protect
    the faithful from harmful doctrines and to feed them with the
    nourishing truth of the Gospel and Traditional teaching. It is not a
    matter of semantics, It is a matter of a well defined, logical
    defence against the pernicious doctrines emanating from the minds of
    dissenters from Catholic truth.

  • sclerotic

     You confuse kerygma with dogma – as did Pius X.

  • Erasmus

    Im sure your all making excellent points, however we should all pause and consider the relevance  of this topic: or should I say, its immediate implications …

  • Waverley

    Whatever are you talking about?

    It takes a brave and ignorant man to criticise a saint.. How comfortable you must feel in your learning. Ironic that you should choose as your target the holy Pope Sarto, who preached a simple faith.


    Matt. 11:25 At that time JESUS answered and said, “I confess to thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them to little ones”

    Saint Pius X, pray for us..

  • Parasum

    “Unquestionably Pius X pursued his quarry with animus. “They want to be
    treated with oil, soap and caresses,” he said of his antagonists. “But
    they should be beaten with fists. In a duel, you don’t count or measure
    the blows, you strike as you can.””

    ## Why didn’t Jesus think of that, instead of going & getting Himself crucified ? He could have saved Himself so much trouble.

  • Parasum

     “It takes a brave and ignorant man to criticise a saint.”

    ## The Saints were flawed human beings, just like the rest of us. If they are beyond criticism, why do those who point out the mistakes made by St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Augustine of Hippo, & many other Fathers & Doctors, point out the mistakes they made ? If St. Thomas is infallible, then the dogma of the Immaculate Conception must be false; for he denied it, as did St. Bernard of Clairvaux. Are we to treat St.Augustine’s blunders in Hebrew, or those of St. Jerome, as not blunders, merely because they are both Saints & Fathers ? Are St.Jerome’s bitter attacks upon his former friend Rufinus of Aquileia justified by Jerome’s being called a Saint ? Is the denunciation of the Jews by John Chrysostom somehow holy, because he is regarded as a Saint ?

    If these & others are to be regarded as without flaw, even when they
    do things that in any else would be regarded as wicked, then Christian
    ethics has been destroyed. If a theological statement in an unsainted
    author or preacher is an error, the same statement when held by a Saint
    must also be regarded as an error. It is hopelessly relativistic to try
    to say otherwise. The violence, or other faults, of certain Saints, is
    not why they are honoured; people are Saints because of what *God* does
    in them. Those who want the Saints to be presented as flawless, are
    asking for historical facts to be falsified. The idea that the Saints
    are flawless is frequently contradicted by the  Bible: St.Paul &
    St.Barnabas quarrelled; St. Paul had a disagreement with St.Peter; St.
    Peter denied Christ three times in one night.

    The Fathers & Doctors were not beyond making all kinds of errors which others of them criticised them for: Augustine & Jerome had several disagreements, such as the one about what word to use for the “gourd” of Jonah in Jonah 4.The Fathers did not think those who had gone before them were beyond
    criticism either – so why should we ascribe to them an inerrancy &
    freedom from criticism of every kind they did not ascribe to their
    contemporaries or to those who were before them ? It is neither sinful
    or in any way wrong to point the faults, blunders, misunderstandings, or
    other deficiencies of the Saints. We are under no obligation to repeat their mistakes or to treat them as anything but mistakes. The same holds for their moral & other failings; it is no help to us if we have to bend the Christian faith in order to pretend that the sins of a Saint are admirable virtues: they are not. Children may think the Saints are flawless – shouldn’t grown-ups be capable of realising that the Saints were not by any means beyond all criticism, but were holy people none the less ? It is no dishonour to the Saints to say they were flawed & sinful: for several of them say that themselves