The Syllabus of Errors
(Condemning the Errors of the Modernists)
Sacred Congregation of the Holy Office
July 3, 1907
WITH TRULY LAMENTABLE RESULTS, our age, casting aside all restraint
in its search for the ultimate causes of things, frequently pursues
novelties so ardently that it rejects the legacy of the human race. Thus
it falls into very serious errors, which are even more serious when they
concern sacred authority, the interpretation of Sacred Scripture, and the
principal mysteries of Faith. The fact that many Catholic writers also go
beyond the limits determined by the Fathers and the Church herself is
extremely regrettable. In the name of higher knowledge and historical
research, (they say), they are looking for that progress of dogmas which
is, in reality, nothing but the corruption of dogmas.
These errors are being daily spread among the faithful. Lest they
captivate the faithful's minds and corrupt the purity of their faith, His
Holiness, Pius X, by Divine Providence, Pope, has decided that the chief
errors should be noted and condemned by the Office of this Holy Roman and
Therefore, after a very diligent investigation and consultation
with the Reverend Consultors, the Most Eminent and Reverend Lord Cardinals,
the General Inquisitors in matters of faith and morals have judged the
following proposals to be condemned and proscribed. In fact, by this
current decree, they are condemned and proscribed.
- The ecclesiastical law which prescribes that books concerning
the Divine Scriptures are subject to previous examination does not apply to
critical scholars and students of scientific exegesis of the Old and New
- The Church's interpretation of the Sacred Books is by no means
to be rejected; nevertheless, it is subject to the more accurate judgment
and correction of the exegetes.
- From the ecclesiastical judgments and censures passed against
free and more scientific exegesis, one can conclude that the Faith the
Church proposes contradicts history and that Catholic teaching cannot
really be reconciled with the true origins of the Christian religion.
- Even by dogmatic definitions the Church's magisterium cannot
determine the genuine sense of the Sacred Scriptures.
- Since the Deposit of Faith contains only revealed truths, the
Church has no right to pass judgment on the assertions of the human
- The "Church learning" and the "Church teaching" collaborate in
such a way in defining truths that it only remains for the "Church
teaching" to sanction the opinions of the "Church learning."
- In proscribing errors, the Church cannot demand any internal
assent from the faithful by which the judgments she issues are to be
- They are free from all blame who treat lightly the condemnations
passed by the Sacred Congregation of the Index or by the Roman
- They display excessive simplicity or ignorance who believe that
God is really the author of the Sacred Scriptures.
- The inspiration of the books of the Old Testament consists in
this: The Israelite writers handed down religious doctrines under a
peculiar aspect which was either little or not at all known to the
- Divine inspiration does not extend to all of Sacred Scriptures
so that it renders its parts, each and every one, free from every error.
- If he wishes to apply himself usefully to Biblical studies, the
exegete must first put aside all preconceived opinions about the
supernatural origins of Sacred Scripture and interpret it the same as any
other merely human document.
- The Evangelists themselves, as well as the Christians of the
second and third generations, artificially arranged the evangelical
parables. In such a way they explained the scanty fruit of the preaching
of Christ among the Jews.
- In many narrations the Evangelists recorded, not so much things
that are true, as things which, even though false, they judged to be more
profitable for their readers.
- Until the time the canon was defined and constituted, the
Gospels were increased by additions and corrections. Therefore there
remained in them only a faint and uncertain trace of the doctrine of
- The narrations of John are not properly history, but a mystical
contemplation of the Gospel. The discourses contained in his Gospel are
theological meditations, lacking historical truth concerning the mystery of
- The fourth Gospel exaggerated miracles not only in order that
the extraordinary might stand out but also in order that it might become
more suitable for showing forth the work and glory of the Word Incarnate.
- John claims for himself the quality of witness concerning
Christ. In reality, however, he is only a distinguished witness of the
Christian life, or the life of Christ in the Church at the close of the
- Heterodox exegetes have expressed the true sense of the
Scriptures more faithfully than Catholic exegetes.
- Revelation could be nothing else than the consciousness man
acquired of his revelation to God.
- Revelation, constituting the object of the Catholic faith, was
not completed with the Apostles.
- The dogmas the Church holds out as revealed are not truths
which have fallen from heaven. They are an interpretation of religious
facts which the human mind has acquired by laborious effort.
- Opposition may, and actually does, exist between the facts
narrated in Sacred Scripture and the Church's dogmas which rest on them.
Thus the critic may reject as false facts the Church holds as most certain.
- The exegete who constructs premises from which it follows that
dogmas are historically false or doubtful is not to be reproved as long as
he does not directly deny the dogmas themselves.
- The assent of faith ultimately rests on a mass of probabilities.
- The dogmas of the Faith are to be held only according to their
practical sense; that is to say, as perceptive norms of conduct and not as
norms of believing.
- The divinity of Jesus Christ is not proved from the Gospels.
It is a dogma which the Christian conscience has derived from the notion of
- While He was exercising His ministry, Jesus did not speak with
the object of teaching He was the Messias, nor did His miracles tend to
- It is permissible to grant that the Christ of history is far
inferior to the Christ Who is the object of faith.
- In all the evangelical texts the name "Son of God" is
equivalent only to that of "Messias." It does not in the least way signify
that Christ is the true and natural Son of God.
- The doctrine concerning Christ taught by Paul, John and the
Councils of Nicea, Ephesus and Chalcedon is not that which Jesus taught but
that which the Christian conscience conceived concerning Jesus.
- It is impossible to reconcile the natural sense of the Gospel
texts with the sense taught by our theologians concerning the conscience
and the infallible knowledge of Jesus Christ.
- Everyone who is not led by preconceived opinions can readily
see that either Jesus professed an error concerning the immediate Messianic
coming or the greater part of His doctrine as contained in the Gospels is
destitute of authenticity.
- The critics can ascribe to Christ a knowledge without limits
only on a hypothesis which cannot be historically conceived and which is
repugnant to the moral sense. That hypothesis is that Christ as man
possessed the knowledge of God and yet was unwilling to communicate the
knowledge of a great many things to His disciples and posterity.
- Christ did not always possess the consciousness of His
- The Resurrection of the Savior is not properly a fact of the
historical order. It is a fact of merely the supernatural order (neither
demonstrated nor demonstrable) which the Christian conscience gradually
derived from other facts.
- In the beginning, faith in the Resurrection of Christ was not
so much in the fact itself of the Resurrection, as in the immortal life of
Christ with God.
- The doctrine of the expiatory death of Christ is Pauline and
- The opinions concerning the origin of the Sacraments which the
Fathers of Trent held and which certainly influenced their dogmatic canons
are very different from those which now rightly exist among historians who
- The Sacraments had their origin in the fact that the Apostles
and their successors, swayed and moved by circumstances and events,
interpreted some idea and intention of Christ.
- The Sacraments are intended merely to recall to man's mind the
ever-beneficent presence of the Creator.
- The Christian community imposed the necessity of Baptism,
adopted it as a necessary rite, and added to it the obligation of the
- The practice of administering Baptism to infants was a
disciplinary evolution, which became one of the causes why the Sacrament
was divided into two, namely, Baptism and Penance.
- There is nothing to prove that the rite of the Sacrament of
Confirmation was employed by the Apostles. The formal distinction of the
two Sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation does not pertain to the history
of primitive Christianity.
- Not everything which Paul narrates concerning the institution
of the Eucharist (1 Corinthians 11:23-35) is to be taken historically.
- In the primitive Church the concept of the Christian sinner
reconciled by the authority of the Church did not exist. Only very slowly
did the Church accustom herself to this concept. As a matter of fact, even
after Penance was recognized as an institution of the Church, it was not
called a Sacrament since it would be held as a disgraceful Sacrament.
- The words of the Lord, "Receive the Holy Spirit; whose sins you
shall forgive, they are forgiven them; and whose sins you shall retain,
they are retained" (John 20:22-23), in no way refer to the Sacrament of
Penance, in spite of what it pleased the Fathers of Trent to say.
- In his Epistle (Chapter 5:14-15) James did not intent to
promulgate a Sacrament of Christ but only commend a pious custom. If in
this custom he happens to distinguish a means of grace, it is not in that
rigorous manner in which it was taken by the theologians who laid down the
notion and number of the sacraments.
- When the Christian supper gradually assumed the nature of a
liturgical action those who customarily presided over the supper acquired
the sacerdotal character.
- The elders who fulfilled the office of watching over the
gatherings of the faithful were instituted by the Apostles as priests or
bishops to provide the necessary ordering of the increasing communities and
not properly for the perpetuation of the Apostolic mission and power.
- It is impossible that Matrimony could have become a Sacrament
of the new law until later in the Church since it was necessary that a full
theological explication of the doctrine of grace and the Sacraments should
first take place before Matrimony should be held as a Sacrament.
- It was far from the mind of Christ to found a Church as a
society which would continue on earth for a long course of centuries. On
the contrary, in the mind of Christ the kingdom of heaven together with the
end of the world was about to come immediately.
- The organic constitution of the Church is not immutable. Like
human society, Christian society is subject to a perpetual evolution.
- Dogmas, Sacraments and hierarchy, both their notion and
reality, are only interpretations and evolutions of the Christian
intelligence which have increased and perfected by an external series of
additions the little germ latent in the Gospel.
- Simon Peter never even suspected that Christ entrusted the
primacy in the Church to him.
- The Roman Church became the head of all the churches, not
through the ordinance of Divine Providence, but merely through political
- The Church has shown that she is hostile to the progress of the
natural and theological sciences.
- Truth is no more immutable than man himself, since it evolved
with him, in him, and through him.
- Christ did not teach a determined body of doctrine applicable
to all times and all men, but rather inaugurated a religious movement
adapted or to be adapted to different times and places.
- Christian Doctrine was originally Judaic. Through successive
evolutions it became first Pauline, then Joannine, finally Hellenic and
- It may be said without paradox that there is no chapter of
Scripture, from the first of Genesis to the last of the Apocalypse, which
contains a doctrine absolutely identical with that which the Church teaches
on the same matter. For the same reason, therefore, no chapter of
Scripture has the same sense for the critic and the theologian.
- The chief articles of the Apostles' Creed did not have the same
sense for the Christians of the first age as they have for the Christians
of our time.
- The Church shows that she is incapable of effectively
maintaining evangelical ethics since she obstinately clings to immutable
doctrines which cannot be reconciled with modern progress.
- Scientific progress demands that the concepts of Christian
doctrine concerning God, creation, revelation, the Person of the Incarnate
Word, and Redemption be re-adjusted.
- Modern Catholicism can be reconciled with true science only if
it is transformed into a non-dogmatic Christianity; that is to say, into a
broad and liberal Protestantism.
The following Thursday, the fourth day of the same month and year,
all these matters were accurately reported to our Most Holy Lord, Pope Pius
X. His Holiness approved and confirmed the decree of the Most Eminent
Fathers and ordered that each and every one of the above-listed
propositions be held by all as condemned and proscribed.
Notary, Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith