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Thursday, July 12, 2018
The Americanism Heresy: What Is It? Is it Still Around?
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The Encyclical Testem benevolentiae nostrae published Jan 22, 1899, was released by Pope Leo XIII on the history of Americanism.  Testem benevolentiae nostrae was written to Cardinal Gibbons of Baltimore from His Holiness Pope Leo XIII.  And while this encyclical is unknown by the vast majority of Catholics, it is nevertheless an extremely relevant document to the modern Catholic. 

Much of what we are suffering from in America is the loss of our Catholic identity, and those familiar with this forgotten encyclical will see that the situation of today is largely due to the cultural liberalism of American Catholics.  In this document, Pope Leo XIII condemned the notion that Catholics could decide doctrine for themselves (i.e. cafeteria Catholics) and accept and reject doctrines, customs, and practices according to their own whims.  The Holy Father emphasized that Catholics must obey the magisterial teachings of the Universal Church which is a universal faith that does not alter its dogmas from nation to nation.

This heresy is practiced by many Catholics who have no idea they have fallen into this heresy. 

Pope Leo XIII condemned the following trends:

  • Undue insistence on interior initiative in the spiritual life, as leading to disobedience.  He condemned the practice to put natural virtues (e.g. hard work and persistence and frugality) ahead of the Theological and Cardinal Virtues which have a supernatural element at their core.
  • Attacks on religious vows and disparagement of the value of religious orders in the modern world
  • Minimizing Catholic doctrine (especially manifested by failing to speak out and actively live, proclaim, and defend the Faith in the tendency of American life to hide religious convictions or to think that all religions are to be respected)
  • Minimizing the importance of spiritual direction
  • Maintaining the idea that all opinions should be publicly aired (this is because speech that harms morality and the truths of the Faith has no right whatsoever to be publicly proclaimed) 

In this month during which we remember America’s independence from England, I suggest reading the text online of this obscure but important document for American Catholics.


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