Lesson from Pius VI on Occult Heresy

I keep writing about Occult Heresy. Why? Because it is as deadly as is heresy, since it is heresy, and it is hidden and cunning. Sometimes, its raiment is attractive, such as pseudo-humility. Thus, the unthinking, the careless, those seeking novelty, those not guarding their souls and minds carefully, drink it in somewhat unawares. It is ubiquitous in our day. Occult heresy can be propagated wittingly or unwittingly. Unwittingly, if someone is malformed in the faith and then forms others. To some extent, we all fall short; but we can avoid grave mistakes. How?

To avoid occult heresy, even unwitting, we must stay close to the Catechism. Read the crucial councils of the Church. Study also the Catechism of the Council of Trent, a marvelous wealth of the faith. Imbibe the Perennial Tradition.

This is introit to a lesson from Pius VI. He warns us that occult heretics are often very eloquent, very intelligent, seemingly humble and pious. They may hide behind a pseudo mysticism. Perhaps they themselves are unwittingly misled by the Zeitgeist.

How then to detect them? Well, you have to know the Tradition and be close to the Doctors of the Church and to the actually authoritative words of popes, i.e., to papal words. Let us receive the meat of Tradition, primarily the Perennial Tradition, the Doctors of the Church, long approved theses. If we are theological, let us know the long engaged battles legitimately fought (licit disputes) and where the strengths and pitfalls are of certain recent theories. But all this should be focused on the truth. Sources that articulate the faith clearly and enable absolute certainty – for the faith is absolutely certain – are good for us.

However, we don’t prepare ourselves rightly with bits and pieces of this and that, without much order or rhyme or reason, bits that sound alright and make us feel alright but that do not order our minds crisply towards Truth, this is not good. How does it lead to order? To truth? To knowledge of the faith? To skill at rightly determining a dispute? One is so bewildered. One knows not what to do in principle. How to tackle an issue. Of what to be certain and about what to suspend judgment.

Let us read from Pius’s Inscrutabile, par. 6

We refer to the pestilent disease which the wickedness of our times brings forth. We must unite our minds and strength in treating this plague before it grows rife and becomes incurable in the Church through Our oversight. For in recent days, the dangerous times foretold by the Apostle Paul have clearly arrived, when there will be “men who love themselves, who are lifted up, proud, blasphemous, traitors, lovers of pleasure instead of God, men who are always learning but never arriving at the knowledge of truth, possessing indeed the appearance of piety but denying its power, corrupt in mind, reprobate about the faith.”[8] These men raise themselves up into “lying” teachers, as they are called by Peter the prince of the Apostles, and bring in sects of perdition. They deny the Lord who bought them and bring upon themselves swift destruction. They say they are wise and they have become fools, and their uncomprehending heart is darkened.

You yourselves, established as scouts in the house of Israel, see clearly the many victories claimed by a philosophy full of deceit. You see the ease with which it attracts to itself a great host of peoples, concealing its impiety with the honorable name of philosophy. Who could express in words or call to mind the wickedness of the tenets and evil madness which it imparts? While such men apparently intend to search out wisdom, “they fail because they do not search in the proper way. . . and they fall into errors which lead them astray from ordinary wisdom.”[9] They have come to such a height of impiety that they make out that God does not exist, or if He does that He is idle and uncaring, making no revelation to men. Consequently it is not surprising that they assert that everything holy and divine is the product of the minds of inexperienced men smitten with empty fear of the future and seduced by a vain hope of immortality. But those deceitful sages soften and conceal the wickedness of their doctrine with seductive words and statements; in this way, they attract and wretchedly ensnare many of the weak into rejecting their faith or allowing it to be greatly shaken. While they pursue a remarkable knowledge, they open their eyes to behold a false light which is worse than the very darkness. Naturally our enemy, desirous of harming us and skilled in doing so, just as he made use of the serpent to deceive the first human beings, has armed the tongues of those men with the poison of his deceitfulness in order to lead astray the minds of the faithful. The prophet prays that his soul may be delivered from such deceitful tongues.[10] In this way these men by their speech “enter in lowliness, capture mildly, softly bind and kill in secret.”[11] This results in great moral corruption, in license of thought and speech, in arrogance and rashness in every enterprise.