Tag Archives: Papal Encyclicals

Nimiam Licentiam: To Bishops of Poland: On Validity of Marriages

The Papal Encyclicals

The third encyclical, Nimiam Licentiam: To bishops of Poland: On validity of marriages, was written on 18 May 1743.

In this encyclical, the problem is that too many marriages are being dissolved in Poland. The pope lays out some of the reasons why this is happening and gives guidelines so that the sanctity of marriage can be better understood.

He notes that there have been a lot of “hidden” marriages occurring, which are not celebrated publicly.

When judging marriages for validity or nullity, the judges have been inexperienced, ignorant, unqualified, or dishonest. If a person appealed, the second judge would charge an additional fee and overturn the ruling of the previous judge.

Marriages were conducted by any random priest and not the pastor who knew the couple.

Marriages were entered into by force or through fear.

Banns were not posted for three feast days prior to the wedding ceremony, to ensure that there were not any impediments to marriage.

Priests did not sufficiently inquire to determine if either party had any impediments to marriage.

Spouses entered pre-nuptial agreements. (The pope said that the penalty for this is excommunication.)

After listing these various practices which undermine the sanctity of marriage, cause scandal and lead to a higher incidence of the dissolution of marriage, the Pope gives some strategies for avoiding these pitfalls and affirming the permanence and validity of marriages.

First, the couple’s pastor should be the one to witness the union, unless there is grave and just cause why he cannot.

Nuptial banns must be posted at least three feast days prior. Only the local bishop can lift this requirement to one feast day or none, and only for grave cause.

Pastors must inquire of the couples to ensure that they are able to enter into a marriage and that there is no impediment.

There will be two processes for judging the validity/nullity of a marriage; the first by the bishop and the second by the metropolitan. If there’s any question after that, it goes to the Cardinals (a specific office in the Roman curia?).

Dear Polish People,
Marriage is serious business. Do not try to find or create loopholes for yourselves.
The Pope


Quanta Cura: Forbidding Traffic in Alms

The Papal Encyclicals

The second encyclical is Quanta Cura: Forbidding traffic in alms, and was written on 30 June 1741.

The problem here seems to be this: Fr. X was getting paid to say Mass for someone in parish A, where the standard stipend for this was, say, $20. Fr. X would then say the Mass at parish B, where the stipend was, say $10. So, he would give parish B $10 and pocket the difference. At least, this is kind of what I’m thinking was going on – it wasn’t entirely clear to me. 🙂

What was wrong was a couple of different things, according to the Pope. First, the Mass being offered was not celebrated in a location necessarily known to the parishioner who commissioned it. Which could not only upset the parishioner, but also money would have been directed away from the parish that the parishioner intended to support by his alms. In addition, people might start to think that the priest was ripping them off, especially if they didn’t ever see him say a Mass when he had already been paid for doing so.

On top of all of that, was the real spiritual danger inherent in these practices; the priest would be tempted to avarice by behaving in this manner. It would be possible for him to get caught up in making a profit and not be saying Mass for the good of his flock or the Church.

So, the Pope censured these activities, asking that his fellow bishops post this letter in their diocese and warn people of the following repercussions for doing this. Laity would be immediately excommunicated. Priests would be automatically suspended, and could only be reinstated by the Pontiff himself. How’s that for deterrent?

Little wonder that today, if you would like to have a Mass said, the price is only $5 or $10, and Father can only receive one stipend a day, regardless of the number of intentions which are offered at the Mass. (At least, that’s my understanding of current practices. But don’t take my word for it…. Confirm with a canon lawyer! )

Ubi Primum: On the Duties of Bishops

The Papal Encyclicals

An encyclical, as defined in the Introduction, “is a document in the form of a letter sent by the Pope to the bishops of the entire world…directed to the whole Christian people… as a means of insuring unity within the Church.”

This particular encyclical was written by Pope Benedict XIV (Prospero Lambertini), who reigned from 1740-1758. It was written on 3 Dec 1740.

He begins with shepherd/sheep imagery. I like him already! 🙂

The importance of clergy is to be examples for the faithful. Quality rather than quantity of priests is to be preferred.

Seminaries – train them in piety, integrity and discipline, visit them, expand them, create them where necessary, prepare good laborers for the harvest, invest in them.

Selecting clerics – “Entrust the care of souls to exemplary men.” These men should teach the basic information needed for salvation, divine law, and Catholic dogma. They should teach children the faith (here he’s talking about equipping the faithful). They need time for rest and spiritual exercise, i.e. a retreat annually. It’s comforting to know that this basic task of our priests hasn’t changed. And it’s a good reminder to our bishop, who often and increasingly in these time of priest shortage ask so much of our beloved pastors, that these good men need rest as well. We can’t expect them to run the race in a dead sprint all of the time and be able to finish strong. They need to recharge so that they can continue to fight the fight and to lead us all to greater holiness.

Necessity of Residency – You can’t be a good shepherd if you don’t live among the sheep. Being away from your diocese for 3 months out of the year is too much time away. The people should hear the voice of the bishop even over the voice of the priests, as special grace is given to the bishop by the Holy Spirit. Because of this particular grace, you should not rely solely on the priests for the formation of the flock.

Visitation – Visit your churches, get to know your flock personally, visit every part of the diocese so that nothing will be hidden. Be diligent and attentive to the entire area in which your flock resides. If you find things wrong, not only make recommendations to fix them, but follow through and see that it is done. I think this is a good quality for any leader to remember. If you are personally involved, not only will people not shirk on that which they are supposed to be doing, but they will also grow to trust you, because they will see by your behavior that you are invested in them and truly care about their well-being.

Exhortation – Be the primary teacher, celebrate Mass frequently and solemnly, and may all imitate you as you imitate Christ. Do all this; God will be with you and the Holy See has got your back

After reading encyclical #1… This pope is awesome! I love him! 🙂 I can’t wait to read the rest of his encyclicals! 🙂

The Papal Encyclicals

The Papal Encyclicals

This is another selection from the reference section of the parish library which caught my eye: The Papal Encyclicals.

It’s probably another way-too-ambitious undertaking, but I would *like* to read through them all. 🙂 Vol.1 covers years from 1740 to 1878.

I’m hoping, like “The Book of Man,” that I will be able to make this a regular blog posting event. I’m liking the idea of posting more frequently and having certain topics that I can follow through on long-term.

Let me know what you think and also if you have any suggestions for future discussion! 🙂