The heresy of Americanism

What exactly was this heresy, and why was it specifically condemned? Were any individuals specifically excommunicated over it… and if so who might they be?

Is this heresy related in some way to Gallicanism?

Is this heresy a concern for today?

Thanks,
Michael

Is this what you are referring to?

papalencyclicals.net/Leo13/l13teste.htm

Yes, that would be it.

It created a stir some time ago, was anyone actually excommunicated over this? Is it relevant to us today? …was it all a big misunderstanding?

Is there a lesson in this for modern Catholics everywhere?

I think so, just a tiny smidge from that page:

These dangers, viz., the confounding of license with liberty, the passion for discussing and pouring contempt upon any possible subject, the assumed right to hold whatever opinions one pleases upon any subject and to set them forth in print to the world, have so wrapped minds in darkness that there is now a greater need of the Church’s teaching office than ever before, lest people become unmindful both of conscience and of duty.

I think this passage says it all!

You would think this was written just yesterday…

God Bless,
Snert

What I would like to know is whether anyone was actually ever excommunicated over this?

Is this a real heresy? Did anyone ever actually fit this description in the American church (or elsewhere) so as to warrant a penalty under this complaint?

I don’t know but I did recall that this was a specific heresy named by the Vatican.

Some history:
catholicvox.blogspot.com/2009/03/americanism-phantom-heresy-by-william.html

Condemnation:
On January 22, 1899, Pope Leo sent an Apostolic letter to Cardinal Gibbons known as Testem Benevolentiae.
papalencyclicals.net/Leo13/l13teste.htm

…But European conservatives were on the alert, and, by March of 1898, articles began to appear denouncing this new Americanism, which had found its way into Europe. These articles were written by Abbe Charles Magnien, of the Brothers of Saint Vincent, and he accused American Catholics of “advocating a false liberalism: absolute separation of Church and state, limitation of submission to lawful authority, criticism of older religious orders, and just as Gibbons and Hecker both emphasized, exaltation of active and natural virtues over passive and supernatural ones.” * ]
A Survey of American Church History, Newman C. Eberhardt, C.M.

Perhaps I misread this, but the big concern here seems to be over the separation of church and state, which naturally was a big concern in Europe where the major Catholic States supported the church financially and legally.

I am guessing but from what I have read so far, the condemnation was directed against Europeans who advocated the American disestablished model of church.

The “exaltation of active and natural virtues” is a puzzle. Could this have something to do with social welfare programs, or possibly a “worker priest” kind of movement?

…But European conservatives were on the alert, and, by March of 1898, articles began to appear denouncing this new Americanism, which had found its way into Europe. These articles were written by Abbe Charles Magnien, of the Brothers of Saint Vincent, and he accused American Catholics of “advocating a false liberalism: absolute separation of Church and state, limitation of submission to lawful authority, criticism of older religious orders, and just as Gibbons and Hecker both emphasized, exaltation of active and natural virtues over passive and supernatural ones.” * ]
A Survey of American Church History, Newman C. Eberhardt, C.M.

Perhaps I misread this, but the big concern here seems to be over the separation of church and state, which naturally was a big concern in Europe where the major Catholic States supported the church financially and legally.

I am guessing but from what I have read so far, the condemnation was directed against Europeans who advocated the American disestablished model of church.

The “exaltation of active and natural virtues” is a puzzle. Could this have something to do with social welfare programs, or possibly a “worker priest” kind of movement?

Nor should any difference of praise be made between those who follow the active state of life and those others who, charmed with solitude, give themselves to prayer and bodily mortification. And how much, indeed, of good report these have merited, and do merit, is known surely to all who do not forget that the “continual prayer of the just man” avails to placate and to bring down the blessings of heaven when to such prayers bodily mortification is added.
Testem Benevolentiae Nostrae 1899.

Apparently, some American Catholics were either praising the work of active religious orders excessively, or denigrating (perhaps discouraging vocations to) the contemplative life.

Obviously, as a mission country with limited infrastructure, the building of schools and hospitals would be greatly encouraged by the American bishops. Today, especially in the USA, some of the strictly monastic institutions (such as Benedictines) support themselves by running universities, publishing houses and hospitals. They cannot support themselves solely by investments in land or with government stipend, as was often the case in Europe. Thus we have any number of mixed institutions, outwardly contemplative but active in the world as well.

But if there be those who prefer to form one body without the obligation of the vows let them pursue such a course. It is not new in the Church, nor in any wise censurable. Let them be careful, however, not to set forth such a state above that of religious orders. But rather, since mankind are more disposed at the present time to indulge themselves in pleasures, let those be held in greater esteem "who having left all things have followed Christ."
Testem Benevolentiae Nostrae 1899.

I wonder if this refers to organizations such as the Knights of Columbus, or the St. Vincent de Paul Society?

About the specific heresy of Americanism ~ when we look at typical American ideas,belief,and values, ~ (<—the subject content mentioned) may not properly conform to that of the Vatican.

Please explain.

I wonder if this refers to organizations such as the Knights of Columbus, or the St. Vincent de Paul Society? Please explain.
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I don’t have access to old newspaper articles from this time in history, or old books in circulation at that time, I can only infer some things by what we can read here as quotes.

It seems as though in America there was a new emphasis on lay activities, a more participatory church. We have many examples of non-Catholic organizations like that: the “Loyal Order of Moose” and the “Young men’s Christian Association” for example.

Thus my thought that the Vincent de Paul Society might be an example of lay activism in the 19th century American church which did not require vows but only a spirit of volunteerism, or the Knights of Columbus as an American Catholic counterpart to the benevolent societies like the Moose. Also the CYO as a counterpart to the YMCA. These examples do not require vows, and laypersons can be involved with a pledge or a promise. Did they originate in America? …I don’t know myself. :shrug:

From the commentary given by the Pope in Testem Benevolentiae Nostrae it seems possible that an impression was reaching the Holy Father in Rome that these organizations were regarded as more important to Americans than the traditional orders.

http://www.visibledarkness.com/depression/images/leo.jpg

“Let them be careful, however, not to set forth such a state above that of religious orders”

If so, he may have a point. It may be that such organizations may have been much less threatening and far more appreciated in 19th century America. As a means of outreach to the Anglophone (WASP) community they could have been expected to be very effective. American bishops might have been eager to see these new organizations spread and flourish, so eager that it was interpreted as a preference over the older forms of religious organization.

This, of course, would be a fresh approach and a new face to the church. It would not be a surprise if priests in Europe thought to introduce these new organizations, especially if there was a perceived gap between the clerical class and the lay community at the time.

This is speculation on my part, but I am very curious…

Sorry, but you are heading in another direction completely. Pope Leo was speaking about priestly orders, i.e., congregations and oratories that did not take the vows of religious orders. Many new orders had been nforming in the second half of the 19th century, and the Pontiff, knowing how Americans value activism and individual liberty, did not wish for American Catholics to see such priestly orders as superior to religious orders.

Remember that religious orders had been involved in controversies in many countries–either their own, or as missionaries elsewhere. Leo XIII may not have realized that the work of religious orders had been fairly smooth and well received by American Catholics and even non-Catholics, to an extent. He was more worried that American Catholics might miss the point of supernatural virtues that religious life promoted, in the typically American admiration of the seemingly more wordly priestly societies in schools, colleges, etc.

The Knights of Columbus was formed in America in the 1880s. The CYO was also started here, but thirty years after the encyclical in question. And the St. Vincent de Paul Society was established in France.

Don’t be sorry! :thumbsup:

If I really understood this topic I would not be asking the questions. I come here to reach people who can share. :slight_smile:

Thank you for your excellent contribution. Without your help I would have virtually no clue about the issues of the day and what this all meant.

Like I said, the subject is of interest to me, it is seldom discussed in a broad way, as far as I know.

Pax et Bonum,
Michael

One note - no such thing as an “American Catholic”…we are Catholic Americans. Or more aptly, we are Catholics of Latin Rite, Byzantine Rite, etc.

Blessings,
Dano

America was founded by folks who did not like the RCC…Christmas was not allowed,it was called a Papist scandal. Public schools were designed to teach protestantism,I have a good number of text books published after the civil war and the hatred towards our church is intense on every page! The RCC always hit blind nationalism and patriotism…my country right or wrong,my country !!!is a case in point! Blind obedience to governmental edicts ,Abortion on demand…and soon ,well check out the current hate crimes bill now infront of the senators…it states those who are against abortion,for the second amendment and vets…can be deemed future terrorists!!! put that in your uncle sammy cap and smoke it…oh look a tea bag left over from my protests on the fourth…shhhhhhhhhhhh

This is a bit of hair-splitting, isn’t it? :confused:

**
Maryland** was settled by mostly Catholics. This is why it has this name.

I just started reading a book titled What you need to know about… Masons by Ed Decker. Decker came from a long line of Freemasons. His father was a Mason. His grandfather was a Mason. His great-grandfather was a Mason, etc. Decker belonged to a Masonic organization for boys called DeMolay which the Mormon church he went to forbade him to continue his membership. Then when he attended a Baptist service he found out that the Latter Day Saints’ (Mormon) Temple ritual was based on the Masonic Temple ritual.

Decker said in the introduction that such early American men as Ben Franklin, George Washington, and John Hancock, were Masons. I did hear from another source that the founding fathers of the United States were Freemasons and that’s why we have that picture of the pyramid with the eye on our one dollar bill. And even the way Washington DC was laid out, it showed a lot of Mason symbolism.

And also he mentioned there would be several Masons in both Houses of Congress and in the White House at the same time. He also said Ronald Reagan was our 16th Masonic President.

I knew for a long time that the Catholic Church did not want its members to belong to the Masons. When reading more about the Masons I could understand why. Their ideas run very contradictory to the beliefs of Catholics and other Christian churches as well. They’re universalist meaning they don’t believe anyone goes to Hell. They don’t allow the name of Jesus to be used in their temples and bow down to Baal and Zoroaster.

I had a friend who joined the Masons. He said he went to some of their “secrets meetings” where they were told stuff that they weren’t allowed to tell anyone else. He said a lot of women don’t want to be married to Masons because of the secrets their husbands have to keep from them. The closest I felt comfortable in telling him my true feelings about the Masons is that “it sounds like you guys are up to something.”

My brother told me that the Masons are a secret society and that my friend shouldn’t have told me he’s a member.

I wonder if the American heresy may be supported by the Masons. I’ve felt like a lot of us Americans have some “screwed up” values when it comes to being Christian and Catholic. I think that the true “American Idol” is independence-not any person you see performing on that TV show. In fact we sometimes praise even the poor and the disabled for “pulling themselves up by the bootstraps.” This is often contrary to the Corporal Works of Mercy. I don’t think we help each other enough.

I think our country’s promoting a “culture of death” which includes other things beside abortion and “gay marriage.”

I firmly believe that if the US were run the way the Church would want it to be run, it-and the whole world-would be a much better place to live.

Last Sunday our priest pointed out in his homily that, even though we haven’t noticed, that our Constitution and/or Declaration of Independence has declared our independence from God-not just from the King of England. I Googled both documents and couldn’t find that part so if anyone can point out to me this “declaration of independence” from God, I’d appreciate it. From reading my book about the Masons, it’s obvious that they declared themselves independent of God even if they affiliate with different churches. And they found a false god-the devil-to replace Him.:mad:

That could be true, but the ostensible reason was to honor Queen Henrietta Maria of England.

Mighty suspicious, I know :wink:

The queen was a Roman Catholic from France. Her father was king of France (Henry of Navarre, a convert from Protestantism) and her mother was a Medici. These were powerful associations.

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