Motu Proprio: Fin Dalla Prima Nostra

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Motu Proprio: Fin Dalla Prima NostraMotu Proprio:
Fin Dalla
Prima Nostra

Motu Proprio:

In Our First Encyclical

Motu Proprio of Pope Saint Pius X Concerning Popular Catholic Action

In our first Encyclical to the Bishops of the world, in which we echo all that our glorious predecessors had laid down concerning the Catholic action of the laity, we declared that this action was deserving of the highest praise, and was indeed necessary in the present condition of the Church and of society. And we cannot but praise warmly the zeal shown by so many illustrious personages who have for a long time dedicated themselves to this glorious task, and the ardor of so many brilliant young people who have eagerly hastened to lend their aid to the same. The nineteenth Catholic Congress lately held at Bologna, and by us promoted and encouraged, has sufficiently proved to all the vigor of the Catholic forces as well as what useful and salutary results may be obtained among a population of believers, when this action is well governed and disciplined, and when unity of thought, sentiment and action prevail among those who take part in it.

But we are very sorry to find that certain differences which arose in the midst of them have produced discussions unfortunately too vivacious, which, if not dispelled in time, might serve to divide those forces of which we have spoken, and render them less efficacious. Before the Congress we recommended above all things unity and harmony, in order that it might be possible to lay down by common accord the general lines for the practical working of the Catholic movement; we cannot therefore be silent now. And since divergences of view in matters of practice have commonly their origin in the domain of theory, and indeed necessarily find their fulcrum in the latter, it is necessary to define clearly the principles on which the entire Catholic movement must be based.

Our illustrious predecessor, Leo XIII., of holy memory, traced out luminously the rules that must be followed in the Christian movement among the people in the great Encyclicals Quod Apostolici Muneris, of December 28, 1878; Rerum Novarum, of May 15, 1891, and Graves de Communi, of January 18, 1901; and further in a particular Instruction emanating from the Sacred Congregation for Extraordinary Ecclesiastical Affairs, of January 27, 1902.

And we, realizing, as did our predecessor, the great need that the Christian movement among the people be rightly governed and conducted, desire to have those most prudent rules exactly and completely fulfilled, and to provide that nobody may dare depart from them in the smallest particulars. Hence, to keep them more vividly present before people’s minds, we have deemed it well to summarize them in the following articles, which will constitute the fundamental plan of Catholic popular movement.


I.  Human society, as established by God, is composed of unequal elements, just as the different parts of the human body are unequal; to make them all equal is impossible, and would mean the destruction of human society. (Encyclical Quod Apostolici Muneris.)

II.  The equality existing among the various social members consists only in this: that all men have their origin in God the Creator, have been redeemed by Jesus Christ, and are to be judged and rewarded or punished by God exactly according to their merits or demerits. (Encyclical Quod Apostolici Muneris.)

III.  Hence it follows that there are, according to the ordinance of God, in human society princes and subjects, masters and proletariat, rich and poor, learned and ignorant, nobles and plebeians, all of whom, united in the bonds of love, are to help one another to attain their last end in heaven, and their material and moral welfare here on earth. (Encyclical Quod Apostolici Muneris.)

IV.  Of the goods of the earth man has not merely the use, like the brute creation, but he has also the right of permanent proprietorship—and not merely of those things which are consumed by use, but also of those which are not consumed by use. (Encyclical Rerum Novarum.)

V.  The right of private property, the fruit of labor or industry, or of concession or donation by others, is an incontrovertible natural right; and everybody can dispose reasonably of such property as he thinks fit. (Encyclical Rerum Novarum.)

VI.  To heal the breach between rich and poor, it is necessary to distinguish between justice and charity. There can be no claim for redress except when justice is violated. (Encyclical Rerum Novarum.)


VII.  The following are obligations of justice binding on the proletariat and the workingman: To perform fully and faithfully the work which has been freely and, according to equity, agreed upon; not to injure the property or outrage the person of masters; even in the defense of their own rights to abstain from acts of violence, and never to make mutiny of their defense. (Encyclical Rerum Novarum.)

VIII.  The following are obligations of justice binding on capitalists: To pay just wages to their workingmen; not to injure their just savings by violence or fraud, or by overt or covert usuries; not to expose them to corrupting seductions and danger of scandal; not to alienate them from the spirit of family life and from love of economy; not to impose on them labor beyond their strength, or unsuitable for their age or sex. (Encyclical Rerum Novarum.)

IX.  It is an obligation for the rich and those who own property to succor the poor and the indigent, according to the precepts of the Gospel. This obligation is so grave that on the Day of Judgment special account will be demanded of its fulfillment, as Christ Himself has said (Matthew 25). (Encyclical Rerum Novarum.)

X.  The poor should not be ashamed of their poverty, nor disdain the charity of the rich, for they should have especially in view Jesus the Redeemer, who, though He might have been born in riches, made Himself poor in order that He might ennoble poverty and enrich it with merits beyond price for heaven. (Encyclical Rerum Novarum.)

XI.  For the settlement of the social question much can be done by the capitalists and workers themselves, by means of institutions designed to provide timely aid for the needy and to bring together and unite mutually the two classes. Among these institutions are mutual aid societies, various kinds of private insurance societies, orphanages for the young, and, above all, associations among the different trades and professions. (Encyclical Rerum Novarum.)


XII.  This end is especially aimed at by the movement of Christian Popular Action of Christian Democracy in its many and varied branches. But Christian Democracy must be taken in the sense already authoritatively defined. Totally different from the movement known as “Social Democracy,” it has for its basis the principles of Catholic faith and morals especially the principle of not injuring in any way the inviolable right of private property. (Encyclical Graves de Communi.)

XIII.  Moreover, Christian Democracy must have nothing to do with politics, and never be able to serve political ends or parties; this is not its field; but it must be a beneficent movement for the people, and founded on the law of nature and the precepts of the Gospel. (Encyclical Graves de Communi, Instructions of the S. Cong, of E. E. Affairs.)

Christian Democrats in Italy must abstain from participating in any political action this is under present circumstances forbidden to every Catholic for reasons of the highest order. (Instructions as cited.)

XIV.  In performing its functions, Christian Democracy is bound most strictly to depend upon ecclesiastical authority, and to offer full submission and obedience to the Bishops and those who represent them. There is no meritorious zeal or sincere piety in enterprises, however beautiful and good in themselves, when they are not approved by the pastor. (Encyclical Graves de Communi.)

XV.  In order that the Christian Democratic movement in Italy may be united in its efforts, it must be under the direction of the Association of Catholic Congresses and Committees, which, during many years of fruitful labor, has deserved so well of Holy Church, and to which Pius IX and Leo XIII., of holy memory, entrusted the charge of directing the whole Catholic movement, always, of course, under the auspices and guidance of the Bishops. (Encyclical Graves de Communi.)


XVI.  Catholic writers must, in all that touches religious interests and the action of the Church in society, subject themselves entirely in intellect and will, like the rest of the faithful, to their Bishops and to the Roman Pontiff. They must above all, take care not to anticipate the judgments of the Holy See in this important matter. (Instruction as cited.)

XVII.  Christian Democratic writers must, like all other Catholic writers, submit to the previous examination of the ordinary all writings which concern religion, Christian morals and natural ethics, by virtue of the Constitution “Officiorum et Munerum” (Art. 41). By the same Constitution ecclesiastics must obtain the previous consent of the ordinary for publication of writings of a merely technical character. (Instruction.)

XVIII.  They must, moreover, make every effort and every sacrifice to ensure that charity and harmony may reign among them. When causes of disagreement arise, they should, instead of printing anything on the matter in the papers, refer it to the ecclesiastical authority, which will then act with justice. And when taken to task by the ecclesiastical authority, let them obey promptly without evasion or public complaints the right to appeal to a higher authority being understood when the case requires it; and it should be made in the right way. (Instruction.)

XIX.  Finally, let Catholic writers take care, when defending the cause of the proletariat and the poor, not to use language calculated to inspire aversion among the people of the upper classes of society. Let them refrain from speaking of redress and justice when the matter comes within the domain of charity only, as has been explained above. Let them remember that Jesus Christ endeavored to unite all men in the bond of mutual love, which is the perfection of justice, and which carries with it the obligation of working for the welfare of one another. (Instruction.)

The foregoing fundamental rules we of our own initiative and with certain knowledge do renew by our apostolic authority in all their parts, and we ordain that they be transmitted to all Catholic committees, societies and unions of every kind. All these societies are to keep them exposed in their rooms and to have them read frequently at their meetings. We ordain, moreover, that Catholic papers publish them in their entirety and make declaration of their observance of them and, in fact, observe them religiously; failing to do this they are to be gravely admonished, and if they do not then amend, let them be interdicted by ecclesiastical authority.

But as words and energetic action are of no avail unless preceded, accompanied and followed constantly by example, the necessary characteristic which should shine forth in all the members of every Catholic association is that of openly manifesting their faith by the holiness of their lives, by the spotlessness of their morals and by the scrupulous observance of the laws of God and of the Church. And this because it is the duty of every Christian, and also in order that he “who stands against us may blush, having nothing evil to say of us.” (Tit. ii., 8.)

From this solicitude of ours for the common good of Catholic action, especially in Italy, we hope, through the blessing of God, to reap abundant and happy fruits.

Given at Rome, at St. Peter’s, on December 18, 1903, in the first year of our Pontificate.

Pius X, Pope

Published in the American Catholic Quarterly Review, Vol. XXIX (1904) pages 234-239.

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