Many believe in or claim that they believe in and hold fast to Catholic doctrine on such questions as social authority, the right of owning private property, on the relations between capital and labor, on the rights of the laboring man, on the relations between Church and State, religion and country, on the relations between the different social classes, on international relations, on the rights of the Holy See and the prerogatives of the Roman Pontiff and the Episcopate, on the social rights of Jesus Christ, Who is the Creator, Redeemer, and Lord not only of individuals but of nations. In spite of these protestations, they speak, write, and, what is more, act as if it were not necessary any longer to follow, or that they did not remain still in full force, the teachings and solemn pronouncements which may be found in so many documents of the Holy See, and particularly in those written by Leo XIII, Pius X, and Benedict XV.
There is a species of moral, legal, and social modernism which We condemn, no less decidedly than We condemn theological modernism.
It is necessary ever to keep in mind these teachings and pronouncements which We have made; it is no less necessary to reawaken that spirit of faith, of supernatural love, and of Christian discipline which alone can bring to these principles correct understanding, and can lead to their observance. This is particularly important in the case of youth, and especially those who aspire to the priesthood, so that in the almost universal confusion in which we live they at least, as the Apostle writes, will not be "tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine by the wickedness of men, by cunning craftiness, by which they lie in wait to deceive." (Ephesians iv, 14) (Pope Pius XI, Ubi Arcano Dei Consilio, December 23, 1922.)
Nor must it be thought that what is expounded in Encyclical Letters does not of itself demand consent, since in writing such Letters the Popes do not exercise the supreme power of their Teaching Authority. For these matters are taught with the ordinary teaching authority, of which it is true to say: "He who heareth you, heareth me"; and generally what is expounded and inculcated in Encyclical Letters already for other reasons appertains to Catholic doctrine. But if the Supreme Pontiffs in their official documents purposely pass judgment on a matter up to that time under dispute, it is obvious that that matter, according to the mind and will of the same Pontiffs, cannot be any longer considered a question open to discussion among theologians. (Pope Pius XII, Humani Generis, August 12, 1950.)
Assuming false and unjust premises, they are not afraid to take a position which would confine within a narrow scope the supreme teaching authority of the Church, claiming that there are certain questions -- such as those which concern social and economic matters -- in which Catholics may ignore the teachings and the directives of this Apostolic See.
This opinion -- it seems entirely unnecessary to demonstrate its existence -- is utterly false and full of error because, as We declared a few years ago to a special meeting of Our Venerable Brethren in the episcopacy:
"The power of the Church is in no sense limited to so-called 'strictly religious matters'; but the whole matter of the natural law, its institution, interpretation and application, in so far as the moral aspect is concerned, are within its power.
"By God's appointment the observance of the natural law concerns the way by which man must strive toward his supernatural end. The Church shows the way and is the guide and guardian of men with respect to their supernatural end."
This truth had already been wisely explained by Our Predecessor St. Pius X in his Encyclical Letter Singulari quadam of September 24, 1912, in which he made this statement: "All actions of a Christian man so far as they are morally either good or bad -- that is, so far as they agree with or are contrary to the natural and divine law -- fall under the judgment and jurisdiction of the Church."
Moreover, even when those who arbitrarily set and defend these narrow limits profess a desire to obey the Roman Pontiff with regard to truths to be believed, and to observe what they call ecclesiastical directives, they proceed with such boldness that they refuse to obey the precise and definite prescriptions of the Holy See. They protest that these refer to political affairs because of a hidden meaning by the author, as if these prescriptions took their origin from some secret conspiracy against their own nation. (Pope Pius XII, Ad Apostolorum Principis, June 29, 1958.)