Ignatian Oath: Oaths of Pius X and John XXIII

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Oaths of Popes Pius X and John XXIII:  To Defend the Truth of the Faith

The Ignatian “Oath to Truth” oath is a combination, without changes, of two oaths. The first was approved by Pope St. Pius X in Sacrorum Antistitum in 1910 and was taken by all priests until 1967. The second, “Formula Nova Professionis Fidei”, was composed by the Holy Office under Cardinal Ottaviani in 1961, approved by Pope St. John XXIII, and sent to the central preparatory commission of the Second Vatican Council  on November 8th of that year, where, however, in the end, it was not included in the texts for debate at the Council, and thus was never implemented. (See Roberto de Mattei, The Second Vatican Council – An Unwritten Story)

The Society of Ignatians has chosen to take these two formulas, without adding anything to them, and to call the combined text the “Oath to Truth”. For it is an oath to God who is Truth and it is an oath to defend the Catholic Faith as Truth and not merely as “a faith”, a term whose meaning is generally understood nowadays according to the Kantian epistemology upon which Modernism is grounded, a  theory of knowledge that is philosophically self-contradictory (see William Slattery, The Logic of Truth (Rome: Leonardo da Vinci Press, 2016).

To defend the truth of the Faith is at the very heart of the Ignatian’s identity as priest of God.

“Basically the work of the priesthood is directed towards the glory of God, which is to be achieved and obtained in the salvation of souls. This objective is to be obtained only by those who pass from this life living the life of sanctifying grace. And the life of sanctifying grace cannot exist apart from the truth faith, until such time as the faith itself is replaced by the Beatific Vision. Thus the priestly ministry in the true Church of Jesus Christ necessarily seeks to induce men to accept God’s supernatural teaching with the certain assent of divine faith and works to increase the perfection and the intensity of the faith in those who already possess this virtue. Hence any effort on the part of a Catholic priest to influence people to reject or to pass over a truth revealed by God and proposed as such by the Church’s magisterium definitely constitutes a perversion of the sacerdotal ministry.” (Joseph C. Fenton, “Sacrorum Antistitum and the Background of the Oath Against Modernism” in The American Ecclesiastical Review, Catholic University of America Press, October 1960, pp. 239-260)

Pope St. Pius X decided the oath was necessary because of the spread of the heresy known as “Modernism”. His predecessor, Pope Leo XIII, defined its key principle as the idea  that the divinely revealed truths of the Catholic Faith should be made acceptable to modern society by bringing them “up to date” eliminating whatever is distasteful to popular opinion.

“The principles on which the new opinions We have mentioned are based may be reduced to this: that in order the more easily to bring over to Catholic doctrine those who dissent from it, the Church ought to adapt herself somewhat to our advanced civilization, and, relaxing her ancient rigor, show some indulgence to modern theories and methods. Many think that this is to be understood not only with regard to the rule of life, but also to the doctrines in which the deposit of faith is contained. For they contend that it is opportune, in order to work in a more attractive way upon the wills of those who are not in accord with us, to pass over certain heads of doctrines, as if of lesser moment, or so to soften them that they may not have the same meaning which the Church has invariably held.” (Testem Benevolentiae, 1899)

The Ignatian “Oath to Truth” therefore defends all that is dearest to the heart of every Catholic for it guards the very heart of the Faith without which the Mystical Body of Christ would no longer be able to breathe.