The Fruits of Soft Discipline: When Truth Becomes Mere Opinion

Fr. Mark Pilon: We have failed to maintain discipline about truth. When we are unwilling to defend the truth, truth itself becomes mere opinion.

When I was in the seminary in the early 1960s, we were indoctrinated in the notion that the harsh discipline of the Church over the centuries would be a thing of the past following Vatican II. Supposedly, none of this harshness had ever really worked to safeguard the teaching of the Church, so a new softer approach was needed.

Pope St. Pius X

A half-century later, the results are in – and it’s indisputable that the softer approach didn’t work. In addition to the exodus of priests, nuns, and religious, there’s been a massive loss of knowledge among ordinary lay people about what the Church teaches. And no wonder, since there’s been little effort to make Church teachings clear in the flight from the bad old days of “harsh discipline.”

The bad example most often cited back then was the effort by Pope St. Pius X to root out modernism by removing dissident professors and then, in 1910, instituting the Anti-modernist Oath “to be sworn to by all clergy, pastors, confessors, preachers, religious superiors, and professors in philosophical-theological seminaries.” This oath began by embracing and accepting “each and every definition that has been set forth and declared by the unerring teaching authority of the Church, especially those principal truths which are directly opposed to the errors of this day.”

Those errors were then briefly explicated, followed by this submission: “I submit and adhere with my whole heart to the condemnations, declarations, and all the prescripts contained in the encyclical Pascendi and in the decreeLamentabili, especially those concerning what is known as the history of dogmas.”

Now the “enlightened” critics of this oath were many and prominent during the Second Vatican Council, and they won just two years after it closed. In 1967, the CDF under Paul VI issued a much-shortened Profession of Faith in “substitution of the Tridentine formula and the oath against modernism.” It is a brief restatement of the Creed with a closing qualifier: “I also firmly accept and retain each and every truth regarding the doctrine of faith and morals, whether solemnly defined by the Church or asserted and declared with the ordinary Magisterium, as well as those doctrines proposed by the same Magisterium.”

Click here to read the rest of Father Pilon’s column . . .

About the Author

Fr. Mark A. Pilon

Fr. Mark A. Pilon

Fr. Mark A. Pilon, a priest of the Diocese of Arlington, VA, received a Doctorate in Sacred Theology from Santa Croce University in Rome. He is a former Chair of Systematic Theology at Mount St. Mary’s Seminary, and a retired and visiting professor at the Notre Dame Graduate School of Christendom College. He writes regularly at

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