On August 30, 1568, Pope St. Pius V issued the bull Horrendum Illud scelus. We present it now on its four hundred and fiftieth anniversary.
|Horrendum illud scelus, quo pollutae foedataeque Civitates a tremendo Dei iudicio conflagrarunt, acerbissimum Nobis dolorem inurit, graviterque animum nostrum commovet, ut ad illud, quantum potest, comprimendum, studia nostra conferamus.||That horrible crime, by which corrupt and obscene cities were destroyed by fire through divine condemnation, causes us most bitter sorrow and shocks our mind, impelling us to repress such a crime with the greatest possible zeal.|
|§ 1. Sane Lateranensi Concilio dignoscitur constitutum, ut quicumque Clerici, illa incontinentia, quae contra naturam est, propter quam ira Dei venit in filios diffidentiae, deprehensi fuerint laborare, a Clero deiiciantur,
vel ad agendam in Monasteriis poenitentiam detrudantur.
|§ 1. Quite opportunely the Fifth Lateran Council [1512-1517] issued this decree: “Let any member of the clergy caught in that vice against nature, given that the wrath of God falls over the sons of perfidy, be removed from the clerical order or forced to do penance in a monastery” (chap. 4, X, V, 31).|
|§ 2. Verum ne tanti flagitii contagium, impunitatis spe, quae maxima peccandi illecebra est, fidentius invalescat, Clericos huius nefarii criminis reos, gravius ulciscendos deliberavimus, ut qui animae interitum non horrescunt, hos certe deterreat civilium legum vindex gladius saecularis.||§ 2. So that the contagion of such a grave offense may not advance with greater audacity by taking advantage of impunity, which is the greatest incitement to sin, and so as to more severely punish the clerics who are guilty of this nefarious crime and who are not frightened by the death of their souls, we determine that they should be handed over to the severity of the secular authority, which enforces civil law.|
|§ 3. ltaque quod Nos iam in ipso Pontificatus nostri principio hac de re decrevimus, plenius nunc, fortiusque persequi intendentes, omnes, et quoscumque Presbyteros, et alios Clericos saeculares, et regulares, cuiuscumque gradus, et dignitatis, tam dirum nefas exercentes, omni privilegio clericali, omnique officio, dignitate, et beneficio Ecclesiastico praesentis canonis auctoritate privamus. Ita quod per ludicem Ecclesiasticum degradati, potestati statim saeculari tradantur, qui de eis illud idem capiat supplicium, quod in laicos hoc in exitio devolutos, legitimis reperitur sanctionibus con stitutum.||§ 3. Therefore, wishing to pursue with greater rigor than we have exerted since the beginning of our pontificate, we establish that any priest or member of the clergy, either secular or regular, who commits such an execrable crime, by force of the present law be deprived of every clerical privilege, of every post, dignity and ecclesiastical benefice, and having been degraded by an ecclesiastical judge, let him be immediately delivered to the secular authority to be put to death, as mandated by law as the fitting punishment for laymen who have sunk into this abyss.|
|Nulli ergo, etc.||Nothing to the contrary withstanding, etc.|
|[Bull. Rom., tom. 4, III, p. 33]|
- Pius V, const. Horrendum, 30 aug. 1568.
A brief note on the continuing relevance of Horrendum illud:
It is occasionally suggested by critics of integralism that the existence of bad or corrupt clergy proves that integralism, with its high concept of the authority of the church, is unworkable. This argument taken to its logical conclusion would of course rule out any authority in the here-below. For integralists, however, the existence of lamentable and execrable corruption in the Church, far from calling her authority into question, rather demonstrates the need for it.
Pope St. Pius V responded to the vicious immorality then widespread among the clergy repeatedly and with force, most prominently, perhaps, here in this bull. His response offers us even today an exemplar of church-state relations and of the medicinal power of the law.