The Revolutionary Principles of 1789 Contained the Synthesis of All the Teachings of the False Prophets

July 25, 2011

When promulgating the decree on the heroic virtue of Blessed Marcellin Champagnat on July 11, 1920, Benedict XV pronounced an allocution from which we borrow the following passages:

Official portrait of St. Marcellin Champagnat (1840), by M. Ravery

“One need only turn one’s thoughts to the early nineteenth century to recognize that many false prophets appeared in France at that time, and from there aimed to spread abroad the maleficent influence of their perverse teachings. They were prophets who posed as vindicators of the rights of the people, predicting the coming of an age of liberty, fraternity, and equality. Who fails to see that they were disguised as sheep, “in vestimentis ovium”!

“Yet the liberty predicted by those prophets opened the door not to good but to evil; the fraternity foretold by those prophets did not hail God as the sole Father of all brothers; and the equality proclaimed by the would-be prophets rested not on the identical nature of our origins, nor on our common redemption, nor on the shared destiny of all men. These, alas, were prophets who preached an equality meant to destroy the distinction of class willed by God for our society; prophets who called all men brothers in order to eradicate the idea of the subjection of some men to others; prophets who proclaimed the freedom to do evil, to call darkness light, to confuse falsehood with truth, to prefer the former to the latter, to sacrifice the right and reason of justice and truth to error and vice. It is not difficult to see that these prophets, who presented themselves in sheep’s clothing, were inwardly, in reality that is, ravening wolves: ‘qui veniunt in vestimentis ovium, intrinsecus autem sunt lupi ravaces!’ And little surprise that against these false prophets resounded a terrible word: Beware! ‘Attendite a falsis prophetis!

“Marcellin Champagnat heard that word; indeed, he understood that it was said not only for his sake, and he decided to echo that same word among the sons of the people whom he knew to be most vulnerable to falling prey to the principles of 1789 because of their inexperience and the ignorance of their parents in matters of religion….

Beware! ‘Attendite a falsis prophetis!’

Henri Grégoire, a French Roman Catholic priest, constitutional bishop of Blois and a revolutionary leader. He took a leading role in the abolition of the privileges of the nobles, the Church and the abolition of the monarchy, in which he said that "Kings are in morality what monsters are in the world of nature." He demanded that King Louis XVI should be brought to trial.

“‘Attendite a falsis prophetis”—these are the words that were virtually repeated by those who wished to stem the torrent of errors and vices which, thanks to the French Revolution, were threatening to flood the entire earth. ‘Attendite a falsis prophetis’—these are the words that explain the mission embraced by Marcellin Champagnat, the words that must not be consigned to oblivion by those given to studying his life.

“It is not without interest to observe the fact that Marcellin Champagnat, born in 1789, was destined to combat the practical application of the very principles that from the year of his birth were given a name and gained an unfortunate and painful celebrity.

“To justify his work he needed only continue his reading of today’s Gospel, for a brief glance at the wounds opened by the principles of 1789 in the breast of civil and religious society would have shown that those principles contained the sum of the teachings of false prophets: ‘ex fructibus eorum cognoscetis eos.’…

“Not irrelevant to the expansion of the houses of the Little Brothers of Mary and to the good guidance of the young people welcomed therein, was the Most Holy Virgin herself in the form of an image that first appeared, then disappeared, then was found. That first expansion was certainly wondrous and found its explanation only in the subsequent expansion which by the tenth lustrum after its foundation saw the day when five thousand religious of the new institute were giving salutary instruction to a hundred thousand children scattered over every region of the globe.

“If the Venerable Champagnat, by the light of prophecy, could have seen so extraordinary a result, he might perhaps have lamented the still excessive number of children left in the shadow of death and ignorance; he might indeed have deplored not having been better able to prevent the nefarious growth of the worst seed scattered by the French Revolution; nevertheless, a feeling of dutiful gratitude to God for the good achieved by the Congregation founded by him would have obliged him to admit that, just as from the bad fruit of the teaching of certain prophets of his time he had deduced the falsity thereof, so from the good fruit stemming from his works he could deduce the goodness: ‘Igitur ex fructibus eorum cognoscetis eos.’”

Statue of St. Marcellin Champagnat in Brazil at the Pontifícia Universidade Católica do Rio Grande do Sul.


Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira, Nobility and Analogous Traditional Elites in the Allocutions of Pius XII: A Theme Illuminating American Social History (York, Penn.: The American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family, and Property, 1993), Appendix III, pp. 385-386.



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