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In the 1905 papal encyclical (Acerbo Nimis) of Pope St. Pius X, one finds, for example:

  1. I. On every Sunday and holy day, with no exception, throughout the year, all parish priests and in general all those having the care of souls, shall instruct the boys and girls, for the space of an hour from the text of the Catechism on those things they must believe and do in order to attain salvation. - Acerbo Nimis

QUESTION: Has Acerbo Nimis been revoked; or is it (as it would seem) largely being ignored? In general, are papal encyclicals always in effect unless otherwise specified or revoked?

Thank you.

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  • This appears to be a purely disciplinary norm.
    – Geremia
    Jul 28, 2023 at 17:37
  • So, may I assume then, A.N. remains in effect unless revoked or modified (such as abstaining from meat on Fridays---which actually was not revoked but modified)? Also, I don''t know of any encyclical after Acerbo Nimis that undoes the teaching requirement on the part of pastors and those with the care of souls. Many thanks for your comment.
    – DDS
    Jul 28, 2023 at 19:19

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Are Papal Encyclicals in Effect Unless Revoked (e.g., Acerbo Nimis)?

Not all papal encyclicals deal exclusively on faith and morals. Some deal with ecclesiastical discipline and as such Church discipline can change. Papal encyclicals, of themselves are not infallible documents, encyclicals may (and generally do) contain pronouncements on faith and morals that are de facto infallible because they express the ordinary teaching of the Church. Many deal with Church matters that are open to change with times.

Encyclical

A papal document treating of matters related to the general welfare of the Church, sent by the Pope to the bishops. Used especially in modern times to express the mind of the Pope to the people. Although of themselves not infallible documents, encyclicals may (and generally do) contain pronouncements on faith and morals that are de facto infallible because they express the ordinary teaching of the Church. In any case, the faithful are to give the papal encyclicals their interior assent and external respect as statements of the Vicar of Christ.

An encyclical epistle is like an encyclical letter but addressed to part of the Church, that is, to the bishops and faithful of a particular area. Its contents may be doctrinal, moral, or disciplinary matters of universal significance, but may also commemorate some historical event or treat of conditions in a certain country or locality.

Thus, the quote you stated from the papal encyclical Acerbo Nimis is dealing with a Church discipline; a future pope is free to alter it or revoke it completely.

On every Sunday and holy day, with no exception, throughout the year, all parish priests and in general all those having the care of souls, shall instruct the boys and girls, for the space of an hour from the text of the Catechism on those things they must believe and do in order to attain salvation.

Times are clearly different now than in the times of Pope St. Pius X. Priests have larger parishes. There are fewer priests. Some priests I know say four Masses on Sunday. So for priests to teach children on Sundays for an hour is almost a physical impossibility. Some parishes of olden days may have had 30-40 families. Now with less priests, they may have hundreds or maybe a thousand or more families.

In other words, your quote is obsolete in our days. The Church has had to adapt to new circumstances.

Pope St. Paul VI in his document on Christian education Gravissimum Educationis outlines many issues facing Catholic education and goes into details about Catholic Schools in our times.

The portion of Acerbo Nimis that you quoted does not have to be explicitly revoked to be obsolete. Simply try looking up the most up to date Vatican norms on this issue to understand the Church’s position at any given time.

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  • At a parish I visited in Walnut Grove (Langley, BC), the priest spent 2-3 minutes giving a mini homily to children, who were then dismissed (presumably to Sunday school) with a song that the congregation sing to bless the children. Forgot at what point of the liturgy this happens, probably between the gospel reading and the homily. I think this is a wonderful compromise. Like you said, the priest there have to celebrate 3-4 masses every Sunday. I'm not sure whether he gives the children homily to every mass or not, I attended the "main" mass that Sunday. Jul 28, 2023 at 15:23
  • Thank you for you answer; however (and please correct me if I am wrong), Acerbo Nimis has never been revoked by a Pope after Pope St. Pius XII. Therefor it must still be in effect. And as for the "impossibility" of priests teaching---I quite disagree. The love of God does remarkable things---look at St. John Vianney.---he always taught the Catechism in addition to fulfilling his duties as a faithful servant.
    – DDS
    Jul 29, 2023 at 1:53
  • @I.Chekhov It does not have to be revoked to be obsolete. It is not an infallible statement. Canon law or other Papal proclamations can override this statement. It is a question of discipline only.
    – Ken Graham
    Jul 29, 2023 at 3:55
  • "Acerbo Nimis has never been revoked by a Pope after Pope St. Pius XII. Therefor it must still be in effect." Isn't that the premise of your question? The answer is effectively saying that discipline may be changed, but you are assuming change is only from revocation (or possibly supersession), but the law per se doesn't work that way
    – eques
    Jul 29, 2023 at 15:09

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