Pope St. Pius X: An Orthodox Pope Against Modernism

Pope St. Pius X was born Giuseppe Melchiorre Sarto on June 2,1835 in Riese, Treviso, Lombardy-Venetia in what was then Austria but is now in present day Italy. He was the second of ten children to Giovanni Battista Sarto and Margarita Sanson. He was baptised the following day on June 3, 1835. His family though poor was devoutly Catholic. Giuseppe walked about 4 miles each day to school. At a young age, he studied Latin with his village priest and went on to study at the gymnasium of Castelfranco Veneto. In 1850, when he 15 years old, he received the tonsure from the Bishop of Treviso and the Diocese gave him a scholarship to attend the Seminary of Padua, “where he finished his classical, philosophical, and theological studies with distinction”. On September 18,1858, Sarto was ordained a priest, and became a chaplain at Tombolo. He expanded his knowledge of theology, studying both St. Thomas Aquinas and canon law, while he was pastor of the parish in Tombolo. In 1867, he was named Archpriest of Salzano. As Archpriest, he restored the Church and expanded the hospital, the funds coming from his own begging, wealth and labor. When the cholera plague swept Northern Italy in the 1870s, he became extremely popular with the people that helped assist. During this time, he was named a canon of the cathedral and chancellor of the Diocese of Treviso, and he also held offices such as spiritual director and rector of Treviso seminary, and examiner of the clergy. In 1879, Bishop Zinelli died and the Bishopric of Treviso was vacant. He temporarily ran the Diocese of Treviso until a new Bishop was appointed. He served until June 1880. Afterwards until 1884, he taught dogmatic theology and moral theology at the seminary in Treviso. On November 10,1884, Pope Leo XIII appointed him as Bishop of Mantua. He served until he was appointed Patriarch of Venice on June 15,1893. He was also made a Cardinal, three days before on June 12,1893. He served in this position until Pope Leo XIII died on July 20,1903. He was a candidate for Pope and on August 4,1903, he was elected Pope and took the name Pope Pius X. During his 11 years as Pope of the Catholic Church, Pius X was known for his conservative theology and reforms in liturgy and church law. He was known for his opposition to Modernism and any attempt to liberalize orthodox Catholic teachings. He excommunicated many people who attempted to preach modernism in the Catholic Church. In 1908, he promulgated Ne Temere (“lest rashly”) in which Catholics were to be married only in the Catholic Church and if it were a mixed marriage, the children were to be raised Catholic. If these conditions were not met, automatic “latae sententiae” excommunication was then put upon the Catholic. This remained in effect until 1970. He also fought against secular government authority and opposed trade unions that were not Catholic. In 1910, he lowered the First Communion age from 12 to 7. He promoted traditional devotional practices and orthodox theology. He was also known for being devoted to the Marian title of Our Lady of Confidence. During this time also, he lifted the ban prohibiting Italian Catholics from voting in Italy. He was known to be opposed to socialism and told Italian Catholics that they were not allowed to vote for Socialist politicians and were forbidden. On August 15,1914, he fell ill on the Feast of the Assumption of Mary, he never recovered. On August 20,1914, he died of a heart attack at age 79. At the time of his death, World War I broke out in Europe. On May 29,1954, he Canonized a Saint by Pope Pius XII. In 1970, Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre founded the Traditionalist Catholic priestly fraternity, the Society of St. Pius X (SSPX) which was named in his honor.

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