A QUO PRIMUM
AND CHRISTIANS LIVING
IN THE SAME PLACE
Encyclical of Pope Benedict XIV promulgated on
June 14, 1751.
To the Primate, Archbishops and Bishops, of the
Kingdom of Poland.
Venerable Brothers, We give you Greeting and Our Apostolic Blessing.
God in his goodness allowed Catholicism to take
root in Poland at the end of the tenth century during the reign
of Our predecessor Leo VIII. At the time, the efforts of King
Mieszko and his Christian consort Dobrava (Dlugosz, Annalium vestrorum
Scriptorum, 2, 94) encouraged the spread of Christianity. Since
then pious and devout Poles have continued the faithful practice
of their new religion. During this time various sects have attempted
to establish themselves in Poland and to spread the seeds of their
errors, heresies, and evil opinions. But the faithful Polish people
have strongly withstood their efforts.
We esteem the glorious memory of Polish martyrs,
confessors, virgins and holy men; their exemplary lives are recorded
in the holy annals of the Church. We also recall the many successful
councils and synods which gloriously defeated the Lutherans who
tried tenaciously, using a variety of methods, to establish a
foothold and welcome in this kingdom. At that time indeed the
great council of Piotrkow met under Our great predecessor and
fellow citizen Gregory XIII, with prelate Lippomano, bishop of
Verona and Apostolic nuncio, as its president. To the great glory
of God it prohibited the principle of freedom of conscience; adherents
of this principle were seeking to introduce and establish it in
Poland. Another threat to Christians has been the influence of
Jewish faithlessness; this influence was strong because Christians
and Jews were living in the same cities and towns. However their
influence was minimized because the Polish bishops did all they
could to aid the Poles in their resistance to the Jews. What the
bishops did is recorded in the large tome which contains the constitutions
of the synods of the province of Gniezno. These facts establish
most clearly and plainly the great glory which the Polish nation
has won for its zeal in preserving the holy religion embraced
by its ancestors so many ages before.
2. In regard to the matter of the Jews We must
express our concern, which causes Us to cry aloud: "the best
color has been changed." Our credible experts in Polish affairs
and the citizens of Poland itself who communicated with Us have
informed Us that the number of Jews in that country has greatly
increased. In fact, some cities and towns which had been predominantly
Christian are now practically devoid of Christians.
The Jews have so replaced the Christians that
some parishes are about to lose their ministers because their
revenue has dwindled so drastically. Because the Jews control
businesses selling liquor and even wine, they are therefore allowed
to supervise the collection of public revenues. They have also
gained control of inns, bankrupt estates, villages and public
land by means of which they have subjugated poor Christian farmers.
The Jews are cruel taskmasters, not only working the farmers harshly
and forcing them to carry excessive loads, but also whipping them
for punishment. So it has come about that those poor farmers are
the subjects of the Jews, submissive to their will and power.
Furthermore, although the power to punish lies with the Christian
official, he must comply with the commands of the Jews and inflict
the punishments they desire. If he doesn't, he would lose his
post. Therefore the tyrannical orders of the Jews have to be carried
3. In addition to the harm done to Christians
in these regards, other unreasonable matters can result in even
greater loss and danger. The most serious is that some households
of the great have employed a Jew as "Superintendent-of-the-Household";
in this capacity, they not only administer domestic and economic
matters, but they also ceaselessly exhibit and flaunt authority
over the Christians they are living with. It is now even commonplace
for Christians and Jews to intermingle anywhere. But what is even
less comprehensible is that Jews fearlessly keep Christians of
both sexes in their houses as their domestics, bound to their
service. Furthermore, by means of their particular practice of
commerce, they amass a great store of money and then by an exorbitant
rate of interest utterly destroy the wealth and inheritance of
Christians. Even if they borrow money from Christians at heavy
and undue interest with their synagogues as surety, it is obvious
to anyone who thinks about it that they do so to employ the money
borrowed from Christians in their commercial dealings; this enables
them to make enough profit to pay the agreed interest and simultaneously
increase their own store. At the same time, they gain as many
defenders of their synagogues and themselves as they have creditors.
4. The famous monk, Radulph, inspired long ago
by an excess of zeal, was so inflamed against the Jews that he
traversed Germany and France in the twelfth century and, by preaching
against the Jews as the enemies of our holy religion, incited
Christians to destroy them. This resulted in the deaths of a very
large number of Jews. What must we think his deeds or thoughts
would be if he were now alive and saw what was happening in Poland?
But the great St. Bernard opposed this immoderate and maddened
zeal of Radulph, and wrote to the clergy and people of eastern
France: "The Jews are not to be persecuted: they are not
to be slaughtered: they are not even to be driven out. Examine
the divine writings concerning them. We read in the psalm a new
kind of prophecy concerning the Jews: God has shown me, says the
Church, on the subject of my enemies, not to slay them in case
they should ever forget my people. Alive, however, they are eminent
reminders for us of the Lord's suffering. On this account they
are scattered through all lands in order that they may be witnesses
to Our redemption while they pay the just penalties for so great
a crime" (epistle 363). And he writes this to Henry, Archbishop
of Mainz: "Doesn't the Church every day triumph more fully
over the Jews in convicting or converting them than if once and
for all she destroyed them with the edge of the sword: Surely
it is not in vain that the Church has established the universal
prayer which is offered up for the faithless Jews from the rising
of the sun to its setting, that the Lord God may remove the veil
from their hearts, that they may be rescued from their darkness
into the light of truth. For unless it hoped that those who do
not believe would believe, it would obviously be futile and empty
to pray for them." (epistle 365).
5. Peter, abbot of Cluny, likewise wrote against
Radulph to King Louis of France, and urged him not to allow the
destruction of the Jews. But at the same time he encouraged him
to punish their excesses and to strip them of the property they
had taken from Christians or had acquired by usury; he should
then devote the value of this to the use and benefit of holy religion,
as may be seen in the Annals of Venerable Cardinal Baronius (1146).
In this matter, as in all others, We adopt the same norm of action
as did the Roman Pontiffs who were Our venerable predecessors.
Alexander III forbade Christians under heavy penalties to accept
permanent domestic service under Jews. "Let them not continually
devote themselves to the service of Jews for a wage." He
sets out the reason for this in the decretal Ad haec, de Judaeis.
"Because Jewish ways do not harmonize in any way with ours
and they could easily turn the minds of the simple to their own
superstitions and faithlessness through continual intercourse
and unceasing acquaintance." Innocent III, after saying that
Jews were being received by Christians into their cities, warns
that the method and condition of this reception should guard against
their repaying the benefit with evildoing. "They on being
admitted to our acquaintance in a spirit of mercy, repay us, the
popular proverb says, as the mouse in the wallet, the snake in
the lap and fire in the bosom usually repay their host."
The same Pope stated that it was fitting for Jews to serve Christians
rather than vice versa and added: "Let not the sons of the
free woman be servants of the sons of the handmaid; but as servants
rejected by their lord for whose death they evilly conspired,
let them realize that the result of this deed is to make them
servants of those whom Christ's death made free," as we read
in his decretal Etsi Judaeos. Likewise in the decretal Cum sit
nimis under the same heading de Judaeis, et Saracenis, he forbids
the promotion of Jews to public office: "forbidding Jews
to be promoted to public offices since in such circumstances they
may be very dangerous to Christians." Innocent IV, also,
in writing to St. Louis, King of France, who intended to drive
the Jews beyond the boundaries of his kingdom, approves of this
plan since the Jews gave very little heed to the regulations made
by the Apostolic See in their regard: "Since We strive with
all Our heart for the salvation of souls, We grant you full power
by the authority of this letter to expel the Jews, particularly
since We have learned that they do not obey the said statutes
issued by this See against them" (Raynaldus, Annals, A.D.
1253, no. 34).
6. But if it is asked what matters the Apostolic
See forbids to Jews living in the same cities as Christians, We
will say that all those activities which are now allowed in Poland
are forbidden; these We recounted above. There is no need of much
reading to understand that this is the clear truth of the matter.
It is enough to peruse decretals with the heading de Judaeis,
et Saracenis; the constitutions of Our predecessors, the Roman
Pontiffs Nicholas IV, Paul IV, St. Pius V, Gregory XIII and Clement
VIII are readily available in the Roman Bullarium. To understand
these matters most clearly, Venerable Brothers, you do not even
need to read those. You will recall the statutes and prescripts
of the synods of your predecessors; they always entered in their
constitutions every measure concerning the Jews which was sanctioned
and ordained by the Roman Pontiffs.
7. The essence of the difficulty, however, is
that either the sanctions of the synods are forgotten or they
are not put into effect. To you then, Venerable Brothers, passes
the task of renewing those sanctions. The nature of your office
requires that you carefully encourage their implementation. In
this matter begin with the clergy, as is fair and reasonable.
These will have to show others the right way to act, and light
the way for the rest by their example. For in God's mercy, We
hope that the good example of the clergy will lead the straying
laity back to the straight path. You will be able to give these
orders and commands easily and confidently, in that neither your
property nor your privileges are hired to Jews; furthermore you
do no business with them and you neither lend them money nor borrow
from them. Thus, you will be free from and unaffected by all dealings
8. The sacred canons, prescribe that in the most
important cases, such as the present, censures should be imposed
upon the recalcitrant; and that those cases which bode danger
and ruin to religion should be reckoned as reserved cases in which
only the bishop can give absolution. The Council of Trent considered
your jurisdiction when it affirmed your right to reserve cases.
It did not restrict such cases to public crimes only, but extended
them to include more notorious and serious cases, provided they
were not purely internal. But we have often said that some cases
should be considered more notorious and serious. These are cases,
to which men are more prone, which are a danger both to ecclesiastical
discipline and to the salvation of the souls which have been entrusted
to your episcopal care. We have discussed these at length in Our
treatise On the diocesan synod, Book 5, 5.
9. In this matter We will help as much as possible.
If you have to proceed against ecclesiastics exempt from your
jurisdiction, you will doubtless encounter additional difficulties.
Therefore We are giving Our Venerable Brother Archbishop Nicaenus,
Our Nuncio there, a mandate appropriate for this business, in
order that he may supply for you the necessary means from the
powers entrusted to him. At the same time We promise you that
when the situation arises, We will cooperate energetically and
effectively with those whose combined authority and power are
appropriate to remove this stain of shame from Poland. But first
Venerable Brothers, ask aid from God, the source of all things.
From Him beg help for Us and this Apostolic See. And while We
embrace you in the fullness of charity, We lovingly impart to
you, Our brothers, and to the flocks entrusted to your care, Our
Given at Castelgandolfo on the 14th of June 1751
in the eleventh year of Our Pontificate.