St. Peter Canisius is perhaps one of the more neglected doctors of the Church. Amongst the names of the great saints in his era, of Borromeo, Ignatius, Philip Neri, Francis Xavier, John of the Cross, Teresa of Avila, St. Pius V, etc., his name tends to get lost. In Germany and Switzerland, however, his name was once synonymous with Catholic orthodoxy. St. Peter Canisius is almost unparallelled in his output, and even Protestant theologians praised and admired him for his holiness and learning.
One of the things Canisius could not brook was heresy. Here is an excerpt from a letter he wrote which is quoted in “A Champion of the Church: The Life of St. Peter Canisius”, which is going to be reprinted by next week, by Mediatrix press, so watch for that. In this letter, he is writing on the miserable state of Catholic universities.
“The masters of good and solid doctrine are few in number here and are not anxious to make their students better. Most of the professors have little standing from the point of view of science. In their teaching they are less concerned with the truths of the Gospel than with doctrines favoring the passions. Among them are secret or open heretics, who spread, more or less openly, the poison of error in the minds of their students. Left to themselves and without guidance, young men have no love for study and no desire to advance in science. False doctrine and immorality have been spread among the people. The faithful are no longer Catholics except in name; they live without giving a thought to their souls and a future life; they despise the authority of their pastors and of the Church. I write this in order to arouse your charity to pray that grace may abound more where sin has already abounded.”
Peter Canisius and his companions undertook this work of reforming morals and thought which was to be the great endeavor of his life. Not content with giving his lectures in theology, he endeavored by special lessons to make good the lack of preparation of many of his students. He was especially concerned with their souls, and succeeded in leading many back to the practice of piety. Having been appointed Rector of the University, he displayed great zeal in introducing necessary reforms. Thus he forbade the sale of works which were dangerous for faith or morals. The position of Vice-Chancellor was offered to him after his tenure of the office of Rector. He accepted it only for a specified time and on condition of not benefitting by the emoluments attached to the same.”
Today, he would be said to be too rigorist, which is not very merciful.
Shameless plug moment: The book from which this quote is taken from, A Champion of the Church, has just come back into print, courtesy of Mediatrix press (which I run). Consider buying a copy.