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Saturday, September 6, 2014

Deconstructing Modernism: Defending Pascendi in 1908: Part II

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St. Pius X: The Greatest Pope of the 20th Century St. Pius X: The Greatest Pope of the 20th Century

(Read Part I here)

The Absurdity of Modernism

“We are asked to cast aside the whole Christian teaching and to overturn the whole Christian fabric simply, it appears, because there are men who want to be in the forefront of a shouting, braying, shallow age. Thus for the first time in the Church's history do we find men calling themselves Catholics who have undertaken to blot out the name of Jesus Christ as the Son of God in the true meaning of the term, who mingle blasphemy, heresy and piety in equal proportions, and who would take away the sign of man's salvation and redemption; for if Christ be not God, as they would persuade us, what meaning can be attached to His life or to His Cross?” Rev. Simon FitzSimons

While here in the United States we are startled by the virulence of the errors and amazed at the sweeping infidelity and even pantheism of the doctrines as exposed by the Holy See, it appears that the matter is not wholly new in Europe. Neither does it seem to be a passing aberration of misguided enthusiasts. The error seems to be deeply seated and deeply rooted. It comes as an unpleasant surprise to us in this Western Continent, to find that there should be any class, or school, or number of men within the bosom of the Church, whether associated together by definite ties or not, who entertain views of Christianity utterly subversive of all Christian belief and order.

 

And yet the encyclical tells us:   "Once, indeed, we had hopes of recalling them to a better sense, and to this end we first of all showed them kindness as our children, then we treated them with severity, and at last we have had recourse, though with great reluctance, to public reproof... They bowed their head for a moment, but it was soon uplifted more arrogantly than ever." The Holy See might even then have overlooked the matter, as the encyclical informs us, "but the security of the Catholic name is at stake.” "As to maintain” silence "longer would be a crime," the encyclical depicts these men "in their true colors, and their evil disguise is unmasked.” Nay, the encyclical informs us that such are "their tenets, their manner of speech, their conduct" that no one will "err in accounting them the most pernicious of all the adversaries of the Church.” "They lay the axe not to the branches and shoots, but to the very root; that is, to the faith and its deepest fibres." "There is no part of Catholic truth from which they hold their hand, none they do not strive to corrupt.” Nay, what is more, "none is more skillful, none more astute than they in the employment of a thousand noxious art; for they double the parts of rationalist and Catholic, and this so craftily that they easily lead the unwary into error.” Again, we learn that "audacity is their chief characteristic,'' and that consequently "there is no conclusion of any kind from which they shrink or which they do not thrust forward with pertinacity and assurance.” What “destroys all hope of cure,” moreover, is that "they disdain all authority and brook no restraint."

This is an appalling arraignment, and we do not see that it is not only the interest, but the Christian duty of Catholics to take a firm stand in the exposure and censure of their errors. No Catholic worthy of the name can look on with indifference. Everything that the Christian holds dear is, it appears, gravely challenged. Our most earnest and sacred beliefs, our most ardent Christian hopes, our most cherished religious and devotional institutions-the whole divine economy of the Christian faith-is at one stroke obliterated, and man is again rudderless on the ocean of life. It is, indeed, startling to be told by an authority which there is no questioning that there are men within the bosom of the Church-and who, strange to say, wish to stay there-who would persuade us that Christ was but a mere man, who deny His resurrection, who would obliterate from the world all supernatural dealing of God with His creatures, who would exclude all revelation and all miracle, who at a single stroke would wipe out all the sacred parables and divine teachings of Jesus Christ, all the dogmatic teachings of the Church, all the sacraments, all supernaturalism, and who would degrade religion to the rank of handmaid to a blundering science-men who will tell us there has been no external revelation from God to man; that not even from the things that are seen can we conclude the existence of God ; that all religion is born of a sentiment inherent in man; that solely by the evolution of this sentiment-as the tree is developed from the seed-has there been a growth of religion; that all the religious phenomena to be met with in the world's history means nothing more than the development of this sentiment; that consequently all religions are equally true; that the wild vagaries of the human mind that have been palmed on deluded disciples as direct from heaven-everything from the excesses of the Lollards to Mormonism and Mrs. Eddy-have been equally true with the teachings and virtues of Christianity; that all have fulfilled their own legitimate and useful part in the development and evolution of society in general and of religion in particular, and consequently we suppose that they were the best religion for the time - as the evolutionists have it - being simply links in the chain of development.

This is indeed strange Catholic doctrine. God is unknowable. Revelation is impossible. Miracles are   unphilosophical. Christ was a mere man. He died and His body rotted in a pit like that of other men. And still the expounders of these theories wish to stay in the Catholic Church and maintain their preposterous speculations. What wonder that the world should be startled! What wonder that in this country, where we have had no such vagaries broached, the news should come as a genuine surprise and should be received with commingled pity and indignation.

And what is the cause of all this commotion and new religious enlightenment? Has there been a new revelation? No. Has there been a disproof of the revelation which we have? No. Has there been a disproof of all the doctrines and tenets of Christianity? No. Has there been a disproof of even one of these doctrines? No. It is not claimed that there has been. Has there been any invention or discovery which has discredited our Christian beliefs? Again no. But the encyclical leaves no room for doubt about the reason. We are asked to cast aside the whole Christian teaching and to overturn the whole Christian fabric simply, it appears, because there are men who want to be in the forefront of a shouting, braying, shallow age. Thus for the first time in the Church's history do we find men calling themselves Catholics who have undertaken to blot out the name of Jesus Christ as the Son of God in the true meaning of the term, who mingle blasphemy, heresy and piety in equal proportions, and who would take away the sign of man's salvation and redemption; for if Christ be not God, as they would persuade us, what meaning can be attached to His life or to His Cross?

It would, we think, be difficult to find in all human experience psychological phenomena of so extraordinary a character as the frame of mind indicated by the position of the modernist as exposed in the encyclical. The logical absurdity of their attitude as fighting for the retention of Christianity while they are making war on everything that makes Christianity valuable is without a parallel in the history of human aberrations. Christianity is false, they assure us. Its teachings are absurd. There never was any such thing as a revealed doctrine to mankind. There has been no supernatural foundation whatever on which to build the Christian edifice. And yet the Christian edifice, founded upon a lie, must be retained at all hazards and at any cost. Again, Christ announced that He was the Messiah - the true Son of God - all falsehoods in the eyes of the modernists. Consequently, according to them, the Saviour of mankind was the rankest and most daring impostor, if we can use the words without blasphemy. And yet Christ is one of the features to which the modernist must cling with the most unyielding tenacity. His personality must have and hold all its old-time power to sway the mind and captivate the will of men.

As a mere psychological problem, it would be difficult to give anything like a rational solution of such a preposterous attitude. But viewed from the historical standpoint, it admits, we think, of an easy solution, though, to be sure, the intellectual absurdity of the position remains the same as ever. The encyclical tells us that of "the intellectual causes of modernism... the chief one is ignorance.” To those who have followed closely the various movements in modern science and modern philosophy for the past quarter of a century or more this ignorance would seem to be combined with fear and anticipation. There is, we think, hardly any doubt that the present movement is the legitimate offspring of recent follies in science, philosophy and Biblical interpretation. It would seem to be the joint product of three separate and distinct factors-viz. : what is called the agnostic philosophy-the Darwinian theory of evolution-and the Tubingen school of hermeneutics, or, more properly speaking, of the so-called higher criticism which has superseded the school of Strauss and Baur. To this coalition the modernist seems to have completely and incontinently surrendered his Christian faith. The careful and rigid exclusion of the divine in human history, of the supernatural in Christianity and of the superhuman in Christ seems to have been a broad concession to the folly of agnosticism. The fantastic theories in their Scriptural interpretations and the rules adopted for the explanation of the divine in human affairs seem to be but mere modifications of Strauss and Baur or even of Renan, applied according to the personal fancy of the hermeneutist. And, lastly, fear that the Darwinian speculation regarding man’s origin might finally prove true, would seem to have been the primary cause of the movement. Even in the elaboration of their strange theories they seem to have followed, or perhaps borrowed, the method of the evolutionist in his application of   his theory to phenomena generally.

Indeed, there seems to be nothing original even in the modernist's mistakes. The systems of development, the methods and processes of theoretical application, the very notions themselves seem to be borrowed wholly from the principles and methods of the evolutionist. Even the theory of immanence seems to be but an adaptation of Max Muller's views in his ''Origin and Growth of Religion," in which he undertook to "show how religion arose with the pressure of the Infinite upon the Finite suspect, and how all religious systems are not progressive phases of the endeavor to give a rational expression a sensible and intelligible garb to what is super-sensible, transcendental and irrational in that consciousness of the Infinite which every sensible perception forces on us."   It had grown to be the custom, within the past couple of decades, to explain everything according to the idea of evolution and to apply that principle in its workings to the development of all phenomena. The late Herbert Spencer had undertaken to apply the theory not only to the organic and inorganic world, but to all classes of phenomena, whether material, mental, moral, social, political, historical or religious, and had actually made application of it, such as it was, to some of these departments of knowledge. The world today has its own views about the value of these labors. Spencer himself seemed to have grasped the notion of their folly and absurdity before he left them forever. In spite of this, however, the modernist, all unconscious of the folly of the evolutionist's work in this department, seems to have taken up the duty of applying the theory of evolution in the realm of religion, thus continuing the work of Spencer and showing the development of Christianity in accordance with the evolutionist theory. The task of the modernist seems to have been simply an attempt to fit the Church into the modern theories of the universe, especially to make the Catholic religion the outcome of the theory of evolution and even a part of the process itself. The Catholic Church would thus, so far from being at variance with the Darwinian theory, be in itself an exemplification, and even a proof, of that theory. Religious phenomena had developed - like all other phenomena - according to the natural law of evolution. Thus the Catholic Church was proof of the Darwinian Theory. The lion of natural science and the lamb of religion could after all lie down peaceably and amicably together under the dexterous manipulation of the modernist.

Stay tuned for Part III where the Rev. FitzSimons exposes the tragic and misguided motivations behind the zeal of the Modernists!

Last modified on Saturday, September 6, 2014