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Sunday, June 24, 2018

The Roots and Historical Consequences of Modernism

The Roots and Historical Consequences of Modernism

 Roberto de Mattei’s paper, presented today in Rome, is entitled “The roots and historical consequences of Modernism”. It provides a detailed study of the origin of the present theological confusion in the Church in the ideas embraced at the time of the so-called “Modernist crisis” of the early 20th century. The teaching of Maurice Blondel that experience is the criteria of truth spread to influential theologians such as Alfred Loisy, George Tyrrell, and Ernesto Buonaiuti, who all affirmed in various ways that truth is not immutable, rather it evolves as man evolves.



These writers in turn influenced Teilhard de Chardin, Henri de Lubac, and Karl Rahner, all of whom were extremely influential on the work and teaching of the Second Vatican Council. This “Neo-Modernism” subtly tried to influence the Church without revealing its agenda of dismantling the philosophical foundation of the immutable nature of Truth and the theological foundation of the unchanging character of Divine Revelation. Through a “revolution of language,” one of the key principles of Marxism, those who seek to foment revolution in the Church have used words such as “renewal,” “aggiornamento,” and “accompaniment” to radically change the Church’s praxis, falsely setting up a separation between doctrine and praxis. The writings and statements of contemporary churchmen such as Walter Kasper, Bruno Forte, and Jorge Bergoglio are imbued with this same thinking. Bergoglio is clearly a disciple of Blondel. The only effective way to combat the present culmination of the “Modernist crisis” is to embrace the immutable Tradition of the Church.

The roots and historical consequences of Modernism
Prof. Roberto de Mattei

 Conference on the occasion of the Study Day on
“Old and new Modernism: The Roots of the Church’ s Crisis”
Rome – June 23, 2018


            The origin of the term “Modernism”
It seems that the term “Modernism” was coined by the Belgian Catholic economist Charles Périn in his volume dedicated to Le modernisme dans l’Eglise[1] to indicate, under this name, a complex of errors which were penetrating the Church through the liberal Catholicism of Lamennais. In 1883 Padre Matteo Liberatore developed this theme with a series of articles in “Civiltà Cattolica[2].
The one, however, who gave the word “Modernism” its historical significance in the sense in which we still use it was Saint Pius X, who first used the term in the decree Lamentabili[3] of 3 July 1907 and in the encyclical Pascendi[4] of 8 September 1907. With this name Pius X wanted to define the united nature of the theological, philosophical and exegetical errors which had been spreading within the Catholic Church during the decades prior to his pontificate.
When he published Pascendi, Pius X had been reigning for only four years, whereas Modernism had had a long period of incubation. In order to trace its origins one must trace a genealogy of errors which took root above all within German philosophy in the 19th century. In fact, Modernism is derived from two lines of thought stemming from Lutheranism: the rationalism of Kant and Hegel, which reduced religion to philosophy, and the irrationalism of the “philosophers of feeling,” Jacobi and Schleiermacher, who identified religion with a feeling (sentiment) of the divine.
But Modernism is more than a doctrine: it is a new psychological attitude in the face of the modern world which can be linked to Americanism, a complex of new theories proposed by Fr. Isaac Hecker (1819-1888), a Protestant convert who became the founder of the Paulist congregation, who proposed the idea of a general evolution of faith and an accommodation of the Church to the exigencies of modernity.
This change of mentality developed above all during the pontificate of Leo XIII. On the philosophical level, the thought of Leo XIII was categorically opposed to modernity. In this sense, the encyclical Aeterni Patris of 4 August 1879 was a true manifesto against the errors of modern philosophy, in which the Pope affirmed that the great way for recovering lost truth was a return to to the philosophy of St. Thomas Aquinas. It was no coincidence that Pius X, in an Apostolic Letter written to the Roman Accademia of St. Thomas, affirmed that one of the principal titles of glory of Leo XIII was having sought “first and foremost and with all his strength to restore the doctrine of St. Thomas Aquinas.”[5]
On the political and pastoral level, however, Leo XIII sought to reconcile with the modern world which he fought on the philosophical level. This spirit of compromise was principally expressed in the idea of ralliement[6], or in the politics of rapprochement with the masonic and secularist Third Republic in France as endorsed by the encyclical Au milieu des sollicitudes[7] of 16 February 1892.
Modernism presented itself, purely arbitrarily, as the transposition of ralliementfrom the political to the theological and philsophical level. Ralliement actually encouraged numerous members of the clergy (not only in France) to extend an openness to the modern world beyond the political level to include the theological level. Leo XIII, it was said, had opened the way to a more modern and scientific teaching in which exegesis and history ought to accompany theological and philosophical research.[8] The Institut Catholique of Paris showed itself to be a “laboratory” of new tendencies. It was here that Msgr. Louis Duchesne (1843-1922) taught Church History and, under his guidance, Alfred Loisy (1857-1940) was formed as a docent of exegesis. It was Loisy who carried the “historical-critical” method of his teacher to extreme consequences. A third personality, Abbé Marcel Hébert (1851-1916), translated the ideas of Loisy and Duchesne into the philosophical realm. According to Abbé Barbier, these three priests, two of whom ended up in apostasy, exercised a decisive influence on the orientation of young clergy and young lay Catholics during the years 1880-1893.[9]  
This “Neo-Christianity” also spread rapidly outside the walls of the Institut Catholique. On 7 June 1893, the young Maurice Blondel (1861-1949), defended his doctoral thesis at the Sorbonne entitled L’Action: Essai d’une critique de la vie et d’une science de la pratique.[10] In this work which was destined to be widely acclaimed, he proposed that the human spirit is led by an internal dynamism to seek God in the immanence of action. Blondel’s new “philosophy of immanence” sought to substitute “intellectualism” with the aspirations of the heart and the exigencies of life, seeking the roots of the supernatural within man’s own nature. Based on this premise of immanentism, modern thought derived the idea that man, by following his desire for the infinite, can participate in the divine infinity in his identity. What united the philosophical method of Blondel to the scientific method of the new historians and exegetes was the primacy of place given to experience as the ultimate criteria of all certainty and truth.
Leo XIII began to take account of the danger represented by these new exegetical and philosophical doctrines. After the Apostolic Letter Testem Benevolentiæ[11]against Americanism on 22 January 1889, he published on 8 September 1899 his letter to the clergy of France Depuis le jour,[12] with which he reaffirmed the urgency of returning to the philosophy and theology of Saint Thomas. But the new philosophical and exegetical tendencies were still spreading.

St. Pius X and Modernism
        The spark that would set off the Modernist controversy was the polemic initiated by the appearance in 1902 of the essay by Abbé Alfred Loisy L’Evangile et l’Eglise,[13] written in response to the interpretation of Christianity which had been given by the Protestant exegete Adolf von Harnack (1851-1930) in his lectures at the University of Berlin. Loisy, applying the new “historical-critical” method to the exegetical field, denied or nullified the revealed nature of the Old and New Testament, the divinity of Christ, the institution of the Church, the hierarchy, and the sacraments. In a retrospective analysis of his work, he declared that he had wanted “an essential reform of Biblical exegesis, of all of theology, and finally of Catholicism in general.”[14]
The debate was further extended to the philosophical field by the Oratorian Lucien Laberthonnière (1862-1932), director of the “Annales de philosophie chrétienne,” in which he laid out the argument for the necessity of separating Christianity from Thomistic Aristotelianism, and also by Edouard Le Roy (1870-1954), the successor of Bergson at the College de France, for whom dogmatic truth was only an element giving orientation to praxis and which could not be demonstrated to be true in itself, but rather could only be translated into ethical action.
The two principal theologians of the movement were two priests, George Tyrrell of Ireland (1861-1909) and Ernesto Buonaiuti of Italy (1881-1946). Tyrrell converted from Calvinism to Anglicanism and then to Catholicism (1879) and then entered the Society of Jesus, identifying Revelation with “religious experience,” which is accomplished in each individual conscience, through which the lex orandi dictates the norms of the lex credendi, and not vice-versa. In fact, this Revelation-experience, “cannot come to us from outside; the teaching can be the occasion, not the cause.”[15]
Buonaiuti was professor of Church history at the Seminario dell’Apollinare and the author of Programma dei modernisti, which appeared anonymously in Rome in October 1907. This work constituted an attempt to make an organic response to Pascendi and was praised by the chief propoents of the Modernist movement like Tyrrell, who translated it into English.
Modernism finally found, according to the expression of Loisy, an important “agent of connection” in the figure of Baron Friedrich von Hügel (1852-1925). The son of an Austrian father and a Scottish mother, by means of his social prestige and his cosmopolitan status, von Hügel was “the intermediate link between German-English and Italian society, between the ideas of the philosophy of action and those of historical immanence.”[16] Paul Sabatier (1858-1928), defined von Hügel as the “lay bishop of the Modernists,”[17] but Tyrrell presented him to Abbé Henri Brémond (1865-1933) as their “lay Pope.” Our program, he wrote with sarcasm, “is a religion made perfectly acceptable and which will be received with open arms by the major part of the Anglican and Protestant confessions; and when the papacy will be completely confounded and discredited, we will march on the Vatican and we will install the Baron [von Hügel] on the Chair of Peter as the first lay Pope.”[18]
Faced with this aggressive and underground movement, Pius X reacted with the publication of a prophetic document, the encyclical Pascendi.
The nucleus of Modernism for St. Pius X did not consist only in opposition to one or another of the revealed truths, but in the radical transformation of the whole notion of “truth” itself, through the acceptance of the “principle of immanence” which is at the foundation of modern thought, as is summed up in proposition 58 condemned by the Decree Lamentabili: “The truth is no more immutable than man himself, for it evolves with him and for him.”
Immanence is a philosophical conception which assumes experience as an absolute and excludes all transcendent reality. For the modernists, it is born from a religious feeling, which by not placing itself on any rational foundation is in reality fideism. Faith is thus not an adhesion of the intelligence to a truth revealed by God, but a religious exigency which springs from the obscure foundation (the subconscience) of the human soul. The representations of the divine realities are reduced to “symbols,” whose “intellectual formula” changes according to the “interior experience” of the believer. The formulas of dogma, for the Modernists, do not contain absolute truths; they are images of the truth which ought to adapt themselves to religious feeling.
In the final analysis religious truth resolves itself in the self-conscience of the individual faced with the individual problems of faith. In this sense there is a return to the tendency of Gnosticism to embrace all truths by means of one principle, the subjectivity of the truth and the relativity of all of its formulas.[19]For St. Pius X, “in fact the immanence of the Modernists desires and admits that each phenomenon of conscience is born from man in each man. Therefore as a legitimate consequence we may deduce that God and man are the same thing: it is therefore pantheism.[20]
Pascendi may be considered to be a fundamental document of the Magisterium of the Church, and among all the acts of Pius X it remains, as Padre Cornelio Fabro wrote, “the most distinguished monument of his pontificate.”[21] In turn the historian Emile Poulat emphasizes that Pascendi is the logical outcome of the direction affirmed by Pius IX a half-century earlier in the Syllabus of Errors (1864): “Pius IX denounced errors ad extra (outside the Church) which were running through the world; Pius X, in contrast, condemned a phenomenon ad intra (inside the Church), condeming these same errors which were infiltrating the Church, where they had taken form and root.”[22]

From Modernism to Nouvelle théologie
Saint Pius understood that he was dealing not with a philosophical school but with a [political] party, and in the Motu Proprio Sacrorum Antistitum[23] of 1 September 1910 with which he imposed the anti-Modernist oath, he also advanced the hypothesis that Modernism formed a true and real “secret society” within the Church.[24] A witness from “within” the movement like Albert Houtin describing the level of Modernism foresaw that the innovators would not leave the Church, not even even if they would lose their faith, but that rather they would remain within the Church as long as possible so as to propagate their ideas.[25] “Up until now,” explained Buonaiuti, “they wanted to reform Rome without Rome, or perhaps against Rome. There is a need to reform Rome with Rome; to make the reform pass through the hands of those who need to be reformed. Behold, this is the true and infallible method; but it is difficult. Hic opus, hic labor.”[26]Modernism proposed, in this perspective, to transform Catholicism from within, leaving intact, as far as possible, the external trappings of the Church.
How is it possible to imagine that such a vast and complex movement would have surrendered after being condemned? In the years following the death of Pius X, the strategy of the Modernists was to declare Modernism inexistent and to strongly condemn the anti-Modernist movement. The tendencies of the innovators in the Biblical, liturgical, theological, and ecumenical fields continued to develop within the Church in an apparently spontaneous manner without any order or direction, as had already taken place under Leo XIII. In reality Modernism was circulating, not only in books, but throughout the entire body of the Church, poisoning every aspect. This allowed the “nouvelle théologie” which was just emerging to present itself as a “living” theology and philosophy, linked to history, in opposition to the bookish abstraction of the Neo-Scholastic school.
In Belgium, at Tournai, stood the Dominican convent of Le Saulchoir, where, beginning in 1932, Pere Marie-Dominique Chenu (1895-1990) was “regent of studies.” In 1937 there appeared his wise proto-manuscript, entitled Une école de théologie, Le Saulchoir,[27] which wanted to be a “methodological” program for the formation of Dominican students. Chenu criticized anti-Modernist theology in the name of a “Christ of faith” who can be known (as the Modernists wanted) in the “Christ of history.” In the measure in which historicity is the condition of the faith and of the Church, the theologians ought to be able to read “the signs of the times,” or the manifestation of faith in history.
The “manifesto” of the French Dominican was placed on the Index by a decree of the Holy Office on 4 February 1942, and Chenu was removed from his position. But his disciples, like Pere Yves Congar (1904-1995), were more convinced than ever that their generation ought to “recover and transfer into the patrimony of the Church any element of value which could emerge from embracing Modernism.”[28]
What the school of Le Saulchoir was for the Dominicans, the university institute of Fourvière near Lyon was for the Jesuits. This school was influenced above all by the teaching of Pere Auguste Valensin (1879-1953), a disciple of Blondel and close friend of another leading personality, the Jesuit Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (1881-1955), who was suspended from his teaching position in 1926 and condemned by the Holy Office in 1939. The most direct continuer of the work of Blondel and Teilhard was Pere Henri de Lubac (1896-1991), who had known Teilhard at the beginning of the 1920s, and was profoundly influenced by him.
Corresponding to the “nouvelle théologie” was the idea of a “nouvelle chrétienté” elaborated in the same years by the French philosopher Jacques Maritain (1882-1973). His work Humanisme intégral[29] (1936) exercised an influence no less than that of Blondel’s Action, above all on the laity[30]. Despite Maritain’s declared adherence to the principles of Thomism, his philosophy of history and his sociology converged with the Neo-Modernism which was flourishing among the young religious of the Jesuit and Dominican orders.
In 1946 there appeared an important article by Pere Réginald Garrigou-Lagrange (1877-1964), one of the most acute theological minds of his time, on the theme La Nouvelle Théologie où va-t-elle?[31]. The Dominican theologian affirmed that the nouvelle théologie comes from Modernism and leads to complete Apostasy. “In place of the philosophy of being or ontology there is substituted the philosophy of action, which defines the Truth as a function, not of being, but of action. Thus one returns to the Modernist position: ‘The truth is not any more immutable than man, because it evolves with him, in him, and through him’ (Denz. 2058). For this reason Saint Pius X said of the Modernists: ‘They pervert the eternal notion of truth’ (Denz. 2080).”
The Nouvelle Thélogie was thus condemned by Pius XII on 12 August 1950, with the encyclical Humani Generis.[32] The Pope denounced the “poisonous fruits” produced by “novelties in almost every field of theology” and condemned, without naming them, those who made their own the language and mentality of modern philosophy and who attempted “to be able to explain dogmas with the categories of contemporary philosophy, whether of immanentism, idealism, existentialism, or whatever other system.”[33] The principal error condemned by the encyclical was relativism, according to which human knowledge never has a real and immutable value, but only a relative value.
The encyclical Humani generis did not succeed in stopping the advance of the Nouvelle Théologie, which in the final years of the pontificate of Pius XII extended itself to the field of moral theology. The primary subverters of traditional morality were the German Jesuit Josef Fuchs (1912–2005), the Italian Redemptorist Domenico Capone (1907-1998), and above all the German Redemptorist Bernard Häring (1912-1998). The Nouvelle Thèologie, daughter of Modernism, supported the principle of the evolution of dogmas. The new moralists extended this principle to the moral realm, substituting in place of the absolute and immutable natural law a new moral law which was affective, personal, and existential. The individual conscience became the sovereign norm of morality.

Father Hesse: A Conversation, "Tradition vs Modernism" 



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