Michael Davies on Modernism
The subject of my talk this evening is Modernism. It’s a word with which we’ll all be familiar, and which some of you will have used from time to time, applying it no doubt to some priest or nun who has scandalized you with a statement or an action that has outraged your sense of orthodoxy.
I’m sure that you will all know that the original Modernists were active in a number of European countries at the end of the 19th century, and that their movement was eventually crushed, or at least driven underground by Pope Saint Pius X. But I wonder how many people here this evening are aware of the full extent of the threat to the Faith posed by Modernism, the synthesis of all heresies, as Saint Pius X described it.
Modernism was not simply a threat to Catholicism, it undermined the very basis of any form of religion which postulates belief in a supernatural world.
The basis of Modernism involves the question as to whether God is transcendent or only imminent. I’m sure that many of you know precisely what these terms mean, but some of you might like to have the terms clarified, as I shall be using them frequently.
As Catholics, we believe that God is transcendent. This means that he exists independently of the universe. If the material universe ceased to exist, God would still be there. He is the creator of the universe. He existed before time began. He not only created everything that exists, spiritual and material, visible and invisible, He keeps it in existence. In contrast, to believe in a transcendent God, we have pantheism, or imminentism; a belief which identifies God with the universe–with material creation. He is some kind of motivating force which informs the material universe, which has no existence independently of that universe.
Obviously, we all believe that God is imminent as well as transcendent. He is everywhere, he does inform the universe–to use the technical term–but he is not identified with the universe.
The problem can be simplified–oversimplified, perhaps–by distinguishing between a god out there and a god in here; a fifth, or a funny interior feeling, as Monsignor Ronald Knox used to put it.
GK Chesterton was very unimpressed by those whose god consisted of no more than a funny interior feeling. He was not be just he was not disposed to be polite to those who worship the God within. Listen to what he wrote in Orthodoxy:
Of all horrible religions the most horrible is the worship of the God within. Anyone who knows anybody knows how it would work. Anyone who knows anyone from the Higher Thought Center knows how it does work. That Jones shall worship the God within him turns out ultimately to mean that Jones soul worship Jones. Let Jones worship the sun or moon, anything rather than the inner light. Let Jones worship cats or crocodiles, if he can find any in his street. But not the God within. Christianity came into the world firstly in order to assert that that a man has not only to look inwards but to look outwards to behold with astonishment and enthusiasm a divine company and divine captain. The only fan of being a Christian was that a man was not left alone with the inner light, but definitely recognized an outer light, clear as the sun, clear as the moon, terrible as an army with banners.GK Chesterton, Orthodoxy
Today the controversy as to whether God is transcendent or imminent is generally simplified to those two phrases which I have mentioned: a god out there or god in here. The inevitable logic of Modernism is that there is no God out there, only a God in here, that is, that God is not transcendent but imminent. Saint Pius X disagreed and so he excommunicated the Modernists.
That basically is what my talk is all about and that basically is all that I’m going to say, so that anybody who’d like to spare themselves hearing it said over the next 40 minutes is welcome to go now. I have to warn you that I am descended from a long line of Welsh Baptists and we do find it very hard to speak briefly. Mustn’t be fooled by my Somerset accent, as my father came over from Wales to educate the people of Somerset. I even joined the Somerset light infantry instead of the South Wales Borderers. But, probably by the end of forty or fifty minutes are up, you’ll you’ll realize I do have the Celtic failing of going on a little too long, that I shall try to control it as much as possible.
Well, obviously, if the Modernists presented a perverted concept of God, their concept of the Church must have been equally far from the truth. If we are to grasp the error of Modernism we must be clear about the nature of the Church, and so, before taking up the subject of Modernism, I will try to present you with a brief as possible resume of the nature of the Church.
In her most profound reality the Catholic Church is Christ himself. We can thus understand the axiom that there is no salvation outside the Church, because there is no salvation outside Christ. The Catholic Church is a perpetuation of the Incarnation throughout the nations and the centuries. The Church is Christ’s mystical body. He is the head, the Holy Ghost the Soul, and we are the members.
And the mission of Christ’s mystical body is identical to that which Our Lord undertook while living amongst us with a physical body, received from Our Lady. Pope Leo XIII teaches in his encyclical, Sartis Cognitum, that the mandate entrusted by Christ to his Church is, I quote, “the same mandate which he had received from the Father.”
“The one mission of Christ and of His Church is,” the Pope tells us, “to save that which had perished.” That is to say, not some nations of peoples, but the whole human race, without distinction of time and place.
Because the Church is a body; she is visible, she’s united by visible bonds. The first of these is visible government. Pope Leo XIII explained in his encyclical, Annum Ingressi, Christianity is in fact incarnate in the Catholic Church:
It is to be identified with that perfect and spiritual society, sovereign in its sphere which is the mystical body of Jesus Christ, and has for its head the Roman pontiff, successor of the prince of the Apostles. She is the continuation of the Saviour’s mission the daughter of the redemption and it’s heir she has spread the Gospel and defended it with her life’s blood, and strong in the divine assistance and the immortality which had been promised her, she never compromises with error. She remains faithful to the mandate which she has received to bear the teaching of Jesus Christ to the world and to keep it inviolable in its integrity to the end of time.Pope Leo XIII, Annum Ingressi
The second bond by which the Church is united is the faith.
The unity of the faith should be so closely knit and so perfect amongst His followers that it might, in some measure, shadow forth the union between Himself and His Father: “I pray that they all may be one as Thou Father in Me and I in Thee.”
Agreement and union of minds is the necessary foundation of this perfect concord amongst men, from which concurrence of wills and similarity of action are the natural results. Wherefore, in His divine wisdom, He ordained in His Church Unity of Faith; a virtue which is the first of those bonds which unite man to God, and whence we receive the name of the faithful – “one Lord, one faith, one baptism” (Eph. iv., 5)
Christ instituted in the Church a living, authoritative and permanent Magisterium, which by His own power He strengthened, by the Spirit of truth He taught, and by miracles confirmed. He willed and ordered, under the gravest penalties, that its teachings should be received as if they were His own.Sartis Cognitum
The word ‘Magisterium’ is derived from the Latin, magister, the teacher, and refers, as the quotation from Pope Leo XIII–which I’ve just given you–made clear, to the living, teaching authority in the Church.
When the Magisterium teaches the entire Church authoritatively on a matter involving faith and morals we must hear and accept that teaching as if it came from Our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, as indeed it does, for the voice of the Magisterium is the voice of Christ teaching us today.
The Magisterium is represented by the Pope himself when he teaches in his capacity as the vicar of Christ. The Pope does not teach as a delegate of the universal episcopate, and his teaching does not derive its authority from their consent or the consent of the faithful at large the voice of the Magisterium is also represented by the universal episcopate, where all the bishops of the world are united on a point of doctrine among themselves and with the bishop of Rome.
The Magisterium can be exercised in two ways ordinarily and extraordinarily the ordinary Magisterium is the day-to-day teaching of the Pope and the bishops united to him this teaching is binding in different degrees depending largely on the subject matter the manner of its promulgation and the extent to which it is a reiteration of previous pronouncements of the Magisterium.
When you read a papal encyclical you find great stress is laid in the whole series of footnotes referring to previous statements of popes on the same subject. Pope John Paul II has just issued an encyclical dealing with social questions, including such topics as the role of trade unions, while we are bound to examine his teaching with great respect, we would be entitled to differ from him, where perhaps he introduced a novel viewpoint on a matter not involving faith and morals, but when the Pope reiterates some consistent point of Catholic belief; that women are ineligible for the priesthood, that contraception is intrinsically evil, or that homosexuality is totally incompatible with Christianity, then there is no room whatsoever for dissent. Such teaching can obtain infallible status simply from being consistently taught by the Ordinary Magisterium. A pronouncement of the Extraordinary Magisterium is usually made to settle, once and for all, a matter that has been the subject of controversy.
The Extraordinary Magisterium is invoked when either the Pope alone or the Pope in union with the fathers of a general counsel, invokes the assistance of the Holy Ghost in proclaiming as divinely revealed a certain proposition to which the entire Church is required to give the absolute assent of faith. The most frequently cited examples of the exercise of the extraordinary Magisterium are the proclamation of the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption of Our Lady.
Much of the teaching of the Council of Trent and the First Vatican Council is guaranteed as infallible by the Extraordinary Magisterium, but not one document of Vatican II comes to us with this level of authority. The council fathers at Vatican II deliberately refrained from investing the teaching of that council with the authority of the Extraordinary Magisterium. Despite this, much of its teaching is certainly infallible because it’s a reiteration of previous infallible teaching, or frequently reiterated teachings of the Ordinary Magisterium.
In his encyclical, Satis Cognitum, Pope Leo XIII stressed not only that unity of faith is an essential prerequisite for membership of the One Visible Church founded by Our Lord, but that the entire deposit of faith must be accepted.
By the Deposit of Faith we mean the stock or treasure of faith entrusted to the Church which she must faithfully preserve and infallibly expound. This original deposit is subject to development as the centuries progresses, but always under the guidance of the Magisterium, and it must always remain consistent with a previous stage of development.
Thus, the doctrine of the Trinity is defined by the Councils of Nicaea in 325 and Charleston in 451, cannot be found spelled out so exactly in the New Testament. But the doctrine of those councils is compatible with the New Testament and a legitimate development of its teaching.
The Protestant who claims that a developed Catholic teaching is incompatible with the Gospel is like a man who looks at a mighty oak tree and denies that it can have developed from an acorn.
Pope Leo XIII explains:
All those things are to be believed by divine and Catholic faith, which are contained in the written or unwritten Word of God, and which are proposed by the Church as divinely revealed, either by solemn definition or in the exercise of its Ordinary and Universal Magisterium.Pope Leo XIII, Satis Cognitum
Quoting St. Augustine and 2 Corinthians, the Pope rejects as totally unacceptable the possibility that membership of the Church is compatible with the rejection of even one doctrine proposed to us by the Magisterium as divinely revealed:
He who dissents even in one point from divinely revealed truth absolutely rejects all faith, since he thereby refuses to honour God as the supreme truth and the formal motive of faith. “In many things they are with me, in a few things not with me; but in those few things in which they are not with me the many things in which they are will not profit them”. And this indeed most deservedly; for they, who take from Christian doctrine what they please, lean on their own judgments, not on faith; and not “bringing into captivity every understanding unto the obedience of Christ”, they more truly obey themselves than God. “You, who believe what you like, believe yourselves rather than the gospel”.
Cardinal Newman expressed the same point in very blunt terms, “you must accept the whole or reject the whole.”
The literal meaning of the word heretic is, of course, one who chooses. Just as Satan, the prince of this world, did all that lay in his power to obstruct the mission of Our Lord during his physical presence upon earth, so he has strenuously attempted to nullify the mission of the Mystical Body of Christ.
The Church is composed of two elements: the human and the divine. The Church herself is without spot or wrinkle, she is perfect. But the individual members of the Church have no such perfection. Our intellects and wills have been weakened by original sin. Though we wish to do what is right our inclination is to do what is wrong.
The problem confronting a Christian is to be in the world but not of the world. He is simply a sojourner here his true home is in heaven his eyes should ever be fixed upon his heavenly destiny but frequently, almost invariably, they are not. And living in the world, the Christian is influenced by the world. The temptation is always present to adopt his views to its views, his standards to its standards.
In his short history of the Church, first published in 1939, Monsignor Philip Hughes, perhaps the most scholarly and objective Catholic historian of this century, noted that as early as the second century, a pattern had been established which has been with us ever since. And I’ll stress again, this is what Monsignor Hughes says about the Church, by the end of the second century:
We are seeing the appearances of types that will never cease to reappear throughout 2000 years. Catholics who proposed to explain Catholicism by synthesis with the intellectual life of the time. Catholics who look back from the difficulties of the moment to the happy time of a far-off golden age of primitive faith. Catholics who turn from an official teaching that does not encourage this personal likings, to an alleged private inspiration that sets them apart from ordinary discipline. In one sense, Church history as a web where such threads as these do but cross and re-cross.
Of all the dogmas proposed to us by the Church, the one that is most fundamental is the one of which I’ve already spoken to you, that is the dogma of God’s transcendence. Is God transcendent or imminent? This is the question that will decide what we believe and how we live. For those who answer that he is only imminent are saying, in effect, that He does not exist and we may believe what we like and live as we like.
The Church teaches us that God is transcendent, or as I’ve already explained, he is a god out there. Let me repeat once more that this means that God the creator is distinct from creation. He exists independently of creation. If the universe did not exist, He would still be there.
There are innumerable forms of imminentism, all basically forms of pantheism, which as I’ve already explained as the belief that God is identified with the universe. A Catholic then must believe in a transcendent God. But the logical outcome of Modernism is that God was merely imminent in other words no God at all. Saint Pius X summed this up perfectly in his encyclical, Pescendi, condemning Modernism. He warned by how many roads Modernism leads to atheism:
The error of Protestantism made the first step on this path. That of Modernism makes the second. Atheism the next.
Thus, the Pope explained:
The Modernists lay the ax not to the branches and shoots but to the very root that is to the faith and its deepest fibers
It is the most dangerous of all heresies not least because the Modernists put into their plans the destruction of the Church, not from without, as the Pope said, but from within.
Saint Pius X saw the origin of Modernism in the Protestant heresy, and he was correct. There have been and are many conservative Protestants who are as opposed to Modernism as Saint Pius X. The Protestant theologian Karl Barth, who died in 1968, was among the most effective of all the opponents of Modernism. The transcendence of God was the foundation of his theology. “God is holy other,” is the way that he expressed it.
But Modernism is a development of Rationalism and Rationalism with the inevitable outcome of the protestant reformation our word reason is derived from the Latin word ratsio.
Rationalism, when applied to religion, is the practice of treating the human reason as the ultimate authority in religion, as it is elsewhere. Today, it’s generally understood as an attitude which explains away the supernatural element in religion, leaving only what can be explained by human reason.
The Protestant Reformer certainly did not envisage the direction their break with Rome and ultimately take them when they replaced the authority of the living Magisterium of the Church with that of the Bible. They claim to be appealing from the authority of the Church to the authority of inspired scriptures, but who is to interpret the Scriptures if there is no infallible teacher? The Catholic Church teaches that the words of Our Lord, “this is my body,” mean precisely that. Most of the Reformers taught that, by these words, Our Lord meant, “this is the symbol of my body.” They claimed that this was the true meaning of the Bible but it was not the Bible which provided this meaning it was provided by the reason of the reformers interpreting the Bible.
Cardinal Manning wrote, “the movement of the 16th century in its last analysis is the assertion that the reason of man is the critic and measure of all truth itself.”
The Reformers would have been horrified by the claim of Rudolf Bultmann, perhaps the most notorious of all the Liberal Protestant Theologians, that I quote, “the resurrection is not itself a fact of history such an impossible marvel could only spring from mythology.” But the process which led Bultmann to deny the Resurrection was the same process which had led the Protestant Reformers to deny the real presence of Christ in the Blessed Sacrament. The Reformers and Bultman considered their own reason the ultimate authority for interpreting scripture. What right with the Reformers have had to deny Bultman what they accorded to themselves?
The inherent weakness of Protestantism is that the individual believer has no guarantee that anything is certainly true beyond his personal conviction that it is. Some, like Karl barth, believe and teach much that is true. Others, like Bultmann, “explain away the whole Gospel,” as Cardinal Heenan expressed it. The 19th century Rationalist and Liberal Protestant historians and theologians had, in the words of Joseph Renan, “forced Jesus to renounce his divinity.”
Renan, himself formerly a Catholic priest and theologian, did as much as anyone to destroy belief in Christ’s divinity with his book, Vi de Jesu (The life of Christ). In this book, he repudiated the supernatural element in Christ’s life portraying him as a charming and amiable Galilean preacher.
Renan had a considerable influence upon the Abbé Alfred Loisy, the Modernist who I shall examined most closely in this talk.
Rationalist and Liberal protestant critics emptied Christianity of every supernatural element. They claimed to have demythologized the Scriptures, that is, they had stripped away the myths which they claimed had been added by the early Christians to the life of the historical Jesus. These myths were moral, legendary, and symbolic stories reflecting what the first Christians felt about Jesus. They considered him unlike any other man who has ever lived, and symbolized this belief by the myth of the Virgin Birth. His influence upon the first Christians was so profound that it endured after His death, hence the myth of the Resurrection.
Not all these critics had the same beliefs. Not all were equally radical. Some express reservations that the extent to which others were going. Renan himself felt that some critics of the Liberal school had gone too far. “They make Christ a professor of Christian morality,” he used to say.
There is no reason to suppose that these critics were not motivated by a sincere desire to reach the truth, to show us the historical Jesus so that we could benefit from whatever lessons his life had to teach. But whatever their intentions, the person and teaching of Jesus were so completely demolished that one might ask if he really existed. Of Christian belief in Inspiration and Scripture, nothing whatever remained.
Catholics living in a pluralistic society, as I’ve already mentioned, are bound to be affected by the predominant ideas of their time particularly, if these Catholics happen to be scholars. The Higher Criticism, as it was called, made a profound impact upon Catholic scholars, who reacted in different ways.
The response advocated by Pope Leo XIII was to train scholars who would be the intellectual equals of the Higher Critics, meet them on their own ground, and vindicate Catholic teaching. The Pope had consistently and correctly maintained that the Church can have nothing to fear from the truth.
The hopes of Pope Leo were fulfilled by such brilliant scholars as Father Lagrange and Father de Grandmaison, and in the École pratique d’études bibliques, directed by Father Lagrange at Jerusalem.
Other Catholic scholars felt that the basic thesis of the Higher Critics was correct, and that if the Church wished to retain Her credibility in the 20th century, she must accept these conclusions and present the Faith in a way that would be found acceptable to contemporary man. These men were the Modernists, and their fundamental error they in twisting an alterable truth to coincide with contemporary thought.
The most influential of all the modernists was the Abbé Alfred Loisy. Alfred Loisy wrote that “the avowed modernist form a fairly definite group of thinking men united in a common desire to adapt Catholicism to the intellectual moral and social needs of today.”
Other heresies had undermined particular dogmas. Modernism endangered all that constituted the Church, and was, as I’ve already mentioned, described by Saint Pius X as the synthesis of all heresies. It was a theological hydra, appearing in different countries and receiving considerable support from Liberal Protestant and Rationalist scholars, despite the fact that the Modernists claimed to repudiate the theories of these movements. They claimed that their principal concern was to defend the Church against the Rationalists and Liberal Protestants. But Saint Pius X would have none of this. He wrote “they are already known and praised by the rationalists as fighting under the same banner.” (Pascendi)
Modernism itself is not a particularly interesting topic. Its doctrines are so tortuous and destructive of the supernatural that it is depressing to examine them. And yet, wrote Saint Pius X, “these are not merely the foolish babblings of unbelievers there are Catholics, yay, and priests, who say these things openly and they boast that they are going to reform the Church by these ravings.” But if Modernism is not an interesting topic the modernists are there the stuff of which great novels can be written their stories could in some cases be termed tragedies in the strict Aristotelian sense of the term, that is the fall of a not inherently wicked man from a position of greatness or importance through some misjudgment or defect of character.
We usually find the story of a good man going wrong more absorbing than that of a bad man becoming good. Saint Pius X tells us that the weakness that brought down the modernists was the sin that caused the fall of Satan and is the cause of so many other sins. This is what he said about the Modernists:
It is pride which fills Modernists with that self-assurance by which they consider themselves and pose as the rule for all. It is pride which puffs them up with that vainglory which allows them to regard themselves as the sole possessors of knowledge, and makes them say, elated and inflated with presumption, We are not as the rest of men, and which, lest they should seem as other men, leads them to embrace and to devise novelties even of the most absurd kind. It is pride which rouses in them the spirit of disobedience and causes them to demand a compromise between authority and liberty. It is owing to their pride that they seek to be the reformers of others while they forget to reform themselves, and that they are to be found utterly wanting in respect for authority, even for the Supreme Authority. Truly there is no road which leads so directly and so quickly to Modernism as pride.
Looking at the modernists from the human interest standpoint, the story of George Tyrrell would probably be the most absorbing.
Tyrrell was born to a Protestant family in Ireland in 1861. His interest in the Faith was aroused by the impression made upon him by a little girl called Anne Kelly, a maid of all work, employed by his mother. Although poorly educated, she knew her faith, and could stand up to his mother in any argument.
Tyrrell eventually moved to England and became a Catholic in 1879 he joined the society of Jesus and was almost expelled before taking his vows. His superior saw in him a violent self-will that made him unfit for the Society, but he was permitted to remain, was ordained in 1891, and said Mass for 15 years.
In 1897, he was lead into Modernism under the influence of the Baron von Hugo, of whom I shall say more later.
In 1899, the Jesuit general in Rome condemned an article Tyrrell had written as unorthodox. Pressure mounted to secure his expulsion from the Society, but he continued writing under pseudonyms, a favorite device of the Modernists.
His personality was very pleasant. it was said that no one who met him could dislike him. But nonetheless he displayed a weakness of character. He circulated privately what he had been forbidden to publish, or else he published pseudonymously. He prevaricated when faced with direct questions about his authorship he had no hesitation in employing the most blatant casuistry in defense of his guerrilla warfare with the censors. Father Tyrrell was expelled from the Society in 1906, and forbidden to say Mass, but still permitted to receive the Sacraments. Even this was forbidden to him after he attacked the encyclical Pascendi in 1907, and he was excommunicated in the same year.
His friend, Baron von Hugo, wrote a letter to the Times announcing that Tyrrell had not renounced his Modernist beliefs before dying of Bright’s disease. Bishop Amigo of Southwark denied him a Catholic burial, in consequence.
Tyrrell’s posthumous book, Christianity at the Crossroads, questioned whether Christianity was the final religion, and held out hopes of a universal religion of which Christianity was but the germ.
Tyrrell had dreamt of reconciling science and faith. His pleasant personality and literary grace enabled him to exert a considerable influence upon his times. But he came somewhat late to the movement, which meant that he was largely dependent upon french writers for his ideas. His contribution to Modernism was thus largely derivative. He was an auxilary of the Continental Modernists, and it is for this reason that the movement will be studied through its most notable continental exponent, the Abbé Alfred Loisy rather than the tragic figure of Father George Tyrrell.
Before examining the career of Loisy, it’s necessary to say something more of the Baron von Hugo, who lived from 1852 until 1925.
Father John Mckee has described von Hugo as the godfather and telephone exchange of the early Modernist movement. He was the son of an Austrian nobleman and a Scottish mother. His home was in London but he made frequent trips to the continent particularly to France and to Italy. He displayed considerable interest in philosophy and theology, but little competence in either discipline. He was familiar with the writings of the continental modernists and met most of them some of the leading Modernists knew each other only through correspondence, but von Hugo knew them personally, visited them frequently, and put them in touch with each other.
Tyrrell was a protege of von Hugo who had been responsible for leading him into Modernism. Articles which Tyrrell had contributed to The Month, an English Jesuit journal, had attracted the Baron’s attention. He arranged a meeting and the outcome was disastrous. He persuaded the young Jesuit to learn German so he could study contemporary German philosophy and also put him into touch with Loisy.
Loisy was also a particularly close friend of the Baron, and von Hugo defended was in Tyrrell with a courageous but much mistaken loyalty when they were censured. Ironically, he escaped condemnation himself. He always professed to be a devout son of the Church, was very pious and according to Father Joseph Creon, SJ, was utterly sincere in his bumbling and amateurish way.
The Abbe Alfred Loisy was born in 1857 and died in 1940 so he lived in the lifetime of most of us here he was remembered at his seminary for his exemplary piety, and his private life was irreproachable. He became an oriental linguist of outstanding skill and was capable of brilliant scholarship, but he was also ambitious.
Three years after his ordination in 1879, he wrote in his notebook that he was “suffering from great fevers; the fever for knowledge, the fever for work, but also the fever for glory.”
His express ambition was to become a Father of the Church, but he ended up as the Father of Modernism, one of the most dangerous adversaries the Church has ever encountered.
The young abbé worked in a parish for only a few years before being offered a professorship at the Institut Catholique in Paris, the most prestigious institute of Catholic higher education in France. Loiat had studied there under the Abbé Louis Duchesne, the professor of Church history and one of the most celebrated french scholars of the 19th century. It was Duchesne who invited Loisy, one of his star pupils, back to the institute as a professor.
I’ve described Loisy as the father of Modernism, but this distinction might be more properly assigned to Duchesne, even though he was never formally condemned as a Modernist.
Duchesne was particularly eminent in the field of Christian archaeology and the history of the Church. His mind was skeptical and his disposition sarcastic. He took great delight in demolishing, or claiming to demolish, pious beliefs connected with the saints, such as the story that Mary Magdalene had visited France. His attitude to Biblical criticism had much in common with that of the Rationalists and Liberal Protestants. He came under suspicion for his views and was suspended from his post at the institute.
Duchesne’s skepticism and sarcasm had its effect on his disciples, but he escaped condemnation and disowned them when they eventually incurred the censure of Rome. In his memoirs Loisy mentioned that Duchesne was, “an excellent sailor he took in his sails when the storm grew wilder.” The sixteenth century philosopher Erasmus did not fall into formal heresy, but there is a dictum that Luther merely hatched the egg which Erasmus had laid. The same might be said of Ducene and Loisy. The Institut Catholique of Paris was eventually notorious as the chief center for of the French Modernist movement. There is no doubt for the Abbé Duchesne must bear the prime responsibility.
Loisy formed the opinion that, in order to retain her credibility in the approaching 20th century, the Church must make a radical revision in her traditional teaching in order to accommodate this teaching to the findings of modern scholarship. His faith in traditional Catholicism had already become severely strained at the age of 28. He had attended the lectures of Renan from 1882 to 1885 and eventually acknowledged him as the mentor of the French Modernists.
Renan’s influence was apparent when Loisy wrote,
My attentive reading of the gospels immediately destroy the idea I had been given of them. Faith told me that these writings were wholly divine, reason showed me that they were wholly human, in no way exempt from contradictions. But at this period he still believed himself to be working in the true interests of the Church, and resolved not to leave her, but to remain within, striving to preserve her credibility by modernizing her teaching.
“My ambition,” he once explained, “was to fit to defeat Renan by his own weapons by means of the critical method I was learning in his school”.
This was typical of the initial attitude of all the Modernists and there is no reason to suppose that they were not sincere, at least in these initial stages. But it is clear that the position of men like Loisy who acted as official teachers of the Church in public while questioning her teaching in private inevitably led to duplicity and hypocrisy. Loisy was indeed the classic homo-duplex.
Loisy no longer felt conscious of the supernatural character of religion but he had faith in the value of his personal theories. While still a professor at the Institut Catholique he founded a review entitled “L’Enseignement biblique” (“Biblical Teaching”), which was intended to help young priests who wished to complete the necessarily imperfect introduction to the subject which they have received in the seminaries as a result of the views expressed in his lectures and in this journal the superior of one seminary for bad his students to come to the institute to attend glasses lectures it was he replied by delivering a lecture on the rights of critical thought this public controversy caused a sensation in Catholic circles, with a result that Loisy was eventually forbidden to lecture on the Bible and was restricted to teaching Hebrew, Chaldean, and Assyrian. He replied with an explosive article in L’Enseignement biblique, insisting that the presence of error in the Bible was manifest. He was then asked to resign completely from the answer to cattle eat which he did taking up a humble post as chaplain to a girl school conducted by Dominican nuns.
He received encouragement from friends with Modernist sympathies in a number of countries, particularly from the Baron Von Hugo in England. They looked upon him as he looked upon himself: as a courageous seeker of truth victimized by the forces of obscurantism.
While at this convent he continued his studies and the results of his research led him ever further from Catholic belief. “How much wiser the bishops would have been if they had kept me at my Hebrew grammar and cuneiform texts,” he wrote later. “During my five years at Neuilly, my mind was in perpetual travail over Catholic doctrine, working to adapt it to the needs of the contemporary mind.”
I suspect by how many of you are noticing how closely everything written here could apply to our present times, and I think the parallels are so obvious that I’m not bothering to point them out.
It was in the year 1902 that Loisy came to the forefront of the public eye. He had already began to unsettle the younger clergy and alarm the bishops with a long series of articles which began to appear in 1898 under half a dozen pseudonyms, but they were so alike in thought and style that no one doubted that they came from the same pen–that of the Abbé Alfred Loisy.
Pope Leo XIII himself was disturbed, and in 1899, addressed a firm encyclical Depuis Le Jour to the clergy of France. But Loisy was beyond recall. We know from his memoirs that he had lost all his Catholic convictions by this time. Yet he not only determined to remain within the Church, but went so far as to seek appointment to two episcopal Sees that became vacant.
Then in 1902, his book “L’Evangile et l’Eglise” appeared (“The Gospel and the Church”). This brought the abbé to the center of public attention and made him the focus of an international controversy that involved Catholics, Protestants, and Rationalists.
Loisy claimed that his book was a reply to the teaching of the German theologian, Adolph Harnack, who claimed in a book entitled The Essence of Christianity, that the Kingdom of God preached by Jesus Christ was wholly interior, existing in the heart of the individual believer. It did not have involve the existence of a visible church. Christ had founded no such church. This action had been falsely attributed to him by his followers. They had established the Church, and the Church which they had established betrayed the teaching of Christ. As Christ had founded no church, he obviously had not instituted a Sacramental system by which that church could mediate grace to mankind.
Harnack based these claims on what he maintained was the true teaching of the historic Christ which he had discovered by purging the Gospels of the accretions, opposed upon their basic historic core by the first Christians. Loisy’s answer to Harnack’s soon became known, due to its format, as the ‘little red book’. He explained that it is not designed to demonstrate the truth either of the Gospel or of Catholic Christianity, but simply to analyze and define the bonds that unite the two in history.
The English historian Maisie Ward has remarked that these words were literally true as the author did not believe either in the Gospel or Catholic Christianity. Liosy had already decided that a recasting of the whole Catholic system was essential applying his critical methods to the Gospel is he purported to refute Liberal Protestantism, but his refutation was more destructive of Christianity than Harnack’s attack. Harnack was at least concerned with historic truth. He claimed correctly that objective reality mattered but added incorrectly that the traditional interpretation of the Bible was not in accord with objective truth.
Truth consists in the conformity of an idea with its object. Thus, when I see before me what I believe to be a tree and it is in fact a tree, then the idea I have conforms with objective reality; I have attained truth. When I believe that Columbus arrived in America in 1492 and it is a historical fact that he did so then, once again, my idea and reality correspond; I have attained truth.
You may be surprised to learn that I’m sure Columbus did not actually discover America, as it had already been discovered by Welsh monks who sailed there in coracles hundreds of years before. And, as I am of Welsh descent, and I know that we’re a race characterized by courage, imagination, and resourcefulness, also, perhaps, by loquacity, and as I’m sure that this example of Welsh initiative truly happened; that is true for me. Probably no one else you tonight believes the story, but as I say, it’s true for me. And I derive much pleasure and pride in my race; the thought of my hardy forebears crossing the Atlantic in their coracles and teaching the Indians to strum the harp and play rugby.
Now Loisy and the Modernists made a distinction between faith and history and the Christ of faith and the Christ of history once this distinction is appreciated it will be clear that the little red book of Loisy did present a greater danger to the Church than the teachings of Harnack which it was intended to refute.
The true teaching of the Church is, as I explained earlier, that Our Lord founded the Church by consecrating his Apostles as bishops commanding them to teach the truth that he had taught them only those prepared to accept these dogmas could be baptized and their faith meant their acceptance of these dogmas as objective historical facts.
Loisy’s explanation was totally incompatible with the traditional Catholic position. He claimed that the first Christians did not believe certain things to be true because they were taught them by the Apostles and their immediate successors, but that the successors of the Apostles taught these things because they were what the people believed. Dogma, he claimed evolved as follows, the early Christians reflected upon the life of Christ, and a consensus arose among them as to who Christ was, what he taught, and what our response to his teaching should be. This consensus of belief is often referred to as the Common Consciousness of the believers, or, as their Collective Conscience.
Saint Pius X commented upon this in Pascendi, and he said how the Modernist taught that unity requires a kind of common mind…
…whose office is to find and determine the formula that corresponds best with the common conscience; and it must have, moreover, an authority sufficient to enable it to impose on the community the formula which has been decided upon. From the combination and, as it were, fusion of these two elements, the common mind which draws up the formula and the authority which imposes it, arises, according to the Modernists, the notion of the ecclesiastical magisterium. And, as this magisterium springs, in its last analysis, from the individual consciences and possesses its mandate of public utility for their benefit, it necessarily follows that the ecclesiastical magisterium must be dependent upon them, and should therefore be made to bow to the popular ideals.
So basically, what this means is that the Magisterium emerged from the faithful. The faithful, as we said, reflected upon the mind of Christ, they came to certain conclusions about him, and then established their own authority to formulate these beliefs and see that people observe them. So the Magisterium is subservient to the Collective Conscience of the faithful, and its function is to interpret and formulate whatever is found by the Collective Conscience to be helpful to the life of the Church at any given period. Thus, the Church, the Magisterium, and faith itself all originate in the people and their Collective Conscience. And this Collective Conscience is the ultimate authority for what Christians should believe.
As we all know the collective conscience of people evolves considerably. We see that, for example, in the Gospel where, remember in Holy Week, on Palm Sunday, the people cried ‘Hosanna’ to Our Lord, and the same people on Good Friday shouted, ‘Crucify him!’
In this country, before the second world war, and I’m sure afterwards, the collective conscience of the British people would have been strongly opposed to abortion, it would have been thought of as horrifying, but now there are definitely a majority opinion in this country is that abortion is acceptable. And so, for the Modernists, the function the Magisterium is to find out what the people think and if the people change their views then the Magisterium adapts the teaching.
Saint Pius X correctly warned that, under this system,
The Magisterium derives its mandate from the people, it must be subservient to them, and made to bow to popular ideals. The people do not submit themselves to the Magisterium, the Magisterium submits itself to the people.
This error is particularly prevalent today and would even be considered to be the majority view within the Church in such countries as the USA, Canada, and our country, Holland.
We are told that it is now the consensus of the faithful the sensus fidelium that contraception is compatible with Christianity and that the Magisterium should reformulate its teaching to conform to this consensus. This is a completely false concept of the sensus fidelium, which simply means that the faithful, as a whole, will never accept heretical teaching.
Saint Pius X saw the full danger of this error, and he said, it represents “the introduction of that most pernicious doctrine which would make of the laity the factor of progress in the Church.”
Modernism and the Neomodernism today see the Church as a democracy, with a pope deriving his mandate from the people and being obliged to proclaim his Catholic teaching whatever a majority among them cares to believe.
As again, we saw in this country, we had the National Pastoral Congress which pronounced itself in favor of contraception and of divorced people being allowed to receive Communion. And so, Cardinal Hume, Archbishop Worlock went to the synod of bishops in Rome and put forward those ideas, as though they were delegates of the National Pastoral Congress. Whereas, as you’ve seen from what I explained earlier about the nature of the Magisterium, it is for our cardinals and our bishops to teach us what the Church requires us to believe. But as you see this out there is nothing new in this idea it all goes right back to the original of original Modernism such an attitude is not simply destructive of Catholicism, but as Saint Pius X explained in Pascendi: “their system means the destruction not of the Catholic religion alone but of all religion.”
This brings us to Loisy’s distinction between the Christ of faith and the Christ of history. Harnack had claimed that the historic Christ had not founded a church or instituted any sacraments. Loisy was prepared to concede that it couldn’t be proved that he had. The historic facts were not of paramount importance for him, he considered that the essence of a dogma lies not in the fact that it is objectively true, but in its ability to satisfy and express a momentary attitude or need of the religious feeling.
The first Christians believed in the physical resurrection of Our Lord and so it was true for them just as the discovery of America by welsh monks is true for me.
The Modernists distinguish between true history and the history of faith. They made the same distinction between the Christ of history and the Christ of faith. Saint Pius X noted that the two were opposed:
we have a twofold Christ: a real Christ, and a Christ, the one of faith, who never really existed; a Christ who has lived at a given time and in a given place, and a Christ who never lived outside the pious meditations of the believer.
Dogma then for Loisy, was simply symbolic; a symbol of what Christians believe, a symbol of their faith. And by faith, he meant something purely subjective, not something which was an accurate expression of objective reality. And if the Christ of faith is no more than it than an expression of our subjective beliefs, why should and how could the God of faith have any objective or transcendent existence?
Though individual Modernists might make profession of belief in a transcendent God, Saint Pius X would not accept such a belief as compatible with their system. For Modernists, God is not transcendent, he is not out there, he is not wholly other, as Karl Barth expressed it; he is in here, in the human conscious. God is, in fact, whatever we care to make him; a symbol of the ethical precepts currently accepted by the Collective Conscience.
Saint Pius X explained in Pascendi that the Modernist God was no more than a symbol, and that the personality of God will become a matter of doubt, and the gate will be open to pantheism.
For this is the question which we ask, does or does not this imminence leave God distinct from man? The Pope answer that it did not. “The doctrine of imminence in the modernist acceptation makes no distinction between God and man in the objective order. The rigorous conclusion from this is the identity of man with God which means pantheism.”
The logical outcome of Modernism is then the objective that Satan had set himself: the dethronement of God. The logic of Modernism is then that man has no God outside himself, and if accepted it, must certainly result in the destruction of all religion, and ultimately, in the destruction of civilization itself. This is precisely what we are seeing in contemporary society.
Above all, in man’s arrogation to himself of the divine prerogatives of life and death, contraception and abortion, of the means and the symbols of the godlike powers which man has now bestowed upon himself. How long will it be before divine chastisement punishes this folly?
The errors of Loisy’s little red book were denounced by such orthodox biblical scholars as Father Lagrande. Modernists writers and sympathizers hastened to his defense and attacked his critics.
Listen to the descriptions Saint Pius X gives of Modernist methods, (and when you hear this you could really imagine what is happening today. I know that those who’ve been in pro-fide from the very beginning will remember all the criticism that was heaped upon us when we criticized the staff of Corpus Christi college and suggested that they had some modernist ideas. And this could this could be a description of what took place then, or it could be a description of the reaction to the Pope’s condemnation of Hans Küng). The Pope said there is no reason to wonder…
….that the Modernists vent all their bitterness and hatred on Catholics who zealously fight the battles of the Church. There is no species of insult which they do not heap upon them, but their usual course is to charge them with ignorance or obstinacy. When an adversary rises up against them with an erudition and force that renders them redoubtable, they seek to make a conspiracy of silence around him to nullify the effects of his attack. This policy towards Catholics is the more invidious in that they belaud with admiration which knows no bounds the writers who range themselves on their side, hailing their works, exuding novelty in every page, with a chorus of applause. For them the scholarship of a writer is in direct proportion to the recklessness of his attacks on antiquity, and of his efforts to undermine tradition and the ecclesiastical magisterium. When one of their number falls under the condemnations of the Church the rest of them, to the disgust of good Catholics, gather round him, loudly and publicly applaud him, and hold him up in veneration as almost a martyr for truth. The young, excited and confused by all this clamor of praise and abuse, some of them afraid of being branded as ignorant, others ambitious to rank among the learned, and both classes goaded internally by curiosity and pride, not infrequently surrender and give themselves up to Modernism.
Some of you might remember that when Hans Küng was that condemned the Tablet wrote an editorial demanding the closure of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, they said, “for persecuting this noble thinker.”
Baron von Hugo was Loisy seized most prominent defender in England. He undertook the role of apologist and advocate for Loisy for the next 15 years. The true and unedifying state of Loisy’s mind at this time is revealed by an entry in his journal. This is what, while von Hugo’s, as I said, courageously–if mistakenly–defending him–this is what was he wrote in his journal about him–and it’s very interesting because today the myth of these noble, selfless modernist still remains as a new book has just come out a huge two-volume book I say they have two sets of it in the Catholic central library. It’s called Catholicism by a Father Richard McBrien–there was a very good review in Christian Order. When I was a very good review, I mean, of course, a very critical review–but to this Father McBrien, he resurrects this myth about these noble seekers after truth and the wicked Pope Pius X. And this is what this nobleman was writing while von Hugo was putting himself out on a limb to defend him:
Monsieur Von Hugo, who defends me so bravely, believes very differently from me in the divinity of Jesus Christ. I do not believe in the divinity of Jesus any more than Harnick, and I look upon the personal incarnation of God as a philosophic myth.
As his former mentor, the Abbé Duchesne wrote to him in typical fashion saying that he had better hope that his book would not be understood, for if it was, he would certainly be condemned. But his book was understood and, under pressure from Rome, Cardinal Richard, the archbishop of Paris, condemned it as calculated to disturb the faith of Catholics, particularly, in regards–and these were the particularly dangerous points in it, and I think you’ll find this very relevant today–the authority of Scripture and tradition, the divinity of Christ, Christ’s universal knowledge, redemption through His death, the Eucharist, the divine institution of papacy, and the episcopacy.
It is hardly necessary to point out that these are precisely the dogmas being undermined today by the spiritual descendants of Loisy, the Neomodernists of our own era.
The fact that Modernism was defeated was due entirely, or almost entirely, to the efforts of Pope Saint Pius X. He took as his motto, Instaurare omnia in Christo, to restore all things in Christ. The Pope had no doubt at all that, among the many dangers threatening the Church in his pontificate, that to the purity of doctrine was the greatest. The primary mandate entrusted by Christ to His Church was to preach the Gospel message which He had entrusted to His Apostles. If that message once became corrupted then the gates of hell would have prevailed against the Church. Saint Pius X realized this, and also realized that, as Pope, he had an obligation to act in defense of orthodoxy. He began his encyclical, Pascendi, exposing the errors of the Modernists by stating,
One of the primary obligations assigned by Christ, to the office divinely committed to us of feeding the Lord’s flock is that of guarding with the greatest vigilance the Deposit of Faith delivered to the saints, rejecting the profane novelties of words and the gainsaying of knowledge, falsely so called.
These latter days have witnessed a notable increase in the number of the enemies of the Cross of Christ, who, by arts entirely new and full of deceit, are striving to destroy the vital energy of the Church, and, as far as in them lies, utterly to subvert the very kingdom of God. Wherefore We may no longer keep silence, lest we should seem to fail in our most sacred duty.
Saint Pius X placed five of Loisy books upon the index in December 1903.
Loisy made a reluctant act of submission in 1904, but it was in no way sincere. He went through the motions of submitting to his archbishop, but without any sincerity or intention of amendment. His true feelings were made clear when he published another little red book entitled ‘Autour d’un petit livre’, and not only defended the earlier book, but put forward even more audacious theories. “The first condition of scientific work,” he wrote, “is freedom.” He claimed that in ‘L’Evangile et l’Eglise‘ he had dealt with the origin of Christianity in accordance with historians rights. The appearance of the second little red book evoked a very vigorous counter-offensive by the defenders of orthodoxy. Modernists throughout Europe rallied to Loisy’s defense. There was a ferment in the seminaries. Seminarians were passionately for or against Loisy, they used to carry the little red books with them on their walks and discuss them, sentence by sentence. Loisy then took the offensive once more with a book entitled, ‘Le quatrième évangile’ (‘The Fourth Gospel’), in which he maintained that the Gospel of St. John was not reliable historic evidence, but a piece of theological speculation. It was not, he claimed, a foundation of the Church upon which the early Christians based their faith, but a product of the faith of the early Christians.
The initial success and rapid spread of Modernism was due in no small way to an unfortunate lack of firmness on the part of Pope Leo XIII. He laid down the guidelines within which Catholic biblical scholars could work in his encyclical, Providentissimus Deus, but he failed to insist upon adequate disciplinary action when such modernists as Loisy clearly overstepped these limits. “In the failing hands of the aged pontiff,” wrote Father de Grandmaison, “the reins seemed to grow a little slack towards the end.”
But in 1903, he was succeeded by Giuseppe Melchior Sarto, the Patriarch of Venice, now venerated by Saint Pius X.
By this time, on the tenth of May 1904, Loisy was able to write in his journal, “I remain in the Church for reasons which are not of faith but of moral expediency.”
Writing in the Dictionary of Catholic Theology, Father Joseph Crane SJ states that Loisy certainly not sincere any longer. Thus, in a letter to the Times, Loisy wrote, “I was a Catholic, I remain Catholic. I was a critic, I remain one.” In a letter to Cardinal Merry del Val on the 24th of January 1904, he wrote, “I accept all the dogmas of the Church.” He wrote this after consultation with the Baron von Hugo, but his real thoughts were set down in his diary; “I have not been a Catholic in the official sense of the word for a long time. Roman Catholicism, as such, is destined to perish and it will deserve no regrets.” And an entry dated the 12th of May 1904, he states, “Pius X, the head of the Catholic Church would excommunicate me most decidedly if he knew that I hold the Virgin Birth and the Resurrection to be purely moral symbols, and the entire Catholic system to be a tyranny which acts in the name of God in Christ against God himself and against the Gospels.”
Despite all the incontrovertible evidence which proves the insincerity of Loisy and the other Modernists they still have many apologists today who depict them as sincere and selfless seekers after truth; noble scholars who fell victim to an ignorant and unscrupulous clerical bureaucracy. In the Liberal Catholic mythology, Loisy is still a hero and Saint Pius X the villain.
Before publishing his encyclical, Pascendi, Saint Pius X had order the compilation of a syllabus of the principal errors of the Modernists, very much upon the lines of the celebrated syllabus of errors of Pope Pius IX. The decree was eventually published by the Holy Office on the 3rd of July 1907. It condemned 65 propositions which were incompatible with the Catholic faith. Most were taken from the works of Loisy, a few from the writing of Tyrrell, and a french Modernist named Édouard Le Roy, who was still alive in 1954.
When reading the condemned propositions of lamentably it is hard to believe that the decree was not addressed to the errors which have been circulating in the Church since the Second Vatican Council.
It came as no surprise when, just as Pope Pius IX had followed his syllabus with an encyclical, Quanta cura, Saint Pius X followed his syllabus with encyclical, Pascendi Gregis. In both cases, the authority of the encyclicals, which are papal acts, considerably exceeds that of the syllabi.
The encyclical fell upon the modernists like a hammer blow. The great majority of Catholics accepted it with unqualified obedience. But in all the countries which had been infected with Modernism, attempts were made to stir up opposition to the Pope and win support for the for the heresy.
In my book, Pope John’s council, I’ve included an appendix summarizing Cardinal Manning’s description of the press reaction to the First Vatican Council. There was a similar reaction to Pascendi, which is not surprising, as the forces which had vented their fury upon Pope Pius IX had become even more powerful by the turn of the century.
Cardinal Manning describes the support given to the opposition of the Council in terms which were equally applicable to the support given to the Modernists.
In a moment, all the world rose up to meet them; governments, politicians, newspapers, schimatical, heretical, infidel, Jewish, revolutionary, as with one unerring instinct, united in extolling and setting forth the virtue, learning, science, elegance, nobleness, heroism, of this international opposition. With an iteration truly Homeric, certain epithets were perpetually linked to certain names. All who were against Rome were written up. All who were for Rome were written down.
There was certainly cooperation among the Modernists in different countries in mounting their campaign against the Encyclical, a fact made clear by the speed with which their responses were translated into different language. Some of them denied recognizing their ideas in the Encyclical. An Italian modernist named Buonatti claimed that “the Pope had condemned a phantom heresy.”
Most of the Modernists submitted but some preferred to leave the Church rather than abandon their errors: Tyrrell and Loisy were among them.
Loisy had already abandoned his priestly functions in 1906. He broke with the Church after the publication of the Encyclical, and was formally excommunicated in 1908. Having failed to change the Church from within, he then proceeded to attack her from without. Given the anti-Catholic bias of the French State education system, it is hardly surprising that it soon provided him with a prestigious teaching post, Professor of Religions at the College de France, a position which he occupied from 1909 and to 1930. He devoted the remainder of his life to justifying Modernism and documenting its history, a sad and rather pathetic fate for the man who had aspired to the status of a Father of the Church.
In typically sarcastic fashion, the Abbé Duchesne, who had escaped condemnation, wrote to his former protege commenting, “your death will certainly be an irreparable loss for at least half a dozen people.”
While he had been allowed to remain within the Church, spreading error under the guise of a Catholic theologian, Loisy had posed a great threat to the Faith. Outside the Church, he was no longer a danger; he could be seen for what he was and what he accused the Church of being: an enemy of Christ and his Gospel.
Before his death, Father Tyrell had realized that the battle had been lost but he still held out some hope for winning the war. In a letter to an Italian friendly to the 24th of August 1908 he admitted sadly that when he looked around him he could only conclude that the wave of Modernist resistance was at the end of its forces I had done all that it could for the moment, but he hoped that the day would come when, “thanks to a silent and secret preparation, we shall have one a much greater proportion of the army of the Church to the cause of liberty.”
If we substitute the word error for liberty it would appear that turell’s dream has been fulfilled in the last two decades wozy was less optimistic in a review of turell’s posthumous book Christianity at the Crossroads he wrote his own book lavon’s ele legalese contained a modest program of reforms that might be necessary but Tyrrell’s book is a prophecy of revolution both of them can rest together in the graveyard of heresies.
Saint Pius X still felt that he had not adequately fulfilled his apostolic mandate, even after placing the Modernist books upon the index, of proving the syllabus, publishing his encyclical, excommunicating the Modernist leaders, he realized that there were Modernist sympathizers in influential positions who had escaped sanctions as their views had never been made public.
On the 1st of September 1910 he published the Moto Proprio, Sacrorum antistitum, which obliged every priest to sign an anti-Modernist oath, the form of which is extremely detailed. No man of integrity holding Modernist views could possibly have signed this oath, and it meant that, for some decades at least, Catholic seminaries and universities were purged of proponents of the heresy. The anti-modernist oath aroused as much if not more opposition and the Encyclical itself, it was particularly resented by academics, especially in Germany. Protestant faculties express solidarity with their Catholic colleagues in their hour of trial. But when all the shouting died down, only about two dozen priests throughout Europe refused to sign the oath. Some of them joined Protestant sects, others joined the Old Catholics.
Following the Second Vatican council, Pope Paul the VI abolished both index of forbidden books and the anti-modernist oath.
When the furor aroused by the oath had subsided, Saint Pius X had succeeded in purging the Church of at least the external expression of the Modernist heresy.
“When all was said and done,” wrote Henri Daniel-Rops, “Pius X had triumphed.”
The reasons for the triumph of Pius X are easy to discover. Firstly, he had a correct sense of priorities and he knew that, as Pope, his first duty was to preserve intact the Deposit of Faith. Secondly, when the doctrine of the Modernists became clearly heretical, he condemned them at once. But he did not stop a condemnation. A condemnation which is not enforced is worthless. Furthermore, the Pope not only took steps to excommunicate obdurate public modernists, but to purged the Church of their clandestine counterparts, or, at least, to compel them to submit. Had he not taken these forceful measures, the heresy would have spread throughout the Church with disastrous consequences. But God sent us a saint to prevent this happening, a saint who had as his motto ‘to restore all things in Christ’, which was precisely what he did.
And thank you very much for listening so tolerantly.
Transcript provided by WQPH