LH-VIII. Intellectual Victory Over Modernism

Print Friendly

by Msgr. Eugene Kevane
©2003 The Miriam Press. All Rights Reserved

VIII. Intellectual Victory Over Modernism

The phenomenon of Modernism in religion may seem at first sight irrelevant in a discussion of the philosophy of history. Exactly the opposite is true, however, for Religious Modernism is the product and function of the philosophy of history in its older Voltairean and Hegelian form. Hence it is impossible to do comprehensive research in this branch of philosophy without taking it into consideration.1 This kind of analysis, furthermore, has great practical value for priestly and catechetical teaching, for the philosophy of history is the best instrument for unmasking the nature of Modernism, for parrying its deception, and for winning a true victory over it for the cause of authentic religious thinking.2

The Genesis of Modernism

Modernism in religion is a phenomenon of the “Modern” period of Western Civilization, the specific result of an application of Modern Philosophy to the Judaeo-Christian religious tradition. Cornelio Fabro describes its genesis accurately: it is “that penetration of Modern Philosophy into the seminaries which produces the phenomenon which comes soon to receive the name of Modernism.”3

This insight, furthermore, applies equally well to all three branches of the Western religious heritage. When Modern Philosophy, as such, is introduced into the training of young men as Rabbis, Reform Judaism results and is sustained. When the same is done in training for the Protestant Ministry, Liberal Protestantism has resulted and is sustained. In all three cases, the general effect is an undermining of faith in the historicity of the sources of each religious tradition, a reinterpretation of these sources in such a way that a new kind of religion begins to function within their organizational frameworks and didactic terminologies. They are thus gradually transformed into what Karl Jaspers aptly terms philosophical faith directed more at the cultivation of immanent human powers on the natural level than religious faith directed toward an order of revealed truth and knowledge, distinct in origin and in object, coming from the personal God standing transcendent above nature.4

Effect of the Magisterium

While this phenomenon is powerfully present in Protestantism and Judaism, its impact within the Catholic Church in the formal and technical sense of “Modernism” is altogether unique. The reason for this bears much further research; but the cause appears to be the presence and the actions of the Magisterium, that teaching authority which is unique in Catholicity.

To bring this into better visibility, the Hebrew Fact and its fulfillment as the Catholic Fact in history must be reviewed. It is interesting to note the insight of the Protestant scholar, Kirsopp Lake, in his Introduction to Eusebius’ Ecclesiastical History.

“The object of the whole book,” he writes, “was to present the Christian ‘Succession,’ which did not merely mean, though it certainly included, the apostolic succession of the bishops of the four great ‘thrones,’ but rather the whole intellectual, spiritual and institutional life of the Church. It cannot be too strongly emphasized that Eusebius, like all early church historians, can be understood only if it be recognized that whereas modern writers try to trace the development, growth, and change of doctrines and institutions, their predecessors were trying to prove that nothing of the kind ever happened. According to them the Church had had one and only one teaching from the beginning; it had been preserved by the ‘Succession’ and heresy was the attempt of the Devil to change it.”5

The Catholic Fact, in other words, is constituted dynamically in history by Evangelization and Catechesis: by a doctrinal teaching, that is, which centers upon the Articles of Faith in Jesus Christ as the Apostolic Kerygma or Creed professes Him to be. This is the “Ordinary and Universal Magisterium” which was the object of formal definition by the First Vatican Council.6 This teaching program maintains the Catholic Fact in social reality as the generations of members of the Church move forward in time.

From the beginning Catholic thinkers have recognized in this living Magisterium the proximate Rule of Faith. The early Church Fathers elaborated this point in detail against a kaleidoscope of Gnostic doctrinal innovations in the Argument from Prescription.7 Vincent of Lerins gave it its classical statement which the Magisterium has made its own in every century since, and especially in Vatican I, Vatican II, and the Documents of Popes John XXIII and Paul VI.8

Elimination of the Entire Creed

It is this “prescription,” as the Early Church termed it, this “Ordinary and Universal Magisterium” in the words of Vatican I, which Modernism sets aside. Unlike earlier heretical movements, it takes its position not against this or that particular Article of Faith, but against the Profession of the Apostolic Faith as such.9 This is done by a re-interpretation, as it is called, of the entire Creed in the light of Modern Philosophy. As a writer in the Encyclopedia Britannica puts it accurately, the Modernists “sought to re-interpret traditional Catholic teaching in the light of nineteenth century philosophical, historical and psychological theories.”10 Participating in the essential characteristics of Modern Philosophy as such, in its Cartesian, Spinozan and Kantian metaphysics, it introduces into religious thought the eclipse of the transcendent personal God of Revelation characteristic of Modern Philosophy, and hence its shift toward man-centrism, toward positivism and empiricism in epistemology. Faith, the very heart of religion, is the first element to suffer this reinterpretation: it is now an experience of the Divine (as the God of Abraham comes to be called) and not an intellectual assent to the Word of God revealed and committed to a teaching Church to hand on by means of the human discourse of Evangelization and Catechesis.11 Once this subversion of the eternal concept of truth has taken place in the realm of Faith, all the rest follows, and the re-interpretation of the Creed as a whole begins the logic of its course.

It is quite apparent, therefore, that an immense summational heresy is at work, and that the phenomenon is far larger than this or that incident in connection with one decade or another of the Modern period in Western history.

The philosopher of history will see it more comprehensively in connection with Modernity as such and as a whole, and indeed in terms of the precise analysis of Modernity accomplished increasingly by post-modern thinkers.12 The task which remains here, then, is to locate this religious phenomenon more accurately in the Modern Age and to bring it into view first as a function of Modern Philosophy as such and then as an application of its philosophy of history, the sequence of the three constructs, “Ancient,” “Medieval” and “Modern.”

It is of fundamental importance to recognize that Modernism in the Catholic Church has not had that simple and unimpeded development which has characterized the growth of Reform Judaism and Liberal Protestantism. Catholic Modernism, beginning indeed at the same time and from the same causes, was interrupted in such a way by actions of the Magisterium that it exists historically in three separate moments of time.

The Three Phases of Modernism

The first moment, the decades of the Nineteenth Century prior to the First Vatican Council, is identified by the work of a group of priests, chiefly German, under the leadership of Father Anton Guenther (1783-1863). Enamored with the Modern Philosophy of Descartes and Kant, alienated from the patrimony of Christian Philosophy, Guentherism taught that the dogmas of faith are infallibly true, indeed, but only with a relative truth: relative to the progress reached by science and philosophy at the time of the dogmatic definition. As this progress advances, the articles and dogmas of faith must be re-interpreted accordingly. Definitions and formulations of faith, the best possible when the Church first stated them, become outmoded with the passage of time, and quite simply must be replaced. Thus the dogmas develop intrinsically, just as science and philosophy do. There is no absolute truth in the Catholic Fact, but only a relative truth, always more perfectible.

This is so because the idea of Revelation itself is changed: the object of Revelation is not a locutio Dei, a Word of God communicated in human discourse by a Church sent to teach. The problem is in the First Article of the Creed, obscured by the characteristic influence of Modern Philosophy, casting a shadow of eclipse over the transcendent personal God of creation. Thus Giordano Bruno was correct when he selected as his motto, veritas filia temporis. Faith is rooted in religious experience rather than in the Evangelization and Catechetics of the teaching Church. And the Hegelian dialectic with its historicism, its outmoding of the past, is accepted as the norm of Christian thinking.13

The second moment emerges after Vatican I, from the Encyclical of Leo XIII, Providentissimus Deus (1898), to the firm actions of Pope St. Pius X in 1908, when Fathers Loisy and Tyrrell were excommunicated. They stood at the head of a current of priestly thought located this time primarily in France, Italy and England. From the philosophical point of view, it represents simply an adaptation of Guentherism, and its translation into the other languages which are concerned.

The third moment surfaced shortly after Vatican II, and was identified officially by Pope Paul VI in Petrum et Paulum Apostolos (Feb. 22, 1967), the document which announced the Year of Faith and explained the reason for it: the doctrinal aberrations that result from the continuing advocacy of the characteristic philosophical positions of the older Modern period. Again from the viewpoint of philosophical analysis, this third moment represents nothing new, and is best understood as an organized popularization of Guentherism and the “Modernism” of the opening years of the present century.14

Victory over Modernism

In the light of the foregoing considerations, the intellectual victory over Modernism is not difficult to accomplish, whether in personal thought or in ecclesiastical teaching. For this victory does indeed have these two aspects. The first is the result of personal thinking in the new post-modern position, done in the context of the philosophy of history. For it is quite easy to recognize the dated character of Modernist philosophical thinking, and to see that it has been growing intellectually ever more moribund in the years since 1893, 1908 and 1914. This is clear from the viewpoint of God the Father, Creator of heaven and earth, when the discoveries of 20th century science are recognized and duly considered.15 It is equally clear from the viewpoint of God the Son, the incarnate Lord of human history, when the philosophy of history is liberated from the Voltairean pattern and allowed to open once again to the prophetic word. And it is not unclear from the viewpoint of God the Holy Spirit, who raises and sustains the Catholic Church as a fact standing in history, quite luminous and visible in the late 20th century as a great sign in the realm of the human values. In each of the three instances, the philosophy of history is renewed and restored, achieving contact once again with Him who is the Lord of history.

The second aspect of the victory is a social one within the Catholic Church itself. For just as Modernism fastens its grip upon the internal life of the Church chiefly by forcing its ideas in philosophy to prevail in the training of young men for the priesthood, and now also in training for the Ministry of the Word among Religious Sisters and professional religious educators generally, so the victory over Modernism results from post-modern thinking in the design of philosophical curricula, syllabi and courses of study, thinking which implements the Optatam totius of Vatican II.

The key to this is the recognition that the contemporary renewal of philosophy in the Church has been post-modern since its inception in Vatican I and the Aeterni Patris of Leo XIII.16 When the study of philosophy becomes truly post-modern, candidates for the priesthood and catechists preparing for the priesthood and catechists preparing for the Ministry of the Word will study philosophy of the right kind, metaphysically open to objective reality, to the transcendent God of Creation, and to the spirituality of the human soul. And the mode will be that of the philosophy of history, not that of the history of philosophy.17

For the older Modernist approach, teaching philosophy as a history of philosophy whereby truth in philosophy is presented naively and simplistically as the result of a time-line emptying into the Modern Age as such, and ending with a “philosophy” that is no longer distinct from the positive sciences, will be left behind as outmoded in the post-modern situation. No longer will young men be forced to go from Kant, Comte, Hegel and Marx to the study of theology. On the contrary, when the design of the syllabus for philosophy and the mode of didactic presentation are properly those of the liberated Christian philosophy of history, then the relativism and immanentism of Modern Philosophy will be seen in the full context of the construct “Modern,” and evaluated from a superior position in metaphysics, open and free, aware that it is an autonomous and distinct science with its own proper object and method.

Apostasy Within

There is a further aspect of Modernism which must be faced if this kind of philosophical analysis is to be comprehensive in its logic. If Modern Philosophy, as such, in its Cartesian, Spinozan, Kantian and Hegelian metaphysics of closure to the God of Revelation, becomes visible as the fact of a great historical Apostasy from God, then Modernism stands revealed as the introduction of this same Apostasy inside the Catholic Church, causing it to course within the arteries by which she lives as an Institution sent and commissioned to teach the deposit of the Faith.18

The implications are immense, and quite obvious: Modernism, true to its nature as Gnosticism reborn, is a betrayal of Jesus Christ, both in general, and in particular as the Divine Teacher of mankind. It represents in contemporary history what can well be termed the ripening Judas-phenomenon operating with the priesthood.19

This is the special significance of the sacerdotal revolt against the effort of the Church toward philosophical renewal, already noted in connection with the Juvisy Conference in 1933. It was a small fissure at that time, but it continued opening ever wider in the teaching program of the Church as the Twentieth Century proceeded, until in the years after Vatican II had reached the proportions of a flood. But this too has its own intelligibility when viewed from the intellectual vantage point of a liberated, post-modern philosophy of history.

A Dated Approach

Modernism, to summarize, when subjected to philosophical analysis in the context of the philosophy of history, becomes visible as a dated and historically provincial approach in religious thought. It depends for its very being upon the philosophizing that characterized the Modern Age from Petrarch through Voltaire, Comte and Hegel, marx and Lenin, to Bergson with his disciple Teilhard de Chardin and to Nietzsche with his disciple Heidegger. Intellectually it belongs to the Nineteenth Century. It too ended in the disruptive carnage of the First World War. Its basic intellectual positions were elaborated in its first two phases or moments, indeed in the first one. The current third moment is a light and superficial popularization of those older views, often in more or less secret collusion with the network of cells that props up the intellectual dead horse of Marxism and makes its legs seem to move.20

Victory over this historically dated and philosophically parochial approach in religion results from the advent of post-modern empirical positions in science and post-modern thinking in philosophy, the kind of thinking for which the Church has been calling consistently from Vatican I through Vatican II to the present.

It is a salutary victory. It saves souls. For it preserves in the concluding years of the Twentieth Century that “religious way of thinking” which is an integral part of persevering loyalty to Him who is the Lord of history.

  1. 133. So large a subject can be sketched only briefly here, in the hope of stimulating further discussion and research on the part of younger Catholic scholars, minds increasingly free of the inhibitions and philosophical inadequacies holding over into the Twentieth Century from the Modern period. 

  2. 134. Cf. the General Catechetical Directory, op. cit., par. 88: “Catechesis … simply cannot neglect the formation of a religious way of thinking…. It must provide the natural foundations for faith with the greatest care.” This can be done today only by coming to grips with the phenomenon of Religious Modernism, unmasking its nature and exposing its philosophically outdated character. In No. 849 of his post-modern spiritual classic, The Way, Msgr. Josemaria Escriva writes: “Come on! Ridicule him! Tell him he is behind the times: it is incredible that there are still people who insist on regarding the stagecoach as a good means of transportation. That is for those who dig up musty, old-fashioned ‘Voltairianisms,’ or discredited liberal ideas of the 19th century.” 

  3. 135. Cornelio Fabro, Breve introduzione al Tomismo (Rome: Descleé, 1960), p. 73. In this connection, cf. the special issue of Divinitas (1958), pp. 3-190 in commemoration of the Fiftieth Anniversary of the Encyclical Pascendi, a mine of information valuable both in itself and in the light of the two ensuing decades. This issue presents a number of studies by experts on the Modernist problem especially in the matter of preparing young men for the priesthood; cf. in particular Roberto Masi, “L’insegnamento dell’Enciclica Pascendi contro gli errori dei Modernisti sulla conoscenza di Dio,” pp. 51-68; and Luigi Ciappi, O.P., “La Persona di Gesù Cristo nell’ Enciclica Pascendi,” pp. 69-84. 

  4. 136. Thus it is true to say that Spinoza is the metaphysician of modern atheism, and to recognize the direct line of paternity that reaches from him to unsound Scripture scholarship. Cf. Emile Poulat, Une oeuvre clandestine d’Henry Bremond (Roma: Edizioni di Storia e Letteratura, 1972), pp. 117-118: “Richard Simon (1638-1712) during the Modernist crisis was one of the symbols of the conflict in which men were engaged: Loisy and his friends saw Richard Simon as their precursor, while Batiffol denounced his approach.” For the concept “philosophical faith” see Karl Jaspers, Philosophical Faith and Revelation (New York: Harper and Row, 1967); and St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica II-II, Q. 5, art. 3: “It is manifest that he who adheres to the teaching of the Church, as to an infallible rule, assents to whatever the Church teaches; otherwise, if, on the things taught by the Church, he holds what he chooses to hold and rejects what he chooses to reject, he no longer adheres to the teaching of the Church as to an infallible rule, but to his own will…. Therefore it is clear that such a heretic with regard to one article has no faith in the other articles, but only a kind of opinion in accordance with his own will.” 

  5. 137. Kirsopp Lake (Transl.) Eusebius: The Ecclesiastical History (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1953), Vol. I, pp. xxxiv-xxxv. 

  6. 138. Vatican I, Const. Dei Filius, chap. 3 (Denz. Schön. 3011): “All those matters must be believed with divine and Catholic faith that are contained in the word of God, whether in Scripture or tradition, and that are proposed by the Church, either by a solemn decision or by the orindary and universal magisterium, to be believed as divinely revealed”; John Broderick, S.J. (Transl.) Documents of Vatican I (Collegeville: The Liturgical Press, 1971), p. 44; for the fact that “all those matters” are summarized in the Creed and the official catechisms by which the bishops explain its Articles of Faith, cf. J.M.A. Vacant, Etudes théologiques sur les Constitutions du Concile du Vatican (Paris: Delhomme et Briguet, 1895), Vol. II, chap. 3, “De la foi,” pp. 15-179, and esp. pp. 89-95, “Qu’est-ce que le magistére ordinarie et universel de l’Eglise?” 

  7. 139. For the proximate Rule of Faith, cf. Emmanuel Doronzo, The Channels of Revelation (Middleburg: Notre Dame Institute Press, 1974), esp. chap. 3, “The Magisterium, Organ of Revelation,” pp. 33-37 and chap. 4, “Dogma,” pp. 39-51, with the literature; and Charles Journet, Le dogme chemin de la foi (Paris: Fayard, 1963) with the valuable discussion of bibliography on the point, pp. 103-104, omitted in the English translation, What is Dogma? (New York: Hawthorn, 1965). Also E. Kevane, Creed and Catechetics (Westminister: Christian Classics, 1978), a presentation of the Creed of the People of God as the contemporary “Rule of Faith” for teachers of the Catholic Faith; cf. in particular the discussion of the literature on the point, pp. 260-263. 

  8. 140. Cf. Vincent of Lerins, Commonitorium, P.L. 50, 688: sed in suo dumtaxat genere, in eodem scilicet dogmate, eodem sensu eademque sententia. This phrase, referring to the fundamental fact which preserves the Apostolicity of the Catholic Churchg as an historical fact and reality across the centuries, was cited by Vatican I (cf. Denz. — Schon. 3020), by Pope John XXIII in his Discourse which opened Vatican II (cf. A.A.S. 54, Nov. 26, 1962), by Vatican II itself (cf. Gaudium et spes, no. 62; A.A.S. 58 (Dec. 7, 1966, p. 1083), and by Pope Paul Vi in his actions to meet the “Crisis of Faith” that began to emerge into public view almost immediately after Vatican II (cf. the Apostolic Exhortation: Petrum et Paulum Apostolos (Feb. 22, 1967), announcing the Year of Faith, in A.A.S. (March 31, 1967), pp. 193-200; and his Allocution opening the Synod of Bishops, A.A.S. (Nov. 20, 1967, pp. 963-969). The significance of this on-going presence of the Catholic Fact in post-modern times is of course fundamental for a contemporary philosophy of history. 

  9. 141. Cf. Charles Journet, The Church of the Word Incarnate (London: Sheed and Ward, 1955), Vol. I, p. 543: “It is not to be believed, say the Modernists, that God has revealed through Christ and the Apostles any definitive truth to be received by the intelligence and preserved intact forever. All that God did — insofar as it is possible to speak about God at all — was to move the souls of the Apostles, and these then attempted to translate their experience into more or less happy conceptual formulas, not in the least to be taken for a ‘divine law’ or as binding on later generations. A genuine apostolicity therefore does not consist of the handing down of an unaltered doctrine; it consists in a re-living by each of us of that experience of divine things which Christ and the Apostles lived so admirably, and in translating it perhaps for ourselves into a new conceptual synthesis better adapted to a changing world. The mark of apostolicity will be rather innovation than tradition, doctrinal fluidity rather than the immobility of the Credo.” If Religious Modernism were to have its way, in other words, changing Evangelization and Catechetics as it proposes to do, the Catholic Fact would disappear from view on earth and in history. As Journet points out, apostolicity is the constitutive mark of the Church. 

  10. 142. Encyclopedia Britannica, Vol. XV, p. 631. 

  11. 143. The Magisterium of the Catholic Church has been concerned with this problem consistently throughout all three moments of Religious Modernism. The best-known document is of course the Pascendi (Sept. 8, 1907) of Pope St. Pius X: but it is only one among many. In the decades prior to Vatican I, there are the letters of the Holy See to the bishops of Germany regarding the spread of the doctrine of Relativism among priests teaching in the universities and seminaries. Pope Leo XIII was involved with the second moment throughout his pontificate; in this respect the work of Pius X is only a continuation and completion of his own. And it is becoming clear that Vatican II took place in the context of the emerging third moment, and that the pontificate of Pope Paul VI was dealing with it day in and day out, under the heading of the “Crisis of Faith.” Cf. his documents connected with the Year of Faith, culm,inating with the Solemn Profession of Faith known as the Creed of the People of God, his remarkable Allocution of Jan. 19, 1972 in which he cites explicitly the chief documents of Pius X, and indeed his pontificate as a whole. Cf. L’Osservatore Romano — English Edition (Jan. 27, 1972) pp. 1 and 12; reprinted in E. Kevane, Creed and Catechetics, op. cit.: pp. 205-208. 

  12. 144. For example, in the works of Eric Voegelin, cited above. Cf. the summary judgment of Pius X in Pascendi, No. 39: “And now with our eyes fixed upon the whole system…of the Modernists, no one will be surprised that we should define it to be the synthesis of all heresies”; cf. Vincent A. Yzermans (Ed.), All Things in Christ: Encyclicals and Selected Documents of St. Pius X (Westminister: The Newman Press, 1954), p. 117. The refusel to see the Modernist phenomenon comprehensively contains more than might at first sight meet the eye. It is actually a deceptive intellectual tactic which the centenary of Aeterni Patris ought to consider carefully. The tactic begins by consigning to oblivion the first or German phase of the phenomenon, the actual occasion for Vatican I without which that Council is not properly intelligible. It then takes up its consideration of the phenomenon with Loisy and Tyrrell, the leaders of the second phase, praising them for “identifying the problem” correctly, but faulting them for their early clumsiness and pioneering inexpertness in solving it. And the tactic proceeds victoriously in what is called the “spirit” of Vatican II, proclaiming that only “now” can the problem-solving hermeneutical principles be put into operation which at last resolve the entire matter successfully. Certain recent Catholic encyclopedias omit “Günther” entirely. For a full-dress presentation of the tactic, cf. Roger Aubert, “Die modernistische Krise” in H. Jedin (ed.) Die Kirche der Gegenwart, Zweiter Halbband: Die Kirche zwischen Anpassung und Widerstand (1878 bis 1914), (Freiburg: Herder, 1973), pp. 435-500. “The crisis which concerns us here,” Aubert writes on p. 436, “runs on a line in a certain sense parallel to the crisis which surfaced a half-century earlier in the Churches of the Reformation under the name of a ‘Liberal Protestantism.’ “ This is indeed a smooth consignment to oblivion of the Catholic priest-professors in German universities who were part of the immediate occasion for the calling of Vatican I. Aubert exemplifies the other aspects of the tactic as well: cf. his treatment of “Pius X: ein konservativen Reformpapst,” ibid., pp. 391-405, which seems predicated upon a false criterion for identifying “the problems” and upon an unsound philosophical base for solving them. It was exactly the role of Vatican I and of Aeterni Patris to provide the intellectual foundations needed in this matter. One may be permitted to observe that this illustrates a surprising lack of comprehensiveness and objectivity in empirical scholarship, together with an equally surprising shallowness in philosophical analysis. It does Aeterni Patris in, so to speak, and worse still it ends by pitting Vatican II against Vatican I, dividing the mind of Chrst in His Body which is the Church. It is actually a myopic view which makes it impossible either to see the significance of Aeterni Patris during its first century, or to celebrate its centenary, or to perceive its abiding relevance in the coming times of its second century. 

  13. 145. Cf. Vatican I, Dei Filius as a whole, and in particular c. 4, with its canons, Denz.-Schön. 3015-3020 and 3041-3043. Guentherism was the immediate occasion which led Pope Pius IX to call for the First Vatican Council. For the study of the philosophical identity of the three moments, cf. L. Billot, De immutabilitate Traditionis contra modernam haeresim evolutionismi (Romae: apud aedes Univ. Gregorianae, 1929 [4th ed]). Leads for the study of this first or German moment of the Modernist phenomenon can be found in Denziger-Schonmetzer, Nos. 2738-2740, 2828-2831, 2850-2861, 2875-2880 and in general 2890-2980. And cf. Ladislas Orbán, Theologia Guntheriana et Concilium Vaticanum, Vols. I-II (Rome: Gregorian University Press, 1950). It is surprising to note the same oblivion of this first phase (mentioned in Note 144 above) in Oskar Schroeder, Aufbruch und Missverständnis: Zur Geschichte der Reformkatholischen Bewegung (Graz: Verlag Styria, 1969): after an opening chapter on Lamennais, Schroeder leaps many decades forward to the second moment, to chapters on Loisy, Tyrrell, Buonaiuti, Von Hügel and the rest. His chapter on Reformkatholizismus in Germany begins with Herman Schell (1860-1906), definitely a figure of the second moment. Neither Vatican I nor Aeterni Patris appear in the book. The same total oblivion of the first or German phase characterizes the work of Claude Tresmontant, La Crise Moderniste (Paris: Seuil, 1979). 

  14. 146. The superficial observer, standing in the flotsam and jetsam of the flooding third moment, can miss the fact that Religious Modernism in the Catholic Church is one unified intellectual phenomenon, philosophically identical throughout its history and in each of its three moments of special historical visibility. Cf. the work of Billot, cited in the previous note. At the core of this unity, as the Holy See has recognized over and over, is philosophical relativism, the concept of truth characteristic of Modern Philosophy as such. This is why the renewal of Christian Philosophy is so timely and such an abiding pastoral necessity. Much research remains to be done on this underlying unity. A comparative study, for example, of Anton Guenther at mid-nineteenth century and of his contemporary popularizers is a need of the day. As samples, and to draw attention to the kind of material available for such a comparative analysis, a North American might mention Avery Dulles’ Survival of Dogma, the writings of certain of his associates at the Catholic University in Washington, the editorial statements and orientation of Theological Studies, now at the same University, and the like. A second area where research is waiting to be done is the philosophical preparations for the third moment of the phenomenon. The beginnings appear in the Bulletin de la Sociéte Francaise de Philosophie (Paris: Armand Colin, 1931), the record of the defense of the very idea of Christian Philosophy by Maritain and Gilson, against the attack upon it led by the atheistic thinkers Brunschvicq and Bréhier; and in the record of the famous Juvisy Conference of the Sociéte Thomiste (Sept. 11-12, 1932), published as La philosophie chrétienne (Paris: Cerf, 1933), where, to Gilson’s surprise, a group of priest-philosophers rose to defend the position of Brunschvicq and Bréhier. Gilson recognized immediately that this intellectual disobedience opens a fissure in the program for the renewal of Christian Philosophy in the institutions of Catholic Higher Education. Gilson’s analysis of the episode is to be found in his Christianity and Philosophy (New York: Sheed and Ward, 1939), pp. 82-102. Pope Paul VI recognized many times the holdover character of the philosophical substrate for the third moment of the phenmenon. Cf. his document of Feb. 22, 1967, calling for the Year of Faith, “Petrum et Paulum Apostolos,” A.A.S. (March 31, 1967), pp. 193-200; for the English cf. E. Kevane, Creed and Catechetics, op. cit., pp. 164-170. The Pope speaks of “New opinions in exegesis and theology often borrowed from bold but blind secular philosophies (which) have in places found a way into the realm of Catholic teaching” (p. 168). This is exactly what the program of Aeterni Patris was designed to prevent. 

  15. 147. Cf., for example, the recent work of Claude Tresmontant, Sciences de l’univers et problémes métaphysiques (Paris: Seuil, 976), esp. Chap. I, “A partir de la cosmologie,” and Chap. III, “A partir de la biologie,” pp. 11-50 and 65-111. 

  16. 148. If philosophical insight cannot rise to the level of this intellectual perception, there remains obedience to the program of the Holy See from motives linked with the virtue of religion. Those who plan the programs of seminaries and departments of religious education are faced with a decision that is maturing as the 20th century proceeds: that of turning the mind to Him who is the Lord of history or of preparing the way for another coming one who serves the Prince of this world, beginning already to genuflect to him. As Pieper observes, the Lord of history and the Prince of this world are quite obviously not the same; cf. his work, already cited, Über das Ende der Zeit (München: Kösel-Verlag, 1953), p. 143. In this connection, Maritain’s famous book, The Peasant of the Garrone: An Old Layman Questions Himself about the Present Time (New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1968), can be studied with profit. 

  17. 149. Cf. Battista Mondin, “Philosophy Necessary in Priestly Formation,” L’Osservatore Romano—English Edition (March 2, 1971), p. 11: “It will not suffice to teach the history of philosophy.” The Holy See, in its efforts toward philosophical renewal, always insists that the teaching of philosophy may not be reduced to the presentation of the history of philosophy, merely what others have said and are saying. Students of philosophy themselves personally must be helped to face and to see reality directly. This means a personal grasp of the three basic areas of content: the set of objective and necessary truths proper to philosophical science, from which the mind ascends to a personal Absolute and Creator of the Universe, and returns from Him to an authenetically human concept of man. Cf. Optatam totius, no. 15. For Seminaries, the Holy See desires that philosophy should be studied for two years: cf. the Ratio fundamentalis, no. 61. Qualitatively, the above three-fold minimum division of content should be organized conceretely into the studies. And the old-fahioned “history of philosophy” designed to minister to the “Modernist mentality” should be replaced by a new mode, that of the Philosophy of History which helps to reveal to the students the Mystery of Christ, the Lord of history. In a seminary course of four semesters, this can be done readily by devoting the first semester to the birth of Christian Philosophy in the catechetical explanations of the First Article of the Creed, in the context of the encounter of the Early Church with the Classical Culture; the second semester to the development of Christian Philosophy, with its above-mentioned three-fold characteristic content, in the Schools of Christendom; the third semester to the origin, nature and atheistic bias, due to its immanentism and relativism, of “Modern” Philosophy as such; and the fourth semester to the emergence of the post-modern situation in the positive sciences and in philosophy, together with the pastoral reasons for the program of the Church in the teaching of philosophy. This enables young minds to see the efforts of the Holy See toward philosophical renewal in a positive and wholesome light, and not as something marked for subtle sabotage until the Holy See comes at last, as it were, to confess its mistake and to withdraw its many documents on this matter from Vatican I to the present. In the Institutes which train catechetical teachers, the same substance of philosophical teaching can readily be given, whther in briefer overview or in a more comprehensive study comparable to that in the Seminaries. The important matter is to treat properly the three basic components of philosophical content, and to do so in the mode of the philosophy of history instead of the history of philosophy. For this ministers to GCD no. 88, the breakthrough to “a religious way of thinking” on the part of teachers of the Faith. 

  18. 150. The word “apostasy” was used by L’Osservatore Romano (June 29, 1940) in its editorial on the occasion of the death of the unfortunate Father Loisy, when he was termed “a man who ended in the extremes of negation with regard to all the values of Catholicism, and who therefore has become as it were a symbol on the flag of the most radical kind of apostasy.” This “radical kind” of priestly apostasy can be documented readily by studying Loisy’s work, La Religion (Paris: Nourry, 1917), especially in the second edition (Paris: Nourry, 1924) because of its important new preface on mysticism. Henri Bremond makes a “mystical faith” which dispenses with orthodoxy in the doctrine of the Catholic Faith the basis of his anonymous defense of Loisy: Sylvain Le Blanc, Un clerc qui n’a pas trahi: Alfred Loisy d’après ses memoires (Paris: Nourry, 1931), Forty years later the author’s identity became known and the work has been re-published by Emile Poulat (ed.) Une oeuvre clandestine d’Henri Bremond (Rome: Edizioni di Sotria e de Letteratura, 1972). This “foi mystique” has come to pervade Catholic religious education in some circles as a part of the third moment of the phenomenon after Vatican II. This shallowly irenic approach which would have and giave Jesus Christ without the Church’s formulated doctrine of the Faith which bears Him witness is of course able to raise up only nominal Catholics. It is this practical bearing upon the life of the Church which gives acuteness of meaning to the centenary of Aeterni Patris. Because of this new turn into the area of religious education the second century of the philosophical renewal seems destined to be catechetical, where the first century has been primarily academic. 

  19. 151. Cf. Pope St. Pius X, Pascendi (Sept. 8, 1907), “On the Doctrines of the Modernists”; in Vincent A Yzermans (Ed.) All Things in Christ: Encyclicals and Selected Documents of St. Pius X, op. cit., pp. 39-90: “…the partisans of error are to be sought not only among the Church’s open enemies; but, what is to be most dreaded and deplored, in her very bosom, and are the more mischievous the less they keep in the open. We allude, Venerable Brethren, to many who belong to the Catholic laity, and, what is much more said, to the ranks of the priesthood itself, who, animated by a false zeal for the Church, lacking the solid safeguards of philosophy and theology, nay more, thoroughly imbued with the poisonous doctrines taught by enemies of the Church, and lost to all sense of modesty, put themselves forward as reformers of the Church; and, forming more boldly into line of attack, assail all that is most sacred in the work of Christ, not sparing even the Person of the Divine Redeemer, whom, with sacrilegious audacity, they degrade to the condition of a simple and ordinary man.” These words apply to all three of the historic moments of Religous Modernism, and not least to the third moment. 

  20. 152. Lenin, who always considered himself a philosophe in the school of Voltaire, Diderot and Rousseau, constructed a social machinery or apparatus for holding Modern Philosophy over into post-modern times as an ideology, with procedures of thought-control that impose it on minds wherever his Marxist system or empire conquers territory. Cf. Note 91 above; and M.J. LeGuillou. Le mystere du Père: Foi des Apôtres, Gnoses actuelles (Paris: Fayard, 1973), p. 165: “…ideology: that is to say, the simple self-justification of an absolute Will-to-Power by means of propaganda. At this point there enters wht Nietzsche called ‘the struggle for world empire in the name of philosophical ideas’ — the epoque of ideologies.” This is the dark side of the post-modern situation, one that is in the political and social realm, (and in a certain sense also religious — thanks to Religious Modernism). Where social conquest in the name of the ideology is successful, intellectual life must go underground, as it were, where it seems destined to continue in new post-modern ways under the aegis of the Catholic Church. Cf. Oscar Halecki, op. cit., p. 948: “Nothing could be more instructive for the historian to study, if he is interested in the culture of all mankind, than the well-organized distortion of the whole cultural life of all these millions … of central and East European peoples, by a foreign imposed totalitarian regime. This is certainly one of the most appalling aspects of the cultural crises of our time…. There is indeed a specific Communist interpretation, strictly following the party line, of all sciences, including even biology or philology. But since Marxism is precisely a philosophy of history, based on a method that is supposed to be infallible, and since that interpretation of the past includes a guarantee of Communist victory in the futre, no other interpretation can be tolerated and among all scholars the historians are subject to the strictest control under any Communist regime.” Thus the Voltairean philosophy of history is held over into the Twentieth Century, into post-modern times, and made the ideological basis of an emerging World Empire. But it is an Empire devoid of intellectual and spiritual life. The heart of the matter is in the philosophy of history: intellectual life becomes more and more dependent upon the recognition of the Lord of history. Again Newman is the best guide to further thought and study on these matters, beginning with his Lectures on “The Patristical Idea of Antichrist,” Discussions and Arguments on Various Subjects (London: Longman’s, 1899), pp. 44-108; cf. p. 99, where Newman anticipates the spects of Religious Modernism which has been under discussion here: “…an open and blasphemous establishment of infidelity, or some such enormity, in the holiest recesses of the Church.” The comment of Edward Holloway, op. cit., p. 501, is valid in this connection: “Theological sincerity will rule out most of the ‘New Theology’ that has been thrust upon us…. Much of the counsel offered her [the Church] in even the high places is error, and it is corrosive of her doctrinal truth and continuity with the past. It is also utterly lacking in the realization of the need for personal prayer, penance, humility, and union with God by meditation and mystical communion. It is hedonist in spirit and very insolent; it is simply a godless ‘Humanism’ in the vestments of the Church.” The post-modern age is one of great intellectual and spiritual liberation, indeed; but not without attention to the coordination of philosophy and theology called for in Optatam totius, no. 14 of Vatican II, a procedure which is ministered in a unique way by the philosophy of history. 

  • You are my witnesses (Is. 43:10)  •  You shall be my witnesses (Acts 1:8)