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August/September 2014

We all know about the creepy attempts by Vatican powerbrokers to deconstruct Our Lady's message and consign Fatima to the dustbin of pious ecclesiastical legend. Pope Francis and his administration are now doing a similar hatchet job on Pius X and Modernism: trying to dismiss them as outworn relics. As the pope's right-hand man, Cardinal Maradiaga, proclaimed: "The Second Vatican Council was the main event in the Church in the 20th Century. In principle, it meant an end to the hostilities between the Church and modernism."  

It makes sinister sense, of course, since they all stand condemned before Pius X's forensic exposition of the "synthesis of all heresies." Hence the curial likes of Professor Alejandro Mario Dieguez of the Vatican Secret Archive are seeking to deconstruct the person and pontificate of the mighty pope saint: (purportedly) "to recover the historical Pius X and not that of myth, the Pius X of ecclesiastical governance and reform, and not that of popular piety, recomposing the complex and fascinating personality of this pontiff."

Using the centenary of Pius' death as the pretext for this neo-Modernist makeover, Fr. Bernard Ardura,president of the Pontifical Committee of Historical Sciences, has also declared that the early 20th century proclamations have had their day. "Pius X, we can say, was working in a particular context." Moreover, "His condemnation of modernism obscured the positive parts of his ministry.”

To counter this grand deception we offer the following valuable synopsis from our October 1998 number. Written at the current editor’s urging by the late renowned priest-scholar of the Liverpool archdiocese (RIP), it outlines the essence of Modernism, its roots, its causes, the methodology of its heretical proponents, and how Pius X effectively constrained them until the fateful Council.


- A Summary -


How many of us have read the famous encyclical letter Pascendi Dominici Gregis ("Feeding the Lord's Flock") all through? I've known of it, I've read bits of it. I've taken the Oath against Modernism four times. But only now in my old age, have I read it completely.

It is an astonishing piece of work, written in 1907 by Pope St. Pius X as a counterblast against Modernism in the Catholic Church. I can feel the anguish of a gentle great-hearted Pastor of the Universal Church at this vicious betrayal from within. In his introduction he tells how he tried in various ways to win over those responsible, kindly and quietly. But at last, seeing these efforts to be in vain, and that for him to remain silent would be "a crime", he is driven by his duty "to expose before the whole Church in their true colours those men who had assumed this bad disguise". The shepherd must warn his flock against a deadly poison, and feed them with the Truth.

Anti-Intellectual and Agnostic

He found the Modernist doctrines scattered and disjointed, so as to give an appearance of questioning and uncertainty, but he sees that in reality they hang together and form a system. So he proceeds to group them. He does this in a profound and masterly examination.

He studies the Modernist in his many personalities — as a philosopher, a believer, a theologian, a critic, an apologist, a reformer.

In philosophy, the initial assumption (of many assumptions) is disastrous for the rest of the system, and it flatly contradicts the defined doctrine of Vatican I which states that "the one true God, our creator, can be known by the light of human reason by means of the things that are made." Modernism denies this. It says that human reason is confined entirely within the field of phenomena — that is, what can be perceived by the senses, and so it cannot lift itself up to God. This makes away altogether with Natural Theology, the motives of credibility, and all external revelation.

It is pure Agnosticism, close to Atheism. God and all that is divine or miraculous or supernatural, must be excluded from science and from history, especially Biblical history, in both Old and New Testaments.

Faith as a Fuzzy Feeling

Where does religion come in then? Religion is in man. It is an Immanence. We find God in the religious sentiment, a sentiment rising from the subconscious, a movement of the heart.

This is what the Modernist calls Faith. Not as Catholic Doctrine teaches — "Faith is an act of the intellect at the command of the will which assents to God's revelation because God is Truth Itself." No. That way is blocked to the Modernist by his own Agnosticism. Faith is a sentiment in the heart. That religious sentiment gives religious experience. This is revelation. This religious sentiment is the source of all religion, all kinds of religion, including The Catholic Religion. There is no external revelation.

The Bible is an expression of experiences — the religious sentimental experiences of the patriachs, of the prophets, of Christ who was the greatest prophet, but a man only, a man of exceptional religious sentiment. From His religious sentiment, as a plant from a germ, the Church in some way, emanates. Also its dogmas and its Sacraments.

Its dogmas are formulas produced by the reason, reflecting on the religious sentiment (and here the reason [intellect] is allowed to enter the process). These dogmas are but symbols, imperfect formulae, and therefore are subject, as everything is, to evolution. They can change and they should change, according to times and circumstances, and according to individual or collective needs arising from different facets of the inner religious sentiment. The Magisterium of the Church is there to provide a conservative element, forming a common collective sentiment or conscience, or faith. When progressive evolutionary changes take place in the collective consciousness, then the Magisterium must bow to them and compromise (as in a democracy).

The Sacraments are symbols, arising from the need of some visible sensible manifestations of religion, and a means of propagating it.

Synthesis of all Heresies: Destroyer of all Religions

I have tried, quite inadequately, to compress the Pope's very long and detailed analysis into a very small space.

The chief point that must strike the reader of this analysis is this. A system that puts aside the human intelligence, man's highest power, and substitutes for it a sentiment, an emotion, must thereby destroy its own credibility. The gratuitous, prejudiced, blasphemous division between "The Christ of Faith," and "The Christ of History" highlights an absurdity. This separation of Faith from philosophy, science, and history, means that a Modernist-as a philosopher, a historian, and a critic, can be a complete agnostic about religion, and at the same time, relying on this inner sentiment, can preach what sounds like a Catholic sermon.

Modernism makes this absurdity possible by confining human knowledge to the knowable world, and faith to the unknowable world. Science and Faith never meet; there is no conflict between them. So one could hold that Jesus in the world of reality, was only a man, but in the world of faith, one could pray to him as God.

This was the proposed renewal of religion: adapting it to the modern mind.

At the end of his long exposition of the heresy, the Pope writes:

"And how can anybody who surveys the whole system be surprised that we should define it as the synthesis of all heresies? Were one to attempt to collect together all the errors that have been broached against the Faith, and to concentrate the sap and substance of them all into one, he could not better succeed as the Modernists have done. Nay, they have done more than this, for their system means the destruction, not of the Catholic religion alone, but of all religions."

Then the Pope makes some points:

Sentiment: Take away the intelligence, and man, already inclined to follow the senses, becomes their slave. Common sense remains always, and common sense tell us that sentiment — emotion — proves a hindrance rather than a help in the search for truth. Sentiment, when the intelligence is not there to guide it, will deceive.

Experience — meaning intensity in the sentiment, adds absolutely nothing to the sentiment. The more intense it is, the more is it sentimental.

Immanence: Does this leave God and man distinct from each other, or not? If yes, why reject external revelation? If not, are we not at once in Pantheism? (Pantheism says that the material world is God. "Pan" in Greek means "everything". "Theos" means "God". The Christians hold of course that God the Creator is distinct from the world He has made. The world is in Time. God is Eternal, the Supreme First Cause of all creatures.)

Causes and Methods

The Pope next turns to the causes of Modernism. The remote causes, he says, are curiosity and pride. Curiosity — the desire for novelty, new things, change. More important is pride, that blinds the Soul. "Pride" he says "sits in Modernism as in its own house." In them, pride says "We are not as the rest of men", we are the scholars, the experts, the ones who know. Pride rouses in them disobedience and complete disrespect for authority.

The chief intellectual cause of Modernism, he says, is ignorance. Ignorance of scholasticism and Church tradition. Because they have embraced the false modern philosophies, rejecting with contempt the perennial philosophy which would enable them to recognise confusion of thought and sophistry.

Their methods are to bring contempt on the three obstacles which are in their way — the scholastic philosophy, the authority of The Fathers and Tradition, and the Magisterium of the Church. On these they wage unrelenting war, using writings, editorial positions, teaching positions in universities and seminaries, winning the young with the glamour of their novelties, dismissing those who oppose them as ignorant, stubborn and out of date.


The Pope finally proposes stringent remedies. He directs the Bishops of the world, and also superiors, and those in authority in education to utmost diligence in promoting all sound studies, especially the study of scholastic philosophy with St. Thomas Aquinas as guide. He bids them to be vigilant over those appointed to teach, over those approaching Holy Orders, over publications introduced into seminaries and schools, and much more.

The Holy Father was to follow all this up with the Oath against Modernism in 1910, to be taken by all before Ordination and before induction as parish priest, and other significant posts. He was also to found in Rome the Biblical Institute for Scripture Studies.

He finishes his encyclical with an earnest appeal for strength and courage to Jesus Christ, the Author and Finisher of our Faith, and to the Immaculate Virgin the destroyer of all heresies.

Aftermath: Fifty Years of Unity, Clarity and Growth

It is hardly necessary for me to add that in reading this powerful letter I felt a sense of being here before, a familiarity. The reader will see why, of course. Yes, Pope Pius X did his best to uproot a cancerous growth. I have heard it said that he expressed a fear that it would return. The words of Macbeth come to me — "we have scotched the snake, not killed it. It will close, and be itself."

Indeed this letter is strangely up-to-date. It could have been published this morning (with some toning down in the phraseology, no doubt). For sadly, Modernism has reappeared, strong and more widespread than before. Disguised under the fiction of "the spirit of Vatican II," it rides again.

There are modifications, but it is essentially the same. Even the words used are much the same — "renewal," "symbol," "experience," "experience is revelation," "the Easter experiences of the Apostles," "the consciousness of the early Christians" and so on.

After Pascendi a small few, who persisted in dissent, were excommunicated. About thirty priests left the church. But many others submitted and returned to Catholic Truth. Perhaps the Pope's letter was a mirror in which they truly saw themselves.

This letter gave the Church about fifty years of unity, clarity, and growth in reality. I thank God that, during that good season, I was taught, trained, and ordained.

May we all enjoy another such Summer .... Soon!




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