JMC : Old Truths, Not Modernist Errors / by Norbert Jones, CRL

II. Modernism Virtually Destructive of Christian Dogma, the Foundations of Belief, and the Unwritten Word of God -- Divine Tradition

THE Modernist onslaught upon the Divine truths confided by Jesus to the Catholic Church is as striking a feature of this twentieth century as were the attacks of the so-called Reformers in the sixteenth on the authority of the Church. Protestantism in all its varieties is heresy, and so is Modernism, whether 'extreme wing' or 'moderate Modernism.' Its root principles are not only heresy, but Modernism is called by our Holy Father Pius X. the 'synthesis of all heresies.' Both Protestantism and Modernism are founded upon the abuse of private judgment and pride of intellect. Like the so-called Reformation man-made religions, Modernism has its dogmas and articles of faith. Its fundamental dogma is that the supernatural is an unbreathable atmosphere. The Catholic Church is considered to be wrong in wishing to breathe such an atmosphere. She would, it thinks, be far wiser to build all her claims on pure naturalism, mixed with 'vital immanence' She should give up her illusions that she is a Divine Church, and in future consider herself a merely human society, not immediately founded by the Son of God at all. But the Church of God will not take this foolish advice. She is supernatural and Divine in her origin and constitution, and so must always have recourse to supernatural means. Modernism is condemned because it virtually destroys Christian dogma by denying that the dogmas of faith are contained in the revelation made by the Holy Spirit to the Catholic Church and subsequently defined through the supreme authority of the same Ecclesia docens{1} (see p. 28). Once the Holy Spirit, speaking through the supreme magisterium{2} of the Church, defines a doctrine as de fide{3} the dogma in question remains, both in se{4} and in its external formula or terminology, unchanged and unchangeable, like God, Whose voice it communicates to us, in the shape of definite truth.

Modernism tells us quite the reverse. The Divine reality in which we believe must be sought inside the believer's soul. This reality is both an object of 'vital immanence' and the subject of the believer's affirmation of his inner belief, in the words of a formula or a statement. Is there anything existing outside the believer corresponding to both the 'vital immanence' and the statement of its nature inwards by him? No, answers Modernism. From a philosophic or a scientific or historical point of view it is unreal -- nay, false. Does the reality, then, exist at all? We do not know (agnosticism). Yet, as a believer, the reality in question may be true -- nay, existing in se, quite independent of the believer's concept of it. But on what grounds does he (the believer) pin his faith upon its truth? Only on his own individual experience. The believer possesses a kind of 'intuition' of the heart, which him imputs mediately into contact with the Divine reality of God; giving to him at the same time an absolute 'persuasion' of God's existence, and His beneficent action outside of man. This inner experience is greater than any other experience of any other objects whatsoever. If this theory be admitted, it would lead us into theism. According to it, every religion on the face of the earth is true. We could never dare to call any religion a false one. There would be no essential difference between any religion and the one true religion of the Catholic Church. Have not their adherents, just as much as Catholics, their inward religious experience and their outward affirmation of it? Both of these agree with each other. In what, then, do these other religions differ from Catholicism? Only in degree, but not in kind. Catholicism has more truth, is a more living faith and is more preeminently Christian; but the other creeds are not false, and there is no means in Modernist principles for so describing them. Who does not see that Modernism destroys not only the true dogmas of Our Catholic Faith, but makes them differ only in kind from those of other creeds? Our belief as Catholics rests on sure and firm, because Divine, foundations. It comes to us straight from the infallible Word of God -- both written and unwritten -- Scripture and Divine tradition. Through these Divine oracles God speaks to us, and we know it is God that speaks to us through the teaching, testimony, and authority of the Catholic Church.

Our belief, then, is not derived from a mere evolution of the consciences of men, from merely human and purely subjective constructions, made or spun by ourselves or others in our efforts to explain to ourselves our relations to God. Much less are the dogmatic statements of the subject-matter of our faith, defined through the assistance of the Holy Ghost, by the supreme authority of the Church, merely relative statements of what the masses have come to think, and given over to the Church to affix the seal of her approval, and make them into dogmas, which in course of time may have to be superannuated as obsolete, as men's inner sentiments about religion evolve and change. Modernism, in maintaining this false theory as to dogma and the origins of belief, so far from defending, in reality destroys both the one and the other.

The Divine and unwritten Word of God fares no better than Christian doctrine and belief at the hands of Modernism. What is the Modernist concept of Divine tradition, and in what way is it opposed to Catholic teaching on the subject? Modernism calls it 'the development of the inner religious experiences among the masses of the people, brought to maturity and kept continually active by means of propagandism, and finally taken up by the leaders of religious thought.' Should it live on and thrive and spread, it is true tradition; if, however, it withers and dies a natural death, it is false. Now, as there are so many different religions living and thriving and spreading to-day all over the world, and many of them very old religions, it must needs follow, according to Modernism, that they are all true and have Divine traditions! But who does not see the falsity -- nay, the blasphemy -- of such a theory? Tradition, as the Catholic Church has ever believed, and always will believe, is quite a different thing from what Modernism holds.

1. It has nothing to do with the people for its source. It comes not from them, but is presented to them by the Catholic-teaching Church, to accept and believe freely if they wish to belong to the true faith.

2. It comes from the Holy Ghost immediately to His infallible witness, teacher, and mouthpiece, the Supreme Magisterium of the Church. It is contained, not in the inner consciousness of fallible multitudes, and presented by them to the Church, but in the continual teaching voice of the Church, speaking through the successors of Peter and the united Episcopate in communion with them.

From the preceding it is clear how Modernism is destructive of the Catholic Faith. No wonder our Holy Father utters such a timely warning in his Encyclical against Modernism, telling Catholics to turn away from its poisonous pastures, and cling to the 'old theology' and the true Church, founded by Jesus Christ, to teach it to the end of time.

{1} Ecclesia docens -- i.e., 'the teaching Church.'

{2} Magisterium = 'teaching authority.'

{3} De fide = 'what is of faith.'

{4} In se = 'in itself.'

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