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

III. Modernism Condemned as Destructive of the Holy Scriptures, the Seven Sacraments, and the Catholic Church

It is a wonderful sign of the beautiful unity of Catholicism that the Holy Father's Encyclical, so soon after its appearance, has been so cordially welcomed throughout the Catholic world. All the Catholic Bishops of the world, every school of theological science, all the priests, with only one or two exceptions out of thousands, have received the Encyclical not only with absolute submission and the deepest gratitude, but the Bishops all over the world promise to take effectual steps to stamp out Modernism within every diocese where it dares to show its head. It is one of the most consoling features of the present time, this beautiful manifestation of unbroken Catholic union and oneness. It is true there are many agnostics and unbelievers, and a few men -- a tiny sect -- called Modernists; but this has nothing to do with it. There are also millions of devoted Catholics in the world, and they are determined that Catholics they will be -- true and real ones -- loyal to our Holy Father Pius X. So insignificant is Modernism in England, Scotland, and Ireland, that it may well be considered a negligible quantity ; it is a vox praeterea nihil.{1}

The hour is long past for running successfully a new heresy. News travels more quickly by marconigram or telephone to and from Rome of all that is happening in the world of religious thought and action. The Church soon hears of any enemy at her gates, and goes forth to meet him before he has time to spread his poisonous errors and do harm to souls. Modernism teaches most destructive errors about the Holy Bible -- the dearest of treasures confided to the care of the Church.

1. As to its nature. Modernism says that the Holy Scriptures are but the outward expression of the religious sense (vital immanence again) of men. The men that wrote the Bible wrote in so many books the formulae or statements of their inward religious sense or feelings -- the same as every religious man has done in the past and will do in the future.

2 As to inspiration, Modernism asserts that inspiration used to be ascribed to the sacred writers of the Bible as something special and unique, but declares it is nothing of the kind. It is only a more intense, but not a different, religious impulse from what all men, past and present, have given them to write, or to verbally testify, to the interior faith of their hearts. The Modernist considers Bible inspirations as does the Socinian, as being the same as the inspiration of any poet or fervid religious speaker. The difference, if any, is not in kind, but only in degree. If this theory be true, our Holy Scriptures are not much different, but are of the same nature, as Shakespeare and Longfellow, and are not any more the Scriptures of God than the Koran of Mahomet.

The Catholic Church, however, condemns this horrid teaching. The Scriptures of Christianity are the Written Word of the Living God, speaking immediately through the men that wrote them. She teaches, moreover, that inspiration of Scripture is absolutely different in degree and kind from any other inspiration. It is quite unique. This inspiration implies an illumination of the judgment of the sacred writer by the impulse of the Holy Ghost, moving him to write, and conveying to him what God wants him to write; dictating to him sometimes even the very sense of the passage he is to write, and at other times giving him the very words in which he is to clothe the message. Therefore the Bible cannot be compared with any other book.

Modernism would strip the Bible of all the supernatural and miraculous element, which it would ascribe to the 'vital immanence,' the religious sentiment of Jesus Christ, added to and improved upon, and increased to abnormal dimensions, by the 'religious immanence' of believers ever since. All these are made up of accretions, many interpolations, far-fetched interpretations. Besides these, Modernism says that passages have been patched together which in reality have no connexion whatever with the subject-matter, but were put in now by one, now by another, enthusiastic believer! Already have Modernists applied these pernicious theories to destroy the Holy Bible.

The following are a few of their Modernist so-called Biblical criticisms, extracted from their writings, and rightly condemned in the Syllabus:

1. Those who hold God as the Author of the Bible show great simplicity and gross ignorance.

2. Inspiration only means the handing down of old doctrines under a new religious sense.

3. This inspiration does not extend to all the books, for errors are found in all their parts.

4. Nor must we interpret the Scriptures supernaturally, but only according to human documents and human judgment.

5. The parables of Jesus are only an artificial arrangement made up by the Evangelists and the early Christians.

6. St. John's Gospel is not true history; it is only St. John's pious meditations, devoid of all historical truth. He greatly exaggerates miracles. He is not a Gospel witness (!) to the real Christ, but only to the mystic Christ living in the soul of the faithful and of the Church.

7. Christ's Divinity cannot be proved from the Gospels. It has been woven into them later on by the religious impulses of believers. Nor did our Lord ever teach He was the Messiah, nor prove this by miracles.

8. The Christ of history is different and quite inferior to the Christ of faith.

9. The words 'Son of God' do not mean that Christ is the real and natural Son of God.

Here are samples of how Modernism has already applied its pernicious theories to destroy the Bible and all its supernatural teaching as to Christ, His work and His message.

Modernism virtually destroys the seven Sacraments. It teaches that they did not come to the Church directly and immediately from Christ. Whence, then, did the Church derive them? From Christ living in Christian believers. Christ lived and lives in them. When, therefore, they instituted the seven Sacraments it was Christ that did so, as living in them. Such a doctrine as this destroys the Sacramental system altogether. Besides, it is based on a most transparent fallacy. Man's personally religious life is not the Personal Divinity of God the Son. Any work of man, even though he be a great saint like St. Francis of Assisi, is not a personally Divine work. Were this so, every Church law, every religious action of the saints, every prayer they said, would all be works of Divine institution! Therefore it is evident that whatever men may do, however holy they may be, remains the work of men, and can never be the work of God. Grace may give the work supernatural merit, but it can never be called a work of Divine institution.

It is on the basis of this fallacy that Modernism virtually destroys the seven Sacraments. The Catholic Church teaches against this -- the contrary truth about them. Instituted by our Divine Lord, immediately and in person, they rest on Him alone for their origin, their existence, and their Divine efficacy, ex opere operato.{2} In none of these did man help Him; it was His work alone. Though men, invested with His sacred Priesthood, perform the outward sign, the inward graces, signified and given, come straight from Christ.

Modernism destroys virtually the Catholic Church by its false theory of her nature, origin, and work. This will appear more clearly by contrast between the Catholic and Modernist teachings on the Church. The Catholic Church both claims and proves her claim of having been founded over nineteen centuries ago by the Son of God immediately and in person. From Him alone she received her Divine charter and credentials. On the first Christian Pentecost after the Ascension of her Divine Founder, the Holy Ghost, which He promised that His Father and He would send, came down upon her, to remain with her for ever as her living soul and her Divine source of supernatural life and action. He came not to inspire but to assist the teaching body of pastors united with the Vicar of Jesus Christ and successor of St. Peter, in defending and explaining and unfolding more explicitly the doctrines of the faith. She has no right and possesses not the power to increase the doctrines in themselves. The development of doctrine is not 'an increase of the faith inside the Church, but an increase of the Church in her knowledge of all contained in the faith.'

Modernism denies all this. It calls the Catholic Church the product of the united Christian consciences and religious impulses of believers, on the often-quoted principle of 'vital immanence.' Christ, says Modernism, was the first Christian believer, who contributed a small share of this by bringing into the world a tiny germ of truth, and leaving it in the midst of Christian hearts, for Christians in turn to add their germ to it, and to develop the primitive Christ-germ. Thus in course of time Christian believers made the Church, or, rather, Christ living in them founded it. All that the Church now is, and all that she possesses, is the effect and result of the vital emanation of the universal Christian conscience, both past and present. Her authority is derived from the self-same source. And as she owes her very existence to this, so she owes her authority to it -- in fact, she is herself completely subject to and dependent upon her members for its exercise. Not only is the Church subject to her members, but in all things she is subject to the secular power. The Church and the State, having each a different end, must ever be strangers to each other. The Church has spiritual and the State temporal ends. The State is in no way subject to the Church. It is an obsolete doctrine of 'ultramontane obscurantism' (!) that the Church was established by God, the Author of the spiritual and supernatural, and that in her own purely spiritual affairs she is superior to the State.

This medieval doctrine, says Modernism, must be swept away. Separate and disestablish the Church from the State; disestablish all religion; separate the Catholic from the citizen. As a citizen, the Catholic has the right and duty to work for the State in any way he chooses, whether he does so according to Christian principles or quite contrary to them. All he has to consider is whether he is helping the State and the common good. If he is, he must not consider whether his conduct is according to Christian principles or the reverse. Expediency, not morality, must be his guide and norma of citizenship or statecraft. The Church has no right to prescribe for Catholics as citizens a line of Christian conduct to guide their Christian conscience as citizens. Every Christian mind must shrink in horror from such principles as these. Moreover, it is all most false and contrary to Christian faith and morals. The Church has every right to direct both the Christian man and the Christian citizen. The Church in her spiritual sphere is superior to every earthly power, however great.

The Modernist teaching to the contrary is condemned as heretical by our Holy Father, as his saintly predecessor Pius VI. condemned a similar theory nearly two centuries ago. It is abundantly manifest, therefore, that Modernism stands self-condemned. If it be true, then Christianity is false. The two systems are absolutely incompatible and destructive of each other. Modernism is anti-Scriptural, for it virtually denies the written word of God in the Bible. It is ambitious enough to offer us a Modernist Bible up to date, after having sent the original God-given Bible to Germany for 'alterations' and 'repairs.' Modernism is antisacramental, destructive of the whole nature of these Divine institutions. It destroys the true Christ, the Saviour and Redeemer, substituting a false Christ of its own invention. It falsifies the truth about the Catholic Church founded by Jesus Christ, both in herself and her relations to the State and to individuals. It not only lowers the dignity of our holy faith, as far as it is able, but degrades human reason to the level of the brutes, by making it into a kind of glorified sense.

No wonder the Catholic Church has condemned such a system as Modernism. When one sees so-called Christian journals like the Church Times virtually canonizing Modernism every week for the benefit of Anglican readers, one only wonders at the marvellous digestive powers its Anglican supporter must possess for every form of heresy, and ask ourselves, Is there any error under the sun the Church Times will not swallow provided that it be anti-Roman?

{1} 'A voice and nothing more.'

{2} By virtue of the work done by the Sacraments themselves.

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