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Who Are The Modernists Of The Encyclical?

by A. Vieban, S.S.

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  • Description:
    In this article A. Vieban discusses the views held by C. A. Briggs, A. Loisy, G. Tyrrell, and Henry C. Corrance on the subject of Modernism and its distruction of the Christian faith.
  • Larger Work:
    American Ecclesiastical Review
  • Pages: 490 - 508
  • Publisher & Date:
    American Ecclesiastical Review, May 1908

C. A. Briggs: The Encyclical against Modernism (North American Review, February, 1908).

A. Loisy: The Gospel and the Church (1902, Eng. tr., 1904); Autour d'un Petit Livre, 1903; Simples Reflexions sur le Decret du Saint Office, Lamentabili sane exitu — et sur l'Encyclique, Pascendi Dominici Gregis. 1908.

G. Tyrrell: A Much-Abused Letter, 1906; Through Scylla and Charybdis, 1907; The Prospects of Modernism (Hilbert Jour., January, 1908).

X. X. X.: Le Programme des Modernistes: Replique a l'Encycl. de Pie X: Pascendi (translated from the Italian, 1908).

Henry C. Corrance: A Vindication of Modernism (Nineteenth Century, February, 1908).

In the December number of the Nineteenth Century, Canon Moves, of Westminster, answered the two questions: "What is Modernism?" and "Why has the Pope condemned it?" The writer clearly showed that the errors condemned under the name of Modernism strike at the very root not only of Catholicism but also of Christianity as a supernatural religion. Since many of the truths, which the Encyclical defends are the common heritage of all Christians, we should expect to find religious-minded Protestants in sympathy with Pius X, against Modernism. Instead of this, there has been a condemnation almost unanimous. The old objection from the case of Galileo and the usual attacks on the Inquisition have been repeated, and, no doubt, the impression has been produced or strengthened that the Roman Church is opposed to modern civilization and to the progress of science. The action of the Holy Father has been described as "an amazing attempt to recall the Dark Ages." The Encyclical itself and the Syllabus, together with a few Pastoral Letters from the bishops and several articles in Catholic Reviews, have made it plain enough that what the Pope condemns under the name of Modernism is destructive of the Christian faith.

But Catholic reviewers and Catholic bishops, following the example of the Holy Father, have dealt with Modernism impersonally, giving no names or references. Hence the further questions: "Who are the Modernists? Do they really hold the rationalistic views exposed in the Encyclical?" The first question has been answered by public opinion, by the attitude of the Holy See toward some liberal Catholics, and by the leaders of Modernism in England, France, and Italy. Tyrrell, Loisy, and a group of Italian Modernists wrote against the Encyclical as aimed at their opinions. They are recognized as the strongest representatives of the movement.

The attacks on the Encyclical by Modernists, and in the non-Catholic press generally, may be summed up in these two propositions: 1. Some of the errors condemned by the Pope are indeed destructive of Catholicism and Christianity; but they are not held by Modernists; 2. What Modernists do hold is not opposed to the Catholic Faith, but only to an antiquated system of philosophy which Pius X has no right to impose on the faith of Catholics. The issue therefore is not between Modernism and Catholicism but between Modernism and Scholasticism. This is the impression likely to be made on the average reader of nearly all non-Catholic criticisms of the Encyclical, especially of Dr. Briggs's article in the North American Review for February.

The tone of his article is very different from that of Dr. Briggs's previous contributions, in which he did not hesitate to admit the divine origin of the primacy of the Pope and to adopt the Catholic interpretation of our Lord's words: "Thou art Peter. . . " There Dr. Briggs, while suggesting reforms — even radical reforms — in the Church, used dignified and respectful expressions: here his language is often violent, his attacks are personal, his statements given without proof. This article reminds one far less of Dr. Briggs's former articles than of the anonymous assault on "The Policy of Pius X," published last fall. Even Protestant critics of the Roman Curia would not subscribe to such expressions as the following: "They are doing all in their power to stir up strife all over the Christian world with a madness that is the sure precursor of ruin" (p. 200). Again, "The Roman Curia is the canker, the running-sore of the Papacy, which is responsible for all the mischief." "It does not wish the Reunion of Christendom, the peace and unity of the Christian Church." "It is under the sway of four evil spirits, the Spirit of Falsehood, the Spirit of Domination, the Spirit of Avarice, the Spirit of Immobility" (p. 212).

Criticisms of the Encyclical as the work of the Curia are not more moderate. Loisy, Tyrrell, and other Modernists, have been entirely misrepresented. "Their views clearly stated in numerous published writings . . . are wrested and distorted; and then they are held up before the world as guilty of serious errors for these very statements composed by their enemies" (pp. 200, 203). "The Curia blackens their doctrines and characters, and then excommunicates them for being blackened" (p. 203). "The Encyclical is really a trap to catch the unwary . . . The Encyclical virtually dethrones Christ and enthrones St. Thomas as the vicar of Aristotle" (p. 208). Its logical consequences would change the Creed from "One holy, Catholic Church" to "one Roman and Scholastic Church" (p. 207).

How, after such statements, can the writer conclude by declaring: "I have said nothing but what hosts of Catholics of all ranks are saying at the present time?" (p. 212). How few would hold such language not only among Catholics, but among religious-minded and enlightened Protestants!

Another painful impression gathered from the reading of Professor Briggs's article comes from the fact that, in such a grave matter, he should advance and publish very serious charges without giving any proof of or any means of verifying his statements. In spite of clear evidence to the contrary recently appearing in the London Tablet, it is asserted that, "The Encyclical intends to classify all the disciples of Newman among the Modernists" (p. 204). Again, what is the excellent authority for the statement ascribed to a Roman Cardinal that "if Newman was now living he would be classed as a heretic"? (p. 205). Is there anything in the attitude of the Church, which made Newman a cardinal, to justify such grave accusations? Does not Tyrrell himself admit that, "Newman might have shuddered at his progeny?"1 With no better proof, Dr. Briggs brings a still more serious charge against the Holy See when he says: "The treatment of the French episcopate, during the recent troubles, has been most shameful . . . as I have it on excellent authority, their very names were signed to an official document without their knowledge or consent" (p. 211). No one will doubt Dr. Briggs's sincerity in making such a statement, but every one has a right, and perhaps a duty, to question his estimate of the anonymous authority on which he makes it.

As to Dr. Briggs's contention that there is no opposition between the views of Loisy, Tyrrell, etc., and the Catholic faith, any one who is at all familiar with their latest writings, is bound to deny it. "The faith of the Church, according to Catholic doctrine, is a sacred deposit derived from Jesus Christ and His Apostles, whose substance remains unchangeably the same . . . As I understand them, the so-called Modernists agree to that; they accept 'the substance' of Catholic doctrine and reject only its 'scholastic form'" (p. 208-209). This charge, if true, is a most serious one; but is it probable, is it even possible, that in a work which Dr. Briggs himself characterizes as thorough, such a mistake should have been made? What interest could prompt the highest authority in the Church to create a system of erroneous doctrines in order to condemn it? Is it not evident to any one who reads the Encyclical that the Holy Father considers the very foundation of Christianity to be in danger?

However, Dr. Briggs, after a comparison of the errors condemned with the context from which they are taken, comes to the conclusion that those errors are not to be found there.2 The illustration given on pages 200 and 201, is calculated to bring conviction to all readers who are not familiar with Loisy's book "The Gospel and the Church." Loisy says:

The twenty-second error of the Syllabus reads as follows: "The dogmas which the Church gives out as revealed are not truths which have fallen down from heaven, but are an interpretation of religious facts, which the human mind has acquired by laborious effort."

Loisy says:3 "The conceptions that the Church presents as revealed dogmas are not truths fallen from heaven, and preserved by religious tradition in the precise form in which they first appeared. The historian sees in them the interpretation of religious facts, acquired by a laborious effort of theological thought. Though the dogmas may be divine in origin and substance, they are human in structure and composition."

This statement of Loisy is careful, accurate, and well guarded.

It seems clear that by leaving out of the passage the qualifying words printed in italics, its meaning has been changed, and a "careful, accurate and well-guarded statement" has become an heretical proposition. Any one who takes up "The Gospel and the Church" and reads only page 210, will no doubt agree with Dr. Briggs. But this page is but one of the forty-five, which make up the section on Catholic Dogma; and any one who has studied this section will come to the conclusion that the words of the Syllabus express Loisy's real meaning. If he denied only that our dogmas have come down from heaven in the precise form, or in the terms in which they are expressed in theological definitions; if he admitted that the substance is divine, i.e. divinely revealed, he would only maintain what all Catholic theologians admit, But what does he mean when he says that our dogmas may be divine in their origin? What is his idea of Revelation? It is, according to him, "the consciousness acquired by man of his relations with God."4 When the book containing this statement was published, and attacked on all sides, as undermining the very foundations of Christianity, did its author say a word to make it plain that he admits a supernatural Revelation?

Even if it were clear that he does admit Revelation and believes that our dogmas are from God by their origin, what does he mean by their substance, which is divine, as opposed to their structure and composition, which are human? Let us examine this as exemplified in the fundamental dogma of Christianity, the Incarnation. What, according to Loisy, is the substance, and what is the structure of that dogma? What is from Christ and what is from man? "The divinity of Christ, the Incarnation of the Word, was the only conceivable way of translating to Greek intelligence the idea of the Messiah" (p. 193). "From an historical point of view, it may be maintained that the Trinity and the Incarnation are Greek dogmas, since they are unknown to Judaism and Judaic Christianity" (p. 195). For the early Christians, Christ was simply the Messiah, Christianity was "A Jewish movement founded on the idea of the reign of the Messiah" (p. 188). What is meant in Loisy's book by the Messiah and the reign of the Messiah? The answer is found in Section II on "The Kingdom of Heaven," and in Section III on "The Son of God." That title is the equivalent of Messiah, i.e. of Vicar of God, for the establishment of the Kingdom of God on earth. This, then, is the substance of our dogma of the Incarnation: Christ the Representative of God for the establishment of the Kingdom, i.e. something entirely different from what has always been understood by Christ's Divinity.

Is not Loisy's mind well summed up, then, in the twenty-second proposition of the Syllabus, viz. "The dogmas which the Church gives out as revealed are not truths which have fallen down from heaven, but are an interpretation of religious facts, which the human mind has acquired by laborious effort?" What is the value of that interpretation? Do we find in it sufficient ground for belief in Christ's Divinity? So well did Loisy at first conceal his extreme views on this point that not a few of his readers were deceived. He said clearly enough that for the historian Christ is not God, but he said also that for faith Christ is God.5 His ablest critic, Dr. Lepin, thought that, while doing away with the traditional proofs of Christ's Divinity, Loisy fully believed this dogma on the authority of the Church.6 It is now evident that the expression, "Christ is God for faith," or for the believer, had no such meaning. In a recent interview with a reporter of Le Matin (Paris), Loisy was quoted as openly denying the Divinity of Christ and His Resurrection. Baron von Hugel made praiseworthy efforts to elicit from him a disavowal. But Loisy, instead of denying that the interview took place, or at least of clearly professing his faith in Christ's Divinity and Resurrection, merely declared that his distinction between the point of view of faith and that of science is essential and real, and that he does not guarantee the remarks attributed to him in the newspapers. For the exact and complete expression of his thought, he refers to his books, especially to his work on the Synoptics and to his Simples Reflexions. From a criticism of the former work, which appeared in the last number of this review, it is evident that Loisy holds the opinions attributed to him in Le Matin. The same opinions are even more clearly expressed in his criticism of the Syllabus and Encyclical. As the book is under the ban of the Church, it should be read only from a sense of duty and with proper authorization. If a vindication of the Holy Father's condemnation of Modernism was necessary, we may say that no stronger can be found. The writer admits that his writings have supplied the greater number of propositions condemned in the Syllabus (p. 6); that he more than any other Catholic writer has supplied the materials which the theologians of His Holiness have elaborated into a system (p. 15). He goes further still when he writes of the Encyclical: "It imposes upon Catholic belief no new proposition. It is but the complete and necessarily logical expression of the teaching received in the Church since the end of the thirteenth century" (p. 23). "Pius X only drew the conclusions which logically follow from the official teaching of the Church . . . Leo XIII would not have made the Encyclical perceptibly different, at least in its essentials and in the theoretical (dogmatic) part" (p. 275). The Pope, however, was wrong, Loisy contends, in taking for granted a principle contested by several Modernists, i.e. "that there is an immutable deposit of revealed truth of which he is the only and infallible guardian . . . The idea of setting a term to Divine Revelation is entirely mechanical and artificial" (pp. 139, 58).

Now it has always been the belief of the Catholic Church that there is a deposit containing revealed truth handed down from the Apostles through Scripture and Tradition. It is also the belief of the Church, defined by the Councils of Trent and the Vatican, that the Holy Scripture is the Word of God, that the inspired writings have God for their Author. For Loisy "God is Author of the Bible, as He is the Architect of Notre Dame of Paris or of St. Peter's at Rome" (p. 42). "In the Gospels, even in the Synoptics, we have only a weak echo of the teaching of Jesus" (p. 50). "The narratives of the birth of Jesus in Matthew and Luke are rightly considered by critics as entirely fictitious" (p. 61). Of the Resurrection Loisy writes: "The testimony of faith does not prove, any more than the testimony of history, the material fact commonly understood by resurrection" (p. 80). "What is historically false can never be true, under the same respect, and, as a matter of fact, for faith. No Modernist has maintained the absurd conclusion that, while according to history, Jesus wrought no miracles, and made no prophecies, the reverse is true for faith; that for history He never rose from the dead, while for faith He is risen . . . No Modernist has maintained that the Resurrection is historically false, but only that it was not and could not be proved. Even if the material reality of the Resurrection had been explicitly denied — and to consider it as historically non-existing was to deny it — what may have been written about the life of Christ in faith, and for faith, is not an affirmation of what history has contested. It is question of immortality in whatever sense, not of Resurrection in the proper sense of the word" (p. 169-170).

With regard to the Church and the Sacraments here are Loisy's views: Christ looking forward to His speedy return, unconscious of being anything but the Vicar of God for the establishment of the Kingdom, could not even think of establishing a Church or of instituting the Sacraments. "If Jesus Christ had wished to found a religion distinct from Judaism, He would not have failed to determine its organization and worship . . . Until His last day Christ only announced the near coming of the Kingdom of God, i.e. the fulfilment of the promises made to Israel by the Older Prophets. We should not therefore be surprised, if He instituted neither Church nor worship distinct from the Mosaic religion. . . Jesus had no idea or intention concerning the Sacraments of the Church" (pp. 180; 184). "Neither the words, 'This is My Body,' nor the words, 'This is My Blood,' belong to the primitive tradition concerning the Last Supper. Jesus gave only bread and wine to His disciples telling them He would no more eat or drink with them except in the festival of the Kingdom of Heaven" (p. 90). "The early Church had elders and overseers who became priests and bishops; she did not know the sacred functionary, the Pontiff; this again is a fact" (p. 95). Here is Loisy's account of the origin of the Eucharist and of the Priesthood: "As the Christian Supper took the character of a liturgical act, those who ordinarily presided over it acquired the sacerdotal character."7

We might ask, when did such a tremendous change take place? How could the Apostles and the early Christians so completely misunderstand their Master as to ascribe to Him an institution of which He never thought? How could St. Paul, a quarter of a century after Christ's death, in a letter whose authenticity has not been and cannot be seriously questioned, speak of the Eucharist as of a well-known Christian rite received from Christ Himself? In Loisy's theory these are insuperable difficulties.

It is not the purpose of this paper, however, to refute these views, but to show their opposition to Catholic doctrine. Now if Christ never thought of instituting the Eucharist and the Priesthood, if for the early Christians the Eucharist was only a common repast, if those who presided over it had no priestly character and no priestly powers, there can be no ground for our belief in the Real Presence, in the Sacrifice of the Mass, and in the priesthood.

It is clear that a choice has to be made between those theories and historical Catholicism. How then could Tyrrell write recently in the Hibbert Journal (January, 1908) that, "The faith of Pius X and of Abbe Loisy is one and the same?" It is the same in the sense that they both use the same word, but to express two entirely different notions. Their faith is the same, if the faith of St. Athanasius was that of Arius; if the faith of the Council of Trent was that of Luther; if the faith of Cardinal Manning was the faith of Matthew Arnold or of Renan.

We can trace the same evolution of thought and expression, and we can find the same destructive theories, in the utterances of Tyrrell. In his latest writings, his views are no doubt expressed clearly enough to make every one see their opposition to Catholic Faith; but in several previous works they were implied or expressed so obscurely as not to be perceived by many. In Catholic magazines Lex Orandi (1903) generally received a favorable review, although the Abbe Franon, of the Catholic University of Toulouse, detected in it, and pointed out, the fundamental errors now condemned in the Encyclical, i.e. dogmatic definitions are the product of the mind working on the data of the religious sense. They have a twofold value: the one intellectual, the other religious or practical; the former relative and variable, the other absolute and immutable. The test, or criterion, of religious truth is experience: the dogmas of the Church are true, in the measure in which they help us to develop our religious life. Hence Catholicism has nothing to fear from historical criticism; for facts of history, such as Christ's Resurrection, or His Virgin Birth, do not belong to faith as facts, but only in their spiritual meaning for us, in the lesson which they contain.8

That this interpretation of Lex Orandi was correct would not probably be denied by Tyrrell himself; but it was far from evident to most readers of the book. For several years after its publication, its author remained a contributor to more than one of our Catholic periodicals. He professed to "take the Church and Her saints as his guides in faith and morals," but in a sense which only few could then suspect. The illusion of his admirers came to an end by the publication of A Much-Abused Letter, in 1906, and of Through Scylla and Charybdis, in 1907. The Letter had originally been written to a Catholic Professor of Anthropology, who, being unable to see the force of the arguments for Catholicism and to accept as true the dogmas as taught by the Church, seriously thought of giving up his religion. Tyrrell advised him to remain in the Church and to receive the Sacraments, on the ground that faith does not stand for theological orthodoxy, for assent to a dogmatic system (p. 39); it does not mean "mental assent to a system of conceptions of the understanding" (p. 51); it is "not a sharing in the common creed of the Visible Church, but in the common visions of the Invisible Church" (p. 81). A distinction must be made between the collective consciousness of the people of God and the consciously formulated mind and will of the governing section of the Church. "A man may have great faith and yet consider the Church's consciously formulated ideas and intentions about Herself as more or less untrue to Her deepest nature" (pp. 55 and 56). In those formulated ideas "the spirit of the whole body of the faithful strives to arrive at some degree of self-consciousness . . . When authority [of Popes, Bishops, Councils, Theologians] is dumb or stultifies itself, private conviction resumes its previous rights and liberties" (p. 57). Hence, although "formulated Catholicism does violence to your intelligence and your moral sense" (p. 60), it would be a mistake to leave the Church. "The Roman communion may be no more than the charred stump of a tree torn to pieces by gales and rent by thunderbolts; she may be, and probably is, more responsible for all the schisms than the schismatics themselves; yet, unlike them all, she stands for the principle of Catholicity" (p. 77). Catholicism remains "the highest expression, or determination, and the most effectual instrument, of the life of religion" (p. 75). "Doubtless, as an expression, it is full of distortions, excesses, defects; its truth lies inextricably mixed with error as gold in the ore; yet the ore may be richer than any yet given to man; and pure gold may be unattainable as long as man is man" (p. 79).

A man therefore may and should remain a Catholic, no matter what his convictions may be on such subjects as Christ, the Eucharist, and Penance. "Putting aside all theological problems, you will still allow that for you the Crucifix represents the highest ideal of life; that Jesus stands for the most perfect type of humanity in individuo . . . Dogma apart, and taken at its lowest, the Eucharist remains for you the Sacrament of communion and incorporation with that mystical Christ-Crucified; an act by which you offer yourself to be received into that divine company or spiritual organism . . . And if ever your conscience is seriously troubled and you feel that you have cut yourself off from the spiritual unity of this mystical Christ, there is no reason why you should not still see in the Sacrament of Penance a means of reconciliation" (pp. 83-85). In other words, Tyrrell advised his friend to go to Communion although he did not believe in the Real Presence, and to seek absolution from a priest, without believing in the priesthood.

We should not indeed forget that this letter was an argument ad hominem, to meet an extreme case; however, like other publications from the same author, for which no imprimatur could be obtained, it was printed for private circulation. In giving it to the public, Tyrrell frankly admitted that some passages can hardly be defended on Catholic principles. But then it is hard to see how such destructive theories could be assumed by a believer even for the sake of argument. The notes, which accompany the published letter, do not contain a clear repudiation of those views, which on the contrary have been re-iterated in a later work, Through Scylla and Charybdis (1907), as the expression of the author's mature judgment. Here also he substitutes for the Christian idea of Revelation and Faith something entirely different from them.

Revelation is "the self-manifestation of the divine in our inward life" (p. 205.) "The word is used primarily to denote an experience, and derivatively to denote the record or expression by which that experience is restated and communicated to others" (p. 268). It is "a perennial phenomenon which obtains in every soul that is religiously alive and active. As the Spirit did not cease with the Apostles, so neither did Revelation and prophecy" (p. 292). In the Bible and in the authentic teachings of the Church, we have, so to say, the utterance of a collective and continuous experience. However, this collective experience is like gold in the ore, inextricably mixed up with mere theological speculation or history (p. 307).

This true view of Catholicism "has always been represented by a feeble and oppressed minority, and branded with the disapprobation of the reigning average;" still those few are more loyal than the average to the spirit of Christ. They know the mind of the Church better than Her official interpreters. They accept Her teaching in the measure in which it is in accordance with the still higher and highest canon of Catholic truth with the mind of Christ. The ultimate criterion of truth, therefore, is not the authority of the Church, but private judgment. A man may reject all the dogmas of the Church, in the sense in which the Church imposes them on our faith, and still claim to be a Catholic.

Tyrrell himself must feel that his theories are incompatible with historical Catholicism; for in his criticism of the Encyclical, in the London Times and the Hibbert Journal, he wrote: "No Modernist has any right whatever to be surprised at this Encyclical . . . Any concessions a more liberal Pope might make to Modernist requirements could only be concessions of diplomacy . . . contrary to the true spirit and logic of the system." Nevertheless he defines Modernism as "an attempt to reconcile the essentials of Catholic Faith with those indisputable results of historical criticism . . . ending with a clear intuition of the perfect concord between faith and reason, between the unchanging facts and experiences of the supernatural life and the ever-changing and growing expression of those facts in doctrines and institutions" (pp. 249-250).

Like the leader of Modernism in England, Italian Modernists offer their program as "vital and as the only means of salvation for the Church" (p. 12). Professor Briggs refers to the excommunication against the unknown authors of Il Programma dei Modernisti as "an instance in which the elementary principles of justice have been thoroughly disregarded." As a matter of fact, for any one who compares that criticism of the Encyclical with the essential conditions of membership in the Catholic Church, the decree of the Pope simply declared that the authors of the Programma, having ceased to fulfil those conditions, had no longer a right to call themselves Catholics, or, in other words, were excommunicated. What is their idea of Revelation and Faith, of the Gospels and of Christ? "Religious knowledge is the actual experience of the divine working in us and in all things" (p. 114). "The whole of Catholic dogma was born from the need of harmonizing the experience of faith with the mental conditions of the time, the immutable religious spirit with the expression of ever-changing thought" (p. 106). Hence the necessity of changing the old notion of Revelation, "not substantially, since it remains God's message to man, but regarding the manner of transmission of that message" (pp. 26, 48).

Any Catholic who accepts the traditional definition of Revelation will be unable to see how the proposed substitute for it, i.e. "God's action in us and in all things," is not something "substantially different."

For the authors of the Programma, the definitions of the Vatican Council, and of course of other councils, are "doctrinal formulas defined at a given moment, in answer to the needs of the collective religious sentiment," i.e. to express the religious sentiment of the Christian community (p. 126). Miracles and prophecies cannot be considered as credentials of Christianity, for they "are still more shocking than surprising to modern conscience, and they elude the control of experience . . . These pretended foundations of faith have seemed to us irreparably frail" (p. 116). Regarding Christ, Italian Modernists first give it as an undoubted fact that the Gospels cannot be considered by the historian as a faithful account of His life and teaching. "In the New Testament, as in the Old, we do not possess historical works in the true sense of the word, but Sacred Histories determined in great part by faith, for the service of which they were written." The differences between the Synoptics must be accounted for, exclusively, by the religious tendencies of each writer (p. 73); in other words, the Evangelists, each according to his peculiar religious experience or the needs of his readers, freely ascribe to Christ miracles which He never wrought, and words which He never spoke. One thing, however, is beyond doubt, i.e. Christ preached nothing but the coming of the Kingdom; this is self-evident, and needs no proof, although Christ's teaching on the subject occupies but a small place in the Gospels, and is considered by Harnack as secondary and unimportant. For the authors of the Programma, this is the substance of Jesus' teaching; "the rest represents the expression of new ideas to which Christian experience gave rise . . . It is impossible to find in the historical teaching of Christ, even in an embryonic state, the theological teaching of the Church" (p. 71). What about the Divinity of Christ? Here, as in Loisy's writings, it is supposed to have come into existence by a translation of the Jewish idea of the Messiah into the Greek concept of the Logos, while keeping its moral and religious value, which is the substance, the permanent element, of the doctrine, the Christ of Faith (p. 99). The authors of the Programma repudiate the accusation of transfiguration and deformation in a way, which would seem to make their system innocuous; apparently they do not apply it to the ontological order, but only to the order of our knowledge. Does it mean that Christ is God, only that men did not know it? Does it mean that the transfiguration which took place simply made the truth manifest? Here is the answer: "We do not pretend that from the ontological point of view, there were not, in the historical Christ, those ethical values and those religious meanings which Christian experience slowly discovered in living the Gospel's message" (pp. 137, 138). In other words, history sees in Christ only a man; He was not conscious of being God; the early Christians did not suspect it; He is not really God; but "the religious or ethical value" of that concept, the only thing which we have to believe, was first contained in the Jewish conception of the Messiah, then in the Greek idea of the Word Incarnate, and may, later on, be expressed in other ways, having the same ethical and religious value.

That such theories are incompatible with Christianity was recognized by a non-Catholic writer in the Contemporary Review of last November. "Some of the errors which the Pope denounces are errors which strike at the very root of Christianity. If, for example, we can have but little knowledge of the historical Christ, and are constrained to think of Him as a Man who lived and died like other men, without consciousness of His unique authority and atoning death, it is surely impossible to see any ground for belief in His Deity at all. By what right did the Church quit the simple teaching of its Master and invent an ideal of its own?" These words show well the destructive character of Modernism; still it is claimed that it has a constructive side, and in the February number of the Nineteenth Century "a Catholic Layman," Henry C. Corrance, attempts to set it forth in a rejoinder to Canon Moyes's article in the December number of the same periodical. Modernism, according to Mr. Corrance, is "an attempt to reconcile the Catholic Faith with criticism and the scientific method." Unfortunately, here again the faith which is thus to be reconciled with criticism and the scientific method is something entirely different from the Catholic Faith. Every careful reader will easily perceive this and see in the article a vindication, not of Modernism, but of the Encyclical, which condemned it. The Catholic Faith is based on certain miraculous facts, which are the credentials of Divine Revelation. To the writer of the article it is clear that "from the historical standpoint, so far from miracles being made to prove anything to those who are living hundreds of years after they are alleged to have happened, it is they that stand in need of proof, and that, as regards prophecies, it is at least as probable that the events were adapted to them by the writers through the unrecognized influence of those events upon their minds, as that they should actually have prefigured the events" (p. 312). Criticism is bound "in every case to assign phenomenal and not mystical causes to phenomenal events" (P. 313). This excludes not only the proving force, but also the very existence, of miracles and prophecies.

Among the miracles, which have been alleged as a proof of the divine origin of Christian Revelation, Christ's Resurrection has always been considered as the most important. A few years after the death of our Lord, St. Paul wrote: "If Christ be not risen again, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain."9 According to the writer of the article in question, our faith would always contain an element of uncertainty if it depended on the historical fact of Christ's Resurrection, because this fact, like any other historical fact, may be disproved (pp, 314-315). Hence faith is without rational foundation: "faith necessarily precedes thought and is the foundation on which it rests . . . Faith comes first, then its proof, and that proof is experience" (pp. 318, 319). With such an idea of faith, it is easy to see what will become of the notion of Revelation: "the old idea of a Revelation, which is given externally to the Church, and which the Church has only to receive and hand on [is one which] it is impossible to reconcile with the history of dogma" (p. 315).

To admit that Revelation "is addressed directly to man's abstract reason or understanding, that it gives him certain definite information about divine things, which he is bound to believe in the same manner as he might believe the words of a witness to some terrestrial phenomena he had not seen," is to admit a theory which breaks down utterly (pp. 324-325). Still, this so-called theory is the infallible doctrine of the Vatican Council, and of the Catholic Church from the beginning. To say that "dogma was primarily and in its essence the outgrowth of the mystico-moral sense" (p. 325), that it is "a revelation not to the abstract reason, but to what may be called the divine consciousness in man" (p. 324); to recognize only a difference of degree between what comes from Christ and the Apostles and what comes "through the medium of the Church in the course of years, and through the ordinary channels of Christian experience and consciousness" (p. 322), is to reject the Catholic idea of faith. To call arbitrary the distinction made between the continuous action of the Holy Spirit throughout time and the inspiration of the Sacred Writers (p. 316) is a denial of the dogma of Biblical inspiration, defined by the Councils of Trent and of the Vatican.

No less opposed to Catholic teaching is the notion that the object of our faith is the ideal, as opposed to the real or historical. To the objection that certain historical data are included in the Christian Creed and form an integral part of it, the writer answers: "These facts are not objects of faith qua facts of history, but in respect of their religious significance for us, that is, in their ideal aspect and value, by which they were elevated into the sphere of the supersensuous" (p. 314). Faith must be excluded by criticism "from the region of phenomena where, under the form of religious and mystical imagination, it once ran riot and . . . be restricted to its proper sphere, the supersensuous, the ideal, and the absolute" (p. 319).

If this theory be applied to the miraculous conception of Christ or to His Resurrection, these are not the objects of our faith as facts, but in their religious significance, or the moral lesson, which they convey.

Let the reader judge for himself, and see whether the errors condemned in the Encyclical are as a system "devised in scholastic brains," or the real teaching of Modernists, who have fallen under the ban of the Church. The wonder is that men holding such theories should call themselves Catholics or even Christians, since their view of faith, of the Church, and of Christianity, is so utterly opposed to that which has obtained from the beginning. No one has a right to remain in a society who does not fulfill the essential conditions of membership, as laid down in its constitution, and interpreted by its official representatives. Modernists, whose views have been condemned, lack the most essential condition of membership in the Catholic Church, i.e. faith in the sense in which faith has always been required.

For the Catholic and for the Christian, faith consists in accepting certain things as true, on the testimony of God; it requires Revelation and its credentials, especially miracles and prophecies. But for the Modernists, Revelation is not the communication of truth by God to man; it is merely the working of the divine in us and in all things. The dogmas proposed as revealed truths are the product of the human mind, interpreting the religious experiences of the individual and of humanity; miracles and prophecies can prove nothing; for the historian, they are non-existent.

For the Christian, Christ is God; He was miraculously conceived and rose from the dead. For the Modernist, His miraculous conception is a myth; His Divinity is the creation of the early Christians; His Resurrection means simply that His influence will ever be felt in the world.

For the Catholic, the Church and the Sacraments come from Christ Himself. For the Modernist, Christ never thought of establishing a Church or instituting any rites. These were called into existence by the needs of the early Christian community.

For the Catholic, the definitions of the Church are immutable, because they infallibly teach what God has revealed. For the Modernist, those definitions are only the expression of the religious experience of the Christian society at a given moment, and they must vary with new experiences and new mental conditions.

If one thing is certain, it is that a choice has to be made between these two concepts of the Catholic Faith. The issue is not "Modernism versus Scholasticism," but "Modernism versus Catholicism, Christianity and all Supernatural Religion." Even Loisy himself admits as much when he says: "The Pontiff spoke the truth, when he declared that he could not remain silent without betraying the deposit of traditional doctrine."10

A. Vieban, S.S.

St. Mary's Seminary, Baltimore, Maryland.


1 Hibbert Journal, January 1908. The Right Rev. E. T. O'Dwyer, Bishop of Limerick, a lifelong student of Newman's writings, in his recent essay on "Cardinal Newman and the Encyclical," has made it quite evident that there is nothing in Newman to suggest or extenuate the doctrines of the Modernists. This essay has elicited from Pius X a letter of approval, in which Newman's name is freed from the charge of Modernism. (Cf. Rome, 28 March.)

2 It is not maintained that they are taken verbatim from any writer, but the question is, "Do they correctly express the thought of the Modernists?"

3 The Gospel and the Church, p. 210.

4 Autour d'un Petit Livre, p. 195.

5 Autour d'un Petit Livre, p. 155.

6 Jesus Messie . . . 2nd ed., C. 4, § 4, p. 262.

7 Autour d'un Petit Livre, p. 252.

8 Cf. Bulletin de Litterature Ecclesiastique, 1903, pp. 157 ff.

9 I Cor., 15:14.

10 Remarques, p. 276.

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