The Essence Of Our Present Day's Tragedy
At this point, let us continue our perusal of more of the secular sciences, which are being used to fill the void left after any semblance of faith in things Catholic has waned.
What's Filling The Void?
Sociology, it hardly needs saying, studies men collectively, as members of a culture, class, or group. Although sociologists accept the idea of intercultural influence and change (as they could hardly avoid doing) their minds are not I think so dominated as those of other intellectuals by the fashionable affection for flux and perpetual motion. They tend to see the sociological group or cultural unit, which is the object of their study as something fixed and absolute, like a person, piece of furniture, or room in a museum.
This way of looking at things has had a profound effect on the Catholic clergy. From sociology they seem to have taken the notion that each culture or civilization is a kind of prison cell, and that communication between the inmates of the separate cells is almost impossible. The best the prisoners can do is tap muffled messages on the dividing walls indicating, "There is someone here." The Greek and Hebrew minds, as we are told, can never meet.
Since each culture, Hindu, Moslem, Confucian, Euro-American, has its own special vision of life, its own private way of thinking and expressing itself, which outsiders can never fully penetrate, each must be allowed its own version of the Catholic Faith. This is really just the individualism of the existentialist extended to societies. It comes from the sociological belief that man is wholly determined by his culture, a bundle of cultural influences and nothing else. Missionaries have been among those most affected.
Anthropology has had much the same influence, though it concentrates on primitive societies where unusual tribal customs dominate the scene. The tendency for anthropologists is to regard all customs short perhaps of eating grandmothers and suchlike as equally interesting and worthwhile expressions of the human spirit. This leads to a kind of moral and aesthetic neutralism. Distinctions between good and bad, better and worse, beautiful and ugly become blurred. Any distinction between higher and lower cultures also tends to be repudiated as snobbish and offensive. Here, too, cultural determinism and separatism reign. Man is defined in terms of what is accidental to him and varies from place to place (his tribal habits), instead of what is essential to him and is the same everywhere.
Sociology and anthropology have moreover fostered the subordination of the individual to the group, since, for the sociologist, the culture is the object of all-absorbing interest. It tends to become a kind of Super-Person, to whom all individual rights and interests must be sacrificed. In the revolutionary clergy this has produced a schizophrenic state of mind, their sociologically based collectivist spirit clashing with their passion for doing as they please.
Under the influence of sociology, historical epochs and past cultures have been compartmentalized too. For each age, then, its own version of the Faith. The beliefs of St. Augustine or St. Anselm will not do for the 20th century, nor seemingly, for many Scripture scholars, will the beliefs of Christ.
Nor is this the end. Differences of age and occupation are now being made into impassable barriers separating groups within the same society, culture, or even parish. Each of these groups has its own particular outlook which only its members can comprehend; so for each there must be a special Mass with its own liturgy. Perhaps ultimately husbands and wives will be expected to meet at different times or in different churches.
It is curious that the revolutionary clergy, who are so frequently enthusiasts for One World, should, under the influence of sociology, be at the same time breaking up the unity of the human race, spatially, temporally, and at the level of the local community. Of course, most of this is not the madness it seems to be, but is used purposefully to justify altering Catholic belief.
Semantics and Linguistic Analysis comes in for abuse also and such abuse of the meaning of language has had much the same results as the abuse of sociology; to make understanding between men more difficult rather than easier.
When ordinary people talk, they mostly, it is suggested, either do not know what they are saying, or what they are saying is meaningless. The latter is above all true of statements of a metaphysical or religious kind. (The most influential figures in the linguistic field men like Wittgenstein and the English logical positivists have been unvarnishedly hostile to religion.) If religious statements do have some sort of meaning, they are simply ways of expressing feelings or "value judgments" which in this context means personal likes and dislikes; they are not statements about supernatural or metaphysical facts. (Logical positivism represents the last-ditch stand of the anti-metaphysical tradition.)
When today we hear a theologian or bishop tell us that the Church is reexamining some part of its moral teaching to discover what exactly it means; or that the word Person in connection with the Blessed Trinity has to be reconsidered in the light of modern knowledge and years of research may be necessary before the experts come up with an answer; we are hearing not just the opinions of a single sinful ecclesiastic, but the voice, or echoes from the voice, of the linguistic analyst.
Let's Remodel The Church Democratically
I now come to a class of ideas, which, while influencing many Catholics and leading some into trouble, were not to begin with directly associated with Modernism. They, however, become swept up into the circle of philosophies revamped, adopted and stridently forced upon the Catholic faithful.
I am referring to the various social and political theories, which play such an important part in modern life.
I will group them under two heads: "democracy" and "socialism," meaning by the latter state socialism. They are, in practice, opposed, although frequently represented as inseparable twins and as forming the goal towards which all men should be striving. The attempt to reconcile them overlooks certain inescapable facts of human nature; they are also things of a different kind. Democracy is a theory of government or the distribution of political power; socialism is primarily a theory of ownership. Political power and ownership in most societies are closely connected but they are not identical.
What does democracy mean? It can mean simply a republican system of government in which the rulers are chosen by vote and are answerable to, or limited in their powers by, some kind of assembly, also chosen by vote, both being meant to pay attention to and harmonize the interests of the governed; in which public office is open to anyone who cares to compete for it, and the law is the same for everybody. This is what most people mean when they talk about democracy.
But it can mean something more. It can also mean that there exists such a thing as "the people," all having the same needs, thoughts and will, and that collectively they are the source of right and truth and the power to command obedience. Many people, when they talk about democracy, have this idea obscurely in mind too. It is often this they are thinking of when they talk about democracy being "government by the people."
Of these two views of democracy, the first is compatible with Catholic belief; the second is not being also incompatible with common sense.
Under the spell of this word, many Catholics have come to believe that democracy, in both the above senses, is not only the best form of government (which was the view of Montalembert and other 19th century liberal Catholics) but is the only Christian political form, and moreover that the government of the Church as well as all secular governments should be remodelled to fit it. This means not just the possible election of bishops and priests by the laity or by groups of electors (something which has existed in the past) or bishops consulting the laity more often without ceasing to be true shepherds and rulers, but the laity as the supreme authority, deciding what is to be believed and giving orders.
The impact of socialism has been different.
The Encompassing Paw Of Socialism
As I said, it is primarily a theory of ownership, which sees justice as the equal distribution of material goods and natural opportunities, or their equal availability for use by all. Socialism only becomes a theory of government when the attempt is made to bring about this equal distribution by handing over all ownership, (except for that of trifles) and the power to decide about its use, to the state.
Although the adoption of socialist ideas is often in the young the response of generous impulses to great injustice and came about for that reason in the first place, as a theory the socialist solution is really the angry, hasty, or lazy intellectual's escape from trying to think of intelligent and possible ways of harmonizing legitimate individual independence with the protection of the rights of the weak.
The key to doing this successfully is, as we know, in the Church's social doctrine which in recent times she has developed at more than usual length in face of the changes and evils brought on by early (and often latter-day) industrialism, and the errors in democratic and socialist theory that have multiplied as a result of them.
However the Church only lays down general principles, and instead of applying their minds to realizing them in practice, from the time of Leo XIII and earlier, a proportion of Catholics interested in winning better conditions for poorer workers and recognition of their rights have been tempted to adopt the socialist solution. (For the Church, complete communal ownership can be lawful, but only when all the members of the community practicing it enter into the association freely as in the monastery, or the kibbutz.) Catholics open to the attraction of the socialist solution incline to it, I think, because they adopt the socialist conception of justice equal use, in equal amounts, of everything by all with state ownership seen as the best and quickest way of achieving this. The Marxist state, being the most radically socialist state, then comes to be seen as closer to the Christian ideal than any other; while impatience with the wrongs they want to right seems in the eyes of such Catholics further to justify their departure from the Catholic standpoint.
This seems to be more or less the train of misconceptions that is presently drawing Fr. Pedro Arrupe, the General of the Jesuits, into the quick sands.
From its beginnings down to recent times, the mainstream of the Catholic social and political movement was orthodox and obedient.
It is true there were troubles along the way, beginning with Lammenais and L'Avenir in the 1820s; while simultaneously with the first Modernist crisis, the Sillonist movement in France had to be suppressed, and the Italian priest and public orator Don Romolo Murri (a proto-Christian-Democrat) was excommunicated. But the difficulties had to do with obedience as often as with doctrine, with exaggerated ideas of what were possible forms of political action rather than with attempts to alter belief. Most of the Catholics in question were little interested in the kind of speculative ideas that were agitating von Hugel and his circle (biblical criticism and evolutionary philosophy) and these latter were not concerned with social reform. For long, Modernism and the social movement developed side by side with relatively few direct contacts.
However, after the First World War the situation changed and the aberrational ideas of both movements began to blend.
With the collapse of the old European society, as the secular world outside the Church became more and more taken up with political and social ideologies and embroiled in the struggles that resulted from trying to realize them, their impact on the minds of all members of the Catholic intelligentsia, but especially the new generations, became much greater. The tendency we have noted to make the democratic or socialist "way" a part of the Catholic religion, and the profounder heresy that the construction of the earthly paradise is the true goal of all Christian activity, became indispensible ingredients of neo-Modernism. By the 1950s, it was accurate to talk about a social and political Modernism, if not so earlier.
Alluring Protestant Theology
From the time of the first Modernism, the learned in the Church had increasingly been looking towards certain kinds of Protestantism with a sympathetic eye; its attractions lying, as faith failed, in what this Protestantism rejected rather than in the positive beliefs it had kept.
In the interwar period (1918-1939), interest in Protestantism was confined to a relatively small, though still very influential, group of the higher clergy, and, leaving aside legitimate work for reunion, centered chiefly on the theories of the most radical Protestant biblical critics and the ideas of the Danish Lutheran thinker Kierkegaard (d. 1855), whose writings are a source book for existentialism. The pressure to have the Church accept the principles of neo-Protestant and rationalist biblical criticism was dealt with by Pius XII in his encyclical Divino Afflante Spiritu (1943). Kierkegaard's ideas were taken either directly from his own writings or filtered through neo-Lutheran and neo-Calvinist theology.
But after the Second World War, which in Germany, Holland, and elsewhere on the continent had often thrown Catholics and Protestants together in opposition to the Nazi government, interest in Protestantism intensified and later through books and periodicals spread far beyond to a wide circle of clerical and lay Catholics.
The result was the introduction into Catholic priestly minds of two distinct streams of thought reflecting the great divide that has come about within Protestantism itself, between historic Protestantism and Protestant Modernism.
Historic Protestantism provided those desirable goods, no Pope, no Holy See, and consequently no final arbiter as to what must be believed; the Bible privately interpreted as the only source of Revelation; the primacy of the individual conscience; and the Eucharist as a memorial meal. (A reading of Pius XII's Mediator Dei suggests that by 1947 Protestant ideas about the Eucharist and the priest as the community president were already making headway among the Catholic clergy.)
These negative Protestant ideas, dating from the 16th century, represent a first downward flight of stairs for Catholics when departing from the fullness of belief.
Protestant Modernism, for Protestants themselves and Catholics who follow them, represents a further descent, this time frequently ending in the basement of unbelief where any semblance of Christianity (except as a polite label) is finally abandoned.
Intertwining Of Beliefs
Modernism among Protestant churches came about for the same reasons as among Catholics, but started much earlier Schleiermacher (d. 1834) was a protagonist and undermined belief more quickly, because in Protestantism, as we know, no authority is recognized which can determine whether a new idea can or cannot be reconciled with what God is held to have revealed. It penetrated deepest into those churches with the most highly educated clergy or with the backing of a government or ruling class. What is called liberal Protestantism is a kind of sister movement which developed alongside and eventually merged with doctrinal Protestant Modernism. It represented the practical and socially active side of modern Protestantism and rapidly ran into the same errors we have noted among socially and politically conscious Catholics.
In its encounter with Protestant Modernism, the Catholic intelligentsia, or rather its Modernist contingent, did not meet any ideas with which it was unfamiliar. Catholics and Protestants alike had been reading the same books, studying the same subjects; the minds of both had been played on by the same intellectual radar beams. But the Swiss, German, American, and English Protestant theologians had been much bolder in advancing Modernist ideas and drawing out their consequences. As a result the "Catholic" Modernists found much of their work already done for them, and readily adopted the language and concepts of Protestant Modernism.
What is now being widely preached from Catholic pulpits, and more openly taught in Catholic seminaries is simply the Modernism developed in Swiss, German, and American theological faculties during the 1920s and 1930s by men like Barth, Bultmann, Brunner, Tillich, and the Niebuhr brothers. (A writer like Berdaeyev shows us that Modernism had not left Orthodoxy untouched either.)
To call all of this Protestant theology is not really fair to our many Protestant brothers who are resisting Modernist ideas, often with more energy than Catholics. They defend great doctrines like the Fall, Redemption, the necessity of grace, or the reality and gravity of sin, which many Catholics passively watch being demolished before their eyes. The struggle between Christian beliefs and Modernist beliefs is just as real within Protestant churches as it is within the Catholic body, though in Protestantism, the frontier between the two spiritual domains is less clearly marked and the contest more shadowy. As I suggested elsewhere, Modernism should now be seen as a new and powerful "fourth denomination" whose members are scattered among already existing Christian bodies and are fighting to take them over.
Attacking The Church Today
We come now to today, to the last 20 years, the end-result of heretical out-croppings in the past century and a half.
By the late fifties, the heretical and protoheretical tendencies we have been following had produced within the Catholic Church a much larger body of revolutionary scholars and theologians determined to alter belief as well as practice than had existed around 1900.
These tendencies did not yet represent an absolutely consistent body of belief. They had materialized one by one or in groups, as we have seen, over a period of 100 years and had been adopted in different degrees by individual members of the Church Learned according to taste. But they inclined towards coherence. The first person to make a synthesis of them was the Fr. Lemius who drafted the encyclical Pascendi for St. Pius X.
So far there have been three Modernist syntheses. Pere Teilhard's, which is not so much a synthesis as the absorption of everything into his own peculiar evolutionary system; then the various Marxist attempts these are not really syntheses either but more or less undiluted Marxism with other Modernist beliefs as trimmings; finally Bultmann's, based on the existentialist view of man as a self-creating free will, knowing only the light provided by his "present situation," with the Bible symbolically reinterpreted for each generation in terms of that situation.
Bultmann's system is much the closest to being a true synthesis; it draws together nearly all the existing Modernist strands and gives each a place, and for this reason, I think it may carry the day. His orderly denials look superficially more like what people are accustomed to than Pere Teilhard's outlandish flights of fancy and rather naked earth-worship, or the Red-flag-waving of the liberation theologians. They appeal to the sober sensible cleric without faith.
The neo-Modernism, which all this represents, when it eventually came out of the tunnel, was, as I said, a harder, tougher proposition than the rather refined and soulful thing that disappeared into it in 1910. The new Modernism would no longer be ashamed of appearing quasi-atheist, quasi-materialist, or in regard to sex, totally amoral. (This is the way the world had been going and religion must follow the world.) It was also prepared to identify the Faith much more openly with secular goals and the pursuit of the earthly paradise. At its heart, and holding the system together, were still those interlocking principles we looked at to begin with.
1.) No public Revelation by God; neither the Bible nor the Church are trustworthy;
2.) Science and modern thought the highest and only certain source of knowledge; religion must adapt to them;
3.) "Revelation" (in so far as it exists) through inner experience;
4.) The Church's doctrines to be understood symbolically as the evolving expression of man's religious needs, or (in the up-to-date version) of his own self-discovery. The transformation of the Catholic and Christian religion into quasi-Christian secular humanism or progress religion was all but complete.
Those who accepted these principles were in the fullest sense Modernists, regardless of their personal opinions on lesser questions their preference for this or that philosophy, this or that school of psychology, or whether they were collectivist or individualist in inclination, interested or not in history or sociology. They had been wholly converted to the new religion; they had embraced it in its essence.
For others the conversion was still partial. They might incline to its viewpoint, but without full assent to its basic propositions. (Perhaps some of the Bible was true, perhaps occasionally the Church was right; though where and when, who could be sure?) They had been influenced by the intellectual currents, which we have been reviewing in a looser and more general way. Their thought was less consistent. But the ideas they had opened their minds to, would, when the time was ripe, sweep them closer and closer to the full Modernist position.
For nearly 40 years two strong Popes kept these forces and the men in their grip under control. But with the death of the second, Pius XII, they were to be allowed to break forth, blowing about the tree of the Church at gale force, tearing through the branches, tossing and wrenching at twigs, until every leaf, flower and fruit not firmly attached and full of living sap had been shaken off. Or so it would seem.
Plan Of Assault
When the Council was announced, the leading theological revolutionaries seem quickly to have got in touch and decided what immediate goals to aim for, their expectations at this stage being relatively modest. (They must have imagined they would have against them countless bishops and theologians of granite-like orthodoxy.)
With our present knowledge about the Council we can see fairly well what these goals were.
They can be briefly summarized.
First, "academic freedom" recognition of their right to teach what they pleased, as such it is a necessary precondition for altering belief. If authority would not grant it officially, let authority be frightened into assenting to it tacitly. For this, attack the Magisterium at its heart, the Holy See, through its most vulnerable organ, the Curia; (vulnerable because unpopular government departments always are). Divide the Magisterium. Win over the bishops by stressing collegiality; endeavor to get the college of bishops made equal in authority with the Pope, or better still put above him. Back any teaching about the laity that allows the Church to be restructured "democratically," and try to forestall a condemnation of Communism. Work through liturgical reform and the movement for Christian reunion to get Protestant ideas about the Eucharist and priesthood and Modernist Protestant theology accepted. (Play down reunion with the Eastern Christians whose beliefs are mostly indistinguishable from those of Catholics and therefore undesirable.) If possible, get a statement implying that the Bible is the only source of Revelation, and that the Bible as interpreted by Scripture scholars is the supreme authority in matters of belief. Press for the abandonment of Original Sin and the acceptance of Darwin's view of human origins. Prevent a condemnation of contraception, if approval of it is withheld. Demand married deacons; the door will then be open for married priests later. Do everything to have St. Thomas demoted and existentialism exalted. Lose no opportunity for advancing the view that Catholics should stop thinking about saving their souls and should concentrate on "transforming the world."
Of course, in 1962, no sensible priest would have thought of proposing such ideas except in a wrapping of ambiguities. But it was over these that during the Council the battles behind the scenes were fought, and the attempt on the one hand to get them accepted, and on the other to fight them off, explains, I think, the disconcertingly uneven tenor of so many passages in the Council documents. It is as though two people were trying to drive a car at the same time, alternately snatching the wheel from each other. (As I explained in another article, none of this detracts from their authority. It only makes some of their teaching less immediately clear, and, more importantly, much easier to misrepresent.)
However, I will not follow our revolutionaries into the Council hall. We will say good-bye to them as, transformed into periti, they wait at the airport with their bags, briefcases and expectations for the planes, which will take them to Rome and the Council's first session. Their greatest victory will be the practical one. With the war cry "Liberty in danger," they will whip up public opinion outside the Church in their favor, and eventually extort from frightened and more or less reluctant ecclesiastical authority the de facto permission they now possess to attack and undermine Catholic belief from within the Church while still officially acting as the Church's representatives, thus creating the impression that almost every article of Faith (God's existence not excluded) is under reconsideration and may one day be junked.
I turn instead to a question, which has so far been postponed, but must now be faced.
Why No Orthodox Retaliation?
Modernism could never have spread and succeeded as it has if the rest of the Church Learned had put up a stronger fight. Why hasn't it? (In truth, by far the greater number of its members have put up no fight at all but have dithered and compromised.)
There can I think be only two answers: (a) they are no longer able to see quickly and clearly what is heresy or tending that way, and what isn't; or (b) heresy does not seem particularly dreadful or serious. Probably both answers are applicable.
This being so, the reason will in the first place be a spiritual one, of the kind I considered at the outset of these articles. In regard to most of the Church Learned we have, I believe, to make the same distinctions I made elsewhere in connection with bishops between the "bad" those who, through sin, have lost the Faith; and the "sad" those who have not utterly lost it but, also through sin, are, in regard to Faith, afflicted with a kind of twilight of the mind and apathy of the will. These latter, like their counterparts in the episcopate, from lack of spiritual vitality, are lying listlessly about like wounded commanders bleeding to death (intelligence officers rather than generals this time) while the leaderless troops are massacred. It is necessary to refer to sin in this connection, otherwise loss of faith is likely to be attributed to accident, or worse, to God. I will not dwell any more on this aspect of the subject.
There are, however, some purely natural factors, which I think it may be helpful to consider.
The first is of a rather specialized kind, but nonetheless very important. It has to do with the nature of the Faith and the human mind, and the difference between the way the Catholic people look at the Faith and the way scholars and theologians do.
The Faith, as we well know, is both luminously clear and simple, so much so that a child can grasp it; yet it unveils to us mysteries and therefore, when examined in detail, is full of things difficult to understand. The human body and nature, as a whole, are in this respect similar; simple in their general conformation and purpose, which are quickly perceived, yet in the details of their inner workings, exceedingly complex. Now close study of the details of any subject has the same effect as peering through a microscope. The significance of the whole whose parts are being studied tends to fall into the background of the mind; larger color changes become difficult to detect; main outlines and major distinctions disappear. It is rather as though a man were studying Michelangelo's Last Judgment through a magnifying glass from a distance of two inches. Being absorbed in detail, he forgets about the picture itself, and after a year, we can suppose, becomes so shortsighted that on stepping back he can no longer see it properly or tell if anyone has been making alterations.
This kind of scholarly shortsightedness is I think an additional reason why Catholic intellectuals, even when they have kept the Faith, frequently appear incapable of telling where acceptable ideas shade off into unacceptable ones. Nearly everything written since the Council by the Learned shows signs of this scholarly defect. It also, I believe, explains why a proportion of the ordinary faithful and clergy have kept a better hold on the Faith than most of the Learned. They have not been peering at the picture of the Faith from a distance of a few inches, so they have kept their normal vision. Still being able to see the whole picture clearly, they quickly notice changes though ignorant about the nature of the artist's brush strokes, the kind of pigments used, or the way to deal with cracks in the plaster.
According to Cardinal Newman, it was for some such reasons as these that, in the early centuries of the Church, the ordinary Catholic people often gave a clearer testimony to what the Church believed on certain points than theologians or even some of the Fathers (see On Consulting The Faithful In Matters Of Doctrine). They simply stated what they had been taught; their minds had not been perplexed by complicated questions and subtleties and so their testimony was uncolored by private opinions, their own or other people's. We are dealing here with a difficulty for Catholic scholars, which might be called an occupational hazard.
No Living Fire
More ordinary weaknesses have also played their part in clouding the vision and weakening resistance; things like fear, friendship, and professionalism.
Many members of the Church Learned were, as could be expected, friends, even close ones. It is never easy to tell a friend he is doing what is seriously wrong, and where love of God and the friend's true good do not have first place, a man will shrink from breaking off a friendship that matters to him even when he knows he ought to. For many Catholic intellectuals today, a courageous stand could mean losing all their former friends, as well as insults and an end to success and approval. For all which reasons, although it should not be so, heresy in a friend is likely to seem less wrong, less horrible, less truly what it is, or there will be a tendency to minimize its dreadfulness. Also because of the clouded state of mind of the "sad" and their uncertainties about the Faith, on many points where they should not be, they are half, or more than half in sympathy with the "bad" suspecting that the "bad" may be right, that most or a very great deal of what the Church has always taught probably is "reformable doctrine," and that one day the Church will abandon, say, her teaching about original sin or the indissolubility of marriage, even though for the sake of Church discipline, or "saving face." we have to continue upholding these teachings for the time being.
Professionalism mainly contributes to tepidity and indifference.
Just as doctors don't get upset when they hear the words cancer or death, so it is with the learned religious professional in regard to heresy and falsehood. The Faith is no longer a living fire burning in his veins and belly; it has become "the subject he is qualified in" and which earns him his living. Doctrinal error is all part of the day's business office work; you don't lose any sleep over it. Equally, like other professional men, you stick up for your colleagues, even bad ones; no letting down the side in front of the clientele. The ecclesiastical life rather than the Faith is now the substance of religion. As long as the cogs of ecclesiastical life remain in place and the wheels still go round, what the machine is churning out is an insignificant consideration.
Proof of this I would say is provided by the present state of the University of Notre Dame and the Catholic Theological Society of America. What staggers one most about the latter is not that a group of its priestly members could compose a work as unsurpassedly evil and wicked as Human Sexuality, or the majority give the book their backing (terrible though this is), but that the society is allowed to continue in existence with the name "Catholic" and that its still-believing members (whom one presumes exist) have not resigned in a body from what has plainly become a convocation of God's enemies.
However, there has, I believe, been a more powerful factor than any of those so far mentioned, whose existence chiefly accounts for the nonresistance of the theologically "sad."
Penchant For Reforming The Church
Before the Council, many of the clergy, whether affected by Modernism or not, were persuaded, not necessarily without reason, that reforms of some kind were desirable. They, too, felt that the Church was in some way lagging behind and needed "bringing up-to-date." Existing undertakings the initiatives of Pius XII, for instance, or new movements for the laity like Opus Dei, the Legion of Mary, or Focolari were considered insufficient. They saw (often, one is inclined to think, exclusively) everything that was narrow and routine-bound in Catholic life and believed that if only they could sweep away what irked them, that life would blossom anew. Unfortunately, a very large number seem to have been afflicted with the naturalistic outlook, which characterized the reform-minded European bishops I discussed elsewhere. By far too many, reform was regarded as chiefly a matter of making the Church "look modern," rather than of making sure that Catholics became more holy. Each, in addition, tended to see his own particular remedy, whatever it might be greater lay participation, liturgical change, better relations with separated Christians as the magic formula which alone could set things right.
This preoccupation with reform I am talking here about legitimate reforms as well as unlawful kinds created a new principle of unity, a new kind of brotherhood, and what for many amounted almost to a substitute religion; a "church" within the Church, joining together the "bad," the "sad," and even some of the "not-so-sad." In the climate of opinion which resulted, the essential thing was no longer believing what God has revealed, but "being on the side of reform," now seen more or less as an end in itself and of greater importance than the Church and the Faith it was meant to save. A man who was keen on reform would be looked on as an ally, even if he doubted the Real Presence; while anyone judged cool towards reform was slipped subconsciously into the category of opponent, even though he held all the truths of the Faith. And making sure that nothing stopped reform took precedence over every other consideration even the fact that in many instances the abuse of the reforms by the "bad" was causing vast numbers of the faithful to abandon their beliefs. The "sad" preferred not to notice.
To see how this worked in practice, let us imagine two French fathers; Pere Gretry and Pere Bourgeois. Both have dedicated their lives to the cause of greater lay participation. Pere Gretry's ideas have remained, even if sometimes barely, within the bounds of orthodoxy; Pere Bourgeois' have wandered far beyond them. But because the cause of lay participation would be compromised if Pere Bourgeois' heresies became known, Pere Gretry covers them up.
There are many Peres Bourgeois and many Peres Gretry today, and great is the covering up the Peres Gretry have done in order to protect the "cause of reform."
A Continual Drifting Into Heresy
These, I believe, are the principal reasons why most of what remains of the non-Modernist Catholic intelligentsia has for the last 15 to 20 years been so shamefully feeble; why, the moment Modernism resurfaced, they did not instantly come to the defense of the Faith and the Catholic people, but instead faced about and protected their old-time friends, justifying their equivocations and concealing their infidelities. Since the Faith tends to be lost where it is not defended, among scholars, as among bishops, there has been a continuous drift of the "sad" into the camp of the "bad."
Of course, for the higher clergy as a whole, Modernism did not "reappear" in the sense that it did for everyone else, like the ghost of someone dead. In their world, anyone who was anybody had known all along that Modernism was still in the house and in reasonable health even if having to live in a closet under the stairs and be let out for exercise in the middle of the night. What must have surprised the higher clergy, orthodox and unorthodox, was the welcome Modernism received from so many of the ordinary faithful once it was able to get out of the closet, come upstairs, and make its appearance in the state apartments.
To Withstand The Deluge
In the foregoing survey, I have tried to show the various causes, moral, psychological, spiritual, and intellectual of the great rebellion of "Catholic" scholars and theologians, which is devastating belief and largely paralyzing reform.
In doing so, I hope I have made it easier to understand not only why the rebellion has come about, but what it is we have to oppose, and the nature of the difficulties that still face us.
The moral, psychological, and spiritual causes are fairly straightforward; we are confronted with those simple things, loss of the supernatural gift of Faith, human weakness, bad will, and sin. They have to be combatted chiefly by spiritual means. The intellectual causes present us with more of a problem. In the special circumstances of today, with general education and the mass media bringing the most abstruse notions and facts instantly to the attention of even the simplest Catholic hearts they are not so easily dealt with.
If we stand back for a moment and survey the century and a half during which Modernist ideas have developed, for the human mind and soul this span of time seems to resemble the Earth at the time of the Deluge.
A great tidal wave of natural knowledge, much of it of uncertain import, and carrying along with it a thick flotsam and jetsam of ideological rubbish, has poured over mankind. In it all westernized men. Catholics along with them are now spiritually floundering, and Modernism is just the death by drowning of supernaturally revealed knowledge in this unprecedented flood of purely natural information. It is this flood, which we call modern thought. Only Catholics who keep their lifejackets well inflated with Faith, Hope, and Charity and a spirit of docility to the Church's voice seem likely to survive.
Will the flood subside? Or can the waters, good in themselves, be tamed, purified of their rubbish, and channelled into the basins and reservoirs where they belong so that they are no longer spiritually destructive?
As far as the Church is concerned, this can only be the work of Catholic scholars strong in Faith and goodness as well as adequately qualified.
Do such men exist? Are there any members of the Church Learned left who do not belong either to the category of the "bad" or the "sad"? Are there any "good"? Yes. But in the recent disturbances they have become isolated voices, scattered here and there and so unable to have much effect.
Let Us Pray. . .
However, American and English-speaking Catholics generally can now perhaps take heart.
In February 1978, L'Osservatore Romano carried an article about the formation, in St. Louis, of a Fellowship of Catholic Scholars dedicated to putting their abilities "at the service of the Catholic Faith" as "authoritatively taught by the Pope and the bishops in communion with him."
Let us pray earnestly for these men and all like them, wherever they may be; these more gifted "elder brothers" we so badly need. The Faith of coming generations may to a considerable degree depend on their success or failure.
Let us pray that, making a new and much more careful analysis of modern thought, they will always know how to separate wheat from chaff, gold from dross, untainted water from ideological waste. In doing so, may they not be surprised at finding the Word of God often in conflict with the opinions of men. May they ever remain indifferent to human respect and unimpressed by this world's grand reputations. May they be unfailingly submissive in everything that touches on the Faith to the voice of the Magisterium, and, just as important today, able to distinguish the authentic voice from any counterfeit that of the true shepherd from that of the mitred hireling. But above all, may the vision of the world and human history provided by Revelation have such a hold on their minds, may they be so convinced of its absolute certainty, reality, and preeminence that no other "worldview" fractures or distorts it, and all reflections arising from their purely natural studies are kept firmly in subordination to it and within the radiant cone cast by this highest and most blessed source of light.
And let all of us faithful remember, "Nothing is impossible with God."
This item 3750 digitally provided courtesy of CatholicCulture.org