Friday, August 31, 2012

How Modernism Undermines Catholic Identity

Below is an excerpt from Chapter 2 in Anne Roche Muggeridge’s book The Desolate City: Revolution in theCatholic Church. She did her homework, and included footnotes and reference that I did not include in the excerpt. Buy the book (used, for 1 penny on Amazon) and read it – it’s quite an education, and will help you do understand why and how so much has gone wrong in the Church over the last 50 years.

If you wonder what happened to our Catholic identity, this will help explain it.  (All emphases mine, with some of my own [comments].)

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The First Modernist Crisis

Pope Leo XIII
…In the middle of the nineteenth century, the papacy, lacking secular powers, had been unable to do very much to resist the progressive liberalization, that is, secularization, of the various nation states. After a vigorous restatement of its principles, it resumed wary coexistence with pagan governments, something of which it has had much experience in its history. But in the sphere of doctrine, of maintaining the purity of the deposit of faith, it had lost none of its moral authority or nerve, and had no intention of allowing the anti-dogmatic principle to be invited into its own domain. Pope Leo XIII, during whose mildly liberal papacy modernism had first gone public…issued in 1893 the encyclical letter Providentissimus Deus, which reasserted the inerrancy of Scripture. Pius X followed in July 1907 with a sweeping condemnation, Lamentabili Sane, of sixty-five modernist positions, and in September of the same year with the encyclical Pascendi, On the Doctrines of the Modernists, which described modernism as “a synthesis of all heresies,” since “it is not possible to admit one part without admitting all.”…An oath against modernism was required of all priests, seminary professors, and religious superiors. The thoroughgoing condemnation of modernism and the vigorous carrying out of measures against it scattered the movement at its beginning and postponed revolution in the Catholic Church for sixty years[Remember, she’s talking about the first modernist crisis here; 60 years later, the modernists were able to take back lost ground and gain some against tradition and orthodoxy.]

What the modernists intended was a revolution in religious thinking that would have altered Christian belief far more radically than had the Protestant Reformation. The working principle of modernism was that the discoveries of modern science had rendered obsolete and ridiculous much of the traditional language of Christian belief. [And they managed to make the language of the Mass much more ridiculous after Vatican II; thank God some of that has been corrected by the “new translation” of the Roman Missal.] To make Christianity intellectually “credible” again and thus “more habitable for men of contemporary culture,” the miraculous and mythical had to be stripped away, leaving only that kernel capable of scientific verification. Christian propositions left unsupported by science but which nevertheless contained useful truths about human existence were to be reinterpreted to meet the new physical conditions and psychological demands of modern life and constantly thereafter modified by the lived experience of the Christian community.

…There were indeed genuine problems facing the Church in the nineteenth century, but it quickly became clear that the modernist attempt to resolve them by the application of the scientific method was not going to shore up the traditional faith of Christianity. Major elements of Christian belief are simply not susceptible of that kind of physical verification.  What imaginable scientific tests would, for example, “prove” to the non-believer the reality of the virginal conception of Jesus? Therefore, a revolutionary shift in the interpretation of the Christian Scriptures was necessary. The whole body of creedal propositions had to be removed and translated from the historical level of things that actually, physically happened in time to the psychological level, from the objective to the subjective, from the actual to the ideal. In this way, educated modern men could continue to adhere to a “Christian revelation” separated from the outmoded cultural concepts through which it had been transmitted.

…The major awkwardness faced by proponents of a psychological understanding of the propositions of the faith is how to deal with the indisputable fact that the Gospels present them as factual statements about physical events that took place in history…

…Modernists deal with this awkwardness by having recourse to the historical-critical method of interpretation. By means of this method, the evangelists can be shown to have told not lies but stories…By the use of form criticism and of generic criticism, modern scholars identified the class of literature in which the evangelists embodied their concepts – allegory, maxim, poetry, folk tale, myth, parable, midrash, history, morality play. Such identification determines what response is required of us. By the use of another historical-critical took, redaction criticism, any scriptural account can be moved back to its earlier form, stripped of the additions, decorations, interpolations, interpretations, borrowings, by which generations of editors overlaid its basic statement. Thus, the Christ of faith can be scientifically separated from the Christ of history.

Modernists are thus able to retain the creedal formulas while at the same time emptying them of their traditional meaning, indeed of any historical or objective content whatever…

…The effect of modernism on the individual soul is either the rapid loss of Christian faith altogether or a curious and rather touching brand of pious agnosticism, where one believes the little one respectably can, according to modernisms’ own very arbitrary canon, while at the same time practicing far beyond one’s rational acceptance, out of loyalty, or patriotism, or from a heart too won in childhood ever to be alienated. [See the importance of inculcating the faith in our children!]

Image found here
[Liberal Protestant biblical scholarship] keeps itself poverty-stricken by dismissing out of hand the most important body of evidence, the Catholic tradition, the continuity of what the Church has believed and since apostolic times taught about Christ’s life on earth. For the orthodox scholar, the tradition is the test of the truth of his findings; for the modernist, the tradition is inadmissible hearsay evidence. Yet the Scriptures themselves, the texts for all this higher criticism, come to us through the tradition, selected, canonized, and authoritatively interpreted by a teaching Church. It must always be remembered that it was the tradition that created the Church, not the Church the tradition.

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What I take away from this excerpt is this:

Tradition gives us the Church.

Tradition gives us the Bible.

Tradition gives us our Catholic identity.

Protestants rely on “sola scriptura” – scripture alone. If we, as Catholics, want to forget our Tradition and play the Protestant game, then we join them in simply relying on our own (or the current pastor’s) interpretation of the Scriptures; there’s no authority, no standard, to turn to.

And if we do that, then we’re all just like the folks in the story of the Tower of Babel. We’re trying to create our own “reality” of Biblical truth, and we’re talking past each other…as well as deceiving ourselves.

It’s the Holy Catholic Church that brings us to unity, and makes us the Body of Christ. We can’t let anyone take that Truth away from us.

1 comment:

  1. A great, great woman. I knew her son and she sent me, back in the 90s, a copy of this book. At the time (so I believe) she remained in the main body of the Church, accepting, with great difficulty, all the abuses going on around her.
    But, by the year 2000 she had experienced enough and opted for the traditional TLM only.
    May God have mercy on her Soul.


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