This is the first of 2 podcasts on Pius X’s portrait of Modernism. It is a coherent portrait of the disparate elements of modernism wrapped up in one.
It is not that any thinker exactly instantiates this portrait. Rather, the various elements suggest this converging view on the various matters of theology. I suggest that there are indeed theologies of recent memory that have, to greater and lesser degrees, “family resemblances” to this portrait. Pius X is to be commended for drawing up the portrait. Family resemblances of this great heresy are, alas, still with us. Worse: Their proponents are secretive. It is an “occult heresy.”
No, not the sin of despair. A prior sin of rebellion. Lagrange notes that Thomas teaches that the sin of the angels consisted in their perverse desire to imitate God. Perverse. So, a perverse imitation.
Whereas God is Infinite, Uncreated, and Pure Act, being moved by none and capable of his end by his own power, the angels, having been invited by him to an end exceeding their power, fell into two camps. One camp gladly submitted to the deifying hand of God, and thus were glorified. The other camp wanted to attain what they could, as God is what he is. They wanted to be solely from themselves, as God has no Cause.
This insight informs Lagrange’s reading of Modernist rebels, who make dogma a mere measure for action, who measure dogma by practice, who translate dogma solely into a principle of practical reason. Why do they do this, Lagrange asks? Because God’s end is too high. One cannot reach it without his supernatural assistance. But can’t we just live our lives? Do good within our measure? Why disturb us with such a high calling? In short, the rebels do not want us to reach so high.
Ah. We have here a reason for the social sin of the last times. The Catechism of JPII suggests that the end times will witness the sin of “humanism” or of an “earthly messianism.” A worship of man. A cult of man. Man-centrism. Not God-centrism. How is this in imitation of the Demons? Because they wanted only to reach that which was in their natural power. So, too, the humanists of today, those who focus spiritual energy on earthly goals, are in imitation of the Pride of Satan. Seeming humble, they are actual self-worshipers.
O God, reach into our lowliness, convert us to your Truth. Evangelize us with your Goodness. Invite us to your True Church on Earth, that in her, we may receive worthily the Substance of the True Lamb.
The great theologian of the 20th century – indeed, among the best, as a longer view of history will no doubt disclose, after the rubble of the modernist rabble has been swept away by the winds of healing time – continues (p. 271 of Le sens commun):
We must, then, as far as possible, study dogma in itself and not in function of present needs. If, moreover, these needs were to become the norm of our affirmations, what would remain of revealed Truth? The Church today is asked today to remove, in the Word of God, what is too intransigent in the tone with which she speaks, what is too sublime in the excess of love that she expresses (the needs of the modern soul don’t rise so high), what is too tragic in the justice that she proclaims. They wish her to render the Word accessible to a number of souls that are less in love with truth than with intellectual freedom, with supernatural perfection than with a human ideal, with the rights of God than with their own rights.
In his good work Le sens commun, still unavailable in English, the great theologian defends the foundational priority of dogma over pastoral care, of truth over subjective “apparent need”. He writes, on p. 267:
To understand dogma, it is not the present needs (besoins – we could say the connotation is actually ‘wants’) of souls that one must study; it is the dogma itself. Study of the dogma will allow us to discover and to arouse in the soul aspirations both profound and interesting, quite different than the present needs of which we are told….
He then cites the catechism as edifying in this regard:
The souls of today, as those of yesterday, are created and sent into the world to know and to love, more than themselves and above all things, this divine Truth which is the object of faith before being that of vision, to subordinate themselves to It and not to subordinate It to their needs, whether real or only apparent.
If the great Lagrange is maligned today, is it possible that Modernism lurks behind the criticism?
I have a number of irons in the fire. Here’s another set.
Modernism is a plague afflicting the Church violently and virulently today. We must understand what we are up against. Pope St. Pius X, declared saint under the most stringent standards of assessment for canonization, can teach us what we are up against. The portrait of the “modernist” that he paints will call to mind recent theologians, very influential on prelates today.
Today’s podcast is 28.5 minutes. I thank my good friend and brother-in-law Stephen for the awesome microphone. Much better than my previous use of the built-in computer mic.