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How is it that modernism came back so forcefully from St. Pius X’s crushing of it? July 6, 2015

Posted by Tantumblogo in Basics, catachesis, disaster, episcopate, error, foolishness, General Catholic, history, Liturgical Year, Papa, sadness, scandals, secularism, self-serving, Society, the return, the struggle for the Church.

Another long-time query I’ve had, is how is it that modernism, which a good number of very solid historians and current-day commenters (for that time) were convinced had been completely shattered by the intervention of Pope Saint Pius X, came roaring back to be basically ascendant in all non-episcopal levers of power by the mid-1940s (heads of religious orders, secretariats of numerous dicasteries, a lot of ordained diocesan and other bureaucratic staff, etc, and of course almost all of academia, lay or ordained)?  Interestingly, Dom Prosper Gueranger, who died before modernism really broke out, may have the answer.  From his brief biography of Pope Saint Leo II, how is it that heresy formally condemned and even extirpated, seemingly, from the Church’s body can somehow resurrect itself, and often quite quickly?

The answer, in short, is lack of vigilance on the part of subsequent priests, bishops, and popes:

How was it that Saint Leo’s clear and complete exposition of the dogmas and the anathemas of Chalcedon did not succeed in silencing the arguments of that heresy which refused to our nature its noblest title, by denying that it had been assumed in its integrity by the Divine Word?  Because for truth to win the day it suffices not merely to expose the lie uttered by error.  More than once, history gives instances of the most solemn anathemas ending in nothing but lulling the vigilance of the guardians of the holy city.  The struggle seemed ended, the need of repose was making itself felt amidst the combatants, a thousand other matters called for the attention of the Church’s rulers; and so while feigning utmost deference, nay, ardor even, if needful, for the new enactments, error went on noiselessly, making profit of the silence which ensued after its defeat.  Then did its progress become all the more redoubtable at the very time it was pretending to have disappeared without leaving a trace behind.

————-End Quote————

I think that description of the constant rise of heresy in the early Church, even after its repeated “defeat” in being declared heretical, sums up what happened to the Church after Pope Saint Pius X’s condemnation of modernism.  It simply went underground, for a short while, and depended on lethargy in the hierarchy to easily resume it’s attack on the Church.

Coupled with a long but extremely interesting post at Rorate, wherein the highly problematic Fr. Louis Bouyer analyzes the “Lefebvre affair” from the point of view of 1978, and I think the answer – perhaps it’s been obvious to you for years, it hasn’t been totally clear to me – becomes apparent.

There were two essential and related factors in the resurrection of modernism.  One was lethargy, coupled with the constant temptation of our natures to reject God and His revealed Truth, seeking for a more “human” approach to divinity, but the other aspect was perhaps to be found in the very structure of the Church in that period. St. Pius X crushed modernism – it certainly seemed – decisively and thoroughly. But once that great shepherd was called to his well-earned reward, there was no one else of equal vigilance in the Church to insure the heresy remained crushed.  If the price of liberty is eternal vigilance, then an orthodox Faith requires even more.

Bouyer’s analysis of the spread of the revolution in the Church – which I certainly disagree with in detail, and which reeks of Gallicanism – is I think correct in the fact that Vatican I and the definition of papal infallibility had perhaps resulted in an imbalance in the Church, with excessive obeisance towards the Holy See and, even more, a sort of deference that saw the Holy See as the only possible solution to all problems facing the Church.  As such, bishops and even priests began to lapse in their roles as guardians of the Truth, always expecting Rome to be that guardian.  Already by the 1940s bishops and heads of religious orders were tolerating a great deal of “dissent” and abuse (if not encouraging or taking part in it themselves, especially in Europe), sure in their minds that so long as Rome did not condemn whatever was going on, it must be OK.  Unfortunately for the Church and billions of souls, there has not been a pontiff of the vigilance and doctrinal certainty of a Pius X or Gregory XVI for a century or so now.

After Vatican II, when obedience shifted from the greatest virtue to a sad joke, the floodgates were open and generations of inactivity from the episcopate laid the groundwork for their – it must be said – pathetic response to the revolution in their midst (Bouyer does make another valid point – after VII the Church saw the spectacle of numerous pontiffs who had been the most stringently orthodox suddenly, faced with what I guess they thought was a real change in orientation in the Church, become fervent progressives. They did that because that’s the signal they picked up from Rome, rightly or wrongly, so that the imbalance in the Church of hypermontanism is double).  I have long thought that an excessive hyper-montanism played a role in the sudden and shocking collapse of every possible measure of Church life after Vatican II – when “collegiality” attempted to return some authority to the bishops, they were conditioned by the previous decades of relative inactivity to be quite unable to handle their responsibility.  Matters spun out of control in a matter of months, with the near total breakdown of ecclesiastical authority (only, it seems, exercised on those rare faithful victims whom that authority knows will respond), and that authority hasn’t even really begun a right restoration even to this day.

I hope this is not all obvious and a frightful bore.  It has always seemed somewhat inexplicable to me that men who professed such orthodoxy when they saw that as the reigning paradigm in the Church could, almost overnight, suddenly profess something radically different.  I’m sure many of these were perhaps charlatans during the “orthodox period” but I can’t believe that was most or all. They were obviously creatures of convenience chosen more for their administrative and fundraising capabilities than their stalwart orthodoxy, but I’ve always thought there had to be more to it than politicians in Roman collar bending with the wind. Why did so few rise up to defend the Faith?  Why did so many quite willingly sell their birthright for a mess of progressive pottage?  Why did so few take up the torch for the 2000 year old Faith that had been entrusted to them as the world’s most precious treasure?

Lack of vigilance.  Lack of faith. Convenience.  Conditioning.  And a firm belief that the Holy See, even in a “prudential Council,” could do no wrong?


1. camper - July 7, 2015

In America, two reasons:

1. Democracy
2. Protestantism

H-town - July 7, 2015

John C. Murray,SJ

camper - July 8, 2015

I’ve heard the name, but I promise that he never would have been as leftist and influential as he was without democracy. As Plato, Aristotle, Wellington, and even Marx all affirmed, democracy is the road to tyranny.

2. H-town - July 7, 2015

Interesting analysis. Bottom line: satan never sleeps. Thanks for the link to Dom Gueranger’s Liturgical Year.

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