Saturday, June 14, 2014

Praising St. Pius X (Sort Of)

Zenit recently did an interview with Fr. Bernard Ardura, President of the Pontifical Committee for Historical Sciences. Since we are facing the centennial of Pope St. Pius X, of happy memory, there is a day being organized for "study" of his pontificate.

When one reads the interview, though, there is the distinct impression that one of the most (if not THE most) significant part of St. Pius X's reign is somehow embarrassing, namely, his condemnation of modernism. Consider the following comments:

Fr. Ardura: During his pontificate he was a very important reformer, but between his reformative activities, he also had to intervene on doctrine-related issues, as he was facing a difficult movement, called modernism. And his condemnation of modernism obscured the positive parts of his ministry. He was remembered as a Pope of condemnation, but, instead was truly a great reformer, a great innovator. Yes, he condemned modernism, but he, in fact, was very modern, which is obvious through his reforms.

It's almost like Fr. Ardura is apologetic about St. Pius's decision to defend the Catholic faith against blasphemous heretics.

Fr. Ardura: He is a Pope who was not well-known, and was somewhat badly known. And, therefore, we want to give a contribution to make him better known and understood.

ZENIT: Why do you believe he was misunderstood?

Fr. Ardura: He became misunderstood, and almost all of his good, reformative works were not given credit, because of the issue of modernism. Therefore, with his condemnation of modernism, he became to be understood by many as a Pope who didn’t understand anything, but it was not true.

ZENIT: For those who don’t know, what is modernism?

Fr. Ardura: It is an error, a philosophical error, that relativizes a bit of everything, and from a doctrinal point of view, is something delicate. For example, different ideas were promulgated in the particular, cultural context of the time. But today, we don't have to relativize these different views on the doctrine. Pius X, we can say, was working in a particular context.

The Church in which we believe, is inspired by the Holy Spirit in a context that is not by some accidental cause, but contains the substance of teachings inspired by the Holy Spirit, and therefore, we don’t have to relativize these realities, which are fundamental, because otherwise, we would have to put into discussion all we believe.

First off, if you want the Pope's most thorough treatment of modernism, read Pascendi Dominici Gregis. For a list of condemned modernist errors, try Lamentabili Sane.

Anyways, when I read the interview comments above it seems like the message is "See, modernism isn't so bad. It just relativizes a little of everything. That's all. But it's a delicate thing because what was bad then isn't so bad now."

Holy smokes. St. Pius called modernism everything from "poison" to "the synthesis of all heresies." I doubt very much that it was all about context. Indeed, look around, readers. We are drowning in modernism today. I don't throw the word around lightly. Read St. Pius's own writings and the decree of the Holy Office that he approved at the provided links. Modernism is the theological norm for most Catholics these days, and it's more deadly to the soul now than when it was first condemned.

Consider some of the propositions from Lamentabili, recalling that the items listed are to be considered as false and condemned:

6. The "Church learning" and the "Church teaching" collaborate in such a way in defining truths that it only remains for the "Church teaching" to sanction the opinions of the "Church learning."

7. In proscribing errors, the Church cannot demand any internal assent from the faithful by which the judgments she issues are to be embraced.

9. They display excessive simplicity or ignorance who believe that God is really the author of the Sacred Scriptures.

11. Divine inspiration does not extend to all of Sacred Scriptures so that it renders its parts, each and every one, free from every error.

23. Opposition may, and actually does, exist between the facts narrated in Sacred Scripture and the Church's dogmas which rest on them. Thus the critic may reject as false facts the Church holds as most certain.

35. Christ did not always possess the consciousness of His Messianic dignity.

53. The organic constitution of the Church is not immutable. Like human society, Christian society is subject to a perpetual evolution.

58. Truth is no more immutable than man himself, since it evolved with him, in him, and through him.

63. The Church shows that she is incapable of effectively maintaining evangelical ethics since she obstinately clings to immutable doctrines which cannot be reconciled with modern progress.

65. Modern Catholicism can be reconciled with true science only if it is transformed into a non-dogmatic Christianity; that is to say, into a broad and liberal Protestantism.

This, and the remainder of the document, could pretty much be used as the syllabus for my wife's RCIA program. It absolutely was the course outline for my Theology 180 class at an allegedly Catholic university which, by the way, promoted the professor to the position of Dean of First Year Studies.

And yet, this is the part of St. Pius's reign that is to be minimized? His battle against what would grow to be the most destructive theological force in our time, or any other time for that matter?


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