Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Catholic Modernism

In surfing the internets I came across a few good links on Modernism, the movement in the 19th and 20th century among Christians to reconcile Christianity with modern views of the world.

Here's an good readable article by Fr. Michael Morton on Catholic Modernism

Fr George Tyrell SJ, a Thomist scholar, was attacked because he upheld 'the right of each age to adjust the historico-philosophical expression of Christianity to contemporary certainties, and thus to put an end to this utterly needless conflict between faith and science which is a mere theological bogey'. Tyrell was expelled from the Jesuits in 1906 and suspended from the sacraments the following year. He was given extreme unction on his deathbed in 1909, but denied burial in a Catholic cemetery. His was one of many sad cases. (A priest who was present at the burial made a sign of the cross over Tyrell's grave. For this act he was suspended a divinis by Bishop Peter Amigo of Southwark).

A Short Introduction to Catholic Modernism from Liberal Christian Research Pages

Here's an interesting snippet:

The thaw only began in 1943 with the publication of Pius XII’s encyclical Divino Afflante Spiritu, which opened the way for a renaissance in Catholic biblical studies. Though Pius XII was most certainly not a modernist, Divino Afflante marked such a change in Vatican policy that some French Catholics believed that it was a Nazi forgery and refused to comply with its provisions (it was published and distributed during the Second World War).

Infoplease on modernism. They also have an entry on Abbe Loisy a french modernist priest who got the hammer dropped on him.

The New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia has an entry on modernism, but be forewarned, this is the 1917 edition. The modernist purge was still ongoing.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just curious. Does anyone actually know what this means: "the right of each age to adjust the historico-philosophical expression of Christianity to contemporary certainties, and thus to put an end to this utterly needless conflict between faith and science which is a mere theological bogey"?

This position, attributed the the ex-Jesuit, could be perfectly innocent. Or it could be completely heretical. E.g., our "contemporary certainties" include the dogma of *random* (that is, purposeless) natural selection as the mechanism by which man came to be. This dogma plainly and utterly contradicts the Catholic Faith. Does the sentiment expressed in the quotation above mean that we ought to put an end to the conflict between our Faith and contemporary science by denying God's Providential control over the unfolding of evolution? If so, then the idea is clearly heretical. Of course, one could also assume that the idea behind the quotation above is quite innocent. Perhaps all it means is that we ought to labor mightily to explain the Faith in ways that contemporary people are able to understand. Who could object to that?

But the linked article gives us no way to figure out what is actually meant in the quotation. My suspicion is that, in practice, the quotation means something much closer to the first interpretation than to the second. That would explain the strong ecclesial reaction to it. And who can object to a Church expecting her priests to actually believe in (for example) Providence?

9:45 AM  
Blogger Ono said...

George Tyrell, SJ actually had quite a few very unsympathetic quotes and no, the Church did not have to accept his precise view of things.

But the sentiment was very correct and the Church's intransigence and stubborn-headedness is what leads to the Tyrells of the world.

But the problem still is the purpose of the Church. The hierarchy is and always has been drunk with power. You can condemn a position, but to equate heresy with evil is no less than evil and then to do things like suspend a priest for praying for Tyrell's soul, which the Church should be doing, is madness.

BTW, the craziness that ensued from this modernist episodes with little inquisitions sprouting up everywhere, was so nuts that future popes including Benedict XV and John XXIII were on Vatican watchlists.

BTW, I'd like to see Bishop Chaput insist to Fr Pavone that if he doesn't fight for the poor, he is going to hell.

11:14 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As far as the bit about the priest suspended for making the sign of the cross, I don't know enough about the actual situation to make an informed judgment as to whether that was "madness." Perhaps there are explicit instructions that forbid quasi-liturgical acts (such as a public, formal, priestly blessing) at affairs such as that burial? Certainly, nobody who is actually a Christian could suggest that it's improper to pray privately for the souls of the deceased, even of the deceased happened to die in evident apostasy (which, apparently, was not the case with Fr. Tyrrel). But it's not at all clear that anyone ordered such a thing, in Fr. Tyrell's case, as to not pray for him.

I'm not sure what you mean when you say the hierarchy is and always has been drunk with power. If you mean they're all sinners, just like the rest of us, then I agree, and so would they. If you mean more than that, I suppose I'd need you to be more specific.

When you say that "the Church's intransigence and stubborn-headedness is what leads to the Tyrells of the world," I also don't quite know what to say. I would have thought the stubborn-headedness and intransigence of the Tyrells of the world is what leads to the Tyrells of the world. But that's because I believe the Church has a legitimate--indeed, a necessary--teaching authority, and can and should expect religious assent from her shepherds and scholars to all that is proposed for belief by the ordinary and extraordinary Magisterium.

I'm not sure I understand the reference to Bishop Chaput. I haven't mentioned him here, and so, a fortiori, I haven't defended him or endorsed his views here. Fr. Pavone's ministry is a pro-life ministry. *Of course*, he serves the poor--specifically, the unborn, who are the poorest of us all; their mothers, who are frequently more or less bullied into abortion, and often hardly know any better; the abortionists and those public figures who enable the abortionists, who need to hear the Gospel preached that they might repent, and believe the Good News. I could go on. But again, I'm not sure how any of this is relevant to the points I've been making here.

6:43 PM  
Blogger Ono said...

If the Church were more open to truth and knowledge at the time of the discovery, there would be less pent up frustration that eventually causes people to take radical positions.

The Church has been through enough to learn the hard way that, if nothing else, listen and show understanding. Proclaiming dogmatic certainty in the face of what everyone else sees as plain common sense is the intransigence I am talking about.

I bring up Bp Chaput because after November, he tried to backtrack from his open support of Bush and say he had also said something like people who don't help the poor are going to hell. Nonsense.

I finally figured out what pro-lifers are all about when they talk about the poor and death penalty. It's like the Miss congeniality movie where at the Miss USA pagent, the answer to every question was world peace. You had to say and each time a contestant did, everyone roared in approval like it was the first time they'd heard it.

So for Fr Pavone and his army, it is abortion, abortion, abortion, (98%), oh, and world peace!(2%)

The unborn are not poor. They are weak and defenseless but they are not poor. There are poor children huddled up in a house somewhere, trying to sleep in zero degree weather and so hungry that shoe laces look good. That's poor. We've got millions of them and the pro-life movement does not care.

BTW, on the magisterium. The magisterium, whatever it is, stands tall on the back of theologians. That's the fact. The Bishops only repeat what theologians give them, so maybe they can give these theologians that they vitally depend on, a break.

12:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Saying the the "pro-life movement" does not care about the poor (in the restricted sense of "financially distressed") is, I'm sorry to say, just silly. And that for a number of reasons. First, you are completely ignoring the fact that certain religious orders, and certain groups of like-minded Christians (such as, for example, contemporary Catholic pro-life activists), have always always always been animated by one particular charism. With the Dominicans, for example, the charism was teaching and preaching. You don't hear about lots of Dominicans involved in the corporal works of mercy. That's because their charism is to be involved in the spiritual works of mercy, particularly instructing the ignorant. That's their charism. To say that because they focus on education, they "don't care" about the poor is just asinine. Some Catholics, for example, Mother Theresa and her order, are primarily oriented towards serving the poor. Some are not. If you seek to reduce the whole of the Church to one big corporal work of mercy, then you're just not Catholic.

Second, saying the pro-life movement doesn't care about serving the poor is silly because there simply is no monolithic pro-life movement. I know lots of people who are very active in pro-life ministry who also dedicate much time and prayer to the service of the financially distressed. Disparaging pro-lifers en masse like you've done sure sounds like sheer bigotry.

I'm not sure how we got on this, but I'll do you a favor and leave your blog. You clearly don't want to talk to me (even though I am apparently just about your only commenter!). I thought the conversation started off OK, but it's taken an ugly turn, and I don't see the point.

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