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Page:Catholic Encyclopedia, volume 10.djvu/470

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MODERNISM


416


MODERNISM


ions, and tendoncics. From time to linio thoso tenden- cies work out into systems, that are to renew the biusis and superstructure of soeiety, polities, philosophj-, thoologv, of tlio Cluireli herself and of the Christian religion. \ remodelling, a renewal aceordinc to the ideas of the twentieth ecntury — sueh is the longing that possesses the modernists. " The a\ owed modern- ists", says M. Loisy, "form a fairly deiinite group of thinking men united in the eommon desire lo adapt Catholioism to the intellectual, moral and social needs of to-day" (op. cit.. p. 13). "Our religious altitude", .a.s " II programma dei modernisti" states (p. .'>, iinle 1), "is ruled by the single wish to be one witli Christians and Catholics who live in harmony with the spirit of the age". The spirit of this plan of reform may be summ.irized under the following hea<ls: (a) .\ spirit of complete emancipation, tending to weaken ecclesias- tical authority; the emancipation of science, which must traverse every field of investigation without fear of conflict with the Church; the emancipation of the State, which should never be hampere<l by religious authority; the emancipation of the private conscience, whose inspirations must not be overridden by papal definitions or anathemas; the emancipation of the universal conscience, with which the Church should be ever in agreement ; (b) A s[)irit of mo\-ement and change, with an inclination to a sweeping form of evo- lution such as abhors anything fixed and stationary; (c) .\ spirit of reconciliation among all men through the feelings of the heart. Many and varied also are the modernist dreams of an understanding between the different Christian religions, nay, even between religion and a species of atheism, and all on a basis of agreement that must be superior to mere doctrinal differences.

Such are the fundamental tendencies. As such, they seek to explain, justify, and strengthen them- selves in an error, to which therefore one might give the name of "essential" modernism. What is this error? It is nothing less than the perversion of dogma. Manifold are the degrees and shades of mod- ernist doctrine on the quest ion of our relations with God. But no real modernist keeps the Catholic notions of dogma intact. Are you doubtful as to whether a writer or a book is modernist in t he formal sense of the word ? Verify every statement about dogma; examine his treatment of its origin, its nature, its sense, its authority. You will know whether you are dealing with a veritable modernist or not, according to the way in which the Catholic conception of dogma is traves- tied or respected. Dogma and supernatural knowl- edge are correlative terms; one implies the other as the action implies its object. In this way then we may define modernism iis "the critique of our supernatural knowledge according to the false postulates of con- temporary philosophy".

It will be advisable for us to quote a full critique of such supernatural knowledge as an example of the mode of procedure. (In the meantime however we must not forget that there are partial and less ad- vanced modernists who do not go so far). For them, external intuition furnishes man with but phenomenal, contingent, sensible knowledge. He sees, he feels, he hears, he tastes, he touches this something, this phenomenon that comes and goes without telling him aught of the existence of a suprasensible, ab.solute and unchanging reality outside all environing space and time. But deep within himself man feels the need of a higher hope. He aspires to perfection in a being on whom he feels his destiny depends. And .so he has an instinctive, an affective yearning for God. This neces- sary impulse is at first obscure and hidden in the subconsciousness. Onoe consciously understood, it reveals to the soul the intimate presence of God. This manifestation, in which God and man collabo- rate, is nothing else than revelation. Under the influ- ence of its yearning, that is of its religious feelings, the


soul tries to reach God, to adopt towards Him an atti- tude that will satisfy its yearning. It gropes, it searches. These gropings form the soul's religious experience. They are more easy, successful and far- reaching, or less so, according as it is now one, now another individual soul that sets out in quest of God. Anon there are privileged ones who reach extraordi- nary results. They comnninicate their discoveries to their fellow men, and forthwith Ix'com.' founders of a new religion, which is more or less t rue in t he proportion in which it gives peace to the ri'ligious feelings.

The attitude Clirist adopted, reaching uji to Ciod as to a father and tlicii returning lo men as to hrothers — such is the meaning of the precept, "Love God and thy neighbour" — brings full rest lo the soul. It makes the religion of Christ the religion par excdlcnci'., the true and definitive religion. The act by which the soul adopts this attiliule and abandons itself to God as a father and then to men as to brothers, constitutes the Christian Faith. Plainly such an act is an act of the will rather than of the intellect. But religious sentiment tries to express itself in intellectual con- cepts, which in their turn ser\-e to preser\-e this senti- ment. Hence the origin of those formula' concerning God and Divine things, of those theoretical proposi- tions that are the outcome of the successive religious experiences of souls gifted with the same faith. These formula; become dogmas, when religious authority ap- proves of them for the life of the community. For community life is a spontaneous growth among per- sons of the same faith, and with it comes authority. Dogmas promulgated in this way teach us nothing of the unknowable, but only symbolize it. They contain no truth. Their usefulness in preserving the faith is their only raison d'etre. They survive as long as they exert their influence. Being the work of man in time, and adapted to his varying needs, they are at best but contingent and transient. Religious authority too, naturally conservative, may lag behind the times. It may mistake the best methods of meeting needs of the community, and try to keep up worn-out fonnute. Through respect for the communitj, the individual Christian who sees the mistake continues in an atti- tude of outward submission. But he docs not feel himself inwardly bound by the decisions of higher powers; rather he makes praiseworthy efforts to bring his Church into harmony with the times. He may confine himself, too, if he cares, to the older and sim- pler religious forms; he may live his life in conformity with the dogmas accepted from the beginning. Such is Tyrrell's advice in his letter to Fogazzaro, and such was his own private practice. (2) Catholic and Modern- ist N otions of Dngma Compared. — The tradition of the Catholic Church, on the other hand, considers dogmas as in part supernatural and mysterious, proposed to our faith by a Divinely instil uted authority on the ground that they arc "part of the general revelation which the Apostles preached in the name of Jesus Christ. This faith is an act of thc' intellect madeunder the sway of the will. By it we hold liniily what God has revealed and what the Church propo.ses to us to believe. For believing is holding soiiict hing firmly on the authority of God's word, when such authority may be recognized by signs that are sufficient, at least with the help of grace, to create certitude.

Comparing these notions, the Catholic and the modernist, we shall see that mod(Tnism alters the source, the manner of promulgation, the object, the stability, and the truth of dogma. For the modern- ist, the only and the necessary source is the pri- vate consciousness. And logically so, since he rejects miracles and prophecy as signs of God's word_(Il programma, p. 96). For the Catholic, dogma is a free communication of God to the believer made through the preaching of the Word. Of course the truth from without, which is above and beyond any natural want, is preceded by a certain interior finality or perfecti-