Open main menu

Page:Catholic Encyclopedia, volume 10.djvu/473

This page needs to be proofread.




two elements in common, the negative part of the "Critique of Pure Reason" (which reduces pure or speculative knowledge to phenomenal or experiential intuition), and a certain argumentative method in dis- tinguishing dogma from the real basis of religion. On the positive side, however, modernism differs from Kantisra in some essential points. For Kant, faith is a really rational adhesion of the mind to the postulates of practical reason. The will is free to accept or reject the moral law; and it is on account of this option that he calls its acceptance "belief". Once it is accepted, the reason cannot but admit the existence of God, liberty, and immortality. Modernist faith, on the other hand, is a matter of sentiment, a flinging of oneself towards the Unknowable, and cannot be scientifically justifiod by reason. In Kant's system, dogmas and the whole positive framework of religion are necessary only for the childhood of humanity or for the common people. They are symbols that bear a certain analogy to images and comparisons. They seri'e to inculcate those moral precepts that for Kant constitute religion. Modernist symbols, though changeable and fleeting, correspond to a law of human nature. Generally speaking, they help to excite and nourish the effective religious sentiment which Kant (who knew it from his reading of the pietists) calls schwcinnerei. Kant, as a rationalist, rejects supernatural religion and prayer. The modernists consider natural religion a useless abstraction; for them it is prayer rather that consti- tutes the very essence of religion. It would be more correct to say that modernism is an offshoot of Schlei- ermaeher (1768-1834), who though he owed some- thing to Kant's philosophy, nevertheless built up his own theological system. Ritschl called him the " legis- lator of theology" (Rechtf. und Vers., Ill, p. 486). Schlciermacher conceives the modernist plan of re- forming religion with the view of conciliating it with science. Thus would he establish an entente cordiale among the various cults, and even between religion and a kind of religious sentimentality which, without recognizing God, yet tends towards the Good and the Infinite. Like the modernists, he has dreams of new rehgious apologetics; he wants to be a Christian; he declares himself independent of all philosophy; he re- jects natural religion as a pure abstraction, and derives dogma from religious experience. His principal writ- ings on this subject are "Ueber die ReHgion" (1799: note the difference between the first and the later editions) and "Dcr Christliche Glaube" (1821-22). Ritschl, one of Kant's disciples, recognizes the New Testament as the lii.-inriiMJ basis of religion. He sees in Christ the coriM inii>iii--, of an inlimale union with God, and considirs the institution of the Christian religion, which for him is inconceivable without faith in Christ, as a special act of God's providence. Thus has he prepared the way for a form of modernism more temperate than that of Schlciermacher. Though ho pre<lic1ed a continual development of religion, Schlci- ermacher admit tcil a certain fixity of dogma. For this reason it seems to us that modernists owe their radical evolutionary theory to Herbert Spencer (1820-1903). It wius through the writings of A. Sabatier (1839- 1901), a French Protestant of the Broad Church type, that the religious theories w-e have spoken of, spread among the Latin races, in France and in Italy. It is in these countries, too, that modernism has done greatest harm among the Catholics. Sabatier is a radical modernist. He has especially drawn upon Schlcier- macher for the composition of his two works on reli- gious synthesis ("Esquisse d'une philosophic de la religion d'apnXs la psychologic et I'histoire", Paris, 1897; "Les religions d'autorit6 et la religion do I'csprit", Paris, 1902).

The fundamental error of the modernist philosophy is its misunderstanding of the scholastic formula which takes account of the two aspects of human knowledge. Doubtless, the human mind is a vital faculty endowed

with an activity of its own, and tending t.iwards its own object. However, as it is not in continual activ- ity, it is not self-sufficient; it has not in itself the full principle of its operations, but is forced to utilize sen- sible experience in order to arrive at knowledge. This incompleteness and falling short of perfect autonomy is due to man's very nature. As a consequence, in all himian knowledge and activity, account must be taken both of the intrinsic and of the extrinsic side. Urged on by the finality that inspires him, man tends towards those objects which suit him, while at the same time objects offer themselves to him. In the supernatural life, man acquires new principles of action and, as it were, a new nature. He is now capable of acts of which God is the formal object. These acts, however, must be proposed to man, whether God deigns to do so by direct revelation to man's soul, or whether, in conformity with man's social nature, God makes use of intermediaries who communicate exteriorly with man. Hence the necessity of preaching, of motives of credibility, and of external teaching authority. Cath- olic philosophy does not deny the soul's spontaneous life, the sublimity of its suprasensible and .supernatural operations, and the inadequacy of words to trans- late its yearnings. Scholastic doctors give expres- sion to mystical transports far superior to those of the modernists. But in their philosophy they never forget the lowliness of human nature, which is not purely spiritual. The modernist remembers only the internal element c*' our higher activity. This absolute and ex- clusive intrinsecism constitutes what the Encyclical calls "vital immanence". When deprived of the ex- ternal supi")rt wliich is indispensable to them, the acta of the higliir intellectual faculties can only con.sist in vague sentiments which are as indetermined as are those faculties themselves. Hence it is that modernist doctrines, necessarily ex-pressed in terms of this senti- ment, are so intangible. Furthermore, by admitting the necessity of symbols, modernism makes to extrin- secism a concession which is its own refutation.

(2) The Consequences. — The fact that this radi- cally intrinsic conception of the spiritual or religious activity of man (this perfect autonomy of the reason vis-a-i'is of what is exterior) is the fundamental philo- sophical conception of the modernists, as the altera- tion of dogma is the essential characteristic of their heresy, can be shown without difficulty by deducting from it their entire system of philosophy. First of all, of their agnosticism: the v.ague nature which they attribute to our faculties does not permit them, \yith- out scii-iitific observation, to arrive at any definite iiii(l|iiiu:il result. Next, of their evolutionism: there is no cirtcniiined object to assure to dogmatic formulas a permanent and essential meaning compatible with the lif(^ of faith and progress. Now, from the moment that these formula' simply serve to nourish the vague senliiiient which for modernism is the only common atidslabli' foundation of religion, they must change indefinitely with the subjective needs of the believer. It is a right and even a duty for the latter freely to interpret, as he sees fit, religious facts and doctrines. We meet here with the a priorisms to which the Encyc- lical "Pascendi" drew attention.

We wish to insist a little on the grave consequence that this Encyclical puts especially before our eyes. In many ways, modernism seems to be on the swift incline which leads to pantheism. It seems to be there on accoimt of its symbolism. After all, is not tli<' affirmation of a personal God one of these dog- malic formula' which serve only as symbolic expressions of the religious sentiment? Does not the Divine Per- sonality then become something uncertain? Hence radical modernism preaches union and friendship, even with mystical atheism. Modernism is inclined to panlheisni also by its doctrine of Divine Imma^ nence, that is, of the intimate presence of God within us. Does this God declare Himself as distinct from