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In this issue we focus on Pope Pius Xís encyclical, On the Doctrine of the Modernists. Written in 1907, it is just as relevant today. You will recognize what the pope condemns in groups like Call to Action, We Are Church, the Jesus Seminars, the renovation fad and countless other movements attacking Holy Mother Church. For faithful Catholics, the response is to know the faith, love the Lord with all your strength, and evangelize at every opportunity. And recognize discouragement for what it is a tool of the devil. We donít have time to indulge in it! [All page numbers correspond to the St. Paul Edition.]
Need for Action: "One of the primary obligations assigned by Christ [to the Holy See] is that of guarding with the greatest vigilance the deposit of the faith....[T]hese latter days have witnessed a notable increase in the number of the enemies of the Cross of Christ....[T]he partisans of error are to be sought not only among the Churchís open enemies; but what is to be most dreaded and deplored, in her very bosom....We allude...to many who belong to the Catholic laity, and, what is much more sad, to the ranks of the priesthood itself, who...put themselves forward as reformers of the Church; and...assail all that is most sacred...not sparing even the Person of the divine Redeemer, whom with sacrilegious audacity, they degrade to the condition of a simple and ordinary man....[T]here is no part of Catholic truth which they leave untouched, none that they do not strive to corrupt...they disdain all authority and brook no restraint; and relying upon a false conscience, they attempt to ascribe to a love of truth that which is in reality the result of pride and obstinacy." Ch. 1-3, pgs. 7-9.
Moral Relativism There is no Truth: "[Modernists strongly affirm that] dogma is not only able, but ought to evolve....[A]mong the chief points of their teaching is...that religious formulas...ought to be living...Hence it comes that these formulas...should be, and should remain, adapted to the faith and to him who believes. Wherefore, if for any reason this adaptation should cease to exist, they lose their first meaning and accordingly need to be changed...[T]hese errors...open wide the way to Atheism...[E]very religion, even that of paganism, must be held to be true....[Modernists] lay down the general principle that in a living religion everything is subject to change...In this way they pass to what is practically their principal doctrine, namely, evolution. To the law of evolution everything is subject under penalty of death dogma, Church, worship, the Books we revere as sacred, even faith itself. Ch. 13-14 pgs. 17-20, ch. 26, pgs. 33-34.
Personal Conscience Rules: "Modernists express astonishment when they are reprimanded or punished. What is imputed to them as a fault they regard as a sacred duty....they have their own conscience on their side and an intimate experience which tells them with certainty that what they deserve is not blame but praise...While they make a pretense of bowing their heads, their minds and hands are more boldly intent than ever on carrying out their purposes...it is necessary for them to remain within the ranks of the Church in order that they may gradually transform the collective conscience....[F]or the Modernists, whether as authors or propagandists, there is to be nothing stable, nothing immutable in the Church." Ch. 27-28, pgs. 35-36.
Modernist as Reformer: "How eager is the passion of such men for innovation. In all Catholicism there is absolutely nothing on which it does not fasten...In the Catechism no dogmas are to be inserted except those that have been reformed and are within the capacity of the people. Regarding worship, they say, the number of external devotions is to be reduced....[E]cclesiastical government...must be brought into harmony with the modern conscience, which now wholly tends towards democracy; a share in ecclesiastical government should therefore be given to the lower ranks of the clergy, and even to the laity, and authority, which is too much concentrated, should be decentralized...and there are some who...would desire the suppression of the celibacy of the clergy. What is there left in the Church which is not to be reformed by them and according to their principles?...With Our eyes fixed upon the whole system, no one will be surprised that We should define it to be the synthesis of all heresies." Ch. 38-39, pgs. 47-48.
Modernist Contempt: "Modernists try in every way to diminish and weaken the authority of the ecclesiastical magisterium...[they] vent all their bitterness and hatred on Catholics who zealously fight the battles of the Church. There is no species of insult which they do not heap upon them, but their usual course is to charge them with ignorance or obstinacy...When an adversary rises up against them with an erudition and force that renders them redoubtable, they seek to make a conspiracy of silence around him to nullify the effects of his attack...This policy...is the more invidious in that they belaud with admiration which knows no bounds the writers who range themselves on their side...When one of their number falls under the condemnations of the Church the rest of them...gather round him, loudly and publicly applaud him, and hold him up in veneration as almost a martyr for truth...They seize upon professorships in the seminaries and universities...In sermons from the pulpit they disseminate their doctrines...They are to be found among the laity, and in the ranks of the clergy, and they are not wanting even in the last place where one might expect to meet them, in religious communities...they destroy as far as they can the pious traditions of the people. Ch. 42-43, pgs.53-54.