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Dictionary of the History of Ideas

Studies of Selected Pivotal Ideas
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7 occurrences of Dictionary_of_the_History_of_Ideas
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4. Condemnation of Modernism and Extension of
the Crisis.
The argument of the magisterium, later
developed by Catholic scholars, was synthetic. The
modernist was seen in the encyclical letter Pascendi
(1907) as a “type” who “sustains and includes within
himself a manifold personality; he is a philosopher, a
believer, a theologian, an historian, a critic, an apolo-
gist, a reformer” (Sabatier [1908], pp. 236-37).
Modernist ideas were traced to the Reformation and
to the Enlightenment. According to the pope, philo-
sophical modernism taught that man could not know
God by reason and that what sense he did have of the
transcendent came through the “vital immanence” of
the divine in the human. Theological modernism held
that religion was an expression of the collective con-
sciousness of mankind which expressed itself in purely
symbolic dogmas. Historical modernism maintained
that all ideas and institutions evolved and could only
be understood relative to their epoch. Modernist
apologetic was castigated for daring to associate these
ideas with Catholic tradition. And finally the modernist
as reformer was condemned for advocating an end to
fasts and to clerical celibacy, demanding seminary
reform, the purging of popular devotionalism, com-
plete freedom of church and state as an ideal, and the
democratization of the government of the Church,
especially the Curia.

The papal condemnation of 1907 was followed by
a series of excommunications, most notably those of
Tyrrell and Loisy, the censuring of works of Le Roy
and many others, and by the institution of an anti-
modernist oath in September, 1910. The body of bitter
polemical literature already generated by the affaire
Loisy
and by the writings of the Blondelians was now
enlarged through the efforts of a secret antimodernist
society, the Sodalitum pianum or Sapinière, whose
members, known as Integrists, devoted particular at-
tention to the links between modernism and Christian
democracy, as in Marc Sangnier's Sillon movement.
(Integrism in its excessive zeal was in turn censured
by Pope Benedict XV in 1914.) Some “progressive”
or “liberal” thinkers—as such they described them-
selves—rejected the notion of a “modernist” heresy as
(in Loisy's phrase) a “figment of the papal imagina-
tion.” Anticlericals competed with orthodox publicists
in exaggerating the extent of the “infection.” One
journal estimated that modernist ideas had captured
15,000 priests in France alone. Tyrrell, who defended
his version of modernism in two long letters to the
Times of London, said 20,000 would be a better figure.
Loisy said 1,500 was more accurate than 15,000.
Anonymous publications presented counter-systems
and demands; in Italy, The Program of the Modernists
and Letters of a Modernist Priest (Buonaiuti, 1907,
1908); in America, Letters of a Modernist to Pope Pius
X
(Sullivan, 1909). A Revue Moderniste Internationale
was only one of several short-lived journals which
sprang up to advance the cause of reform, if necessary
against the Curia, explaining ideas the Pope had
“improperly understood and wrongly condemned.”

The condemnations of 1907 had in fact brought to
a head a crisis of belief which had roots antedating
any of the condemned works and which continued long


424

after the crisis was over. Many priests, disillusioned
by the obstinacy of the magisterium in the face of
minimal pleas for autonomy in scholarship, or over-
whelmed by a loss of personal belief in anything but
the most broadly symbolic understanding of Christian
faith, left the Church. Others hid their true views.
Notable in their impact in the years when Loisy's
critical work was first coming to notice were Marcel
Hébert, a dynamic Parisian priest and teacher whose
dialogue, Souvenirs d'Assise (1889), stated the dilemma
of many who gave up faith reluctantly (“I am not
agnostic, because I affirm the Divine: but what is the
Divine?”), and Albert Houtin, the major contemporary
historian of the general crisis of faith and knowledge
who wrote as a Catholic long after he had abandoned
orthodoxy—as did Loisy.

Italians involved in the crisis tended to persist in
their efforts after the rationale for their work had been
destroyed. Antonio Foggazzaro had called for a revival
of mysticism and a reform of church polity in his
tremendously popular novel Il Santo (“The Saint,”
1905); in spite of censure he helped to found the
modernist review Il Rinnovamento in 1907. This jour-
nal was the organ of the group of national liberal
Italian reformers who tried to reconcile Catholicism
and modernity by discussing intellectual freedom, the
need for an accommodation with post-Kantian sub-
jectivism, the involvement of the laity in the life of
the Church, and a new approach to church-state rela-
tions. Such efforts at synthesis were paralleled by two
other thrusts in Italian modernist circles.

On the other hand, a small number of priest-scholars
took their lead from the French thinkers who were
intermediaries of the ideas of Baron von Hügel, and
sought to develop an apologetic less concerned with
Protestant and rationalist science. There were also
priests and laymen who were primarily socially and
politically motivated, and who moved beyond officially
sanctioned activities like the Opera dei congressi to-
ward Christian democracy. Of the former group the
most prominent figure was the church historian and
polemicist Ernesto Buonaiuti; of the latter, the political
leader Romolo Murri, founder of the Lega democratica
nazionale
(Scoppola, 1961).

The crisis made little impact in Germany. Nine-
teenth-century German Catholic scholarship had
developed in a more realistic relationship to Protestant
and secular thought. Anti-ultramontanism was the
major dimension of reforming movements before and
after the condemnation, motivated in part by resent-
ment against Roman distrust of German thought,
reflected in the excommunication of Döllinger in 1871
and the more recent censuring of the liberal Hermann
Schell, in part by zeal to express Catholic solidarity
with the nation in the wake of Bismarck's Kulturkampf.
Periodical literature was the major German contri-
bution, in particular, the Zwanzigste (1909: Neue)
Johrhundert.

In England Maud Petre, a friend of Tyrrell and his
executor, refused to take the antimodernist oath and
predicted the eventual recognition of the validity of
much of modernist apologetics. Two other Englishmen,
both friends of Tyrrell, mediated much of Catholic
modernist thought into the separate evolution of
Anglican modernism; Alfred Lilley through his
Modernism: A Record and a Review (1908), and Alfred
Fawkes in his Studies in Modernism (1913). But the
complicated, highly institutionalized, and long-lived
movement of modernism in the Church of England
developed mainly out of two indigenous sources, nine-
teenth-century liberal theology (especially the work of
F. D. Maurice and H. F. D. Hort) as well as the new
critical currents from Germany. Just as in Roman
Catholicism, Anglican modernism was a clerical and
intellectual effort at providing an apologetic for
Christianity which would foster its appeal to the mid-
dle classes drifting away from orthodoxy. Defenders
of the established church could claim with some justice
that “we have never yet met a Modernist kitchen
maid” (Pryke [1926], p. 1). Through the Modern
Churchman's Union (1898), the periodicals Liberal
Churchman
(1904-08) and Modern Churchman
(1911-56), and annual conferences the modernists had
a considerable effect on the establishment, especially
in prayer-book reform. The theology and history of
the Anglican movement and its connections with the
Catholic crisis was assessed by H. D. A. Major, one
of several critics who in the years after World War I
have extended universally the movement by defining
it as “the claim of the modern mind to determine what
is true, right, and beautiful in the light of its own
experience... whether in religion, ethics, or art”
(1927, p. 8). A comparable dilution of the term oc-
curred in America in the wake of the crisis, most
notably in the liberal-fundamentalist controversy, but
also closer to the Catholic tradition in the writings of
William L. Sullivan.

A dense web of correspondence among men involved
in the new ideas, the personal activity of Baron von
Hügel, who traveled continuously and who had con-
nections in the Vatican, and a flood of short-lived
periodicals boasting the defense (and orthodoxy) of the
components of the condemned system created the
appearance of an international modernist movement.
In fact one secret meeting of leading figures did take
place, in the Italian mountain town of Molveno in
1907, but little came of it except fuel for Integrist
paranoia.


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