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Causes of Modernism

Moral Causes

With an eye to coming up with a suitable remedy for Modernism, Pius X takes up its causes in §40 of Pascendi. He lists three moral causes: one proximate, and two remote.

In a series of causal events, where one thing causes the next, the proximate cause is the cause right before the final thing in the chain. So whatever else in the causal chain leads up to Modernism, the nearest and most immediate cause of Modernism is an error of the mind.

Remote causes are causes that go further back in the causal chain. Pius X recognizes two remote causes of Modernism: curiosity and pride. He has but one thing to say about curiosity: “Curiosity by itself, if not prudently regulated, suffices to account for all errors.” He spends more time talking about pride.

Saint Pius X sees pride as the primary remote cause of modernism. Pride “sits in Modernism as in its own house, finding sustenance everywhere in its doctrines and lurking in its every aspect.” He identifies the following fruits of this pride:

  • Self-assurance
  • Vainglory that then leads to novelties
  • A spirit of disobedience
  • The wish to reform others without reforming one’s self
  • Disrespect for authority

Intellectual Causes

The chief intellectual cause of Modernism is ignorance. By abandoning Scholasticism, Modernists have left themselves without the tools to notice confusion of thought or to refute sophistry. “Their whole system, containing as it does errors so many and so great, has been born of the union between faith and false philosophy.” (§41)


*This post is part of a series on Pascendi Dominici Gregis. Click here for more posts on Pascendi and Modernism.*