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Modernism In Action

After spelling out the causes of Modernism, Pope St. Pius X tackles the tactics of Modernists. He lumps them under two umbrellas: removing obstacles that prevent them from deluding the minds of men, and patiently applying every resource at their disposal.

Removing Obstacles

There are three large obstacles upon which Modernists wage unrelenting war:

  • the scholastic method of philosophy
  • the authority and tradition of the Church Fathers
  • the magisterium of the Church

Scholastic Philosophy

Pius X has already mentioned in passing that by abandoning Scholasticism Modernists have left themselves without the tools to defend themselves from ignorance and intellectual error.

But Modernists do not just passively ignore Scholasticism; they actively seek to destroy it. “Against scholastic philosophy and theology they use the weapons of ridicule and contempt.” (§42) Their passion for novelty goes hand in hand with a hatred for scholasticism. Pius X sees this disdain for scholasticism as a preeminent mark of Modernism:

There is no surer sign that a man is tending to Modernism than when he begins to show his dislike for the scholastic method.

Church Fathers

The Modernist says that the Church Fathers are “personally most worthy of all veneration”. But he then goes on to accuse them of being entirely ignorant of (Modernist) history and criticism. Their only excuse for this alleged deficiency is the era in which they lived.

Magisterium of the Church

The tactic the Modernist employs against the magisterium of the Church is “sacrilegiously falsifying its origin, character, and rights,” and “freely repeating the calumnies of its adversaries”. The truth of the magisterium can only be assailed by lies.

Modernists also “vent all their bitterness and hatred on Catholics who zealously fight the battles of the Church”. In other words, they shoot the messengers of the magisterium as well as the message. In these attacks, they usually charge the faithful defender of the Church with either ignorance or obstinacy. If these methods do not work; if someone is particularly erudite and forceful in attacking Modernists, they just ignore him and shut him out rather than respond directly. They redirect their efforts into heaping praise on writers that agree with them instead.

On the chance that a Modernist is condemned by the Church, the rest of the Modernists rally round him and hold him up as a model, “almost a martyr for truth”. The young are susceptible to this, and the obstacle is removed.

Patient Application of Resources

In the time of St. Pius X, Modernists took great pains to gain recruits. They gained positions of authority in seminaries and universities, and “gradually make of them chairs of pestilence”. They preached Modernism from the pulpit, though potentially in a veiled manner. They were less veiled when preaching Modernism at conferences. They published books (pseudonymously or no), papers, reviews, and even sometimes wrote under multiple pseudonyms to give people the impression that Modernism was more popular than it truly was. “In short, with feverish activity they leave nothing untried in act, speech, and writing.” (§43)

This active recruitment has as a side effect the passive infestation of passersby.

It is also a subject of grief to us that many others who, while they certainly do not go so far as the former, have yet been so infected by breathing a poisoned atmosphere, as to think, speak, and write with a degree of laxity which ill becomes a Catholic.

These folk can be found in the laity, in the clergy, and in religious communities. They, wittingly or no, carry out the plan Pius outlined with the seven personalities. They wish to have “their names upon the lips of the public, and they know they would never succeed in this were they to say only what has always been said by all men.” They might have persuaded themselves that they are really serving God and the Church, but they only offend both.


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