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The Modernist Apologist

An apologist for the Church defends Her and Her faith from all who would argue against them. Over the centuries, many sound arguments have been advanced by Catholics to aid in this defense. The Modernist apologist does not use traditional arguments from reliable sources, but instead bases his defense upon the history produced by Modernist historians. He uses two types of arguments: objective and subjective.

Objective Approach

The objective approach to Modernist apologetics starts from (you guessed it) agnosticism. In this account, religion, especially the Catholic religion, has such vitality that surely every historian and psychologist simply must recognize that there has got to be some element of the unknown lurking in its history.

The apologist then starts to demonstrate that the Catholic Church started with its founding by Jesus Christ, and that the Catholic religion is nothing but the subsequent of the germ that He brought into the world. They define this germ as Christ’s announcement of the coming of the kingdom of God, which was coming soon, and has Christ as its Messiah.

This immanent germ, says the apologist, has developed ever since, adapting itself via evolution at every point in its history, accumulating doctrinal, cultural, and ecclesiastical forms along the way. At the same time, it “surmounted all obstacles, vanquished all enemies, and survived all assaults and all combats” (§35). Surely there’s got to be something extra behind the Church for her to have flourished thusly; evolution just cannot account for all of that flourishing.

In saying this, the germ that the apologist proposes is really an assumption of agnostic and evolutionist philosophy. They have defined the germ from the beginning to fit in with their overall argument, rather than discovered it through reason.

Now, having stated that there is some “unknown” behind the flourishing of the Church, the apologist also admits that there is a lot in the Church that is repulsive. Not even Catholic dogma is exempt from errors and contradictions. But that’s OK, says the apologist; it’s even fitting that this is the case. For example: in the bible, many passages referring to science or history are flat out false. This is alright; the books of the bible are intended to convey religious truths, not scientific and historical truths. The science and history in them was comprehensible to the masses in the time that they were written. And the books are so full of life due to their religious nature, that they don’t follow rational truth and logic. They follow the “truth of adaptation and of proportion both with what they call the medium in which it lives and with the end for which it lives” (§36). Whatever is explained by life is true and legitimate.

Pope St. Pius X declares “that this is equivalent to attributing to God Himself the lie of utility or officious lie”. He then quotes St. Augustine:

In an authority so high, admit but one officious lie, and there will not remain a single passage of those apparently difficult to practice or to believe, which on the same most pernicious rule may not be explained as a lie uttered by the author willfully and to serve a purpose.

This results in everyone believing or disbelieving what they like or dislike in the Scriptures.

The apologists also shamelessly say that Christ Himself got the time of the coming of the Kingdom of God wrong. But this is not surprising in their view; He Himself was subject to the laws of life!

In this system, just about anything passes for a dogma, and any contradiction is papered over with “vital logic”. And since they are dealing with the infinite, contradictions are expected. The infinite has an infinte variety of aspects, don’t you know.

I’ll end this summary of the objective approach with a quote from Pius X straight out of the encyclical:

But when they justify even contradictions, what is it that they will refuse to justify?

Subjective Approach

For subjective arguments, the apologist turns to their doctrine of immanence. The non-believer must admit that down in the very depths of his nature and life is the need and desire for some religion, namely Catholicism, which “is absolutely postulated by the perfect development of life.” Pius X complains that there are even apologists who rightfully reject the Modernist doctrine of immanence, but then turn around and use it as a tool in apologetics. In doing so, they almost say that humans don’t have a capability for the supernatural, but that in human nature there is a “true and rigorous need for the supernatural order”. The more extreme apologists, here called “integralists”, show the non-believer that the germ that Christ had in His consciousness is within the non-believer.


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