One of the books I used in homeschooling was Popes Against the Modern Errors. The most important document, among several, is Pascendi Dominici Gregis, by Pope Pius X. I suggest readers take time to look at the entire document. For my purposes here, I shall refer to only a few sections.
The point of this post is simple—Traditional Catholics have been infected by Modernism and they do not even see this. While pointing fingers at the Liberal Catholics, these Trads cannot see the faulty thinking of many of their own positions, because Modernism has affected all the generations of Catholics since the plague of this heresy began.
A famous priest once said that only extraordinary graces can save one from falling into Modernism. Without begging God for these graces, we are all prey for satan’s use of Modernism.
A few bullets and then a longer explanation as to how these aspects are held by trads as well as libs. The black text is from the encyclical The application to trads is in red after each aspect of the heresy. Taken from Pius X’s text:
⁃ “If anyone says that the one true God, our Creator and Lord, cannot be known with certainty by the natural light of human reason by means of the things that are made, let him be anathema” (De Revel., can. I); and also: “If anyone says that it is not possible or not expedient that man be taught, through the medium of divine revelation, about God and the worship to be paid Him, let him be anathema” (Ibid., can. 2); and finally, “If anyone says that divine revelation cannot be made credible by external signs, and that therefore men should be drawn to the faith only by their personal internal experience or by private inspiration, let him be anathema” (De Fide, can. 3). Many traditional Catholics simply do not believe in human reason as leading us to God. There is such a suspicion of reason and rational discourse, that adults do not aspire to study or encourage their children to learn how to discuss rationally the revelation of God to man. Anti-intellectualism marks many trad communities, which seem to fall into popular and even un-approved mystical apparitions being sought after, rather than a concentration on developing a rational, adult faith. Sloth or a smugness are two reasons for this, but the Modernist tendency to deny that human reason can lead to knowledge of God is the biggest reason. Personal faith is not the only means to God, nor private inspiration, but our minds and wills. Trads are just as guilty of this fault as libs.
⁃ However, this Agnosticism is only the negative part of the system of the Modernist: the positive side of it consists in what they call vital immanence. This is how they advance from one to the other. Religion, whether natural or supernatural, must, like every other fact, admit of some explanation. But when Natural theology has been destroyed, the road to revelation closed through the rejection of the arguments of credibility, and all external revelation absolutely denied, it is clear that this explanation will be sought in vain outside man himself. It must, therefore, be looked for in man; and since religion is a form of life, the explanation must certainly be found in the life of man. Hence the principle of religious immanence is formulated. Moreover, the first actuation, so to say, of every vital phenomenon, and religion, as has been said, belongs to this category, is due to a certain necessity or impulsion; but it has its origin, speaking more particularly of life, in a movement of the heart, which movement is called a sentiment. Therefore, since God is the object of religion, we must conclude that faith, which is the basis and the foundation of all religion, consists in a sentiment which originates from a need of the divine. This need of the divine, which is experienced only in special and favourable circumstances, cannot, of itself, appertain to the domain of consciousness; it is at first latent within the consciousness, or, to borrow a term from modern philosophy, in the subconsciousness, where also its roots lies hidden and undetected. Religious immanence is a huge problem among trads. In their effort to seek out the Traditional Latin Mass, they rely on a subjective, rather than objective motives. They feel like the smells and bells are more superior to the simplified Novus Order, liking the trappings of the Latin Mass, but for the wrong reasons—for their own subjective sentiments. They believe, like the libs, that the need for God or impulsion drives them to love the Latin Mass and not some rational understanding of the value of the older form of the liturgy. Looking within instead of without, the trads can make the same mistake of subjective religion being the centre of their lives, rather than revelation, theology, or reason. This connection to vital immanence allows the trads to argue with emotions rather than with reason and make false judgements.
However, the greatest evil of immanentism, which is not the same as believing in the transcendence of God in us if we are in sanctifying grace, which is called immanence, is that it leads to a cafeteria-type Catholic who chooses what he wants to believe. Because immanentism holds that religious truth is not objective, but totally subjective, people think they can believe only to what they assent, and not the entire corpus of the Teaching Magisterium. Hence, many trads believe, for example, that the Novus Ordo Mass is not valid, or that a certain pope is not a pope, or that certain truths do not apply to them. The list is long. Immanentism allows a person to be picky about what they believe and ultimately denies both Divine Authority and the Teaching Magisterium of the Church. Customs become confused in the immanentist’s mind with doctrine. Doctrine becomes something he can interpret as he wishes, rather than allowing Rome to have a definitive view. Doctrines and dogmas become fair game for subjective interpretation. And, because the trad has the same problem as the liberal, that is the inability to think logically and use rational discourse to understand Church teaching, the baby gets thrown out with the bathwater. What lies behind immanentism is subjectivity, not objectivity, with regard to the Church’s teachings. The assent of the intellect to Church teaching is GONE, and only a personal tray of chosen beliefs from the cafeteria mindset remains. Ultimately, immanentism denies that God is totally Transcendent and He is our Superior and that we owe Him obedience. Hence, the schismatic groups which insist on their own interpretations of Church teaching, or which refuse to acknowledge the inspiration of the Holy Spirit in our times. Arguments about canonisations, the Mass, customs, the sacraments and so on lead to a Protestant revolt in the end. When religion becomes based on feeling, the person who chooses what feels good to them, has become an immanentist, a Modernist. A recent example of this are the so-called faithful trads who refuse to recognise the infallibility of canonisation, specifically of St. John Paul II and St. John XXIII, as well as Paul VI, who is perhaps the bravest pope in modern history simply because he went against the Modernists and punished Humanae Vitae. Those laity who put themselves above the Congregation of the Cause of Saints, and the following approval of the Pope, an infallible action, place themselves outside the Church. Some trads are now denying the doctrine of Papal Infallibity and the Supremacy of Papal Authority. The same is true for trads who refuse to honour Christ under the name of Divine Mercy and hate the Luminous Mysteries. All signs of the heresy of immanentism.
⁃ Should anyone ask how it is that this need of the divine which man experiences within himself grows up into a religion, the Modernists reply thus: Science and history, they say, are confined within two limits, the one external, namely, the visible world, the other internal, which is consciousness. When one or other of these boundaries has been reached, there can be no further progress, for beyond is the unknowable. In presence of this unknowable, whether it is outside man and beyond the visible world of nature, or lies hidden within in the subconsciousness, the need of the divine, according to the principles of Fideism, excites in a soul with a propensity towards religion a certain special sentiment, without any previous advertence of the mind: and this sentiment possesses, implied within itself both as its own object and as its intrinsic cause, the reality of the divine, and in a way unites man with God. It is this sentiment to which Modernists give the name of faith, and this it is which they consider the beginning of religion. Fideism is a huge fault of trads as well as libs. This is connected to vital immanence, but is one of the “isms” which has plagued modern Catholics for a long time. Fideism, which was held by Tertullian, holds that faith does not need reason, and that religion can be followed only with faith. The great phrase of Tertullian indicates this heresy clearly, “What indeed has Athens to do with Jerusalem?” Everything…as the Doctors of the Church and the Fathers of the Church tell us. As the Pope of this encyclical notes, the Modernists believe that faith is a sentiment, and that feeling begins religion—not revelation, not grace, not philosophy or theology. Indeed, science and history can lead one to God as well, as the Lord uses our reason to draw us to Him. Again, this aspect of the heresy is connected to an anti-intellectualism, which causes some trad home-schooling parents to use Protestant curriculum, not understanding or even seeing the doctrinal errors. Or thinking that their children do not need to study, only experience, the Mass. And so on…
⁃ Hence the law, according to which religious consciousness is given as the universal rule, to be put on an equal footing with revelation, and to which all must submit, even the supreme authority of the Church, whether in its teaching capacity, or in that of legislator in the province of sacred liturgy or discipline. Religious consciousness is not only subjective but unreliable, and can lead to serious errors, especially among trads who are wounded through sin, anti-intellectual, or lazy. Revelation, both the Scriptures and with a small “r”, that given to the Church through the Holy Spirit, as in Tradition and the Teaching Magisterium of the Church, are not considered as important as personal assent or personal interpretation of such. Again conformity to the Mind of Christ, which is the Mind of the Church, takes time, study and reflection and not merely prayer. The trads forget, for example, the philosophy is a necessary antidote to personal interpretations, and some fall into Protestantism, as seen in many so-called trad websites and journalism today. Stating that one is a daughter or son of the Church, when one is claiming private, religious consciousness contrary to the faith, and the organisation of the Church, can be a symptom of pride, the root of all Modernism.
⁃ “If anyone says that man cannot be raised by God to a knowledge and perfection which surpasses nature, but that he can and should, by his own efforts and by a constant development, attain finally to the possession of all truth and good, let him be anathema” (De Revel., can. 3). This is a huge problem for trads. Many of them believe that because they go to the TLM frequently, and develop their own prayer life according to trad methods, they are saved or can become saints. One’s own efforts to be holy do not save us or bring us to perfection, but GRACE only. Few trads understand the types and workings of grace, and many do not understand the graces of baptism and confirmation, relying on their own efforts to become holy. Also, many do not believe that perfection is possible, but only a middle-state of “being glad to get to purgatory” attitude. The misunderstanding or ignorance of grace also causes trads to be hyper-judgemental of other people. Also, they fall into a type of Jansenism, which demands effort and constant development from the human expense of energy and not the reliance on grace. This is a sort of “mercenary” approach to religion, as well. “If I say so many prayers or go to the TLM, then I am saved.” And, so on.
⁃ For the Modernist .Believer, on the contrary, it is an established and certain fact that the divine reality does really exist in itself and quite independently of the person who believes in it. If you ask on what foundation this assertion of the Believer rests, they answer: In the experience of the individual. On this head the Modernists differ from the Rationalists only to fall into the opinion of the Protestants and pseudo-mystics. This is their manner of putting the question: In the religious sentiment one must recognise a kind of intuition of the heart which puts man in immediate contact with the very reality of God, and infuses such a persuasion of God’s existence and His action both within and without man as to excel greatly any scientific conviction. They assert, therefore, the existence of a real experience, and one of a kind that surpasses all rational experience. If this experience is denied by some, like the rationalists, it arises from the fact that such persons are unwilling to put themselves in the moral state which is necessary to produce it. It is this experience which, when a person acquires it, makes him properly and truly a believer. Hence, the horrible criticisms and lack of love for the Church seen daily online. This belief that experience, particularly emotional experience, as one can get in a high TLM, proves to the trads that they are holy—experience over rational understanding of grace and the elements of the Faith-creates a Protestant reformer attitude. Again, trads judge those who do not seek for their kind of emotional high, judging them to be not a believer, when in reality, these critics have fallen into the trap of seeking religious experience over growth in the Faith via suffering and penance. This is a type of Protestant thinking which includes all the five “solas” and there are many commentators and writers and producers online who have fallen into these errors…These five solas are Scripture alone, faith alone, grace alone, Christ alone and “to the glory of God”. This leads to rebellion against the hierarchy as a whole and wide-brush painting of the evils of the clergy, ending up in schism or worse, heresy. This leads, also, to the idea that the lay trads have a duty and right to criticise constantly the hierarchy, as well as demand unrealistic intervention from the laity in hierarchical life.
⁃ All of these solas ignore evangelisation and good works. And, a proper criticism of trad life is the ignoring of real, Catholic social justice issues.
⁃ In addition, the seeking of private revelations, and the obsession with “secrets” and conspiracies form part of this lack of rationality and false religious sentiment, common to this heresy of Modernism.
⁃ But it is not solely by objective arguments that the non-believer may be disposed to faith. There are also subjective ones at the disposal of the Modernists, and for those they return to their doctrine of immanence. They endeavour, in fact, to persuade their non-believer that down in the very deeps of his nature and his life lie the need and the desire for religion, and this not a religion of any kind, but the specific religion known as Catholicism, which, they say, is absolutely postulated by the perfect development of life. And here We cannot but deplore once more, and grievously, that there are Catholics who, while rejecting immanence as a doctrine, employ it as a method of apologetics, and who do this so imprudently that they seem to admit that there is in human nature a true and rigorous necessity with regard to the supernatural order – and not merely a capacity and a suitability for the supernatural, order – such as has at all times been emphasized by Catholic apologists. Truth to tell it is only the moderate Modernists who make this appeal to an exigency for the Catholic religion. As for the others, who might be called intergralists, they would show to the non-believer, hidden away in the very depths of his being, the very germ which Christ Himself bore in His conscience, and which He bequeathed to the world. Such, Venerable Brethren, is a summary description of the apologetic method of the Modernists, in perfect harmony, as you may see, with their doctrines – methods and doctrines brimming over with errors, made not for edification but for destruction, not for the formation of Catholics but for the plunging of Catholics into heresy; methods and doctrines that would be fatal to any religion. A tricky one—again, having to do with subjectivism. Some trads believe that this integralist approach, which trads apply to themselves as well as those they are trying to persuade to become Catholics. There is a capacity and inclination to the supernatural life, but not some type of hidden, inner Christ and good conscience which leads to religion. This fine distinction is seen in some trads who, because they believe in their own intergralism, cannot see their own errors of either faith or conscience. Again, this is based on a misunderstanding or ignorance of grace, as well as a denial of Original Sin, yes, even by trads, who, for example, claim that the unbaptised children are in heaven. There is no such thing as an immanent Christ, only the gift of baptism which makes one a child of God and heir of heaven. But, more so, this error of subjectivity applies to the attendance of traditional worship, as if the very experience draws out a hidden faith—which is part of this aspect of the heresy of Modernism. Note that the term integralist may be misconstrued, as there are many different applications of that word to Catholic practice. What is here meant is not political integralism, a topic for another essay, but this pseudo-spiritual approach to the nature of faith and grace.
⁃ With regard to morals, they adopt the principle of the Americanists, that the active virtues are more important than the passive, both in the estimation in which they must be held and in the exercise of them. The clergy are asked to return to their ancient lowliness and poverty, and in their ideas and action to be guided by the principles of Modernism; and there are some who, echoing the teaching of their Protestant masters, would like the suppression of ecclesiastical celibacy. What is there left in the Church which is not to be reformed according to their principles? The most important for Americans is this lack of knowledge and unwillingness to undergo training in meditation and contemplation and, even more pernicious, a hatred of the hierarchy, seen daily online on trad websites and in trad journalism. Sadly, this aspect of the heresy is so ingrained in American thinking that trads do not see how they fall into Protestant ideals, which ignore the passive virtues. Again, as the emphasis is too often attending the TLM and devotions, the interior life is left behind to simmer in self-complacency or pride. Trads, like libs, think they have duties which are beyond their state in life.
I have not covered all the possible pitfalls of Modernism, into which traditional Catholics may drop, because of the fact that they were not trained properly, or that they are surrounded by Modernism in their Catholic circles. One can say that too often the uppity, angry, uber-critical trad is a Modernist.
The last point on this exercise is showing the trad problem of immanentism is destroying the Church from within, one of the hallmarks of the heresy of Modernism. For the liberals, it may be choosing contraception or same-sex marriage over Divine teaching, while for the trad, is is about refusing to believe that the Church has a right to change Liturgy, or incorporate new saints into the Church calendar, or even canonise certain men and women. The immanantist wants his own way—my way or the highway…hence, the proclivity to schism. Perhaps, more on this later…but the key problem is rooted in pride. Humility demands obedience, both mental and physical, from each Catholic. Whether one is a trad or a liberal, Modernism has infected most people in 2018.
JMJ, pray for us!
God is good,