Pope St. Pius X and Modernism
I found this homily to be quite prevalent for the world today and to be listened to with great intensity. -Admin
[A]lthough today is the feast of St. Stephen, King of Hungary, I would like to offer the first of two reflections on tomorrow’s Saint, Pope Pius X. I am sure that St. Stephen would approve of this plan since he himself “obtained his royal crown from the Pope and, when he had been anointed king at the Pope’s command, he offered his kingdom to the Apostolic See” (Matins). Furthermore, we might call to mind that when Prince Karl and Zita Hapsburg met with Pope Pius X, he prophesied that Karl would soon be king of Austrian-Hungarian Empire…something that did not seem likely given that there were others in front of him. …but the prophecy soon came true.
Turning to St. Pius X, in his first encyclical, E supremi apostolatus, of October 4, 1903, he made known to the whole world the program of his pontificate: “To restore all things in Christ, so that Christ may be all and in all (cf. Eph. 1:10 & Col. 3:11)… To lead back mankind under the dominion of Christ; this done, We shall have brought it back to God… Now the way to reach Christ is not hard to find: it is the Church… It was for this that Christ founded it, gaining it at the price of His Blood, and made it the depositary of His doctrine and His laws, bestowing upon it at the same time an inexhaustible treasury of graces for the sanctification and salvation of men… The duty has been imposed of bringing back to the discipline of the Church human society, now estranged from the wisdom of Christ; the Church will then subject it to Christ, and Christ to God.”
[D]ue to the intense pressure of the Enlightenment (which was running rampant with the spread of Rationalism and Liberalism) many theologians and priests started to adopt its principles as the 19th Century progressed. They formed a new theological system that came to be known as “modernism.” It attempted to wed the Church with the modern age, making it more relevant. The modern age was and still is rationalistic… naturalistic… humanistic. Consequently, they sought to remove the Divine from everything we believe… to remove the vertical, making all horizontal or natural. No miracles, no piety, no Mystical Body of Christ, etc. They pretended to believe, holding all the doctrines of the Church by name…but giving them new meaning (e.g., The Church, Hell,… ). Thus, Modernism is called “the sum of all heresies” (Matins for Pius X).
By the time Pope Pius took office, he exclaimed that its errors had “nearly [reached] the very bowels and veins of the Church.” He also said, “the rationalists are not wanting in their applause, and the most frank and sincere among them congratulate themselves on having found in the Modernists the most valuable of all allies” (Pascendi, no. 39).
The steps taken by Pius X to find a remedy for this evil system resulted in the decline of Modernism in just a few years. The principal agitators were removed from teaching positions in the Catholic Church, and new impetus was given to philosophical and theological studies in keeping with the principles of Saint Thomas Aquinas.
Although firm in doctrine, Pius X nevertheless showed great kindness towards those who had gone astray. In 1908, he recommended to the new bishop of Châlons (France): “You are going to be Father Loisy’s bishop (Loisy, called the “father of modernism” by some, was excommunicated because of his persistence in the heresy.) Treat him with kindness and, if he makes one step towards you, make two steps towards him.” This was a concrete application of his principle: “Fight error, without touching the individual.” Hate sin and error…but seek the salvation of the sinner.
[L]ike the Cure of Ars, whom St. Pius beatified, he did not miss an opportunity to do his enemies a good turn. One day, a certain citizen of Mantua penned a newspaper article libeling its bishop, an offence for which he could have been sent to jail. Despite the advice of his assistants, the good bishop refused to prosecute, or to take any other action. “What that poor man needs is prayer, not punishment,” he declared. When, soon afterwards, the libeler went bankrupt and it looked as though he really would go to jail, it was St. Pius who saved him by sending him money anonymously. “Say that it is a gift from Our Lady of Perpetual Help,” he told the messenger.
Yet, Modernism, so vigorously denounced by St. Pius X, unfortunately did not disappear. In 1950, Pius XII, in the encyclical Humani generis, warned against various errors, many of which were related to Modernism. The philosopher Jacques Maritain, not free of the heresy himself, stated in one of his books (Le Paysan de la Garonne (1966)) that “the Modernism of Pius X’s time was a mere hayfever” in comparison to the neo-Modernist movement that was currently in vogue.
During the General Audience of January 19, 1972, Pope Paul VI denounced “errors which could completely ruin our Christian conception of life and history. These errors were expressed in a typical manner in Modernism which, under other names, is still widespread.” On September 14th of the same year, Cardinal Heenan, Archbishop of Westminster, echoed the Pope’s declaration, observing that, although the word “heretic” is no longer used in our times, “heretics have by no means ceased to exist. Heresy number one is what we are accustomed to calling Modernism… Modernism is back, and will appear again as the primary threat to the Church of tomorrow. As authority of all sorts has become universally unpopular, the climate has never been more favorable towards a renewed attack against the authority of God and the Magisterium of His Church. The Resurrection, the Holy Trinity, the immortality of the soul, the Sacraments, the Sacrifice of the Mass, the indissolubility of marriage, the right to life of unborn children, of the elderly and the incurably ill—all these doctrines accepted without problem by Catholics till now, will very likely be the object of attacks in the Church of tomorrow.” The experience of the few decades reveals the truth of this analysis. Cardinal Joseph Siri of Genoa in his work Gethsemane: Reflections on the Contemporary Theological Movement (1981) proves and verifies that Modernism is alive and well in our times. All this makes us appreciate the efforts, writings and teachings of St. Pius X … and that we seek to understand them to keep ourselves free of this heresy.
We are living in a time in which to keep our faith alive, we must study and know our faith. We must know it as it has always been known… and that is why Tradition will keep us sane in such times as these…
Homily given on September 2, 2013, the Feast of St. Stephen of Hungry