– Pope St. Pius X – Pascendi Dominici Gregis –
The Modernist as Apologist
35. The Modernist apologist depends in two ways on the philosopher. First, indirectly, inasmuch as his subject-matter is history – history dictated, as we have seen, by the philosopher; and, secondly, directly, inasmuch as he takes both his doctrines and his conclusions from the philosopher. Hence that common axiom of the Modernist school that in the new apologetics controversies in religion must be determined by psychological and historical research. The Modernist apologists, the, enter the arena, proclaiming to the rationalists that, though they are defending religion, they have no intention of employing the data of the sacred books or the histories in current use in the Church, and written upon the old lines, but real history composed on modern principles and according to the modern method. In all this they assert that they are not using an argumentation ad hominem, because they are really of the opinion that the truth is to be found only in this kind of history. They feel that it is not necessary for them to make profession of their own sincerity in their writings. They are already known to and praised by the rationalists as fighting under the same banner, and they not only plume themselves on these encomiums, which would only provoke disgust in a real Catholic, but use them as a counter-compensation to the reprimands of the Church.
Modernist Apologetic Methodology
Let us see how the Modernist conducts his apologetics. The aim he sets before himself is to make one who is still without faith attain that experience of the Catholic religion which, according to the system, is the sole basis of faith. There are two ways open to him, the objective and the subjective. The first of them starts from agnosticism. It tends to show that religion, and especially the Catholic religion, is endowed with such vitality as to compel every psychologist and historian of good faith to recognize that its history hides some element of the unknown. To this end it is necessary to prove that the Catholic religion, as it exists today, is that which has founded by Jesus Christ; that is to say, that it is nothing else than the progressive development of the germ which He brought into the world. Hence it is imperative first of all to establish what this germ was, and this the Modernist claims to be able to do by the following formula: Christ announced the coming of the Kingdom of God, which was to be realized within a brief lapse of time and of which He was to become the Messias, the divinely-given founder and ruler. Then it must be shown how this germ, always immanent and permanent in the Catholic religion, has gone on slowly developing in the course of history, adapting itself successively to the different circumstances through which it has passed, borrowing from them by vital assimilation all the doctrinal, cultural, ecclesiastical forms that served its purpose; while, on the other hand, it surmounted all obstacles, vanquished all enemies, and survived all assaults and all combats. Anyone who well and duly considers this mass of obstacles, adversaries, attacks, combats, and the vitality and fecundity which the Church has shown throughout them all, must admit that if the laws of evolution are visible in her life they fail to explain the whole of her history – the unknown rises forth from it and presents itself before us. Thus do they argue, not perceiving that their determination of the primitive germ is only an a priori assumption of agnostic and evolutionist philosophy, and that the germ itself has been gratuitously defined so that it may fit in with their contention.
– Lucas G. Westman