“Modernism is not merely a political stance in opposition to traditionalism,” said the priest at the Latin Mass I attended that Sunday. “Modernism is refusal to submit to the Church. It is the idea that ‘I’ make the rules and am the authority. By the way… you will find more Catholics like this in Extraordinary Form Masses than in Ordinary Form Masses.”
After receiving Our Lord and leaving for home, I wrestled with this particular part of the sermon very hard. By this definition of Modernism, I have most certainly been guilty at times. I thought about all the different “modernist” thinkers and what they believed, I thought about the “modernizing” trends in the Church with which I have had firsthand experience, I reflected on the many “traditionalist” Catholics I have shared pews with, and I considered the thought “process” of modern man and his continual vain pursuit of pleasure.
So… was this priest right in his assertions?
First of all, I would like to state the one thing that was not quite correct. You will not find “more” modernists in Latin Masses than in Novus Ordo Masses. The numbers alone make such a thing impossible. By this definition, will you find as high of a proportion of modernists in Latin Mass Churches as at their Novus Ordo counterparts? As someone who has spent time in both, I am sadly inclined to say yes. There are many in both types of communities who are good Catholics and many who twist the Church’s teachings and cut out things they find inconvenient. To my readers who are Latin Massers, there are not as many modernists in the Ordinary Form Masses as you may believe, but they definitely exist.
The priest was dead right on his explanation of the root cause of Modernism. Unfortunately, many of us who see modernism as a threat tend to be too narrowly focused on one specific “branch” of it that we miss the underlying reasons…. even within ourselves.
Consider the definition of modernism as given above and consider the following false ideas that we see all too often.
First Wave Modernism (Late 19th/Early 20th century): The scriptures are but helpful myths and the Catholic Church was not what Christ intended even if it is the best vehicle for his teachings. Sacraments and Church Dogma were not there from the beginning and were developed by the early Christians in the first three hundred years after Christ. We can discount the biblical proof of these Sacraments because can we really believe that the Gospels were written by the four evangelists?
Second Wave Modernism (mid-20th century): The old traditions and culture of the Church are no longer helpful to modern man. Modern western man needs liturgy, beliefs, and a Church that speaks down to his level. We must look outside the deposit of the faith for inspirations of how to reach modern man… how about some 19th century German philosophy?
Third Wave Modernism (21st century): The morals that the Church espouses (because she received them from Christ) are outdated and no longer relevant. Modern man is progressing and the Church must keep pace to be “cool” and “relevant” (Like the Anglicans!). The Church needs to open itself up to the destructive anti-mores that have destroyed any semblance of family life in the West. Humanae Vitae… what is that? (Pope Paul VI, soon to be canonized, pray for us!)
Ultramontanism: The Church is fully at the mercy of Papal whims and desire. If a pope wishes to let divorced and remarried commune, he has that power to do so and we must obey him. The pope is the final authority on everything. Period.
Obedientism: A Catholic is bound not only to papal whim but to every whim of the clerical authority above him. If a bishop tells you to do something you must do it even if it goes against morality or the Faith. Don’t rock the boat! What are you, a disobedient schismatic SSPX-er?
“Traditionalist” Ultra-Reactionaries: The Church in Rome is gone. We can have nothing to do with it. The only priests I will take Sacraments from are those who I deem valid and not modernist.
Modern Neo-Paganism: Ugh… religion. So uncool! Ugh… books. Boring! Ugh… anything that makes me uncomfortable is totally killing my mood. Don’t be a hater! Ugh… you need to be open-minded! Something that doesn’t validate my biases? F*** that! I hate you!
What we see here is that all these errors have the same root cause: denial of objective truth beyond the whims of man. I want it, therefore I will I and believe it. The pope or <INSERT POPULAR PERSON HERE> wills it therefore it is true. God and what He wants of us does not factor into the equation.
ALL of the above are examples of modernism. All of them must be guarded against. In a roundabout way, Pascendi was right in saying Modernism is the synthesis of all heresies. It skips all he “frivolous” intellectualism and theology that something like Monothelitism or Calvinism hides behind and strikes to the heart of the issue: I believe something because I want to believe it and the truth has nothing to do with it.
Modernism is distilled essence of heresy in its purest form. That is all it is.
This is an especial point of caution for American Catholics. Too often we, reinforced by a terrible public education system and a garbage media, politicize everything into “left” and “right”. When we see others go to one extreme, we rush into the arms of the other without considering a third and better option. You are Republican or Democrat. You are conservative or liberal. You are Coke or Pepsi. You are Socialist or Capitalist/Corporatist.
You are “traditionalist” or “modernist”.
No! You are with God and His truths or you are with mammon and the whims of men. The will of God is all that matters, what the world wants is irrelevant.