Page 4, 4th March 1983

4th March 1983
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Page 4, 4th March 1983 — How early modernists aid helpful debate
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How early modernists aid helpful debate

THE INTERESTING article by Fr Sanders, February 18, Question Box, calls attention anew to the whole modernist issue as it arose at the turn of the century.

It was essentially a movement restricted to the Catholic Church and was strongly opposed to any form of liberal Protestantism. But is was never a coherent or organised group.

Various figures arose who were .concerned with the attempt to relate the Church and its teaching to the issues begotten by the contemporary world, But interests differed widely.

For example, Loisy and Houtin became detached from anything easily discernable as expressing a religious view of life. whilst sociology entered deeply into the Italian movement. , On the other hand. Fr Tyrrell was seeking to relate the value of individual dogmas to the spiritual and devotional.

To be acceptable, a dogma must have a devotional value. It is interesting that Tyrrell was opposed to dogma in a manner which was the exact reverse of the attitude to be found in the liberal Catholics of the Rambler days.

He went far beyond anything acceptable to such figures as the Baron von Hugel. Wilfred Ward or Edmund Bishop. It must be remembered that Tyrrell's last years were lived under the terrible blight of Bright's disease and that ,this had a clear effect upon his later writing.

Tyrrell was essentially a pragmatist, a fact not surprising in the age of William James and the fashionable philosophy of the period.

The binding lessott to be learned from the conclusion of the movement is that authority is not always the best weapon to use. The banning by authority in the diocese of Southwark of a Catholic funeral for Tyrrell caused a certain amount of scandal which was not alleviated by the activities of Miss Petre.

Indeed, it is urged frequently that a different attitude would have been adopted by Cardinal Bourne had the matter fallen within his jurisdiction. Pascendi and Lamentabilis formed an authoritarian basis for the suppression of the movement. The

anti-Modernist oath was intended to have the same effect among Catholic theologians.

An attitude was taken up by the Biblical Commission more analogous to that of Protestant fundamentalists than to serious and critical Biblical scholarship.

As a result, Catholic scholarship passed over into some thirty years of sterility in relevant subjects whilst outstanding figures such as Lagrange. Duchesne or Battifol were "suspect". Modernism ran under. ground where it still existed only to emerge again with the contemporary progressive movements within the church and in a world where the anti-Modernist oath is no more.

I would like to suggest that the suppression of the modernists by authority has led to unfortunate long-term results. The whole movement called for argument and not for suppression. A renewed interest in Tyrrell among scholars to-day shows that some of his work has survived and is still • relevant, just as it illustrates the out-of-date nature of his pragmatism.

Loisy's wilder conclusions in Biblical studies have been corrected by the growth of learning in these lieids Vatican two and its sequels have done much to render more comfortable the position of the Catholic intellectual. It is this spirit of inquiry which many will desire to go ahead in a form which is not hostile to the magisterium but which seeks a deepening of intellectual relevance in an ordered liberty.

It could well be that the modernists of almost a century ago roused a debate which. in the last resort is helpful rather than damaging to the church of the twenty-first century as its shape begins to emerge to-day, Amphiett Mickiewright London SE25.

I AGREE with Fr Sanders, that some of the errors resembling modernism are again in the Church. In fact. the resemblance is so striking as to appear identical.

Who could deny the following specified symptoms: Religious teaching is mancentred; There is much emphasis on people's "feelings"; Attempts are made to adapt the Church and its teaching to modern needs: There are few, if any, immutable truths; all must be open to re-interpretation.

With regard to people's feelings, the item is not exactly consistent with the prevalent idea that man has come of age and is very enlightened. In practice, it has the effect of inhibiting those qualified to correct errors; e.g.. if the truth might offend the sensibilities of a non-Catholic, it should be kept from him. So they beat about the bush and speak in ecumenical ambiguities — or not at all.

Some of the "creative minds" referred to were actually at the Council. They have had their fling for more than twenty years past.

A comparison of the state of the Church before and since the anti-modernist Oath fell into disuse points to the commonsense of those pre-conciliar controls.

The endless debates sanctioned by the council are not going to result in any change of Catholic doctrine. as some seem to hope. The Arcic is a case in point. Twelve years of discussion resulted in rejection by the Vatican of the final report. When the observations of the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith were issued. the Protestant Archbishop McAdoo remarked in surprise that there seemed to be an underlying assumption that the doctrinal position of the Catholic Church was the criterion. How right he was Arcic Two is going to be one more tremendous waste of time and money.

St Pius X's pascendi and the decree which followed it, Lamenrobin, are still as up-to-date in the eighties as ever they were. Only when this is generally recognised and acted upon will the one true Church be restored to normal.

May McLoughlin Kent.

A sad omission

I WAS amazed to read that neither ITV nor BBC will show religious programmes featuring Princess Grace, although they will be shown in other European countries.

Channel 4 rejected them for the ludicrous reason that the 'Hail Marys' at the end savour too much of sponsorship. This from a commercial TV channel famous for its uninhibited bad language points up very sharply our hypocritical morality.

Huddersfield Bridget Krasinska




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