Saturday, January 24, 2015


Of all the conceivable forms of enlightenment the worst is what the people call the Inner Light.  Of all horrible religions the most horrible is the worship of the god within…That Jones shall worship the god within him turns out ultimately to mean that Jones shall worship Jones.  Let Jones worship the sun or moon…cats or crocodiles, if he can find any in his street, but not the god within.
~G. K. Chesterton

A Research Report by Betsy Kraus

The beginnings of Modernism can be traced back to antiquity when ancient heresies plagued the early Church. Among those errors were Gnosticism, Monism, Montanism and Neo-Platonism, which gave rise to later Cabalism. Other heresies throughout the ensuing centuries fed into or influenced what is now defined as Modernism, which culminated in Nouvelle Theology (Neo-Modernism.) As Nouvelle Theology is the inheritor of Modernism [Mettepennington], Modernism will be examined first. 

As early as 1835, the Church defined Modernism and condemned the approach of certain priests and professors in German universities who were using the Modern Philosophy of Descartes, Kant, and Hegel. These thinkers were attempting to reinterpret the Articles of Faith. Hence, the teaching office was being profaned and the sacred Deposit of Faith was being adulterated Modernism including ancient heresies, was further spread to the Churches by the Rationalists.

Rationalism began in the 16th and 17th centuries. It was further developed with the Enlightenment of the 18th century, and then it incorporated Liberalism in the 19th century. Under the influence of secular philosophy, liberal Protestantism, and anti-Christian philosophies of thinkers like Kant, Hegel, Marx, and Engels, a new philosophy, Existentialism, emerged, especially in France. It was only a matter of time before this new philosophy influenced the science of Theology and spread to Catholic thinkers. “Existentialism…is at the heart of the moral as well as the doctrinal revolution. It not only destroys the metaphysical framework of reality by which the mind ascends to God, reducing everything to a fog and a flux where He is lost, it provides the justification for situation ethics…and the theory of fundamental option ( there is only one grave sin - not to be ‘committed to Christ’ or ‘a man for others’.”) (1)
Enamored by liberal and doctrinal Protestant Modernism, the Catholic Modernist intelligentsia readily adopted the language and concepts of their Protestant Modernist brethren, (Kierkegaard, Schleiermacher, and a host of Swiss, German, American, and English Protestants.) Catholic scholars, intimidated by the immense erudition of pioneering Protestants, started to imitate their tone and manner showing a disdainful attitude to the Church’s devotional life and past. “When the spirit began to reach the non-scholarly and to penetrate footnotes to the Bible, the consequences were ruinous. The clergy were the worst affected.” (2)   

In addition, the philosophy, generated by Catholic thinkers of the Italian Renaissance (14th-16th Centuries), contributed to elements of Modernism. Renaissance philosophy was key in the revival of Hermeticism, magic, and Humanism in Renaissance Europe. The Kabbala (Jewish mystical Tree of Life or Sepherot) was included in the studies of these philosophers. Vestiges of ancient Hellenistic Greek culture provided humanist scholars with new texts.  Catholic Renaissance thinkers considered primary sources of Greek and Roman thought, Neoplatonism, Stoicism, Epicureanism, and Skepticism, which were used in critiques against Scholasticism. Neo-Platonism was a pagan, idealistic, spiritualist philosophy which tended toward mysticism. It reflected pagan polytheism, meaning emanating gods from one god, or Monadism, Because of such concepts, it was used as a weapon against 1st Century Christianity. Originating in Egypt, with a Hellenistic spirit, it was mostly influenced by the religious ideal and mystic tendencies of Oriental thought. It also denied The Church’s teaching “ex nihilo” that God created the world from nothing. As Neo- Platonism swept Europe, Protestant thinkers could not have been immune to such influences, either. As a testimony to the lasting effects of Neo-Platonism, some of its concepts are reflected in both Modernist and Nouvelle Theology and will be examined later.

By the 1870’s, learned Catholics, in their attempt to make faith or supernatural knowledge appear reasonable to unbelieving contemporaries, found that they were, instead, losing their own faith. Due to their studies and accompanying temptations, their faith collapsed. The Modernists wished to harmonize faith to modern physical and historical science and, hence, became critics of Scholastic philosophy and theology. Modernism reduced Revelation to fairy tales told by men who invented stories because they did not have science and modern thought at their disposal. Sources of knowledge needed to be woven into religion, thus necessitating the evolution of religious thought, setting the stage for possible evolution of Dogma and Doctrine. Modernism was the intellectual subordination of the Church to secular learning, and the consequential blending of many heresies.
Institut Catholique in Paris
International science congresses were held to assist in spreading Modernistic thought. The purpose of the rector of the Intsitut Catholique in Paris was to help scholars defend their newly embraced heresies. Luminaries like Jesuit Fr. George Tyrrell (1861-1909) and Fr. Alfred Loisy (1857-1940) vigorously promoted the tenets of Modernism. Loisy, a Scripture scholar, professor and theologian, preached at the Institut Catholique. Both he and Tyrrell were excommunicated, but Loisy was excommunicated “Vitandus”, a rare and grave form of excommunication that forbade the faithful to associate with a heretic, except in cases of relatives or servants. Tyrrell was influenced by the French philosopher, Maurice Blondel (1861-1949). As Blondel was a layman, some say he escaped excommunication. However, he taught an esoteric “philosophy of action”. This was a blend of Neoplatonism and pragmatism, which insists that practical consequences are the test of truth, while it opposes the formalism or rationalism of Intellectualistic philosophy. In addition, Edouard LeRoy and Lucien Laberthonniere, along with Blondel, questioned the narrow definitions of Catholicism, which had been developed by scholastic thinkers. Blondel’s work did not escape being targeted by Pope Pius X’s encyclical Pascendi Dominic Gregis, which exposed the truly ugly heresies of the Modernists.

Here is what Modernism professes: The human soul, creator of dogmas, is also the creator of moral precepts, and that by an absolutely autonomous act. Its will is the living and sovereign law, for in it is definitively expressed the will of the God immanent in us. The Divine flame, which warms the atmosphere of our life, will inevitably cause those hidden germs of morality to develop which the absolute has implanted. Hence, there can be no longer any question of effort, of virtue, or of responsibility; these words have lost their meaning, since there is neither original nor actual and freely willed transgression. There is no longer any blameworthy concupiscence; all our instincts are impregnated with Divinity, all our desires are just, good, and holy. To follow the impulse of passion, to rehabilitate the flesh (Saint-Simon, Leroux, Fourrier), which is one form under which the Divinity manifests itself (Heine), this is duty. In this way, indeed, we cooperate in the redemption which is being accomplished day by day, and which will be consummated when the absolute shall have completed its incarnation in humanity. The part which moral science has to play consists in discovering the laws which govern this evolution, so that man in his conduct may conform to them (Berthelot) and thus ensure the collective happiness of humanity; social utility is to be hence-forward the principle of all morality; solidarity (Bourgeois), which procures it, is the most scientific form of immanent morality, and of this man is, in the universe, the beginning and the end.(3)
The above concepts allowed Modernists to embrace Panentheism, based on the Greek words meaning ‘all’, ‘in’, and ‘God’. This view teaches that God is neither fully distinct from the universe (as in classical theism), nor identical with the universe (as in pantheism). Instead, the universe exists ‘in’ or ‘within’ God, or, “all-in-God-ism”. [Anderson]  Theism teaches that God created the universe.  Panentheism teaches that the Universe is in God or the Divine and is a cosmic animating force which interpenetrates every part of the universe with His own substance. Catholicism teaches that God is immanent in the world through His Omnipresence, but not His substance. The doctrine of Divine immanence, or Omnipresence, was transformed into “Vital immanence” and then became “absolute immanence”, totally triumphing over God’s transcendence.  Such manipulations of truth now allow the world and everything in it to become “Sacramental or sacred”.
Panentheism was introduced into Catholic thought during the Renaissance by Nicholas of Cusa (1401-1464), and later by the Modernist and heretic, George Tyrell, who was influenced by works of the German Idealist, Karl Christian Krause (1781-1832). Panentheism has its roots in Neo-Platonism, the Enlightenment, and mysticism. The first systematic panentheists were Fichte (1762-1814), Schleiermacher (1768-1834), Hegel (1770-1831), Schelling (1775-1854), Bauer, Fetcher, and Pfleiderer. Other more current thinkers who employ the concept of panentheism are Jürgen Moltmann (1926- ), Leonardo Boff (Liberation Theology, 1938- ), and Matthew Fox. (1940- ) [Fahlbusch] Protestant theologians have contributed to recent developments of panentheism by continuing the German Idealist tradition or the tradition of Process Philosophy. ‘Although the majority of the contemporary expressions of panentheism involve scientists and protestant theologians or philosophers, articulations of forms of panentheism have developed among feminists, in the Roman Catholic tradition, in the Orthodox tradition, and in religions other than Christianity’.” (4)
Liberation Theology and the Trinity
 Was the Socialistic aspect of Liberation Theology derived by Modernists’ interpretation of the Trinity? Some Nouvelle thinkers regarded the inter-relations of the Trinity, and its presence in the world, in a Panentheistic and/or a Trinitarian way. Leading liberation theologian, Leonardo Boff, disliked the Trinitarian hierarchical model of “One God”. He thought this model justified political power-structures that oppressed the poor.  He focused on the “Threeness” rather than the “Oneness” of the Trinity. This concept promoted such heresies as Tritheism and Trinitarianism. These heresies embraced the concept of a unity of three persons, leading to the acceptance of a composition of God, rather that the absolute simplicity of God. “Community of the Trinity” heresies against the simplicity of God were condemned in 1148 at the Synod in Rheims. Nonetheless, as Boff viewed the Trinity as “community”, he took this as a model to promote the ideal of human society as a unified group of equal people.  

 From false models of the Trinity, Boff could then conclude that each church and community becomes a unity in which diversity flourishes, and differences are seen as valuable and essential elements in the substance of these institutions. [BBC- Religions] The implications of Boff’s Liberation Theology concept of the Trinity are enormous when such heresies regarding the Trinity are applied to the “community of mankind”. Wouldn’t such ideas justify a dismantling of the Hierarchical Church and, in addition, establish Socialism? Might this view of the Trinity also be the inspiration for “Communitarian” movements?   
Obliviously such heretical “Threeness” ideas were present before Boff’s time. Did the Catholic movement called “Le Sillon” also draw its conclusions from these old Trinitarian heresies? The “Le Sillon” movement was founded in 1894 by French thinker, Marc Sagnier. Le Sillon was the “Democratic” arm of Modernism”. Sagnier said that Sillonists wanted to completely level social differences and create a “One World Church” by joining “unbelievers”. In response, the Pope emphasized that a Catholic view of social justice meant considering the needs of both the powerful and the poor. Also, the Pope stated that the Sillonists did not accept the fact that authority comes first from God, then down to authorized leaders, and from there to the people. Sagnier’s thinking would have supported “the People’s Church” and the mentality of Liberation Theology. Pope Pius X’s encyclical, Notre Charge Apostolique, took issue with what he viewed as the socialist leanings of the Le Sillon. With his encyclical in 1910, Pius X condemned Le Sillon and shut it down.  He considered this movement to be one of the worst of all the heresies. Running concurrently to this movement was Father Don Romolo Murri’s Lega’s Democartica Natzionali in Italy. As a result of espousing socialism, Murri was forbidden all his priestly rights. 
Existentialism & Phenomenology
Personalism, another source for the development of Nouvelle Theology, was inspired by intellectual thinkers like Emmanuel Mounier, Jacques Maritain, Nicholas Berdyaev, and Jean Danielou. Mounier might have been the most influential thinker in this personalist movement. Although there are many forms of personalism, the thinking of the Catholic, Mounier, followed strict personalism. “Strict personalism places the person at the center of a philosophical system that originates from an “intuition” of the person himself, and then goes on to analyse the personal reality and the personal experience that are the objects of this intuition. The method of the main twentieth-century European version of this strict personalism draws extensively from phenomenology and existentialism, departing from traditional metaphysics and constituting a separate philosophical system.” (Emphasis, Ed.) (5) According to a report by Catholic Restoration, personalism consists in a type of Christological pantheism in which ideas of man and God are confused due to a false notion of the dignity of the human person. These ideas then formulate a personalism of religious liberty that grants rights to every imaginable personal conviction.  

Mounier was the editor of the French journal, Esprit. He “had pre-war contacts with a kaleidoscope of thinkers engaged in similar speculations: Jean Danielou, the future cardinal; Jean Guitton, who would one day become a close friend and advisor to Pope Paul VI; Jaques Maritan, Nicholas Berdyaev and the circle of friends at the former’s home outside Paris; Henri Daniel-Rops and his fellow members of the organization Ordre Nouveau (New Order) Belgians inspired by the “spiritualized Socialism” of Henri de Man’; proponents of European cooperation like Otto Abet, the Nazi ambassador to defeat France; and a group of ‘revolutionary National Socials’ gathered in the early 1930s around Hitler rivals Gregor and Otto Strasser.” (6) Mounier’s personalism was the inspiration for the Catholic Workers Movement founded by Dorothy Day and Peter Maurin.

Among the major tools of the Modernists were Darwinism, biblical criticism, and influences of Neo-Platonism. The combination of these applications destroyed belief in supernatural Revelation by God, and fulfillment in Christ which was recorded in Scripture. Such erroneous thinking led them to additional errors: 1) God cannot be known and proved to exist by natural reason. 2) Miracles and prophecies do not prove the divine origin of the Christian religion. 3) Christ did not found a Church. 4) The essential structure of the Church can change. 5) The Church’s dogmas continually evolve over time so meaning can change. 6) Faith is a blind religious feeling that wells up from the subconscious under the impulse of a heart and a will trained to morality, and there is no real assent of the intellect to divine truth learned from an external source. Because of such subjective experiences, God is profoundly immanent in the world. [Trower] As stated earlier, this led to a tendency towards Pantheism, which then leads to self-deification.

In bypassing the intellect, the mind and the body were downgraded, and instincts became just as important as the mind or soul. This concept has numerous implications, which possibly include the acceptance of the dumbing down of students through progressive education.

Absolute immanence justified “Inner Experience” which allowed for Pragmatism to surface. Pragmatism considers the usefulness or practical consequences as a test of a truth, a concept would become “true” if it was “alive” or practiced by many people and only if it was “meaningful. Such “alive” thinking allows for caring more about results than the truth. (Praxis over Orthodoxy). In the name of “Ecumenism”, all denominations began to emphasize orthopraxis (right action) at the expense of orthodoxy (true belief.).  Philip Trower’s report (sources, 2.) informs us that Orthopraxis is utilized as the proper basis for Christian reunion.

Pope Pius IX’s Syllabus of Errors was released in 1864 to combat the rising tide of heretical   Modernism. By 1907, Pope St. Pius X, trying to reign in those who had not already been excommunicated, those who were devious, and those who posed as Catholics (but no longer were), issued the decree Lamentabili and the encyclical Pascendi Dominici Gregis. Both he and the ordinary faithful, who fought against Modernism were attacked for defending the faith.  After Pius X took these measures, Modernism, went underground but operators like Labertonniere, LeRoy, and Teilhard de Chardin, persisted in writing and spreading their errors openly.

By the 20th century liberal Protestant, Hermann Gunkel, founded the form-criticism of the Old Testament, while Rudolf Bultmann, also a liberal Protestant, founded the form-criticism for the New Testament. Form- criticism is an attempt to reconstruct the theological opinions of the primitive church and pre-Talmudic Judaism. At Vatican II, this included changing the concept of Revelation from a doctrinal, intellectualistic concept to an historical-salvific concept, and the result is a personalistic perspective of Revelation. [Fedlini]  Bultmann’s “lecture [on] New Testament and Mythology: The Problem of Demythologizing the New Testament Message called on interpreters to replace traditional supernaturalism (demythologize) with the temporal and existential categories of Bultmann's colleague, Martin Heidegger, rejecting doctrines such as the pre-existence of Christ. Bultmann believed this endeavor would make accessible to modern audiences—already immersed in science and technology—the reality of Jesus' teaching  stripping it of elements of the first-century "mythical world picture" that had potential to alienate modern people from Christian faith.” (Emphasis, Ed.) (7)

(Later, in 1994, The Pontifical Biblical Commission presented to John Paul II a report entitled The Interpretation of the Bible in the Church. This report explained modern biblical scholarship in general. It considered sociological, psychological, psychoanalytical, feminist, and liberation theology factors. “New methods and new approaches have appeared, from structuralism to materialistic, psychoanalytic and liberation exegesis. On the other hand, there are also new attempts to recover patristic exegesis and to include renewed forms of a spiritual interpretation of Scripture. Thus the Pontifical Biblical Commission took as its task an attempt to take the bearings of Catholic exegesis in the present situation 100 years after "Providentissimus Deus" and 50 years after "Divino Afflante Spiritu.") (8)

A “Church of Discontentment” was enlarged with the aid of Modernism’s continued interest in, and influence of, the intellectually inquiring Catholic clergy and laity. In 1950 Pope Pius XII wrote his encyclical, Humani Generis, On False Trends in Modern Teaching, to attempt, once again, to quell the dissent, but by the time Vatican II Council convened in 1962, a number of Nouvelle Theologians, the inheritors of Modernism, were invited to be “periti” (advisors) at the Council. 
Next:  Nouvelle Theology 

1. Casini, Lorenzo, “Renaissance Philosophy”, Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
2. Trower, Philip, “The Church Learned and the Revolt of the Scholars”, Chapter 4, p. 13.
3. Knight, Kevin, Ed., “Immanence”, New Advent: The Catholic Encyclopedia,
4.”Panentheism”, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Revised 2/5/2013.
5. Williams, Thomas D. and Bengtsson, Jan Olof, Editors, “Personalism”, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Revised December 2, 2013.
6. Rao, John C., “The Bad Seed: The liberal-fascist embrace – and its post conciliar consequences”, the Latin Mass Magazine, 2001.
7. “Rudolph Bultmann, Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, Modified: 12/6/2014.
8. Ratzinger, Cardinal Joseph, The Interpretation of the Bible in the Church: Preface”, Pontifical Bible Commission, 1993.

1. Akin, James, Modernism. 1900-1910, 1966- present.
2. Trower, Philip, “The Church Learned and the Revolt of the Scholars”, Catholic Culture.
3. “Alfred Loisy”, Wikipedia, the free encyclopia. Modified 11/4/2014.
4. McCarthy, John F. “Is Modernism Still Active in the Catholic Church? (Part 1)”, Living Tradition Organ of the Roman Theological Forum, March 2004.
 5. Knox, Ronald A, Enthusiasm A Chapter in the History of Religion, Oxford University Press, New York and Oxford, 1950.
5. Taouk, Raymond, “Modernism – A Catholic Refutation”.
 6. Notre Charge Apostolique Wikipedia a free encyclopedia, Modified July 10, 2014.
7.Mettepenningen, Jürgen, Nouvelle Theologie – New Theology Inheritor of Modernism, Precursor of Vatican II, T & T Clark International, New York, NY, 2010
8. Anderson, James N., “Why I am not a Panentheist”, Analogical Thoughts, 1/24/2012.  (The Illustration of Pantheism and Panentheism is credited to this site.)
10. Fedeli, Orlando, “Jean Guitton and the Modernism of the II Vatican Council”.
11. “The Trinity”, BBC- Religions-Christianity-The Trinity, Last updated 7/21/11.