Pope Saint Pius X Against Modernism
By JACOB MICHAEL
In his encyclical Pascendi, Pope St. Pius X said of Modernism,
"can anybody . . . be surprised that We should define it as the synthesis
of all heresies?" He identified Modernism as the most dangerous threat
to the Catholic Church, in part because, even as far back as 1907 (when
the encyclical was written), Modernists "[belonged] to the Catholic laity,
and, what is much more sad, to the ranks of the priesthood itself." He
said that "injury [to the Church] is the more certain," because "the more
intimate is their knowledge of her" as insiders.
In almost 100 years, nothing has changed. In fact, it's gotten worse,
and we now contend with Modernists, not only in the laity and in the priesthood,
but even amongst the bishops and "cardinals."
How do we identify a Modernist? The fast and easy way is to simply examine
their teachings. But this raises the next question: how do we identify
Modernism as a teaching?
To this question, I have compiled a list of identifying marks of
Modernism, all taken directly from the sainted Pope's encyclical. Let's
examine these marks, so that we will be better equipped to identify (and
renounce) Modernist teachings when we see them.
"Belong to the Catholic laity, and, what is much more sad, to the ranks
of the priesthood itself."
"Put themselves forward as reformers of the Church."
"Degrade [the Person of the Divine Redeemer] to the condition of a simple
and ordinary man."
"Put into operation their designs for her [the Church's] undoing, not from
without but from within."
"Proceed to diffuse poison through the whole tree, so that there is no
part of Catholic truth which they leave untouched."
"Play the double part of rationalist and Catholic."
"Lead a life of the greatest activity, of assiduous and ardent application
to every branch of learning."
"Possess, as a rule, a reputation for irreproachable morality."
"Disdain all authority and brook no restraint."
"Present their doctrines without order and systematic arrangement, in a
scattered and disjointed manner."
"Includes within himself a manifold personality; he is a philosopher, a
believer, a theologian, an historian, a critic, an apologist, a reformer."
"[Infer] that God can never be the direct object of science."
"Contrive to make the transition from Agnosticism . . . to scientific and
"Embrace and to devise novelties even of the most absurd kind."
"Seek to be the reformers of others while they forget to reform themselves."
"Are found to be utterly wanting in respect for authority, even for the
"Show . . . contempt for scholasticism."
"Recognize that the three chief difficulties which stand in their way are
the scholastic method of philosophy, the authority and tradition of the
Fathers, and the magisterium of the Church."
"Exercise all their ingenuity in an effort to weaken the force and falsify
the character of tradition, so as to rob it of all its weight and authority."
"Pass judgment on the holy Fathers of the Church."
"Seize upon professorships in the seminaries and universities."
"Disseminate their doctrines [from the pulpit], although possibly in utterances
which are veiled."
"Drag into the light [when writing of history], on the plea of telling
the whole truth, everything that appears to cast a stain upon the Church."
"Have persuaded themselves that in all this they are really serving God
and the Church."
"Twist the words of the Pontiff to their own sense, while they described
his action as directed against others than themselves."
Battle Tactics Against Modernism:
"Both science and history must be atheistic."
"There is room for nothing but phenomena [things perceptible to the senses]."
"Religion is a form of life, [and] the explanation must certainly be found
in the life of man."
"Faith, which is the basis and foundation of all religion, must consist
in a certain interior sense, originating in a need of the divine."
"This need of the divine . . . is first latent . . . in the subconsciousness,
where also its root lies hidden and undetected."
"This sense possesses . . . the divine reality itself, and in a way unites
man with God."
"There is also to be found revelation [in this sense]."
"Every religion . . . must be considered as both natural and supernatural
. . . thus . . . consciousness and revelation [are] synonymous."
"Religious consciousness is to be put on an equal footing with revelation."
"In the Person of Christ . . . science and history encounter nothing that
is not human."
"Whatever there is in His history suggestive of the divine must be rejected."
"The historical Person of Christ was transfigured by faith."
"The Person of Christ has been disfigured by faith."
"Everything should be excluded, deeds and words and all else, that is not
in strict keeping with His character, condition, and education, and with
the place and time in which He lived."
"The religious sense, which . . . emerges from the lurking-places of the
subconsciousness, is the germ of all religion."
"This sense . . . gradually matured with the progress of human life . .
. . This, then, is the origin of all, even of supernatural religion."
"Religions are mere developments of this religious sense."
"The Catholic religion . . . is quite on a level with the rest; for it
was engendered, by the process of vital immanence, and by no other way,
in the consciousness of Christ."
"God, indeed, presents Himself to man, but in a manner so confused and
indistinct that He can hardly be perceived by the believer."
"Formulas [dogmas] . . . stand midway between the believer and his faith;
in their relation to the faith they are the inadequate expression of its
object, and are usually called symbols."
"It is quite impossible to maintain that they [dogmas] absolutely contain
"[Dogmas] are the images of truth, and so must be adapted to the religious
sense in its relation to man."
"Dogma must be . . . therefore, liable to change."
"Dogma is not only able, but ought to evolve and to be changed."
"Religious formulas . . . ought to be living and to live the life of the
"These formulas, in order to be living, should be, and should remain, adapted
to the faith and to him who believes."
"If for any reason this adaptation should cease to exist, [dogmas] lose
their first meaning and accordingly need to be changed."
"It is an established and certain fact that the reality of the divine does
really exist in itself and quite independently of the person who believes
in it . . . . In the personal experience of the individual."
"In the religious sense one must recognize a kind of intuition of the heart
which puts man in immediate contact with the reality of God, and infuses
such a persuasion of God's existence and His action both within and without
man as far to exceed any scientific conviction."
"If this experience is denied by some . . . this arises from the fact that
such persons are unwilling to put themselves in the moral state necessary
to produce it. It is this experience which makes the person who acquires
it to be properly and truly a believer."
"Given this doctrine of experience united with that of symbolism, every
religion, even that of paganism, must be held to be true. What is to prevent
such experiences from being found in any religion?"
"In the conflict between different religions . . . the Catholic has more
truth because it is more vivid, and . . . it deserves with more reason
the name of Christian because it corresponds more fully with the origins
"Tradition . . . is a communication with others of an original experience,
through preaching by means of the intellectual formula."
"Sometimes this communication of religious experience takes root and thrives,
at other times it withers at once and dies . . . to live is a proof of
truth, since . . . life and truth are one and the same thing . . . all
existing religions are equally true, for otherwise they would not survive."
"Science is entirely concerned with phenomena, into which faith does not
at all enter; faith, on the contrary, concerns itself with the divine,
which is entirely unknown to science . . . there can never be any dissension
between faith and science, for if each keeps on its own ground they can
never meet and therefore never can be in contradiction."
"Should it be . . . asked whether Christ has wrought real miracles, and
made real prophecies, whether He rose truly from the dead and ascended
into Heaven, the answer of agnostic science will be in the negative and
the answer of faith in the affirmative yet there will not be, on that account,
any conflict between them."
"In every religious fact, when one takes away the divine reality and the
experience of it . . . everything else, and especially the religious formulas,
belongs to the sphere of phenomena and therefore falls under the control
"It is therefore the right of philosophy and of science to form its knowledge
concerning the idea of God, to direct it in its evolution and to purify
it of any extraneous elements which may have entered into it."
"Science is to be entirely independent of faith, while on the other hand
. . . faith is made subject to science."
"The philosopher has declared: The principle of faith is immanent; the
believer has added: This principle is God; and the theologian draws the
conclusion: God is immanent in man."
"It is necessary first of all . . . that the believer does not lay too
much stress on the formula, as formula, but avail himself of it only for
the purpose of uniting himself to the absolute truth which the formula
at once reveals and conceals, that is to say, endeavors to express but
without ever succeeding in doing so."
"The believer [should] make use of the formulas only in as far as they
are helpful to him, for they are given to be a help and not a hindrance;
with proper regard, however, for the social respect due to formulas which
the public magisterium has deemed suitable for expressing the common consciousness
until such time as the same magisterium shall provide otherwise."
"The Church and the sacraments . . . are not to be regarded as having been
instituted by Christ Himself."
"Still it is to he held that both Church and sacraments have been founded
mediately by Christ."
"All Christian consciences were . . . in a manner virtually included in
the conscience of Christ as the plant is included in the seed. But as the
branches live the life of the seed, so, too, all Christians are to be said
to live the life of Christ. But the life of Christ, according to faith,
is divine, and so, too, is the life of Christians. And if this life produced,
in the course of ages, both the Church and the sacraments, it is quite
right to say that their origin is from Christ and is divine."
"Dogma is born of a sort of impulse or necessity by virtue of which the
believer elaborates his thought so as to render it clearer to his own conscience
and that of others."
"The sacraments are the resultant of a double impulse or need . . . The
first need is that of giving some sensible manifestation to religion; the
second is that of expressing it, which could not be done without some sensible
form and consecrating acts, and these are called sacraments."
"Sacraments are bare symbols or signs, though not devoid of a certain efficacy
-- an efficacy . . . like that of certain phrases vulgarly described as
having caught the popular ear, inasmuch as they have the power of putting
certain leading ideas into circulation, and of making a marked impression
upon the mind."
"[The Sacred Books] may be rightly described as a summary of experiences,
not indeed of the kind that may now and again come to anybody, but those
extraordinary and striking experiences which are the possession of every
"God does indeed speak in these books through the medium of the believer,
but . . . only by immanence and vital permanence. Inspiration . . . is
in nowise distinguished from that impulse which stimulates the believer
to reveal the faith that is in him by words of writing, except perhaps
by its vehemence. It is something like that which happens in poetical inspiration,
of which it has been said: There is a God in us, and when he stirreth he
sets us afire. It is in this sense that God is said to be the origin of
the inspiration of the Sacred Books."
"The Church has its birth in a double need; first, the need of the individual
believer to communicate his faith to others, especially if he has had some
original and special experience, and secondly, when the faith has become
common to many, the need of the collectivity to form itself into a society
and to guard, promote, and propagate the common good."
"[The Church] is the product of the collective conscience, that is to say,
of the association of individual consciences which, by virtue of the principle
of vital permanence, depend all on one first believer, who for Catholics
"For in the same way as the Church is a vital emanation of the collectivity
of consciences, so too authority emanates vitally from the Church itself.
Authority, therefore, like the Church, has its origin in the religious
conscience, and, that being so, is subject to it. Should it disown this
dependence it becomes a tyranny."
"We are living in an age when the sense of liberty has reached its highest
development . . . Now there is in man only one conscience, just as there
is only one life. It is for the ecclesiastical authority, therefore, to
adopt a democratic form, unless it wishes to provoke and foment an intestine
conflict in the consciences of mankind . . . it is madness to think that
the sentiment of liberty, as it now obtains, can recede. Were it forcibly
pent up and held in bonds, the more terrible would be its outburst, sweeping
away at once both Church and religion."
"But it is not only within her own household that the Church must come
to terms. Besides her relations with those within, she has others with
those who are outside. The Church does not occupy the world all by herself;
there are other societies in the world., with which she must necessarily
have dealings and contact. The rights and duties of the Church towards
civil societies must, therefore, be determined, and determined, of course,
by her own nature."
"In the same way, then, as faith and science are alien to each other by
reason of the diversity of their objects, Church and State are strangers
by reason of the diversity of their ends, that of the Church being spiritual
while that of the State is temporal."
"The state must, therefore, be separated from the Church, and the Catholic
from the citizen. Every Catholic, from the fact that he is also a citizen,
has the right and the duty to work for the common good in the way he thinks
best, without troubling himself about the authority of the Church, without
paying any heed to its wishes, its counsels, its orders -- nay, even in
spite of its rebukes."
"For the Church to trace out and prescribe for the citizen any line of
action, on any pretext whatsoever, is to be guilty of an abuse of authority,
against which one is bound to protest with all one's might."
"As faith is to be subordinated to science as far as phenomenal elements
are concerned, so too in temporal matters the Church must be subject to
"No religious society . . . can be a real unit unless the religious conscience
of its members be one, and also the formula which they adopt. But this
double unity requires a kind of common mind whose office is to find and
determine the formula that corresponds best with the common conscience;
and it must have . . . an authority sufficient to enable it to impose on
the community the formula which has been decided upon."
"As this magisterium springs, in its last analysis, from the individual
consciences and possesses its mandate of public utility for their benefit,
it necessarily follows that the ecclesiastical magisterium must be dependent
upon them, and should therefore be made to bow to the popular ideals."
"It is a question of finding a way of reconciling the full rights of authority
on the one hand and those of liberty on the other. In the meantime the
proper course for the Catholic will be to proclaim publicly his profound
respect for authority, while never ceasing to follow his own judgment."
"The ecclesiastical authority, since its end is entirely spiritual, should
strip itself of that external pomp which adorns it in the eyes of the public."
"In a living religion everything is subject to change, and must in fact
be changed . . . To the laws of evolution everything is subject under penalty
of death -- dogma, Church, worship, the Books we revere as sacred, even
"evolution in the Church itself is fed by the need of adapting itself to
historical conditions and of harmonizing itself with existing forms of
"Evolution is . . . resultant from the conflict of two forces, one of them
tending towards progress, the other towards conservation. The conserving
force exists in the Church and is found in tradition . . . The progressive
force, on the contrary, which responds to the inner needs, lies in the
individual consciences and works in them -- especially in such of them
as are in more close and intimate contact with life."
"It is by a species of covenant and compromise between these two forces
of conservation and progress, that is to say between authority and individual
consciences, that changes and advances take place."
"Agnosticism tells us that history, like science, deals entirely with phenomena,
and the consequence is that God, and every intervention of God in human
affairs, is to be relegated to the domain of faith as belonging to it alone."
"In things where there is combined a double element, the divine and the
human, as, for example, in Christ, or the Church, or the sacraments . .
. a division and separation must be made and the human element must be
left to history while the divine will he assigned to faith. Hence we have
that distinction . . . between the Christ of history and the Christ of
faith; the Church of history and the Church of faith; the sacraments of
history and the sacraments of faith."
"We have a twofold Christ: a real Christ, and a Christ, the one of faith,
who never really existed; a Christ who has lived at a given time and in
a given place, and a Christ who never lived outside the pious meditations
of the believer -- the Christ, for instance, whom we find in the Gospel
of St. John, which . . . is mere meditation from beginning to end."
"The cause or condition of every vital emanation whatsoever is to be found
in some need or want . . . no fact can be regarded as antecedent to the
need which produced it."
"It may at times happen that some parts of the Sacred Scriptures, such
as the Epistles, themselves constitute the fact created by the need . .
. the age of any document can only be determined by the age in which each
need has manifested itself in the Church."
"The result . . . is naturally that the Scriptures can no longer be attributed
to the authors whose names they bear."
"These books . . . especially the Pentateuch and the first three Gospels,
have been gradually formed from a primitive brief narration, by additions,
by interpolations of theological or allegorical interpretations, or parts
introduced only for the purpose of joining different passages together."
"In the Sacred Books there are many passages referring to science or history
where . . . manifest errors are to he found. But . . . the subject of these
books is not science or history, but only religion and morals. In them
history and science serve only as a species of covering to enable the religious
and moral experiences wrapped up in them to penetrate more readily among
"Christ Himself manifestly erred in determining the time when the coming
of the Kingdom of God was to take place . . . we must not be surprised
at this since even He Himself was subject to the laws of life."
"Down in the very depths of his [the non-believer's] nature and his life
lie hidden the need and the desire for some religion, and this not a religion
of any kind, but the specific religion known as Catholicism, which . .
. is absolutely postulated by the perfect development of life."
"In all Catholicism there is absolutely nothing on which [innovation] does
not fasten . . . philosophy [should] be reformed, especially in the ecclesiastical
seminaries . . . scholastic philosophy [should] be relegated to the history
of philosophy and . . . classed among absolute systems . . . the young
men [should] be taught modern philosophy which alone is true and suited
to the times in which we live."
"Dogmas and their evolution . . . are to be harmonized with science and
history. In the Catechism no dogmas are to be inserted except those that
have been reformed and are within the capacity of the people."
"The number of external devotions is to be reduced, and steps must be taken
to prevent their further increase."
"A share in ecclesiastical government should . . . be given to the lower
ranks of the clergy and even to the laity and authority which is too much
concentrated should be decentralized. The Roman Congregations and especially
the index and the Holy Office must be likewise modified."
"The clergy should return to their primitive humility and poverty, and
. . . in their ideas and action they should admit the principles of Modernism
. . . the suppression of the celibacy of the clergy [is to be desired]."
"The Fathers, while personally most worthy of all veneration, were entirely
ignorant of history and criticism, for which they are only excusable on
account of the time in which they lived."