The anniversary came and went in silence, in the Vatican, without any official commemorations. But the questions addressed one hundred years ago in the encyclical "Pascendi Dominici Gregis" by saint Pius X "on the errors of modernism" are still seen as relevant. The reservation is due, instead, to the specific measures that the Church took a century ago: measures viewed as mistaken by today's Church authorities.Read the whole thing.
This is what the new director of "L'Osservatore Romano," professor Giovanni Maria Vian, said in the first significant interview that he granted after his appointment:
"Pius X was a great reformist pope, and in regard to the modernist question he understood very well what was at stake and what were the dangers for the Church's faith. Unfortunately, his reputation is now linked mostly to the ways in which modernism was combated, often with methods unworthy of the cause they were intended to defend."
And this is also what is said in the only two articles on the "Pascendi" encyclical published in recent weeks by press outlets controlled by the Church hierarchy: "La Civiltà Cattolica," the journal of the Rome Jesuits printed with the editorial authorization of the Vatican authorities, and "Avvenire," the newspaper owned by the Italian bishops' conference.
In "Avvenire," the theologian Corrado Pizziolo emphasized the enduring relevance of the central questions addressed by the encyclical.
But in "La Civiltà Cattolica," Jesuit historian Giovanni Sale, in reconstructing the genesis and development of the document, highlighted the elements judged as most outdated: its excessively "doctrinaire" structure, its excessively "harsh and censorious" tone, and its "excessively fundamentalist and hard-line" application.
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Fr. Sale denies that the actual authors of "Pascendi" were Jesuits. He indicates as the substantial authors the cardinal Vivès y Tuto, a Capuchin Franciscan, and Fr. Lemius, of the Missionaries of Mary Immaculate. But he confirms that "one of the greatest inspirations from the theological and cultural point of view" for the encyclical was indeed one of the Jesuits of "La Civiltà Cattolica," Fr. Enrico Rosa.
In the judgment of Fr. Rosa – and of Pius X – modernism was "a new form of Christianity that threatened to overwhelm the ancient one." To oppose it, it had to be struck at its philosophical root, the error from which sprung all the other errors in theology, morality, culture, and practical life. The fundamental error attributed to the modernists was that of denying the capacity of reason to know the truth, thereby reducing everything – including religion, and including Christianity – to subjective experience.
Fr. Sale notes, however, that the modernists never accepted this interpretive scheme:
"In their view, the movement to reform religious studies, as they called it, had not originated in specific philosophical theories, but rather in historical criticism and the new exegesis of Sacred Scripture. That is, they chose as the foundation of their movement, not philosophy, but history, or rather sacred history, liberated from adulterations and restored to its original integrity, through the new historical-critical method."
Read the encyclical itself: Pascendi Dominici Gregis