Featured Image
St. Peters and the VaticanShutterstock

ROME, June 23, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) — Imagine that the trials of the current pontificate, the machinations of the German bishops, and Fr. James Martin’s controversial statements on homosexuality were to end tomorrow. 

Perhaps for a time some would feel that Mordor had been destroyed and sunshine and freedom were restored to the Shire, but the current crisis in the Church would not be over. 

Why? Because controversial passages in Amoris Laetitia, the German Bishops’ intercommunion proposal, and Fr. James Martin’s watering down of the Church’s teaching on homosexuality are only symptoms of a deeper problem. Health will not be restored to Christ’s Mystical Body until these deeper problems are identified, addressed and healed.

In 1907, Pope Pius X famously stated that Modernism is not just one heresy but is the root and consummation of all heresies. He said of Modernists: 

“They put their designs for [the Church’s] ruin into operation not from without but from within; hence, the danger is present almost in the very veins and heart of the Church, whose injury is the more certain, the more intimate is their knowledge of her. Moreover they lay the axe not to the branches and shoots, but to the very root, that is, to the faith and its deepest fires. And having struck at this root of immortality, they proceed to disseminate poison through the whole tree, so that there is no part of Catholic truth from which they hold their hand, none that they do not strive to corrupt.” (Pascendi Dominici Gregis)

But what is Modernism? Why is it so pernicious? And how does it impact the way we think about God, the Church, and the world today?

This Saturday, June 23, a group of theologians, philosophers, historians and other scholars will meet in Rome for a conference titled “Old and New Modernism.” Its aim is to get to the root of the current crisis in the Church (see full program here). 

Noted speakers, both lay and clergy, will analyze the epistemological, historicalphilosophical, theological and pastoral roots of the crisis, and the remedies to overcome it.

Topics to be discussed include the historical roots and consequences of Modernism, its revival in the mid-20th century and the theological and juridical implications of positing a heretical pope. 

The scholars involved in Saturday’s conference supported the Filial Correction (Correctio filialis) submitted to Pope Francis in August 2017. Its 250 signatories took the rare and serious step of charging Pope Francis with permitting the spread of seven heresies, at least by omission, and asked him to bring clarity.

The third part of the filial correction discusses what the authors regard as the two main causes of the current crisis in the Church: Modernism and Lutheranism. The summarized the former in this way: “Modernism is the belief that God has not delivered definite truths to the Church, which she must continue to teach in exactly the same sense until the end of time.”   

Ahead of Saturday’s conference, here below is a brief excerpt of an interview on Modernism, which Prof. Claudio Pierantoni gave to LifeSite last September, after the Filial Correction made headlines in major Catholic and secular outlets across the world. (Our in-depth interview with Pierantoni can be read here.)

Prof. Pierantoni was born in Rome and is currently a professor of Medieval Philosophy in the Philosophy Faculty of the University of Chile (Santiago). He has two PhDs: in the History of Christianity and in Philosophy.

Prof. Pierantoni, do you think that Modernism is the root of the seven heretical propositions you have addressed in the Filial Correction?

Yes, I think that Modernism is the basic root, even more than Lutheranism. Because Modernism is a more philosophically coherent system with definite presuppositions, whereas Lutheranism has different elements that are not always coherent with one another. For example, the basic presupposition of Modernism, which in the end is a derivation of German idealism, is that all being is history, so truth cannot be immutable, but must evolve. The basic presupposition is that there is not a really immutable God (an error condemned by the First Vatican Council), and therefore an immutable substance of truth, but somehow God identifies himself with creation (another error condemned by Vatican I) and so evolves with history. In that sense, something can be true in the fourth century and false in the twenty-first. According to this view, today’s magisterium doesn’t need to be logically coherent with previous magisterium: it is enough to state that the same universal “Substance” — God, Reality, or Life — is speaking today as it speaks through the present magisterium, and there’s no point in contrasting it with previous magisterium. That is the philosophical foundation of maxims such as “Reality is superior to ideas” (cf. Evangelii gaudium, 233). But, in the end, it is clear that this leads to abandoning the principle of non-contradiction: that’s why you hear nowadays in Rome statements like Fr. Spadaro’s already (in)famous one: “two and two are five.” Now I think this contradiction leads not only to heresy, but still more, to mental illness. It is no exaggeration what Cardinal Sarah stated during one of the Vatican synods of 2014 – 2015 that “the divorce between doctrine and practice is a dangerous schizophrenic pathology.”

Could you tell our readers more about what Modernism is?

I think that in Modernism there is a deep philosophical problem about the idea of God himself. In Modernism, God is conceived as changeable. Somehow the substance of God is immanent in the world in such a way that you cannot metaphysically distinguish being from becoming, being from change. If God is changing with reality, then you have a problem with the very notion of God, and nowadays this is a very strong school of thought. It is Hegelian in origin. I think it’s much more ancient as a doctrine (you can trace it back to ancient Gnosticism) but Hegel is its most famous modern representative. And it’s very strong in modern faculties of theology. So it’s a very deep problem.

I think the immediate intention of the Pope and his counsellors was to give an answer to the question of Communion for divorced and civilly remarried Catholics. But then, in order to give a theological and philosophical justification, they had to make explicit their own presuppositions, which are mistaken in a much more profound way. So the general view you get is very frightening and apocalyptic. Modernism, as Pope Pius X famously stated, is not just “one heresy,” but the root and consummation of all heresies.


Please Note: Those who are unable to travel to Rome may register here for a fee of 10 euros and follow the conference via live-streaming on the Corrispondenza romana YouTube Channel. All those who register will receive a private link that will be active beginning at 9:00am (Rome-time) on Saturday, June 23rd. Talks will be delivered in the original language.