Thursday, April 26, 2012

The Oath Against Modernism

(By the way, I'm switching fonts because the new blogger no longer sizes Georgia correctly, so now it's Times New Roman...)

They really have to bring this back. I'm realizing lately how pervasive and yet destructive this error really has become. Reading the encyclicals of St. Pius X on the matter really is eye-opening. And yet, I wonder how many Modernists, in their intellectual arrogance, have bothered to read the refutations to their chosen school therein contained...
I . . . . firmly embrace and accept each and every definition that has been set forth and declared by the unerring teaching authority of the Church, especially those principal truths which are directly opposed to the errors of this day. And first of all, I profess that God, the origin and end of all things, can be known with certainty by the natural light of reason from the created world (see Rom. 1:90), that is, from the visible works of creation, as a cause from its effects, and that, therefore, his existence can also be demonstrated: Secondly, I accept and acknowledge the external proofs of revelation, that is, divine acts and especially miracles and prophecies as the surest signs of the divine origin of the Christian religion and I hold that these same proofs are well adapted to the understanding of all eras and all men, even of this time. Thirdly, I believe with equally firm faith that the Church, the guardian and teacher of the revealed word, was personally instituted by the real and historical Christ when he lived among us, and that the Church was built upon Peter, the prince of the apostolic hierarchy, and his successors for the duration of time. Fourthly, I sincerely hold that the doctrine of faith was handed down to us from the apostles through the orthodox Fathers in exactly the same meaning and always in the same purport. Therefore, I entirely reject the heretical misrepresentation that dogmas evolve and change from one meaning to another different from the one which the Church held previously. I also condemn every error according to which, in place of the divine deposit which has been given to the spouse of Christ to be carefully guarded by her, there is put a philosophical figment or product of a human conscience that has gradually been developed by human effort and will continue to develop indefinitely. Fifthly, I hold with certainty and sincerely confess that faith is not a blind sentiment of religion welling up from the depths of the subconscious under the impulse of the heart and the motion of a will trained to morality; but faith is a genuine assent of the intellect to truth received by hearing from an external source. By this assent, because of the authority of the supremely truthful God, we believe to be true that which has been revealed and attested to by a personal God, our creator and lord.

Furthermore, with due reverence, I submit and adhere with my whole heart to the condemnations, declarations, and all the prescripts contained in the encyclical Pascendi and in the decree Lamentabili, especially those concerning what is known as the history of dogmas. I also reject the error of those who say that the faith held by the Church can contradict history, and that Catholic dogmas, in the sense in which they are now understood, are irreconcilable with a more realistic view of the origins of the Christian religion. I also condemn and reject the opinion of those who say that a well-educated Christian assumes a dual personality-that of a believer and at the same time of a historian, as if it were permissible for a historian to hold things that contradict the faith of the believer, or to establish premises which, provided there be no direct denial of dogmas, would lead to the conclusion that dogmas are either false or doubtful. Likewise, I reject that method of judging and interpreting Sacred Scripture which, departing from the tradition of the Church, the analogy of faith, and the norms of the Apostolic See, embraces the misrepresentations of the rationalists and with no prudence or restraint adopts textual criticism as the one and supreme norm. Furthermore, I reject the opinion of those who hold that a professor lecturing or writing on a historico-theological subject should first put aside any preconceived opinion about the supernatural origin of Catholic tradition or about the divine promise of help to preserve all revealed truth forever; and that they should then interpret the writings of each of the Fathers solely by scientific principles, excluding all sacred authority, and with the same liberty of judgment that is common in the investigation of all ordinary historical documents.

Finally, I declare that I am completely opposed to the error of the modernists who hold that there is nothing divine in sacred tradition; or what is far worse, say that there is, but in a pantheistic sense, with the result that there would remain nothing but this plain simple fact-one to be put on a par with the ordinary facts of history-the fact, namely, that a group of men by their own labor, skill, and talent have continued through subsequent ages a school begun by Christ and his apostles. I firmly hold, then, and shall hold to my dying breath the belief of the Fathers in the charism of truth, which certainly is, was, and always will be in the succession of the episcopacy from the apostles. The purpose of this is, then, not that dogma may be tailored according to what seems better and more suited to the culture of each age; rather, that the absolute and immutable truth preached by the apostles from the beginning may never be believed to be different, may never be understood in any other way.

I promise that I shall keep all these articles faithfully, entirely, and sincerely, and guard them inviolate, in no way deviating from them in teaching or in any way in word or in writing. Thus I promise, this I swear, so help me God. . .


Aric said...

New Times Roman, eh? Good move.

I was wondering where you stand (and how Pius might square) with modern Biblical higher criticism. With the overwhelming amount of evidence against certain events we deem "historical", (in the New Testament, yes, and certainly in the OT) how do we continue adhere to certain dogmas/doctrines that depend on the historicity of an event?

A Sinner said...

"Evidence"? Ha! Did this evidence not exist for 2000 years? Or are you talking about these theories generated by inter-textual criticism of modern academics who a priori already presume the supernatural cannot occur?

I am extremely suspect of "higher criticism" but inasmuch as things can be salvaged from it, I trust the approach of our current Pope who seems to strike the right balance here (such as in "Jesus of Nazareth" etc). I myself, however, don't think these meta-questions really help Faith much.

If something in the Gospel is meant to teach us about Jesus, knowing that it is conveying merely the substance and not a literal event (in other words, that it is conveying "Truth" but not necessarily "facts")...doesn't do much for us. Who cares! It seems like AT BEST this idea would be neutral, and at worst faith-undermining, so I don't really see the point of such speculation.

Indeed, even if we admit something Idealist like "Reality is constructed by meaning-making"...acting as if this "changes" anything, or as if it should lead us to imagine things like miracles in a "non-literal" way...actually misses the whole point of "reality is constructed-meaning" by positing a sort of "REAL reality" of the materialistic variety underneath the constructed reality.

But the whole point of that idea is that there is no "real reality" outside constructed reality. If the miracle "Lazarus is raised from the dead" is a reality "constructed"...then so is the reality "I'm sitting here at my computer typing" and the relation between each statement and what we concretely imagine...has to be the same. Indeed, to think something like, "Lazarus didn't really rise from the dead, but the story is still 'true' because the meaning created by the community MADE it true" is to posit a disjunct between "really" and "true" that the Idealism which this approach bastardizes does not actually admit.

Or even more radically, someone who says the "Christ is risen from the dead" but then "really" believes this means something other than what would commonly be imagined as "rising from the dead" (because he believes the resurrection was really a meaning constructed by the community, or a "revolution of human consciousness") actually don't understand the theory they themselves are cribbing from. The whole point of the idea of reality constructed would be that, in constructing that "event" as "Jesus rising from the dead"...there is then NO MEANINGFUL distinction between the "revolution of consciousness" idea and the "commonly imagined literal image" idea. If, however, we can "secretly assert" that the two things are "really" different, then that defeats the whole purpose of the "constructed reality" idea which requires that there be absolute equivalence of significance.

Adherance is intellectual assent. There is no "how" other than "do so!" Assent is a choice (enabled by a supernatural grace). We don't need to "feel" "convinced." Indeed, that notion of faith itself is exactly what the oath condemns.

Aric said...

Well, regarding the whole "substance" vs "literal event" thing: The reason people might take a "substance" view on history is precisely because certain events are rendered historically impossible with the kinds of evidence mixed with historical methodology we have developed, and yet they want to still have faith. I mean, this doesn't have to be complicated; if we find a word that was borrowed from Persian, for example, in an old Hebrew text, we can safely date that text and thus rule out certain historical claims made within the text itself.

This doesn't have to do with the miraculous, it has to do with dating and basic historiographic principles. When we find that Jesus "says" something in the New Testament, there are methods that can help us determine how probable it is that such a figure would say such a thing in that time period.

Think about narrative patterns, theological agendas by authors, oral recitation and the subsequent losses (and changes) within a narrative traditions - it's not hard to see that a lot of what the early Church Father's used as a kind of "historical foundation" may have been very non-historical after all!

This is what might lead people to a "substance" approach; so what if Jesus didn't really turn over the tables in the Temple? So what if Paul didn't write all of the Epistles that we thought he did?

For me, however; I have difficulty with the "substance" approach. I really hope that the things we read in the NT are historical, mainly for the reason I just mentioned - all of the Church Father's talk about events in the Bible as if they actually happened as historical events. Seeing as how the Father's tradition is what the now-Church is built on, this makes the historicity of the scriptures pretty important, I'd think.

Anyway - this has been a continual source of difficulty for me. I've taken a few classes in Biblical Criticism and, actually, it's one of the Primary reasons I'm becoming Catholic. When I realized all of the inconstancies, errors, narrative contradictions etc. I thought, "Man, Sola Scriptura is completely untenable. Without the authority of tradition Christianity is unraveled very quickly."

Only now, however, am I beginning to see that tradition itself relies upon the authority and historicity of scripture. Hence my spiritual/intellectual quandary. Make sense?

I'll have to check out Pope Benedict's Jesus of Nazareth - I haven't yet gone through it; thanks for the tip.

A Sinner said...

"if we find a word that was borrowed from Persian, for example, in an old Hebrew text, we can safely date that text and thus rule out certain historical claims made within the text itself."

I'm not saying we need to prove the historicity of everything, especially in the Old Testament.

HOWEVER, your point exactly rests on "the historical methodology we use" which is itself a set of assumptions.

Maybe the Persian word first appeared in the Hebrew and was much later borrowed by the Persians! Maybe it existed in some obscure local dialect first and so appeared in the Hebrew long before it appeared in surviving Persian texts. Etc etc.

Some of this may seem "implausible." But it seems implausible based on systems of methodology and assumptions which are foreign and external to the system which we are analyzing (ultimately: the faith). Why should Faith conform to these external axioms rather than making these external axioms conform to Faith??

Aric said...

I guess it's just that there are some historical methodologies that we use to determine the historicity of many events in history that, if implemented in within the Biblical tradition, would render a "faith based" interoperation invalid. But yeah, I understand your position - it's just unsettling for me as a minor historian. You know, I wouldn't interpret historical events based on the "faith tradition" of Muslim scholars for example - I want to be able to apply a universal historical methodology, despite what tradition we are analyzing.

At the end of the day, for me, I submit myself to the teaching of the Church, whether I like it or not. It's just that sometimes, I feel very disingenuous doing such a thing. Does that makes sense?

A Sinner said...

Ah but that's just the problem (which I've discussed recently in posts on pluralism)!

In looking for a "universal" standard OUTSIDE the Faith are already making the error of subjecting the Faith to the "interrogation" of meta-values. But the Faith is not subject to such interrogation for Faith itself is the supreme paradigm by which others are judged, not vice versa.

The Faith makes totalizing claims. IT is the "universal" standard.

That doesn't mean we need to apply certain methods to areas that don't touch on faith and where there is no contradiction, but it does mean that there is no reason to subject Faith to THOSE standards as if they answer to it instead the other way around.

Nick said...

A priest I knew well who was recently ordained told me that one of his liberal seminary professors told the class that when he had to take the Oath about 50 years ago that it didn't count because his fingers were crossed. No joke.

While you cannot stop stuff like that from happening, there are enough decent seminarians/profs out there who would take the Oath seriously. So abandoning the Oath was a mistake, even if 99% of the monderist clergy took the Oath at one time.

dominic1955 said...

I've recently been perusing the blog of a priest/monk who, almost routinely, espouses straight up Modernism any time someone has the gall to say that something the Church teaches is still just as applicable today as when it was first formulated. He doesn't even feebly try to hide it, his responses look almost as if they were lifted directly from the condemned propositions of Lamentabili.

I am completely in favor of the Oath, but its basically a preaching to the choir tool. I am extremely skeptical of the ability of someone who espouses Modernistic beliefs could even be capable of taking an oath as we understand it at all. They have no problem mouthing words and "crossing their fingers" as if such things have no meaning and there is nothing wrong with promising something you have no intention of keeping.

As to "higher criticism" biblical studies, I find no higher levels of hubris than amongst those who think their little pet theories are Truth with a capital T. Scholars come up with theories about things they have no actual way of knowing, yet since they do so in a "scientific" way they have no doubt that they have finally found out what really happened. They do not think themselves standing on the shoulders of giants, but rather coming along to sweep away all the crap that the scores of ignorant peasants mucked up about the issue.

When people use "biblical scholarship" as if it is some sort of authority, I pretty much just roll my eyes.