BOOKS YOU CAN COUNT ON (apr19bks.htm)


April 19, 2005
Tuesday
vol 16 no. 172

The Church Confronts Modernity



A Review of Dr. Thomas E. Woods Jr.'s Book The Church Confronts Modernity - Catholic Intellectuals & the Progressive Era, Columbia Press, New York, 2004

A Book Review by
Gary L. Morella
Catholic Member of the Research Faculty
The Pennsylvania State University

    "Woods's time capsule into the Church of yesterday is an absolute requirement for the survival of the Church in America, which is something that is not guaranteed by the promise that the gates of hell shall not prevail against the Church, i.e., the survival of the Church in any particular country is not a certainty. Recall that Mary and John witnessed at Ephesus, which is no longer Catholic. Please note that I made reference to an "educated Catholic response." Today, sadly, given that the dissidents have been allowed to do their work well, it is incumbent for Catholics to educate themselves in the faith by rediscovering what has been traditionally believed by Church, as opposed to the lies masquerading as Catholicism today. This requires effort, but given that eternity is at stake, nothing less will suffice. Woods's book is a welcomed part of that education."

    I have just finished reading THE CHURCH CONFRONTS MODERNITY - Catholic Intellectuals & the Progressive Era by Thomas E. Woods Jr., taking the time to highlight in detail this excellent work for future reference in the fight for the heart and soul of the Church being waged by Catholics who know their faith, as opposed to those who are having it subtly stolen from them. Before I was even a third of the way through the book I had gone through a highlighter, which gives an indication of the importance of what Dr. Woods is saying to what is left of the Catholic world, post the ambiguities of Vatican II, in particular, post the efforts of those who would destroy the Church from within.

    Anyone familiar with the writings of Woods, in particular, his Politically Incorrect Guide to American History, and The Great Façade - Vatican II And The Regime Of Novelty In The Roman Catholic Church, which he co-authored with Christopher Ferrara, knows that here is an American Catholic who tells it like it is. To be technically correct, in THE CHURCH CONFRONTS MODERNITY, hereafter referred to as CCM, Woods not only tells it like it is, but how it used to be, and, if the Church is going to survive as a viable institution in serving as the world's repository of Perfect Truth, Who is a Someone, not a something for salvations sake, which is the only reason for the Church's existence, how it must be again. Woods is right to persuasively insist that looking back to how Catholic giants in America confronted the modernists in the progressive era in combating the work of the devil is our only hope of escaping the modern catacombs in order to convert the world to the one true faith, per Christ's admonition to His disciples in the last paragraph of the Gospel of Matthew. THE problem, as Woods so clearly points out, is that "how it used to be," in reference to the Church in America, was orders-of-magnitude better than "how it is now" with the prospects for "how it will be" no better, if the lessons from the past are not learned.

    The focus for Woods is on the Catholic intellectual critique of modernity during the period immediately before and after the turn of the twentieth century where defenders of the faith were plentiful because they understood what it meant to be Catholic in more than name only. This is to be contrasted with an institutional Catholic Church today that, for all practical purposes, is unrecognizable as Catholic, as a direct result of the dissenters being given carte blanche to destroy it from within with impunity. Woods is talking about a Progressive Era where Catholics knew their faith well enough to use what good they could find in Progressivism for the greater Glory of God, in particular, the Church that He founded upon the Rock that is Peter. Catholics at the beginning of the twentieth century understood that discipline is one of the highest, if not the highest forms of love, which is something parents must come immediately to grips with; else, they cease to be responsible parents. Similarly, the Church under Pius IX, Leo XIII, and Saint Pius X, understood this seminal Catholic Truth, which is a Someone, not a something. This was directly reflected in orthodox catechesis which helped formed the consciences of a generation of Catholic leaders like Thomas Shields, William Kirby, and Edward Pace, who fought the good fight against the likes of James Dewey, and other representatives of Pragmatism as it played out in ethics, education, and nationalism. These were not the unencumbered autonomous consciences of Kant but rather those of an economic and political philosophy rooted in the natural law as articulated by Catholic giants like Thomas Aquinas, consciences which were informed in accord with the infallible teaching Magisterium of Holy Mother Church on faith and morals, consciences which understood that faith and reason are married, not divorced, with faith enabling a reason, which, in turn, reinforced faith.

    Woods in The Church Confronts Modernity describes how decidedly nonpluralistic Catholicism responded to the modernist assault on faith and reason, and, moreover, must continue to respond, to an increasingly hostile pluralistic intellectual environment. Catholicism insisted on the uniqueness of the Church and the need for making value judgments based on what it considered a sound philosophy of humanity.

    What is especially striking about the Catholic Church during this (progressive) period, especially at a time when reigning philosophical presuppositions tended to be so antagonistic to its own, is its self-confidence. Its apologetics truly believed that it was "the greatest, the grandest, and the most beautiful institution in the world." The Catholic faith was "the one immutable thing in a universe of ceaseless mutations." Catholic writers spoke with great affection of Pope Pius X, who reigned from 1903 to 1914 (and who became the first pope to be canonized since the sixteenth century). Time and again Catholic periodicals pointed with pride to Pius's vigorous and uncompromising stance against modern political and intellectual trends, and indeed many authors considered the Church's willingness to stand alone against modernity as an important testimony to its divine foundation. {[CCM] pg 6}

    The year following his election as pope in 1878, Leo XIII issued one of the most important encyclicals of his twenty-five-year pontificate: Aeterni Patris, or On the Restoration of Christian Philosophy. With this document the pope launched what became known as the neo-Scholastic movement, the systematic promotion of the thought of the medieval schoolmen and in particular that of their most illustrious representative, Saint Thomas Aquinas, the Common Doctor of the Church. The tradition of Scholasticism, having fallen largely into desuetude, was to be revived - not as a museum piece or as a reactionary throwback of a romantic medievalism, but as a living philosophy that would both lend an indispensable support to the Catholic faith and provide an alternative to those systems of modern philosophy that denied man's ability to use his reason to attain metaphysical truth. {[CCM] pg 23}

    Some examples of what Woods is referring to are given in Lamentabili Sane, The Syllabus Condemning the Errors of the modernists, Encyclical of Pope Pius X, July 3, 1907, and the famous Pascendi Dominici Gregis, On the Doctrine of the Modernists, Encyclical of Pope Pius X, September 8, 1907.

    We initially turn to Lamentabili Sane in looking at some of the more blatant modernist errors related to faith and reason that are condemned by the Church.

    5. Since the deposit of Faith contains only revealed truths, the Church has no right to pass judgment on the assertions of the human sciences. (condemned)

    7. In proscribing errors, the Church cannot demand any internal assent from the faithful by which the judgments she issues are to be embraced. (condemned)

    11. Divine inspiration does not extend to all of Sacred Scriptures so that it renders its parts, each and every one, free from every error. (condemned)

    12. If he wishes to apply himself usefully to Biblical studies, the exegete must first put aside all preconceived opinions about the supernatural origin of Sacred Scripture and interpret it the same as any other merely human document. (condemned)

    19. Heterodox exegetes have expressed the true sense of the Scriptures more faithfully than Catholic exegetes. (condemned)

    22. The dogmas the Church holds out as revealed are not truths which have fallen from heaven. They are an interpretation of religious facts which the human mind has acquired by laborious effort. (condemned)

    23. Opposition may, and actually does, exist between the facts narrated in Sacred Scripture and the Church's dogmas which rest on them. Thus the critic may reject as false facts the Church holds as most certain. (condemned)

    24. The exegete who constructs premises from which it follows that dogmas are historically false or doubtful is not to be reproved as long as he does not directly deny the dogmas themselves. (condemned)

    25. The assent of faith ultimately rests on a mass of probabilities. (condemned)

    56. The Roman Church became the head of all the churches, not through the ordinance of Divine Providence, but merely through political conditions. (condemned)

    57. The Church has shown that she is hostile to the progress of the natural and theological sciences. (condemned)

    58. Truth is no more immutable than man himself, since it evolved with him, in him, and through him. (condemned)

    59. Christ did not teach a determined body of doctrine applicable to all times and all men, but rather inaugurated a religious movement adapted or to be adapted to different times and places. (condemned)

    63. The Church shows that she is incapable of effectively maintaining evangelical ethics since she obstinately clings to immutable doctrines which cannot be reconciled with modern progress. (condemned)

    64. Scientific progress demands that the concepts of Christian doctrine concerning God, creation, revelation, the Person of the Incarnate Word, and Redemption be re-adjusted. (condemned)

    65. Modern Catholicism can be reconciled with true science only if it is transformed into a non-dogmatic Christianity; that is to say, into a broad and liberal Protestantism. (condemned)

    Pascendi Dominici Gregis gives a much more detailed response to the condemned modernist errors.

    One of the primary obligations assigned by Christ to the office divinely committed to us of feeding the Lord's flock is that of guarding with the greatest vigilance the deposit of the faith delivered to the saints, rejecting the profane novelties of words and the gainsaying of knowledge falsely so called. There has never been a time when this watchfulness of the supreme pastor was not necessary to the Catholic body, for owing to the efforts of the enemy of the human race, there have never been lacking "men speaking perverse things," "vain talkers and seducers," "erring and driving into error." It must, however, be confessed that these latter days have witnessed a notable increase in the number of the enemies of the Cross of Christ, who, by arts entirely new and full of deceit, are striving to destroy the vital energy of the Church, and, as far as in them lies, utterly to subvert the very Kingdom of Christ. Wherefore We may no longer keep silence, lest We should seem to fail in Our most sacred duty, and lest the kindness that, in the hope of wiser counsels, We have hitherto shown them, should be set down to lack of diligence in the discharge of Our office. {Para. 1}

    It is thus, Venerable Brethren, that for the Modernists, whether as authors or propagandists, there is to be nothing stable, nothing immutable in the Church. Nor, indeed, are they without forerunners in their doctrines, for it was of these that Our predecessor Pius IX wrote: "These enemies of divine revelation extol human progress to the skies, and with rash and sacrilegious daring would have it introduced into the Catholic religion as if this religion were not the work of God but of man, or some kind of philosophical discovery susceptible of perfection by human efforts." On the subject of revelation and dogma in particular, the doctrine of the Modernists offers nothing new. We find it condemned in the Syllabus of Pius IX, where it is enunciated in these terms: ''Divine revelation is imperfect, and therefore subject to continual and indefinite progress, corresponding with the progress of human reason"; and condemned still more solemnly in the Vatican Council: ''The doctrine of the faith which God has revealed has not been proposed to human intelligences to be perfected by them as if it were a philosophical system, but as a divine deposit entrusted to the Spouse of Christ to be faithfully guarded and infallibly interpreted. Hence also that sense of the sacred dogmas is to be perpetually retained which our Holy Mother the Church has once declared, nor is this sense ever to be abandoned on plea or pretext of a more profound comprehension of the truth." Nor is the development of our knowledge, even concerning the faith, barred by this pronouncement; on the contrary, it is supported and maintained. For the same Council continues: "Let intelligence and science and wisdom, therefore, increase and progress abundantly and vigorously in individuals, and in the mass, in the believer and in the whole Church, throughout the ages and the centuries -- but only in its own kind, that is, according to the same dogma, the same sense, the same acceptation." {Para. 28}

    If we pass on from the moral to the intellectual causes of Modernism, the first and the chief which presents itself is ignorance. Yes, these very Modernists who seek to be esteemed as Doctors of the Church, who speak so loftily of modern philosophy and show such contempt for scholasticism, have embraced the one with all its false glamour, precisely because their ignorance of the other has left them without the means of being able to recognize confusion of thought and to refute sophistry. Their whole system, containing as it does errors so many and so great, has been born of the union between faith and false philosophy. {Para. 41}

    The Modernists pass judgment on the holy Fathers of the Church even as they do upon tradition. With consummate temerity they assure the public that 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. Finally, the Modernists try in every way to diminish and weaken the authority of the ecclesiastical magisterium itself by sacrilegiously falsifying its origin, character, and rights, and by freely repeating the calumnies of its adversaries. To the entire band of Modernists may be applied those words which Our predecessor sorrowfully wrote: "To bring contempt and odium on the mystic Spouse of Christ, who is the true light, the children of darkness have been wont to cast in her face before the world a stupid calumny, and perverting the meaning and force of things and words, to depict her as the friend of darkness and ignorance, and the enemy of light, science, and progress.'' This being so, Venerable Brethren, there is little reason to wonder that the Modernists vent all their bitterness and hatred on Catholics who zealously fight the battles of the Church. There is no species of insult which they do not heap upon them, but their usual course is to charge them with ignorance or obstinacy. When an adversary rises up against them with an erudition and force that renders them redoubtable, they seek to make a conspiracy of silence around him to nullify the effects of his attack. This policy towards Catholics is the more invidious in that they belaud with admiration which knows no bounds the writers who range themselves on their side, hailing their works, exuding novelty in every page, with a chorus of applause. For them the scholarship of a writer is in direct proportion to the recklessness of his attacks on antiquity, and of his efforts to undermine tradition and the ecclesiastical magisterium. When one of their number falls under the condemnations of the Church the rest of them, to the disgust of good Catholics, gather round him, loudly and publicly applaud him, and hold him up in veneration as almost a martyr for truth. The young, excited and confused by all this clamor of praise and abuse, some of them afraid of being branded as ignorant, others ambitious to rank among the learned, and both classes goaded internally by curiosity and pride, not infrequently surrender and give themselves up to Modernism. {Para. 42}

    In successive chapters entitled 1 - The Stage is Set, 2 - The Challenge of Pragmatism, 3- Sociology and the Study of Man, 4- Assimilation and Resistance: Catholics and Progressive Education, 5-Economics and the "Social Question", 6-Against Syncretism, and an Epilogue: Into the Future, Woods presents a blueprint for how Catholicism should be responding to its critics today as a direct function of how it did so in the past on the seminal issues of right and wrong that are not characterized by liberal shades of gray, read confusion. It is made clear that this response is not a function of an evolving Magisterium anymore than our country has an evolving Constitution. What are the worth of dogma and laws rooted in the Law of God if penumbras are found in both the religious and secular arenas in order to make society comfortable with its vices? Thus, what Woods shows is that the educated Catholic response of the past must be the response today, and in the future, to the disciples of the "father-of-lies" given the Church's immutable Teaching Magisterium.

    Woods's time capsule into the Church of yesterday is an absolute requirement for the survival of the Church in America, which is something that is not guaranteed by the promise that the gates of hell shall not prevail against the Church, i.e., the survival of the Church in any particular country is not a certainty. Recall that Mary and John witnessed at Ephesus, which is no longer Catholic. Please note that I made reference to an "educated Catholic response." Today, sadly, given that the dissidents have been allowed to do their work well, it is incumbent for Catholics to educate themselves in the faith by rediscovering what has been traditionally believed by Church, as opposed to the lies masquerading as Catholicism today. This requires effort, but given that eternity is at stake, nothing less will suffice. Woods's book is a welcomed part of that education.

    We will briefly look at some of the CCM chapters for examples of unashamed Catholics witnessing to their faith, Catholics who clearly understood the charge by Christ at the end of Matthew's Gospel, to convert the world to the one true faith for eternity's sake. We open CCM to Chapter 1.

    Chapter 1 The Stage is Set - During the Progressive Era, however, the Church in America found itself in the midst of an intellectual milieu in which a variety of disparate (though perhaps distantly related) trends in thought were tending to the conclusion that attachment to dogmatic and moral absolutes was inimical to the democratic ethos. … The Social Gospel movement in American Protestantism, while said to be an effort to bring Christian values to bear upon the social problems facing the United States in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, was at some level also a rejection of the idea of Christianity as a system whose ultimate basis lay in dogma, creed, and ritual. … Those Enlightenment thinkers who were not altogether hostile to Christianity emphasized the urgency of retreating from aspects of the religion that were purely ritualistic or devotional and of stressing instead the rational and didactic. Immanuel Kant was the standard-bearer of this group. And beyond all this there was, very simply, the unmistakable Progressive instinct for efficiency, centralization, and simple practicality, none of which was thought to be aided by attachment to the outworn dogmas and moral teachings of an authoritarian institution out of step with modernity.

    What is especially striking about the Catholic Church during this period, especially at a time when reigning philosophical presuppositions tended to be so antagonistic to its own, is its self-confidence. Its apologists truly believed that it was "the greatest, the grandest, and the most beautiful institution in the world." The Catholic faith was "the one immutable thing in a universe of ceaseless mutations." Catholic writers spoke with great affection of Pope Pius X, who reigned from 1903 to 1914 (and who became the first pope to be canonized since the sixteenth century). Time and again Catholic periodicals pointed with pride to Pius's vigorous and uncompromising stance against modern political and intellectual trends, and indeed many authors considered the Church's willingness to stand alone against modernity as an important testimony to its divine foundation.

    Pius is so often remembered simply as the anti-Modernist pope that his positive program - "to restore all things in Christ" - is frequently overlooked. The Jesuit writer John J. Wynne, for example, founded the weekly periodical America in response to the pope's call. America would cover news in the Church and in the world at large for a Catholic audience, always with the good of the Church and country in mind. {[CCM] pp 5-6}

    Times have certainly changed. Here was an America magazine that was Catholic. Today's version, with its forums for notorious dissenters like Notre Dame's Richard McBrien, is not. Such has been the devolution of the faith from the Progressive Era to post Vatican II.

    We turn to CCM Chapter 2.

    Chapter 2 The Challenge of Pragmatism - The whole spirit of Progressive education, with its emphasis on training children in democratic ways of thinking, ran counter to the inculcation in children of knowledge, such as religious dogma, that could not be demonstrated by means of the scientific method.

    Indeed, Progressives were united in the conviction that if there was one thing that modern social, economic conditions had to reject, it was dogma of any kind. … Social Gospel theologians, for their part, frankly admitted that they were revolutionizing Christianity or - what was the same thing - at the very least tearing away the dogmatic Roman encrustations that over the centuries had become attached to the primitive Christian faith. What America needed, they insisted, was a religion adapted to modern needs. Thus Washington Gladden could write that religion in the modern era must be less concerned about "getting men to heaven than about fitting them for their proper work on the earth… For any other kind of religion than this I do not think that the world has any longer very much use."

    Dewey and the Pragmatists were heir to a distinct if minority tradition within Western philosophy that spurned what it considered to be the fruitless search for pure metaphysical truth in favor of a more practical, action-oriented approach to philosophical thought. … Thus Pragmatists scorned the very idea of eternal or absolute truth and made no pretensions to possessing epistemological certitude. In place of these Dewey offered a more modest "warranted assertability," by which a statement could be held to be true were it efficacious. … Thus (William) James could say that Pragmatism "has no dogmas, and no doctrines save its method."

    It hardly needs pointing out that Pragmatism represented a direct challenge to the Catholic world view. … Christians had traditionally used as evidence of the existence of God (as in the argument from design) and circumscribing the boundaries of the intellect - a divine seed implanted in man, said the Scholastics - in its search for truth. Finally, the "pluralistic universe" to which James's and Dewey's emphasis on the priority of experience led seemed to throw moral philosophy into chaos and to contribute to the same kind of moral and intellectual confusion and disorder that had resulted decades before upon the introduction of evolutionary thought into philosophy. … Claims of absolute truth and finality, they claimed, neglected the experiential aspect of truth, whereby what is accepted as true evolves with time and with new experiences. {[CCM] pp 26-28}

    The Catholic response to pragmatism was swift and sure, pulling no punches as the responders did not suffer from a contemporary malady that causes Catholics to believe that they have to be "nice to the devil."

    This "tissue of semi-hysterical absurdities," as Father Tierney called Pragmatism, far from originating overnight, was the culmination of a progression of religious and philosophical errors."

    In a comprehensive series of articles that appeared in Catholic World, the monthly journal of the Paulist Fathers, Father Edmund Shanahan proposed to trace modern Pragmatism all the way back to the Protestant Reformation. Appropriately titled "Completing the Reformation," the series began with a discussion of the philosophical ramifications of the philosophy of Martin Luther. From there Shanahan traced his argument to its startling conclusion: "The attempt now being made to deprive human knowledge of all rational foundation and character is but the continuation and completion of the movement set on foot by the Reformers to derationalize Christian faith."

    The reformers, Shanahan explained, misinterpreted the Church's position as being simply one of cold logic, whereby faith was reduced to an assent of the intellect to a series of formalistic syllogisms marching triumphantly to their conclusions. In fact, the Church was arguing simply that faith was reasonable, in that the intellect perceived that the authority proposing matter for belief was itself credible and trustworthy. {[CCM} pg 32}

    Clearly, these were not the same Paulists who now offer "renewal" programs in the Church that are nothing more than forums for dissenters like Call to Action, which is basically a "call to apostasy."

    A way of seeing this relationship that Shanahan is talking about, as referenced in CCM, between philosophy and theology or reason and faith, is in Aquinas, which casts a tremendous light on this relationship, i.e., Aquinas's notion of the preambles of faith.

    At the beginning of the Summa Contra Gentiles, Aquinas distinguishes between two kinds of truth about God. First, there exist truths about God that can be known to be such on the basis of natural reason alone. What are these? That God exists is one since there are sound and cogent proofs for the existence of God. Other truths include that we can know some of the divine attributes. We can know that God is intelligent, that there cannot be more than one God, that God is powerful, and that He is the first cause. How does Aquinas know these things? Because they have been known by reason alone. Aristotle came to the knowledge of all of these things on the basis of arguments which Aquinas accepts as sound. It is a descriptive historical remark, a truism, for Aquinas, and not just some proposal as a possibility on his part, that knowledge of God can be known through reason.

    There is a twofold mode of truth in what we profess about God. Some truths about God exceed all the ability of the human reason. Such is the truth that God is triune. But there are some truths which the natural reason also is able to reach. Such are that God exists, that He is one, and the like. In fact, such truths about God have been proved demonstratively by the philosophers, guided by the light of the natural reason. (Summa Contra Gentiles, Book I, Ch. 3, Para. 2) {pg 63}

    There exist other truths about God which can only be known by accepting revelation, e.g., there are three persons in God, the forgiveness of sins, and Jesus is both human and divine. We assent to these truths via the grace of faith even though we do not understand them. What Aquinas calls natural truths about God, which are knowable by reason, are also parts of revelation. Any believer holds, as an article of faith, that God exists, that He is One, Omniscient, and is the First Cause.

    That there are certain truths about God that totally surpass man's ability appears with the greatest evidence. Since, indeed, the principle of all knowledge that the reason perceives about some thing is the understanding of the very substance of that being (for according to Aristotle "what a thing is" is the principle of demonstration), it is necessary that the way in which we understand the substance of a thing determines the way in which we know what belongs to it. Hence, if the human intellect comprehends the substance of some thing, for example, that of a stone or of a triangle, no intelligible characteristic belonging to that thing surpasses the grasp of the human reason. But this does not happen to us in the case of God. For the human intellect is not able to reach a comprehension of the divine substance through its natural power. For, according to its manner of knowing in the present life, the intellect depends on the sense for the origin of knowledge; and so those things that do not fall under the senses cannot be grasped by the human intellect except in so far as the knowledge of them is gathered from sensible things. Now, sensible things cannot lead the human intellect to the point of seeing in them the nature of the divine substance; for sensible things are effects that fall short of the power of their cause. Yet, beginning with sensible things, our intellect is led to the point of knowing about God that He exists, and other such characteristics that must be attributed to the First Principle. There are, consequently, some intelligible truths about God that are open to human reason; but there are others that absolutely surpass its power. (Summa Contra Gentiles, Book I, Ch. 3, Para. 3) {pp 63-64}

    What Aquinas notices is this. Some of the things that have been proposed for our acceptance on the basis of faith, some of the things that have been revealed by God, are identical with things that philosophers have come to know about God. So he takes this little subset of truths out of revelation, and gives us the preambles of faith, which means that they were known prior to faith. Thus, we can see what the range of natural reason is even in our sinful condition. In talking about the pagan Romans, Saint Paul says that they are without excuse for doing these things because they can, through reason alone, come to the knowledge of God, i.e., through the things that are made, they can come to knowledge of the invisible things of God.

    Because that which is known of God is manifest in them. For God hath manifested it to them. For the invisible things of him, from the creation of the world, are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made: his eternal power also and divinity: so that they are inexcusable. (Romans, 1:19:20)

    Accordingly, as Woods recognizes in CCM, the Church has taken this verse as a charter for claims that it is possible for human beings, independent of divine revelation, to come to some knowledge of God. This, in turn, provides Aquinas with a powerful argument for the reasonableness of the Faith. For if some of the things that have been revealed, the preambles of faith, can be known to be true, it is reasonable to accept the mysteries that we cannot understand in this life as true. If we accept and live this argument, then our ultimate reward will be the Beatific Vision where faith and hope will pass away, no longer being necessary, leaving only charity. Aquinas, in the Summa Contra Gentiles, lays the foundation for reason reinforcing faith with an important explanation regarding reason's limitations in reference to the Majesty of God Almighty while showing the marriage, not divorce, of reason and faith.

    In Chapter 4 of CCM we see the caution of making man the ultimate arbiter of life and death in complete ignorance that man's laws are always subsidiary to God's. Recently, the tragic consequence of this lie was the murder of a disabled Catholic woman by the Florida Court system with the de facto approval of the executive and legislative branches of both the state and federal government, which took no action to save her. Today, oaths sworn to protect the citizenry from all enemies foreign and domestic are meaningless as the primary responsibility of the state, to further the common good, is summarily trashed.

    For some, perhaps, many of its exponents, Progressive education was the logical outcome of a belief in the immanence of authority; that is, that the ultimate source of authority, indeed of the very moral law, rested not in some transcendent Being but in man himself. William H. Kilpatrick was particularly emphatic on this point. "The right of parents or other grown-ups to determine what children shall think must be essentially revised," he wrote.

    In the field of morality, while Dewey did not advocate the hasty overthrow of inherited beliefs, he insisted that a moral system could no more be considered absolute and unchanging than could a scientific paradigm that was forced to give way in light of new developments and discoveries. {[CCM] pg 89}

    The popes themselves had drawn the battle lines clearly during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, thundering against the evacuation of religious content from education and sternly rebuking those parents foolish enough to subject their children to the perils of agnosticism and indifferentism that modern public schools were thought inevitably to encourage. Pope Pius IX condemned that statement "Catholics may approve of the system of educating youth, unconnected with the Catholic faith and the power of the Church, and which regards the knowledge of merely natural things, and only, or at least primarily, the ends of earthly social life." "Full of danger," declared Pope Leo XIII, "is that educational system in which there is either a false religion, or, as is usual in the schools termed 'mixed,' no religion at all." Furthermore, the pontiff went on, it is not enough that certain hours should be set aside for religious instruction; the "whole system should be redolent of Christian piety."

    Catholic prelates and intellectuals in the United States issued the same warnings. An impressive number of Catholic writers saw something diabolical in the ultimate aims of the new education. It was, as they saw it, part of an ongoing assault on Catholicism whose ultimate origin dated back at least several centuries. "The enemies of religion," explained Paul Blakely, "understand the importance of the receptive, impressionable years of childhood far better than many a Catholic parent."

    Can the Catholic parent who freely subjects his child to schools ruled by this base spirit, escape before the judgment seat of God, the condemnation of those who "scandalize these little ones that believe in me"? {[CCM pp 92-93}

    The principals of education that Catholics defended were really quite simple. Edward Pace spelled out six basic ones in the Catholic Encyclopedia. First, intellectual education and moral and religious education must not be separated. The second built on the first: religion should not be a mere adjunct to education in other subjects but should be the focal point of the entire curriculum. Third, no real moral instruction was possible if divorced from religious education. Fourth, the welfare of the state demanded an education that united intellectual, moral, and religious elements, for it was only by steeping the child in such principles that he could be habituated "to decide, to act, to oppose a movement or to further it, not with a view to personal gain nor simply in deference to public opinion, but in accordance with the standards of right that are fixed by the law of God." The Catholic philosophy of education was thus "the most effectual preparation for citizenship." Fifth, advances in educational methods, far from rendering moral and religious training less necessary, accentuate it all the more; by the same token, the Church "welcomes whatever the sciences may contribute toward rendering the work of the school more efficient." And finally, Catholic parents have the grave duty to ensure that their children receive a good Catholic education, in order that both the intellectual and the moral dimensions of the child be properly cultivated. As Catholic University of America rector Father Thomas J. Shanahan put it, the Catholic teacher saw in the child "not only mental capacities that are to be unfolded, but a life that is to be shaped and a soul that is to be saved." The difference between the two approaches lay chiefly in the fact that the Catholic school taught a "clear and solid philosophy of life" - the very kind of all-encompassing outlook on the world, the very essence of the closed and abstract systematization that Dewey's philosophy, and Pragmatism in general, explicitly rejected. Another writer compared the Catholic and non-Catholic systems of education to two vessels, the latter of which was "without compass or rudder." This, then, was where Catholic educators took their stand. {[CCM] pg 95}

    Woods finally comments on the state of affairs today in his Epilogue.

    The triumphalist Church of the Progressive Era, eager to convert America to Catholicism, appears to be in full-fledged retreat, with many bishops apparently even embarrassed by the zeal of their preconciliar predecessors. Catholics would always have to be on guard against the kind of religious indifferentism that a pluralistic religious system inevitably encouraged. They were, moreover, one of the only groups in the United States who offered a serious, systematic response to the intellectual innovations of the Progressive Era. While their secular counterparts looked confidently to the future, Catholic intellectuals, feeling uneasy about what they saw ahead, urged their countrymen to be mindful of the wisdom of the past. "Why our scholars should shriek 'On, on!' when 'Back, back!' would be so plainly the more sensible cry," one Catholic proposed, "the great fault of the day - immoderate pride of progress - answers." No doubt they received the grudging admiration of some of their anti-Catholic countrymen for the apparent obstinacy of the positions they adopted. There was still a price to pay for resisting the spirit of the age, and insisting in the midst of an agnostic intellectual milieu that man at his best could come to know a truth outside himself, and by following that truth could both sanctify his soul and regenerate the world around him. But it was this strategy that sustained American Catholicism in a hostile environment, and that kept it mindful of its unique mission, in the words of Pius X's personal moot, "to restore all things in Christ." {[CCM] pp 175-176}

    In the Bread of Life discourse in Chapter 6 of the Gospel of John, after Jesus's "hard teaching," many of His disciples left Him. He then asked the following question to the twelve.

    Then Jesus said to the twelve: Will you also go away? And Simon Peter answered him: Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life. And we have believed, and have known that Thou art Christ, the Son of God. (John 6: 68-70)

    To whom shall the world go if not to Jesus Christ through the Church that He founded upon the Rock that is Peter?

    And I say to thee: That thou art Peter; and upon this rock I will build My church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give to thee the keys of the kingdom of Heaven. And whatsoever thou shalt bind upon earth, it shall be bound also in Heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose upon earth, it shall be loosed also in Heaven. (Matthew 16:18-19)

    But if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth. (1 Timothy 3:15)

    The basic message of CCM is that it should be the mission of Catholic philosophy to get the world to see that eternal truth through the light of right reason as a preamble to the faith for eternity's sake. This is the answer to the combined assault on faith and reason. But it is an answer that can only be given in light of the pure unadulterated presentation of the true faith, not a bastardization of it by the dissidents who would destroy the Church from within. For too long this group has gotten away with ecclesial murder with impunity via their treating the teachings of Holy Mother Church on faith and morals, which are infallible due to the protection of the Holy Ghost, as dead-on-arrival before the ink is dry - their modus operandi being interminable dialogue ad nauseam. How can an accurate rendition of Catholic philosophy ala Augustine, Aquinas, and Pascal be given when the core faith that enables it is unrecognizable as Catholic? It is no accident that those not influenced by modernist errors were able with such clarity and confidence to articulate a consistent Catholic philosophy and ethics. Augustine and Aquinas did not suffer the dissent permeating the Church today in their respective interpretations of Plato and Aristotle. It was not a watered-down Catholicism that enabled Pascal to shoot the "Christian arrows" into the hearts of the "pagan philosophers." And it most certainly is not going to be a "lukewarm faith" of the "Church of Laodicea" that will allow for joining the battle for our immortal souls by Catholic philosophers in more than name only, such as those described by Woods.

    This brings me to the following point. It is becoming increasingly evident that the main reason that Catholics no longer know their faith is that the prime catechetical tool for teaching it to them, the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, has been watered down such that many of the immutable truths of the faith are no longer a part of that sacred liturgy. Woods concurs in his Epilogue. Lex credendi, lex orandi, is more than just a pithy phrase. It is a foundational axiom for survival of the faith.

    To the confusion and restlessness that seemed to be the product of relativism, the Church offered a philosophical defense of absolute values. To a world undergoing radical and seemingly ceaseless change, the Church responded with the piety and reverence of the traditional Latin Mass, which in its dignity and stately reserve, and in its reservation of sacred tasks to the priest alone, served to remind man that some things were not to be touched by him. Above all, the Church insisted on the importance, uniqueness, and purpose that lay behind human life, confident that her message could cover the spiritual nakedness that she believed modernity had inflicted upon the masses. {[CCM pg 172}

    In the aforementioned CCM chapters that have not been formerly addressed here Woods continues to give the reader a glimpse of a time where Catholics knew their faith, and were not afraid to publicly defend it. He goes into the problems with the ambiguities of Vatican II that have given us a Church rife with confusion. He talks of the famous seminal social encyclical of Leo XIII Rerum Novarum, which Woods refers to as "a thoroughly Thomistic document," with particular emphasis that here was a pope who had no intention of compromising or altering traditional Catholic teaching as evidenced by his encyclicals Immortale Dei and Libertas. Woods raises huge red flags as to the dangers of a "creedless" faith where Christianity is recast "as a primarily ethical system concerned exclusively with men's relation to each other. And indeed a common feature of Social Gospel theology was a disdain for creeds and theological formulas."

    Woods in CCM wrote about a time when Catholics understood that the devil exists, constantly prowling the world for the ruin of souls exposing the lie of the Social Gospel's "earthly utopia." The Catholics at the turn of the twentieth century taught by popes named Leo and Pius knew that the supernatural, a "Kingdom not of this world", is the priority. This should be the primary message of Catholic philosophy concerned with proclaiming the Truth, Who is a Someone, not a something. The Catholics of the Progressive Era understood this. They did not suffer from having their faith subtly stolen from them.

    I highly recommend THE CHURCH CONFRONTS MODERNITY- Catholic Intellectuals & the Progressive Era, by Thomas E. Woods Jr. as a necessary addition to any Catholic library. It is available from Columbia Press for $29.50.


    BOOKS YOU CAN COUNT ON!
    April 19, 2005
    Volume 16, no. 109