THE ERRORS OF THE MODERNISTS
Q. A wider field for comment is opened when we come to what the Modernist school has imagined to be the nature of the Church. What, according to them, is the origin of the Church ?
A. They begin with the supposition that 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.
Q. What, then, is the Church ?
A. It 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 is Christ.
Q. Whence comes in the Catholic Church, according to the Modernist theologians, disciplinary, doctrinal, and liturgical authority ?
A. Every society needs a directing authority to guide its members towards the common end, to foster prudently the elements of cohesion, which in a religious society are doctrine and worship. Hence the triple authority in the Catholic Church, disciplinary, dogmatic, liturgical.
Q. Whence do they gather the nature and the rights and duties of this authority ?
A. The nature of this authority is to be gathered from its origin, and its rights and duties from its nature.
Q. What do the Modernist theologians say of the Church s authority in the past ?
A. In past times it was a common error that authority came to the Church from without, that is to say, directly from God ; and it was then rightly held to be autocratic.
Q. And what of the, Church’s authority to-day ?
A. This conception has now grown obsolete; 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.
Q. Does the Church s authority, then, according to the Modernist theologians, depend on the collective conscience ?
A. Authority, like the Church, has its origin in the religious conscience, and, that being so, is subject to it.
Q. And if the Church denies this dependence, what does it become, according to this doctrine ?
A. Should it disown this dependence, it becomes a tyranny.
Q. But is not that equivalent to establishing popular government in the Church ?
A. We are living in an age when the sense of liberty has reached its highest development. In the civil order the public conscience has introduced popular government. 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.
Q. The Church not yielding to this Modernist doctrine, what will happen to the Church and religion alike ?
A. The penalty of refusal is disaster, they say. For 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.
Q. According to the ideas of the Modernists, what is, in short, their great anxiety ?
A. Such is the situation in the minds of the Modernists, and their one great anxiety is, in consequence, to find a way of conciliation between the authority of the Church and the liberty of the believers.