Modernism

Is there a difference between Modernism and modernism? How do we know which aspects of modernism are the ones that have been declared a heresy and which are not?

From the encyclical of Pope St Pius X on the doctrines of the modernists: (in keeping with the rule of only posting three paragraphs - you’ll have to read the rest from the link)

We allude, Venerable Brethren, to many who belong to the Catholic laity, nay, and this is far more lamentable, to the ranks of the priesthood itself, who, feigning a love for the Church, lacking the firm protection of philosophy and theology, nay more, thoroughly imbued with the poisonous doctrines taught by the enemies of the Church, and lost to all sense of modesty, vaunt themselves as reformers of the Church; and, forming more boldly into line of attack, assail all that is most sacred in the work of Christ, not sparing even the person of the Divine Redeemer, whom, with sacrilegious daring, they reduce to a simple, mere man.

  1. Though they express astonishment themselves, no one can justly be surprised that We number such men among the enemies of the Church, if, leaving out of consideration the internal disposition of soul, of which God alone is the judge, he is acquainted with their tenets, their manner of speech, their conduct. Nor indeed will he err in accounting them the most pernicious of all the adversaries of the Church. For as We have said, they put their designs for her 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. Further, none is more skilful, none more astute than they, in the employment of a thousand noxious arts; for they double the parts of rationalist and Catholic, and this so craftily that they easily lead the unwary into error; and since audacity is their chief characteristic, there is no conclusion of any kind from which they shrink or which they do not thrust forward with pertinacity and assurance. To this must be added the fact, which indeed is well calculated to deceive souls, that they lead a life of the greatest activity, of assiduous and ardent application to every branch of learning, and that they possess, as a rule, a reputation for the strictest morality. Finally, and this almost destroys all hope of cure, their very doctrines have given such a bent to their minds, that they disdain all authority and brook no restraint; and relying upon a false conscience, they attempt to ascribe to a love of truth that which is in reality the result of pride and obstinacy.

I’m not sure I know the disctinction. When I hear the word “modernism” I associate it with the heresy described in the above encyclical. A lot of people have a much broader definition that includes any change in religious practice that has occurred in the last 40 years or so–even if certain actions are erroneous, they are often erroneous for other reasons other than modernism and yet everything is called modernsim :shrug: . There is also school of art called modernist, which is anti-Catholic since it exalts anarchy, ugliness, chaos, and disorder, instead of the beauty and order of God’s creation.

We can say that Modernism is a theological position held by people who are either within the Church or, if excommunicated, claim to be unjustly removed from it, whilst modernism is a more general worship of the modern.

As with most heresies or silly ideas there is a bit of truth in it. Modern machinery will tend to work more efficiently than old machinery, for instance. A friend of mine who works for a software house told me that he had instituted a policy of always having the newest versions of software, highest spec machines, operating systems, etc. That is a perfectly valid business decision which wouldn’t lead to his excommunication.

However the problem with modernism is that it tends to say that the centuries-long experience of the Church is of no value. That very quickly leads to other heresies. Again, not everything will be entirely wrong - there were mistakes in the past, conditions do change making practise which were once sensible no longer wise, we do sometimes learn things we didn’t know previously - but the general attitude is wrong. “The Church must change” is the slogan, whilst in fact a few moderate changes might be desireable, but are probably not essential, and there is no urgency.

So then, do you agree that the ugly artwork that has replaced the sacred, traditional artwork such as found at this Catholic Church would, then be called Modernist?

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That is to me, not art.

Only someone as humble as the Blessed Virgin could stand to be portrayed that way in public.

It is recognisably a woman in a headscarf, and presumably the niche in her tummy can be used to house the tabernacle, which is an original idea and not unorthodox.

A real modernist would just put down a pile of bricks and label it “Madonna with Child”. When someone says “that’s not a Madonna with child, it’s just a pile of bricks” he says “Aha, it is meant to provoke a debate about the nature of formal representation. That’s why it is such great art.”

Yes, that was similar to my way of thinking.

Why am I not surprised to see this in a Catholic Church? :slight_smile:

You’re right, Malcolm, that is exactly what I would expect to hear from a modernist.

What about this picture, where the architect says the twelve pillars in the sanctuary are the twelve apostles? Would you say that is the art of a modernist?

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Which one is Judas? :smiley:

I wonder if any members here go to this building for services? Sorry, but I hesitate to call it a church!:frowning:

Great question!:rotfl::rotfl::rotfl:

Pope Pius X said that once modernism takes hold, you cannot get rid of it. Another thing of interest is that Modernism does not change the wording of any doctrine. It just changes the understanding. Modernists agree with everything the Magisterium says. They just have a totally different understanding of what it means.

That one’s borderline (of course, like all things, it’s best not to even border something no good). At least it is attempting to demonstrate a truth–the same Jesus that was in her womb is the Jesus on the Altar. Anyway, these are better examples:
tate.org.uk/britain/exhibitions/artnow/raqibshaw/images/garden_of_earthly_delights.jpg
ibiblio.org/wm/paint/auth/kandinsky/kandinsky.comp-8.jpg
agnesbugeragallery.com/ABG-Admin/Uploads/painting_Duncan-Untitled%20004.jpg

Modernist art has taken hold because most people are not educated in other forms anymore. Due to photography and computers and whatnot, for art in the traditional media (paint, sculpture, etc.) to be special nowadays it has to be different than reality. More and more unique symbolism is sought. Quality imagery is everywhere in our society, but ironically, it has made it so quality art is not. If you read the slideshow, this is demonstrated. The intent of the various things is good–they are trying to demonstrate and symbolize various truths, but in a unique way.

Then you don’t agree that modernists use art to further their agenda? To get rid of the sacred?

Sorry, I made an edit above. As I said there, if you read the slideshow, the intent of the various things is good (hey they even have relics in the altar!)–they are trying to demonstrate and symbolize various truths, but in a unique way. They are actually trying to create a place where people will be in awe at the power of God.

I don’t think this is specifically the case of people with an agenda. I think the designers were trying to do the right thing, they just are going about it the wrong way. Art and architectural schools simply no longer teach Gothic, Baroque, or Rococo style anymore :frowning:

Anyhow, it’s best not to pass rash judgments unless you know for sure someone’s motivation.

I’m not making a rash judgment, and I wasn’t referring to the Church in the link. I was asking in general, because you mentioned that people today aren’t educated in the arts as they used to be. So doesn’t that make it easier for modernists to corrupt religion with their “art?”

Art is always used to further an agenda, but the agenda is in the artist making each individual piece of art.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot, and you may be right. But, I think there is another possible situation. The best art (IMO) was produced during a period where society had been thoroughly Catholic for centuries. But if we go way back, we see something interesting. Christian art is almost identical to the art of the culture, say, Roman art. That’s why everyone thinks St. Peter looks like Jupiter in some of those old statues. A lot of the reliefs showing scenes from the Gospel or the martyrs look exactly like reliefs showing Roman battles. The artists worked with the only kind of art they knew, and they tried to make it Christian. The same went for early Church architecture.

Fast forward to today–there hasn’t been a thoroughly Catholic society for centuries now. I think it’s very similar to those days in the past when Christian artists and architects want to give honor to God, and they are just working with the style of art they know. I don’t think it’s necesarily someone trying to promote an antiCatholic agenda just like in the past they weren’t trying to promote a pagan Roman agenda (they weren’ trying to corrupt Christians into Saint worship by making them in the style used for pagan gods) in fact, in both cases it is quite the opposite. The problem is the modern style is very difficult (if not impossible) to “baptize” compared to the old pagan Roman style.

I don’t know much effect it has on people and their religiousity or how much religion is corrupted by it–I know a lot of Catholics–some who go to church’s that look like spaceships and some that go to the most beautiful churches I have ever seen. There’s really not any difference–there are saints who just exude true holiness (I can’t explain it, you just know it when you’re around it), regular Catholics trying to be faithful, and nominal, cafeteria types at both kinds of churches :shrug: .

I like the style from the era I mentioned above (when society was thoroughly Catholic) because rather than being something that was taken from elsewhere and made Catholic, it emenated directly from Catholic society.

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