100 years ago: Newman and Modernism

26 March 2008

March 27th, 1908.

IN A public letter to the Bishop of Limerick, of his obedience, Pius X. has replied to Father Tyrrell and others who have challenged him

to deny expressly that Newman’s teaching is condemned in the Encyclical Pascendi. He does deny this emphatically, but with reservations that imply the denial of meaning. A careful reader, indeed, will see in the letter indications of what has long been expected, the selection of passages from Newman’s writings, for express condemnation. In point of fact, the most characteristic teaching of The Grammar of Assent is already condemned by the Encyclical. The one thing common to all who are called “Modernists” is hostility to Scholasticism; in that hostility Newman was their precursor and their teacher. But the phrases of the Limerick letter carefully distinguish between the man and his books. These contain some things out of harmony with the established methods of the Church — that is, with Scholasticism — but he himself was ever loyal to the Magisterium of the Church, and would countenance no revolt. That is merely to number Newman with those “Modernists” who bow in silent grief before a passing storm, as compared with those who dare excommunication. We have little doubt that the Pope is right, and that Newman, if he were now living, would repudiate his own Grammar of Assent as condemned by the Encyclical, though in the effort to do this he might snap the mainspring of his faith. For the Church of Rome at the present moment makes a curiously hard demand on those who think with Newman, and they are required, in obedience to the Church, to reject the very principles from which they have learnt to obey the Church!

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