First published 1916
-Rev. Dr. Maciej Sieniatycki (Professor of Jagiellon University in Cracow)
The reform which [the modernists] desire to bring into the Church is not a reform, but rather the desire to destroy the Church and to establish a new institution, based on entirely different principles. Any declarations from the modernists that they wish to come to the aid of the Catholic Church against the attacks of modern culture are either false, or if sincere, show that they do not see the disastrous consequences which their system would bring about in the Catholic Church. A church which would arise from principles of the modernists – if these principles could even create any religious community, which is very doubtful – would not be the Church of Christ anymore, but a construction of the twentieth century, founded on principles partly Protestant, but mainly on modern world views of agnosticism, positivism and a mix of wishful spirituality, which nowadays abide among so many people. This new church could have a pope and bishops, but these would only be puppet figures. It could talk of dogmas, revelations, of supernatural religion, but these would be names only, which would have lost their former meaning, rather terms that have lost their substance – so how could one truthfully claim that the Church was not changed but perfected? No, never, the Church would have been destroyed, and out of its ruins a religious gathering of the twentieth century would emerge, its era having begun with the modernists.
In the Church of the modernists, saints “rule and decide what is right, and what is wrong. The rule of their lives is the inspiration of the Holy Ghost” [(words of the modernist M. Zdziechowski)].
Omitting that Christ instituted a Pope as the head of the entire Church and as its supreme and infallible teacher in matters of faith, to whom even saints should subject themselves and confess his pronouncements as the truth; omitting this, I say, this principle of the modernists would usher complete anarchy into the Church, would crush the Church and make her an invisible Church.
Saints should rule and teach because the Holy Ghost rules them! There is not an iota of a difference in this to what the Protestants invented, when, not wanting to have the Church as a mediator between themselves and God, they claimed and do claim that each is inspired from the Holy Ghost about what he is to believe and how he is to act.
And what has happened? Heaps of sects have spawned, some contrary and opposing one another in their beliefs, and each one allegedly directly communicating with the Holy Spirit. For what is more natural than for a person in a moment of religious fervour to presume his own beloved thoughts to be the inspiration and revelation of the Holy Spirit? So it would also happen in the Catholic Church if the principles of the modernists were to take hold. The number of saints receiving revelations from the Holy Spirit would multiply in great number, as there would naturally be no standard for sanctity, and nobody would dare to question the sanctity of him who is led directly by the Holy Spirit. It’s obvious that amongst those claiming to be saints would be visionaries, fantasts, mad people, malcontents, and sometimes well-masked cheats; each would desire to impose their concept of sanctity as the standard for advancing in holiness. An anarchy would arise and the Church would fragment into sects. Only he, who, without any proof, accepts that everyone would indeed be real saints, led by the Holy Ghost, can presume that everybody would agree as one. However, the Holy Ghost never gave His assurance that he Himself would guide saints without the mediation of the Church – and even against Church power and jurisdiction; and history teaches that those considering themselves to be directed in an unmediated manner by the Holy Ghost lapsed into the most dreadful errors regarding both faith and morals. Only Catholic saints agree as one on the faith, but only because they receive this faith through the mediation of the Pope and bishops.
And what would the Pope and bishops be in such a church, in which saints ruled and represented the truth?
They would possess mere titular positions, no real jurisdiction, just branding the activity of the saints. They could never oppose the saints, as that would mean opposing the Holy Ghost. Or they would have to possess a higher sanctity than the saints in order to receive higher revelations – and if not, submit to their mercies and disfavours, carry out their commands – a role not to be wished for! The true rulers of the Church would be invisible. For a private person cannot pass a certain judgement on who is a saint, and who isn’t. So many true saints are hidden from the human eye, while so many hypocrites can, at least for a while, put on a the cloak of sanctity. How is one to discern the situation?
After such consideration it stems that one could not find out something more impractical,more utopian, than the concept of a modernist church. One would have to be ignorant of human nature with all its defects, live only in an pretendent world of pure ideals, which can only be realised among the saints in Heaven, to think that the principles of the modernists could create the Church or prevent its destruction. Nevertheless, it must be admitted that the vision of the church created by the modernists flows directly from their understanding of Revelation and their relation to God. Since, they say, man directly receives interior revelation from God, he has no need for a guiding authority. The guidance of the Holy Ghost would replace all jurisdiction. The less obstacles a man places before the Holy Ghost by cleansing himself of sin, the more prominently the Holy Ghost works. And so saints are the most perfect organs of the Holy Ghost, and hence they are also the best teachers of the Faith and spirituality. Thus it is they who should direct everybody who has joined the religious community, the church. But what to do with the Pope, the bishops and the general Church hierarchy? They cannot be done away with, as that would be too radical and nobody would believe that the church of the modernists is the Catholic Church, so the former power has to stay – but only titularly, without any attribution of power. However, they must have some form of occupation. And so they would only track the revelations of saints, correct nothing and restrict nothing, give no guidelines, simply order and segregate these revelations, create a terminology for them, recognise only the passing ones as dogmas. They are to be mere onlooking historians and philosophers of the modernists’ church – but not rulers or teachers of the Faith, for that belongs to the saints!
These are all human inventions, upon which a church established by men might be based, but never the Church of Christ, a divine institution, with her hierarchy positively founded by Christ, her laws given unto her by Christ. In the Church there is no place for the realisation of the ideas of the modernists.
If the modernists were to try to support their vision of a church with the authority of Holy Scripture, tradition or history, it might be appropriate to demonstrate that the Church decisively opposes their ideas based on these, and that only the organisation and the teaching of the Catholic Church, existing today, agrees with both Scripture, tradition and historical facts. Modernists, due to a false notion of Sacred Scripture and tradition, already understanding that it would be a Sisyphean task to cite these authorities, do not attempt to do so, thereby freeing also us from resisting modernist ideas using the above authorities. Anyhow, they can be easily found in every dogmatics handbook, in the history of the Catholic Church and also in the widespread and nowadays well-established literature about the beginnings of the Catholic Church.
We have already seen what one is to think of the modernists’ aprioristic concept of a church. The invectives, vulgar insults and general, unfounded facts directed towards the Pope and the hierarchy of the Catholic Church by the modernists, are unworthy of a serious discussion and academic answer.
Rev. Dr. M. Sieniatycki
The above article is the closing fragment of Rev. Maciej Sieniatycki’s polemic against Marian Zdziechowski’s book Pessimism, Romanticism and the Basis of Christianity, 2 volumes, Cracow 1915. This polemic, Modernism in a Polish Book, appeared in Popular Review, Vol. CXXX (April, May, June 1916), pages 69-78 and 209-223; Vol. CXXXI (July, August, September 1916), pages 40-56 and 279-294; Vol. CXXXII (October, November, December 1916) pages 73-82. Cracow 1916. (Writing style slightly contemporarised, text in brackets […] and article title by the publication Ultra montes) (a)
(1) Cp. my work: The Beginnings of the Church Hierarchy, Lwów 1912.