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Introduction: Pascendi dominici gregis The Vatican Condemnation of Modernism C.J.T. Talar Undoubtedly, were anyone to attempt the task of collecting together all the errors that have been broached against the faith and to concentrate into one the sap and substance of them all, he could not succeed in doing so better than the Modernists have done. Pascendi dominici gregis (#39) T he third part of the antimodernist encyclical Pascendi dominici gregis— reputed to have been written by Pope Pius X himself—made it clear that Modernism was perceived to be of such gravity and its partisans of such tenacity that identification of their multiple errors was not enough. The final portion set in place a series of control measures that would affect the state of Catholic scholarship for decades to come. Catholic theologians, exegetes, historians and philosophers , indeed Catholic intellectuals more largely (novels could find their way on to the Index of Forbidden Books just as well as more scholarly writings), were put on notice that their work would be subject to increased surveillance. And local ordinaries were given to understand that they were accountable for strict censorship of publications within their dioceses and for the institution and maintenance of councils of vigilance to enlarge the scope of scrutiny.1 The amount of attention given to surveil1 1. The interdiction of Modernist writings “or whatever savors of Modernism or promotes it” from seminarians or university students is specified in Pascendi (#50). Beyond the prevention and sale of such material there is the necessity to prevent it from coming into print in the first place—hence sections devoted expressly to censorship (#51 and 52). Diocesan Vigilance Committees, “charged with the task of noting the existence of errors and the devices by which new ones are introduced and propagated, and to inform the Bishop of the whole, so that he may take counsel with them as to the best means for suppressing the evil at the outset and preventing it spreading for the ruin of souls or, worse still, gaining strength and growth,” were the object of section #55. The foundational role of scholastic philosophy as normative basis for sound formation in theology and canon law, the “diligence and severity” required “in examining and selecting candidates for Holy Orders,” the regulation of editorship or collaboration with periodicals on the part of priests or their participation in congresses (this last to be permitted only “on very rare occasions”) for the subjects of several sections of this portion of the encyclical (#45, 46, 49, 53 and 54). Lastly, accountability lance and sanction, and the rigor with which both could be applied, serve as indicators of the anxiety induced by the Modernist crisis among official guardians of the faith. Catholic polemicists could decry Protestant and Kantian infiltrations into the ranks of the clergy itself,2 precipitating a climate of dogmatic anarchy among some of its members.3 Such characterizations of the crisis were not a case of polemical excess. As one who lived through the Modernist crisis and knew some of its principal figures well, Maude Petre was in a position to comment with some authority. Some decades later she wrote, We must remember, in fairness to those who were not always fair, that the impact of historical criticism on the traditional teaching of the Church was terrifying; that it seemed a case of saving the very essence of the Christian faith from destruction. Not, perhaps, since the startling revelation of Copernicanism, had the shock been greater.4 The language adopted in Pascendi comes across as harsh and uncompromising— to the point that at the time some of its defenders felt it necessary to justify not only its content but its tone. The encyclical is so out of an apparent conviction that no compromise was possible. The enemy was no longer at the gates; it had penetrated the 2 U.S. Catholic Historian for all this was specified in the form of triennial returns (#56). (The translation of Pascendi used throughout is that which appears in Vincent A. Yzermans, ed., All Things in Christ (Westminster, Md.: Newman Press, 1954). 2. In Les infiltrations protestantes et le clergé français (Paris: Victor Retaux, 1901...


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