Modernism of itself, of course, is not an organization with a specific programme of action to be implemented. It is essentially a movement of ideas, a school of thought affecting Philosophy, Doctrine, Theology, History and Apologetics, drawing on a range of heretical and semi-heretical propositions down the centuries — hence Pius X’s famous assessment of Modernism as the “synthesis of all heresies”. Fashionable Modernist writings are essentially no more than that — a rehash of heresies long condemned by the Church.
Due to their disdain for Sacred Tradition and a selective approach to ecclesiastical history, this fact is conveniently ignored by the writers and missed by their captive audience which thinks it has discovered something fresh and exciting. Yet such ignorance does not prevent newchurch clergy from utilising Church history as a rationale for their beliefs and consequent actions. Paradoxically, they refer to it ad nauseam in attempts to establish credibility with bewildered Catholics. On those embarrassing occasions when their indifferent understanding is actually challenged by mere laymen, they simply change tack. Benalla parishioners soon became familiar with this ruse, as on parishioner explained:
Father W tries to go back into the history of the Church every time you query a point. Like his insistence that the placement of the Tabernacle on the sanctuary was simply the result of Catholic overreaction to Protestantism after the Reformation. If you can refute what he says on similar historical grounds then he goes on to some other point and leaves that altogether. He won’t go on with it. The rest of the Team are the same. For example, Father B says that there were no churches in the first place. They were only built so we could say Mass in them. When I told him that in the fourth century Helena built a church to house the True Cross and for no other reason, he immediately saw I had a point and went off in a totally different direction. If you are not sure of your ground they will try and bamboozle you. But they back-off as soon as they realise you are informed, and then try and find something you don’t know about. They think they know the history of the Church and you don’t. And if you do, then that’s a bit strange.
In their dogmatic acceptance of ancient notions long considered and dismissed by the Church, adherents to the new church stubbornly refuse to ponder the futility of their undertaking — as summed up by Peter Berger:
The fundamental questions of theology have been passionately considered for at least 3,000 years. It is not only insufferable arrogance to think that one can begin theologising in sovereign disregard of this history; it is also extremely uneconomical. It seems rather a waste of time to spend, say, five years working out a position, only to find that it has been done already by a Syrian monk in the fifth century. The very least that a knowledge of religious traditions has to offer is a catalogue of heresies for possible home use.
Full of indiscriminate enthusiasm and optimism many priests ignore this wisdom, preferring instead to ‘renew” their faith via the supposedly ground-breaking insights of thoroughly “modern” theologians. Instead, they lose their faith and gradually withdraw from the Catholic center, which begins to look so passe. Their new theological orientation then becomes manifest in a self-styled liturgy, still referred to as Mass but one which expresses a theology inimical to Catholicism. This in turn weakens the belief of the faithful. If, as the Church teaches, right worship reinforces right belief (lex orandi, lex credendi), then a manner of worship which does not reflect what the Church believes will clearly undermine the faith of parishioners.