The following article is adapted from the book Liberation Theology: How Marxism Infiltrated the Catholic Church written by Julio Loredo de Izcue.
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A feature of the modernist movement, as indeed all modern heretical movements, was secrecy. In the novel The Saint, published in 1905 in the form of literary narrative, Antonio Fogazzaro dealt with very relevant issues of the modernist adventure, including the need to operate secretly by forming a Catholic Freemasonry.
Having brought the main players together in order to “unite for joint action,” the author, in the person of character Abbé Marinier, states:
“Therefore, before initiating this catholic freemasonry, I think it would be wiser to come to an understanding respecting these reforms. I will go even farther; I believe that, were it possible to establish perfect harmony of opinion among you, it would still be inexpedient to bind yourselves together with visible fetters, as Signor Selva proposes. My objection is of a most delicate nature. You doubtless expect to be able to swim in safety, below the surface, like wary fishes, and you do not reflect that the vigilant eye of the Sovereign-Fisherman, or rather Vice-Fisherman, may very easily spy you out, and spear you with a skillful thrust of the harpoon. Now I should never advise the finest, most highly flavored, most desirable fishes to bind themselves together. You will easily understand what might happen should one be caught and landed. Moreover, you know very well that the great Fisherman of Galilee put the small fishes into his vivarium, but the Great Fisherman of Rome fries them.”
[In response to that speech, another character, Minucci, snaps:] “That is true! We have no human fears. . . . We wish to be united, all of us, from many lands, and to regulate our course of action. Catholic freemasonry? Yes; the freemasonry of the Catacombs.”1
Who took part in that Catholic Freemasonry? “His true name is Legion,” Fogazzaro revealed at a 1907 lecture in Paris. “He lives, thinks, and works in France, England, Germany, America, and Italy as well. He wears a cassock, uniform, or toga. He shows up in universities. He hides in seminaries. He fights in the press. He prays in the depths of the cloisters. . . . He is an exegete and historian, theologian and scholar, journalist and poet.”2
Struck in the heart by Saint Pius X, this Catholic Freemasonry had to admit defeat in order to regroup even more secretly for future battles. Writing to a Roman confidant on August 24, 1908, George Tyrrell reveals the dominant feeling in the modernist camp: “I am afraid that we must admit that the interest raised by the novelty of the modernist insurrection has weakened and the public is a bit tired.”3
Such machinations could not but draw the Roman pontiff’s attention. In 1910, he published the motu proprio Sacrorum antistitum, in which he accused the modernists of having grouped into a secret society (clandestinum foedus), and “not having abandoned their plan to disturb the peace of the Church.”4
In the following decades, that secret society carried on the “silent and secret work” proposed by Tyrrell and inspired most of the errors that plagued the Church in the twentieth century. “Reduced to a kind of clandestine life, modernists continued to operate underground, inspiring much of the religious dispute that now explodes in the Church,” affirmed in 1972 the French Dominican theologian Fr. Albert-Marie Besnard.5
The progressives themselves confirm this. Looking back at the work of this secret society, Swiss theologian Fr. Hans Küng wrote in 1968:
“We have every reason to respect the Christian commitment of those lonely heroes in a struggle for a new truthfulness, a future of the Church which seemed then to have very little prospect. They groaned under the untruthfulness, weakness, obscurity, and unholiness of the holy Church of God for which all their work was done—but they did not leave her. . . . They were suspected, hindered, disavowed, calumniated, persecuted, and exiled, by fellow-Christians, by bishops, and theologians in the Church—but they continued to work as best they could. They were considered dangerous, extremist, too radical, heretical-revolutionary; but they went on, as far as they were allowed to go and sometimes beyond this: doggedly patient, fearless, and bold against all fear.
“And it became clear that those pioneers of a new truthfulness were not outsiders, but the vanguard of a main force, following indeed slowly but at heart willingly.”6
The work of the modernists was facilitated by considerable complicity within the Church itself. Suffice it to mention the strong reactions, even by bishops, against the motu proprio Sacrorum antistitum. Pope St. Pius X was highly respected but not always followed. In April 1912, he lamented and prophetically confided to his friend Most Rev. Alfonso Archi, bishop of Como (1864—1938): “De gentibus non est vir mecum!” [from the peoples no one was with me] (Isa. 63:3). “The danger lies precisely within the veins and bowels of the Church.”7 “Loneliness, and disobedience by many bishops, even within the Sacred College” was his lot, records French historian Émile Poulat.8
Once again we feel with our hands how the current Church crisis did not start in the sixties. Already at the beginning of the twentieth century the situation of the Church was so dire that the Vicar of Christ felt abandoned by everyone.
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- Fogazzaro, The Saint, 62, 67—68.
- Delmont, Modernisme et modernistes, 24. Fogazzaro’s biographer, Tommaso Gallarati-Scotti, comments: “The frequent duplicity of the modernists is one of the dark sides the future historian will have to deal with. To an impartial eye, the sheer phenomenon of anonymity certainly does not appear in a sympathetic light. For it is not without profound humiliation that man masks his name, and Modernism has tolerated this lie in its most complicated forms.” Tommaso Gallarati-Scotti, Vita di Antonio Fogazzaro (Milan: Baldini & Castoldi, 1920), 496.
- Ernesto Buonaiuti, Le modernisme catholique, 148—49, quoted in Rivière, s.v. “Modernisme,” 10:2042.
- St. Pius X, motu proprio Sacrorum antistitum (Sept. 1, 1910).
- Albert-Marie Besnard, in Les religions: Les dictionnaires du savoir moderne, ed. Jean Chevalier (Paris: Centre d’étude et de promotion de la lecture, 1972), 306.
- Hans Küng, Truthfulness: The Future of the Church, trans. Edward Quinn (New York: Sheed and Ward, 1968), 155—56.
- Mentioned by Most Rev. Alfonso Archi in his June 1914 pastoral letter (p. 11), quoted in Émile Poulat, Intégrisme et catholicisme intégrale (Paris: Casterman, 1969), 101.
- Poulat, Intégrisme, 101.