Modernism - 2020-06-29
"The Catholic Church never suits the particular mood of any age, because it was made for all ages. A Catholic knows that if the Church married the mood of any age in which it lived, it would be a widow in the next age. The mark of the true Church is that it will never get on well with the passing moods of the world."
Today, this quote, a critique of Modernism, is probably more applicable than ever. Both within the Church and in secular society we're used to hearing the retort "get with the times." A retort usually encountered whenever a traditional view is defended, all the more if it is currently unpopular.
In order to discuss the issue of Modernism, we must see it for its two manifestations: 1) as a rejection of tradition, 2) as a force of liberalization.
Modernism, as a proponent of liberalization must first reject tradition as a means of acquiring knowledge. It is therefore (as the names would suggest) antithetical to Traditionalism. I have previously gone over the importance of tradition in another post, but it is important to remember one key element about Traditionalism: it is the development of knowledge upon the concrete foundation of tradition. Those truths that have been tried and verified become a part of the foundation of our way of life that we call tradition. Therefore, what is the difference between this and the changes proposed by the modernist position? Fundamentally that tradition develops, while Modernism changes and annuls. In other words, while tradition builds upon the already laid foundations of previous generations, Modernism rejects the notion that we can learn from the past and aims to adapt our institutions and way of life to the temperament of the modern age.
Therefore, knowing what we are giving up by allowing Modernism to thrive, what is it that we are accepting? Generally, this is the vaguely defined ideology of the age, or temperament. In reality, this is nothing more than an indirect way of saying liberalization. A particular age may be defined by certain material circumstances, but as it would pertain to the temperament of it, this is defined by our own behaviour. Therefore, we end up with a circular logic: the age is defined by our behaviour, but we wish to define our behaviour by the age. In this case, all that is certain is the rejection of tradition. However, since we now have no direction, and what's worse, no starting point, we find ourselves at the ultimate conclusion of this proposition: liberalization.
Liberalization starts from the position that we know nothing. It is characterized by a belief in the intellectual sovereignty of Man, as well as a prideful notion that through our (limited) capability for reasoning we can discern all the truths there are to be known. Therefore, because we know nothing, every opinion is rendered just as valid. That which is inexplicable and yet we know to be true is just as good as false.
The effects of this are immense and repulsive, as the only logical conclusion of all of it is the erasing of our traditions as well as any objective barometer. We end with no manner of discerning objective truth, but only accepting that everyone has their own truth with which we are not allowed to judge any given situation, but simply our own lives. Reality becomes individualized and the public sphere is devoid of any meaning.
As such, Modernism is itself liberalization and the implicit or explicit recognition that there is no truth beyond the individual's own perception of reality. This, however, has nothing to do with our age specifically, but is merely a cover for allowing our vices to get the better of us and our judgement.