At the beginning of the 20th century Pope St Pius X described modernism as the "synthesis of all heresies."
In the 1960s Blessed Pope John XXIII "opened the windows of the Church" to let in some "fresh air." Unfortunately, some of the air was contaminated by modernism.
It needs to be made clear that the documents of the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) do not contain any false doctrine. Those who declare that they do have either never read them, or have done so without due care and attention.
It is equally clear that theologians of a modernist bent have cleverly hijacked Vatican II by various means, for example, by quoting passages partially or out of context, and by interpreting them according to their own agenda.
Equally cleverly they have invented and proclaimed "the spirit of Vatican II" as the source of other agenda items. As one perceptive American Franciscan commented, "the so-called 'Spirit of Vatican II' has turned out to be a poltergeist" (German for a noisy and confusing ghost).
The first wave of modernism battered the Church towards the end of the 19th century with a radically new theology of revelation. It overthrew completely the basic notion that had been accepted for centuries, namely, that public revelation ceased with the death of the last Apostle, and this so-named "deposit of faith" was to be preserved and transmitted without error to later generations until the end of time.
The Holy Spirit, "the Spirit of truth" (John 16, 13), would guarantee this by seeing to it that the teaching authority (the magisterium) given by Jesus Christ to "Peter and the eleven" and their successors would not err in handing on His teachings.
To sum up, the traditional view, which was upheld by Vatican II, is that the objective truth contained in Christ's teaching is not subject to change (cf. "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and for ever" Heb. 13:8).
Modernist theologians rejected this view. According to them, revelation must be made directly and interiorly to each individual. This means that revelation is ongoing and can even be contradictory as time passes. Truth, therefore, is subjective; it can vary from person to person and from time to time.
They then proclaimed that in order to receive this individual revelation, each person is given, as an internal part of his or her nature, a "religious sense" to receive it. Faith then becomes a purely natural evolution of human thought. On the contrary, according to St Paul, "faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes by the preaching of Christ" (Rom. 10:17).
So much for the modernist "first wave" which subsided due to its condemnation by Pope St Pius X in 1907. Modernist theological thought then went underground, but surfaced again after World War II.
This second wave was essentially the same as the first, but there was a superficial difference - the "Holy Spirit" was substituted for the natural "religious sense" mentioned above. No doubt it was thought this claim about the Holy Spirit would make their theory more acceptable - which in fact it did.
What does this all mean in practice? Well, because according to the modernist, truth is subjective and the "Holy Spirit" gives ongoing revelation to each individual:
* there is no limit to change, whether in doctrine or discipline;
* the gospels and letters of the New Testament are only "a summary of the experiences" of the writers;
* doctrinal content in catechetics is not important, nor is the Catechism of the Catholic Church;
* the Magisterium of the Church is inferior to professional theological "experts";
* papal documents are of little value, e.g,, Redemptionis Sacramentum on abuses in the Mass does not apply;
* female priests will one day be permitted;
* "cafeteria Catholicism" - picking and choosing one's beliefs is acceptable;
* following one's conscience becomes equivalent to doing what one wants to do because the "Holy Spirit" okays it;
* one religion is as good as another.
The list could go on. Modernism is a sham, both philosophically and theologically, and the sooner this is realised the better, especially by those who have been led astray unwittingly by modernist gurus.
It needs to be emphasised that Vatican II re-enforced traditional teaching on divine revelation.
Subsequently, Pope Paul VI (1974) would declare, "Modernism [is] a cancerous growth which lurks within its victim ... while it relentlessly presses forward with its mission of destruction."
And in the words of St Paul: "Even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to that which we preached to you, let him be accursed" (Gal 1:8).
In the light of history, as outlined above, it is the modernists and their trendy fellow-travellers who are truly pre-Vatican II.
Fr Martin Durham is a retired Queensland priest.