Modernism Condemned - Defending Pope St. Pius X's Sanctity
The Angelus  - November 2002

95 YEARS AGO: Modernism Condemned - Defending Pope St. Pius X's Sanctity
by Don Dario Composta

[Image: Pope-Pius-X.jpg]

Historical Sketch of Modernism

In August and September of 1907 Pope Pius X made the difficult and courageous decision to publish the irrevocable condemnations of modernism in two important documents, Lamentabili Sane and Pascendi Gregis. The former condemns 65 erroneous propositions taken from the writings of the modernist Fathers Loisy and Tyrrell; the latter draws a huge picture of the origins and nature of the creeping, insidious, and deadly error. Modernism, taught the Pope, was an error, invading all sectors of the Catholic Faith, that became a kind of agnosticism and immanentism in religious matters containing all the heresies of the past. The holy Pontiff had waited patiently before pronouncing this condemnation, hoping that the partisans of the "new Christianity" might be converted, but the situation became such that any further delay would have been fatal.

This decision dealt a destructive blow which cut the pretensions of the innovators at their roots. In the years 1920-40, new generations of seminarians and theology teachers did not realize that the multi-headed serpent hid itself in the folds of certain seats of error, ready to rise up again. However, the future Pope Pius XII, as a young priest himself, was aware of the modernist enemy and of its continued clandestine maneuvers. With his encyclical Humani Generis (1950) he tried to suppress all attempts for the renaissance of modernism, but once again the condemnation did not suffice to eradicate the error totally. In July 1963, Pope Paul VI addressed the Catholic Church in his first encyclical Summi Pontificatus, openly alluding to "modernism," this error, which, in the midst of the Second Vatican Council, increased in vigor and arrogance. The time was ripe for the hidden modernists to utilize certain reformist requirements of the Council by transforming them into vehicles for the old error. Forty years after the Council not only can we see, in effect, that modernism has poisoned Catholic theology and morals again, but also that it is rehabilitating as "heroes" (Frs. Loisy and Tyrell) those whom Pope Pius X had excommunicated. Moreover, the old seats of error have boldly manipulated ecclesiastical history to calumniate St. Pius X himself.

Today we can understand why, in 1949, on the eve of the beatification of Pope Pius X, the counselors of what was then the Sacred Congregation of Rites proposed a supplement of historical research which, along with the textual proof of past investigative processes (of 1923-26; 1943-46), would dispel any doubt regarding the honesty and the even heroic conduct of Pope Pius X in the face of the insurrection of the insidious sect. This supplement was titled Disquisitio circa Quasdam Obiectiones Modum Agendi Servi Dei Respicientes in Modernismi Debellatione una cum Summario Additionali (The Servant of God's Manner of Acting in the Vanquishing of Modernism Together with an Additional Summary).

The fears of 50 years ago were not unfounded. Among today's historians of the pontificate of St. Pius X, several are self-declared adversaries of this holy Pontiff. During the fourth session of Vatican II, in the middle of the conciliar chamber, Cardinal Pellegrino of Turin gave an indirect invitation to this controversy when he declared that the obscure period [of Pope Pius X's reign] over the Church must never be repeated. In the historiographic domain, others would echo him in the years that followed. One, an Italian, Lorenzo Bedeschi, has founded a Center for the History of Modernism at the University of Urbino. In 1995 he published the essay "Italian Modernism: Voices and Faces." In his opinion, Pope Pius X stifled the Church by his primitive positions on the liturgy, encouraged Catholic piety to the detriment of liberty of mind, locked the door to opinions which today are considered conquests for the Church, such as "historico-criticism," the free examination of Holy Scripture, contrary discussion on the clerical celibacy, mixed sexual education, re-evaluation of Marian veneration, etc.

New Documents from the Reign of Pope Pius X

We cannot remain silent when confronted with these "historical" initiatives. Can we trust for an objective evaluation of Pope Pius X's conduct by relying on the analyses of the "new historians" or, rather, on the documentation of the acts of the process for his canonization (1949-50)? To answer, we refer to the Summarium Additionale, that is, the collection of the statements made under oath about the heroic virtues of the great Pope collected by the Sacred Congregation of Rites.

Certain consultors on the Congregation–foreseeing perhaps sad times to come–had requested and obtained that a historical Commission be named by the dicastery to illustrate the spotless and holy conduct of Pius X by further documentation. A reporter, Rev. Fr. P. F. Antonelli, a Franciscan, has presented the problem in the following terms: It is not the condemnation of modernism which is questioned, but rather the methods, the means, and the persons which were used to attempt to eradicate it. To his surprise, in 1949, he discovered, in the archives of the "Congregation of the Consistory," a shelf full of documents that had not been used in the first two canonical processes! The dossier came by the name of the Summarium Additionale. He saw that by these it would have been possible to answer the doubts of the "devil's advocate," Msgr. Salvatore Natucci, and those of some consultors who justly raised the doubt as to whether or not a certain "vehemence" against the modernists was to be deplored, and whether Pope Pius X had exceeded the limits of prudence and justice by promoting groups of imprudent persons without censuring secret institutions or organizations for "intransigent policies." The documents found by Fr. Antonelli divided into two categories.

The first classification was that of documents which would have corrected or clarified statements of the processes already judged, e.g., those of Cardinal Gasparri which were very severe regarding the Sodalitium Pianum, the organization directed by Msgr. Benigni functioning to uncover secret information on closet modernists throughout Europe. Cardinal Gasparri had referred to a dubious study, however, and the newly-recovered archives of the Congregation of the Consistory proved that certain statements of Cardinal Gasparri were unfactual.

The second category contained absolutely new documents, classed into six sections:

1) Milan: Documentation of the accusations of modernism made to the Seminary of Milan by the weekly paper La Riscossa, an Italian periodical published by two brothers in Holy Orders, Msgrs. Andrea and Gottardo Scotton, whose object was to attack modernism on every front.

2) Milan-Pisa: Political modernism, with references made to Cardinal Maffi.

3) Rome: The Piana Association or "The League of St. Pius V." (This is the Sodalitium Pianum to which we have already referred.)

4) Rome: Modernism, newspapers, persons, organizations, etc.

5) Genoa: Records of the liberal and modernist milieu with abundant material on the Italian government's refusal of the "Exsequatur" for Msgr. Caron, named Archbishop of Genoa. This file also concerns Fr. Semeria and "semerianism."

6) Perugia: The modernists.

From these documents and from other writings of Pope Pius X, Fr. Antonelli was able to construct the Summarium Additionale, a new documentation which did not enter the process. Nevertheless, it is of extreme interest and value–for that time, to demolish the objections and the accusations proposed by the "devil's advocate" in the canonization process, and today, to destroy the bizarre modernist pseudo-historical reconstruction of the pontificate of Pope Pius X especially in what concerns his conduct towards modernism.

Revelations of the Summarium Additionale

This article does not allow here for even a summary of the copious material found in the archives and presented in such an organized manner by Fr. Antonelli. May it suffice to refer to the points given below, taking as hermeneutical principle the motto which Msgr. Sarto chose while he was still bishop of Mantua, and which he kept during his Pontificate as well: Instaurare omnia in Christo. For Pius X each decision was enlightened by a very elevated sentiment of faith.

In coming to the second part of the documents and its six sections, we address the first point by examining the conduct of Pope Pius X towards the Seminary of Milan, directed until 1894 by Cardinal Ferrari. He became Archbishop of Milan in 1893, the same year that Msgr. Sarto was elected Patriarch of Venice. In Milan the roots of modernism were deeper than the Cardinal thought. Cardinal Sarto had been obliged to expel Fr. Gazzola, a Barnabite priest, from one of the city's parishes. In Milan, a group of modernists had been founded and started publishing a daily paper, Il Rinnovamento [The Renewal], which, in spite of being denounced by Rome in 1907, continued appearing until 1909. The leaders of European Modernism often met in Milan, including Fr. Loisy. The daily periodical, L'Unione, which was favorable towards modernism, was founded in 1908.

When Rome became concerned about the progress of modernism in Milan, Cardinal Ferrari made it appear as though there were not even a shadow of modernism there. Then, in the years following 1907, the Scotton brothers' paper, La Riscossa, intervened. The sarcastic interference of this paper was directed against the Seminary of Milan and indirectly against Cardinal Ferrari, Archbishop of Milan, who complained of it several times to Cardinal De Lai, Prefect of the Congregation of the Consistory. With polemics lasting nearly three years, Rome finally imposed silence on the Scotton brothers. During the summer of 1911, Cardinal Ferrari went to Rome to visit Pope Pius X, who welcomed him amiably. But the pious Cardinal returned to Milan troubled and manifested his bitterness to the Pope, who replied to him:
Quote:Your sufferings truly pain me, it is as though I did not know how much esteem the arch-diocese of Milan merits, or appreciate Your Eminency's zeal. For charity's sake, do not listen to those who speak in the Pope's name as though they were speaking words spoken by him, according to their desires and their imaginations. (Summarium Additionale, p. 218)

Where in this can we see the imprudence of St. Pius X? Should we not admire, rather, the patience of the Pope, who, although he knew that Milan was infested with modernism, did not lose confidence in the Archbishop? Where is this "vehemence" against the partisans of modernism?

We continue to the second point regarding Milan-Pisa and Cardinal Maffi.

This affair is about the anti-modernist daily printed in Florence, Unità Cattolica. Cardinal De Lai approved it in accord with Pope Pius X. This periodical was opposed to modernist Catholic journalism, a kind of "underground press" centered in Milan. Its consequences were harmful, however, because, notwithstanding the intention to instill a Catholic spirit in the liberal press, it provoked a confusion of ideas amongst Catholics. Pope Pius X was in favor of a strictly Catholic journalism, including La Riscossa of the Scotton brothers and the Unità Cattolica, La Liguria Cattolica, Verona Fedele, II Berico, and ten other weekly periodicals of Turin and Naples. But Cardinal Maffi supported a more open press, less of a "sacristy type" periodical, still faithful to Catholic principles. Cardinal De Lai did not share this opinion, because, aside from his financial deficit, this "underground press" created a fluid atmosphere which was favorable to anti-Catholic ideas. The Pope himself shared this conviction, taking into account its fruits.

In Rome the prototype model of the popular press was set up–Il Coniere d'ltalia–in opposition to papal directives. Pope Pius X wrote to the Provost of Casalpusterlengo, complaining that behind the sensational presentation and typesetting, these papers praised the errors propagated in books of doubtful morality and venerated the idols of the times. He wrote:
Quote:It is utopic to believe that we can convert our adversaries to Catholic convictions by yielding on capital points of faith and morals, and it entails serious damage to souls and to the Church. It is very serious that priests and prelates should support these strategies: the Catholic is loyal with his enemies, but does not hide his faith. (Ibid, p. 25)

This is not to imply that Pope Pius X shared in all the excesses of the "intransigent" press. He warned Cardinal Mistrangelo of Florence, requesting him to supervise Unità Cattolica so that it would neither publish news of hypocritical adversaries (ibid. p. 134) nor attack respectable persons, nor be silent on the subject of eminent persons. As to the Scotton brothers, we saw that in the subsequent controversy with Cardinal Ferrari, they were silenced (ibid. p. 199). In conclusion, Pope Pius X encouraged the Catholic press, but he corrected its excesses, and deplored the "underground press" as being even more injurious.

The Sodalitium Pianum is the third point of Fr. Antonelli's Summarium Additionale. The Sodalitium Pianum is always associated with the person and reputation of Msgr. Benigni (1862-1934). This is the favorite target for the arrows of the pseudo-historians.

Torrents of ink have been poured out over Msgr. Benigni's image and his work. He was the coordinator of information on persons suspected of or recognized as culpable of modernism during two periods: from 1900-14 (the year of Pope Pius X died) and from 1914-21 (the year when the Sodalitium Pianum was suppressed). After having been in the Vatican Library under Pope Leo XIII, Msgr. Benigni lived in Berlin while completing his studies in ecclesiastical history there.

Returning from Berlin, he became a professor of ecclesiastical history at three highly esteemed institutions. This permitted him to know many persons involved in the Church. In 1906, he entered the Secretariat of State in the Congregation of Extraordinary Ecclesiastical Affairs and was sent to the Vatican until 1911. As he was managing the press service, he became alarmed by the progress of socialism in Europe and that of modernism, which he already long surmised was "modernizing Catholicism" and constituted not only a new theology but also a new vision of the world in the social, political, literary, and artistic domains. His aversion towards these two movements made him known to Pope Pius X. It is said that the encyclicals Lamentabili Sane and Pascendi Dominici Gregis were edited by him. This cannot be proven, but it is sure he participated in the thought and composition of these two works.

This is certain. On May 23, 1907, before the pontifical condemnations of modernism, he founded the weekly periodical Corrispondenza Romana, otherwise known by the abbreviation "SP," otherwise known as Sodalitium Pianum, a sort of international information agency on the dangers of modernism. SP became an instrument which supported Pope Pius X's actions, allocutions, and interventions. In France, SP began to frighten the Masonic politicians so much that its dissolution was requested of Rome by Aristide Briand. Instead, Cardinal Gasparri had a misunderstanding with Msgr. Benigni, and in March 1911 he appointed Msgr. Eugenio Pacelli, the future Pius XII, to replace him. Benigni, freed from his commitments in the curia, consecrated himself totally to his activities as informer, which he intensified. Notwithstanding the censures which rained down on the Sodalitium Pianum from Bavaria, the Pope sent a letter of praise to Benigni. This encouraged Msgr. Benigni to put a more effective instrument into action–the Agenzia Internationale Romana (AIR). Another letter from the Pope was sent to the prelate in 1912; a third and last letter of praise was sent in 1914. In 1921 a file of the Sodalitium Pianum was discovered in Gand, Belgium, which caused violent polemics to arise, but Benigni continued and completed his Social History of the Church. In that year, however, the Sodalitium Pianum was suppressed.

The Sodalitium was composed of a director, a committee, and a secretariat. It was responsible for performing ordinary and extraordinary services in Rome and in its centers spread throughout Europe, between which a code was used for communicating.

In order to cast judgment on the Sodalitium, it must be observed that it obtained general approbation from the Holy See and that Cardinal De Lai had recommended it in a letter to Pope Pius X. This, by the way, explains the three letters of praise for the Sodalitium from the Pope. Any occasional imprudences or intemperance of language are not imputable to Cardinal De Lai and even less so to the Pope. Until 1914, the SP maintained its combative, sometimes even violent, tone, in self-defense against diverse enemies in all of Europe. After 1914, the activities of the Sodalitium diminished, partly because of World War I. Its revival in 1918 was only ephemeral and it was finally dissolved in 1921. We concede that subsequent to 1914 Msgr. Benigni had allowed himself to fall into unpleasant expressions and invectives sometimes. Moreover, the Sodalitium, in spite of various initiatives of Msgr. Benigni, never obtained the approval of its Statutes, but only a general declaration of satisfaction for the work accomplished between 1907 and 1911.Therefore, we cannot equate the activity of the Sodalitium with the Pope's government of the Church, even less so because Cardinal Gasparri, Secretary of State, had removed Msgr. Benigni from his responsibility.

The fourth point deals with Pope Pius X's attitude towards modernism in general and, in particular, modernist priests.

Pope Pius X was always vigilant towards priests who had enlisted in modernism or were tempted by it. In 1908, when he received the Bishop of Chalons, France, in the Vatican, he recommended that he treat Loisy with benevolence. By this time, Loisy had himself rejected his priesthood and returned to the lay state. He had lost the Faith over 20 years before, in 1887.

Fifthly, Pope Pius X himself was patient with Fr. Semeria, but the superiors in Genoa, Italy, acted against the celebrated Barnabite and obliged him to read a public declaration of adhesion to the encyclical Pascendi Dominici Gregis. Years later in 1930, Fr. Semeria himself recognized his errors and acknowledged the providential work of Pope Pius X in the combat against modernism (ibid., p. 30).

The sixth part of the Summarium Additionale contains documentation on the modernism in Perugia centered around Fr. Genocchi, Superior of the Sacred Heart Missionaries. Fr. Genocchi was well-known as a philo-modernist. He welcomed celebrated modernists into his library at his Institute in the Via della Sapienza. Moreover, he maintained contact with Loisy and Sabatier. Pope Pius X was informed of all this, but he did not use the "virga ferrea" (iron rod) against Fr. Genocchi. On December 28, 1907, in answer to Fr. Gennochi's Christmas wishes for that year, the Pope recommended that he not fail in his duties as Superior and as priest and assured him of his affection. This long-suffering of Pius X towards the disobedient is shown in many other cases throughout the Summarium Additionale. Our brief acquaintance with it suffices to give a glimpse of the measure of charity and prudence of this great Pope. The so-called "vehemence" with which he dealt with the Church's adversaries should be instead attributed to the pseudo-historians themselves.


The historian must be guided by reason and not by sentiment. Modernist historians must not resort to making scaremongering shock-phrases about "integrisms" in the prudence, wisdom, patience and charity of a truly great Pope. The whole of the historical period of which we have drawn up some major points must be treated with the absolute objectivity which appears in the available documentation. What we have cited of the Summarium Additionale reveals a historical source of a primary and essential importance. We cannot apply the posthumous rancor of the pseudo-historians of his pontificate to the over-zealousness of some of the anti-modernists who support Pope St. Pius X. The defiance of the pseudo-historians is to renew the modernism they love even though it has been clearly condemned by the Church, which hates it.

(Translated by G. Stannus from Instaurare, Jan.-June, 1997, exclusively for Angelus Press.) Edited heavily by Fr. Kenneth Novak.

N.B.: The Summarium Additionale has been translated into French (324 pp.) with the title, Disquisitio, taken from the first word of the original Latin title. It can be purchased from Courrier de Rome, BP 156, F-78001 Versailles, France, for about $25.00.

[Emphasis - The Catacombs]
"So let us be confident, let us not be unprepared, let us not be outflanked, let us be wise, vigilant, fighting against those who are trying to tear the faith out of our souls and morality out of our hearts, so that we may remain Catholics, remain united to the Blessed Virgin Mary, remain united to the Roman Catholic Church, remain faithful children of the Church."- Abp. Lefebvre

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