Saturday, September 01, 2007

A hundred years since Pascendi

A week from now will mark the centenary of a little-known encyclical, issued by Pope Pius X in 1907, Pascendi Dominici Gregis. Peter Steinfels has a piece in today's NYT on the encyclical and the anti-modernist "witch-hunt" it engendered. Whatever one thinks about the "modernists" I would hope that no one would think that the intellectual climate in Christ's Church should resemble that of an authoritarian police-state:
Ultimately, the intellectual content of “Pascendi” counted less than the purge of Catholic thinkers that it put in motion. It called for carefully screening seminarians and grounding them firmly in neo-scholasticism, for censoring Catholic publications and for restricting meetings where priests might discuss theology.

Every diocese was to set up a “Council of Vigilance” that would act secretly to spot “every trace and sign of modernism” and “nip the evil in the bud.”

In 1910, Pius X further demanded that all current and future Catholic clergymen swear a lengthy oath against modernism, ratifying in detail the condemnations of “Pascendi.”

Soon a covert network of international informants began operating out of the Vatican, secretly denouncing all kinds of Catholic thinkers for modernist leanings.
[Of course, some would argue that today's climate has gravitated to the other extreme perhaps, with all kinds of opinions bandied about by Catholic thinkers and theologians without much consequence. Others still see evidence of a "big chill" in Catholic intellectual life.]

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