I was listening to a recitation and explanation of Pascendi Domini on youTube and I began to think about faith and how people come to faith and how people explain faith. One of the tenets of modernism condemned by Pope St. Pius X in his encyclical was that of phenomenalism. I am sure I got that term wrong, so let me define it. It is the notion that God can only be known through human experience and not through intellectual examination of revealed truths. It contains the erroneous assumption that there is no evidence for God outside of individual human experience. It proceeds from that error to explain that the development of religion follows a process in which the individual human experiences are shared and the shared experiences are consolidated and formulated into a religion. The phenomenalogist (messed it up again, I am sure) does not accept that God has revealed Himself in nature nor in history. Instead, people had experiences, some more powerful than others, the more powerful gaining followers. They distilled these experiences into an expression of God. In short, they believe just like an atheist, agreeing with the atheist’s statement, “God is made in the image of man.” They agree with the atheist that the experiences are motivated by some primordial need in man to have a god, and that religion evolves from this basic human need. This also explains why there are so many religions; people in different regions of the world have different experiences of the divine and codify those experiences in different expressions of worship and devotion. This entire line of thinking has been condemned in Pascendi as antichristian. All who hold and propagate such beliefs are outside of the Kingdom of God, i.e. on their way to hell.
The Church believes and teaches that God has revealed Himself through His own agency. He has revealed Himself in nature and in history, publicly as well as privately. The experiences of His actual revelations are not simply personal experiences but facts of history. He has revealed Himself as completely and totally as the ontological distinction between God and man allows according to His own desire to be known and loved by men, and according to His own plan for His Church. A man can review the facts of divine revelation and assent to them with his intellect, accepting the existence of God and responding to God with actions of his own will in an act of faith in the God Who is revealed apart from the man and fully external to the man.
I hope that the difference between this modernist error and the truth of the faith is clear. God is Yawheh, I AM WHO AM, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. He exists completely outside of the thoughts of man. Man thinks of God because God IS the Creator and He is good, giving grace to draw man to Himself, not simply because man has a primordial need for the divine. Yes, man has a primordial need for God because man needs grace to know, love, and serve his God. Man wrongly interprets this grace as a material need, a response to an innate religious sentiment. This “need” may be exploited in the creation of false religions, but it does not explain the creation of the one true faith. Man did not create Christ. He did not create the Trinity. The Trinity revealed Himself to man and offered man a share in His life. For this offer of salvation, of eternal friendship, yes, even marriage to our Creator, to have any basis in truth, it must be this way. Man cannot create his own salvation. This is idolatry. Man creates an image and then forms a relationship with that image. Idolatry! This goes against everything we believe! This is an egregious and heinous offense to the Christian heart and mind. Yet, it is a prevailing notion. Wickedness prevails. To those who are purveyors of this wickedness, the Church has spoken, let YOU be anathema. As Our Savior said, “Depart from Me you doers of evil.”
This idea is also called vital eminence, the notion that god is the end of the evolution of man’s ideas about god. This notion excuses the historical development of many faiths by providing a framework in which all faiths are equal because they are all developed in time through the same evolutionary process. More perniciously, this framework actually provides the mechanism for the creation of a one world religion. All religions are going to the truth, so, eventually (perhaps with the help of authorities this process can be accelerated) we will all worship in the one world religion.
Pope St. Pius X was truly guided by the Holy Ghost to write Pascendi and warn us about this evil. Today, we see the development of the modernist ideas. We see the rotten fruit of it. If you understand the evil here and you do NOT say to yourself, “That doesn’t sound so bad, seems like a very peaceful outcome,” then you are my brother, but if you do not see the evil here, then find a good teacher.
So the atheist says, “Man, in his weakness creates god in his image to have an imaginary protector to provide consolation in times of trial.” The modernist may say, “Well, its a bit more complicated than that,” but he cannot essentially disagree. The atheist can then say, “See, I am a strong man. I face the harsh reality of existence, that all I can see, hear, taste, smell, and feel is all there is. I do not need a celestial comforter to cope with the materialistic reality of life. You are weak. You need such a thing. I am strong. I do not.” Then I can say to such an atheist, “So you are strong because you can give up God, Whom you cannot see, and in Whom you do not believe. You are happy to cling to your material world for the brief time you have in it. How does that make you stronger than the saint who gives up all that he can see, hear, taste, smell, and feel for God Whom he cannot see? Is it the number of your years that prove your superiority? Is it the accumulation of property and experiences? What do you have to show to prove that your strength is superior to the one who gives up everything to spend eternity with his Creator?”
My dear brothers and sisters, God makes the Saints as He made his own mother, through their submission to His holy will. It is the fiat of Mary (Let it be done to me according to thy word.) and the grace of God that comprise the formula for the Saint. The Saint is His finest creation. The Saint is, like his own Savior, a sign of contradiction, drawing the ire of the world who wants to hear nothing of the call to holiness. Let us be like Our Beloved Jesus. O’ dear God in heaven, make us to be Saints.
To that end, if you hear anything in a sermon that smacks of these condemned errors, stand up and shout, “Enough. I will not submit to your idolatry. I will not endure silently your mockery of God. Leave this parish. Leave this town. Be gone.”
In nomine Patris, et Filii, et Spiritus Sancti, Amen.