Monday, January 11, 2010

Modernism -- Part 3

According to the Modernists, we are to look for the origins of religion within ourselves, in the innately human response to the mystery we encounter when we stand at the (always evolving) limits of scientific and historical knowing. In his 1907 encyclical, Pius X wrote dismissingly of the Modernists: "The object of science, they say, is the reality of the knowable; the object of faith, on the contrary, is the reality of the unknowable...Therefore if any religion at all is possible, it can only be the religion of an unknowable reality." Is it possible to imagine a Roman Catholic Church that a modern scientific skeptic might embrace -- a religion of "unknowable reality"?

Possible to imagine, yes, although unlikely to happen.

First the negatives.

Get rid of archaic doctrines that not only fail to meet the standards of 21st-century knowing, but which also -- ironically -- objectify and therefore reduce the Deus Absconditus of the mystics, the unknowable divine seen through a glass darkly. Admit, with the Modernists, that all our intimations of the divine are incomplete and evolving. Jettison the anthropomorphic spirits, the philosophical dualism, the miracles, the authoritarianism, the triumphalism, the paternalism, the misogyny, the homophobia, the active proselytizing of "heathens.". And toss Pascendi Dominici Gregis on the trash heap of history.

Then the positives.

Celebrate the story of Jesus as the founding myth -- the human Jesus glimpsed through the fog of history.

Celebrate the Mystery -- the unknowable reality -- by embracing unflinchingly the scientific quest for knowledge that leads us ever more deeply into the splendor and wonder of existence.

Celebrate the Church's long and glorious history of art, architecture, music and literature.

Celebrate the Church's traditional commitment to health care and education.

Celebrate the Church's (not always adhered to) tradition of social justice.

Celebrate the liturgies that have traditionally been closely tied to the annual and diurnal cycles of the Sun, the material elements of creation, and the adventure of the human soul from birth to death.

Imagine, if you will, a Church of equal women and men bound together in joy, gathering its authority from the ground up, acting communally on behalf of ecumenism, peace, justice, health, education and the ecological integrity of the planet. The "Real Presence" of the Eucharist in such a Church would be the reality of the communal meal itself, to which all are invited, not as an invitation to the Truth, but as a celebration of the truth -- amply confirmed by science -- that we are all one human species under the Sun and we sink or swim together.

A Church not of archaic supernaturalist doctrine but of actual and sanctifying natural grace.