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A historical-charismatic survey

Acts of the International Seminar
on "Jesus, the Master"
(Ariccia, October 14-24, 1996)

by Eliseo Sgarbossa ssp



1 Cf. "Un poco di storia," 23 November 1921, in G. Rocca, La formazione della Pia SocietÓ San Paolo (1914-1927), Notes and documents for a history, Doc. 31, 366. (Text)

2 Cf. Unione Cooperatori Buona Stampa (UCBS), February 1923, in La Primavera Paolina (PP), 284. – These "historical notes" are attributed to the hand of Fr. Giuseppe T. Giaccardo (cf. R. F. Esposito, PP 28-31) (Text)

3 Let us point out as among the most significant the following: the death of his friend Agostino Borello (2 June 1902) about whom Alberione wrote a moved funeral eulogy (cf. Sono creato... [SC] 109-125 and AD 22); – the start of theological studies (October); the clerical vestition (8 December); – the drawing up of the first autobiographical notes and the systematic reading of the Storia Universale by Cant¨ during which he filled up notebooks with notes (cf. Quaderni [Q] 036); – the death of his father, Michele (26 November 1904); – the close contact with the figure and work of St. Thomas Aquinas, and the understanding of its actual significance for Christian culture (cf. AD 91-92) (Text)

4 Enc. Annum ingressi, 19 March 1902 (Text)

5 Pontifical brief Vigilante Studioque, 30 October 1902. – In the same year was published L’Evangile et l’Eglise, considered to be the "manifesto" of Modernism, by Alfred Loisy (1857-1940), French priest, expert on Oriental sciences and historian of religions, excommunicated by Pius X in 1908 (Text)

6 Cf. Don Alberione nella Chiesa di Pio X e di Mons. G. F. Re., paper by E. S., for the Course of Pauline Formation 1994, promoted by the Centro di SpiritualitÓ (mimeographed), with documentation (Text)

7 Here are some expressions by Cardinal Sarto: "Be on guard, o brothers..., so that the doctrine of Jesus Christ is not stripped of its integrity." The "arrogance" of anti-Christian culture, promoted by the "evil sect" of Freemasonry and liberalism, wants to impose on us not to speak; but St. Paul exhorts us: "Fight the good fight of the faith" (1 Tim 6:12). The object of contention was above all freedom to teaching, to schools and to the press: for these, "we must struggle not hesitatingly but with courage, not in private but in public, not behind closed doors but in the open skies, while taking into consideration those aids and support that the time and the circumstances offer us [the allusion is mainly to the press]." And this is a serious duty of the priest: "If there should be priests [who] in the defense of the truth [should remain] inactive, shy, intimidated, these would demonstrate that they do not believe in the divine promises. They would dishonor their ministry and they would let the most stupid title of apostate befall on them." As for himself, Cardinal Sarto would prefer instead of prudence the courage of Paul, Bernard, Athanasius of Alexandria, "whose zeal is on fire". And, responding to the accusation of being intransigent, he concluded: "I willingly profess my guilt if my fault were the same as that of Athanasius. Because, in the defense of truth, excess is a virtue rather than a defect." (Cf. Le Pastorali del periodo veneziano, edited by A. Niero, Quaderno 2, 31-45). And from the Bishop of Alba: "None of you will fail to notice how in our times impiousness exerts ever greater efforts to snatch the Christian faith from the heart of the people... The prediction of St. Paul is happening under our own eyes: ‘The impious and the seducers shall grow...’" (2 Tim 3:13) (Circular letter of 10 August 1901). (Text)

8 Cf. footnote 1. (Text)

9 Republican was above all Giuseppe Mazzini (1805-1972): the conceiver of "Giovane Italia"; monarchists and ministers of the King of Piedmont who became King of Italy in 1861, were among others the Count of Cavour (1810-1861) and Marco Minghetti (1818-1886). Regarding Cavour, the motto was well known: "Libera Chiesa in libero Stato" (Free Church in a free State). (Text)

10 There was an uproar regarding the initiative of some indignant masons, among whom were Ricciardi and Garibaldi, to hold in Naples the "Masonic anti-Council" (1869) as an opposite platform against Vatican Council I called by Pius IX for December 8 of that same year. (Text)

11 Michele Coppino (1822-1901) was one of the promoters of the Masonic anti-Council of Naples. Regarding his person and on the situation of the Alba Region, cf. Piergiorgio Reggio, Alba: l’ambiente socio-religioso nella cittÓ e dintorni..., in Aa. Vv., Conoscere Don Alberione (1884-1907), C. S. P., Rome 1994, 96-97. (Text)

12 Cf. AD 172: "In the first days, the socialists of Alba threatened many times to burn the printing press, the house and the periodicals..." and AD 52: "...socialism spread out widely bearing with it materialism and class struggle." (Text)

13 The utopian, humanitarian and pacifist socialists had as their point of reference P.-J. Proudhon (1809-1865), Le confessioni di un rivoluzionario (1849). The anarchists drew inspiration from M. A. Bakunin (1814-1876), Stato e anarchia (1873). The revolutionary Marxists were drawing inspiration, side from K. Marx (1818-1883) also from N. Lenin (V.I. Uljanov, 1870-1924) and from L. D. Trotzkij (L. D. Bronsteing, 1879-1883). – In 1894 the III volume of Capitale by Marx and the essay Che cosa sono gli amici del popolo by Lenin came out; in 1898, La riforma sociale by Rosa Luxenburg; in 1902 the new essay Che fare? And in 1904 Le due tattiche by Lenin; in the same year also was published I nostri compiti by Trotzkij. (Text)

14 The newspapers most known for being anticlerical were L’Asino, edited by Guido Podrecca; La Scintilla of Cuneo; the XX Settembre of Bra; Lotte Nuove of Mondovi, etc. Cf. Conoscere Don Alberione, op. cit., 67-68. (Text)

15 Such were, for example, works like NanÓ by Emile Zola (1840-1902) or L’immoralista by AndrŔ Gide (1869-1951) or Lul¨, lo spirito della terra by Frank Wedekind (1864-1918), aside from the decadent production of Gabriele D’Annunzio (1863-1938) and of Guido da Verona (1881-1939), which were objects of literature or dramatization more or less clandestine until the time after the first world war. (Text)

16 They say that a prelate extended his wishes to the former cardinal of Venice for his election to the pontificate with these words: "Holiness, it is a good promotion for you to pass from a ‘gondolier’ to a captain of the ship of Peter." And Pope Sarto replied, "It is the least enviable promotion for me to leave the rudder of a tranquil gondola to assume the command of a warship!" Cf. C. Snider, I tempi di Pio X, vol. II of the trilogy L’Episcopato del Cardinal Andrea Ferrari, Neri Pozza, Vicenza 1982, 187-208. (Text)

17 On all these topics, see the following studies: P. Scoppola, Crisi modernista e rinnovamento cattolico in Italia, Il Mulino, Bologna 1961; M. Guasco, Modernismo: I fatti, le idee, I personaggi, San Paolo, 1995; L. Bedeschi, Il Modernismo Italiano: voci e volti, ed. San Paolo, 1995; in addition, the already quoted study of C. Snider; – Cf. also Conoscere Don Alberione, op. cit., 39-127. (Text)

18 The most prestigious teacher of this school was Adolf von Harnack (1851-1930), whose works Manuale di Storia dei Dogmi and L’essenza del Cristianesimo were published between 1886 and 1900. (Text)

19 While the German archeologist H. Schliemann (1822-1890) was bringing to light the classic Trojan-Greek antiquities, G. B. De Rossi and Mons. Duchesne explored the catacombs and other monuments of Christian Rome, thus raising problems and rousing the curiosity of authors like H. Sienkiewicz (1846-1916) author of Quo vadis? and Lewis Wallace (1827-1905) author of Ben Hur, preceded by Cardinal N. P. S. Wiseman (1802-1865) author of Fabiola. (Text)

20 In 1890, under the indication of Pope Leo XIII (encyc. Aeterni Patris of 1879), the Catholic School of Biblical Studies was opened in Jerusalem, the work of P. M. G. Lagrange, op. (Text)

21 In Germany the courageous Archbishop of Munchen, Wilhelm von Ketteler (1811-1877) had become prestigious. He was a member of the German parliament, inspirer of the centrist party and of the German labor unions, an equal adversary of K. Marx and F. Lassalle, heads of the socialist labor union. – In the United States, Msgr. John Ireland (1838-1918), an Irish immigrant with an adventurous life (seminary studies in France, chaplain during the American Civil War), bishop of St. Paul, Minnesota, founder of Catholic Colleges and social organizations, author of a book famous for its "democratic" thrust: The Church and the Century (1908, II edition). Msgr. Ireland is considered the standard-bearer of the "good and imitable side" of Americanism, "the Christianizer of North American progress" (Card. Pietro Palazzini). – In Italy, a group of Catholic intellectuals effectively worked. Among them were Prof. Giuseppe Toniolo, Count Paganuzzi and others, animators of the "Opera dei Congressi", an organization affiliated to the Union of Friebourg an international Catholc organization founded in 1885. (Text)

22 The first acquired international popularity due to the works of Sigmund Freud (1856-1939), among which L’interpretazione dei sogni (1900); the second for the studies of E. Durkheim (1858-1917), Max Weber (1864-1920) and V. Pareto (1849-1923). – In 1889 the "Unione Cattolica per gli Studi Sociali in Italia" was born in support to the "Opera dei Congressi". (Text)

23 On these and other personalities of the modernist movement, see the graph at the end of this chapter (pp. 61-63). (Text)

24 Antonio Rosmini Serbati (1797-1855), Le cinque piaghe della Chiesa. (Text)

25 Americanism, "a movement which, in the name of a desired encounter between the Church and modern [democratic] society had ended in involving theological matters. This originated from a not well defined but feared heresy of action" (M. Guasco, 127), were being referred to the ideas of Msgr. John Ireland. This was condemned by Leo XIII with the letter Testem benevolentiae of 22 January 1899. – On the matter, see also O. Confessore, L’Americansimo cattolico in Italia, Studium, Rome 1984. (Text)

26 The documents of pontifical condemnation were not immediate as at times it is affirmed but they had more drastic the more they came late. At first the decree Lamentabili sane exitu (3 July 1907), called also "Sillabo di Pio X", with the condemnation of the 65 propositions, 53 of which were by Loisy (cf. Oss. Rom., 17 July 1907). On 16 September 1907 the encyclical Pascendi dominici gregis (dated 8 September) was published. (Text)

27 Antonietta Giacomelli-Rosmini, a meritorious leader of circles involved in social volunteer services, writer and propagandist of liturgical publications (cf. Adveniat Regnum tuum, a trilogy including La Messa, the Rituale cristiano and L’Anno cristiano, published by Pia SocietÓ San Girolamo, 1904-1907), already declared in 1895 in response to the first accusations: "We moved not for the sake of ambition for new things, but because we were awaken by the blows of reality which, at the present moment, does not delay in making itself felt by those who are asleep... We did not want to reform the world; we wanted to reform ourselves" (L’Ora presente, December 1895). Her writings condemned in the Index, she sadly commented on the condemnation while attributing it to a tragic error on the part of those who misunderstood "this awakening of the spirits and of consciences", this "great movement of Christian awakening which is being manifested in the Catholic Church and which the adversaries wanted to diminish by giving it the name of modernism" (Per la riscossa cristiana, 1913). (Text)

28 Some authors were surprised that a system, so compact and logical, should be attributed to them, something they never thought of. In reality, drafters of the encyclical showed themselves to be knowledgeable of the doctrinal roots which brought together different trends – Kantian subjectivism, French illuminism, liberal historicism, Darwinian evolutionism, nationalistic movements, symbolist culture, etc. – thus reducing them to their common denominator. According to the criticism of Fr. Enrico Rosa SJ, modernism was an expression of an agnostic culture (immanentism, historicism, evolutionist, antidogmatic and psychologist) which pretended to affirm itself as a system of religious thought, of action, of ecclesial reformation, based on naturalist bases, which made faith subject to positive sciences. (Text)

29 Cornelio Fabro, Thomist philosopher, defined modernism as "the heterodox tendency defined among Catholic scholars at the end of the last century and during the first decades of the current century, which proposed to renew and interpret the Christian doctrine in harmony with modern thought." He added, "the term "modernism" officially appears for the first time in the encyclical Pascendi of Pope Pius X as the common dominator of a composite of errors in all areas of Christian doctrine (scriptures, dogma, worship, philosophy) in order to reduce it to the original nucleus" (Enciclopedia Cattolica, in the article "Modernismo.") (Text)

30 The editor of Il Rinnovamento of Milan, in its issue no. 4, 1908, was asking: "Are there two kinds of modernism?" and he answered, "It is clear that the group of the Nova et Vetera (a periodical of Buonaiuti and of the Roman radical group) professes so much in religion as in philosophy a neat naturalism which leads in practice in the most advanced socialism." (Text)

31 The dramatization of the modernist period and the radicalization of the positions were in large part work of the press. It, indeed, was a phenomenon that ought not be taken for granted, but its negative aspects were amplified in a scandalistic manner by the polemics encouraged by the lay press, either socialist or liberal. For example, the condemnation in the Index of the works of Loisy, in the Christmas of 1902, was publicized by the Corriere della Sera, which took the issue extensively and for many days (cf. the issue of 6 January 1903). (Text)

32 Such a group – composed of M. Rossi, N. Turchi, J. Hagan, O. Coppa, Balducci and Parrella, aside from Buonaiuti, almost all former priests – replied to the encyclical Pascendi with documents like Il programma dei modernisti and Lettere di un prete modernista (1908), published in the magazine Nova et Vetera. (Text)

33 Cf. M. Guasco, op. cit., 59. This historian reports also the merciless judgment of Msgr. Giuseppe De Luca: "Our modernism brought about more defrocked priests than did the overwhelming ideas or original studies"; it only succeeded "to disturb the laity which was happily unbothered by religion and brought about only so much noise and confusion in the sacristy" (Premise to the book on Baronio by A. Roncalli, 1961). (Text)

34 The famous Lettera dell’Episcopato Piemontese in defense of the pontifical position is attributed to him. See the tribute rendered to him by Fr. Enrico Rosa SJ in a reply from Rome concerning the approval of the emerging Pauline Family: "...I am always grateful to Your Excellency for the valid intervention of yours during the times of modernism with that masterful letter of the Piedomontese bishops which had so much resonance then, and also... so much effectiveness against the errors especially in Upper Italy..." (cf. G. Rocca, op. cit., doc. 87). – In a circular letter in January 1980, the Bishop presented the pontifical documents related to the movement, defined a "compendium of all the heresies," and enumerated the three faults which provoked the condemnation of modernism: hatred for Scholasticism (doctrinal relativism), despise for patristic tradition (critical positivism) and despise for the Church magisterium (insubordination and intellectual pride); to which he added his own evaluation of the chaos of ideas generated by the modernists and first suffered by them. Two years earlier, he wrote: "...How many are there who, with the word and with the press proclaim daily that faith is irreconcilable with science, and hence it is foolish to submit themselves to the magisterium of the Church? It is natural that following such work, many who felt already much inclined to enjoy life than to carry the cross of mortification should follow these new masters who are so benevolent towards disordinate passions and who turn their backs to religion." Furthermore, "With today’s all kinds of readings that they do, they have acquired a certain erudition, and because of this they believed to be learned and to behave as if masters and reformers of the Church, and they did not even notice that they had in their heads a horrible confusion of ideas, and that the numerous notions with which they take glory do not make a true science, but a real chaos" (Letter of 29 August 1906). (Text)

35 Not all personalities involved in the condemnation were bearers of genuinely apostolic causes and experiences, such as the Societa di San Girolamo, patronized by G. Genocchi and Antonietta Giacomelli-Rosmini for the spread of the inexpensive Gospel and the publication of popular missals, or the publication of diocesan and parish periodicals promoted by L. Mari, etc. These are activities that Fr. Alberione undertook and brought ahead with determination, without polemics, but in absolute fidelity to the original intentions of the pioneers, as well as to the directives of the Magisterium. (Text)

36 M. Guasco, op. cit., 183. (Text)

       Jesus Master yesterday, today and for ever

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