About Christian Progressivism
By Father Julio Meinvielle
Translated from the Spanish by Roberto Hope
Presentation of the on-line edition
The conferences delivered by Father Julio Meinvielle on May 12, 13, and 14, 1964 at the Huemul Bookstore in Buenos Aires, were transcribed from stenographic records and first published in a 30-page fascicule which we now publish on-line. They were also published in Italian in the ‘Relazioni’ journal and later published in book form by Edizioni Mediterranee, on the fortnight of the last session of the Second Vatican Council with no indication of publishing date or location 1. Ten years after his death, they were incorporated as the three first chapters of ‘El Progresismo Cristiano’, a compilation of several of his writings on the topic, published by Ediciones Cruz y Fierro, Buenos Aires, in 1983.
Christian progressivism, discerned and defined by Meinvielle as a multifarious intent of converting Christianity, the Church and Christendom to the “Modern World”, the world which resulted from centuries of apostasy through the successive process of the Anti-Christian Revolution, guided by human ideologies emerged from a worldview which, ever since it abandoned Christ's Gospel and Truth, had gone astray through Protestantism, rationalism, liberalism, Marxism and nihilism. “Progressivism” because it wraps that “modern world” with the mantle of the myth of “Progress” as a necessary law of History to which Christians and Christian thought and life should accommodate.
Clear discernment united in Father Meinvielle with denunciation and with the good fight, with the fierceness of a Father of the Church, of a prophet who denounces without compromise, of a martyr apostle who attests to the Truth despite everything and everybody, for the love of Him who is the Truth, for the love of those imperiled by error, for the love of the enemy who militates in and for the error. That is how he stepped out with clairvoyance in his writings and conferences countering the errors of Maritain, Teilhard, Mounier, Rahner, and masterfully unraveling the gnostic origin and foundation which impregnates the modern and contemporary philosophy of immanence, and from there the ideology and progressivism in the Church itself. At the beginning of his masterful work 'De la Cábala al Progresismo' 2 he said there are only two forms of thinking about reality: the Christian one founded on the actual Creator-creature distinction, and the gnostic one, at the same time Monist and Pantheist, which confuses God with the world, history, man; finally negating both God and man in the grindstone of “progress”; progress which in reality is the march towards nothingness, identified with an Absolute which is the idol put in God's place.
In connection with the progressivist phenomenon, Paul VI said that “the smoke of Satan had entered the holy place”... Today, so many years after he rang it, Father Meinvielle's sound of alarm is more actual than ever.
1 The Italian translation has been revised and placed on line by Totus Tuus network since 2002.
2 Editora Calchaquí, Salta 1970, 463 pages. Re-edited by Ediciones Epheta, Buenos Aires 1994; in French: ‘De la Cabale au Progressisme’, 369 pages.; in Italian: ‘Influsso dello gnosticismo ebraico in ambiente cristiano’, Sacra Fraternitas Aurigarum in Urbe, Rome 1988, 372 pages. ‘Dalla Cabala al progressismo’, Rome 1989; 2d Italian edition integrated not for trade, dedicated to Ennio Innocenti, Sacra Fraternitas Aurigarum in Urbe, Rome 1995, 381 pages.
About Christian Progressivism
Phenomenology of progressivism
This is not a conference, it is an informal conversation. We shall speak about progressivism; in the first place, we should give notice that those who use the word progressivism in a systematic manner are the communists, because for them history unfolds in a dialectic process which goes from the worst to the best; so, for example, for them feudal society advances in a dialectical process towards the liberal or bourgeois society, and the bourgeois towards the socialist, and the socialist towards the communist; but progressivism can also be understood in a general manner as the way society advances towards better conditions and stages of development.
We are going to talk about progressivism as a phenomenon which can be observed inside the Church nowadays and which, above all, has become fashionable as a consequence of Vatican Ecumenical Council II. World press has divided the Conciliar Fathers into two major currents: one, of the innovators and amicable to reforms, which it has labeled the progressivists, and the other, of Fathers who are rather mindful of maintaining the legitimate traditions, which have been labeled conservative, reactionary and integrists.
When we talk about progressivism here, we will be referring to a movement which can be noted in the Church these days, upholding doctrines and attitudes that should be considered deviationist errors; but making the distinction that not all those who call themselves progressivists should be called that way in this censurable sense; there are those who, ignorant of the content of the term progressivism as is being propagated these days, call themselves progressivists although they advocate not more than a legitimate and necessary progress in the Church.
We also call attention to the fact that, although Teilhardism is a version of progressivism, there can exist and actually exist, other censurable versions of progressivism.
All this makes us see that progressivism as propagated today is an ambiguous error which may fit many versions, tendencies, deviations, of greater or lesser gravity but always of an ambiguous character. This ambiguous character was noted by Paul VI, in his message to Catholics in Milan, delivered on August 15, 1963, when he said: “We perceive that the riches of the religious traditions are in danger of diminution and ruin, threatened not only from the outside but also from inside the Church; in the people's conscience, the healthy religious mentality and the traditional fidelity to the Church, which are the foundation and the source of this richness, are altered and diluted. Our fear is proportional to the value of the spiritual patrimony which we have the responsibility to administrate. Saint Ambrose's faith, the legacy of Saint Charles, the apostolic efforts of the most recent archbishops, seem to be compromised; not so much by the natural effects of time, but by a radical and irresistible change which substitutes the conception of life of our people with another conception which cannot be defined except in the ambiguous term of progressivism, which is no longer Christian or Catholic.
The progressivist phenomenon
To characterize the progressivist phenomenon inside the Church, we will use articles published in the “Le Monde et la Vie” review in its December 1962 issue, which carry the title: “Where is the French Church heading to?” We read there, on page 63: “On the doctrinal plane, Pope Pius XII had condemned the communists and their accomplices with excommunication on July 13, 1949. Three months later, Mounier, commenting on this condemnation, issued the hypothesis that it was a serious historical error, which took a chaplain father to tell his students on August 15, 1958, in the presence of the Bishop of Nancy: ‘Your teachers are no longer the Pope or the Bishops, but Emmanuel Mounier and Peguy’ In this admonition, by the way, Peguy was not mentioned but in his socialist and proletarian aspect.
These progressivist tendencies are still more clearly expressed in Temoignage chrétien, a Catholic review. On March 11, 1955, Monsieur George Suffert wrote that there are now two churches in the heart of Catholics: a visible Church, almost entirely putrefied, sunk under capitalism, pursuing a debatable European politics and conducted by bishops of other times, and an ideal Church, formed by some open-minded Christians, which are the future of Christianity because they fight elbow to elbow with the proletariat and, deep in their hearts, yearn for a more saintly visible church, more liberated from commitments and from money. The priests of the new ecclesiastical wave, it is said, do not pay attention to the habit, the rosary, Lourdes, Montmartre, or liturgy; they excuse themselves from the obscure and fertile ministry of catechism and confession, of sacraments to the dying, and are not interested but for a certain political action begun by the prêtres ouvriers. This political action is what has caused a socialist representative, S.F.I.O de la Creuse, to express this confession which paints the entire program of the progressivist clerics: “I had an entirely peaceful socialist fiefdom but the Priests of the Souterraine (Priests of the Mission of France) have spoiled it, favoring the implantation of communism there”
In the same issue of the French review we just commented on, appears an interview with Father Boyer. Father Boyer is a priest who had begun as a workingman priest, then became a Communist but later returned to the Church, not to a progressivist position, but on the contrary, to one exactly the opposite. He now directs Action Fatima and fights vehemently against the Teilhardians. Well, in that review, Father Boyer says in such interview: “Besides, in the progressivist circles in the Church little importance is given to the daily individual Mass; they believe it is the community the one which should pray and participate collectively in the Mass. Moreover, the quarter hour Mass has been adopted. Already Teilhard had simplified the Mass. He would say Mass on the World: a Mass quite strange, without altar, without the host, without wine, in which the celebrant offered the entire world, all united, to God. Certain groups, as the one of El Prado, in Lyon, have gone further: in Catechism they no longer teach children about Hell or sin. All of this constitutes a moral schism, which without doubt would become effective if the Holy Office were to annul all these reforms.”
The way this progressivist intoxication is propagated could be explained. Father Boyer notes that, at least in France, “the intoxication begins with the Paris Catholic Institute, it is continued by the Jesuits, the seminaries; it is filtered, dosed, administered along the hierarchy by means of licenses and doctorates. Seminaries send their best students to Catholic Institutes and there it begins. Right away novices are told: We are not going to tell you what is told to the vulgar people, but we will introduce you to the great secrets; then, someday, a Council will come and legalize all this. In the meantime, the initiated has become a Parish Priest, Seminary Director, Bishop, or whatnot. In this play, in all cases, Jesuits and Dominicans form a block with Teilhard. All this is operated, I repeat, with a minimum discretion which I cannot describe in a simple interview. I add that these young men believe to be doing the best, the same as the majority of their professors, but purity of intention does not justify error.”
Some errors and deviations of Christian Progressivism
It is very difficult to characterize with precision the errors and deviations in which Christian progressivism incurs in almost all aspects of doctrine and religious life. Some uphold one error or deviation and others, another. The enumeration we are going to make is not exhaustive nor is it formulated by all which call themselves progressivist.
In the first place, among the progressivists there is a well-marked disdain for Saint Thomas' philosophy and theology; it is well known that, for the Church, Saint Thomas Aquinas is the first doctor who has accomplished a synthesis, up to now unsurpassed, of Christian teachings, and has presented them in a body of doctrine which forms a complete architecture. Well, progressivist clerics despise Thomist philosophy and theology, arguing that all of it is based upon an archaic science which has already been definitively surpassed. So, in the same way that such science is no longer valid, so it happens with Saint Thomas' metaphysics and theology. It is not difficult to notice the error of these progressist clerics: Metaphysics and Theology are independent of the experimental science which Saint Thomas may have possessed; what is important in that metaphysics and in that theology is the formulation of the first principles of the reality of being. To reject Saint Thomas is to reject the philosophy of being and to fall consequently in a philosophy of the idea, of life, of development, of existence. To follow this road makes it impossible to reach the being and, for the same reason to put man in a rational contact with God, his Creator. This way man closes the road of his intelligence towards God and becomes incapable of erecting a theology which respects the natural and the rational foundations on which Revelation and theology are to be supported.
Among the progressivists of which we are talking, there is a tendency to revise all scholastic and Thomistic theology treatises under the pretext that contact should be made with all of the sources, namely, the Bible and the teachings of the Fathers. This tendency may be good if it does not deny the legitimate progress which has been accomplished with the great disquisitions and treatises of the subsequent doctors; they want to return to a purely biblical and patristic theology. Such tendency is even more dangerous and becomes the source of innumerable errors if we take into account that the Bible today is being subjected to a demolishing criticism by the new rationalism. There are exegetes, like Rudolph Bultmann for instance, who are determined to demythify, as they say, the Christian kerygma. In this task, they reduce the Divine word in Scripture to very little, with the pretext that everything is a myth, including the resurrection of Our Lord. It is well known that some Catholic Bible specialists reject, for instance, the infancy in Saint Luke's Gospel, and say that the Magnificat is not a canticle ever pronounced by the Virgin. In this way, the road is open to the total destruction of the Old and the New Testament of the Sacred Scripture.
Upon rejecting Saint Thomas' theology, recommended insistently by the Church's Magisterium, new theologies will be invented, supported by false philosophies as, for instance, historicism, evolutionism, and existentialism. It is well known how Pius XII, in Humani Generis, has condemned all those dangerous tendencies of the new theology. But progressivism pays no attention to the warnings of the Popes.
Progressivism´s other grave deviation is the rejection and diminution it makes of the Papal authority and of the Roman Curia, rejecting the Church's ordinary magisterium. On this point, progressivists formulate the most picturesque assertions: For them, when a Pope dies, all of the truths taught by him lose their value. This error is all the graver because it is known that the Pontiffs' teachings turn around the truths of Revelation and the natural philosophical order, which keep a permanent value; it is for that reason why the Popes in their magisterium invoke the doctrines of the earlier magisterium of their predecessors.
The campaign of disdain for the Magisterium of the Church is accompanied by a campaign against the person of great Pontiffs, as for instance against Pius XII. This Pope is not forgiven for his promulgation of Humani Generis against the deviations of the new theology in 1950, neither is he forgiven for having condemned the worker priests movement, or for having put an end to the excesses of some Dominican theologians, or for having canonized Saint Pius X.
Some progressivists, especially in France, present an image of the Church as though its center, which is located in Rome, had the function of putting the brakes, while the periphery is dynamic and moved by the Spirit. The Roman hand which puts the breaks, it is said, is retrograde and sterilizing, while the engine in the periphery shows the intelligence of the situations and apostolic audacity (see Itineraires N° 60).
Progressivists, carried away by a false ecumenism, dare likewise reduce the privileges of the Virgin and in that manner oppose, for instance, that Mary be recognized as Universal Mediatrix of all Graces or that such title be given to her.
Progressivists, renewing the errors of Pelagianism, are also prone to negate or to obscure the notion of sin and hell. On grounds of psychoanalysis theses or profound psychology, they are moved to deny malice and responsibility for sin, especially regarding the sexual sins.
In spiritual life, there is an intent to suppress the effort in the individual acts and practices to the benefit of an exclusively communitarian piety. In these errors, progressivists tend to incur in an exaggerated communitarian liturgism.
It also ought to be pointed out, the errors and deviations of a perilous personalism which leads them to formulate the thesis of religious liberty as a right to the public profession of any error, and which gives rise to an individualist or situation morality.
The fundamental error of progressivism
But it is not in these errors where lies the most characteristic of modern progressivism. The fundamental error consists of negating the need for a Christian social order or what ecclesial magisterium calls, ever since the days of Leo XIII up to the current Pontiff, the Christian civilization or the Catholic city; progressivists deny the existence of such Christian civilization or such Christian public social order. It has reached the point that in Paris, in public radio broadcasts, it has been affirmed that such concept does not exist in the Magisterium of the Church, when it is evident that there are at least close to 50 documents which make explicit reference to Christian civilization.
Progressivists also disqualify as national-catholicism, the intention of taking the program of the Catholic city to practice. In rejecting Christian civilization, the progressivists also reject the rights of Christ's reign over the temporal order of public life; that is, over families, social groups, workers' unions, business enterprises, nations and the world. The right of Christ to reign demands that the temporal order and legislation conform themselves to the Christian teachings. Progressivism rejects the Christian public social order and derides it as Constantinian, Gregorian or sociological Catholicism, with the purpose of presenting it in an odious aspect. There is no lack of priests, as the Dominican Liégé, who affirm that working for the Christian social order, for Christian civilization, is to do more negative and nefarious work than Communism itself.
In rejecting the need of striving to implement a Christian social order, progressivists find themselves bound to accept the laic, liberal, socialist or communist city of our modern civilization. Herein lies the veritable error and deviation of Christian progressivism, in seeking an alliance of the Church with the modern world.
In calling the world modern we do not mean it in a temporal sense but rather refer to a qualitative designation of the nature of modern society, and especially of the spirit of such society. Modern society, which began with the Renaissance and continues with naturalism, liberalism, socialism, and communism in public life, is a society which tends to reject God and to make of man a god who, with his creative effort will achieve his destiny and attain happiness. That is why, as we shall see later on, humanism, which begins with the Renaissance,3 ends in communism, in which man constitutes himself as the exclusive creator of his own destiny, who not only does not need God but to whom God is a hindrance and an annoyance, inasmuch as belief in God moves him to elude placing the effort of his creative action upon himself. That is why, to Marx, religion is an alienation which diminishes man.
This alliance of the Church with the modern world, which is promoted by progressivist Christianity, leads them to assign the category of supreme sciences to psychology and sociology; to psychology, which analyzes the internal conditioning of man, and to sociology, which directs and leads the external conditioning. Man, thus removed from the Christian social order, labors in the laic order of psychology under the influence of Freud and in sociology under the influence of Marx.
Progressivist Christianity, especially today, tends to unite communism with Christianity. To that end, it incurs in grave errors and deviations. In the first place, in making of communism and Marxism a true “humanism” with positive values which ought to be saved. It is clear that to make such an outlandish assertion, Marxism and communism have to be taken apart and in that way negate their totality character, which is affirmed in their dialectic contexture. Marxism is a dialectic materialism which makes of man exclusively a worker, whose value is to be measured by his productive efficacy in the construction of communist society. Marxist man is a degraded being to whom his divine dignity, his human dignity, and even his animal dignity have been taken away, to turn him into a simple cog in the communist machinery. It is absurd to label humanist something which constitutes the degradation of man.
Progressivist Christianity is likewise prone to value communism for its fundamental rejection of capitalism. On partaking in the dialectics of capitalism-communism or bourgeois-proletarian, and rejecting capitalism as the prime enemy, the progressivist Christian is forced to accept communism. But this is a false dialectics, proper of a society which elevates economic values to the topmost plane. But above the economic are the political, cultural and religious values.
A theologian of the caliber of the Dominican Congar has come to say that it is necessary to “replace the economic structures founded on profits as the engine of the economic activity” (Nouvelles de Chretienté, number. 432, p.30). But suppressing the profits is tantamount to suppressing private capital and implementing collectivism.
Additionally, the progressivist Christian adopts a misconception of the “Sense of History” as if this were inexorably headed towards communism, with which it would behoove us to pact without delay. But even if communism, as tomorrow the Antichrist, are to impose themselves in History, this is no reason to accept them. Rather, on the contrary, it is necessary to repulse them so that only Our Lord may reign. Just as the Catholics who, as Lammenais, perversely embraced liberalism in the last century, so do progressivist Catholics nowadays who mix up Catholicism with communism.
Under this progressivist error which wants to ally Christianity with communism, there is a more general error which consists of allying the modern world — in the above-described sense of laic and atheist — with the Church; error condemned in Syllabus' proposition 80, which states. “The Roman Pontiff can and should reconcile himself and compromise with 'progress', liberalism and modern civilization.”
If modern civilization involves the absolute autonomy of man before God, it is quite clear that the Church cannot reconcile itself with it. And we should not believe that this could have been true in the past but has lost all validity. On the contrary, it has been constant teaching since Pius IX until John XXIII. In fact, this last Pope, in such an important document as Mater et Magistra, comes to affirm that the “Church finds itself facing this heavy task: make modern civilization conform to a truly human order and the principles of the Gospel”. Which means that, in John XXIII's opinion, modern civilization is neither conforming to a truly human order nor to the principles of the Gospel. This had been already admonished by Pius XII when he pointed out that it was an entire world which had to be rebuilt from its foundations; from savage, make him human, according to God's heart. Already Pius XII again, speaking to the chaplains of Catholic Youth on September 8, 1953, exhorted them to feel “moved to fight against a world which is as inhuman as it is anti-Christian”
This taking of position before modern civilization leads us to demand a formulation of the basic principles of a Theology of History to pass judgment on modern civilization. Does modern civilization which develops from the Renaissance to now in a continuous process of greater materialism — from naturalism to communism — imports a progress of man as man or rather his regression and degradation? Herein the gist of our next conversation.
Someone may ask: What degree of development has Christian progressivism reached among us? We must say that it is developing quite rapidly; not only in the Greater Buenos Aires but also in the rest of the Country. Young priests, seminarians and some of the laity in Catholic organizations: the “progressivist” group “Epoca”, almost openly communist, was already denounced last year. It would be now necessary to add groups of young university students with publications such as 'Tandil 1963' or 'Cambio' on economics and humanism. There are priests very active in this task, which leaders of sections of the Communist Party consider party affiliates and which exert a very decisive action on seminarians and laics. All this makes us believe that a braid is being woven of priests, religious, seminarians, and laics of representative groups in Catholic circles to impose Christian progressivism upon us.
(To be continued.)
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