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THE WORLD AT AN END #87 -- The Synod on Synodality exemplifies the heresy of Modernism

Synodality is indistinguishable from Modernism, which is the synthesis of all heresies.

Modernism does not accept that divine revelation is a permanent body of doctrine, as revealed by God and infallibly transmitted by the Catholic Church. Modernists see all Catholic doctrine and practice as simply the product of man’s internal experiences. Dogma can evolve in accordance with such experiences of modern man.

With the Synod, the future of the Church is to be determined by the experience of individuals, particularly the Synod participants. The truth will not be proposed by the Magisterium of the Church but will arise out of shared discernment. But how can that be, since what has come out of the Synod has been a great diversity of views? Who will ultimately decide? Whose discernment will be followed?

What will emerge is a new Modernist religion, totally distinct from the true Catholic religion.


How the Synod on Synodality exemplifies the heresy of Modernism warned of by Pope St. Pius X

We will see in this analysis that 'synodality' is all but indistinguishable from Modernism, that 'synthesis of all heresies,' which was identified and condemned by Pope St. Pius X in his Encyclical Letter Pascendi Dominici Gregis.

Matthew McCusker

Fri Dec 22, 2023 

(LifeSiteNews) — The end goal of the Synod on Synodality is “a listening and accompanying Church” which will adopt new methods to address what they call “new questions” related to “matters of identity and sexuality, the end of life, complicated marital situations, and ethical issues related to artificial intelligence.”[1]

Current Catholic thought, according to the synodal authorities, is “not able to grasp the complexity of the elements emerging from experience or knowledge in the sciences” in these areas, because of limitations in “the anthropological categories we have developed.”[2]

These questions are therefore to be resolved by a future “synodal church,” which will bring to “ecclesial discernment and open questions” a “theological and cultural research that takes as its starting point the daily experience of God’s Holy People and places itself at its service.”[3]

We will see in this analysis that “synodality” is all but indistinguishable from Modernism, that “synthesis of all heresies,” which was identified and condemned by Pope St. Pius X in his Encyclical Letter Pascendi Dominici Gregis, “On the Doctrine of the Modernists,” which was promulgated on September 8, 1907.[4]

In the first section of this article, I will summarize St. Pius X’s presentation of Modernism and in the second section I will show how the Synod on Synodality exemplifies it.  

What is Modernism? 

In his encyclical letter Pascendi Domenici Gregis, Pope St. Pius X exposes the deepest underpinnings of the Modernist heresy. 

The philosophical foundation of Modernism is agnosticism. The Modernist does not believe that the human intellect can assent with certainty to any proposition beyond the range of sensory phenomena. 

As St. Pius X taught: 

Modernists place the foundation of religious philosophy in that doctrine which is usually called Agnosticism. According to this teaching human reason is confined entirely within the field of phenomena, that is to say, to things that are perceptible to the senses, and in the manner in which they are perceptible; it has no right and no power to transgress these limits. Hence it is incapable of lifting itself up to God, and of recognizing His existence, even by means of visible things.[5]  

As a result of his agnosticism, the Modernist does not believe that man can assent to a supernatural revelation made by God to man. Instead, he believes that Catholic doctrine and practice can only be the symbolic representation of internal human experiences. 

As St. Pius X puts it:

Religion, whether natural or supernatural, must, like every other fact, admit of some explanation. But… all external revelation absolutely denied, it is clear that this explanation will be sought in vain outside man himself. It must, therefore, be looked for in man; and since religion is a form of life, the explanation must certainly be found in the life of man.[6] 

The Modernist believes that religion begins in an internal movement of the human heart, a “religious sentiment,” and not in any external revelation made by the true God: 

Moreover, [religion] is due to a certain necessity or impulsion; but it has its origin, speaking more particularly of life, in a movement of the heart, which movement is called a sentiment. Therefore, since God is the object of religion, we must conclude that faith, which is the basis and the foundation of all religion, consists in a sentiment which originates from a need of the divine.[7]

The Modernist, therefore, cannot accept that divine revelation is a permanent body of doctrine, which has been revealed by God and infallibly transmitted by the Catholic Church, but he can only see it as something which has its origin within man:  

Modernism finds in this sentiment not faith only, but with and in faith, as they understand it, revelation, they say, abides. For what more can one require for revelation?  Is not that religious sentiment which is perceptible in the consciousness revelation, or at least the beginning of revelation?[8]

For the Modernist, all religious doctrines and dogmas have their origin within man’s consciousness, and thus this personal “revelation” must take precedence over the teaching authority of the Church: 

Hence it is that they make consciousness and revelation synonymous. Hence the law, according to which religious consciousness is given as the universal rule, to be put on an equal footing with revelation, and to which all must submit, even the supreme authority of the Church, whether in its teaching capacity, or in that of legislator in the province of sacred liturgy or discipline.[9] 

The Modernist must see all Catholic doctrine and practice as simply the product of internal experiences: 

Therefore the religious sentiment… is the germ of all religion, and the explanation of everything that has been or ever will be in any religion. e sentiment, which was at first only rudimentary and almost formless, gradually matured, under the influence of that mysterious principle from which it originated, with the progress of human life, of which, as has been said, it is a form. This, then, is the origin of all religion, even supernatural religion; it is only a development of this religious sentiment. Nor is the Catholic religion an exception; it is quite on a level with the rest.[10]

To summarize: 

  • The Catholic Church teaches a body of doctrine which was revealed directly by God to the Apostles. The Successors of the Apostles infallibly propose this doctrine in every generation.  

  • The Modernists reverse this process. Under their system, doctrine begins with internal human experiences, which are then clothed in words and symbols, and then at a later date approved by the Church as reflecting some truth about human experience of the divine. 

St Pius X summarized the Modernist position in this way: 

[F]irst by a natural and spontaneous act [the human intellect] expresses its concept in a simple, ordinary statement; then, on reflection and deeper consideration, or, as they say, by elaborating its thought, it expresses the idea in secondary propositions, which are derived from the first, but are more perfect and distinct. These secondary propositions, if they finally receive the approval of the supreme magisterium of the Church, constitute dogma.[11] 

One can see that whereas the Catholic believes that the Church’s doctrine is actually true and was revealed directly by God to the Apostles and continues to be taught infallibly by the Church, the Modernist only believes that it has symbolic value; it may represent truth in some way, but it is not in and of itself true.  

For the Modernist what the Church teaches is ultimately determined by individual human experiences: 

If you ask on what foundation this assertion of the Believer rests, they answer: In the experience of the individual.[12]

The Synod of Synodality as the exemplar of Modernism 

We have seen that the essence of Modernism lies in taking individual human experience as the basis of religious doctrine and its interpretation. We will now be able to see that the texts of the “Synod of Synodality” exemplify this heresy.  

The Synthesis Report of the 2023 Synod on Synodality contains the following recommendation in a section entitled “Ecclesial Discernment and Open Questions”: 

We identified a need for reflection on the conditions that enable theological and cultural research that takes as its starting point the daily experience of God’s Holy People and places itself at its service.[13] 

In other words, “open questions” in theology are to be resolved by reflecting on the “daily experience” of individuals, and the Church to be placed in a position which is subordinate to that experience. 

St. Pius X referred to this Modernist “reflecting” as “pondering”: 

Hence the common saying of Modernists: that the religious man must ponder his faith.[14]

The experiences of individuals, and in particular as manifested by the synod participants, are to determine the future of the Church: 

[T]he experience we have shared over these years is authentically Christian and should be embraced in all its richness and depth… The substantial agreement emerged that, with the necessary clarifications, synodality represents the future of the Church.[15] [Emphasis added] 

Sacred Tradition, for the synod authorities, is no longer an immutable deposit of faith but merely a “heritage” than can be drawn upon in order to be “renewed” in the light of new experiences: 

What we are called to, however, is not only to translate into community processes a spiritual experience gained elsewhere, but more deeply to experience how reciprocal relationships are the place and form of an authentic encounter with God. In this sense, while drawing on the rich spiritual heritage of the Tradition, the synodal perspective contributes to renewing its forms: of a prayer open to participation, a discernment lived together, and a missionary energy that arises from sharing and that radiates as service.[16] [Emphasis added] 

We see here that it is the experience of the community and of human relationships which represent the “authentic encounter with God.” The “discernment” of the community, “lived together” will determine how the “Tradition” is renewed. But this “Tradition,” or, as they also seem to express it, “a spiritual experience gained elsewhere,” is not in and of itself normative.  

‘Conversation in the Spirit’

The synod’s deliberations were based on a novel concept called “Conservation in the Spirit” which is nothing other than the Modernist approach of looking for God’s revelation within the experiences of individuals, rather than in the doctrine proposed by the magisterium of the Church: 

Conversation in the Spirit is a tool that, even with its limitations, enables authentic listening in order to discern what the Spirit is saying to the Churches. Its practice has elicited joy, awe and gratitude and has been experienced as a path of renewal that transforms individuals, groups, and the Church. The word “conversation” expresses more than mere dialogue: it interweaves thought and feeling, creating a shared vital space. That is why we can say that conversion is at play in conversationThis is an anthropological reality found in different peoples and cultures, who gather together in solidarity to deal with and decide matters vital to the community. Grace brings this human experience to fruition. Conversing “in the Spirit” means living the experience of sharing in the light of faith and seeking God’s will in an authentically evangelical atmosphere within which the Holy Spirit’s unmistakable voice can be heard.[17] [Emphasis added.] 

To break this down further:  

“Conversation in the Spirit,” is something that “interweaves thought and feeling”; it is an “anthropological reality,” that is, a human reality. What we have here is not conversation with God, such as prayer or meditation. Rather it is dialogue between human beings who “gather together” and “decide matters vital to the community.” It is a wholly human experience, not communication with the living God. Grace, in this context, is reduced to something which merely “brings this human experience to fruition.” “Conversation in the Spirit” is human dialogue, it has nothing to do with communicating with the transcendent God. Modernist agnosticism renders this God unknowable. As Pope St. Pius X warned, for the Modernist, “God is immanent in man.”[18]

The synodal authorities claim that “Conversation in the Spirit” means “living the experience of sharing in the light of the faith.” But what is this faith and where does it come from? 

The faith of the synodal authorities is not that revealed by God to the Catholic Church. They make that quite clear: 

To bring about true listening to the Father’s will, it seems necessary to deepen the criteria of ecclesial discernment from a theological perspective so that the reference to the freedom and newness of the Spirit is appropriately coordinated with the fact that Jesus Christ comes “once for all” (Heb 10:10). This implies, first of all, to specify the relationship between listening to the Word of God attested to in Scripture, the reception of Tradition and the Magisterium of the Church, and the prophetic reading of the signs of the times.[19] [Emphasis added] 

The “true listening to the Father’s will” requires not submission to the teaching authority established by Jesus Christ but rather “ecclesial discernment” which will ensure that “freedom and newness of the Spirit” is “appropriately coordinated” with “the fact that Jesus Christ comes ‘once for all.'”

This passage relativizes the relationship between Scripture, Tradition, Magisterium and “the signs of the times.” The proper relationship between them is broken down.  

In the “synodal church” there will no longer be a humble acceptance of Scripture and Tradition as interpreted by the Magisterium but rather there will be a new “relationship” between them and “the prophetic reading of the signs of the times.” 

The paragraph which follows states: 

To this end, it is crucial to promote anthropological and spiritual visions capable of integrating and not merely juxtaposing the intellectual and emotional dimensions of faith experience, overcoming any and all reductionism and dualism between reason and feeling.[20] [Emphasis added] 

This terminology may be difficult to understand, but that is intentional. St. Pius X explained that the Modernists deliberately clothe their heresy in obscure language in order to deceive the faithful: 

[T]he Modernists (as they are commonly and rightly called) employ a very clever artifice, namely, to present their doctrines without order and systematic arrangement into one whole, scattered and disjointed one from another, so as to appear to be in doubt and uncertainty, while they are in reality firm and steadfast.[21]

Furthermore, as he also wrote: 

[N]one is more skilful, none more astute than they, in the employment of a thousand noxious arts; for they double the parts of rationalist and Catholic, and this so craftily that they easily lead the unwary into error; and since audacity is their chief characteristic, there is no conclusion of any kind from which they shrink or which they do not thrust forward with pertinacity and assurance.[22]

With that in mind now compare the passages from the synthesis report quoted above with the Modernist methodology as exposed by Pope St Pius X in 1907:  

To ascertain the nature of dogma [for the Modernist], we must first find the relation which exists between the religious formulas and the religious sentiment. This will be readily perceived by him who realizes that these formulas have no other purpose than to furnish the believer with a means of giving an account of his faith to himself. These formulas therefore stand midway between the believer and his faith; in their relation to the faith, they are the inadequate expression of its object, and are usually called symbols; in their relation to the believer, they are mere instruments.[23]

He continued: 

Hence it is quite impossible [for the Modernist] to maintain that they express absolute truth: for, in so far as they are symbols, they are the images of truth, and so must be adapted to the religious sentiment in its relation to man; and as instruments, they are the vehicles of truth, and must therefore in their turn be adapted to man in his relation to the religious sentiment. But the object of the religious sentiment, since it embraces that absolute, possesses an infinite variety of aspects of which now one, now another, may present itself. In like manner, he who believes may pass through different phases. Consequently, the formulae too, which we call dogmas, must be subject to these vicissitudes, and are, therefore, liable to change. Thus the way is open to the intrinsic evolution of dogma. An immense collection of sophisms this, that ruins and destroys all religion. Dogma is not only able, but ought to evolve and to be changed. This is strongly affirmed by the Modernists, and as clearly flows from their principles.[24]

In other words, rather than assent to the teachings of the magisterium, the Modernist sees them only as “religious formulas” which exist in relation to “religious sentiment.”

This is what the synodal authorities mean by promoting “anthropological and spiritual visions” which are “capable of integrating and not merely juxtaposing the intellectual and emotional dimensions of faith experience.” 

The “intellectual dimension” is the “religious formulas,” and the “emotional dimensions” are the “religious sentiments.” 

The Modernists believe that from this dialogue between “religious formulas” and “religious sentiment” a new “synthesis” will emerge. 

This is something that the synodal authorities freely admit: 

Certain issues, such as those relating to matters of identity and sexuality, the end of life, complicated marital situations, and ethical issues related to artificial intelligence, are controversial not only in society, but also in the Church, because they raise new questions. Sometimes the anthropological categories we have developed are not able to grasp the complexity of the elements emerging from experience or knowledge in the sciences and require greater precision and further study. It is important to take the time required for this reflection and to invest our best energies in it, without giving in to simplistic judgements that hurt individuals and the Body of the Church. Church teaching already provides a sense of direction on many of these matters, but this teaching evidently still requires translation into pastoral practice. Even where further clarification is required, Jesus’ actions, assimilated in prayer and conversion of heart, show us the way forward.[25] [Emphasis added] 

Once again they refuse to be entirely open about their agenda, but the meaning is nonetheless clear: the Church’s teaching on sexuality morality and end of life issues is not settled (“new questions”),  not adequate (“the anthropological categories we have developed are not able to grasp the complexity”), not binding (“provides a sense of direction”), and open to change (“evidently still requires translation into pastoral practices”).  

In another paragraph of the Synthesis Report they state that there is a need for  

[C]areful consideration of matters that are controversial within the Church, such as the anthropological effects of digital technologies and artificial intelligence, non-violence and legitimate self-defense, issues related to ministry, and issues related to sexuality and ‘bodiliness,’ among others.[26]

These matters will be subject, so the report says in the next paragraph, to “authentic ecclesial discernment,” “in the light” of, not in submission to, “the Word of God and Church teaching,” and will be “properly informed and reflected upon” (“Hence the common saying of Modernists: that the religious man must ponder his faith.”)[27] In order that the synodal church “avoid repeating vacuous formulas” (i.e. Catholic doctrine) a “dialogue” must be held in which “philosophical and theological reflection” (pondering?) will only be one element alongside “the human and social sciences,” i.e. the truth will be determined by a dialogue between doctrine and human experience.[28]  

The truth will not be proposed by the magisterium of the Church but will arise out of “shared discernment” in which “appreciation of the synodal experience” with take its place alongside “Church teaching.”[29]

The texts provided above are only a small selection of the passages in which the Synthesis Report adopts the Modernist approach as its own. Indeed, it is instructive that the word “experience” appears 72 times in the report in contrast to the word “doctrine,” which appears only 6 times, and “magisterium” which appears only 3 times. A more extensive analysis of the report would only strengthen the conclusion that can be drawn from the extracts given here that the Synthesis Report has openly embraced the Modernist understanding of revelation.  

Indeed, the very process of synodality is an attempt to further the evolution of dogma in accordance with the experiences of modern man.  

It is the exercise of a new Modernist religion, which is wholly distinct from the true Catholic religion. It maintains certain verbal expressions of the Catholic religion, but it empties them of their substance, and gives them new meanings. The Catholic and the Modernist have a shared vocabulary but no shared understanding of this vocabulary, as can be seen in the different meaning given to such terms as “faith,” “revelation” and “doctrine.” 

There is no compatibility between the true Catholic religion, as taught by Pope St. Pius X and the Catholic Church of all time, and the Modernist religion of Francis and his accomplices.  

We must choose our side, for the judgement of the Church of Christ is clear: 

We number such men among the enemies of the Church, if, leaving out of consideration the internal disposition of soul, of which God alone is the judge, he is acquainted with their tenets, their manner of speech, their conduct. Nor indeed will he err in accounting them the most pernicious of all the adversaries of the Church.   
For as We have said, they put their designs for her ruin into operation not from without but from within; hence, the danger is present almost in the very veins and heart of the Church, whose injury is the more certain, the more intimate is their knowledge of her. Moreover they lay the axe not to the branches and shoots, but to the very root, that is, to the faith and its deepest fires.  
And having struck at this root of immortality, they proceed to disseminate poison through the whole tree, so that there is no part of Catholic truth from which they hold their hand, none that they do not strive to corrupt.[30]

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