Saturday, January 2, 2016


You can read two good articles on Protestant Fundamentalism "HERE" and "HERE". The point I am making is there is a parallel to the rise of Catholic Fundamentalism spurred on by the silliness of modernism in Catholicism as a result of the improper reading and implementation of Vatican II in many places throughout the world, especially affecting the priesthood and religious life.

In part, the article on a recent German movie, "Stations of the Cross" at CRUX highlights for us the modernist mentality that pushes many Catholics to become radicalized fundamentalists in a Catholic sort of way, not Protestant way. The Progressive denigration of the fundamentals of Catholic faith and worship as it was experienced for more than a millennia is completely responsible for it and is the cause of the radicalization illustrated in the movie review. 

Here are some excerpts from:

Christian fundamentalism

American Protestant movement
Christian (protestant) fundamentalism, movement in American Protestantism that arose in the late 19th century in reaction to theological modernism, which aimed to revise traditional Christian beliefs to accommodate new developments in the natural and social sciences, especially the advent of the theory of biological evolution. In keeping with traditional Christian doctrines concerning biblical interpretation, the mission of Jesus Christ, and the role of the church in society, fundamentalists affirmed a core of Christian beliefs that included the historical accuracy of the Bible, the imminent and physical Second Coming of Jesus Christ, and Christ’s Virgin Birth, Resurrection (see resurrection), and Atonement (see atonement). Fundamentalism became a significant phenomenon in the early 20th century and remained an influential movement in American society into the 21st century. See also Evangelical church.

... A more direct challenge to traditional Christianity came from scholars who adopted a critical and historical approach to studying and interpreting the Bible. This perspective, known as modernism, treated the books of the Bible—especially the first five (the Pentateuch)—not as simple documents written by a single author but as complex texts constructed by multiple authors from several older sources. Although modernism offered a solution to many problems posed by seemingly contradictory biblical passages, it also raised severe doubts about the historical accuracy of the biblical text, leading scholars to revise the traditional history of the biblical era and to reconsider the nature of biblical authority. (For a discussion of modernism in the history of Roman Catholicism, see Modernism.)

The issue of biblical authority was crucial to American Protestantism, which had inherited the fundamental doctrine of sola Scriptura (Latin: “Scripture alone”) as enunciated by Martin Luther (1483–1546) and other 16th-century Reformers. Thus, any challenge to scriptural integrity had the potential to undermine Christianity as they understood and practiced it. In response to this challenge, theologians at the Princeton Theological Seminary argued for the verbal (word-for-word) inspiration of Scripture and affirmed that the Bible was not only infallible (correct when it spoke on matters of faith and morals) but inerrant (correct when it spoke on any matters, including history and science).

By this time, the modernist position had gained a foothold in Episcopal, Congregational, Methodist Episcopal, American Baptist, and Presbyterian denominations in the North. The stage was set for major confrontations during the 1920s, and it remained to be seen only whether the modernists could be forced out of their denominations.

Not every Protestant denomination was affected by intellectual controversy during the 1920s, of course. In some, such as the Southern Baptist Convention and the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, modernism had not become prominent. In contrast, modernists were firmly in control of the Methodist Episcopal and Episcopal churches by the 1920s, because a large block of theological conservatives had left those churches in the late 19th century to form the Holiness churches and the Reformed Episcopal Church, respectively. Other denominations, such as the Congregationalists, were so loosely organized that decisions on theological controversies were difficult to legislate.


Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...


The error is in the "cause and effect" thinking that is too often offered by those seeking simple answers to complex issues. An example of this: The changes in the liturgy caused ("are responsible for") the decline in mass attendance.

While there is a correlation ("parallel") between modern, progressive Catholicism and Catholic Fundamentalism, I don't think it can be argued that modernity has "caused" Catholic Fundamentalism.

Did the new technologies introduced into English textile manufacturing - stocking frames, spinning frames and power looms - "cause" the sometimes violent reaction against this modernity by Ned Ludd and the Luddites? No. Their reaction was caused, not by the new devices, but by the fears they had about the impact of these machines on their employment and income.

Another example of faulty "cause-and-effect" thinking is the potentially deadly opposition of anti-vaxxers to the modern practice of vaccinating children against disease. The practice of vaccinating children is not the cause (is not responsible for) the reaction. The cause is, rather, the irrational belief that vaccines are responsible for everything from autism to multiple sclerosis to SIDS. (Many trace the anti-vaccine movement to an article authored by disgraced physician/researcher Andrew Wakefield. Wakefield was shown to have faked data.)

Modernity (not to be confused with modernism or, for that matter, Modernism) always causes us to be uncomfortable. We don't like change, even when it is necessary and good. Maybe this is something of an evolutionary trait - our physiology is geared toward "homeostasis" - maintaining constant internal conditions, such as a temperature of 98.6. Some people, including myself, are more amenable to changes, some less so. That's OK and that's how it has always been.

It is our fallen nature that leads us to seek a scapegoat, someone to blame or someone to whom we can say, "You caused this" or "You behavior caused my reaction." Said Adam to the Lord, "The woman whom you put here with me—she gave me fruit from the tree, so I ate it." When confronted with his acts, Cain sought to escape his responsibility: "Then the LORD asked Cain, Where is your brother Abel? He answered, 'I do not know. Am I my brother’s keeper?'"

My reaction to what someone else does or says is mine. It is not caused by the other's actions or words. Saying "Someone else caused me to do what I did" isn't helpful or true.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Protestant fundamentalism that really came into being by the 1920's is a result of the enlightenment and the effect it had on some mainline Protestant denominations that became liberal. It is a reactionary movement to liberalism.

The same has to be said of what is happening in the Catholic Church and the advent of the SSPX and other splinter groups but also the divide between liberal and conservative Catholics who haven't gone schismatic or semi-schismatic.

There are many parallels between Protestant liberalism of the late 1800's and early 1900's and what happened to the Church after Vatican II when so many theologians latched onto the Critical Historical Method of Biblical studies invented by the Protestants of the late 1800's and early 1900's. I was taught much of what liberal Protestants embraced at St. Mary's in Baltimore in the 1970's and yes it cause a goodly number of my class to lose the faith. We started with 60 ended with 20. There was in fact and cause and effect and I know this from personal experience and the controversies in our seminary at the time.

JBS said...

Father McDonald,

As we begin 2016, I just want to thank you for all you do for the Lord and His holy Church, especially for promoting the dialogue called for by Pope Paul VI. Thank you for walking the fine line between theological, liturgical and pastoral extremes. Thank you also for patiently engaging the variety of souls who comment here. While it can be difficult to appreciate some comments of Father Kavanaugh, I know your first and foremost sentiment towards him (and his towards you) is Christian fraternity. I hope to meet John Nolan, Gene and others one day in this life, but certainly in the life to come. Were it not for you, I would never have heard of them. And finally, God bless the South!

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

A Scripture Scholar who says, "Moses is not the author of the Pentateuch," does not cause a seminarian to conclude, "I am going to become a biblical literalist." That may be how the seminarian reacts to the Scholar's statement, but it is not caused by the statement. This is a simplistic approach to a rather complex phenomenon.

Yes, fundamentalism is a reaction to modern methods of Scripture study, among other things, but it is not caused by The Enlightenment or the development of the historical-critical method of Scripture study. Again, this is a simplistic approach to a much more complex phenomenon.

The "cause and effect" explanation wrongly assumes that there are no other factors in the life and thinking of those drawn to a fundamentalist approach to written texts - Sacred Scripture, magisterial documents, the Constitution, etc.

Our class started with 52 and ended with 38 ordained. Since 1985, 6 have died and 15 have left ministry. 19 remain, including our only-surviving monsignor and one bishop, James Conley of Lincoln. Our professors used the historical-critical method widely. None was a biblical literalist. I don't recall there being any objections raised by our classmates, including the more "conservative" members of the class. The methodology does not cause people to lose their faith or to become biblical literalists.

Sandeen writes, "Fundamentalism became a significant phenomenon in the early 20th century and remained an influential movement in American society into the 21st century." He's right. But what has driven Protestant fundamentalism is not what they perceive as a threat from the historical-critical method, but political beliefs about the role of women in society, the belief in the need for more defense spending, abortion, economic issues including the debt and taxes, and the role of government in our lives.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

We lost 30 within the first year--conservative, solid men, who were rediculed by the staff and more progressive students at St. Mary's. You know as well as I that your seminary, Mt. St. Mary's was a bastion of conservatism and "regression" as our seminary labeled you, ultra traditionalists. You have no idea what our professors at St.Mary's had to say about your professors and students. You would blush. (This is in the mid 1970's of course.

When you have faculty ridiculing the real Presence of Christ in the tabernacle and calling Benediction "Canaanite Cookie Worship", when the historical critical method leads one to deny the Immaculate Conception, the Virgin Birth, the Nativity, the miracles, the bodily Resurrection and the meaning of Pentecost to mean simply a spirit, like school spirit, what do you think happens--we lose people or they become radicalized and join schismatic or semi-schismatic sects.

I think you are clueless about the liberalism at St. Mary's and other seminaries and houses of formation for religious of this period as Mt. St. Mary's regressive, pre-Vatican II way insulated you and quite well evidently.

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

Mt. St. Mary's, my seminary, may have been labeled "a bastion of conservatism and 'regression,'" but this was not the case. I went there, you did not. You have no idea what our professors at Mt. St. Mary's had to say - about anything. I found it to be astonishingly middle-of-the-road theologically, with professors and students all across the conservative/progressive spectrum.

You may well have had professors who ridiculed the Real Presence, but this was not the result of the historical-critical methodology. If anything, it was a misuse of that methodology, a misapplication of that methodology. The methodology is sound, while its misuse is not. Any methodology for interpreting the Scriptures can be, and has been, misused at times.

I have used this analogy previously: If you attend a performance of Handel's Messiah and the director, chorus, and orchestra do an exceptionally bad job in the performance, this does not mean that Handel's work is bad. If professors misuse the historical-critical methodology, it does not mean that the methodology is bad.

If "conservative, solid men" are lost because they found because they heard something that challenged their faith, I would wonder as much about their previous formation as what they heard in the seminary. Whatever their religious background, they were evidently unable to adjust to a more challenging and much more nuanced approach to the Bible.

If these "conservative, solid men" had been raised on a steady diet of Q&A Catholicism, and if they had been schooled in this approach to understanding the Bible:

"Q. 558. What is the Holy Scripture or Bible?
A. The Holy Scripture or Bible is the collection of sacred, inspired writings through which God has made known to us many revealed truths. Some call them letters from Heaven to earth, that is, from God to man."

And if they then arrived at The Park and discovered that these "letters from Heaven to earth, from God to man" were not exactly what they had been told... well, I have to wonder just how "solid" they might have been.

Anonymous said...

Father K

Liberal arguments are difficult to counter because Western society has been indoctrinated in its tenets in not only in public schools but even in most Catholic schools today. This philosophical orientation dominates today for the detriment of civil society. It noxious impact is becoming more and more evident in irrational arguments of political correctness.

There is pushback against its excesses. Anti-liberal populist movements underway in the US fuel the Trump-Carson-Fiorina phenomenon in the Republican Party. The European bastion of liberalism is the EU, however England, Poland, Hungary and Marie LePen's party in France are not too sure about the current direction of this union in which Liberal Fundamentalism dominates at this point.

The phrase "complex problems require complex answers/solutions" is a liberal cliche used to dismiss arguments they do not like and at the same time to demean their interlocutors' qualifications or even intelligence. How does Fr. K know that this so anyway? He does not tell us. I for one hesitate to buy it. Off hand, one can also argue just as well that simple problems require complex solutions as well.)

One could also argue that the reason simple solutions are offered for complex problems is because complex solutions are hard to manage and rarely turn out as their proponents intended. Take for instance the war on poverty. Complex problem, many faceted solution, result: poverty is now greater than when the war started. Furthermore, many problems do not have solution. Others resolve themselves in time much better without human intervention.

Finally, liberalism demands, and liberal churchmen, theologians have been coopted in great numbers into negotiating revealed truths of the Christian faith. They call it dialogue. The believer posits a religious truth say: all who are saved, are save through Jesus. A non believer says otherwise. They discuss and after that they try to make a statement that is acceptable to both parties. Christians should not be party to such events. Liberals would consider my argument fundamentalist. Well I guess I am. I am Catholic. I believe in Truth.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Frmjk, in the 70's my Sulpician priests sneered at Mt. St. Mary's and called it preVatican II. True or not it is true your seminary was backwards by liberal progressives in my seminary which was the premier seminary in the country and had become the premier bastion of progressive Catholic thought whereas your seminary was considered reactionary preVatican II!

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

"True or not it is true your seminary was backwards..." Good father, a essential word is missing - "considered." Mt St Mary's Seminary was CONSIDERED backwards but, in fact, it was not. It was not "pre-Vatican II" nor was it "reactionary."

Anonymous - I don't agree at all that "complex problems require complex answers/solutions" is a cliché or that it is used to denigrate anyone. The decline in mass attendance in the last 50 years will not be solved simply by regressing to an older form of liturgy. People have left for a variety of reasons, for a wide range of cultural changes that have nothing whatsoever to do with whether the priest faces the people or the altar or whether the language of the mass is Latin or the vernacular.

John Nolan said...

Fr Kavanaugh is surely right to warn against over-simplistic deductions. I'm not too happy with the term 'fundamentalist' being used pejoratively in a Catholic context and until recently a 'radical' was a progressive.

When a revolution is in progress there will be those whose instincts are to push the boundaries further and further and those who are alarmed at not just the speed of change but the direction it's taking. Evelyn Waugh saw more clearly than most where Vatican II was taking the Church; more clearly than did Cardinal Heenan who was also of a conservative cast of mind but who seems to have convinced himself, and certainly tried to convince others, that things wouldn't change that much. Waugh died in 1966 but a year earlier said that in the 'Sword of Honour' trilogy he had unwittingly written the obituary of English Catholicism: 'All the rites and most of the opinions are now obsolete.'

Conservatives often have a clearer insight into how things will turn out than progressives who are addicted to novelty. Edmund Burke in 1790 accurately predicted the French Revolution's descent into terror and the ultimate establishment of a military dictatorship, although he died before Bonaparte's coup of 18 Brumaire. His pamphlet adversary, the radical Tom Paine, threw in his lot with the revolutionaries and narrowly escaped being guillotined.

Albert Einstein said...

Vater Michael K: You must be an advocate of Modern Math or Common Core Arithmetic, since you can't get the number of your still active Mount classmates correct. It should be 17. "Our class started with 52 and ended with 38 ordained. Since 1985, 6 have died and 15 have left ministry. 19 remain, including our only-surviving monsignor and one bishop, James Conley of Lincoln". Here's the simple math: 38-6-15=17. You must be using the historical-critical method of mathematics.

Geraldine Jones said...

The devil made me do it, Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh ! (RE: Post 2 Jan 16, 0959)

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Fr. K. You don't understand. I'm not saying your seminary was or was't pre-Vatican II from my perspective some 40 years later. But at the time, when I compared my superior seminary and priestly formation at St. Mary's Seminary in Baltimore to that of Mt. St. Mary's some 40 miles away in Emmitsburg, I saw the difference (and I visited there too as a seminarian and later had seminarians there as vocation director). It was clearly pre-Vatican II in the 1970's understanding of it as espoused by my seminary staff! Mt. St. Mary's was considered a joke compared to St. Mary's.

And please know, that in the 1970's the worst insult that a progressive could sling at a conservative Catholic individual, rebellious order or seminary institution was that one is pre-Vatican II. You seem to take great umbrage at it too, Why? While it was an insult in the 70's to be called pre-Vatican II not so much today. You should wear your pre-Vatican II seminary label with pride!

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

not rebellious order, but religious order (Freudian slip or hit wrong spelling correct?)

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

Good Father - Mt St. Mary's wasn't "regressive" or "pre-Vatican II." Your seminary faculty were simply wrong. Your perception of The Mount comes from occasional visits to Mt St Mary's. Mine comes from having been a student there for 3.5 years.

I suspect your perception of The Mount is as accurate as your perception of the film "Fried Green Tomatoes" in which you saw no lesbianism or cannibalism.

Albert - Arithmetic was never my strong suit, obviously. I think I counted our only surviving monsignor and the bishop in our class twice.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Mt. St. Mary's was and still is considered pre-Vatican II by post Vatican II progressives. Progressives determine everything, Fr. K, as you are well aware. So wear the pre-Vatican II moniker as a badge of honor that it is from today's perspective! But certainly back then, you seminarians at that seminary were considered pariah by the liberal progressives. Keep in mind the liberal progressives are having a resurgence in the Church under the current papacy so you might not want to experience the white martyrdom of telling people you went to Mt. St. Mary's in its good old pre-Vatican II days of the 1980's in which it is still stuck in their minds, not my mind, mind you, since it has been exorcised.

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

Good Father - What people who, like you, have not spent more than a few hours at Mt. St. Mary's might think is of little concern to me or to those who know The Mount. These are the same people who would have visited Alcatraz in its heyday for a few hours and come away thinking that it was a lovely, exotic San Francisco Bay island community, rich with camaraderie and people with interesting life stories.

I will always be a proud graduate of The Mount - "The Cradle of American Bishops" - and will always correct people like you who think the Mount was a "regressive" house of formation.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

I completely agree with you Fr. K today. It is perfectly wonderful that Mt. St. Mary's maintained the pre-Vatican II emphasis on dogma, doctrine, sound theology and popular devotions and traditional spirituality. You don't have to defend Mt. St. Mary's pre-Vatican II ways to me. Just be careful of those progressives who don't appreciate the Mount's hermenutic though.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

As it comes to my mind, I know you will agree with me about those doggone elitist progressives who not only think they are denigrating your seminary by describing it as regressive and pre-Vatican II but they do the same doggone thing with the Traditional Order of the Mass--they find it a pariah too and do all kinds of contortionist maneuvers to say that the New Order of the Mass is the Traditional Order of the Mass--they can't distinguish these things so blind are they to their ideologies about us. Of course, like your seminary and seminarians they also despise the EF Mass for the same reasons.

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

Good Father - You worry too much about what doggone "People Say."

The Mount doesn't have "a hermeneutic." It's a good, Catholic seminary. While is has maintained a good reputation with many bishops, it has also fallen into disfavor among others, and for good reason.

In my seminary I learned that the so-called "New Order" of the mass is the Traditional Order of the mass. There's just one thing I learned in seminary that you seem to have missed...

Julian Barkin said...

Wow, I think for the first time I am witnessing some commraderie here between Frs. AJM and Kavanaugh on display for the normal audience of Southern Orders. This is a great start for 2016!