The Education of a Modernist

Readers of Crisis Magazine who know the name Garry Wills probably wouldn’t expect to see his books recommended in these pages. But I strongly urge all of you to pick up a copy of his memoir of faith, Why I Am a Catholic. No other book offers such a clear glimpse into the Modernist mind. I’m not aware of a more powerful testament to the weakness of the “liberal Catholicism” that’s come to infect so many parishes and chanceries around the First World.

But first we should ask, “What is a Modernist?” Here, I don’t mean Catholics who hold a particular set of heterodox views. Rather, I mean Catholics whose heterodox views are inspired by the dominant paradigm of their age. In the 21st century, with its rabid materialism, a Modernist might deny the Virgin Birth. But in the 2nd century, which was full of Gnostics, a Modernist would deny the Incarnation. In other words, a Modernist is a Christian who prefers the fashionable ideologies of one’s day to the permanent truths of the Faith.

Now, obviously, there’s no such thing as an “avowed Modernist.” Not exactly. Mr. Wills would never say, “I am a Modernist. As such, I prefer the fashionable ideology of my day to the permanent truths of the Faith.” A Christian doesn’t embrace Modernism: he’s embraced by Modernism—carried away by the spirit of the world, which is so fickle.

And that’s one of the first things that struck me as I read Why I Am a Catholic. Just twenty years after its publication, it feels dated.  

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s start at the beginning.

[Read the rest at Crisis Magazine.]

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