I first met the word “modernism” when I was a schoolboy in the Christian Brothers’ School in Newry, Northern Ireland. One of the most informative books we had to read, or at least to consult, was called Apologetics and Catholic Doctrine, which explained, among other interesting questions, the social and religious considerations that impelled popes to issue encyclicals. For instance: in the last years of the nineteenth century, a number of dissident priests and some misled laity, calling themselves modernists, tried to force the Church to abandon some of its principles: to concede the primacy of science over faith; to acknowledge that, in the person of Christ, science and history encounter nothing that is not human; and to accept that everyone is, by definition and incapacity, an agnostic. Pope Pius X regarded those modernists as so pernicious that on September 8, 1907 he issued...


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