Keep It Real

"The great issue for both the Neo-Scholastics and the New Theologians was the turn of Modernists like Loisy to subjectivity, experience, and history. Can one say that Christian doctrines are true, regardless of anyone’s feelings or historical situation? The Neo-­Scholastics said absolutely, yes. Pius X’s Pascendi Dominici Gregisanathematized Modernism as “the synthesis of all heresies,” and that was the end of it. The New Theologians differed: They thought that by an astute use of ­Augustine and his more “­experiential” tradition, and by drawing on nineteenth-century Romantic Catholic theologians such as Johann Adam Möhler, one could ­uncover what was objective and truth-­oriented within interior ­experience. For Loisy, experience is where subjectivity comes to an end (in me); for the Augustinians, ­experience is a means to the end of communicating with the realities outside of me. The self is not a closed box, like a fridge. One goes inward because interiority itself points outward. The New Theologians believed that volition and especially desire are human pointers toward God and supernatural truth. They foregrounded volition and desire in order to make common ground with their secular contemporaries, who were turning from the prosaic realism of the nineteenth century toward existentialism and symbolism. They attempted a kind of phenomenology or examination of conscience and consciousness. Phenomenology is not just “experientialism”: It is the analysis of the logical structure of conscience and consciousness."