2. What is Progressivism?

To my friends
Letter 59

They went out from us, but they were not of us.” 1 John 2:19

IN every sphere, Progressivism contradicts the current (1959) opinions and practices of the Church. It criticises the common teaching of the Ordinary Magisterium and takes every opportunity to rail against the customs of Christian people, which are considered as nothing more than routine and superstition. Finally, it holds the traditional elite and authorities of the Church in suspicion of some conspiracy because of their attachment to pure doctrine and their hesitation to embark on an uncertain course, and for this they are labelled “sectarian” or “integrist.” Here as well, there is a plot! The “Integrist” Plot!

This opposition, however it may appear at first sight, cannot be explained by the cult of novelty alone. Their craze for novelty betrays too much acrimony against what our piety holds as venerable. It is an understatement to say that they want to rejuvenate the Church to make her more hospitable to the men of our times for they attack things and people with a kind of hatred and unwholesome delight. We feel them to be strangers, enemies even, of the age-old Church, which they do not accept but intend to remodel after their own spirit. Before they arrived, there was nothing but error, bourgeoisement, ridiculousness and ineffectiveness. The catechism is no longer capable of forming Christians; it needs to be reformed and entirely presented in a different perspective. Tabernacles must be removed from altars and altars need to be turned round; the statues of the saints will have to go! The priest removes his cassock and wants to be taken for a proletarian. Real Christian life is to be found in the trade union movement (on the workers’ side, of course) and in temporal commitment (on the Left) and so on and so forth.

If you happen to dispute the value of any point or the advisability of such and such a new idea you will find yourself the target of fulminations worse than any that ever proceeded from the Vatican. Yet if the work of demolition is so obvious, if it provokes disquiet from one end of France to the other, the work of reconstruction is hardly apparent or else it raises awkward questions. No matter! It is a dogma that only Progressivism can save the Church by making her accessible to the “de-christianised masses” and with that argument all opposition is silenced. It is a tactical argument with nothing doctrinal or supernatural in it!

The art of Progressivism consists in never allowing its plan of campaign to be seen. Even the Progressivist troops have only a very confused idea of how the offensives they launch by slogans in several directions will serve the general aims of the movement. There is the campaign against Catholic Schools, against torture in Algeria, campaigns against the Legion of Mary, for the renewal of Church music and for liturgical changes; suppression of Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament, the campaign in favour of worker priests, in praise of Protestantism and of Islam; exegetical studies on the mythological aspect of Adam and Eve; subtle questioning concerning the Virginity of the Blessed Virgin. Who would think that all these things, absolutely all, serve only one intention, enters a strict course of action from which one never deviates? This is all the more since every one of these campaigns is backed up by lengthy, serious scientific or theological considerations, by unimpeachable witnesses and whenever possible every campaign must have the support of a hierarchical declaration.

The average man is not going to take his parish priest to task over so many delicate matters, but if he dare not discuss these things he nevertheless remains scandalised; his good sense and his good faith are injured and he is left with the painful impression that slowly but surely, with excellent excuses and subtle reasons, his religion is being changed. Therefore distrust of their clergy is growing among the Christian people, to which it would be advisable to devote attention. As for the more educated, apart from those who are in blind sympathy, they have made a quick survey of all the arguments and come to the conclusion that they are so much trumpery and window-dressing. Behind all this array meant to impress the simple, Progressivism reveals an alarming shallowness of thought. “Truth and Justice whatever the cost” is the headline on one of their newspapers and they appeal to science, reason, morality and the will of the people all in order to disturb the world and revolutionise the Church, but this orchestration is aimed at the ignorant. Should the Progressivist meet a well-informed, learned man with a lucid mind, he will surprisingly turn on him with sarcasm, or else withdraw into a lofty cautious silence. Have you managed to convince him? Not at all. He dissembles, but in his discomfiture, he holds all his opinions intact and as soon as you are gone he will resume his opinions with aplomb, even though Truth and Justice have quite obviously deserted his camp.

That is precisely the Communist tactic – always advance, never retreat. I have often convinced a Progressivist of the fallacy of his reasoning, but I have never seen one change his ideas for all that. The reasoning is just for show, for propaganda and it exists to justify all the various ‘options,’ the principle of which is elsewhere and hidden. This scorn and this stubbornness, not to say this fanaticism and sectarianism, give him the appearance of possessing irresistible conquering strength. Throughout any number of deceptive campaigns he never ceases to win over the minds of the young and the ignorant and occasionally a personality, avid for liberalism, will rally to his cause and all is gain. As for those who take their time to weigh up the arguments before making a public reply, well, it is always too late – the campaign has moved on to something else and will never turn back! Everything past is won.

At a deeper level it is impossible to explain all these different positions adopted by reference to the reasons given. They can only be explained by their obscure affinity with the central Heresy. He who does not know this Heresy, cannot see the very profound link binding all these various contemporary Progressivist campaigns to the essential heretical “mystique” and he is amazed at the synchronism of these campaigns and lost in all their details. The main line escapes him and because of that he underestimates the danger the Church is running. True Progressivists, as opposed to so many abused camp-followers, launch every campaign with a single aim in view, namely to shake an over-rigorous Catholic orthodoxy to make way for their new mystique. The object is to disintegrate Catholic society, drive division between minds, and vary morals and customs ad infinitum so that in the end everything is sufficiently softened up ready to undergo the monstrous transformation they have in mind.

Adam has not to exist anymore, not because of the “mythological” character of the texts but because original sin must be made to disappear in order to make way for another crime; nor should there be Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament, not because the Christian people have said so or in order to conquer the ‘masses’ but because they want to utilise the militants’ energy for exercises other than contemplation; nor should ther be guilds advocated by the Popes, not because they were instituted in France by Pétain, but because these measures to secure social peace must be dismissed at all costs; nor should there be a diocesan or national catechism because the doctrine stated therein is too clear and rigorous and nothing could be more fatal for Progressivism; nor should the Legion of Mary or other pious associations exist, because their supernatural apostolate is in dangerous competition with the new apostolate, which is of a quite different order; nor should there be cassocks or clerical celibacy, not for reasons of conquering the masses or simplification, but because the priest, in order to take the lead in the new movement on a purely human level and with human perspectives, must no longer remain “apart”; nor should there be classical sermons on the four last things, since there are other ends of a more obvious and necessary nature to ascribe to Christians hope.

Thus everything is changing; everything is becoming disconnected and cunningly ambiguous. We are at the critical point now (1959), when everything still resembles Catholicism enough so as not to cause alarm to the deaf and dumb, but where everything is sufficiently adapted to the new mystique for the Progressivist Church to be pleased with the work so far. She is already the effective purveyor of world materialist revolution. Oh! That is not her aim. She is seeking something even better, but we are heading in the right direction.

Letter to My Friends no. 59, 1959.
Published in Catholic Counter-Reformation no. 55, October 1974.