Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

The Modernist as Philosopher: Selected Writings of Marcel Hébert

Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

The Modernist as Philosopher: Selected Writings of Marcel Hébert

Article excerpt

The Modernist as Philosopher: Selected Writings of Marcel Hébert. Translated by CJ. T Talar and Elizabeth Emery. Introduced and edited by CJ. T Talar. (Washington, DC: The Catholic University of America Press. 2011. Pp. x, 254. $64.95. ISBN 978-0-8132-1879-3.)

The papal condemnation of Roman Catholic modernism in 1907, the establishment of vigilance committees to ferret out suspected modernists, and the promulgation of the oath against "modernism" (in scare quotes to signal that the reality of the phenomenon was quite other than the Vatican's depiction of it) did far more damage to the Church than the modernists ever did. Having driven many of its best thinkers out of the Church or underground, the official Church failed to engage the intellectual movements of the time. World War I interrupted the offensive against modernism and allowed everyone to take a deep breath- e.g., Pope Benedict XV dismantled Monsignor Umberto Begnigni's secretive Sodalitium Planum (or La Sapinière), named after Pope Pius X- and to begin more soberly to appraise modern thought and the Catholic Church's posture toward it.

Since the progressive opening of Vatican archives (now open through the pontificate of Pius XI), published works have been appearing based on these archival materials, works that afford an "insider's" view of events previously known largely only from the outside. At the same time, it has become "safe" to give wider exposure to modernist works that are little known because history had passed them by.

C.J.T. Talar has been a foremost contributor to this latter effort. In the present volume, he and Elizabeth Emery make available in accurate and graceful translation some of the most important contributions of Marcel Hébert (1851-1916), a modernist philosopher in tune with the development of modern thought. Hébert, writes Talar in his superb introduction, "felt the insufficiency of Scholasticism to speak to minds formed by modernity, to formulate an adequate response to the philosophical legacy of Kant" (p. 3), whom church authorities regarded as the principal enemy of Catholic teaching. …

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