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November 8, 2013
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v2.1 Reference

Divided Friends

Portraits of the Roman Catholic Modernist Crisis in the United States

On September 8, 1907, Pope St. Pius X brought the simmering Roman Catholic Modernist crisis to a boil with his encyclical Pascendi dominici gregis. In Pascendi's terms, recent biblical, historical, scientific, and philosophical attempts to take seriously subjective mediations of God's revelation led only to subjectivism and agnosticism. Pius X condemned these as "Modernism" and the "synthesis of all heresies." This Modernism threatened the very human capacity to know and believe in God as a reality apart from human consciousness. Prior to 1907 no Catholic thinkers had used the term Modernism to designate the theological or biblical work they were doing. Pascendi , with its provisions for diocesan vigilance committees and censorship of books, combined with the subsequent Oath against Modernism (1910), created a climate of suspicion and fear.

In two sets of intertwined biographical portraits, spanning two generations, Divided Friends dramatizes the theological issues of the modernist crisis, highlighting their personal dimensions and extensively reinterpreting their long-range effects. The four protagonists are Bishop Denis J. O'Connell, Josephite founder John R. Slattery, together with the Paulists William L. Sullivan and Joseph McSorley. Their lives span the decades from the Americanist crisis of the 1890s right up to the eve of Vatican II. In each set, one leaves the church and one stays. The two who leave come to see their former companions as fundamentally dishonest. Divided Friends entails a reinterpretation of the intellectual fallout from the modernist crisis and a reframing of the 20th century debate about Catholic intellectual life.

About the Author

WILLIAM L. PORTIER is the Mary Ann Spearin Chair of Catholic Theology, University of Dayton and is the author of Issac Hecker and the First Vatican Council.


“A splendid study. Portier has unearthed a wealth of new material which he interprets brilliantly. His account of how the Modernist crisis affected four significant individuals combines historical sensitivity, theological insight, and deep—but not uncritical—sympathy. In analyzing the dilemmas they faced, he illuminates the situation of American Catholicism in that era and at the same time suggests new lines of inquiry for the future.”—Phillip Gleason, Emeritus Professor of History, University of Notre Dame
The Catholic University of America Press

9780813221649 : divided-friends-portier
Paperback / softback
408 Pages
$39.95 USD

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