R. Scott Appleby’s article on the Modernist controversy (“American Idol,” September 14) reminds me of Hans Küng’s observation in his autobiography that the major reason we need a Vatican III is that at Vatican II the church did not have an historical-critical understanding of itself and its origins. A major issue from Pius IX to the present has been the painful process of coming to terms with historical consciousness, first through historical-critical interpretative methods, and then through hermeneutics as a theory of all interpretation.
The Modernist crisis was provoked by the development of historical-critical interpretation, especially of Scripture.
I think of Martin Heidegger’s remark that “language is the house of being.” For the Gospels this house of being is Greek, while the Jesus-event took shape in the house of being that is Aramaic. There are great differences between these two “houses.”
I would consider it one of the burdens of grace for Catholic universities to assist the church in negotiating the difficult, painful, and I hope finally fruitful, encounter with historical consciousness in both its historical-critical and hermeneutical dimensions. In a word, the Modernist crisis has not ended.