The Heresy of Americanism

Consisted of:

  1. undue insistence on interior initiative in the spiritual life, as leading to disobedience

  2. attacks on religious vows, and disparagement of the value of religious orders in the modern world

  3. minimizing Catholic doctrine

  4. minimizing the importance of spiritual direction.

Though this might be of special interest to those here, especially given how it’s so…well, backwards from what we do.

Joseph Moore just put up an article musing on the subject, Americanism: the Heresy, and Accidental Research,which is quite worth reading.

Go read the rest.  Even if he did use Wikipedia.

More to explorer


  1. Excellent. Now we know the origin of Vatican II: Americanism. Vatican II theology is Catholic Protestantism. Did it work? You betcha!. There’s not a dimes worth of difference between the average Catholic and Protestant regarding sexual morality. We are told by Pope Francis that all Catholics are pretty much saved just like Protestants. One big happy family, for sure. Right?!

    I liked this statement in the comment section on Moore’s article: *muses on the sad state where she’d sooner send the kids to public school than a Catholic school, just to avoid driving them out of the faith* ” This is exactly what my wife and I had to do to try and preserve our 11 kids faith. And this was in the 1970’s in Detroit, one of the worst dioceses for Vatican II atrocities. Now, Detroit Catholicism is pretty much the norm everywhere. Detroit ended up burning itself down and the rest of the country is well on it’s way.

  2. Ah, Americanism, the phantom heresy!

    Gibbons was on good terms with both Pope Leo, who gave him his cardinal’s cap, and Pope Pius of whom he wrote a biography. Americanism was an imaginary heresy, largely the result of Pope Leo XIII being ill-informed about conditions in America and paying too much heed to idiots among American clerics who delighted in attempting to stir up trouble over nothing. Modernism was a real enough heresy, although Pope Pius tended to throw the baby out with the bath water and completely orthodox Catholic scholars suffered along with complete heretics.

    Cardinal Gibbons and the rest of the American heirarchy responded that no one among them taught these propositions that were condemned:

    1.undue insistence on interior initiative in the spiritual life, as leading to disobedience
    2.attacks on religious vows, and disparagement of the value of religious orders in the modern world
    3.minimizing Catholic doctrine
    4.minimizing the importance of spiritual direction

    They were really scratching their heads on this one and had a hard time figuring out why the Pope was concerned with a non-problem in this country.

    This tempest in a papal tea pot had more to do with the French Church. A biography of Father Isaac Hecker, founder of the Paulists and now a Servant of God, was mistranslated into French and portrayed Father Hecker as some sort of flaming radical which he was not. This book became popular among liberal Catholics in France. As usual the relationship
    between the French Church and the Vatican was turbulent at this time. Pope Leo XIII’s concern about “Americanism” could have better been labeled a concern about “Frenchism”. Purportedly Leo XIII was reluctant to attack the Church in America, which he had often praised, and made his rebuke of “Americanism” as soft as possible.

    “We having thought it fitting, beloved son, in view of your high office, that this letter should be addressed specially to you. It will also be our care to see that copies are sent to the bishops of the United States, testifying again that love by which we embrace your whole country, a country which in past times has done so much for the cause of religion, and which will by the Divine assistance continue to do still greater things. To you, and to all the faithful of America, we grant most lovingly, as a pledge of Divine assistance, our apostolic benediction.”

    The statements of loyalty from the American heirarchy were sufficient for the Pope and “Americanism” vanished from history as quickly as it appeared.

  3. Michael D-
    I know if we weren’t homeschooling, I’d take a long, hard look into the Catholic school districts before I even considered them. I’ve seen way too many where the only use for Catholicism was to promote political ends using prudential judgments with which we do not agree, to put it politely.

  4. Donald R McClarey wrote, “Modernism was a real enough heresy, although Pope Pius tended to throw the baby out with the bath water and completely orthodox Catholic scholars suffered along with complete heretics.”

    It also led to what the Abbé Frémond called “The flight of the Mystics.”
    Even Abbot Chapman of Downside and Dom Cuthbert Butler, the author of “Western Mysticism” fell under suspicion. They were largely responsible for reliable editions of the Lady Julian of Norwich, the “Cloud of Unknowing” and Walter Hilton’s works.

    Brémond’s own response was the monumental monumental « Histoire littéraire du sentiment religieux en France, depuis la fin des guerres de religion a nos jours », published in eleven volumes between 1913 and 1936. It is a definitive conspectus of the writings of the French school of spirituality.

    His « Prière et Poésie » [Prayer and Poetry] and « Introduction a la Philosophie de la Prière » [Introduction to the Philosophy of Prayer] are based on his unrivalled knowledge of mystical writings and devotional works.

    His writings on poetry, symbolism and romanticism earned him election to the Académie française in 1923, in succession to Mgr. Duchesne and a eulogy from the French Symbolist poet, Paul Valéry.

  5. I tend to think, or at least suspect —I don’t spend a lot of time actually thinking about it— that Americanism is real, at least as an attitude or tendency that leads towards heresy. In that way it’s a lot like Modernism, and probably best thought of as a subspecies thereof.

  6. Well, maybe we should take into account an amazing coincidence: most, if not all, of the errors condemned by the Pope as ‘Americanism’ spread around the world and became dominant precisely during the twentieth century, which was the century in which America became the great world power. They are now the default ‘catholicism’ of CINOs.

    Maybe Pope Leo was onto something.

    (No offense intended, of course. We Spaniards have our own home-brewed heresy, Priscillianism, though luckily nobody thought of calling it Spaniardism).

  7. Michael Dowd:
    If human dignity is the seamless garment, then who are the soldiers casting lots for it?
    Created and endowed with sovereign personhood, free will and intellect, the rational soul of the human being has human dignity from the very first moment of existence from the hand of the infinite act of being, the Supreme Sovereign Being.
    “ON BECOMING A PERSON” a philosophical study of man is wrong. Man is a sovereign person from the beginning. Man matures into a personality, who achieves his destiny. The confusion of the two has frustrated and cast into despair several generations of people, my children among them
    God and Jesus Christ were not mentioned in “ON BECOMING A PERSON”, a book being used to teach religion in the Catholic School.
    Theology is the study of God, the infinite act of being. Philosophy is the study of man, the finite act of being. Religion is man’s response to the gift of Faith from the Supreme Sovereign Being in worship in word, deed and peaceable assembly. Personhood is who we the people are. Personality is who people make of themselves in their pursuit of Happiness, eternal TRUTH.
    Teaching the Catholic Faith in religion class without the mention of God instills atheism in young children in the fifth grade.
    The rational, immortal human soul with human dignity is ignored for the social studies of man without God: communism.
    Communism without God (there is communism with God in the free will, informed consent of religious congregations) is tyranny.
    Human dignity to prevent the execution of capital punishment for the murderer in homicide in the first degree cannot cast aside the human dignity of the victim who must be vindicated. Justice, retribution and deterrence are essential to human dignity. Self-defense is an innate human right. Human rights violations by the murderer destroy the image of God in man, his own human dignity.

  8. Man, the human being, man, is composed of body and soul. Government has no authentic authority to redefine the human being as having no soul. No authority in heaven or on earth has power to redefine the human being as having no soul. Jesus Christ in the HYPOSTATIC UNION, the revelation of God and man has a soul. Made in the image and likeness of God, man has a soul, the source of his Life.
    The soul of man has reason and immortality. Descartes said: “I think therefore I am.” It is also true to say: “I am therefore I think.”, since Descartes was looking for a philosophical way to prove his existence. “I am therefore I think.”, is a theological way to prove his existence.
    Man, as a rational animal, has reason. With reason, man has choice in his free will and reward and punishment, responsibility for his choices made in free will. Man owns his choices for eternity for no one else but himself has made those choices.
    To redefine man as having no soul is the imposition of atheism and the enslavement of one person to another person.

  9. Go to the combox on Steve Skojec’s otherwise excellent 1P5 and Americanism is the WORST…..especially among the radtrad monarchists. I myself have been accused of being an Americanist heretic. I dared to offer criticism of monarchies. Thus, I am a lousy Americanist.
    Oh, well.

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