under the patronage of St Joseph and St Dominic
By the rivers of Babylon there we sat and wept, remembering Zion;
A MODERNIST CASE STUDY—THOMAS H GROOME
Part II of the Answer to Groome’s ‘response’ to the criticism of his theology
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Thomas Groome’s criticism in his paper, Truth Betrayed, of Eamonn Keane’s A Generation Betrayed continues with a series of alleged false accusations in four subcategories, the Blessed Trinity, Christ’s Divinity and humanity, Sacraments and Priesthood and the Role of Experience in Catechesis.
False Accusations regarding the Blessed Trinity
Groome asserts his belief “that God is One, and yet is constituted by Three Divine Persons, distinct and equal, whom we traditionally name as Father, Son and Holy Spirit.” He goes on in the paragraph following: “Essentially, Mr Keane bases his claim that I deny the Blessed Trinity on my call for ‘expansive’ language for God… [S]urely we need and are entitled to forge ‘expansive’ language for God—who is ultimately ‘beyond all names’. The Bible would encourage as much with its multiple titles, metaphors and analogies for the divine… In this biblical spirit, I recommend that we ‘expand’ our contemporary referents for God beyond exclusively male ones. I never oppose using ‘Father’ for God… I simply advocate that we use more than Father and exclusively male metaphors.” And in the final paragraph on the page: “[T]o only use ‘Father’ for God as if this term is a direct equivalent for the divine nature, is to break the First Commandment, which clearly forbids ‘graven images’ for God…”
Groome could hardly have better illustrated than he does here that what he is proclaiming is a religion of his own devising. Possessed of the sensus fidelium, Keane sees what Groome is incapable of seeing, that his whole approach is un-Catholic, and driven by material or ideological considerations.
First error: the Catholic Church is not a human thing, but a Divine thing. The head of the Catholic Church is no man, but God—Jesus Christ. It is not for Thomas H Groome, or for any Catholic—not even the Pope himself—to interfere with what God has appointed. Therefore, we do not need to, nor are we entitled to, ‘forge expansive language for God’. God is not a member of our church: we are members of God’s Church. It is God who establishes the Church’s language.
Second error (allied with the first): God has given Himself a name—Father. That is the name by which He is to be known because that is what He is, our loving Father. How do we know that God has given Himself this name? Because God Himself has pronounced it. No where is this more clearly set forth than in the 14th, 15th, 16th and 17th chapters of the Gospel of St John. Thus, in the 14th chapter, Our Lord says to His apostles—
In the course of His priestly prayer in chapter 17, Christ addresses His Father—
Third error: to assert a conflict between these passages of the Gospel of St John and any passage in the Old Testament is to imply that Christ’s teaching is somehow in breach of God’s own commandments. This is blasphemous. Moreover, Leo XIII taught in Providentissimus Deus—
At the root of all Groome’s confusion is that he does not believe that Christ is God. We have dealt with this already in Part I of this Answer. It is the subject of his next allegation against Keane.
False Accusations regarding Christ’s Divinity and Humanity
We have shown in Part I why Groome’s rejection of the Church’s ruling on ‘women’s ordination’ involves an implicit rejection of Christ and of His Church. If Christ is God and Groome believed that He was, he could not treat in so cavalier a fashion the rejection by the Church—God’s Church—of all possibility of the conferring of the priesthood on women. We will show at the end of this paper how his arrogance over the ruling of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith on the motu proprio of Pope John Paul II, Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, places him squarely within a proposition condemned as Modernist by the Church.
Groome refuses assent to what the Church teaches on any number of issues. It follows, as St Thomas says, that he does not adhere to the teaching of the Church as to an infallible rule. Rather the belief he proclaims is “only a kind of opinion in accordance with his own will”. He knows better than the Church! The peril for those who read his writings is that they may think that what he is mouthing is the Catholic faith. It is not! He may say that he believes that Christ is God, but his actions betray him.
False Accusations regarding the Sacraments and the Priesthood
Groome attacks Keane for accusing him “falsely… of rejecting ‘the objectively and historically efficacious realism of Catholic sacramental worship.’” He details the places in his works where he has set forth “a very traditional and orthodox theology” relating to the sacraments. He insists “I accept, and never state otherwise, the teaching of Vatican II, that ‘priests, by the anointing of the Holy Spirit are marked with a special character and are so configured to Christ the Priest that they can act in the person of Christ the Head.’” Groome asserts that, with his emphasis on the subject in A Generation Betrayed, Keane gives the impression that Groome denies the dogma of the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. Groome feels the agony of the implication:
This all sounds utterly Catholic. Are we to take him seriously? The dilemma thrown up illustrates well the difficulties Catholics have in dealing with the Modernist virus. The Modernist sees no difficulty in saying one thing one day, and contradicting himself the next. We showed in Part I of this Answer that Groome endorses the following opinion of Raymond Brown: “The affirmation that all the bishops of the early Christian church could trace their appointments or ordinations to the apostles is simply without proof.” Groome says in the same place: “As already noted, the function of bishop as we might recognise it today, did not begin until the second century. Equating apostle with bishop (and indeed apostle with sacerdotal function, see note 27) is not in the first century; nowhere in the New Testament is Peter referred to as a bishop…” In the footnote 27 he refers to, he quotes in support of his view the opinion of Kenan B. Osborne as follows: “In spite of the long tradition of this view, contemporary scholars find no basis for such an interpretation. In other words, Jesus did not ordain the apostles (disciples) at this final supper to be ‘priests’, giving them thereby the power to celebrate the eucharist.”
When he claims—“I accept, and never state otherwise, the teaching of Vatican II, that ‘priests, by the anointing of the Holy Spirit are marked with a special character and are so configured to Christ the Priest that they can act in the person of Christ the Head.’”—who could believe him? It is a Modernist gambit to be literally correct in what he says, while adhering to an opinion which contradicts what he says. Perhaps Groome never does “state” otherwise; but he does not hesitate to let others do the “stating” for him. Again, he may “accept” what Vatican II says here after his own fashion, but what he holds is not what the Catholic Church holds.
The Modernist apes the Catholic faith while he is busy proclaiming something different. He acts like a Catholic. He may even think he is a Catholic. But his practice of Catholicism is always infected with a subjectivist gloss. When Groome says, “I deeply believe I am receiving the body and blood of Jesus Christ”, does he mean what he is saying as a faithful Catholic means it? It is not possible. He cannot reject the Church’s teaching that Our Lord ordained the apostles priests (and thereby gave them the power to confect the Eucharist) and, at the same time, ”deeply believe” that he is “receiving the body and blood of Jesus Christ”. If no power was given to the apostles, there was no power they could convey by ordination to their successors. The “deep belief” he expresses is not a Catholic belief then, but something of his own contriving, “only a kind of opinion in accordance with his own will”, as St Thomas says. He is aping the Catholic position, for his own purposes.
False Accusations regarding the Role of Experience in Catechesis
Groome accuses Keane of claiming that “in catechetics I give priority to people’s own experience over the truths of Catholic faith”. This allegation relates to Groome’s praxis thesis. It has been addressed in the First Part of the Answer to Groome’s ‘response’ and in the paper published on this website, Questions for Catholic Parents in Parramatta. Groome is an apparatchik of the Hegelian/Marxist school of dialectic. His idea of praxis is driven by their dialectic theory—thesis, antithesis, synthesis. He cannot think outside the square. This is not intellectual activity, but mind training in the Marxist mould. The teaching of the Church is always corrupted when subjected to his ‘praxis’. Keane’s analysis is correct.
Having exhausted this list, Groome turns to another category of allegations.
Allegations of Guilt by Association and Implication
Groome lists five instances.
He criticises Msgr Michael Wrenn, who wrote the Foreword to Keane’s book, for associating him with a recommendation in a teachers manual published by Groome’s publishers, Sadlier Publishing Co of New York, that Fr Robert Drinan S J, a former member of the US Congress, was a suitable model for a student research task on a “good Christian and citizen”. Drinan had consistently, according to Msgr Wrenn, voted in favour of abortion legislation in the lower house of Congress. Groome says that though he was the primary author of the student text, he had no part in writing the teachers guide.
He criticises Keane in these terms—“[B]y constantly associating me with Elisabeth Schussler Fiorenza, while lamenting her ‘trenchant support for abortion on demand’… Mr Keane infers that I support abortion as well.” Keane criticises Schussler Fiorenza primarily for her Feminist ideology and for subjecting Sacred Scripture to its odious tenets. Her stance on abortion is only part of her obsession with Feminism. Groome shares this obsession. This is the passage in Keane’s work of which Groome is critical—
Keane is not inferring here that Groome supports abortion. He is criticising his judgment. That being said, it is notorious that those who accept the tenets of Feminism accept also as part of its assertion of ‘women’s rights’ that a woman is entitled to abort her unborn child at will. Where has Groome spelt out his opposition to this logical consequence? He would hardly have refrained from indicating where in this ‘response’ if he had ever done so. And, if he has never done so, why should not the maxim qui tacet consentire apply?
The same answer should be made to Groome’s allegation that Keane has effected a similar inference by drawing attention to Groome’s praise of Carol Gilligan’s contribution to relativistic moral discourse when she, too, advocates abortion. Groome cannot complain. The old saw has it: “Lie down with dogs, and you’ll get up with fleas.”
II. Next Groome says that Keane implies that he is opposed to rational discourse when he quotes Pope John Paul II in Fides et Ratio as lamenting “a resurgence of fideism”. But Groome quotes selectively here. The paragraph of Keane’s text which he criticises concludes with this—
Keane’s shaft is well directed. Groome’s Modernistic aim is to reinterpret Sacred Scripture along lines laid down by himself and other Catholic ‘academics’ and to diminish, if not eliminate, the doctrine of the Church. And there is a sort of fideism (faith only) promoted, a Modernist faith, to which rational discourse must give way.
III. Groome’s third instance: Keane implies, he says, that he denies the divine origin of the hierarchical nature of the Church, or the proof of this from the threefold dignity of Christ as Priest, Prophet and King. (It is not clear whether he is asserting that he accepts the divine origin, or that he accepts the proof, or both.) We have set forth in Part I of this Answer the proofs of Groome’s denial—
If Christ is not God, the Church has no Divine Head and any assertion of his headship (in which the Pope shares as His Vicar) is a lie. Lacking any Divine authority, then, the Church could not insist on the devolution of power from one source. The other doctrinal denials, all subsidiary to this essential one, reinforce his denial of the Church’s hierarchical nature.
But there is more than this to demonstrate that what Groome asserts is not what he believes. The ideology of Feminism, with which he is besotted, denies the headship of the father in the family. To be true to its own silly principles, it must deny that the Pope is the (visible) head of the Church, or that Christ is the Church’s (invisible) Head.
As an aside in this debate, Groome insists that the assertion of Christ as priest, prophet and king was first expounded not by the Church, but by the Protestant, John Calvin. This is nonsense. Christ revealed Himself in these three offices when He said, “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life”. The doctrine is well set out in Sheehan—
IV. This is Groome’s next attack—
Keane says—“Groome’s and Fiorenza’s multi-faceted assault upon Catholic doctrine is in many respects expressive of resurgent heresies which plagued the early Church.” In his encyclical Pascendi, Pius X went further. He showed how by its very nature Modernism provides the ground in which every other heresy can flourish. This led him to describe Modernism as “the synthesis of all heresies”.
The ancient heresies were relatively honest. Arius, for instance, denied that Christ was God. ‘The greatest of God’s creatures,’ he said, ‘but not God’. Nestorius, denied that Mary was the Mother of God. ‘Mother of Christ,’ he said, ‘but not Mother of God.’ Pelagius, who denied the effects of original sin, taught that man could get to heaven by his own powers. With the heresy that each proclaimed, everyone knew where they stood. You either followed the Church and—provided you remained in the state of Grace—you went to heaven; or you followed the heretic of your choice and went to Hell.
But the Modernist heresy is more subtle, more deep rooted; more insidious. It does not tackle the faith immediately at the level of doctrine. It starts further back. It attacks our knowledge of reality. It says: “We simply cannot know whether anything exists beyond our senses. All assertions of God and of ‘divine revelations’, then, must be reduced to the level of what our senses tell us; that is, reduced to material impressions, or imaginations. All the so-called ‘revelations’ of God are really only assertions by individuals of what they thought was revealed; all the miracles are only concoctions by later ‘believers’ of perfectly explicable natural events. The ‘revelations’ were not really revealed; the ‘miracles’ did not really occur. These things not really being true, the best that can be said is that for those who believe in them, they are ‘true for them’.”
In short, Modernism applies to religion the philosophical subjectivism of Modern philosophy whose fundamental thesis is that we cannot truly know reality. It removes the objective—the rationally conclusive, if unsensible—immensity of Almighty God who gives both essence and existence to all of creation, and replaces it with a common subjective conception of ‘God’ to give comfort to the religiously inclined. It guts religion of the supernatural, reducing it to the merely natural and denying, if it should be necessary, all Divine interventions that cannot be explained naturally.
How does Modernism arrive at the positions of heretics like Arius, Nestorius and Pelagius then? The Modernist argues along these lines—
The Modernist is a gnostic; he is someone who knows better. He brings to the truths revealed by God and expounded by His Holy Church a higher knowledge—the knowledge that all the assertions of the supernatural are nothing but a phantasmagoria. He wants to deliver Catholics from these delusions to which he knows they are a prey but he knows also that he cannot confront them openly, so he leads them by gentle paths away from their folly, taking Catholic words and expressions and giving them his own poisonous bent. So he never, or rarely, says these things that he believes out loud!
Concerns For Keane’s Orthodoxy: Groome ‘Defends’ His Own Positions
Groome next addresses Eamonn Keane’s Catholic faith and expresses his concerns for Keane’s orthodoxy. We have dealt with, and answered, what he has to say here in Part I of this Answer.
Groome then turns to defend his own work in contemporary catechetical education, summarised in the category of his own invention, Shared Christian Praxis. He writes: “The Second Vatican Council lamented… the separation that Catholics make between their faith and their life… [I]n many ways, my core commitment as a Catholic catechist over the years has been to bridge this gap and to help myself and others to integrate the two—life and faith—into lived Christian faith.” The sentiments are certainly noble. If only he had started from a Catholic position, his efforts to guide the young might have achieved great good instead of the manifold harm to the faith that in fact they have worked.
That he started from a Modernist, and not a Catholic, position may be seen in an interchange between him and Msgr Michael Wrenn reported by Wrenn in his Foreword to Keane’s book. Wrenn relates that he discussed with the young Fr. Thomas Groome, at St Joseph’s Seminary, Dunwoodie, some time in the mid 1970s Groome’s doctoral thesis aimed, according to Wrenn, “at translating Liberation Theology concerns into Catechetical methodology.” Wrenn says he attempted to convince Fr. Groome that what he was proposing had scant reference to the (1971) General Catechetical Directory or to the US bishops’ authoritative document on catechetics. Groome’s reported reaction to his advice was a classical Modernist utterance: “You know, Michael, the problem with you is that you still believe in the myths which you learned when you sat on your father’s knee and your mother’s lap.”
Groome was a Modernist from the start. Perhaps he came to the priesthood from a Marxist cadre, determined to infiltrate and subvert the faith from within. He chose to renounce his priesthood, however, and after doing so, showed another characteristic of the Modernist—disobedience. Msgr Wrenn relates—
While Groome addresses other allegations by Wrenn in his ‘response’ to Eamonn Keane in Truth Betrayed, he is silent on this one.
Groome then essays a defence of his position on women’s ‘ordination’. We have addressed his position on this issue adequately in Part I of this Answer and need say no more. He concludes his ‘response’ with a pious hope that Eamonn Keane will “try and undo the damage he has done, not just to me but to the whole movement of contemporary catechesis. I express this sentiment out of Christian charity…” He cites the Baltimore Catechism in support of his call to Keane to repent lest he “place in jeopardy his eternal welfare.” Anyone who did not know better, would gather from this apparent exercise in charity that Groome was a Catholic.
Eamonn Keane’s Timely Study
In writing his attack on Groome and his methodology in A Generation Betrayed, Eamonn Keane has performed a service for the Catholic Church and for her members that ought to have been performed by a body of the Church’s bishops or by the heads of the relevant Dicasteries in Rome. He has not been assisted by an almost universal silence from those sworn to uphold the claims of God’s Holy Church. He has dealt at the level of doctrine with one whose heresy is replicated by innumerable Catholic academics around the world. He deals with that thing—the heresy of Modernism—only once in his book to deprecate a statement, critical of Pius X’s initiative in isolating the evil, in one of the Parramatta Diocese’s religious education curriculum documents. But that thing, the heresy of Modernism, is the rot at the heart of Groome’s whole teaching and mentality.
Groome’s allegations of calumny against Keane in his ‘response’ are untrue. The whole exercise, by trying to turn the attack, is designed to disguise the fact that what Groome is proclaiming is heresy, not Catholicism.
Modernism—A Final Word
Pius X identified the underlying evil in Modernism as follows—
Consistent with his Modernist arrogance, Groome consistently appeals in his long complaint against Keane, not to the Magisterium of the Church, but to the ‘magisterium’ of ‘Catholic’ academia which he cites, varyingly, as: “the mainstream Catholic position” (p. 4); “no trained Catholic theologian” (p. 7); “no fair minded and trained Catholic theologian” (p. 18); “no competent Catholic scholar—left, right or center”; “the present state of scholarship”; “scholarship” (p. 19); or, “[no] contemporary Catholic scripture scholar” (p. 25).
Modernism is a hydra-headed monster. Its followers adopt differing attitudes about different aspects of the true faith. All Modernists, however, have the common characteristic of reducing the supernatural to the natural; of replacing the objective with the subjective. On 3rd July 1907, in the Syllabus Lamentabili, the Church condemned as Modernist, 65 propositions. Groome falls foul of at least nine of them. These are the nine:
A dead dog looks like a dog, but it is only the shell, only the appearance, of what once was a dog. The same goes for Modernism. It looks like Catholicism, but it is only the shell, only the appearance of what once was Catholicism. Its followers may mouth certain of the sentiments of Catholicism, but they are not Catholics.
Nothing Thomas H Groome has said in his ‘response’, Truth Betrayed, to the studied criticism of his works conducted by Eamonn Keane in his book A Generation Betrayed has borne out his allegation of calumny against Keane. Nor has it proven any other failure in charity by Keane towards him. His ‘response’ has only served to show how right was Keane’s criticism of his flawed approach to the Catholic faith and how perilous it is for anyone to take his assertions of fidelity to the Church of Jesus Christ seriously.
 A Generation Betrayed, Hatherleigh Press, New York, 2002
 A twenty seven page response to the criticism of Eamonn Keane’s book on the Boston College website at http://www.bc.edu/schools/gsas/irepm/meta-elements/pdf/truthbetrayed.pdf
 Truth Betrayed, p. 14
 Encyclical on the Study of Sacred Scripture, 18th November, 1893.
 Truth Betrayed, p. 16
 Thomas H Groome, A Modernist Heretic, at p. 14. See http://www.superflumina.org/PDF_files/Groome_1_modernist.pdf
 A Generation Betrayed, p. 4
 ‘He who is silent consents.’
 A Generation Betrayed, p. 23
 Ibid, chapter 6 (pp. 106-143), and the general assertion on p. 107.
 Fourth edition revised and edited by Fr P. M. Joseph, (St Austin Press, London, 2001) pp. 387 et seq.
 8th September, 1907
 Truth Betrayed, pp. 20-1
 A Generation Betrayed, pp. xiii-xiv
 A Generation Betrayed, p. xiv
 Truth Betrayed, p. 26
 A Generation Betrayed, pp. 277-8. Keane goes on in the pages that follow to explore an analysis of the Church’s doctrine and Sacred Scripture which is typically Modernist.