The topic was published on August 21, 2011 (“The Truth Will Make You Free) and hopefully improved on here.
Modernism – the heresy of all heresies – is true in that it tried to get to the Person of Christ beyond the reductionism of mere doctrine – the divine “I” of the Son. It is false in that it dipped into a subjectivism and lost the reality of Christ by relegating Him to consciousness. Christ was reduced to an internal sentiment (of subjective thought and feeling) and all religion to a psychology of vital immanence, and therefore a phenomenon of evolutionary development.
This is very delicate business on which the entire Vatican Council stands, crossing the threshold of the third millennium, the new evangelization, the universal call to sanctity in secular life characterized by secularity all emerging from an identification with the Person of the God-man, Jesus Christ. It all hangs on the ontological reality of the God-man, Jesus Christ Who is the revelation of Who God is, and who man is. In a word, it hangs on the meaning of “revelation.” Is Revelation Scripture and Tradition or is it God’s revelation of Himself in the Person of Jesus Christ?
Ratzinger found it most clearly in Bonaventure in that the Person of Christ – the divine Son – is the Word spoken by the Father as the most intimate revelation of Who God is. Since God is Creator, nothing can be anterior or more primordial than He. Creatures can tell us that He is, and attributes of Him, but nothing created can tell us Who the Creator is. Only He can. And that telling is “the Son.” The problem, then, is how to know the Son. And elsewhere, Ratzinger will tell us that only God knows God, and only by becoming the Son can one experience being the Son by experiencing oneself – reading Him from within oneself by the ontological experience of going out of oneself, the act of faith [the first act of which is prayer: Ratzinger, “Behold the Pierced One” Ignatius 25-27].
Behold a new/old phenomenological metaphysics of the “I” which is not subjectivism, but subjectivity and the most experiential realism. This is what Ratzinger discovered in Bonaventure and found himself failing the doctrinal part of his habilitation thesis because it looked like the subjectivism and relativism of Modernism. And this, which was to become Vatican II.
The Ratzinger Text:
“In my research [for his rehabilitation thesis], I had seen that the study of the Middle Ages in Munich, primarily represented by Michael Schmaus, had come to almost a complete halt at its prewar state. The great new breakthroughs that had been made in the meantime, particularly by those writing in French, had not even been acknowledged. With a forthrightness not advisable in a beginner, I criticized the superseded positions, and this was apparently too much for Schmaus, especially since it was unthinkable to him that I could have worked on a medieval theme without entrusting myself to his direction. The copy of my book that he used was in the end full of glosses of all colors in the margins, which themselves left nothing to be desired by way of forthrightness. And while he was at it, he expressed irritation at the deficient appearance of the graphic layout and at various errors in the references that had remained despite all my efforts.
“But he also did not like the result of my analyses. I had ascertained that in Bonaventure (as well as in theologians of the thirteenth century) there was nothing corresponding to our conception of ‘revelation,’ by which we are normally in the habit of referring to all the revealed contents of the faith: it has even become a part of linguistic usage to refer to Sacred Scripture simply as ‘revelation,’ by which we are normally in the habit or referring to all the revealed contents of the faith: it has even become a part of linguistic usage to refer to Sacred Scripture simply as ‘revelation.’ Such an identification would have been unthinkable in the language of the High Middle Ages. Here, ‘revelation’ is always a concept denoting an act. The word refers to the act in which God shows himself, not to the objectified result of this act. And because this is so, the receiving subject is always also a part of the concept of ‘revelation.’ Where there is no one to perceive ‘revelation,’ no re-vel-ation has occurred, because no veil has been removed. By definition, revelation requires a someone who apprehends it. These insights, gained through my reading of Bonaventure, were later on very important for me at the time of the conciliar discussion on revelation, Scripture, and tradition. Because if Bonaventure is right, then revelation precedes Scripture and becomes deposited in Scripture but is not simply identical with it. This in turn means that revelation is always something greater than what is merely written down. And this again means that there can be no such thing as pure sola scriptura (“by Scripture alone”), because an essential element of Scripture is the Church as understanding subject, and with this the fundamental sense of tradition is already given. At that moment, however, the burning question was the habilitation thesis, and Michael Schmaus, who had perhaps also heard annoying rumors from some in Freising concerning the modernity of my theology, saw in these theses not at all a faithful rendering of Bonaventure’s thought (however, to this day I still affirm the contrary) but a dangerous modernism that had to lead to the subjectivization of the concept of revelation.”[
The thesis of Modernism and Ratzinger are alike in that there is a turn to the subject, the “I;” but with the difference that the modernist “I” is a subjective consciousness, whereas the “I” of Ratzinger is the ontological “I Am” of Christ as the Word and Revelation of the Father [Yahweh], who is communicated to us by our becoming Him. He, being Son, abandons the trappings of the Godhead without ceasing to be God, and becomes one of us so that we can become Him (eat my flesh, drink my blood, live my life).
In 2011, I wrote: “This understanding of faith as conversion away from self in order to receive and be transformed into Christ as subject and therefore take on a relational anthropology is the Second Vatican Council (GS #24). This conversion takes place in the interchange of subjectivities (Christ and the believers), but it is not subjectivism and the non-reality of relativism. Rather, it is supreme realism. The supreme created reality – being – that reason craves is the self itself in the act of going out of self. It is Wojtyla’s “Acting Person.” It is the “I” being loved by being called to walk on water by Christ.
Therefore, Modernism had its true side, but dangerous in its falsity. Pius X providentially stopped the proliferation of the falsity of modernism while giving the Holy Spirit the time and space to develop the spirituality of Opus Dei, the theology of De Lubac and Joseph Ratzinger and the phenomenological metaphysics of Karol Wojtyla. All of this has conspired with a technology of universal communication to give us the greatest possibility to restart a global culture with a “new trajectory of thinking” (BXVI “Caritas in Veritate #54) built on this relational anthropology of the “I” for the “new civilization of love.” Therefore, I repeat the remark of Ratzinger taken from Johann Metz’: Levels of Teaching: “The text (Instruction on the Ecclesial Vocation of the Theologian) also offers different forms of binding which arise from different levels of magisterial teaching. It states – perhaps for the first time with such clarity – that there are magisterial decisions [like Pascendi and The Syllabus of Errors] which can not be and are not intended to be the last word on the matter as such, but are a substantial anchorage in the problem and are first and foremost an expression of pastoral prudence, a sort of provisional disposition. Their core remains valid, but the individual details influenced by the circumstances at the time may need further rectification.” Ratzinger continues: “In this regard one can refer to the statements of the Popes during the last century on religious freedom as well as the anti-Modernist decisions at the beginning of this century, especially the decisions of the Biblical Commission of that time. As a warning cry against hasty and superficial adaptations, they remain fully justified; a person of the stature of Johann Baptist Metz has said, for example, that the anti-Modernity decisions of the Church rendered a great service in keeping her from sinking into the liberal-bourgeois world. But the details of the determinations of their contents were later superseded once they had carried out their pastoral duty at a particular moment.”  J. Ratzinger, “Theology is not the Private Idea of Theologians,” The Wanderer August 2, 1990 (Reprinted from L’Osservatore Romano [English] July 2, 1990.
 See Phil. 2, 5.
 “Pope Paul VI noted that “the world is in trouble because of the lack of thinking”. He was making an observation, but also expressing a wish: a new trajectory of thinking is needed in order to arrive at a better understanding of the implications of our being one family; interaction among the peoples of the world calls us to embark upon this new trajectory, so that integration can signify solidarity rather than marginalization. Thinking of this kind requires a deeper critical evaluation of the category of relation. This is a task that cannot be undertaken by the social sciences alone, insofar as the contribution of disciplines such as metaphysics and theology is needed if man’s transcendent dignity is to be properly understood.
“As a spiritual being, the human creature is defined through interpersonal relations. The more authentically he or she lives these relations, the more his or her own personal identity matures. It is not by isolation that man establishes his worth, but by placing himself in relation with others and with God. Hence these relations take on fundamental importance. The same holds true for peoples as well. A metaphysical understanding of the relations between persons is therefore of great benefit for their development. In this regard, reason finds inspiration and direction in Christian revelation, according to which the human community does not absorb the individual, annihilating his autonomy, as happens in the various forms of totalitarianism, but rather values him all the more because the relation between individual and community is a relation between one totality and another. Just as a family does not submerge the identities of its individual members, just as the Church rejoices in each “new creation” (Gal 6:15; 2 Cor 5:17) incorporated by Baptism into her living Body, so too the unity of the human family does not submerge the identities of individuals, peoples and cultures, but makes them more transparent to each other and links them more closely in their legitimate diversity” [Caritas in Veritate #54].
 Blogger: The Greek notion of “substance” is an abstract objectification of “thing-in-itself.” It was formulated by Aristotle and identified with the meaning of “being” or reality (ουσϊα and τo τὶ nv eiνὰi). As such, it is a symbolic designation of individual “thing,” and hence the reduction of “being” and “reality” to individual and thing. As Ratzinger makes clear in his “Introduction to Christianity” ( Ignatius  132) with the notion of “person” [taken from the Christian revelation of Trinity], person as “I” has an intrinsic [constitutive] relationality. The meaning of person in Vatican II theology is Gaudium et Spes no. 24: “man, the only earthly being God has willed for itself, finds himself by the sincere gift of himself.” The “I” experiences self as “person” in the act of self-transcendence – of going out of self towards another “I.” The modernists sought this beyond “substance”, but at the price of losing reality itself. It is only by understanding Christ as the priority and center can reality and relationality be one.