Thursday 30th October 2014

Home » Frontpage » Currently Reading:

Teilhard De Chardin: Dangerous Or Orthodox?

July 28, 2014 Frontpage No Comments

By JAMES K. FITZPATRICK

You can see why Catholics in the United States might be confused about where the Church stands on the theories of the French Jesuit Teilhard de Chardin. Recently, as reported by David Gibson in Religion News Service, “Gerhard [Cardinal] Mueller, head of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith,” warned the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, the group representing more than 40,000 American sisters, that “the principles of ‘conscious evolution’ — that mankind is transforming thorough the integration of science, spirituality, and technology — are opposed to Christian revelation and lead to fundamental errors.” According to Gibson, Mueller warned that “if the nuns persist in pursuing such dangerous ideas, Rome could cut them loose.”
There is general agreement that the term “conscious evolution” is a reference to the theories of Teilhard (1881-1955), who achieved considerable fame as a philosopher, theologian, geologist, and paleontologist. Teilhard believed, writes Gibson, “that creation is still evolving and that mankind is changing with it; we are, he said, advancing in an interactive ‘noosphere’ of human thought that leads inexorably toward an Omega Point — Jesus Christ — that is pulling all the cosmos to itself.”
There was a time when Rome was highly suspicious of what Teilhard meant by this. In 1962, the Vatican issued a formal warning about the “dangers presented by the works of Fr. Teilhard de Chardin and his followers.”
That was then. Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, as the young theologian Joseph Ratzinger, praised Teilhard’s “great vision” of the cosmos as a “living host.” One of Benedict’s spokesmen, according to Gibson, responded to questions about whether Benedict still felt that way, with a statement that read as follows: “By now, no one would dream of saying that [Teilhard] is a heterodox author who shouldn’t be studied.” Beyond that, there are reports that Pope Francis is likely to make favorable comments about Teilhard in an encyclical on the environment that he is currently writing.
So which is it? Is Rome warning us about Teilhard’s message — as Cardinal Mueller’s strong words to the Leadership Conference of Women Religious would indicate? Or calling upon Catholics to ponder his work for insights into a correct understanding of Catholicism for our time — as the comments of Pope Benedict and Pope Francis seem to say?
Yes, and yes. The problem is that it is possible to interpret Teilhard’s theories in an orthodox manner, in line with Catholic teaching. But it is also possible to interpret them in a far different manner, as a call for an evolving consciousness that leaves no room for the Church and its teachings. We can’t get around it: There are secular humanists and proponents of an eccentric New Age spiritualism who are proponents of Teilhard’s theories. They see them as a vehicle for helping Catholics grow out of what they believe is an immature literal understanding of Jesus’ role in salvation history.
Consider some key passages from Teilhard’s The Divine Milieu. “Nothing is more certain, dogmatically, than that human action can be sanctified; the actions of life, of which we are speaking, should not be understood solely in the sense of religious and devotional works (prayer, fasting, almsgiving).” Christians should “dignify, ennoble, and transfigure in God the duties inherent to one’s station in life, the search for natural truth, and the development of human action.”
Does Teilhard mean by the above that we have an obligation to “remake all things in Christ,” as St. Paul instructed? To live our faith in our daily lives in the manner that a member of Opus Dei would call for? Or is he subtly hinting that we should leave behind the Church’s sacramental life and its concentration on saving our souls in favor of a new Catholicism that stresses transforming the physical world of our earthly existence? Is he placing less stress on prayer and fasting because they make no sense if there is no Creator who will reward us in an afterlife for these spiritual exercises?
Teilhard writes that we must devote our “individual strivings” toward the “spiritualization” of the “whole of matter, that which will make of it the Heavenly Jerusalem or the New Earth.” Is that a depiction of the world transformed at the Parousia, the Second Coming of Christ? Or what the Marxists and “parlour Bolshies” (George Orwell’s term) mean, when they speak of a perfected human community, when the state withers away and we all become selfless little comrades?
Teilhard instructs us, “We may imagine that the Creation was finished long ago. But that would be quite wrong. It continues still more magnificently, and in the highest zones of the world. . . . We serve to complete it, even by the humblest work of our hands….With each one of our works, we labor — atomically, but no less really — to build the Pleroma; that is to say, we bring to Christ a little fulfillment.”
One can interpret the above words as a vision of evolution proceeding under human direction, of a new world constructed by the application of human energy inspirited by Christ’s teachings, with humans made in the image and likeness of God seeking to teach all men in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, thereby becoming co-creators with God in the transformation of the cosmos.
Or we can see them as a call for a radically new understanding of what it means to be spiritual. In Teilhard’s view, is a doctor doing research to cure cancer, or a carpenter volunteering to build homes for the poor with Habitat for Humanity, involved in a higher form of prayer than those said on one’s knees at Mass to the Father in Heaven? And is this form of prayer a higher form that mankind should be coaxed into adopting as they rise above the vestiges of the biblical depiction of a three-storied universe that clutter their minds?
Teilhard instructs us that “by virtue of the Creation and, still more, of the Incarnation, nothing here below is profane for those who know how to see.” He writes that it is our duty to recognize that the “Kingdom of God is within us. When Christ appears in the clouds, He will simply be manifesting a metamorphosis that has been slowly accomplished under His influence in the heart of the mass of Mankind.”
This last passage is the key: Is Teilhard engaging in code language meant to be read by his followers in one way, and suspicious Vatican authorities in another? Does he mean by Jesus “appearing in the clouds” at the Second Coming, the individual Jesus, the Lord of History, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity? Or is the “metamorphosis” of the human community, a community inspired by Christ’s message of love, the only “Christ” the world will ever see again?
Is Teilhard nudging us toward accepting that it is noble and liberating to accept that the image of a personal Christ coming again at the end of time is only a metaphor for the perfected human community? Is that the “evolutionary consciousness” he was calling for?
No doubt Pope Benedict and Pope Francis would say no. They would quote the passage where Teilhard wrote, “The world can no more have two summits than a circumference can have two centers. The star for which the world is waiting, without yet being able to give it a name, or rightly appreciate its true transcendence, or even recognize the most spiritual of its divine rays is, necessarily, Christ himself, in whom we hope. To desire the Parousia, all we have to do is to let the very heart of the earth, as we Christianize it, beat within us.”
We cannot pretend that there are not those who will see Teilhard’s message differently from Benedict and Francis, those who will use his words to champion one version or another of a New Age spiritualism — as well as a moral relativism that will take form once we have accepted Teilhard’s depiction of a world where “nothing is profane,” a world that will no longer need Catholicism or a teaching Catholic Church, as each individual labors on his or her own “to bring to Christ a little fulfillment.”
Pope Benedict’s Teilhard? I like it. The New Age Teilhard? Count me out.

Share Button

Comment on this Article:

Angola: Catholic Priest Refutes Criticism of Church Practices

Lubango — The Southern Huila province?s Lubango city emeritus archbishop, Zacarias Kamwenho, rejected as false the claim that Catholic Christians worship images. Speaking on Sunday in the Muxima Diocese, in Lubango, the archbishop explained that Catholic Christians worship God instead,…Continue Reading

Ave Maria School of Law Wins Its HHS Mandate Case in Federal Court

The Obama Administration has suffered another defeat in its quest to force Catholics and people of faith to pay for abortion-causing drugs, as required by the HHS Mandate. Today the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida came down…Continue Reading

Catholic Educators Appeal to Obama Administration for Relief from HHS Mandate

Today a coalition including The Cardinal Newman Society, leaders of Catholic schools and colleges, and the expert attorneys of the Alliance Defending Freedom told the Obama administration that its latest rule mandating insurance coverage for sterilization and contraception, including abortion-causing…Continue Reading

Toronto schools hosting ‘LGBTQ’ conference for students as young as 11

The Toronto District School Board (TDSB) is hosting three student conferences within the span of eight days for the purpose of LGBTQ activism.  The conferences, which have been organized in collaboration with Jer’s Vision, will take place on October 28,…Continue Reading

The Synod and the Media: Culpable Naïveté or Shrewd Calculation?

Upon becoming director of media relations for the American bishops in late 1969, I quickly made a crucial discovery about my new employers. With just a handful of exceptions, the bishops were painfully naïve about the news business, yet convinced…Continue Reading

Chaldean Catholic patriarch suspends 10 priests, including 1 from El Cajon

SAN DIEGO – The head of the Chaldean Catholic Church has suspended 10 priests, including one from El Cajon. Chaldean Catholic Patriarch Louis Sako issued a decree a month ago, demanding the priests return to Iraq or be suspended. Wednesday…Continue Reading

Retired Pope Says Interreligious Dialogue No Substitute For Mission

VATICAN CITY – Retired Pope Benedict XVI said dialogue with other religions is no substitute for spreading the Gospel to non-Christian cultures, and warned against relativistic ideas of religious truth as “lethal to faith.” He also said the true motivation…Continue Reading

California Forces Churches to Directly Fund Abortions, Churches Refuse to Comply

To the dismay of California’s people of faith, the California Department of Managed Health Care has reclassified abortion as a “basic health service” under the Affordable Care Act and ordered all insurance plans in the state to begin covering surgical…Continue Reading

Relax. God’s Still In Charge.

It’s an enormous challenge to maintain pristine doctrinal purity while at the same time respond to the experiential, personal, and difficult needs of married couples and families. Behind every arcane discussion of gradualism and natural law there are parents and…Continue Reading

Cardinal Burke: The “Relatio Synodi” Is “A Significant Improvement Over The Text Of The ‘Relatio Post Disceptationem'”

In a third short interview with CWR, conducted by e-mail late yesterday, Cardinal Raymond L. Burke, the Prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura, offers his impression of the Relatio Synodi, comments on reports that the Synod has…Continue Reading

Synod Final Document Reaffirms Church Teaching

The final document of the Extraordinary Synod was released Saturday as the Synod Fathers voted to approve all 62 paragraphs, but with three paragraphs not receiving the normally required two-thirds majority vote. The three paragraphs, which in the past would…Continue Reading

Catholic Synod: Gay Rights Groups ‘Disappointed’

Catholic gay rights groups say they are disappointed after bishops rejected proposals for wider acceptance of gay people, which had the Pope’s backing. The call to “accept and value” homosexuals was in a draft report, but failed to win the…Continue Reading

Untitled 5 Untitled 2

Attention Readers:

  Welcome to our new website. Readers who are familiar with The Wanderer know we have been providing Catholic news and orthodox commentary for over 145 years in our weekly print edition. Now we are introducing the online daily version of our print journal.


  Our daily version offers only some of what we publish weekly in print. To take advantage of everything The Wanderer publishes, we encourage you to subscribe to our flagship weekly print edition, which is mailed every Friday or, if you want to view it in its entirety online, you can subscribe to the E-edition, which is a replica of the print edition.
 
  Our daily edition includes: a selection of material from recent issues of our print edition, news stories updated daily from renowned news sources, access to archives from The Wanderer from the past 10 years, available at a minimum charge (this will be expanded as time goes on). Also: regularly updated features where we go back in time and highlight various columns and news items covered in The Wanderer over the past 145 years. And: a comments section in which your remarks are encouraged, both good and bad, including suggestions.

 
  We encourage you to become a daily visitor to our site. If you appreciate our site, tell your friends. As Catholics we must band together to rediscover our faith and share it with the world if we are to effectively counter a society whose moral culture seems to have no boundaries and a government whose rapidly extending reach threatens to extinguish the rights of people of faith to practice their religion (witness the HHS mandate). Now more than ever, vehicles like The Wanderer are needed for clarification and guidance on the issues of the day.

Catholic, conservative, orthodox, and loyal to the Magisterium have been this journal’s hallmarks for five generations. God willing, our message will continue well into this century and beyond.

Joseph Matt
President, The Wanderer Printing Co.

Untitled 1

'From our friends at The Foundry'


Today . . .

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI Writes Personal Ordinariate Of Our Lady Of Walsingham

ben1

(Vatican Radio) Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI has sent a message to the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham, which was established for former Anglicans in England in 2011.  The message was on the fifth anniversary of Pope Benedict’s apostolic constitution Anglicanorum Coetibus, which was released on November 4th 2009. The Pope Emeritus was responding to a letter he received…Continue Reading

Pope At Audience: The Church Visible And Spiritual

pope650

(Vatican Radio)  “Often, we hear people say: the Church doesn’t do this …the Church doesn’t do that!’ ‘Tell me who is the Church? – ‘Well the Church is the priests, the bishops, the Pope …’ We are all the Church! All of us all of us Baptized! We are the Church, the Church of Jesus’”. This was the message at…Continue Reading

Pope At Angelus: Love Of God And Neighbour Are Inseparable

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis prayed the Angelus with pilgrims and tourists gathered in St Peter’s Square beneath the window of the Papal apartments in the Apostolic Palace at the Vatican on Sunday. In remarks ahead of the traditional prayer of Marian devotion, the Holy Father offered some reflections on the Gospel reading of the day, which was taken from Gospel…Continue Reading

Pope At Santa Marta: Called To Be Children Of Light

(Vatican Radio) At morning Mass on Monday Pope Francis said that a conscientious examination of our words will help us understand whether we are Christians of light, Christians of darkness or Christians of grey areas. Reflecting on the First Reading from St. Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians, the Pope said men are recognizable by their words. By inviting Christians to…Continue Reading

Pass-Fail Grading: For The Professors’ Benefit?

By JAMES K. FITZPATRICK S.M. writes to offer some observations about the proposal to introduce a “pass-fail” grading system for freshmen at Princeton University. The possibility of doing that was discussed in the October 9 edition of First Teachers. He sees the idea as a “form of grade inflation that is solely intended to accomplish…Continue Reading

Contemporary Culture Encapsulated In A Single Sentence

By DONALD DeMARCO It is remarkable how much a single sentence can reveal about the temper of a culture, even when its author is trying to be withholding. Jacalyn Duffin, a historian and practicing hematologist, is the author of History of Medicine (University of Toronto Press, 2000). It is a 243-page tome that was produced…Continue Reading

Synod Document Of October 13, 2014

By JOHN F. KIPPLEY (Editor’s Note: John F. Kippley is the author of Sex and the Marriage Covenant: A Basis for Morality and other books and articles. With his wife Sheila, he is a coauthor of Natural Family Planning: The Complete Approach and cofounder of NFP International. This commentary appeared on his blog [johnkippley.com] of…Continue Reading

Elite Judges Think The Highest Judge Never Will End Their Misrule

By DEXTER DUGGAN Today people worry about globe-trotting terrorists, the transmission of the deadly Ebola virus, and the way contagions can cross borders when the government insists borders must be open for everyone’s alleged benefit. Meanwhile, unaccountable U.S. judges continue their contagion of immorality, as if God’s judgment never will come, maybe in little germs,…Continue Reading

Chilling Free Speech

By ANDREW P. NAPOLITANO Earlier this week, the federal government’s National Science Foundation, an entity created to encourage the study of science — encouragement that it achieves by awarding grants to scholars and universities — announced that it had awarded a grant to study what people say about themselves and others in social media. The…Continue Reading

Advertisement

Our Catholic Faith (Section B of print edition)

Temples Of The Holy Spirit

By FR. ROBERT ALTIER Feast Of The Dedication Of St. John Lateran In Rome Readings: Ezek. 47:1-2, 8-9, 12 1 Cor. 3:9c-11, 16-17 John 2:13-22 Today we celebrate the feast of the dedication of a church building that many people have never heard of and also have no idea of its significance. In Rome, there are four major basilicas; the…Continue Reading

Message Of The Extraordinary Synod Of Bishops . . . We Ask You To Walk With Us Toward The Next Synod

(Editor’s Note: Below is the text of the concluding message of the Extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the Family, held October 5-19. This message was released on October 18. (See Fr. Kevin M. Cusick’s column in this issue, p. 2B, and the front page for reporting and commentary on the separate final document of the Extraordinary Synod.) + + +…Continue Reading

A Leaven In The World… Redefining Marriage: Not About The Kids And The Picket Fence

By FR. KEVIN M. CUSICK Following the Extraordinary Synod and the rollback on confusing language about same-sex attraction and the divorced and remarried in the final version of the Relatio Synodi document, the predictable reactions are coming in. Those who continue to hold Church teaching that marriage is only between a man and a woman are labeled as “bigots,” while…Continue Reading

Debunking The Sola Scriptura Myth… True Tradition And False “Tradition”

By RAYMOND DE SOUZA, KM Part 4 A classical objection: What Catholics call the “Apostolic Tradition” is just a human tradition, which Jesus clearly condemned in the Gospel, when He said to the Pharisees, “Why do you also transgress the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition?…So, for the sake of your tradition you have made void the…Continue Reading

Public Revelation Vs. Private Revelation

By DON FIER Our previous installment ended by citing a pair of remarkable verses from the Letter to the Hebrews, verses that concisely summarize God’s divine pedagogy, His master plan of divine Revelation: “In many and various ways God spoke of old to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days He has spoken to us by a…Continue Reading

Cast A Gauntlet – Sola Scriptura: Part 1

Catholic Heroes . . . St. Wolfgang

By CAROLE BRESLIN October 31 has come to be yet another Christian holy day corrupted by our secular society. All Hallows Eve, Halloween, is now celebrated with emphasis on evil and horror. Corn mazes with frightening objects around the corner, haunted houses to terrify even the bravest of persons, glorification of vampires, and decorations of death and witches — these…Continue Reading

Catholic Heroes . . . St. Anthony Mary Claret

By CAROLE BRESLIN St. Anthony Mary Claret has something in common with at least three other saints. Like St. Peter Claver, he was born in northeastern Spain — over 200 years later. Like St. Pio of Pietrelcina, when he heard Confessions, he frequently could read the souls of the penitents, asking them about a sin that they had not confessed.…Continue Reading

A Powerful Weapon: 15 Quotes on the Holy Rosary

We live in evil times. I hardly need elaborate the multitude of crises that fill the globe. Sadly, many are being swept away by this flood of evil and are succumbing to an overwhelming anxiety and discouragement. But no matter how tempting it is, we must not shrink back. We must pray and fast with a living faith and a firm confidence—and there is no better way to…Continue Reading

12 Ways to Become a Committed Catholic Man

There is a Catholic “man-crisis.” Large numbers of men who were baptized Catholic have left the Church and the majority of those who remain are “Casual Catholic Men”, men who do not know the Catholic faith and don’t practice it. This large-scale failure of Catholic men to commit themselves to Jesus Christ and His Church has contributed to the accelerating…Continue Reading