Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Teilhard, the Catholic Darwin

John Allen of the National Catholic Reporter has written an interesting article regarding comments made by Pope Benedict XVI about Fr. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, Jesuit priest, scientist and philosopher who died in 1955. Teilhard's writings were so far ahead of his time that the Church viewed his theology with suspicion.

From the July 28, 2009 NCR article, "Pope cites Teilhardian vision of the cosmos as a 'living host'" comes the following quote:

"...Now the pontiff has also hinted at a possible new look at the undeclared patron saint of Catholic ecology, the late French Jesuit scientist and philosopher Pierre Teilhard de Chardin.

Benedict's brief July 24 reference to Teilhard, praising his vision of the entire cosmos as a "living host," can be read on multiple levels -- as part of the pontiff's rapprochement with the Jesuits, or as a further instance of finding something positive to say about thinkers whose works have set off doctrinal alarms, as Benedict previously did with rebel Swiss theologian and former colleague Hans K√ľng."

And further on: "On the basis of his scientific work, Teilhard developed an evolutionary theology asserting that all creation is developing towards an "Omega Point," which he identified with Christ as the Logos, or "Word" of God. In that sense, Teilhard broadened the concept of salvation history to embrace not only individual persons and human culture, but the entire universe. In short order, Teilhard's thought became the obligatory point of departure for any Catholic treatment of the environment."

Read the complete article


Anonymous said...

This is a really interesting topic. NOT! Why can't we talk about something divisive? that's more interesting....something like liturgy. There's nothing more divisive than liturgy.

Mark said...

John Allen's article also states:

"Yet from the beginning, Teilhard's theology was also viewed with caution by officials both of the Jesuit order and in the Vatican. Among other things, officials worried that his optimistic reading of nature compromised church teaching on original sin. In 1962 -- seven years after his death -- the Vatican's doctrinal office issued a warning that his works "abound in such ambiguities and indeed even serious errors, as to offend Catholic doctrine."

As far as I know, this warning is in effect today. This seems to suggest that Teilhard was not ahead of his time, but was just trendy for a period of time.

At any rate, I've always thought that Saint Francis of Assisi is the patron saint of ecology.

standing maryanna said...

Well Anonymous, why don't you suggest a topic within the Liturgy that we can discuss?

Mark, obviously, I don't agree that Teilhard was just being trendy. Have you read any of his works. His books are not all that easy to read.

His book, Hymn of the Universe, contained a first chapter that I really loved: "The Mass on the World" originally written in the trenches during WWI. He rewrote it later and that version is in the book.

Take a look: http://www.religion-online.org/showchapter.asp?title=1621&C=1535

Mark said...

Standing Maryanna:

Thanks for the link - I must admit that the reading was difficult for me. He seems to write favoring a symbolic style, with unusual twists and turns of the phrases, which tempts the reader to read in some of his or her own context into his text. The net effect is a mingling of the two, but with him leading the way. I would say that when it comes to Teilhard, the ecologically minded among us are probably more susceptible to his style of influencing minds.

I did some refresher reading on Telihard, and found that the reprimand Vatican issued regarding his ideas stands. At least I couldn't find anything that states otherwise.

Anyone reading Teilhard should keep in mind that his ideas, namely the "Omega Point", "Noosphere", and the resulting "Noocracy", may have very definite political consequences. These ideas may lead away from democracy, and toward a system where the "masses" are ruled by an unelected "enlightened" ecological elite. In other words, a reestablishment of aristocracy, the green blood version - the very antithesis of American ethos.

Now I feel inspired to check up on Madame Blavatsky and her followers...

Anonymous said...

I'm not concerned with "American" ethos. Is that the "I'm-proud-to-be-an-American-where-at-least-I-know-I'm-free"-Sean Hannity brand of Amerian ethos? All we need are more unilateral nationalists with their fake-patriotism lecturing us about no government, except military and police, of course. You know, the Sean Hannity, Bill O'reilly types that never served a day in the military but play the military card every time they lecture us about how they shouldn't have to pay taxes.

Mark said...


The American ethos I have in mind embraces the US Constitution, the idea of a limited government, freedom of speech and assembly, and the protection of rights given to us by our Creator - life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. It also includes the very healthy American suspicion of and disdain for political elites that treat us as "masses" who need to be told what to do and think.

This ethos has nothing to do with nationalism or nativism, but it does include patriotism and honorable conduct.

A case can be made that Father Teilhard's ideas may lead to an establishment of just such an elite. It is not then unreasonable to ask how accepting such ideas would affect the American ethos.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for not repeating the same endless mantra of partisan talking points that you get from partisan mouthpieces. I agree with everything you say; however, I do not believe you can be a Catholic and a patriot at the same time. You cannot serve two masters. God does not side with any government that invades sovereign nations, puts Japanese people in concentration camps during WW2, allows slavery for more than 100 years, allows Jim Crow laws and the list goes on. You cannot be patriotic and Catholic. Patriotism IS nationalism.

Mark said...

Dear Anonymous:

Patriotism and nationalism are sometimes conflated, but I think it would serve our culture better if they were not. If we don't make them synonymous, then we can see more clearly the higher ideals we wish to reach as a people.

I would say that the abolitionists and all those who fought against slavery and racial discrimination were patriots in the true meaning of the word. The apology Congress issued to those Japanese Americans who were unjustly imprisoned during WWII was a patriotic act. I would also argue that patriots can sometimes disagree, as is the case with the war in Iraq.

It seems to me that patriotism depends on possessing an informed sense of moral values, and the desire for one's country to live up to them. In this sense, Catholics have a moral obligation to be patriots. Patriotism also allows people from different religious backgrounds to come together and form a consensus on this or that issue. The Founding Fathers of this country did remark that the Constitution was written for a religiously informed people (John Adams: "Our constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.")

On the other side of this spectrum, various nationalisms, nativisms, jingoisms, and ideologies all say, more or less, "my country, my ideology, right or wrong, take it or leave it".

Stu said...

Anonymous said..."You cannot be patriotic and Catholic. Patriotism IS nationalism."

Nonsense. One can certainly love their homeland while not subscribing the policies of the nation state. A Catholic can certainly love America all while being thoroughly against the government's embrace of abortion, infanticide, socialism and all other attempts to make government the "god" of the people.

Anonymous said...

Not to change the topic but.....Standingmaryana responded eliciting a liturgy topic....well here's one: Will the Diocesan Liturgy office please give us some guidlines regarding when we are to hold hands during the liturgy and when not to hold hands. It's fine that families adopt a costum of holding hands if that's what they wish but why extend to other members of the congregation during a prayer of petition like the "Our Father"? Having gone to many youth liturgies across the diocese, it seems that holding hands is the official posture for the Our Father at youth liturgies. If this is the case, where is this written? If this is not the case, then why is this either being encouraged, promoted or not being addressed. It seems to me that the posture should reflect the prayer and handholding is not really a posture of petition, it shows unity which to me further confuses since we should be united through the entire liturgy, not just the Our Father. The adults need to start catechizing the youth about this when teaching them liturgy; otherwise, we just get one more manufactured practice that our diocese is so noted for doing. What is the official posture for the Our Father at youth liturgies?