You wouldn’t necessarily know it from Vatican News, but Chardin was roundly criticized by fellow Catholic intellectuals
About 40 years ago at the state university I attended, my creative writing teacher mentioned that "The Phenomenon of Man" was one of his favorite books. At the time I thought "hmmm." Well, I never did read it, which was a blessing in at least two ways: no heresy imbibed, and time not wasted. I can barely tolerate skimming Teilhard's books, let alone read any of them in depth. Why is it that revolutionaries like Teilhard feel the need to blather on so much? (Perhaps like a certain pontiff?) It's interesting to see who is being "rehabilitated" during the Francis years. Dorothy Day is another who needs a critical re-assessment. Reading through her voluminous diaries, etc. one finds praise for characters like Saul Alinsky, Fidel Castro, and Angela Davis and criticism of the Mindszenty Foundation. Yeah. Let's beatify her but keep a hold on Sheen and replace Aquinas with Teilhard.
As an interesting aside, I was in the Chicago Archdiocesan Seminary System for 8 years, high school and college. At Niles College Seminary our Junior year residence was called Chardin Hall. I'm not sure if any students knew anything about him, other than to (eventually) spell and pronounce his name correctly!
Terrific post. I like that you quote these great thinkers against the errors of Teilhardism. I remember wondering who he was when I came back to the Church in my 30s, having missed the upheavals of the late 1960s and early 1970s and I saw a Teilhard de Chardin room in the University of Minnesota MPLS Newman center. I like what Maritain says here: Teilhardism . . ." transmits itself extremely well, with words, confused ideas, a mystico-philosophical imagery, and a whole emotional commotion of huge illusory hopes, which a good many men of good faith are ready to accept as a genuinely exalting intellectual synthesis and a new theology." This and the following from von Hildebrand remind me of the undue respect given Joseph Campbell who also combines a whole lot of random theories without resolving their contradictions, "It has recently become fashionable to accept contradictions as a sign of philosophical depth. Mutually contradictory elements are regarded as antagonistic as long as the discussion remains on a logical level, but are considered unimportant as soon as it reaches the religious sphere." Bah. Humbug.
How is Hildebrand horribly mistaken in his critique of Teilhard?
Hildebrand says “He [Teilhard] fails to recognize the abyss separating a person from the entire impersonal world around him, the wholly new dimension of being that a person implies…." And "only in the human person do we find an awakened being, a being truly possessing itself, notwithstanding its contingency."
A few comments from Teilhard on the human person (which contradict Hildebrand’s critique of him) “Starting with man, and as a consequence of the transition from instinct to reflection, a profound twofold change affects the course of action followed until then by evolution. One the one hand, the individual (because he has become conscious of his ego ‘to the second degree’) finds that he attains a richness of life which, increasing almost without limit his own incommunicable values, makes him stand alone among his own kind, gives him an ‘absolute’ quality and makes him autonomous.” (Sense of the Species)
And In his article The Phenomenon of Man, Teilhard says “Man knows that he knows. He emerges from his actions. He dominates them in however feeble a way. He can therefore abstract, combine and foresee. He reflects.”
There are many more quotes we can take from Teilhard's works that hopelessly contradict Hildebrand.
I have two questions: one, why would Hildebrand so falsely represent Teilhard de Chardin? And secondly, why would the author of this blog perpetuate such misleading information about Teilhard?
Answer: They are afraid. Both HIldebrand and the author of this blog are afraid of the world that Teilhard has shown them. They cling to their scholastic worldview in desperation, and hope that no one (including themselves) will actually read Teilhard de Chardin and understand him as he is meant to be understood. Because they are afraid, they contribute to the misunderstandings of Teilhard that Pope Francis spoke about.
In the words of our Lord, "Be not afraid."
Thank you so much for this handy research. I'm no scholar and have no degrees, but even when I tried reading one of his books as a teen when he was recommended, my eyes glazed over from incomprehension. Reading the snippets provided here, I see why I reacted that way. Sounds a lot like the stuff being churned out by the Synod on Synodality. And it's like new age writing. My experience with the latter showed me that anything like this is just a dubious concoction based mostly in the particular self creating it for various purposes, and not all of them good. I had a conversation recently with someone doing the self-help/new age "spirituality." She's been doing it for years and keeps buying more and more books by different authors. Upon reflection, it seemed like she was spinning her wheels. There is no firm foundation from which one can launch out into the deep, so to speak. I would include Teilhard in this genre.
A very helpful & interesting compilation of arguments against de Chardin's opinions.
As you pointed out, he seemingly was tolerated without much commentary from the 'Church', but I can't help but think that what looks like 'tolerance', in hindsight is but forgetfulness.
For a bit more details, see:
It does seem like the 'Church' in 'his' early days did 'object' - and had him banished to China - reminiscent of Bugnini's exile.
To me at least, his later 'rehabilitation' simply implies a sea change in 'Rome', again, at the very least at 'mid & upper management' which must include some very powerful personages (likely including the 'black pope') running interference for de Chardin.
While his name is kept out of the 'news', his method of using ambiguity to evade direct challenge is the foundation of much of the Vat II documents.
Jesuitry at its 'best'.
I've always been troubled by two luminaries who justified, or had a soft spot for Teilhard, Henri de Lubac and Flannery O'Connor. Miss O'Connor passed in 1965, and may have been caught up in the Teilhardian fervor. She was looking for ways to get through to secularists. She seemed to have blinders on regarding Teilhard. Henri de Lubac is a more disturbing case.
In the early 80s, as an undergrad at Boston College, I was effectively vaccinated against Teilhard. I took a theology course with Teilhard and Bonhoeffer as subject matter. The Jesuit who taught it had done graduate work on Teilhard in the 40s and apparently had access to sealed Vatican files. I learned nothing from the course, except that Teilhard was bunk, and Bonhoeffer was a much more interesting case. This was the opposite of my Jesuit prof's intentions, who was gaga for Teilhard, and was enamored of the scholarship of that time which held up Bonhoeffer's phrase "religionless Christianity" as a rallying cry for secularized Christianity.
Thank you Dr Kwasniewski,
You refuted Teilhard de Chardin point by point.
When I was young and impressionable, I was captivated by his words. With your exposition of his words and works I now have a more solid understanding.
If I may summarized my understanding of his words and works based on what you have presented, it is a sophisticated denial of God using Christian doctrine clothe in scientific sounding terminologies of evolution.
He made evolution as the cornerstone of his work and applied to Christian ideals. I believe it is contradictory to the very purpose of why the Word become flesh.
We know Christian perfection is the work of the Holy Spirit with our willing participation. Whereas, evolution by definition is the process of self-perfection. This self-perfection reminds me how the “signet of perfection” wanted to make himself more perfect than God had made him to be.
Isaiah 14:13–14 (ESV): ‘I will ascend to heaven; above the stars of God I will set my throne on high; I will sit on the mount of assembly in the far reaches of the north; 14 I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.’
I speculate that the spiritual world was created first before the natural world. God having created perfect beings in the spiritual world that a third of the angels rebelled God did not create a perfect natural world but a world that is “good”
Considering that everything that God has created were all “good,” It is presumptuous to think we can improve the work of God.
Original sin happened, and this afforded the invention of evolution?
By what means can fallen world repair itself in this “evolutionary condition” as its driving force of perfection? It has none whatsoever. Teilhard de Chardin thesis has the sound of he has the complete comprehension of the mind of God, which obviously, nobody has, except God himself.
Teilhard de Chardin work has the appeal, the formula and the principle use in the question and answer:
Genesis 3:1 (ESV): “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?”
Genesis 3:4–5 (ESV): “You will not surely die. 5 For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
Dr. K, I write to process my thoughts not so much to present them but to organize and consolidate them. Sharing them is my way to invite feedback or sounding board. Corrections are gratefully appreciated.
As for original sin, it is explained “for Teilhard, like evil, of which it is only a particular instance, by the Multiple. In summary, it is materiality that is responsible for evil, for sin, and more particularly for original sin: a Platonic, not a Christian explanation.” “For Teilhard, original sin is coextensive with all of creation, physical as well, and biological.”
IIRC isn't that the heresy of Manichaeism - that matter is evil and the spiritual is good ?
And prior to that was a quote from TDC that looked like either Subordinationism (the technical name for Arianism) or Nestorianism.
No wonder his works were on the Index ! And now he's being "rehabilitated" ?
O Holy Father Athanasius, pray to God for us sinners! ☦️
This post was absolutely fantastic in illuminating the disastrous implications of this way of thinking. But as I read it and all of these quotations and think of all that I have read about Thomism etc. since coming back into the Church I have to think that one of the great problems that plagued the Church during the second millennium and ultimately led to both the destruction of Christendom and our glorious liturgical inheritance is that the clergy in particular became way too obsessed with philosophy.
Am I a Thomist or a Scotist? Etc. etc. etc. In the end who cares? The Catholic Church is not a philosophical debating society and while certain aspects of philosophy can be helpful to her in elucidating the intellectual foundations of the Faith her purpose is not to conquer the world for Thomas Aquinas or for Aristotle. It is interesting that one does not find the Fathers who lived during the Roman Empire when names like Plato and Aristotle were seen as foundation stones of the (pagan) civilization they were dealing with quoting these men with relish like Catholics of the last 500 years do, even though it may have served their cause to do so. Because a) they knew those men were pagans and what that meant and b) they didn't have any real need for them. And frankly neither do we.
The Church survived for more than twelve centuries without Aristotelian Thomism everybody, and we need to get back to the basics of the mission Christ gave us, because too much focus on philosophy inevitably leads to speculation and speculative philosophy which leads us to the absurdity of de Chardin and his followers.
Although philosophy cannot be avoided because, if nothing else, it is embedded in language, I tend toward the perspective advocated by 'a Kempis' IMITATION: "And why need we concern ourselves with terms of philosophy? He to whom the Eternal Word speaketh is saved from a multitude of opinions" (I 3:2). Nevertheless when heavyweights such as Gilson, Maritain and Hildebrand speak from "Athens," we in "Jerusalem" would be wise to listen. And when will Jacgues and Raissa finally be advocated as 20th. century saints?! Donald Richmond, DD