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Teilhard’s Pseudo-Scientific Inversion of Christianity: Five Recent Writers
Two Jesuits, two metaphysicians, and a Franciscan friar deconstructing the would-be cosmologist of a new faith
Why this series?
The purpose of my series on Teilhard de Chardin—there will be a total of four articles, today’s being the third, and next week’s a fireworks finale—is to give us crucial insights into the mentality of his Jesuit disciple now sitting on the papal throne, to help us understand why so many of his fellow Jesuits are heretics, and, finally, to warn against the gradual rehabilitation of this pseudo-theologian of evolutionary consciousness (which dovetails so nicely with a certain notion of “doctrinal development”: think of the specious justifications used for the abolition of the death penalty or the acceptance of contraception and homosexuality).
Last week we looked at what some famous contemporaries of Teilhard had to say about his work—Gilson, Maritain, Tresmontant, Journet, and von Hildebrand, to be precise. Today, I will share insightful passages from several more recent authors who turn their attention to the same figure.
Fr. Paul Mankowski, SJ
I think it is fitting to begin with two recently-departed Jesuits, one of them rather famous, the other almost entirely unknown. The famous one is Fr. Paul V. Mankowski (1953–2020), who was treated atrociously by the Society of Jesus during his life, and who suffered admirably with Christ and for the Church. Hidden behind the pen-name Diogenes, he wrote many satirical masterpieces for the Catholic World Report and Phil Lawler’s Catholic Culture site. Here’s an excerpt from a column entitled “The Jesuit and the Skull,” referring to a book of that name by Amir Aczel, reviewed by one Jonathan Kirsch. (As I tried to do last week, when reading these passages for the voiceover I will try to distinguish quotations from Teilhard by the use of a sort of rapturous poetic voice.)
Tall, dapper, handsome and aristocratic—I’ll have to take Kirsch’s word for it here—Teilhard de Chardin was essentially a fraud. At bottom, he was a Ramada Inn lounge singer posing as a metaphysician.
I cringe to admit I have weighty opinion against me. Both Joseph Ratzinger and Flannery O’Connor were deeply impressed by Teilhard. I can only explain this admiration by the surmise that neither admirer had any formal education in science, and both were thus innocently susceptible to Teilhard’s pseudo-scientific pedantries. It’s also true that, in the way that Mother Teresa became a living symbol of the Church’s love of the wretched, Teilhard by the early 1960s had become a symbol of the conviction that Catholic faith and scientific fact are reconcilable, and he attracted the sympathies of those who shared that conviction. The difference is that Mother Teresa was the genuine article.
Teilhard was cut out to be one of those lecture circuit mystagogues that are part guru and part crooner. As is characteristic of the breed, he had an unwholesome liking for grand-sounding neologisms and that “tipsy, euphoristic prose-poetry” (Peter Medawar’s perfect phrase). As is characteristic of the breed, he was ostentatiously yet solemnly concerned with the forging of some Great Synthesis—between faith and science in his case. As is characteristic of the breed, his woozy mysticism was peculiarly attractive to a certain kind of woman no longer young. Matthew Fox, Thomas Moore, and Richard Rohr are, perhaps, his closest present-day counterparts.
Had Teilhard stuck to his cotton-candy metaphysics, he probably would have been ignored by his principal antagonists both inside and outside the Church. It was his claim to be a serious paleontologist and unflinching respecter of scientific fact that put his theology in the crosshairs. Peter Medawar’s famous demolition of Teilhard’s The Phenomenon of Man—worth a read in its entirety—not only exposed the sleight-of-hand behind his pseudo-science, but pitilessly rubbed Teilhard’s nose in his own poetry:
“Teilhard is for ever shouting at us: things or affairs are, in alphabetical order, astounding, colossal, endless, enormous, fantastic, giddy, hyper-, immense, implacable, indefinite, inexhaustible, extricable, infinite, infinitesimal, innumerable, irresistible, measureless, mega-, monstrous, mysterious, prodigious, relentless, super-, ultra-, unbelievable, unbridled or unparalleled. When something is described as merely huge we feel let down. After this softening-up process we are ready to take delivery of the neologisms: biota, noosphere, hominisation, complexification. There is much else in the literary idiom of nature-philosophy: nothing-buttery, for example, always part of the minor symptomatology of the bogus. ‘Love in all its subtleties is nothing more, and nothing less, than the more or less direct tract marked on the heart of the element by the psychical converge of the universe upon itself.’ ‘Man discovers that he is nothing else than evolution become conscious of itself,’ and evolution is ‘nothing else than the continual growth of “psychic” or “radial” energy.’ Again, ‘the Christogenesis of St Paul and St John is nothing else and nothing less than the extension of that noogenesis in which cosmogenesis culminates.’” [Thus Medawar.]
I’m grateful to Fr. Mankowski for giving me that opportunity to quote the Nobel-Prize-winning Sir Peter Medawar, one of Teilhard’s fiercest scientific critics.
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Gerard G. Steckler, SJ
On the other hand, Fr. Gerard G. Steckler (1925–2015) is known to relatively few people. I plan to devote a future article just to him, but suffice it for now to say he was a beloved chaplain at Thomas Aquinas College in California from 1982 to 1993, where I got to know him well as my spiritual director between 1990 and 1993. During that period he gave me an unpublished manuscript he had written, bearing the title The Triumph of Romanticism. Years later, in one of the countless letters we exchanged in a long-lasting correspondence, he told me to edit the work for publication. It took me a long time to fulfill that request but finally, I published the book with Os Justi Press.
Fr. Steckler has very interesting things to say about dozens of figures, but here’s his take on the subject at hand:
Teilhard de Chardin, praised with Toynbee [by Roland Stromberg] as examples of modern “virtuosi of erudition,” possessed a mind unusually cluttered with ideas totally irreconcilable unless one overlooked the primacy of mind. An amateur in evolutionary thinking and in Catholic theology, he was a neo-idealist philosopher, significantly loving Bergson especially. Attempting to destroy the distinction between matter and mind, he produced a monistic explanation, conjoining human reason and mysticism, science and religion, into a mega-synthesis (by stating it to be so and then accepting it as a scientific fact, in a manner worthy of Freud). Teilhard could not be proved nor disproved by any experimental procedure; metaphysically his ideas were totally absurd. Teilhard was à la fois and indiscriminately a man of letters, scientistic without being adequately scientific, theological in about the same sense that a French philosophe could be called a philosopher, and pantheistic. No more dangerous Catholic writer had appeared in the twentieth century; the Vatican in characteristic contemporary fashion warned about his works, then did nothing to see that his ideas were not taught.
Teilhard excused the brutal collectivizations that had taken place in fascism as the necessary price mankind had to pay for establishing itself on a new and superior level. While lamenting the 75,000 deaths in the bombing of Dresden, he excused such an action as the price to pay for progress. Maritain, who had left Bergson for Aquinas, was shocked that Teilhard as a Jesuit priest did not know St. Thomas Aquinas’s philosophy and theology. Teilhard wanted the God of his meta-Christianity to become the Soul of the World. Possessing hardly a doctrine, he advocated a way of feeling, amalgamating science, faith, mystique, theology, and philosophy in a poetic fiction. In doing so he sinned against the intellect. His system was one more Christian gnosis, a theology-fiction. Maritain approved Gilson’s judgment that Teilhard’s Christ had morphed into the “concrete germ” of the Omega Point; he destroyed the work of the suffering Jesus of history and of continuing suffering Christians.
Teilhardism caused rather extensive damage in Catholic intellectual circles in the third quarter of the twentieth century, for it transmitted itself in mystic-philosophical imagery that many of good (not necessarily Catholic) faith and weak mind went on to accept as a synthesis of exalting intellection and new theology. As in the case of Spengler and Toynbee, “his true following was recruited among those of middling education.” His message broke upon a world just recovering from the second World War, just as Bergson’s was vital in the autumn before the beginning of the first great carnage. He got along very well with all those of equal flabbiness of intellect, including less dogmatic communists such as the Frenchman Roger Garaudy, in their common anticipation of a “humanism of the total man.” “Teilhard’s readers seldom noticed . . . that his more far-reaching statements were almost totally without scientific buttressing: when evidence was lacking, his prose simply took off into rhapsody.” He tried to change Christianity from rootedness in the Trinity and in the Redemption to identity with the evolving Cosmos, and thus served as an alternative to the religionless Christianity that had evolved from Bonhoeffer’s pessimistic beginning into an optimistic improvement in the social conditions of men.1
Wolfgang Smith (b. 1930)
By far the most extended and profound critique of Teilhard de Chardin’s system of thought is to be found in the book Theistic Evolution: The Teilhardian Heresy by physicist-philosopher Wolfgang Smith (b. 1930).2 It is difficult to narrow down to favorite passages, as one can hardly go wrong opening this book anywhere in its 250+ pages.
By way of a first orientation it can be said that what presently confuses and misleads the faithful above all are pseudo-philosophical notions masquerading in scientific garb. It is this spurious pretension to be “science-based” that renders these tenets virtually sacrosanct in the eyes of the populace, and explains why even theologians of rank have been misled. Does not our science work “signs and wonders” that could indeed “deceive even the elect ” as Christ has foretold? Although it is not just a single tenet but an entire syndrome of scientistic myths that presently befuddles the faithful, I surmise that evolutionism plays a central role in this collective process of subversion… (1)
Teilhard gives us to understand that what is traditionally regarded as the following of Christ has now become obsolete; for the enlightened Christian it is not a question of following but literally of creating Christ: creating Him by way of evolution. Whereas Christ has always been conceived as both Alpha and Omega, He is now reduced to Omega: this half-truth is all that is left. No wonder Teilhard disapproves of Christian piety as understood and practiced up till now; even the Beatitudes, as we shall see, do not escape censure at the hands of this strange priest! Basically what remains of the spiritual life is communal action, the kind that promotes “socialization,” to use one of Teilhard’s peculiar terms; after all, what counts, from an evolutionist point of view, is not the individual, but the species. (12)
For Teilhard de Chardin, evolution is not simply a scientific theory, but an established and henceforth irrefutable truth. It is in fact the rock upon which he would found his entire doctrine. “Is evolution a theory, a system or a hypothesis?” he writes. “It is much more: it is a general condition to which all theories, all hypotheses, all systems must bow and which they must satisfy henceforward if they are to be thinkable and true. Evolution is a light illuminating all facts, a curve that all lines must follow.” What is quite amazing, however, is that nowhere does this prolific author explain with even a modicum of precision on what basis he is putting forth these sweeping claims…. (25)
We are told, moreover, that in consequence of this fact, all basic conceptions must now be reformulated in essentially evolutionist terms: in this modern world, dominated by the discovery of evolution, all time-honored beliefs are to be rethought and rectified, Teilhard maintains. What he imagines to be “the truth of evolution” is for him the touchstone by which all human conceptions are henceforth to be tested. And not only human truth, but all that earlier generations had held to be a sacred and more-than-human truth. “What we have to do without delay,” Teilhard tells us in particular, and in no uncertain terms, “is to modify the position occupied by the central core of Christianity....” (32)
In a word, Teilhard’s objective is to found a new Christianity. And that must be the reason why he is willing to join forces with the materialists, the atheistic Darwinists, in their well-camouflaged campaign against “interventions by an extra-cosmic intelligence.” The thrust is aimed, not at the new, but at the old religion: at traditional Christianity, with its time-honored belief in an eternal, transcendent, and absolutely omnipotent God. It is this “God of the Above” who needs to be overthrown to make way for the new deity. “This is still, of course, Christianity and always will be,” Teilhard assures the reader; “but a Christianity re-incarnated for a second time in the spiritual energies of Matter. It is precisely the ‘ultra-Christianity’ we need here and now to meet the ever more urgent demands of the ultra-human.” (37)
The secret of Nature…hinges upon an ontological duality: a pairing of spirit and matter. And this pairing defines a metaphysical dimension above the corporeal. There exists a hierarchic order: there are “worlds within worlds.” And it happens that in this, for us unimaginably vast hierarchy of ontological strata, “our world” occupies in fact the lowest rank. For Teilhard, on the other hand, that world—that single ontological domain—constitutes the cosmos in its entirety. More than that: it includes even God Himself! “All that exists is matter becoming spirit”: these words express the quintessence of his thought. And this means that in Teilhard’s eyes, matter and spirit are situated on one and the same plane: they constitute but two faces of a single cosmic reality. As Teilhard himself observes, “There is neither spirit nor matter in the world; the ‘stuff of the universe’ is spirit-matter.” The cosmos has thus been flattened, reduced to a single plane. We must understand that primordial duality and metaphysical verticality go hand in hand. Whosoever, therefore, denies this primordial duality has in the same breath denied the concept of an axis mundi. There is then no more Jacob’s Ladder, and presumably no more “angels of God” to ascend and descend thereon. We find ourselves then confined intellectually to this familiar universe, this “narrow world,” which remains such despite what Teilhard refers to boastfully as “the discovery of Time and Space.”…
Getting back to Teilhard de Chardin: having abolished—or better said, denied—metaphysical verticality, he proceeds to find an analog, an Ersatz, within the remaining plane. This substitution constitutes in fact the salient feature of his theory: briefly stated, he has in effect replaced the axis mundi by the “arrow of time,” which he identifies with the thrust of an imagined evolutive trajectory. To form a mental picture of this transposition, think of the integral cosmos as a three-dimensional space, in which our space-time is represented by a horizontal plane, endowed with an axis representing time. The decisive step reduces then to a projection of that three-dimensional space onto the plane which transforms the “above” into the “ahead.” This is the undeclared transformation, I say, that defines Teilhard’s theory in its essence: every facet of his doctrine follows from that single step. It is this hidden “rotation of axes” that permits Teilhard to falsify just about every traditional conception of theology. (45-46)
I could just quote Wolfgang Smith all day long, but I haven’t got all day, and neither have you. So let me race ahead to the end of his book. Just listen to all the ringing parallels with Pope Francis’s system of thought:
[Teilhard] proceeds forthwith to develop a position of his own, beginning with the simple recognition that science and neo-humanism in its various manifestations constitute in essence a single integral movement of worldwide scope. It appears to him, moreover, that there is something distinctly religious about this contemporary movement: “A religion of the earth is being mobilized against the religion of heaven,” he declares. And this supposition leads to a third step: having diagnosed that a single neo-humanist “religion” of global proportions is being marshaled against “the religion of heaven”—by which Teilhard obviously understands Christianity—he goes on to conclude that this new “religion of the earth” can be nothing more nor less than the manifestation of the evolutive thrust on the collective human plane. And from this presumed discovery he naturally concludes—apparently with all his heart and soul—that the movement in question constitutes in fact the one and only true religion, a conclusion which leads finally to the last turn in this Teilhardian dialectic. It is actually the only option left to him as a member of the Catholic Church: he declares apodictically that Christianity and neo-humanism are pointing in the same direction and must henceforth join forces; in a word, there is to be a New Religion. (222-23)
Despite his contention that “you may call it a better Christianity,” it happens that the new cult is not the Christianity of bygone days. In fact, it is so radically different that Teilhard refers to it as “a hitherto unknown form of religion—one that no one could as yet have imagined or described, for lack of a universe large enough or organic enough to contain it.” Not only, then, was it nonexistent in ancient times, but it would not have been possible even to conceive of that new religion in a pre-scientific and pre-Darwinist age. And as if this were not enough, Teilhard adds by way of further clarification that the new religion “is burgeoning in the heart of modern man, from a seed sown by the idea of evolution.” (224-25)
In certain respects and to some degree [the Church] has in fact turned Teilhardian. One can see this, for instance, in such phenomena as the radical involvement on the part of the bishops in political and economic issues (almost invariably left of center), the waning of faith in the supernatural, and the ongoing deconversion of clergy and laity alike from all “staticist” beliefs. The trend is unmistakable…. As Albert Drexel, a Catholic ecclesiastic, explains with admirable precision: “The modernism or neo-modernism within Christianity, and especially within the Roman Catholic Church after the Second Vatican Council, is above all characterized by a turning away from the supernatural and an exclusive predilection for this world, the Aggiornamento of Pope John XXIII interpreted one-sidedly and hence misapplied. Teilhard’s ideology was a definitive precondition for this. Inasmuch as he turned his back to the past, fused God and the supernatural with the process of a universal evolutionism, and proclaimed religion to be an active participation in a progressive development ending in Point Omega, the basis was given for a humanist cult of the secular (‘ein humanistischer Diesseitskult’).” (225-26)
Teilhard is dropping a broad hint to the effect that the Church, like everything else, has evolved, and constitutes at bottom a biological phenomenon. It is only that our Christian forebears were too primitive to recognize the fact; they still believed in the supernatural, and in an “extrinsicist” God “whom no one in these days any longer wants.” It is one of Teilhard’s favorite themes, to which he returns time and again: “For hundreds of centuries (up to yesterday, one might say),” he tells us, “men have lived as children, without understanding the mystery of their birth or the secret of the obscure urges which sometimes reach them in great waves from the deep places of the world.”… Speaking of “grace” Teilhard has this to say: “From the Christian, Catholic and realist point of view, grace represents a physical supercreation. It raises us a further rung on the ladder of cosmic evolution. In other words, the stuff of which grace is made is strictly biological.” (231-32)
It is literally true that Teilhard has deified Evolution…. Teilhard de Chardin was presumably the first person in history to be totally possessed by the concept, the first to be fully intoxicated with the new wine. It seems that Darwin himself was still to some extent rooted in the past, not yet completely “liberated.” Not until Teilhard appeared upon the stage, at any rate, did Evolution find its full-blown prophet. It was he that brought out—with a fury one can say—the religious pretensions which presumably had been latent in the movement from the start. At Teilhard’s hands the Darwinist theory became transformed into a full-fledged religion: was actually turned into a cult…. At his best he does not write: he cries out in a loud voice. But unlike the prophets of old, his is not the voice of Tradition: on the contrary, it is manifestly the voice of anti-Tradition: “A new victorious passion is beginning (we seriously believe) to take shape, which will sweep away or transform what have so far been the whims and childishness of the earth,” he cries. (234-35)
Notwithstanding all the considerations brought forth by Teilhard de Chardin, there is then, after all, a difference between the Way of the Cross and the metamorphosis of insects! Nor is the cosmos at large destined to complexify itself into the Mystical Body. And it is above all a false and dangerous idea that the voice which presently beckons humanity to pursue the twin goals of technological progress and “socialization” is in truth the Voice of Christ. (243)
Jean Borella (b. 1930)
Another author I very much enjoy reading, Jean Borella (b. 1930), has a mixture of admiration and skepticism toward Teilhard:
It seems that the “religious” thought of Father Teilhard de Chardin, in some respects, illustrates…a philosophical, or rather a deviated gnosis. It is not warped in everything it says, nor in all its demands: on the contrary, it is even perfectly legitimate, if not extremely urgent, to seek to endow Christian thought with a cosmology open in its depths to the revelation of Christ. But this gnosis is warped, on the one hand, by its distraught adherence to evolutionism (which is by no means a scientific theory, but an explanatory myth), and, on the other, by the poetic-mystical atmosphere in which his anthropo-cosmological speculations are steeped. The gnostic excess of this doctrine is betrayed by the sentimental religiosity with which all the concepts that he utilizes are invested: everything is in the vision, nothing, or almost nothing, in the thing seen….
Teilhard’s thought…could almost be described as a cosmolatry, “almost” because the world is created by God, not with a view to its present state, but with a view to its Christic transfiguration, a transfiguration which is that of “Holy Matter,” the unique fabric of cosmic reality, Matter-Spirit in constant creative and unifying transformation. We are indeed close to pantheism, which Teilhard was not far from recognizing in himself… Teilhard by no means has the feeling of moving forward in a known country: “How is it, then, that as I look around me, still dazzled from what I have seen, I find that I am almost the only person of my kind, the only one to have seen? And so I cannot, when asked, quote a single author, a single work, that gives a clearly expressed description of the wonderful ‘Diaphany’ that has transfigured everything for me.”
The “diaphany” designates the property that Matter has (according to Teilhard) of allowing the Spirit to radiate. The work of Father Teilhard has aroused disproportionate enthusiasm, and, it must be admitted, through his visionary lyricism it can only foster this kind of enthusiasm, and even delusions. He intends to present to believers a “theology” reconciled, in its essence, with science. But this is at the cost of a certain ignorance of both theology and science, which is not to be reduced to geology and paleontology: unless we are mistaken, Teilhardian cosmology totally ignores the most important modern-day scientific revolution, that of quantum physics; but this revolution makes the very notion of matter vanish. Father Teilhard seems to be always telling us: “Christians, do not be afraid of matter, it is good, full of life and spirit.” But what about this matter itself as revealed to us by science? Teilhard says nothing about it, and yet he is contemporary to quantum theory and the unresolved crisis…that this theory introduces into our idea of reality. All the daring, all the much-vaunted novelties of Teilhardian thought refer to nineteenth-century physics (if only to combat its ideologically materialist repercussions), a physics almost completely obsolete, and officially so since 1927 (the Fifth Solvay Congress, which formalizes the renunciation of the realism of physical theories). As for the sources of his all-embracing and somewhat obsessive evolutionism, they date back at least to 1859 (Darwin, The Origin of Species), if not even to 1809 (Lamarck, Zoological Philosophy)…. Teilhard metaphorizes more than he thinks, and it is often the images that think for him, and in a very systematic manner. There remains, in addition to the legitimate intention of this enterprise [of Christian cosmology], the enchantment of a style of thinking and writing, inseparably.
Finally, the idea of a cosmogenesis does not seem necessarily tied to gnosticism. Before dismissing it under a derogatory label, we should first recognize that it simply expresses the truth, certainly not in the strict Teilhardian sense, distorted by an omnipresent evolutionism which constitutes a real “epistemological obstacle,” but in the sense that, in its basic reality, the world is “genetic,” or as Ruyer says, “embryogenetic”: everything in the world is “making itself,” without it being necessary to assume that this genesis, or rather these geneses in innumerable multiplicity, are subject to a law of evolution which would bend their development towards an Omega point. There is something of reality making itself in every being and for every being. The advent of new species is a fact; a causal continuity between species can only be a theory which does not, moreover, recognize the importance of the “vertical” causality exerted by the subtle and trans-spatial world on its corporeal manifestations, not to mention any causality semantic in nature.
Marcionite gnosis is anti-cosmic, Teilhardian gnosis is cosmolatrous. What they have in common, if this is the case, cannot therefore pertain to their respective doctrinal contents, as everything is in opposition, but only to a certain cognitive attitude…. Breaking free from Church doctrine, that is, from the faith of the Apostles, Marcion set himself up as the founding interpreter of Scripture in the name of the demands of his understanding. Likewise Teilhard, rejecting the principles of traditional cosmology, set himself up as the prophet of a new vision of the world and man in the name of the demands of an all-embracing evolutionism known through a kind of quasi-pantheistic revelation. Herein lies, we think, the gnostic deviation, which is a deviation, or a perversion, of the gnostic dimension inherent to the very activity of any metempirical knowledge. One might see here simply an excess of confidence in the products of his own thinking…. What is specific to the gnostic process is its “religious” character. In the eyes of the gnostic intellect (whether orthodox or deviant), intellectual forms are imbued with sacred value, clothed with a numinous aura endowing them with the mysterious presence of a near-revelation. Which explains why the “false” Gnostic may have no awareness of this pride and perceive himself, to the contrary, as quite humble before the splendor of the truths he thinks he perceives.
Fr. Serafino Lanzetta
Finally (my apologies for the length of this post!), I’d like to quote some excerpts from a text so fresh that it hasn’t even been published yet.
I refer to a book that I’m very excited to be publishing with Os Justi Press, by dogmatic theologian Fr. Serafino Maria Lanzetta, a Marian Franciscan based in the diocese of Portsmouth (UK), lecturer in Systematic Theology at St Mary’s University Twickenham, London, and at the Theological Faculty of Lugano (Switzerland). The work is called Super Hanc Petram: The Pope and the Church at a Dramatic Moment in History. I hope to have it published in the next month.
Chapter 5, “Not Development but Doctrinal ‘Progress’—by Leaps and Bounds,” spends considerable time on Teilhard. Bypassing material similar to what we’ve already covered, here are some of Fr. Lanzetta’s unique insights:
[For Teilhard] the man who busies himself solely with the search for Revelation remains lost in emptiness and uncertainty; worse still, this bustling pursuit extinguishes in him the sacred fire of the “Search” (another capitalized word [in his writings]). Religion, which attempts to reject nature, appears to be something alien to mankind. Religion no longer delights in that life which continues to govern the bodies and souls of her baptized children. These people, whom religion seeks to sanctify in a jealous way, are hearing another voice, that of Mother Earth who first nursed them. First Mother Earth, and then religion. The latter, if it wants to thrive, must remain faithful to the primordial calls of the first mother. In so doing, it becomes a religion that is natural, and in some way rises up as a canticle of the earth….
How can one avoid thinking of Laudato Si’ and the Pachamama spectacle at the Vatican? Secularization, desacralization, ecologism, and new eruptions of old idolatries go hand in hand.
Fr. Lanzetta goes on to comment on Teilhard’s obsession with what he regards as the inevitably perfective teleology of the evolutive process:
Evolution is necessary and its best product is always the final one, the most updated. The latest period, though ephemeral, is always an improvement upon the preceding one and the latest result unquestionably better. Destined to be surpassed as soon as possible by the flow of events and their interpretations, this flow, however, is the reason for everything. To not go with the flow means to willingly bring about one’s own death or perhaps, in more theological terms, to abandon the mainstream. De Chardin’s evolutionary (and interpretive) process therefore inexorably advances onward without ever looking back. What came beforehand was necessary only for the sake of what has come to be, and this, in turn, will give way to what is to come.
This notion appears to be quite widespread today, and quite popular in the Church among prelates and theologians. What is newer is always better. It is not simply the pursuit of novelty that captivates, but rather the idea that in the new, in the present becoming, there is a better awareness. A new pope abrogates a previous papacy, abrogates a missal, establishes a new practice, inaugurates a new tradition, or rather a new way of understanding tradition. In other words, there is a continuity of becoming, rather than a continuity of being. Becoming precedes being and Heraclitus triumphs over Parmenides.
We must conclude here before we use up more of the space-time continuum. Allow me to conclude, however, with recommendations of two articles that will be of interest to those who find this subject worthy of further study.
The first is Prof. Thomas Heinrich Stark’s penetrating essay “German Idealism and Cardinal Kasper’s Theological Project,” in which he connects the dots between Teilhard’s evolutionism, Cardinal Kasper’s historicist-evolutionary theology, and the mentality out of which a document like Amoris Laetitia emerges.
The second is Dr. Scott Ventureyra article “Challenging the Rehabilitation of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin,” which I didn’t know about when I started this series, but which, once it had been pointed out to me, I found an admirable overview.
Next week, readers are in for a considerable shock. Stay tuned!
Thank you for reading, and God bless you.
Fr. Gerard G. Steckler, SJ, The Triumph of Romanticism, with a Foreword by Peter Kwasniewski (Lincoln, NE: Os Justi Press, 2023), 285–86. Also at Amazon.
Tacoma, WA: Angelico Press/Sophia Perennis, 2012. Page numbers are given in parentheses after the paragraphs. This work is an expanded rewrite of a 1988 work entitled Teilhardism and the New Religion.