Did you know that there was a “British Teilhard Association”? No one else did either, it seems.

From the Catholic Herald:

British Teilhard Association dissolves due to lack of members

The move comes just weeks after Pope Francis was asked to remove the decades-old official warning against Teilhard’s works

A British association dedicated to Jesuit thinker Teilhard de Chardin dissolved on New Year’s Eve due to falling membership.

The association announced the decision on Twitter on Monday, but added that its website would continue as a newly constituted ‘British Teilhard Network’.

The move comes just weeks after the Pontifical Council for Culture asked Pope Francis to remove the decades-old official warning against Teilhard’s works.

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin wrote a series of best-selling theological works in the first half of the 20th Century in which he drew on his studies as a palaeontologist in an attempt to reconcile the faith with evolution.

He became famous for his theory of an “Omega Point”, mankind’s ultimate destination. He saw all of human development in terms of evolution, an upward movement towards a final goal, of which the Incarnation was a decisive moment.

Although many found his works helpful in reconciling their faith with new scientific discoveries, the Congregation of the Holy Office condemned them, writing that they “abound in such ambiguities and indeed even serious errors, as to offend Catholic doctrine”.

Pope Pius XII condemned Teilhard’s work as a “cesspool of error”, and the Vatican placed an official “monitum”, or warning, against it.

However, last year the Pontifical Council for Culture voted unanimously to ask Pope Francis to remove the warning, saying “albeit some of his writings might be open to constructive criticism, his prophetic vision has been and is inspiring theologians and scientists.”

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28 Responses to Did you know that there was a “British Teilhard Association”? No one else did either, it seems.

  1. “It is very likely that within fifty years when all the trivial, verbal disputes about the meaning of Teilhard’s “unfortunate” vocabulary will have died away or have taken a secondary place, Teilhard will appear like John of the Cross and St. Teresa of Avila, as the spiritual genius of the twentieth century.” – Fulton J Sheen – Footsteps in a Darkened Forest, page 73.

    “It is doubtful if any Christian of this century can be fully aware of his religion until he has seen it in the cosmic light which Teilhard has cast upon it.” – Flannery O’Connor – The Presence of Grace.

    Below from Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Introduction to Christianity – 1968
    “We shall return later to discuss today this enlarged perspective which is at last beginning to gain currency in the Western consciousness as well, especially as a result of stimuli from the work of Teilhard de Chardin.” Page 85
    “It must be regarded as an important service of Teilhard de Chardin’s that he rethought these ideas from the angle of the modern view of the world”… Page 236
    “This leads to a further passage in Teilhard de Chardin that is worth quoting” … Page 238
    “From here it is possible to understand the final aim of the whole move¬ment as Teilhard sees i … page 238

    “The role of the priesthood is to consecrate the world so that it may become a living host, a liturgy: so that the liturgy may not be something alongside the reality of the world, but that the world itself shall become a living host, a liturgy. This is also the great vision of Teilhard de Chardin: in the end we shall achieve a true cosmic liturgy, where the cosmos becomes a living host.”— Pope Benedict XVI Homily at Vespers in Aosta, July 31, 2009. After this address by Pope Benedict, the Vatican spokesperson, Jesuit Fr. Federico Lombardi said “By now, no one would dream of saying that Teilhard is a heterodox author who shouldn’t be studied.”

  2. jaykay says:

    “his prophetic vision has been and is inspiring theologians and scientists.”

    “Wherefore by their fruits you shall know them.”

  3. jaykay says:

    Ooops, forgot to mention his involvement in the Piltdown Man hoax. Just Google it, and there’s a very good link to the Royal Society website, detailing how it was pulled off. The Royal Society, with alumni like Wren, Newton and Hooke. So, as a theological neophyte, but having a degree in Archaeology, you might see how even a theologiae ignoramus like me would take anything this Reverend Gentleman wrote with some scepticism.

  4. msc says:

    As far as I know, and a quick check of the research seems to support this, there is no proof Teilhard was complicit in the Piltdown man hoax. Sure, some have argued that he was, but there just isn’t the evidence.

  5. Elizabeth D says:

    i don’t think Tielhard is seriously believed to have been the one who made the Piltdown Man bones. Whether he was in on the hoax somehow seems to be a matter of speculation.

    I have always understood the problem with Tielhard being ambiguity. He is pretty creative in how he frames things and the novel language and imagery by which he expressed Christian belief lent itself to others doing weird and even post-Christian things with it. Others such as Ratzinger have viewed Tielhard through an orthodox lens. Quite likely the best way to counter the heterodox uses of Tielhard is to promote an orthodox understanding and use.

  6. Cardinal Dulles also speaks of Teilhard’s vision of an Eucharistic Church.

    Avery Cardinal Dulles, – A Eucharistic Church: The Vision of John Paul II – McGinley Lecture, November 10, 2004. — “In his own poetic style, the French Jesuit Teilhard de Chardin liked to meditate on the Eucharist as the first fruits of the new creation. In an essay called The Monstrance he describes how, kneeling in prayer, he had a sensation that the Host was beginning to grow until at last, through its mysterious expansion, ‘the whole world had become incandescent, had itself become like a single giant Host.’ Although it would probably be incorrect to imagine that the universe will eventually be transubstantiated, Teilhard correctly identified the connection between the Eucharist and the final glorification of the cosmos.”

    Avery Cardinal Dulles, (1983) – The Catholicity of the Church, page 117. — “In the words of Teilhard de Chardin: ‘When Christ says through his priest, This is my Body, these words overflow the piece of bread upon which they are pronounced; they bring to birth the entire Mystical Body. Beyond the transubstantiated host, the priestly action extends to the cosmos itself, Teilhard did not mean that the universe would literally turned into Christ’s Eucharistic body, as some have imagined. … Teilhard gave poetic expression to this thought in his inspiring meditation, ‘The Mass Over the World'”.

  7. rtjl says:

    All I know is that our diocese was full of Teilhard disciples in positions of leadership in the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s and our diocese was, and still is, a mess. Coincidence? Maybe. I suppose.

  8. DeGaulle says:

    I doubt if Teilhard’s theology stands up (I couldn’t make head nor tail of what little I attempted to read), but it is increasingly obvious that the understanding of Evolution which he shared is one that seems to be becoming increasingly discredited in the face of more modern evidence.

    In fairness to him, he seems to have had an intense and genuine religiosity and the approval of Fulton Sheen and others cannot be lightly dismissed. I have heard that he was very obedient when censured, which speaks well of him, if true. In comparison with some of the heretics, antinomians and rebellious that we have had to suffer since his time, remembering him brings a tinge of nostalgia.

  9. jaykay says:

    No, it seems he wasn’t the one who “made” the fossil, or was complicit in it, and I didn’t say that. In fact, the main suspect is one Charles Dawson, who committed other forgeries. But de Chardin’s involvement in the whole thing, and subsequent publication about it (“Le cas de l’homme de Piltdown” in “Revue des questions scientifiques”, 1920) doesn’t say a lot for his general credibility.

  10. Traductora says:

    I’ve always thought of Teilhard as part fraud and part genuine mystic. I think he became rather enamored of his own image, although at the same time, I think he had some genuine insights. However, as somebody said – it may have been Ronald Knox – mysticism often “begins in mist and ends in schism.” And Teilhard’s mysticism could often end in things such pantheism, indifferentism, and Gnosticism.

    At the time that Teilhard was writing, there had been rather a loss of focus on the mystical aspect of Christianity and unfortunately, there really was a tendency to a very plodding, nit-picking dogmatic theology and, in terms of practice, the multiplication of minutia-oriented laws or regulations that enabled the extreme Vatican II folks to cast doubt upon the whole concept of law (that is, moral law). Because of the perceived pettiness and dryness of “ordinary Catholicism,” a lot of people dabbled in questionable mysticism, whether private revelations or the usual suspects, such as Meister Eckhardt, who was all the rage in the 1960s.

    I think that if Teilhard had been treated with caution by informed and orthodox authorities, his vision could have been helpful. The same is true of Hans Urs von Balthasar, Henri de Lubac, and others regarded with suspicion now (for example, the silly claim that BXVI is a heretic because he appreciated their work). They were all thinkers with a somewhat mystical bent, but many things could have been kept within the welcome and necessary boundaries of orthodoxy. (De Lubac, for example, wrote truly beautiful things about the Church and the liturgy.). However, the times being what they were, and the rogue forces at Vatican II having had their way, most of what was good about Teilhard and the others was lost as Catholics did indeed reject the concept of law and dogma entirely and went for pantheism, indifferentism and Gnosticism.

  11. cwillia1 says:

    Useful is one thing; sound is another. The thinking that Cardinal Dulles and Pope Benedict cite sounds very much like the sacramental theology of Alexander Schmemann.

  12. Pope Pius XII condemned Teilhard’s work as “a cesspool of error”.
    This sentence was from Dan Hitchens of the Catholic Herald. When Hitchens quotes Pope Pius XII with such an outlandish statement, he should give the source where he discovered the quote.

    1950 – Pope Pius XII, The encyclical Humani Generis. — “Some (Teilhard, no doubt) imprudently and indiscreetly hold that evolution, which has not been fully proved even in the domain of natural sciences, explains the origin of all things, and audaciously support the monistic and pantheistic opinion that the world is in continual evolution.”

    1996 – Pope John Paul II to the Pontifical Academy of Science. — “Today, almost half a century after the publication of the encyclical, (Humani Generis) new knowledge has led to the recognition of the theory of evolution as more than a hypothesis. It is indeed remarkable that this theory has been progressively accepted by researchers, following a series of discoveries in various fields of knowledge.” The convergence in the results of these independent studies—which was neither planned nor sought—constitutes in itself a significant argument in favor of the theory.

    “We need not concern ourselves with a number of detractors of Teilhard, in whom emotion has blunted intelligence”. Henri Cardinal de Lubac – The Religion of Teilhard de Chardin, 1968.

  13. Legisperitus says:

    All I can think of is the Royal Society for Putting Things on Top of Other Things.
    “What have we been doing wasting our lives with all this nonsense? Right! Okay, meeting adjourned forever!”

  14. Mike says:

    Society or no, the infernal miasma of Teilhardism continues, as it has for two generations and more, to deceive Catholics and deform the Church. May Our Lord, through the intercession of His Blessed Mother, restore His Bride to sanity and sanctity. Sancte Michael Archangele, defende nos in proelio!

  15. Imrahil says:

    Interesting perspectives in the comments, here.

    For my part, I heard once the dismissal (no literaly quote)

    “Teilhard tried to reconcile Science and Theology. As a theologian, he did not manage to keep free from error. As a scientist, he did not manage to get his facts right.”

    At least for people of my character who aren’t paid for it, I guess that’s a rather powerful indication (if true) that it’d rather be a nuisance to ponder his teachings. But maybe, there’s still things worth pondering… if one knows how.

  16. The monitum against Teilhard’s writings would have been rescinded many years ago except that it was feared that academia and the secular media would have a field day charging the church with admitting error in her teaching. They would care little that the monitum was mainly the work of one man, Alfredo Cardinal Ottaviani, Prefect of the Supreme Sacred Congregation of the Holy Office. He had near dictatorial power and tried to silence a Who’s Who of early 20th century Catholic theologians.

    In 1963, the second year of Vatican II, Ottaviani’s domain came under attack when Germany’s Josef Cardinal Frings, Archbishop of Cologne, charged that the Holy Office’s secretive methods were “an object of scandal” to the world. Joseph Ratzinger was the private secretary of Card. Frings. The cardinal was nearly blind by 1962, the year Vatican II opened and he relied on Ratzinger to draft his interventions. It was Joseph Ratzinger who is said to have penned Frings’ famous line about the Holy Office, asserting that its “methods and behavior do not conform to the modern era and are a source of scandal to the world.”

    Pope Paul VI, just after the council closed, ordered a sweeping reorganization of the Holy Office and it became The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

  17. frjim4321 says:

    I know of at least one priest who credits his vocation in part to the influence of Teilhard when he was in eighth grade.

    [Salva nos, Domine.]

  18. Imrahil says:

    Dear Donald Wachtel,

    I do not find that the Church was shy, in the post-conciliar period, to rescind monita.

    I also, though I wasn’t present, have somewhat of a suspicion that you aren’t right when you subscribe Teilhard’s censure to the arbitrary use of power by the Cardinal Secretary of the CDF, whom by the way even the German Wikipedia, not usually a friendly source where conservative Catholic prelates are concerned, describes as “personally an amiable, pastorally interested man, [who] energetically took exception to atheist ideologies, with the Soviet model of Communism in particular”. And then where is the “who’s who” he tried to suppress, other than Teilhard – and, perhaps, Congar, who was left alone when he quit the worker-priest movement as ordered? Rahner’s censure (and I personally know some problematic pieces in Rahner, though his creative vocabulary for baptism-by-desire is not one of them) is usually described as imposed by the Jesuit General, as is that of de Lubac. Balthasar was not censured, nor was Schmaus, nor was Hugo Rahner, to be silent of Garrigou-Langrange.

  19. Jacques says:

    The “cosmic salvation” is one among the utterly ludicrous nonsenses of Fr Teilhard.
    He was able to discern this salvation in the nazi theories of Hitler. His followers more prudently chose to find it in the marxist communism.

  20. Pseudo D says:

    Ok, this is a bit late, but since I’ve made a few comments about PT de C (not to mention Fr. Z!) over at Amazon reviews I thought I should join in. Teachers in my northeastern rural diocese made him into a systematic theologian, which was a bad idea. I have found his spirituality helpful; others obviously point out harms. When I said Fergus Kerr and Robert Royal should have included him in the 20th century lists, that doesn’t mean the influence is good-it means it’s influence, like that of Hans Kung.

    Others have made my points. You have Sheen, F. O’Connor, Ratzinger, Dulles, de Lubac etc. on one side, and others that I totally respect, like Pacelli, von Hildebrand, Garrigou, Maritain and Gilson-but note that most of the latter are more philosophically inclined. What I found interesting was that Thomas White, a strict observance Thomist (see The Incarnate Lord), ended his eschatology in Light of Christ with what seemed to me a very Teilhardian crescendo. He may clarify his meaning, that’s just how I encountered the conclusion to perhaps the book of the year, hailed by Weigel, Royal and Fr. Z.

    This was a mid 20th century controversy involving Pacelli, Garrigou, de Lubac, pure nature,
    monogenism, neo-Scholasticism, Humani Generis, etc, some very complex issues. Let’s say there were a controversy today with, oh, Massimo Faggioli, Tucho Fernandez, Bergoglio, Fr. Tom Weinandy and Josef Siefert. Isn’t it frustrating when Fr. Jim Martin says Weinandy is a dissenter? And yet that’s what happens when very complex issues are divided into good guys and bad guys according to the current regime. That’s why I recently reviewed Roger Haight. The way he responded was not what Teilhard did. They told him to stop and he did.

    I know this story is supposed to be “lighter fare”. There’s certainly much to provide, well, monitum, but I don’t see it as clearly as others seem to. Those who also throw out de Lubac
    and the entire communio school are probably consistent, but that raises debates that are way beyond Teilhard.

  21. TonyO says:

    Imrahil: I think that everything that Chardin said that can somehow be beneficial is said better or free of error elsewhere, and everything good that he says that is obscure or ambiguous is said elsewhere without the obscurity or ambiguity. As a result, reading his works is an exercise in trying to lift the worthwhile tidbit out of the truckload of dross, without any need whatsoever.

    For the comments that Donald Wachtel has quoted from others, including Ratzinger / Benedict: he is shining a light on a terrible, terrible reality of the Church of the 1940s through 1990s (and still going): there was an awful willingness to dally with novelty for the sake of finding something good to say that hadn’t been said before. Novel theologies – including the Nouvelle Theologie itself – along with novel language and novel ideas of morals and man, were all the rage and filled the pages of publications like Communio. What nobody can explain, though, is how such love of novelty as such can be squared with the Catholic mind of the faithful follower of Christ and the Church. If you read what the good, holy, sound bishops of the past said in laying out the truth, such as what they put in the acts and decrees of their holy synods, it is FILLED TO THE BRIM with “we received from the Apostles and the Fathers that X…”, and at the same time filled with either outright condemnations , or at least the gravest of warnings, that “we have never heard that N notion was taught by the Apostles or the holy Fathers…” The love of novelty in theology is a defect, not a sign of “open-mindedness”, for theology (unlike science) is rooted in what we have received from the testimony of the Apostles. There is no virtue in being open-minded to what cannot be found in Scripture and Tradition, when you are doing theology.

    Many like to pretend that calling Chardin’s ideas “poetic” can justify his looseness, his errors, his fruity theology. It doesn’t. If you compare St. Theresa of Avila with Chardin, you don’t see their works pointing to the same Church, the same God, the same nature of the good. Chardin’s points somewhere else.

  22. Justalurkingfool says:

    “I know of at least one priest who credits his vocation in part to the influence of Teilhard when he was in eighth grade.”

    And, I credit my faithfulness to my abandoned marriage to Satan, since I believe, still, that there is a Hell and I still hope to avoid it. So, perhaps this is a substantial reason to name Lucifer a Saint?

    What do you think? It is logical. Sort of.

    Karl

  23. Chris in Maryland 2 says:

    A bedrock problem with Teilhard is that (setting aside his apparently good intentions) his idea of the Omega Point eclipses Jesus Christ, contradicting Jesus’ own words in Revelation.

    Here is what I mean:

    Any of a variety of graphical depictions of Teilhard’s evolution to the Omega Point (OP) show Jesus as a milestone in the process toward the OP.

    But Jesus isn’t a guide or a milestone – he IS the OP – “I am the Alpha and the Omega.”

    Once Teilhard’s idea gets away from him and into other hands, everything falls apart – and Jesus is no longer the destination.

    Real life example, “sister” Laurie Brink, in a keynote speech at a conference of the LCWR (Leadership Council of Women Religious), the “nuns-on-the-bus” dissenting and apostacizing network, pronounced the following: many of our members have “moved beyond Christ.”

    Laurie Brink, in an honest moment, has shown the problem with Teilhard’s idea. If Jesus says he is the Omega, then Teilhard’s idea is misleading and erroneous.

  24. Fr. Reader says:

    Talking about Saint Augustine: ‘Don’t mention that unfortunate man; he spoiled everything by introducing the supernatural.’

    This single phrase by Teilhard is enough for me to consider him irrelevant, not very intelligent, and not worth spending a minute on his books.

  25. The Masked Chicken says:

    I must say that I spent the better part of today researching de Chardin’s theorizing and, for the most part, all I found was Cargo Cult Science.

    The mathematical discipline of Dynamical System’s Theory studies the time-evolution of natural processes using non-linear differential equations. As such, it provides a mathematical structure useful in classifying the different ways that things can evolve. DST can be used to describe any physical system of size larger than the Bohr Limit (which is called the semi-classical limit and separates classical from quantum systems, where quantum systems are subject to the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle, but classical systems are only affected minimally).

    In DST, the trajectory of the evolution is tracked in something called phase space and the trajectory is pulled along (its teleology) by something called an attractor. The set of points the trajectory reaches in the limit as time goes to positive infinity is called the omega set, while the trajectory’s starting set is called the alpha set.

    Now, we do not, yet, have a complete classification of attractors for dimensions higher than 4, but even with the simpler 1-4 dimensional spaces we know that, depending upon the differential equations, more than one type of evolutionary path is possible. The system might die; it might spiral down to zero; it might grow exponentially; it might spirial outward to infinity; it might circle around a point forever; it might form a blurry quasi-circle where one turn around the path is never the same as the last one (called a strange or chaotic attractor).

    The point is that unless de Chardin knows anything about the underlying process of evolution specific to man (hint – he doesn’t), it is the sheerest fantasy to assume that he knows humanity’s path in a very high-dimensional phase space composed of the discrete actions of humans interacting on the social and neurological levels who have free will (unlike other systems).

    He, simply, had no data for his theories, except the very crude data available before almost anything about DNA was known or neuroscience. When he died, he knew nothing about codons or the epigenome and almost nothing about the nonlinear behavior of neurons in the brain. When he died, only a few (like two) protein structures were known.

    What would he say, today, with CRSPR technology allowing single base-pair modification of DNA? Is that an advance towards the Omega Point he envisions? Is the Modern World such a great place with contraception (would he see that as a positive or negative?) and abortion on demand? Would he consider the Atom Bomb a social hiccup on the way to Glory?

    For that matter, how does he know that humanity will spiral outward to the cosmos instead of spiraling inward to death (had he heard of the Fermi Paradox – one solution of which is that every sufficiently advanced civilization, eventually, commits an extinction-level mistake and destroys itself?).

    He pooh-poohed Original Sin as an individual responsibility, claiming that sin was just a result of the natural imperfections in any creative actions of a species, yet he failed to recognize the obvious – that if there were to be a possibility of a cosmic salvation, then there must also be the chance of a cosmic destruction – as the stakes for one rises, so does the other. One wrong miscoded base pair in a virus edited by CRSPR and bye-bye humanity.

    What he so hilariously failed to realize is that along with man’s rational brain would come the ability to raid the game of evolution. We are on the cusp of being the captains of our own DNA destiny, different from any other species on the planet, unbeholden to whatever natural evolution might have in store. We control the vertical; we control the horizontal; we are pushing to the outer limits of the control of ourselves, but what has it brought us – abortion, contraception, nuclear threats. One would have thought that the first atom bomb would have made him reconsider his stance on Original Sin. It certainly did with Oppenheimer. Some Omega Point.

    He is writing nothing but speculation based on no facts and a head-in-the-sand attitude towards real, human sin. He, further, calls Christ a liar, because Christ explicitly says the world will not end in a bright and rosy Omega point. Christ knew humanity’s sins, individually and corporately. De Chardin may have been a paleontologist, but he, certainly, did not know how to examine dead men’s bones. All around him are the fossils of Original Sin. Perhaps, if he hadn’t discarded the evidence in front of his face, he might have been desperate to bring the true remedy of Christ to mankind. It is easy to be a mystic when sin is nothing more than a whoops, a little creative mistake. I submit, however, that there is no true mystic who does not know the pain in the human heart.

    All of this, all of this suffering in the Church, today, has come about because a small group of theologians in the last 100 years or so fancied themselves to be either mystics or scientists, but they didn’t have either the humility of the mystic or the skepticism (especially of themselves) of the scientist. How much of the theology of today is based on Cargo Cult methodology, which assumes that just because the theologian wants something to be true it must be true? Only time will tell. De Chardin failed to realize that even if man doesn’t have an omega point, the Truth does have a limit of patients for its suppression or misrepresentation (shall we call that a sin?) and, eventually, the truth will revolt and burst forth and no one will be able to hide from it.

    That will be a glorious day.

    The Chicken

  26. TonyO says:

    and, eventually, the truth will revolt and burst forth and no one will be able to hide from it.

    Or, THE glorious day. But some will shout for the mountains to cover them.

    Chicken, that whole comment was great, thank you. It just goes to show: if you are going to hitch your wagon of faith on “our religion doesn’t contradict science” on a specific account of science “explaining” your religion, you darn well better make sure that the science is right. Which de Chadin’s wasn’t.

    The only reason to get really into his account of man and “the Omega man” is because one is not satisfied with the Christian account of man. For they are not the same.

  27. Pseudo D says:

    Toward the end of Phenomenon of Man (maybe p. 246 or so out of 280 or so)
    he says something about an “artificially provoked neo-life”. I remember not
    understanding exactly what that means, but being concerned if it is being
    presented as a positive development. Being more of a right-brained person,
    I preferred the Divine Milieu and Prayer of the Universe with their mysticism
    based on broadly scientific themes but not too specific.