Pantheism (letter)

Pantheism (letter)

Fr G.H. Duggan

Graham Fallon's description of Teilhard de Chardin as "a mystic or 'seer' in the Catholic tradition" is much too favourable.

Teilhard never expounded his thought in systematic form, but there is not the slightest doubt that he had a system or that this system was a form of evolutionary pantheism.

Teilhard himself admitted this. The censors appointed by his Superior General to scrutinise his book The Phenomenon of Man refused to grant a nihil obstat and it was published posthumously. Teilhard commented one day to a confrere that the refusal did not surprise him because, although he had expressed himself very cautiously, they had seen that his thought was a form of pantheism.

He incorporated in his system some items of Christian doctrine, considerably 'reinvented', such as the Incarnation and the presence of Christ in the Eucharist, but he resolutely excluded Original Sin, for he saw that, however much it might be watered down, it could never be plausibly incorporated in his system.

When Pope Pius XII published his encyclical Humani Generis in 1950, every perceptive reader knew that one of its main targets was Teilhardism.

Before he died in 1955, Teilhard had bequeathed his multitudinous manuscripts to a group of disciples in France who soon began publishing books based on them. This led the Holy Office in 1962 to issue a monitum or warning in which it declared Teilhard's works to be full of grave theological and philosophical errors. It also ordered seminaries not to put them in their libraries.

In 1968 the Mercier Press of Cork, Ireland, published Teilhardism and the Faith. This set out and criticised many of his leading ideas, many of which sprang from his erroneous notion of being. It discussed, among other topics, his fanciful theory that all matter, even a tiny molecule, is endowed with consciousness.

The final sentence of the book reads: "Teilhardism is a bold synthesis and, though less coherent than the systems of Spinoza and Hegel, it has a range and vitality that makes it attractive to many minds. Unfortunately, it is not compatible with the Christian faith."

Upper Hutt, New Zealand

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