Saturday, May 3, 2014


[Part One can be found here]

We continue with Henri Rambaud's important study, which might be a case history of what can go wrong when you forget the Church's past wisdom.

A New Modernism
By now readers will probably be less surprised when we say that the question of Teilhard’s faith does not seem a very difficult problem to us.

It is impossible to maintain that Teilhard's faith, as he expresses it in his writings, is the unadulterated Catholic faith, since he thinks that the present age of mankind requires that Christ’s Revelation take to itself a new and essential element, a faith in the world - one never mentioned in the Gospels but which occupies in fact the first place in Teilhard's thought.

One may even wonder whether Teilhard's faith (as revealed in his writings,) being thus the resultant of two distinct faiths - of which the preponderant one is not Catholic - has any right to claim that it is Christian. It undoubtedly includes elements which come from the teaching of Christ; but the additions Teilhard has brought in, play such a vital part that it would be franker to call it a new faith which merely claims to be the Catholic Faith.

It is not, in any case, the faith of the Catholic Church, and it is small wonder that, through the Holy Office, the organ qualified to speak in her name, the Church has thought it necessary to declare that she does not recognise herself in Teilhard's writings.

In fact, Teilhard’s religion is unmistakably a Modernism, though it is not the Modernism of the 1900's, for which he had little time, uninterested as he was in problems of exegesis. But a Modernism it is nevertheless, if by Modernism we understand the preservation of the formulae of doctrine emptied of their meaning, in order to adapt the Faith of the Church to the so-called requirements of modern science.

When we have isolated the essence of Teilhardism, another problem remains to be solved; did Teilhard know or did he not know that his faith was not that of the Church? There do exist such things as saving illusions, and if ever a man was prone to illusions, Teilhard was; it is not impossible that, whilst thinking in fact differently from the Church, he was not conscious of the fact and believed that he could remain in her without dishonesty. The unanimous testimony of those who knew him personally shows that he was submissive in an exemplary manner to his superiors. To what extent did this external submission reflect a submission of his inner self? Was it entirely sincere, half sincere or not sincere at all? This is the question we now intend to consider in the light of one of Teilhard's letters which is as important as it is little known. We shall be considered ruthless for so doing. But Father Teilhard has acquired too much authority over the minds of so many people, and this authority depends too closely on his sincerity as a believer for any consideration to prevail over the search for truth.

Besides, even after the revelation of this secret aspect of Teilhard, the answer to our questions will not by a long way be easy to formulate.

The Document 'hidden under a bushel'
The document which follows is not an unpublished one. It can be found on pages 196-198 of ‘Le Concile et Teilhard, L'Eternel et l' Humain, a book by Maxime Gorde, published by Editions Henri Messeiller, Neuchâtel, Switzerland, dated 1963 without any further details. But nowadays even more than in the days of Brunetière, a truly unknown text is often one that is already in print, and it is a fact that, however important it may be, or perhaps because of its very importance, this published letter has remained discreetly in the obscurity to which pudenda are usuaIIy relegated by the respectable.

However, to be perfectly honest, we should say that, even before its publication, at least one person other than the addressees had had knowledge of this letter. M Claude Cuénot, on page 331 of his book Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, les grandes étapes de son évolution, published in 1958 quoted three lines from it which, separated as they unfortunately are from their context, tend in the book to give a completely false impression of Teilhard's attitude.

Better still, the episode is told by Fr Pierre d'Ouince in his essay L'Epreuve de l'obéissance dans la vie du Père Teilhard de Chardin, to be found in L'Homme devant Dieu, III, pp 332-346, published on February 25, 1964; but if Fr d'Ouince knows that this letter exists, the manner in which he speaks about it shows that he has not read it, either because it had not yet been published at the time when he wrote his essay or because he had not been able to lay hands on it.

His testimony is nevertheless useful, and all the more so both by what it adds to Teilhard's letter and, ironically, by the discrepancies which exist between this testimony and the letter itself.

An incriminating letter
We must imagine ourselves at no 15, rue Monsieur, in the majestic residence of Etudes (7) where Teilhard then lived with Fr d'Ouince as his Superior. At the end of September 1950, or maybe in the very first days of October (the encyclical Humani Generis having appeared on the preceding 12 August), Teilhard received a letter from a certain Fr G an ex-Dominican who had broken with his Order and left the Church. This person, 'guessing his difficulties', according to Fr. d'Ouince, (for Humani Generis, though it did not name Chardin, was clearly directed against him), invited Teilhard to follow his example and join him in the small dissident community of the 'Old Catholics', who reject papal infallibility. At once Teilhard went to see Fr d'Ouince, who had never seen him in such a state: he was 'beside himself, positively scandalised'. 'How could G have thought of such a thing!'

Teilhard, adds Fr d'Ouince, sent Fr G 'a long and clearly indignant letter, in which he explained that the "Roman phylum alone bore, in his view, the future of the world".'(8) It is this reply from Teilhard, dated 4 October, that we are about to transcribe in full in the original French. We shall then successively quote each of its four paragraphs in translation, adding such comments as are necessary for the understanding of the text.

Teilhard's Letter.

"Hier, je vous ai envoyé trois petits essais, pour vous expliquer ma position présente (Le Coeur du Problème est un mémoire effectivement envoyé à Rome sans résultat naturellement...., donc pas d'illusions).

"Essentiellement, je considère comme vous que l'Eglise (comme toute réalité vivante au bout d'un certain temps ) arrive à une période de "mue" ou "reforme nécessaire". Au bout de deux mille ans, c'est inévitable. L'humanité est en train de muer. Comment le christianisme ne devrait-il pas le faire. Plus précisément, je considère que la Reforme en question (beaucoup plus profonde que celle du XVIème siècle) n'est plus une simple affaire d’institution et de moeurs, mais de foi. En quelque facon, notre image de Dieu s'est dédoublée: transversalement (si je puis dire) au Dieu traditionnel et transcendant de l'En Haut, une sorte de Dieu de l'En-Avant surgit pour nous, depuis un siecle, en direction de quelque "Ultra humain". A mon avis tout est là. Il s'agit pour l'Homme de repenser Dieu en termes, non plus de Cosmos, mais de Cosmogénèse: un Dieu qui ne s'adore et ne s'atteint qu'à travers l'achèvement d'un Univers qu'il illumine et amorise (et irréversibilise) du dedans. Oui, l'En-Haut et l'En-Avant se synthétisant dans un Au-dedans.

"Or, ce geste fondamental de l'enfantement d'une nouvelle Foi pour la Terre (Foi en l'En-Haut' combinée avec la Foi en l'En-Avant), seul, je crois (et j'imagine que vous êtes de mon avis), seul le christianisme peut le faire, â partir de l'étonnante réalité de son "Christ-Ressuscité": non pas entité abstraite, mais objet d'un large courant mystique, extraordinairement adaptif et vivace, J'en suis convaincue c'est d'une Christologie nouvelle étendue aux dimensions organiques de notre nouvel Univers que s'apprête à sortir la Religion de demain.

"Ceci posé (et c'est là que nous différons: mais la Vie ne procède-t-elle pas par bonnes volontés tâtonnantes?), ceci posé, je ne vois toujours pas de meilleur moyen pour moi de promouvoir ce que j'anticipe que de travailler à la réforme (comme définie ci-dessus) du dedans: c'est-à-dire en attachement sincère au "phylum" dont j'attends le développement. Très sincèrement (et sans vouloir critiquer votre geste!) je ne vois que dans la tige romaine, prise dans son intégralité, le support biologique assez vaste et assez différencié pour opérer et supporter la transformation attendue. Et ceci n'est pas pure spéculation. Depuis cinquante ans, j'ai vu de trop près autour de moi se revitaliser la pensée et la vie chrétienne — malgré toute Encyclique — pour ne pas avoir une immense confiance dans les puissances de réanimation de la vieille tige romaine. Travaillons chacun de notre côte. Tout ce qui monte converge. Bien cordialement vôtre. Teilhard de Ch."

First paragraph

'Yesterday, I sent you three short essays to explain my present position (Le Coeur du Problème is a memo which I in fact sent to Rome but without any result, let us have no illusions).'

Le Coeur du Problème, dated September 8 1949, and to be found in Vol V of his Oeuvres, p 337-349, is one of Teilhard's writings in which his doctrine of the two faiths is expressed with most force and clarity. There is even a graph for those too slow to understand:

0 y, Catholic Faith, ascensional in a personal Upwards transcendary; 0 x Faith in man, propulsive Forwards, in the ultra-human; OR (Is it necessary to explain that this constitutes the bisectrix y =x), "rectified" (i.e. "explicited") Catholic Faith solving the problem: Salvation (the way out) is at the same time Upwards and Forwards, in a Christ Who is Saviour and Motor, not only of human individuals, but also of the whole Anthropogenesis.

This is not very intricate, as we can see and, in fact, the thesis of Le Coeur du Problème is disarming in its simplicity. Teilhard thinks that in view of the 'new immensity of the Universe', the God offered to contemporary man has become too small. Having failed to keep in step with the development of mankind, Catholicism has lost its attraction for modern man whilst another, more attractive faith shows him salvation not Upwards but Forwards, 'prolonging the immanent forces of Evolution'.

However, 'taken by itself, this faith in the World is not enough to move the Earth Forward, any more than the Catholic Faith in its old explicitation was enough to lift the World Upwards.' We must., therefore 'find means of combining the two' and 'Faith in God, assimilating and sublimating in its own essence the essence of the faith in the World, will regain its full power to attract and convert' this 'host of spiritually displaced persons', which is increasing so tragically, these beings torn between a Marxism which revolts them by its depersonalising action and a Christianity which sickens them by its human tepidness. For it is because it lacks the necessary dose of 'human faith and hope' that Christianity today seems such an 'insipid, cold and inassimilable’ faith. But 'if, on the contrary, it becomes possible (and this is already and ineluctably beginning to take place, under the pressure of opposing forces) to believe (9) simultaneously and completely both in God and the World, and to believe in each in and through the other, then it is certain that a huge flame will enkindle all things; a Faith will be born, or at least re-born, containing and summing up all other faiths and because it is inevitably the strongest Faith it will sooner or later end up by possessing the earth.'

The page is not lacking in eloquence. The reader, however, will hardly be surprised that Rome answered that she 'failed to see the advantage or the soundness of an apologetic based on faith in man; for the Church the only firm value for the future is eternal Life.' (10) But let us return to the text of Teilhard's letter.

Second paragraph

'Basically I consider - as you do - that the Church (like any living reality after a certain time) reaches a period of "mutation" or "necessary reformation" after two thousand years, it is unavoidable. Mankind is undergoing a mutation, how could Catholicism not do the same? To be more precise, I consider that the reformation in question (much more profound a one than that of the 16th century ) is no longer a simple matter of institutions and ethics but a matter of faith. Somehow our image of God has become two-fold. At right angles (so to speak) to the traditional and transcendent "Upward" God, a kind of "'Forward" God has, in the last century, been springing forth for us, moving in the direction of the "Ultra-human". In my opinion, this is the crux of the matter. Man now has to rethink God not in terms of Cosmos, but in terms of Cosmogenesis: a God who can be adored and attained only through the elaboration of the Universe which he illuminates and amorises (and renders irreversible) from within. Yes, the Upward and the Forward together form a synthesis, and this is the Inward.'

The last two lines of this paragraph only repeat the thesis already stated in Le Coeur du Problème. But the first lines add elucidations which Teilhard, (it is easy to see why), had not sent to Rome; for he was not quite as candid (11) as he would like to have us believe.

Compared with our extracts from Le Coeur du Problème, and with our summing-up of this essay, the present paragraph goes much further. The essay spoke of a 'rectified, explicated, re-born Catholic faith'; the present letter looks forward to a mutation of Catholicism, a mutation which chiefly concerns faith' and the next paragraph will mention the 'birth of a new faith'. In the essay, therefore, the reference is to the traditional Catholic Faith - only to one that has become better understood and that has been restored to its original purity. But in the letter, the reference is to a faith that is not yet born, a substantially new faith. The difference is very noticeable and nobody will reproach us with unfairness if we look for the true Teilhard in the letter rather than in the essay. In a letter written to a dissident priest, he had no reason for making his thought appear less orthodox than it was, whereas he had many reasons for not revealing the whole of his thought in a text ad usum infidelium, if one may thus describe the theologians at Rome. He knew full well that they would never accept his attack against the dogma of the immutability of the Faith.

Two conclusions derive from this. The first is that Teilhard was quite capable of varying the frankness with which he unveiled his thought according to the identity of his correspondent. It is true that calculated cunning, conscious insincerity was foreign to his basic character. But we should be painting him as more naive than he really was, and actually misunderstanding him, if we asserted (dare we say 'candidly'?) that he never made any 'concessions' or took any 'precautions' (12) in his writings. In fact, the audacity of his thesis was such that in his dealings with Rome he was obliged to present them with enough clarity for them to make their impact, and yet to dress them up sufficiently skilfully for them to have some chance of not being suppressed at first sight.

Three years later, Teilhard admits this practice in The Stuff of the Universe, one of his most revealing essays, written to tell 'the story, the strength and the joy of an existence that is now drawing to its end.' Here we find the revelatory phrase: 'I write for once without worrying about the orthodoxy (scientific or religious) of what I write... (13)' In other words, he usually did care which would be commendable if it were not restricted to the mere outward expression.

Is there any reason to think that it was only in his dealings with Rome that he kept a watch over his pen and tongue? The situation was not so very different when he was dealing with his fellows in religion. Consequently it seems to me that instead of lauding Teilhard’s 'total' frankness(14) to the skies, his fellow clerics would be better advised to remember La Rochefoucauld's maxim that 'however sceptical we may be of the sincerity of those who speak to us, we are always sure they are more truthful to us than to others.' It might well be, after all, that they have simply been too credulous.

Our second conclusion is far more important since it calls Teilhard's very faith itself in question. Yet we have to do this if we are going to be honest. Once we have read his letter we can no longer see Teilhard's intentions as a mere 'ressourcement’ (as people would say nowadays) – a revitalisation of the Faith by a return to the purer inspiration of its origins. In any case such a return is incompatible with the irreversible forward surge of Evolution. No, what Teilhard is looking forward to is quite a different thing. It is nothing less than a 'mutation' which he might just as well have called in his jargon 'the crossing of a critical threshold' a mutation moreover which will affect not only the institutions and ethics of the Faith (fields in which changes on some points may well be conceived as possible and desirable), but one which will affect the Faith itself, a mutation on the whole 'much more profound than that of the 16th century'. And when we say that he looks forward to this, the time-lag is not for him but only for others. For it is a matter of faith, a faith which in a near future, the Church will inevitably come to profess; therefore Teilhard himself already believes in it firmly. For him personally, the mutation has already taken place.

But the first Reformation was called a heresy by the Church; how can Teilhard's Reformation escape a similar charge?

However, only recently, Fr de Lubac has guaranteed Teilhard's 'absolute loyalty to Catholicism'. According to the former, Teilhard's wording might well offend orthodoxy here and there – but then all theologians run this risk – but he never had any intention of offending against orthodoxy. 'Fr Teilhard has always been careful to remain, in his inner self and in his writings, theologically and traditionally in agreement with the Faith of the Church,' (15) Fr de Lubac's authority is great, and we cannot help but be touched by this defence of one who can no longer speak for himself by one who feels it his duty to speak in his name. But precisely because Fr de Lubac's authority is so great, it behoves us, at whatever cost, to make it absolutely clear that his friendship for Teilhard, praiseworthy in itself, has misled him and is misleading countless trusting readers to the point where they prefer to base their judgment on Teilhard on the books of such a learned scholar rather than on the biased judgment and narrow-minded attitude of the Holy Office! Why ever do such readers not complete their reading of de Lubac's two books by reading Teilhard himself? They would discover a Catholic very different from the one described by Fr de Lubac, and they would probably find the severity of Rome more understandable.

Indeed, how can one reconcile Teilhard's two attitudes — his desire to remain loyal to the faith of the Church, and his profession (in a private letter, it is true) of a new Christian faith, and one that he declares to be more profoundly new than the Lutheran or Calvinist faiths which the Church has declared heretical? No logic, no argument however subtle can harmonise these two attitudes in one mind at one time. Are we to consider Teilhard's innovation as the outcome of a momentary error? But this is ruled out by the many pages in his writings which tend to the same conclusion, though less openly(16). In fact, the only exceptional feature of the present letter is its frankness. It is invaluable inasmuch as it casts a glaring light upon Teilhard's thought, but it is hardly the first source to reveal it. It merely confirms in an unmistakable way what was already more than a probability before the letter was published.

We are not saying that Teilhard was not sincere: he obviously believed himself to be right. We are not saying that he did not have the faith; he certainly believed in Jesus Christ. What we are saying is simply that his faith was not that of the Catholic Church, and that he knew it. After all, he had studied enough to know that the Faith of the Church is a faith in the words of Jesus Christ and that consequently this faith cannot change substantially. He knew that it is the privilege of the Magisterium (i.e. the succession of the Roman pontiffs from St Peter to Pius XII, since the letter was written in 1950) to determine the meaning of that faith. He must have known, therefore, that he was doubly at variance with the Church's faith. By his misunderstanding (wilful or not) of the nature of Revelation, he was calling for a renewal of the substance of the Faith, contrary to defined dogma. And he was guilty of disobedience to the Magisterium in reproaching the Church with not realising that the Faith she teaches is out-of-date.

It must be added that this disagreement with the Church did not worry him much. He was far too sure of what he 'saw', as he liked to put it. The Magisterium was sensible, sooner or later it would see its mistake and agreement would be reached by the ‘ineluctable' conversion of the Church of Rome, 'under the pressure of opposing forces', to the faith required by our times, that faith of which he, Fr Teilhard de Chardin, was called by 'special vocation' (17) to be the prophet. In this second sense he was perfectly sincere in calling himself a Christian and even a Roman Catholic since, in his own eyes, the only disagreement between himself and the Church arose from the fact that he was already thinking then what the Church did not yet know she would be thinking shortly. He was not unfaithful to the Church, he was ahead of her, and consequently, was more representative of the Church than the elderly men who were her official representatives and who, owing to their great age, sometimes 'nodded’ like Old Homer. The old leaders had forgotten to wind up the Church's clock; Teilhard's watch shows the right time, the time shown on the dial of Humanity itself.

Third paragraph

'This fundamental act, the birth of a new faith for the world (faith in the 'Upward’ combined with faith in the 'Forward'), I believe that only Christianity, (and I imagine that you will agree, with me), only Christianity can carry it out, starting from the wonderful reality of its 'resurrected’ Christ, seen not as an abstract entity but as the objective of a vast mystical trend which is astonishingly adaptable and full of life. I am convinced of it: The religion of the future is on the point of springing forth from a new Christology stretched to the organic dimensions of our new universe.’

The leading idea of the second paragraph was the dual aspect of our image of God as required by the present age of mankind. The third paragraph entrusts Christianity (in fact Catholicism) with the carrying out of the operation. Why? Here Teilhard’s mental processes are worth close attention.

Note first of all that what he considers as ‘fundamental’ is not the message of Christ; it is the ‘birth of a new faith for the world (faith in the ‘Upward’ combined with faith in the ‘Forward’), because, as we have seen him explain in The Heart of the Problem, without this fusion, each faith by itself remains powerless. Taken by itself, faith in the Forward cannot succeed in making the World progress, nor can faith in the Upward succeed in uplifting it. Both lack an essential element, each of them needs the other as a vital complement. In other words, this ‘new faith’ is nothing but a means to an end; what Teilhard really believes in is something far beyond it, namely Evolution, considered in its two-fold dogmatic and ethical aspect. Evolution is above all the certitude implies, for man, the duty to contribute both to the material and spiritual progress of the World. Thus religions have vis-à-vis Evolution, only a subordinate role to play, though this role is indispensable; they are the Motive Force which makes the engine work, they provide man with the energy required by that ‘Anthropogenesis in full stride’(18) which is taking place in our time. And since experience shows that neither faith in the ‘Upward’ nor faith in the ‘Forward’ are sufficient if taken separately, Teilhard concludes that the two must be brought into synthesis.

It is Catholic Christianity alone which can bring about this synthesis, according to Teilhard, because the Catholic Faith, ‘rooted in the notion of Incarnation, has always, in its structure, attached great importance to the tangible values of the World and of matter.’(19)

There would be nothing to object to in this way of reaching Catholicism, provided Catholicism was indeed the goal. It is no more objectionable than it would be to start from moral conscience to arrive at the conclusion that this implies the existence of God as its basis. Yet even here, it would be necessary, once one had arrived at God as the basis of ethics, not to make one's idea of God depend on the ethics which one had (quite legitimately) used as one's starting-point, and which might have to undergo some corrections in order to become fully the Moral Law established by God. Teilhard is thus perfectly entitled to reach Revelation through his belief in Evolution, even if the procedure may seem somewhat unusual. But, once he has reached Revelation, it would clearly be unjustifiable on his part to claim that Revelation must be tailored to fit within the limits of his belief in Evolution. It would mean that he believes more firmly in Evolution than in Jesus Christ; it would mean that he prefers his own personal opinion to God's very word.

Yet that is what he does when he asks for ‘a new Christology stretched to the organic dimensions of our new Universe’. The only Christ he will accept is one who fits into his system. This could of course be due just to Teilhard’s inability to understand anything outside his own highly personal way of thinking – a common weakness, and one to which we are all prone. We could excuse him if that were all. What is serious is the incredible self- assurance with which Teilhard sets up this Christology of the future against that taught by the Magisterium to the point where he claims that from it will spring a religion so different from the Catholicism of the Popes and the Councils that he calls it ‘the Religion of the Future’.

If anyone feels we are distorting the sense of Teilhard’s statement, our answer is that three years later, in Stuff of the Universe the unhappy man made no secret of the amount of Christian doctrine he was prepared to threw overboard in order (as he expressed it) to ‘pay for’ the vision he needed as urgently as a drug-addict craves his drug. And it emerged that it was nothing less than the ‘definitive’ element the very core of dogma that was to be ‘reshaped’:

‘I have come to the conclusion that, in order to pay for a drastic valorization and amorisation of the substance of things, a whole series of reshapings of certain representations or attitudes which seem to us definitely fixed by Catholic dogma has become necessary if we sincerely wish to Christify Evolution. Seen thus, and because of ineluctable necessity, one could say that a hitherto unknown form of religion (a religion hitherto unimaginable and indescribable, since until now the Universe has not been large enough or organic enough to contain it) is gradually germinating in the heart of modern Man, in the furrow opened by the idea of Evolution.’

The reader will see now that we have not exaggerated anything. 'Far from feeling my faith perturbed by such a profound change (he goes on), it is with hope and overflowing joy that I welcome the rise of this new mystique, and foresee its inevitable triumph'. (20) This is sheer delirium, He believes in Revelation but, by an extraordinary alteration of course, he does not so much submit to It as use It for his own purposes. For the object of his enthusiasm is not the 'good tidings' revealed by Christ, but the unexpected and marvellous illumination which his religion will receive from 'the idea of Evolution'. Rarely has Catholicism been more boldly emptied of its substance under pretext of expanding it.

One cannot see much room in this new Christology for the person of Christ as revealed in the New Testament. It is true that Teilhard believes in His historical authenticity. It is nevertheless strange that he proclaims the reality of 'Christ Resurrected' and yet he turns towards Him not because Christ loved us first, but only because He is the source and goal of the 'mystical trend' best able to adapt to the new conditions in which mankind finds itself. He would not express himself differently if the 'Resurrected Christ' were in his eyes no more than a particularly useful myth.

But the last paragraph of his letter is even more revealing. We must remember that Teilhard is writing to a priest. We must also remember that Fr d'Ouince, relating his conversation with Teilhard, wrote that the letter was ‘an obviously indignant one’. Obviously? Let us take a look as this indignation in the text.

Fourth paragraph
'Having stated my views (and it is here that we differ: but it is surely thus that life advances, by the groping of men of goodwill?), having stated my views, I still do not see any better means of bringing about what I anticipate than to work towards the reformation (as defined above) from within: that is, by remaining sincerely attached to the 'phylum' whose development I expect to see. In all sincerity (and without any attempt to criticise the step you have taken), I find that only the Roman stem, taken in its entirety, can provide a biological support vast enough and varied enough to carry out and underpin the transformation to which I look forward21. And this is not pure speculation. In the course of the last fifty years I have watched the revitalisation of Catholic thought and life taking place around me - in spite of all the encyclicals - too closely not to have an unbounded confidence in the ability of the old Roman stem to revivify itself. Let us work each of us in our separate spheres. All upward movements converge.

Yours very sincerely

Teilhard de Ch.'

That is all, absolutely all. We have suppressed nothing. Are we to believe that Teilhard had so exhausted his indignation in his talk with Fr d'Ouince that he had none left when he wrote his letter?

However, the gist of this paragraph is obviously the profession of 'sincere attachment' to the old 'Roman stem', by which Teilhard makes more explicit what he had written about Christianity in the preceding paragraph, giving the species after the genus, according to the traditional order in apologetics.

One word in this text has no doubt surprised readers who are not necessarily conversant with The Phenomenon of Man. 'What an idea (they probably think to call Catholicism a phylum! Why can’t these scientists talk like everyone else? But to do this it would be necessary for Teilhard to think like everyone else? And this this he is so far from doing. Teilhard does not call Catholicism a phylum out of pedantry or for stylistic effect. He calls it a phylum, because he means phylum, because phylum is the exact term to express what he means.

For those who do not know it already – and there would be no shame in this – a phylum (22) in Teilhard’s language, is an ‘evolutive group of forces’ endowed with its own power and its own law of autonomous development. (23) To call Catholicism a phylum amounts therefore to considering it under two aspects, as an institution ‘rooted in the Past and yet in incessant evolution’.(24) Does this amount in other words, to an interest in the History of the Church? Not quite, for Teilhard is strangely enough, not interested in History or in any subject where study will yield a certain amount of reliable exact knowledge; he only likes vast imaginative syntheses. What he is doing when he calls the Church a phylum is researching into the genesis of Catholicism, in the same way as he enquires into Cosmogenesis, Biogenesis, Noogenesis and all other ‘geneses’; he is thinking Catholicism not in terms of Church history but in terms of Evolution. And here of course, in the Teilhardian context, is where things go wrong.

For his terminology, which at first sight seems just out-of-the-way, fundamentally transforms the religious problem and at the same time shows us how Modernist is Teilhard's mode of thought, placing as it does the search for Life before the search for Truth. The question used to be, 'Which is the true religion?' Now the question is, 'Which is the religion whose phylum is in line with 'the main axis of Evolution'?' (25) And if you doubt whether the difference is of any importance, read again the reason given by Teilhard for his attachment to the Church. Is it because the Church has received a promise from Jesus Christ? Not at all. It is because She has received promises from Evolution, because She alone provides a 'support vast enough and varied enough to...' etc. It is still, if you like, attachment to a Church whose supernatural nature (though Teilhard does not of course deny it) is no longer present in his mind.

Let us now consider not what Teilhard says, but what he does. Why does he not accept his correspondent's suggestion? Was it so very silly of Father G to invite Teilhard to abandon a Church whose faith -he no longer shared? What are the reasons Teilhard gives for his illogical attitude?

We have already given his chief reason instead of being in agreement with the Church of today, he is in agreement with the Church of tomorrow, since Life cannot fail to prove stronger than Encyclicals, and in particular stronger then Humani Generis, the one that was aimed at him. No last-ditch resistance will hold up the progress of the world and, just as man has become the growing-point of physical Evolution, the Church will remain the privileged phylum through which passes the axis of Christogenesis. Why should he leave Her?

One can see a possible reason. Teilhard is 'anticipating', as he himself says, and his conscience might not feel at ease in this position. It is true that he feels that the Church and he will come to agree on fundamentals one day – this for him is certain. But he is also sure that this agreement has not yet been signed. Has he, therefore, any right to behave as if it had? Would it not have been more honest, so long as the disagreement lasted, to wait outside the Church for the moment when She would catch him up and at last do him justice?

This certainly would seem to have been the most upright course of action. It would have been painful, but it would at least have respected the truths of both parties. Teilhard would not have had to sacrifice any of his convictions or practise any deceit. Why did he not choose this solution?

He did not choose it for a reason which his letter states without the slightest ambiguity. He did not leave the Church because he felt he could work more effectively for 'the Reformation (as defined above)', i.e. a Reformation 'far more profound than that of the 16th century', 'from within’.

This amounts to saying that Teilhard remained within the Church in order to spread more easily views which he knew the Church (let us say, to please him, the 'Church of today') could not help but call a heresy.

End of part Two.  Go to part Three.


7 Etudes — an intellectual monthly review edited by the French Jesuits.
8 L'Homme devant Dieu, vol III, pp 342-343
9 In a Christ perceived no longer as merely the Saviour of individual souls, but (precisely because he is a Redeemer in the full sense of the word) as 'the ultimate Motor of Anthropogenesis’. (Teilhard's own footnote)
10 Claude Cuénot, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, Les grandes étapes, p 328.
11 Cf. Oeuvres, col V, pp. 339-340: 'For the use of those who, better placed than I am, have the responsibility for leading the Church, directly or indirectly, I should like to say candidly in the following pages...' etc. And further on: 'Candidly, I insist. Not that I am giving a lesson: this would be pretentious on my part. Far less am I criticising; for it is not my place to do so. I only wish to give an account of my life....' etc.
12 Henri de Lubac, La pensée religieuse du Père Teilhard de Chardin, p 18.
13 Oeuvres, VII, pp 397-398
14 Henri de Lubac, La Prière du Père Teilhard de Chardin
15 La Prière du Père Teilhard de Chardin p 185 and note 4.
16 To say the least of it! The last pages of The Stuff of the Universe (Oeuvres, vol VII; pp 404-406 go pretty far in this direction.
17 Retreat of 1940: 'Grace (in sense of) following my light, my special vocation,' La Prière du Père Teilhard de Chardin, p 96 note 3.
18 Le goût de vivre, November, 1950; (OEuvres, vol VII, p 247), On the same theme, see also: Réflexions sur la probabilité scientifique et les conséquences religieuses d'un Ultra-Humain, March 25, 1951 (OEuvres, vol VII, pp 279-291).
19 The Heart of the Problem, Oeuvres, vol V, p. 347.
20 Oeuvres, vol VII, pp 405-406.
21 The sentence is the one quoted by M Claude Cuénot in his Père Teilhard de Chardin, les grandes étapes, p 331, in the following form; '(...) I find that only the Roman stem, taken in its integrity ('prise dans son intégrité'] can provide a biological support vast enough and varied enough to carry out and underpin the transformation to which I look forward.' This quotation was copied by Fr de Lubac in his Pensée religieuse, p 340, note 4, without the suspension marks but with the same faulty reading ('intégrité' instead of 'Intégralité'). Fr de Lubac moreover adds an explanatory parenthesis '...the transformation (of Mankind) to which I look forward.' This is wrong; the context (which, it would seem, Lubac had not read) shows that it is the transformation of Catholicism which Teilhard meant, as is already clearly shown by the words 'carry out'.
22 Phylum - in biology the term is used in classification to designate a principal sub-division of a kingdom thus, the vertebrates constitute a phylum within the animal kingdom.
23 Le Phénomène humain, Oeuvres, vol I, p. 123 (page 326 in the English fontana version of Phenomenon of Man).
24 Ibid., p 332
25 Le Phénomène humain, OEuvres, col I p. 332 ( English Fontana edition p. 326).

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