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January 2012

This article serves as a companion piece to The Quintessential Evolutionist [Feb. 2009] in which the author explored Joseph Ratzinger’s evolutionary views in regard to Revelation and Catholic Dogma.

A Living Host

~ PART II ~

The Teilhardism of Joseph Ratzinger

JAMES LARSON

"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

I offer again the statement of Pope Benedict from his homily at Aosta. Having analyzed the philosophy and theology of Teilhard de Chardin in Part I, these words should now take on immense, and immanently frightening, significance for any traditional Catholic.

It is, of course, almost a knee-jerk response for any good Catholic to instinctively diffuse the import of such an outrageous statement made by a reigning Pope. Somehow, we think, he does not really mean it — he does not understand Teilhard, and has not read him in depth. The fact is, however, that the opposite is true. In his book Introduction to Christianity (Ignatius Press, 2004), Joseph Ratzinger quotes from five of Teilhard’s works, including The Heart of Matter which I made the principle subject of my analysis in Part I. He has read Teilhard, he understands Teilhard, and he has accepted, with minor qualifications, the “Great Vision” of Teilhard.

In order to be able to understand the present Pope’s “Teilhardism,” we need to do some preparatory examination of his particular evolutionary views. Again, we tend to have a “diffused” view concerning the evil involved in the acceptance of evolutionary theory, and especially the consequences attendant upon having a Pope who is a convinced evolutionist. This is fostered by a number of factors.

We tend, for instance, to think of all so-called Christian evolutionists as coming from that camp of “Theistic Evolutionists” who believe that at a certain stage of physical evolution, God infused a soul into a being who was hitherto an animal. Joseph Ratzinger absolutely rejects such a view. His evolutionary view is very different, and as we shall see, much more destructive to the Catholic Faith.

We also tend to minimize the evil of evolutionary belief because of all the prominent Catholics who have believed in evolution: “After all, Bishop Sheen was an evolutionist.” Yes, Bishop Sheen was an evolutionist. He also had read Teilhard de Chardin, embraced his central concepts and terminology, and even went so far as to say that in 50 years it would be very likely that Teilhard “will appear like John of the Cross and St. Teresa of Avila, as the spiritual genius of the twentieth century. (Footprints in a Darkened Forest, Meredith Press, 1967, p. 73).” Leaving judgment of Bishop Sheen to others, or to other times, we must yet note that it is now 44 years since Bishop Sheen made this prediction, and with the Papacy of Benedict XVI we do now indeed appear to be on the cusp of its fulfillment.

Evolution and Teilhardian Cosmology Embraced

Let us, first of all, establish absolute certainty as to Joseph Ratzinger’s embrace of evolution.

The year 2009 saw the publication by Ignatius Press of a book of essays written by Joseph Ratzinger titled Credo for Today: What Christians Believe (translated from the original 2006 German version). The essays are taken from various works published between the years 1971-2006. Credo for Today contains a chapter titled "Creation: Belief in Creation and the Theory of Evolution" [taken from Joseph Ratzinger’s 1972 work Dogma and Verkündung (Preaching or Proclamation)]. It is devoted to an attempt to reconcile the Christian view of creation with the scientific theory of evolution. Here we read the following:

“…the pre-Darwinian idea of the invariability of the species had been justified in terms of the idea of creation [and, of course, by taking the Bible seriously] ; it regarded every individual species as a datum of creation that had existed since the beginning of the world through God’s creative work as something unique and different alongside the other species. It is clear that this form of belief in creation contradicts the idea of evolution and that this expression of the faith has become untenable today.” (p. 34)

And, further:

“We have established that the first aspect, that is, the concrete form which the idea of creation had taken in practice, has been abolished by the idea of evolution; here the believer must allow himself to be taught by science that the way in which he had imagined creation was part of a pre-scientific world view that has become untenable.”(p.36)

The first thing we must realize, therefore, is that Joseph Ratzinger is not merely “influenced” by evolutionary thinking. He has embraced it in its depths. And this embrace has necessitated what, in the very first sentence of his article, he calls “a revolution in our world view that was no less thoroughgoing than the one that we associate with the name Copernicus.”

Secondly, the fundamental component in this “revolution in our world view” consists in the fact that in the light of what Joseph Ratzinger considers the indisputable truth of evolution, the concept of “being” does not indicate any sort of fixed substantial nature, but rather that “being is time; it does not merely have time. Only in becoming does it exist and unfold into itself” (p. 42). This evolutionary “becoming” is meaningful because, contrary to the view of materialistic evolutionists, it is directed by “Mind” or “Creative Reason,” and has a “forward” momentum. All this is in deep agreement with the thinking of Teilhard de Chardin. The latter in fact specifically defends himself against the charge of being a pantheist because he believes in the ultimate goal of evolution a as being union with “some pre-existent being.”

This “becoming” is fully explored by Joseph Ratzinger in his book Introduction to Christianity. It is in the passages of this work that one sees both his endorsement of Teilhard’s system as a whole and his adoption of its specific terminology.

As we have seen, the key “scientific” term which facilitates Teilhard’s system of evolutionary growth towards the Omega Point is “complexification.” Joseph Ratzinger seems enamoured of this term — I count eleven uses of  the terms “complexity” or “complexification” in 10 pages of his treatment of the thought of Teilhard de Cardin. Following are several examples:

• “In the background is the idea that in the cosmos, alongside the two orders or classes of the infinitely small and the infinitely big, there is a third order, which determines the real drift of evolution, namely, the order of the infinitely complex. It is the real goal of the ascending process of growth and becoming….” (p. 237)

• “But let us return to man, He is so far the maximum in complexity. But even he as mere man-monad cannot represent an end; his growth itself demands a further advance in complexity.” (Ibid.)

• “From here it is possible to understand the final aim of the whole movement as Teilhard sees it: the cosmic drift moves ‘in the direction of an incredible ‘mono-molecular’ state, so to speak, in which… each ego is destined to attain in climax in a sort of mysterious superego’.” (p. 238)

• “From here onward faith in Christ will see the beginning of a movement in which dismembered humanity is gathered together more and more into the being of one single Adam, one single ‘body’ the man to come.” (p. 239)

• “From this perspective the belief in the second coming of Jesus Christ and in the consummation of the world in that event could be explained as the conviction that our history is advancing to an ‘omega’ point, at which it will become finally and unmistakably clear that the element of stability that seems to us to be the supporting ground of reality, so to speak, is not mere unconscious matter; that, on the contrary, the real, firm ground is mind. Mind holds being together, gives it reality, indeed is reality: it is not from below but from above that being receives its capacity to subsist. That there is such a thing as this process of ‘complexification’ of material being through spirit, and from the latter its concentration into a new kind of unity can already be seen in the remodeling of the world through technology.” (p. 32).

And, in order to demonstrate that this sort of Teilhardian cosmology is not just a momentary aberration in a single work, we also have the following from Joseph Ratzinger’s book titled Eschatology: Death and Eternal Life [first German ed. 1977; English, 1988]:

“We left the question of the materiality of the resurrection at the point to which Thomas Aquinas had brought it. The fundamental insight to which Thomas broke through [the real unity of soul and body] was given a new twist by Rahner when he noted that in death the soul becomes not acosmic [having nothing to do with the physical world] but all-cosmic. This means that its essential ordination to the material world remains, not in the mode of giving form to an organism as its entelechy [thus, out the window goes the teaching of the Council of Vienne that the soul is the substantial form – the entelechy – of the body], but in that of an ordering to this world as such and as a whole. It is not difficult to connect up this thought to ideas formulated by Teilhard de Chardin. For it might be said in this regard that relation to the cosmos is necessarily also relation to the temporality of the universe, which knows being only in the form of becoming [this is gibberish in light of Thomistic cosmology], has a certain direction, disclosed in the gradual construction of ‘biosphere’ and ‘noosphere’ from out of physical building blocks which it then proceeds to transcend. Above all it is a progress to ever more complex unities. This is why it calls for a total complexity: a unity which will embrace all previously existing unities…. The search reaches the point of integration of all in all, where each thing becomes completely itself precisely by being completely in the other. In such integration, matter belongs to spirit in a wholly new and different way, and spirit is utterly one with matter. The pancosmic existence, which death opens up would lead, then, to universal exchange and openness, and so to the overcoming of all alienation. Only where creation realizes such unity can it be true that ‘God is all in all.” (p. 191-192)

The quotes given above should be sufficient in order to establish with absolute certainty the extraordinary degree to which Joseph Ratzinger has embraced both the specific terminology and general cosmology of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. It is interesting that at the beginning of his discussion of Teilhard, he mentions a “not entirely unobjectionable tendency toward the biological approach” in Teilhard’s approach to these subjects, but then immediately states that he “nevertheless on the whole grasped them correctly….”  It is almost as though Joseph Ratzinger recognized that he was treading on condemned and heretical ground, felt the need to make some unsubstantial and unexplained “qualification,” and yet could not resist bounding forward into virtual total embrace of the Teilhardian system and all the essential concepts involved.

"Meaningful" Evolution

The problem in all this, as Joseph Ratzinger fully admits, is the question as to how we explain the rise of man, and the fact that we believe that he possesses a spiritual “soul.” As I said earlier, he categorically rejects the position of some “Theistic Evolutionists” who basically conceive of a God Who “waits in the wings,” and at the opportune moment in evolutionary history, infuses a spiritual soul into an animal body. He dismisses such a solution as being “intolerable” to both the evolutionist and the theologian (p. 38).

It is here that he again has recourse to Teilhard. After quoting a rather dense passage from his writings, Joseph Ratzinger offers us the following exposition:

“Certainly one can debate the details in this formulation; yet the decisive point seems to me to be grasped quite accurately: the alternative: materialism [the view that “spirit” and consciousness are ultimately only an accidental phenomenon of matter] or a spiritually defined world view, chance or meaning, is presented to us today in the form of the question of whether one regards spirit and life in its ascending forms as an incidental mold on the surface of the material world… or whether one regards spirit as the goal of the process and, conversely matter as the prehistory of the spirit. If one chooses the second alternative, it is clear that spirit is not a random product of material developments, but rather that matter signifies a moment in the history of spirit.” (p. 45).

It is clear here that Joseph Ratzinger’s thinking is in striking accord with “the decisive point” of Teilhard de Chardin in regard to the evolution of spirit and mind. Many traditionalists are in confusion in regard to Benedict’s evolutionary views because he rejects “meaningless evolution” (as he did in his 2011 Easter Vigil Homily). But to reject meaningless evolution is not at all the same as rejecting evolution. Teilhard de Chardin also totally rejects “meaningless evolution.” In both men’s thinking there is in fact so much significance and meaning to evolution that it is the primary vehicle by which God deals with man, and by which man’s spirit arises.

Lest we are tempted to think that Teilhard is a theologian with whom the present Pope is not really in essential agreement, we have the following matter-of-fact conclusion from Joseph Ratzinger’s pen in regard to the appearance of spirit in a human being:

“This would then lead to the insight that spirit does not enter the picture as something foreign, as a second substance, in addition to matter: the appearance of spirit, according to the previous discussion, means rather that an advancing movement arrives at the goal that has been set for it…. The clay became man at that moment in which a being for the first time was capable of forming, however dimly, the thought ‘God.’ The first ‘thou’ that – however stammeringly – was said by human lips to God marks the moment in which spirit arose in the world. Here the Rubicon of anthropogenesis was crossed.” (p. 46-47).

One can only surmise that Adam’s next act after his initial dim and stammering thought of God was a puzzled grunt. There is here no Adam and Eve created in the fullness of sanctifying grace, possessing the infused gifts, both natural and supernatural, necessary for what has traditionally been known as the state of “Original Justice.” There can be no loss of this state through Original Sin. There can be no real moral responsibility for a human mind and will living in such dimness and stammering. There is only evolution and becoming.

At this point, I refer the reader to my article titled The Point of Departure. There, I document Joseph Ratzinger’s rejection of “Original Sin” as a certainly misleading and imprecise term,” his ridiculing of the concept of original sin received through generation as being comparable to God running a concentration camp in which relatives are also imprisoned because of the deeds of another member of the family, and his substitution of a notion of “original sin” which sees it as something picked up after conception and birth through “damaged relationships.” And in his book God and the World, then Cardinal Ratzinger describes the traditional Catholic teaching that baptism endows us with sanctifying grace as “unenlightened,” “problematic,” and “questionable.” Such, of course, is the logical fruit of the rejection of the traditional creation account, and the substitution of an evolutionary view of man’s origins. If there is no sanctifying grace lost, there is none to be regained. If there is no Fall, there is no real “New Man” effected through baptism. Such is “meaningful” evolution.  It “means” that virtually the entire faith is destroyed.

An Evolutionary Christ

This destruction must also effect belief in Christ and the Incarnation. As we have seen, Teilhard teaches that “it is Christ who is saved by evolution,” that “[Christ] is becoming universal through radiation,” and that “I see in the World a mysterious product of completion and fulfillment for the Absolute Being himself.”

It is, of course, traditional Catholic teaching that Christ’s Incarnation, Death, and Resurrection brought a radical change into the world. Christ’s Advent, and the resultant conversion of millions from a state of original sin to one of sanctifying grace, resulted in an ontological change in millions of souls, which in turn radically changed social realities, and created a Christian civilization. The teachings of many previous Popes contain stirring testimonies to this radical “ontological” change which ensued from Christ’s Advent. As Pope Leo XIII wrote:

“Then man, as though awakening from a long-continued and deadly lethargy, beheld at length the light of the truth, for long ages desired, yet sought in vain. First of all, he realized that he was born to much higher and more glorious things than the frail and inconstant objects of sense which had hitherto formed the end of his thoughts and cares. He learnt that the meaning of human life, the supreme law, the end of all things was this: that we come from God and must return to Him. From this first principle the consciousness of human dignity was revived: men's hearts realized the universal brotherhood: as a consequence, human rights and duties were either perfected or even newly created, whilst on all sides were evoked virtues undreamt of in pagan philosophy. Thus men's aims, life, habits and customs received a new direction. As the knowledge of the Redeemer spread far and wide and His power, which destroyeth ignorance and former vices, penetrated into the very life-blood of the nations, such a change came about that the face of the world was entirely altered by the creation of a Christian civilization.”  (Encyclical Tametsi – on Christ Our Redeemer)

Such radical, ontological change and restoration is, of course, impossible in the world of Teilhardian evolution. The Incarnation, according to Teilhard de Chardin, is not to be seen as a one-time event which restored salvation to mankind, but only the beginning of an ages-long process of evolutionary incorporation of the human into the divine, and of the incarnation of the divine into the human, reaching final convergence at the Omega Point of the Christic. This Teilhardian rejection of the traditional understanding of Christ’s Advent is perfectly expressed by Joseph Ratzinger in the following passage from his book Being Christian:

"This week we celebrate with the Church the beginning of Advent. If we think back to what we learned as children about Advent and its significance, we will remember being told that the Advent wreath, with its candles, is a reminder of the thousands of years (perhaps thousands of centuries) of the history of mankind before Christ. It reminds all of us of the time when an unredeemed mankind awaited salvation. It brings to our minds the darkness of an as yet unredeemed history in which the light of hope was only slowly kindled until, in the end, Christ, the light of the world, came and freed mankind from the darkness of condemnation. We learned also that those thousands of years before Christ were a time of condemnation because of original sin, while the centuries after the birth of our Lord are 'anni salutis reparatae,' years of restored salvation. And finally, we will remember being told that, in Advent, besides thinking back on the past to the period of condemnation and expectation of mankind, the Church also fixes her attention on the multitude of people who have not yet been baptized, and for whom it is still Advent, since they wait and live in the darkness of the absence of salvation.

"If we look at the ideas we learned as children through the eyes of contemporary man and with the experiences of our age, we will see that we can hardly accept them. The idea that the years after Christ, compared with those before, are years of salvation will seem to be a cruel irony if we remember such dates as 1914, 1918, 1933, 1939, 1945; dates which mark periods of world war in which millions of men lost their lives, often in terrifying circumstances; dates which bring back the memory of atrocities such as humanity has never before experienced. One date (1933) reminds us of the beginning of a regime which achieved the most cruel perfection in the practice of mass murder; and finally, we remember that year in which the first atomic bomb exploded on an inhabited city, hiding in its dazzling brilliance a new possibility of darkness for the world.

"If we think about these things, we will have difficulty in distinguishing between a period of salvation and one of condemnation. And, extending our vision even further, if we contemplate the works of destruction and barbarity perpetrated in this and the preceding centuries by Christians (that is to say by us who call ourselves 'redeemed'), we will be unable to divide the nations of the world into the redeemed and the condemned.

"If we are sincere, we will no longer build up a theory which divides history and geography into zones of redeemed and zones of condemned. Rather, we will see the whole of history as a gray mass in which it is always possible to perceive the shining of a goodness which has not completely disappeared, in which there can always be found in men the desire to do good, but also in which breakdowns occur which lead to the atrocities of evil."

It is immensely ironic and tragic that Joseph Ratzinger does not realize that the 20th Century atrocities which he lists in no way provide evidence against the traditional view of Christ’s Advent, or against such doctrines as original sin, sanctifying grace, or the necessity for implementing the Social Kingship of Christ. Rather, they provide profound confirmation of the inevitable consequences of a decay of traditional Christian orthodoxy and civilization, and the resultant ascension to power of forces, ideas, individuals, and movements (Communism, Nazism, and secular-messianic democracy) at total war with Christianity. Nor does he realize what atrocities the dark horizons of the future hold in store as a consequence of his own betrayals of this Tradition, and his embrace of Teilhardian evolution.

The Future of the Liturgy in an Evolutionary World

In his most comprehensive work on theology, Principles of Catholic Theology, Joseph Ratzinger offers the following assessment of Teilhard de Chardin’s influence upon Vatican Council II:

“The impetus given by Teilhard de Chardin exerted a wide influence. With daring vision it incorporated the historical movement of Christianity into the great cosmic process of evolution from Alpha to Omega: since the noogenesis, since the formation of consciousness in the event by which man became man, this process of evolution has continued to unfold as the building of the noosphere above the biosphere.” (p.334)

By now the reader should not be too befuddled by Teilhard-Ratzinger newspeak. What is being said here is that the “daring” event that was Vatican II amounted to an “opening” (aggiornamento) and incorporation of the Church into the larger evolutionary movement of the entire world and all of its individual realities and forces.

In other words, Evolutionism, Teilhardism, and Vatican II are Ecumenism. “Isolationism” is a thing of the past, and it is now time for “Mono-molecules” and formation in the unity of a “Super-mind” which leads to the Omega Point of a Christic which is something more than the Christ of traditional faith. All of this, of course, is reflected in the changes that were effected in the New Mass and its “turning” towards the modern world.

The Form of Mass which we possess, as has been pointed out earlier, is intimately reflective of, and corresponds to, the Faith. Any significant changes in this Form are therefore bound to reflect changes, if not in regard to the Deposit of Faith itself, at least to current theological orientations to this Faith. One of the most interesting passages which I have encountered in the writings of Teilhard de Chardin is to be found in a letter published in the book The Heart of Matter. In speaking of dogmatic formulas and what must happen to them in light of evolutionary growth of understanding, Teilhard states that:

“[Dogmatic formulas] will necessarily assume a continually new aspect…. And yet, when thousands of years have gone by and Christ’s true countenance is a little more plainly seen, the Christians of those days will still, without any reservations recite the Apostles’ creed.” (Heart of the World, p. 117-118)

In other words, the perception and understanding of truth can be changed while words remain the same. The words of dogmatic formulations can remain the same but only be subjected to a “hermeneutics of continuity” which sees them under new “aspects.” And even the Mass, for the most part, can remain the same, but its perceived meaning and spiritual orientation can be radically altered by small changes. But underneath all this “sameness,” or what might appear as only “modest” changes, an entirely new “aspect” pervades the Church, which acts like a corrosive acid upon the faith of millions. And all this can be passed off as “in continuity with tradition.”

But not everything can remain. There are certain things that cannot subsist in the light of evolutionary and ecumenical thinking. Already, in the Extraordinary Form of the Mass, the prayer for the conversion of the Jews has been changed. As stated by Pope Benedict in Light of the World:

“But the new formulation also shifts the focus from a direct petition for the conversion of the Jews in a missionary sense to a plea that the Lord might bring about the hour of history when we may all be united.” (p. 107)

There can be no prayer for immediacy of conversion in an evolutionary milieu. There can be only prayer for final unity at the Omega Point of evolutionary history. The New Prayer devised by Benedict XVI is nothing less than an invasion of evolutionary and ecumenical “Teilhardism” into the Old Mass. Similar changes must come to any other parts of the liturgy which in any way offend evolutionary and ecumenical principles. This is especially true of the companion prayer for the conversion of heretics and schismatics which is part of the Good Friday Liturgy.

Beyond this, there is little need to speculate about particulars. We can, however, be assured that the “Common Rite” of the Mass of the future, forecast by Cardina Koch, will assume, in the words of Teilhard de Chardin, “a new aspect.”

According to the agenda described by Cardinal Koch, we can also be assured of one more thing — the “Mass of all Times” will be no more. The New Common Rite will, in effect, be a “Mass on the World.” This Mass already largely exists in the form of the Novus Ordo, which Pope Benedict XVI has confirmed as the “Ordinary Form” and the basic form of the future.

Clearly, the problem, as Benedict sees it, lies not in the Form itself, but in what he perceives to be the banality and lack of reverence in its “celebration.” The “intra-Church” ecumenical role of Summorum Pontificum, and of the Extraordinary Form of the Mass, is to act as a kind of catalyst to inject nobility, depth and reverence into the New Mass. It simply is not within the scope of the present Pope’s viewpoint that in so doing he is trying to restore beauty to what is aesthetically deficient, reverence to that which in fact detracts from God’s Majesty, and holiness to that which is glaringly mundane in its essential form.

The Fatima Message: Remedy and Hope

God, of course, can intervene and change all of this at any time. It is also true, however, that in order to grant such extraordinary graces, He usually requires our cooperation in meriting such. This, of course, is the message of Fatima. It is therefore most frightening that, although there has been much written in recent decades about the falsification of the Fatima message, actual response by living Our Lady’s specific requests seems to have plummeted.

The image comes to mind of a severely wounded animal who cries out in excruciating pain, but then rather than seeking the help that is at hand, crawls into a dark hole in order to die alone. The remedy is still there. We need only correspond. In this lies our sole hope.

 

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