Laudato Si and Teilhard de Chardin

Note the Roman Collar

Pope Francis gives a thumbs up to Teilhard de Chardin

Pope Francis gives a thumbs up to Teilhard de Chardin

First, my apologies about the longer than expected sabbatical. It has been a crazy few months between work, health issues with my mother-in-law and trying to spend more time with family. I hope to begin posting again on a semi-regular basis very soon but I wanted to at least mention Laudato Si. I am not going to discuss its substance as I have only read it once and have not yet fully digested (hope to start doing that this weekend); plus there are plenty of other resources that can provide a better analysis than I can. (However, I will note on a personal level it is a very challenging document as it is directly asking me to step beyond my narrow, personal comfort and security, which I guess the Gospel message always does).

No, I will briefly highlight Laudato Si as being important in Catholic theology for two fairly minor items compared to its overall message but two items that should not be overlooked. First, Laudato Si is the first time I recall reading or hearing Pope Francis mention Teilhard de Chardin. It is possible that Pope Francis mentioned him previously but I was not aware of it. Second, this is the first time that Teilhard de Chardin was mentioned in a papal encyclical. St. John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI had previously rehabilitated and endorsed the ideas of Teilhard in their writings and speeches but Laudato Si, and specifically footnote 53, was the first time Teilhard de Chardin made it in an encyclical. Set forth below are excerpts from Laudato Si that incorporate Teilhard’s overall theology:

“Creation is of the order of love. God’s love is the fundamental moving force in all created things . . .In this universe, shaped by open and intercommunicating systems, we can discern countless forms of relationship and participation. This leads us to think of the whole as open to God’s transcendence, within which it develops. Faith allows us to interpret the meaning and the mysterious beauty of what is unfolding. We are free to apply our intelligence towards things evolving positively, or towards adding new ills, new causes of suffering and real setbacks. This is what makes for the excitement and drama of human history, in which freedom, growth, salvation and love can blossom, or lead towards decadence and mutual destruction.

* * *

Creating a world in need of development, God in some way sought to limit himself in such a way that many of the things we think of as evils, dangers or sources of suffering, are in reality part of the pains of childbirth which he uses to draw us into the act of cooperation with the Creator. God is intimately present to each being, without impinging on the autonomy of his creature, and this gives rise to the rightful autonomy of earthly affairs.His divine presence, which ensures the subsistence and growth of each being, “continues the work of creation”. The Spirit of God has filled the universe with possibilities and therefore, from the very heart of things, something new can always emerge: “Nature is nothing other than a certain kind of art, namely God’s art, impressed upon things, whereby those things are moved to a determinate end. It is as if a shipbuilder were able to give timbers the wherewithal to move themselves to take the form of a ship”.

Human beings, even if we postulate a process of evolution, also possess a uniqueness which cannot be fully explained by the evolution of other open systems. Each of us has his or her own personal identity and is capable of entering into dialogue with others and with God himself. Our capacity to reason, to develop arguments, to be inventive, to interpret reality and to create art, along with other not yet discovered capacities, are signs of a uniqueness which transcends the spheres of physics and biology. The sheer novelty involved in the emergence of a personal being within a material universe presupposes a direct action of God and a particular call to life and to relationship on the part of a “Thou” who addresses himself to another “thou”. The biblical accounts of creation invite us to see each human being as a subject who can never be reduced to the status of an object.

* * *

The ultimate destiny of the universe is in the fullness of God, which has already been attained by the risen Christ, the measure of the maturity of all things. (Editor’s note, this is the Omega Point) Here we can add yet another argument for rejecting every tyrannical and irresponsible domination of human beings over other creatures. The ultimate purpose of other creatures is not to be found in us. Rather, all creatures are moving forward with us and through us towards a common point of arrival, which is God, in that transcendent fullness where the risen Christ embraces and illumines all things. Human beings, endowed with intelligence and love, and drawn by the fullness of Christ, are called to lead all creatures back to their Creator.

(emphasis added, footnotes omitted).

I hope to get back to semi-regular writings fairly soon. In the interim, I am wishing you all a joyful summer or winter, depending what hemisphere you live in.

About William Ockham

I am a father of two with eclectic interests in theology, philosophy and sports. I chose the pseudonym William Ockham in honor of his contributions to philosophy, specifically Occam's Razor, and its contributions to modern scientific theory. My blog (www.teilhard.com) explores Ignatian Spirituality and the intersection of faith, science and reason through the life and writings of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (pictured above).
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37 Responses to Laudato Si and Teilhard de Chardin

  1. claire46 says:

    So very good to have you back 😊

  2. irrevspeckay says:

    So glad you are back! Take your time.

  3. Eva says:

    So happy to hear from you again.

  4. readingmater says:

    Still reading Laudato Si but I was thinking the Pope must know Teilhard! I’ll finish reading it and then your blog and Simone Campbell in the Guardian. Good reading ahead. Welcome back.

  5. Ahhh–my friend you have been sorely missed!! Welcome home!!
    and now it’s time I read an encyclical 🙂
    Oh, and I thought of you this week as I am reading a book written on an interview with the late Cardinal Lustiger of France—he references the good father, Teilhard de Chardin, throughout his conversations—Choosing God–Chosen By God–how a polish jewish boy, who’s mother was killed in Auschwitz can grow up to the be Cardinal of Paris—good stuff!!
    Again William—welcome back!!

  6. Welcome back, my friend. So lovely to see you appear in my feed.

  7. Mike says:

    Welcome back!

  8. richp45198 says:

    Good to see you back, William. And a big AMEN to the Pope’s affirmation of Teilhherd’s thoughts

  9. David Backes says:

    Good to see you back in action! I do believe I’ve read in the past that Pope Francis mentioned Teilhard, but as you say this is the first time he’s been cited in an encyclical.

    • David, thank you very much for the welcome. You may be right that Pope Francis may be cited Teilhard previously and that I missed it. Hope you are enjoying your summer and have some nice trips planned.

      • David Backes says:

        Definitely enjoying the summer, which includes weddings of two of my kids plus my retirement! (Transitioning to the latter is part of what has led to creating my new Gathering Runes site. I will have more creative time, and look forward to using it well!) Hope your summer is going well, too.

      • Hi David:

        Congratulations on your busy summer with weddings and retirement. I am looking forward to your new Gathering Rune site, although I will always have a fondness for New Wood. It was more inspirational than you can realize on my own spiritual journey.

        Peace.

  10. Frank says:

    Thanks for this, and welcome back. Will repost this on the website when I get back home from our current week at the beach.

  11. It’s good to have you back, William. Our connection with our family must trump all.
    I’ve read the first four chapters of the Encyclical and plan to finish reading it this weekend. With so much to digest, it will require several readings.
    Yes, the time has finally come for the world to embrace the vision of Teilhard de Chardin.

  12. I really like your blog. It’s reassuring to hear from time to time that I’m not crazy, and that there are people in the world that share my views. Makes me feel less alone.

  13. So pleased to see you back. You have been missed

  14. John Earle says:

    Hi William,
    Welcome back! Only recently discovered your blog and you took a sabbatical! Anyway I note with interest your observation that PFI refers to Teilhard in footnote 53. I have been unable to find anything on the Internet or elsewhere where PFI has quoted,cited,referenced , or even acknowledged the existence of Teilhard. That strikes me as odd particularly since they share their Jesuit commonality. As you point out PBXVI was Teilhardian. Do you think PFI thinks Teilhard too controversial? Sort of baffling!!!
    John

  15. Barbara S says:

    thanks for the like in reponse to my reflective post from the MRI scanner. That was a nice surprise. It is touching you like it – as my immediate sensations were more Catholic – but I feel the need to make my writing accessible to readers who have come to associate the word prayer only with hail marys they have long turned away from (who’d blame them?).

  16. Lizzie says:

    What a great surprise to discover your blog – look forward to hearing more of you

  17. John Earle says:

    Finally got around to reading LS. Footnote 53 is intriguing as it acknowledges the “contribution” (to the gospel of creation) of Teilhard but it is longer than most of the other 172 footnotes(endnotes)
    PFI also cites PVI,PSJPII,and PBXVI in that footnote. Both PVI and PBXVI mention Teilhard directly. PSJPII does not . In his letter to Coyne the Jesuit. Scientist and former director of the Vatican Observatory the content and tone is evolutionary as he encourages a fruitful relationship between Science and Theology. Could it be that PFI not wanting to appear too Teilhardian himself is mapping a sort of magisterial (papal) evolution of consciousness?

  18. Pingback: The Jesuit Priest Who Believed in God and the Singularity - UTS Alumni Association

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