Recently, someone referred me to a prayer that Fr. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, S.J. wrote called “Patient Trust”. Researching it on the web, I found that it accurately describes the frustration many face while discerning what the Lord is calling them to…and the patience required to remain stouthearted and wait on the Lord with courage (cf Psalm 27:14). “That looks good,” I thought, “Let me take a closer look at this guy. I wonder what else he has written.”
What I found dismayed me. Teilhard de Chardin had a long history of writing and speaking about what we now call “New Age” ideas. In 1962, the Vatican issued a monitum, or warning, on his writings. They reiterated it in 1981 because some folks thought it was no longer in effect. Rome banned publication of most of his books and said they could not be retained in libraries (including those of religious institutes) or sold by Catholic bookstores, etc. And, he was kept from writing or teaching on philosophical studies.
At present, many New Age writers and sites quote him. That alone gives me pause for concern. Along these lines, the Vatican document “Jesus Christ the Bearer of the Water of Life – A Christian reflection on the New Age” has an interesting citation. Footnote number 15 indicates that, in a 1977 questionnaire, de Chardin was listed as the number one individual whose ideas had most influenced the so-called “Aquarian Conspirators.” Here are just a few relevant quotes:
“Christ saves. But must we not hasten to add that Christ, too, is saved by evolution?” (Le Christique, 1955) [from a Pierre de Chardin Update ]
“It has sometimes seemed to me there are three weak stones sitting dangerously in the foundations of the modern Church: first, a government that excludes democracy; second, a priesthood that excludes and minimises [sic] women; third, a revelation that excludes, for the future, prophecy.’ (Letter to Christophe de Gaudefroy, 7 October 1929, Lettres in„dites, 80) [http://teilharddechardin.org/teilharddechardin.pdf]
While it’s possible de Chardin may have said a few things that were palatable, I would leave that to the learned Catholic philosophers and theologians to sift and sort through. It is true that Pope Benedict XVI mentioned him once…but remember Pope Benedict XVI is a theologian. Remember, also, that the warning on de Chardin’s writing is still in effect. It has not been rescinded.
What’s the bottom line? With the exception of his “Patient Trust” prayer, our recommendation is to stay away from Teilhard de Chardin’s writings. As we often encourage, it is an easier and surer path to study and follow the writings of the Doctors, and Fathers, of the Church, and the lives of the Saints, who have stood the test of time and have both the approval and recommendation of the Church.
Editors Note: For an in-depth and reliable philosophical and theological critique of Teilhard, see Teilhard de Chardin: A False Prophet by Dr. Dietrich von Hildebrand. For more on the move to rehabilitate de Chardin: Challenging the Rehabilitation of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin
Art for this Can I Trust? post on Fr. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin: Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, unknown photographer, unknown date, published 1968, PD copyright of this photograph, registered in Argentina, has expired, Wikimedia Commons.