Ahead of His Time
Re “Teilhard at Vespers” (Editorial, 8/17): A moving and beautiful tribute to a great 20th-century theologian. I had the opportunity a couple of years ago to visit Teilhard’s grave in the Jesuit cemetery on the grounds of what is now the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y. Teilhard was clearly a faithful Catholic and priest whose insights were simply ahead of his time and therefore hard for the rest of us to assimilate.
It is not correct to suggest that Teilhard denied any dogma of the church, including that of original sin. To probe a dogma in order to make it more intelligible is not a denial of the dogma, but rather a desire to give it life in the contemporary milieu. I might point out that he was as misunderstood by the fundamentalists of the scientific establishment as he was by the fundamentalists within the church.
Also, Pope Benedict XVI is not the first pope to invoke Teilhard de Chardin in one of his talks. I distinctly recall reading a text by Paul VI from the 1960s in which he quotes Teilhard. In fact I heard a subsequent story to the effect that the pope was contacted by the Holy Office after the text was published, with a reminder that since Teilhard’s writings had been censured, it was probably best that the pope not quote him.
San Pablo, Calif.
A World of Grace
“Teilhard at Vespers” (Editorial, 8/17) was a lovely but also provocative reminder of how much hope the French Jesuit brought to a secularized world dismembered by two world wars. For all his struggles to show how evolutionary thought was compatible with Christian faith, nothing was more important to him than hope in a future that is open to God’s grace evoking human commitment. I once asked Karl Rahner, S.J., another advocate that ours is a world of grace, what he had actually read by Teilhard. “A few letters and ‘The Mass on the World,’” he said. Sometimes a brief text can deeply affect our vision. The Gospels, after all, are very short.
Leo J. O’Donovan, S.J.
New York, N.Y.
The Bible, Then Teilhard
I am a cradle Catholic, but in my late 20s began to doubt all I had been taught. Through God’s grace I had an adult conversion at age 34. After that I read many faith books, starting in the late 70s. When I read Teilhard’s Hymn of the Universe, I knew I didn’t need to read anything else. I referred to it as my penultimate book, the ultimate being the Bible. What eventually became very clear to me was that Teilhard’s vision was also Paul’s vision, something Pope Benedict also mentioned.
Cardinal Ratzinger on Teilhard
It may be important to read Pope Benedict’s recent acknowledgment of Teilhard de Chardin in light of the pope’s earlier writings. As far back as 1969, in his Introduction to Christianity, Joseph Ratzinger had already acknowledged the cosmic theology of Teilhard de Chardin. He saw it as making Christology accessible through a modern view. But in that same book he also criticized the strong biological approach of Teilhard. Later, in an interview published in The Ratzinger Report (1985), he spoke of a growing Teilhardism that tends to deny the reality of original sin. Perhaps this may help in understanding how the pope personally envisions the theology of Teilhard and its subsequent interpretations.
Thanks to the Web
I am a missionary bishop. To receive Signs of the Times digitally is great since I often receive the printed version one month after publication. Con-gratulations on a job well done.
(Most Rev.) Luis Morgan Casey
Vicariate of Pando, Riberalta, Bolivia
I am aghast that Gerard F. Powers of the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies at the University of Notre Dame, as quoted in “Is Assassination Ever Justified?” (Signs of the Times, 8/3), explains that “the same criteria that would apply to war would apply to the killings of terrorists.” Terrorists by whose definition? I can only hope that he has been misquoted or quoted out of context.
As Americans, we are now in a quagmire of a war because of bad or distorted intelligence and immoral pre-emptive strikes. Using more secret “intelligence” to target terrorists and making arguments or excuses for assassinations speeds our slide down a slippery slope greased by torture. Our country’s rule of law and judicial processes must be followed to examine the evidence, determine guilt and protect society, lest we become a terrorist state to fight terrorism. As Christians, do we remember Christ saying, “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you”?
A Way Forward
Re “Healing Health Care” (6/8): We have created a health co-op in Ithaca, N.Y. (http://www.ithacahealth.org) whose 800 members pay $100 a year to be covered for 12 categories of everyday emergencies, and to own their own free clinic. Bring together 50 million uninsured Americans to demand Medicare for all, and to create their own nonprofit health systems, and something will happen.
Especially for the Poor
Re: “A Time for Reform” (8/17): It is hard to imagine that any well-formed Catholic could argue in principle against universal health care, especially for the poor and for those who have suffered catastrophes and tragedies, and most especially for those who made poor choices in their lives and need our help now more than ever. As Catholics we stand before God and the world not as individuals but as a community with Jesus Christ as our head. Jesus clearly linked together healing and salvation: “Which is easier, to say ‘Your sins are forgiven?’ or ‘Arise, take up your bed and walk?’”