I am publishing here an excerpt from an interesting article about the influence exerted by the modernist theologian Teilhard de Chardin on Joseph Ratzinger. I highlight the fact that the author is a fervent admirer of the late pontiff, which adds additional value to his text.


But as I read Benedict's writings, I began to run across things that were theologically troubling. This was particularly true of his pre-pontifical writings, which were being published in abundance by Ignatius Press. I remember I read a book called Credo for Today: What Christians Believe. This was a collection of Ratzinger's essays, most dating from the 1960s and 70s. The essays that dealt with creation, cosmology, and eschatology were particularly troubling as Ratzinger displayed a distinctly Teilhardian sympathy. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (1881-1955) was a Jesuit theologian and anthropologist who made striking heterodox claims about the place of evolution within Christian cosmology. It was not merely that Teilhard believed evolution, but that he made it the lynchpin of his entire cosmic system, whereby all creation is in the process of a continual evolution from matter to spirit that will terminate in something called the Omega Point, an endpoint where all human consciousness evolves beyond its current state and is merged into a kind of theo-cosmic singularity with God, which Teilhard called the "Cosmic Christ." It was a bizarre theory, bordering on pantheism, which was repeatedly censured during Teilhard's own life but which became avant-garde in the years after Teilhard's death.

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It is not my purpose here to establish Benedict's Teilhardian sympathies; interested readers should look at my essay "The Solemn Enthronement of Evolution," as well as the fantastic essay by the late James Larson entitled "A Living Host: Liturgy and Cosmic Evolution in the Thought of Benedict XVI and Teilhard de Chardin." But as Ratzinger himself publicly declared himself an admirer of Teilhard's thought, this is no innovative conclusion of mine; we have it from the late pope's own words.

Now, I point this out not to criticize the late pope, but as a necessary step in my own story with him. I wondered how a man who, in other regards, demonstrated such a tender affinity for the Church's liturgical tradition could embrace a theory as bonkers as Teilhard's. There were other oddities I found throughout the writings of Benedict as well. There has been a tendency among Traditionalists to view Benedict XVI as a theological traditionalist whilst Pope John Paul II's pontificate was more egregiously modernized. However, as James Larson once pointed out to me, it is actually easier to find theological novelties in the writings of Ratzinger than it is in JP2.

Which begs the question: In what sense was Benedict XVI a "traditionalist" pope? Is it right to see him as such?


Teilhard de Chardin's theory is a type of vitalism. Vitalism is the idea of a successive, evolutionary emergence of new properties out of a prior substrate, a process Teilhard referred to as the "complexification" of matter into spirit. Benedict, too, ultimately viewed matter as but a "moment in the history of spirit," a "prehistory of the spirit" (see his essay "Creation" in Credo for Today, pages 43-47). It is a view that is essentially Hegelian, of the stormy conflict between matter and spirit ultimately resolving in the emanation of a new and higher reality in which the limitations of our current order are resolved in a synthesis at the Omega Point.

This Hegelian approach was also evident in Benedict's liturgical vision. The great liturgical question that occupied the mind of the pontiff was the relationship between the traditional liturgy and the conciliar liturgy. For all his wonderfully lucid critiques of the post-Conciliar regime, Benedict was too much a creature of his age to fundamentally reject the new liturgy. He advocated what we today call a reform of the reform, arguing that the problem was not the new liturgy but the failure to properly implement it; it is the liturgical version of the "Real Communism has never been tried" argument and it sounds just as silly applied to the Novus Ordo. Yet it was a position Benedict argued until his dying breath.

Benedict needed to reconcile the two liturgies without denigrating either. He accomplished this through his idea of mutual enrichment. This concept is found in Summorum Pontificum and its accompanying letter, in which Benedict expresses his hope that the two liturgies (which he coined as "Extraordinary" and "Ordinary" forms of the Roman rite) will enrich each other. This is a profoundly different from how traditional Catholics received the document. Traditional Catholics embraced Summorum as a liberation of the Traditional Latin Mass; Benedict viewed it also as an opportunity for the Traditional Mass to enrich the Novus Ordo and for the Novus Ordo to enrich the Traditional Latin Mass. He viewed it as a two-way exchange. It can be argued that the reverence of the TLM bled over into certain NO liturgies; I witnessed this at diocesan parishes where both forms were celebrated. But in what sense did Benedict hope or expect the Novus Ordo would "enrich" the Traditional Mass? What would a penetration of any aspect of the new rite into the old look like concretely?

It is hard to say. But, judging from Benedict's thought, I personally believe he envisioned a Hegelian synthesis where the mutual enrichment of the two "forms" eventually led to the emergence of a new "third" liturgy, in which all of what Benedict considered to be the best aspects of both "forms" was preserved. Thus the schizophrenia of the Roman rite introduced by the Novus Ordo would be reconciled with the emergence of a new liturgy that did not negate but transcended the others, showing both the Traditional Latin Mass and the Novus Ordo to be but "moments" in the meta-development of liturgy, both constituting a kind of liturgical "pre-history" to whatever the coming liturgical synthesis brought forth.

I realize the radical nature of this claim, and I pose it only as a hypothesis. Even so, it is not without ground given Benedict's statements, and I am certainly not the only one who has considered this.


In time, I thus came to see Benedict as a multi-faceted individual. He was a man who obviously had a deep love for the old liturgy, but could only bring himself to go so far with it (it is notable that he never celebrated the Traditional Mass publicly during his pontificate). Even his support for the TLM had to be packaged within a larger Conciliar apologetic. He seemed to me a man who did the right thing but for the wrong reason—which, to be honest, is not terrible. St. Paul rejoiced that Christ was bring preached "whether in pretense or truth," (Php. 1:18) and I similarly rejoice in whatever good Benedict did for whatever reason.

But my deep reading of Benedict's theology made it impossible for me to think of him as a bastion of orthodoxy. He was capable of striking theological novelties. As a theologian, he falls into the same category as Hans Urs von Balthasar (another hero of Ratzinger's); Balthasar is a theologian whose writings are full of novelties. Taken on his own terms, his thought represents a revolutionary departure from theological tradition. But, taken relative to other contemporary theologians such as Rahner and Teilhard, Balthasar appears orthodox. The radicals make him seem safe. Similarly, Benedict XVI appeared as a stalwart defender of tradition compared to the Marxs, Mahoneys, Küngs, and James Martins of the Church. But, taken on his own terms, he was quite a revolutionary thinker who proposed many novelties.

It is ironic that Benedict the "traditional" pope committed what is undoubtedly the greatest papal novelty of the modern era—the resignation of the papal office, an event that ushered in so much mischief for the Church. Whatever Benedict's physical condition, it is hard to imagine our situation today would not have been better had he stayed the course. Dr. Kwasniewski has said somewhere that, while we cannot know the mind of God, history seems to suggest that the Lord does not look kindly on papal resignations. The past nine years has been an unremitting train of catastrophe; it is difficult not to see these disasters as directly proceeding from Benedict's resignation. The pope may have been buried this week, but he died in 2013.

Source: Farewell Reflections on Benedict XVI

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Miles - Christi and 2 more users link to this post
Not a fan of Teilhard
Ralph Alexander Michael Curtis
adeste fideles
Fue llevado al país de la vida.
¿Para qué hacer preguntas?
Su morada, desde ahora, es el descanso
y su vestido, la luz. Para siempre.
Silencio y paz. ¿Qué sabemos nosotros?
Dios mío, Señor de la historia y dueño del ayer y del mañana,
en tus manos están las llaves de la vida y de la muerte.
Sin preguntarnos, lo llevaste contigo a la morada santa,
y nosotros cerramos nuestros ojos, …More

Fue llevado al país de la vida.
¿Para qué hacer preguntas?
Su morada, desde ahora, es el descanso
y su vestido, la luz. Para siempre.
Silencio y paz. ¿Qué sabemos nosotros?
Dios mío, Señor de la historia y dueño del ayer y del mañana,
en tus manos están las llaves de la vida y de la muerte.
Sin preguntarnos, lo llevaste contigo a la morada santa,
y nosotros cerramos nuestros ojos,
bajamos la frente y simplemente te decimos: Está bien, sea.
Silencio y paz.
La música fue sumergida en las aguas profundas, y
todas las nostalgias gravitan sobre las llanuras infinitas.
Se acabó el combate. Ya no habrá para él lágrimas, ni luto, ni sobresaltos.
El sol brillará para siempre sobre su frente,
y una paz intangible asegurará definitivamente sus fronteras.
Señor de la vida y dueño de nuestros destinos,
en tus manos depositamos silenciosamente este ser entrañable que se nos fue.
Mientras aquí abajo entregamos a la tierra sus despojos
transitorios, duerma su alma inmortal para siempre en la paz eterna,
en todo seno insondable y amoroso, oh Padre de misericordia.
Silencio y paz".

Padre Ignacio Larrañaga
Miles - Christi
Que así sea...