In 1962 – not really all that long ago – the Holy Office of the Roman Catholic Church issued the following monitum – or reprimand – regarding the writings of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, (1881-1955), a French Jesuit priest who trained as a paleontologist and geologist and took part in the discovery of Peking Man during his nearly 20 years of research in China.
The above-mentioned works abound in such ambiguities and indeed even serious errors, as to offend Catholic doctrine… For this reason, the most eminent and most revered Fathers of the Holy Office exhort all Ordinaries as well as the superiors of Religious institutes, rectors of seminaries and presidents of universities, effectively to protect the minds, particularly of the youth, against the dangers presented by the works of Fr. Teilhard de Chardin and of his followers.
You see – like Copernicus before him – de Chardin had drawn conclusions about the world that were contrary to religious doctrine. As a trained scientist, as well as a gifted and original thinker, he could simply not accept the ancient folklore around the world’s creation in Genesis – and hence the concept of Original Sin. His evolutionary account of the origin of man as laid out in his most famous book Le Phénomène Humain (The Phenomenon of Man) written before 1940 had to be published posthumously in 1955 because the RC Church did not allow this during his lifetime.
In The Phenomenon of Man, de Chardin attempts to reconcile his faith with the unfolding of the material universe, from the earliest development of life to the presence of human beings, the parallel ascent of consciousness, and to his concept of the Omega Point in the future, the ultimate development of conscious life and convergence with God.
For him, evolution was an intrinsic, teleological or goal-driven process, proceeding from the most elementary particle in the cosmos to the most complex arrangements of matter, capable of ever higher levels of consciousness.
Clearly, Roman Catholic fundamentalism could not accommodate any of this. It is –and always will remain – in the Dark Ages; its archaic, naïve doctrines seemingly frozen in time, not subject to reinterpretation or revision. Not then, and especially not now, with with an ultra-conservative patriarchal throwback like Josef Ratzinger at the top of the hierarchy that controls the RC church today. Befehl ist Befehl: Original thinking is an original Sin … Jawohl, mein kommandant!
Just so you know: leave your brain at the door when you go to church
… the essence of Christianity, the typical Christian condition, ‘faith’, has to be a form of sickness, every straightforward, honest, scientific road to knowledge has to be repudiated by the Church as a forbidden road. Even to doubt is a sin … (Nietzsche)