In the early nineteen-forties, Teilhard de Chardin, SJ, wrote: “Is evolution a theory, a system or a hypothesis? It is much more: it is a general condition to which all theories, all hypotheses, all systems must bow and which they must satisfy henceforth if they are to be thinkable and true” (The Phenomenon of Man, p. 219).
In 1996 Pope John Paul II, addressing the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, claimed: “Today… new knowledge has led to the recognition of the theory of evolution as more than a hypothesis. It is indeed remarkable that this theory has been progressively accepted by researchers, following a series of discoveries in various fields of knowledge.”
On the other hand, Pope Pius XII taught: “Some imprudently and indiscreetly hold that evolution, which has not been fully proved even in the domain of natural sciences, explains the origin of all things, and audaciously support the monistic and pantheistic opinion that the world is in continual evolution” (Humani Generis, no. 5). Who is correct? How can we best resolve this difficulty?
To solve this problem, let us turn to the Incarnate Word of God, Jesus Christ, Who is the way, the truth and the life (Jn. 14:6) without Whom, we can do nothing (Jn. 15:5). From Him come the highest and most certain of arguments to dissipate all confusion and error. When one has the Christ, one has everything.
The Primacy of Christ
In the order of things willed by God ad extra, Jesus Christ is first. St. Paul speaks of the Christ as “the firstborn of every creature: For in Him were all things created in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, … He is before all, and by Him all things consist. … that in all things He may hold the primacy” (Col. 1:15-18). St. John says of the Christ: “Thus says the Amen, the faithful and true witness, who is the beginning of the creation of God” (Apoc 3:14). Listen to St. Francis de Sales: “…the sovereign Providence, making His eternal purpose and design of all that He would produce, first willed and preferred by excellence the most amiable object of His love which is Our Savior; and then other creatures in order, according as they more or less belong to the service, honor and glory of Him” (Treatise on the Love of God, II, 5). St. Lawrence of Brindisi refers to Our Lord as the foundation of all creation such that Christ was willed as a foundation in such a way that if the edifice to be built on Him should ever need repairs, the reparation could be carried out on the same foundation without any change in the divine blueprint (cf. The Universal Primacy of Christ, Pancheri, p. 89). Of course this is an echo of St. Paul’s saying: “For other foundation no man can lay, but that which is laid; which is Christ Jesus” (1Cor 3:11). Eugenio Pacelli (later Pope Pius XII) wrote: “Jesus Christ is God’s masterpiece, the greatest of His works, and whatever moment and circumstances of His manifestation in time, He is the first to be willed by God, and in view of Him were all other things brought into being” (cf. Pancheri, p. 67). In a word, Christ Jesus is the Alpha of all creation.
Christ is also the Omega of all creation. In other words, He is also the purpose or final cause for which all things are made. Thus, St. John reports Our Lord saying: “I am the alpha and the omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end” (Apoc. 22:13). St. Maximus the Confessor adds: “Christ is the blessed end for which all things have been created… the end for which God has willed all things and which is itself subordinated to nothing else… It is for Christ…that all the ages exist. And all things contained within them have found in Christ the beginning and the end of their call to existence” (Ad Thalas, q. LX as quoted in Christ and the Cosmos, Bonnefoy, p. 265). St. Francis de Sales: “Sacred Providence determined to produce all the rest of things, both natural and supernatural, for the sake of the Savior… Thus all things have been made for this divine Man” (Treatise on the Love of God, II, 4 & 5). The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches: “Creation is the foundation of ‘all God’s saving plans,’ the ‘beginning of the history of salvation’ that culminates in Christ. Conversely, the mystery of Christ casts conclusive light on the mystery of creation and reveals the end for which ‘in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth’: from the beginning, God envisaged the glory of the new creation in Christ” (no. 280).
The Sacred Liturgy also establishes Christ’s primacy of place in all creation. At the blessing of the Paschal Candle on the Easter Vigil, the priest prays: “Christ yesterday and today; Beginning and End; Alpha and Omega; All times are His and all ages; To Him be glory and dominion through all ages of eternity. Amen.” Furthermore, we have the prayer at the minor elevation: “Through Him, with Him, and in Him, be unto Thee, O God the Father almighty, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, all honour and glory, for all ages of ages. Amen.”
Both Scripture and Tradition speak clearly that Christ is everything… He is all in all. Thus, St. Paul exclaims: “God hath highly exalted Him, and hath given Him a name which is above all names. That in the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those that are in heaven, on earth, and under the earth: and that every tongue should confess that the Lord Jesus Christ is in the glory of God the Father” (Phil. 2:9-11). There is no higher name, no higher word, no higher reason for all created things to which we can look than Christ Jesus. If, therefore, evolution is truly much more than a theory or hypothesis… if “it is a general condition to which all theories, all hypotheses, all systems must bow and which they must satisfy henceforth if they are to be thinkable and true,” then evolution must be found in Christ. If, however, it is not found in Christ, then it is not possible. The ancient saying of the Fathers comes to mind … “What is not taken up by Christ is not redeemed by Christ.” If evolution cannot be found in Christ, then it is not redeemable and should be discarded as a work of the spirit of antichrist.
Teilhard de Chardin: The Omega of Evolution
For his part Chardin claims that evolution can be found in Christ. In a discussion with Fr. Gabriel Allegra, Chardin states “the vision of the Universe I have arrived at is not completely clear in all its details, but as a whole it fascinates me, and when I think that all things have as their beginning, center, and end le Grand Christ, I am literally dazzled.” He then goes on to explain how he thinks the world is broken up into various epochs of “millions and billions of years,” claiming that we are now “in the era of the homo sapiens” but nevertheless man will continue to evolve or “develop in an ascending process toward totalization, which is the crowning of much effort and pain, the painful childbirth, as it were, of evolution. … Totalization, in turn, will lead toward ‘unanimazation,’ just as millions of years before now, the geological factors led to ‘hominization’… in this ascent man is both the axle and the spoke, and in both capacities he tends toward the Omega point, Christ, le Grand Christ” (My Conversations with Teilhard de Chardin on the Primacy of Christ, Gabriel M. Allegra, O.F.M., pp. 59-60). For Chardin, therefore, Christ is “the great Evolver” (ibid., p. 81).
Other modern thinkers acknowledge and praise Chardin’s attempt at such a synthesis between Christ and evolution. Christoph Cardinal Schonborn, Archbishop of Vienna, wrote in his book, Chance or Purpose, “Hardly anyone else has tried to bring together the knowledge of Christ and the idea of evolution as the scientist (paleontologist) and theologian Fr. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, S.J., has done. … His fascinating vision has remained controversial, and yet for many it has represented a great hope, the hope that faith in Christ and a scientific approach to the world can be brought together” (page 141 – Teilhard de Chardin – Witness to Christ). Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger in his book The Spirit of the Liturgy wrote: “.. against the background of the modern evolutionary world view, Teilhard depicted the cosmos as a process of ascent, a series of unions. … From here Teilhard went on to give new meaning to Christian worship: the transubstantiated Host is the anticipation of the transformation and divinization of matter in the christological ‘fullness.’ In his view, the Eucharist provided the movement of the cosmos with its direction; it anticipates its goal and at the same time urges it on” (p. 29).
Yet, as we have indicated above, in order for this position to be valid, we must be able to find evolution in Christ because He, as the Alpha and Omega, is the summation of all creation. As Cardinal Pierre de Berulle taught, “This divine mystery [the Incarnation] is like the center of the created and uncreated world. It is the only place where God chose once and for all to contain and reduce to our level both the world and Himself, that is, His own infiniteness and the immensity of the whole universe” (Discourse on the State and Granduers of Jesus, I, 2, p. 62). Christ recapitulates all creation in Himself as explained by St. Irenaeus: “He recapitulated everything in Himself in order that, just as the Word of God has the primacy over the supercelestial, spiritual and invisible beings, He might also have it over visible and corporeal beings, assuming this primacy in Himself” (Adversus Hæreses, III, 16, 6). From the ancient thinkers to our own day, man has been seen to be a micro-cosmos of the macro-cosmos. This makes the God-Man Christ the Micro-Cosmos of the entire Universe. The angelic beings find themselves mirrored in His intellect and will, animals in His sensate or sensible soul, plants in His vegetative/nutritive soul, minerals in his bones. Humans find themselves modeled after Him as their prototype. In this way, He is the summation and re-capitulation of all creation. But, once again, can evolution be found in Christ? Is evolution a reality in God’s creation?
The Perfect is the Exemplar of the Less Perfect
St. Thomas Aquinas held the following principle: that which is most perfect is always the exemplar of that which is less perfect (cf. Summa Theologiae, III, 56, 1ad3). Christ, the “image of the invisible God” (Col 1:15, 2Cor 4:4), the perfect micro-cosmos, is the exemplar cause of all creation (as well as its re-creation). In the prologue of St. John’s Gospel we hear: “without Him was made nothing that was made… He was in the world, and the world was made by Him” (Jn. 1:3,10; cf. Heb 1:2). Christ, therefore, is the universal prototype, foundation and blueprint of all creation. And this is why St. Paul declares: “in Him were all things created in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible” and in Him “are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Col 1:16, 2:3). This is why the various ancient icons writing about creation display Christ present at each day of creation.
Furthermore, Christ, as the exemplar cause, is the perfect man. Using the writings of many fathers like Jerome, Hilary, Cyril and Theodoret, St. Lawrence of Brindisi explains that man is made in the image of Christ, Who is both God and man, teaching: “Christ was first predetermined in the Divine Mind, as the Psalm says, ‘In the head of the book it is written of me,’ because He is ‘the firstborn of every creature.’ However, the Christ was determined, not according to divine nature, but human nature, because the Divine Mind before everything else conceived the form that the Word-to-be-Incarnate would receive. God, then, created the first man [Adam] in the image and likeness of that form. Accordingly, Scripture says that ‘in the image of God,’ namely of the Incarnation, i.e., Christ, Who is God, ‘He created him’ (Gen. 1:27). … Therefore, God created man in the image of God the Christ, namely, in that form and figure which had been predetermined for the Christ, the Son of God, before the formation of all the creatures, Whom St. Paul calls ‘the firstborn of every creature, in whom were created all things” (St. Lawrence of Brindisi on Creation and the Fall, Gen 1:27). According to this doctor, image refers to Christ even as man, saying, “Christ Himself was the archetype of human nature.” In other words, Adam was made in Christ’s image, not just spiritually but even physically. The Catechism of the Catholic Church reports St. Peter Chrysologus as saying: “The first Adam was made by the last Adam, from whom he also received his soul, to give him life. … The second Adam stamped His image on the first Adam when He created Him. … The last Adam is indeed the first; as He Himself says, ‘I am the first and the last’” (no. 359). Again, this is why various ancient icons display Christ Jesus making Adam. In Michelangelo’s now famous scene of Adam’s creation on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, God the Father reaches out to give Adam life with His right finger while His left is pointing and resting on the Christ Child with His Blessed Mother. God is saying, “Adam, We are creating you in the image of the Christ… and we are creating for the Christ.”
The mystic Ven. Mary of Agreda verifies this truth: “On the sixth day, He formed and created Adam, as it were of the age of thirty three years. This was the age in which Christ was to suffer death, and Adam in regard to His body was so like unto Christ, that scarcely any difference existed. Also according to the soul, Adam was similar to Christ. From Adam God formed Eve so similar to the Blessed Virgin, that she was like unto her personal appearance and in figure. God looked upon these two images of the great Originals with the highest pleasure and benevolence, and on account of the Originals, He heaped many blessings, as if he wanted to entertain Himself with them and their descendants until the time should arrive for forming Christ and Mary” (Mystical City of God, bk. I, pp. 126-127).
The Second Vatican Council echoes this truth, stating: “only in the mystery of the incarnate Word does the mystery of man take on light. For Adam, the first man, was a figure of Him Who was to come,(20) namely Christ the Lord. Christ, the final Adam, by the revelation of the mystery of the Father and His love, fully reveals man to man himself and makes his supreme calling clear. It is not surprising, then, that in Him all the aforementioned truths find their root and attain their crown. He Who is ‘the image of the invisible God’ (Col. 1:15), is Himself the perfect man” (Gaudium et Spes, no. 22). The footnote (20) refers to a teaching of Tertullian: “The shape that the slime of the earth was given was intended with a view to Christ, the future man” (De carnis resurrectione 6: P.L. 2, 282).
Although more proofs could be added to these, we nevertheless have sufficient data from the Deposit of the Faith to see an insurmountable obstacle to the Christ having any part with evolution. He is the exemplar cause of all creation. As the “perfect man” He is the exemplar cause of all men. What is perfect does not evolve. St. Paul exclaims: “Jesus Christ, yesterday, and today, and the same for ever. Be not led away with various and strange doctrines” (Heb 13:8-9) He is the same yesterday, today and forever… He is perfect in every way. There is no room for any evolution here. If there is no evolution in Christ, then there cannot be evolution in creation (or its re-creation/redemption), making evolution one of the “strange doctrines” to which the Apostle is referring. If there is no room for evolution in the Exemplar, then He cannot be Chardin’s “Evolver” and, what is more, there can be no evolution in man at all. For how can man have evolved from lower species during the so-called period of “hominization” when the first man Adam was made according to the image of the Christ, the perfect man, the prototype of Adam?
This is what St. Thomas said about the first man: “In the natural order, perfection comes before imperfection, as act precedes potentiality; for whatever is in potentiality is made actual only by something actual. And since God created things not only for their own existence, but also that they might be the principles of other things; so creatures were produced in their perfect state to be the principles as regards others. Now man can be the principle of another man, not only by generation of the body, but also by instruction and government. Hence, as the first man was produced in his perfect state, as regards his body, for the work of generation, so also was his soul established in a perfect state to instruct and govern others” (ST I, 94, a3).
Evolution is a Fable
Creation is, as it were, a book. Every creature is a sentence or a word in this book. The Author and Publisher is the Triune God. It is the task of human and angelic intelligence to read God’s thoughts from this book and co-operate with Him. The theme, the dominant idea that runs through each sentence—even each word—is the Word made Flesh, the Incarnate Word of God, Jesus Christ, because this Word says everything. This is why the Archangel says to Blessed Mary at the Incarnation, “No word will be impossible for God.” Evolution is not a word. It cannot be found in this book or in its theme. It is a fable (cf. 2Tim 4:4), a “strange doctrine” of which St. Paul warned us against so long ago.
Chardin made the bold claim that evolution “is a general condition to which all theories, all hypotheses, all systems must bow and which they must satisfy henceforth if they are to be thinkable and true.” This is patently false since no evolution is possible in Christ. Rather, his description of evolution’s supreme place fits the Christ, the Word, Truth Incarnate. It is to Him and His name that we must bow. It is “through Him and with Him and in Him” alone that all theories, all hypotheses, all systems must submit and satisfy if they are to be thinkable and true.
The true Book of Creation, Christ, predicted Chardin’s ideas in the lives of the Israelites making their way through in the desert of Sinai. King David relates in Psalm 105: “They made a calf in Horeb: and they adored the graven thing. … they changed their glory into the likeness of a calf that eateth grass…” (19-20). In making and worshipping the golden calf, these Israelites radically departed from the theme of creation’s book, the Word made flesh, by trying to write, as it were, “we are made in the image of beasts…because we came from the beasts; and we are, therefore, like the beasts. There is some equality between us.” We know the outcome. They proceeded to act like beasts, became beastly, and were destroyed.
St. Paul explains that Christ is our goal and that, because of sin, man has fallen away from the perfect man. Through sin man is deformed. Through sin man falls further and further away from the Christ. To regain our proper place, we seek to conform to Christ Jesus by restoring what was lost. Chardin, however, replaces the deformation caused by sin with the concept of evolution, claiming that creation started in a state of imperfection or deformation and is evolving toward Christ as the Omega point of creation. This does not coincide with the data of Divine Revelation. This does not fit Christ as the Exemplar cause of all creation and as the perfect Man in light of Whom Adam was made. This doctrine of Chardin, therefore, must be rejected as dangerous and harmful to the faith.
The Holy Office certainly concurred with this conclusion when it published the following admonition in the early 1960s:
Several works of Fr. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, some of which were published posthumously, are being edited and receiving considerable support.
Refraining from a judgment in that which concerns the positive sciences, it is quite evident that in philosophical and theological matters the mentioned works are filled with ambiguities and even serious errors that offend Catholic doctrine.
For this reason, the Most Eminent and Most Reverend Fathers of the Supreme and Sacred Congregation of the Holy Office exhort all Ordinaries as well as the Superiors of Religious Institutes, Rectors of Seminaries and Directors of Universities, to protect minds, particularly of the youth, against the dangers of the works of Fr. Teilhard de Chardin and his associates.
Given at Rome, from the Palace of the Holy Office, on the 30th day of June, 1962.
Sebastian Masala, Notary
(cf. L’Osservatore Romano, July 1, 1962).
Authoritative Magisterial Teaching is Rooted in the Deposit of Faith
Now something needs to be said regarding the statements of the popes and prelates that place evolution and the teaching of Chardin in so favorable a light. Each of these men has a place in the hierarchy of the Church. They are in the line of authority established by God that goes from heaven down to earth. But that position or place in the hierarchy alone does not give every word or action or decision they make an immediate share in God’s authority. In order for this to happen, these words, actions and decisions must be somehow found in the Book of the Incarnate Word. In other words, they must have some pedigree, some genealogy, a Tradition that traces them back to Christ and His Apostles. In every authoritative statement of the Church’s Magisterium, there is always a presentation of the tradition behind the teaching. For example, when defining the Immaculate Conception, Pope Pius IX spent no little time and space tracing the doctrine back to the Scriptures and Tradition through the Fathers, Doctors and the Sacred Liturgy of the Church. Then Pope Pius made his immemorial pronouncement. Pope John Paul did likewise when he ruled on whether women could be ordained priests. This is what must be done in order for any statement to witness with any authority to the Book of the Incarnate Word. Pope John Paul presented no pedigree, no genealogy or Tradition in his statement on evolution. No mention was made of the creed of Pope Pelagius I, the Fourth Lateran Council, the First Vatican Council, Pope Leo XIII and other authoritative Magisterial teachings on the origin of man and the created universe. Thus, the saying of Melchior Cano, the great Dominican theologian at the sixteenth-century Council of Trent, comes to mind: “Those who blindly and indiscriminately defend every decision of the supreme Pontiff are the very ones who do most to undermine the authority of the Holy See—they destroy instead of strengthening its foundations” (as quoted by George Weigel in Witness to Hope, p. 15). Since Pope John Paul II’s statement on evolution has no genealogy, we are safe in considering it merely as the opinion of a Pope at the time of his speaking to a gathering of modern scientists.
Again, St. Paul explains our task is not to evolve toward and into Christ but rather to restore all things in Christ by first entering into His Body the Church (incorporation) and then seeking total conformity to Him as the Head of the Church and exemplar of both our creation and re-creation. He is the foundation upon which we build anew. “Until we all meet into the unity of faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the age of the fullness of Christ; That henceforth we be no more children tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine by the wickedness of men, by cunning craftiness, by which they lie in wait to deceive but doing the truth in charity, we may in all things grow up in Him who is the Head, even Christ” (4:13-15). St. John of the Cross poetically captures much of what we have concluded when he has God the Father say to God the Son in one of his ballads: “My Son, only Your company contents Me, and when something pleases Me I love that thing in You; whoever resembles You most satisfies Me most, and whoever is like You in nothing, will find nothing in Me. I am pleased with You alone, O life of My life!” (Romances, no. 9.2). We have shown that evolution has no part in Christ—which means that it is not pleasing to God, and that He will have nothing to do with it! So, let “that mind be” in us “that was in Christ Jesus”—and let us join Our Lord in rejecting evolution so that we can restore the primacy of Christ, as Creator, Redeemer, and King of the universe.
An Anonymous Priest