Film documentary on Teilhard de Chardin

The life of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, a French priest-paleontologist-visionary, suppressed by his Jesuit order for advocating evolution is revealed in a drama of personal awakening, a search for meaning, scientific adventure, unresolved conflict with authority, and human love.

Link to film on PBS:

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  1. Tony Flannery says:

    I absolutely loved this documentary on Teilhard de Chardin, about whose life I was not very familiar. It is really well done, and a riveting view.
    A few things stood out for me in particular.
    While in no way equating myself with the genius of Chardin, I was struck by the similarity of the story of his dealings with Church authorities and my own. In particular the demands made on him for statements that would contradict so much of his life’s work and study. He was asked to make a statement that he accepted the literal, historical truth of the Adam/Eve story in Genesis, and that the world was actually created in six days. The dilemma he found himself in when faced with this demand, so well illustrated in the documentary, brought back many painful memories to myself.
    His first essay, which got him into trouble after it was reported to the authorities, was about the doctrine of Original Sin. That was fully one hundred years ago. He was simply pointing out that a doctrine based on the literal interpretation of a mythological story needs to be re-evaluated. I am disappointed that our Church hasn’t yet faced up to this problem. I know that the fundamental issue is around the origin of evil, and that is a real question, but it is past time for Christianity to find some better explanation of it’s existence than one based on Adam, Eve and the apple — with all the implications about the nature of God, the meaning of the life of Jesus, and the awful judgment passed historically on unbaptised babies.
    Chardin had a difficult life, with fairly regular bouts of depression, and seemingly little enough support from his own religious colleagues, but I was not surprised to learn that when it came to the human struggles of his life, and to the preservation of his work which he could not get published during his life, it was women who were his companions and support through it all.
    The documentary is about an hour and a half long, but I suggest that watching it would be that time extremely well spent.

  2. Seamus Ahearne says:

    Re Teilhard de Chardin: Exquisite. A line from Victor Hugo is apt:
    “Nothing else in the world ….. not all the armies…is so powerful, as an idea whose time has come.”
    The Film Documentary is a nostalgic reminder of what excited many of us, years and years ago.

  3. Joe O'Leary says:

    “to make a statement that he accepted the literal, historical truth of the Adam/Eve story in Genesis, and that the world was actually created in six days.” I don’t think he was asked to say the world was created in six days. Also he was not asked about talking snakes and women made from ribs, but only about the claim that the human race had a single ancestor. This was much discussed among theologians (e.g. Karl Rahner) on the eve of the Council and in the wake of Pius XII’s Humani Generis (1950) which condemned polygenism:

    37. When, however, there is question of another conjectural opinion, namely polygenism, the children of the Church by no means enjoy such liberty. For the faithful cannot embrace that opinion which maintains that either after Adam there existed on this earth true men who did not take their origin through natural generation from him as from the first parent of all, or that Adam represents a certain number of first parents. Now it is in no way apparent how such an opinion can be reconciled with that which the sources of revealed truth and the documents of the Teaching Authority of the Church propose with regard to original sin, which proceeds from a sin actually committed by an individual Adam and which, through generation, is passed on to all and is in everyone as his own.

    38. Just as in the biological and anthropological sciences, so also in the historical sciences there are those who boldly transgress the limits and safeguards established by the Church. In a particular way must be deplored a certain too free interpretation of the historical books of the Old Testament. Those who favour this system, in order to defend their cause, wrongly refer to the Letter which was sent not long ago to the Archbishop of Paris by the Pontifical Commission on Biblical Studies. This letter, in fact, clearly points out that the first eleven chapters of Genesis, although properly speaking not conforming to the historical method used by the best Greek and Latin writers or by competent authors of our time, do nevertheless pertain to history in a true sense, which however must be further studied and determined by exegetes; the same chapters, (the Letter points out), in simple and metaphorical language adapted to the mentality of a people but little cultured, both state the principal truths which are fundamental for our salvation, and also give a popular description of the origin of the human race and the chosen people. If, however, the ancient sacred writers have taken anything from popular narrations (and this may be conceded), it must never be forgotten that they did so with the help of divine inspiration, through which they were rendered immune from any error in selecting and evaluating those documents.

    39. Therefore, whatever of the popular narrations have been inserted into the Sacred Scriptures must in no way be considered on a par with myths or other such things, which are more the product of an extravagant imagination than of that striving for truth and simplicity which in the Sacred Books, also of the Old Testament, is so apparent that our ancient sacred writers must be admitted to be clearly superior to the ancient profane writers.

    In 1977 I argued about this with a Kerry priest and he said that we know that Adam and Eve were real people, because the Council of Trent speaks of them as real people!

    The Catechism of the Catholic Church (1992) has been faulted for biblical fundamentalism in its treatment of these issues. (See its parr. 396-412.)

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