Dear Friends of the Kolbe Center,
In our last two newsletters we saw how the gifted author Flannery O’Connor was deceived by the errors of Teilhard de Chardin and his “new Christianity,” based on evolution. In this newsletter, we would like to give one more example of a gifted servant of God who also fell under the spell of Teilhard de Chardin, the Venerable Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen. We trust that the Venerable Archbishop would be the first to want us to bring his deception to light, as a warning to all of us to be on our guard against the seductive errors of theistic evolution.
The Young Fr. Fulton Sheen Rejects Theistic Evolution
Archbishop Sheen’s eventual embrace of Teilhardian errors is all the more astonishing in view of his earlier writings in which he thoroughly rejected them. As a young theologian, he wrote an extensive review of modern philosophy which had had seen “the birth of a new notion of God”:
It is God in evolution . . . God is born by successive creations. As the world progresses, He progresses; as the world acquires perfection, He acquires perfection. [Moreover,] man is a necessary step in the evolution of God. Just as man came from the beast, God will come from man.
In one of his early works, Love One Another, Sheen mocked the notion that one could derive the great commandment of Christ to “Love one another as I have loved you” from an evolutionary struggle for existence over millions of years:
“Man came from the beast; therefore, he ought to love his fellowman.”
How silly that sounds! Everyone knows that the law of the survival of the fittest can never evolve into love, nor can the struggle for existence develop into human brotherhood. If we come from the beasts, then we may appropriately be expected to act like beasts.
After completing a 300-page survey of modern philosophy, the young Fr. Sheen concluded:
The wisdom of the ages and the epitome of our experience is given in the simple truth understood by the simple and forgotten by many a philosopher, that we are not “God-makers but God-made."
Archbishop Sheen and “Evolution’s Greatest Triumph”
Archbishop Sheen’s “conversion” to theistic evolutionism must be understood as part of what the German anatomist and Darwinian apologist Ernst Haeckel called “evolution’s greatest triumph,” the conversion of the Catholic intellectual elite to the conviction that they had to reconcile the microbe-to-man evolutionary hypothesis with the Catholic Faith—in spite of the clear condemnation of the thesis that “evolution can be reconciled with Christian doctrine” by the Congregation of the Index in 1878, the decrees of the Pontifical Biblical Commission upholding the special creation of Adam and Eve and the literal historical truth of Genesis 1-3, and the condemnation by Pope St. Pius X in Lamentabili sane in 1907 of the proposition that the condemnations of the Congregation of the Index could be taken lightly.
Darwin had argued that similarities in structure among diverse life forms proved that they had all evolved from a common ancestor. According to Haeckel, the existence of similarities in embryos of various kinds of organisms proved that the higher life forms “recapitulated” their evolutionary history before birth and that they had all descended from a common ancestor. To make this “proof” more compelling for his contemporaries, Haeckel doctored drawings of the embryos of fish, salamanders, chickens, turtles, rabbits, pigs, and human beings to exaggerate their similarities and minimize their differences. Although Haeckel’s fraud was discovered and exposed during his lifetime, the evolutionary hypothesis demanded common descent, and the concept of embryonic recapitulation continued to exert a profound influence on the study of embryology for many decades. In the United States, the renowned scholar Fr. John Augustine Zahm at Notre Dame University, devoted more pages of his influential book Evolution and Dogma to “embryonic recapitulation” than to any other “proof” for Darwin’s hypothesis.
When, on the centenary of the publication of Origin of Species in 1959, the world’s leading evolutionist scientist Sir Julian Huxley pontificated that “embryology” as displayed in Ernst Haeckel’s drawings provided “the most striking proof of evolution,” his evolution-believing colleagues had enjoyed control of almost all of the universities and research centers in the Western world for more than half a century. Yet “embryonic recapitulation” was, by his own admission, the best proof that they could come up with. In 1950, Pope Pius XII in Humani generis had exhorted Catholic experts to “examine” the evidence for and against the evolutionary hypothesis, but it was apparent that hardly any Catholic scholars subjected Huxley’s pontifications to rigorous examination. For example, in Germany pro-abortion activists:
skillfully exploited the disunity of the German Catholic intellectuals to bring their demands for the legalization of abortion to the legislature. … Karl Rahner, who was in the forefront of the fight over [the loosening of] paragraph 218, wrote in Naturwissenschaft und Theologie (brochure 11, page 86, 1970): “I think that there are biological developments which are pre-human, but these developments are still aimed in the direction of man. Why cannot these developments be transferred from phylogeny to ontogeny?” (emphasis added)
With these words, the most influential Catholic theologian in the German-speaking world formulated an Haeckelian evolutionary rationale for abortifacient contraception and abortion by affirming that human beings passed through all the stages of evolution in their mothers’ wombs. To this day, biology textbooks all over the world argue that similarities between embryos of fish, amphibians, reptiles, humans and lower mammals constitute evidence for the evolutionary hypothesis. Typical of examples too many to cite is the caption that accompanies drawings of embryos of various life-forms from a widely used American biology textbook published in 2002. Entitled “Embryonic development of vertebrates,” it states:
Notice that the early embryonic stages of these vertebrates bear a striking resemblance to each other, even though the individuals are from different classes (fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals). All vertebrates start out with an enlarged head region, gill slits, and a tail regardless of whether these characteristics are retained in the adult.
The statement gives the impression that human embryos—as members of the vertebrate phylum—possess gill slits. But this is patently false. The pharyngeal arches in human embryos have no connection with gill slits whatsoever but develop into the outer and middle ear, and into the neck bones, muscles, nerves, and glands. Moreover, after the discovery of DNA, confidence in the truth of the evolutionary hypothesis led many evolutionary biologists to predict that similar body parts in diverse organisms would be controlled by the same genes. This, however, proved to be false, as embryologists have discovered that the realization of the same body plan—such as five digit extremities—in diverse organisms (such as whales and humans) is controlled by different genes and is achieved through totally different embryonic pathways. In spite of the fact that the myth of “embryonic recapitulation” had no scientific basis, however, it would appear that Archbishop Sheen was as badly deceived as Fr. Rahner—because we find him eight years after Humani generis rhapsodizing confidently about Teilhard’s writings on the evolution of life from non-life:
For Teilhard there is a continuity between an animal seeking food and a magnet pointing to the north; between a male and a female uniting in the act of generation and two atoms uniting to form a chemical compound. The meaning is not the same in each instance, but there is more than a mere figure of speech in this unification. Atoms are not alive, it is true, but they have what might be called pre-life.
The Deadly Deception of Archbishop Sheen
Without knowing all the inner workings of Archbishop Sheen’s mind, it is easy to see that his conviction that molecules-to-man evolution was no longer an absurdity but a “fact of science” must have had terrible consequences. His apparent belief that the Church’s traditional doctrine of creation could be replaced by theistic evolution in light of the new “science” of evolution certainly helps to explain his enthusiasm for the ideas of John Courtney Murray at the Second Vatican Council and for the replacement of the traditional vision of a Church-centered Catholic society with the ideal of religious liberty as practiced in the United States. In reality, it is no more possible to “evolve” the ideal of American-style religious liberty with its separation of Church and state from the traditional ideal of the Catholic union of Church and state than it would be to evolve the life of a one-celled organism from the “pre-life” of atomic particles.
Writing in 1967, Sheen echoed and embraced the Teilhardian vision of matter evolving to the Omega Point. He wrote:
The whole world is ascending towards Christ the King, even the irresistible surge of the ocean tides under the Pull of the moon and sun . . . His [Teilhard de Chardin's] fundamental orientation was to attain heaven through the fulfillment of earth. Christify matter.
An elderly priest friend of mine whose life overlapped with Teilhard’s commented on Fr. De Chardin’s reputation for kindness, and it is true that a belief in the Christification of matter might motivate a person to show kindness to all people and to all things because of the divine element within all of them. But this is a false kindness if it fails to acknowledge the divinely-created hierarchy of goods in the universe—the transcendence of God; the creation of man in God’s image and likeness; man’s dominion over creation; the infinite superiority of supernatural goods to natural ones; and the moral imperative to do good and avoid evil.
In Teilhard’s system, as revealed in his pivotal spiritual experience as a young man, when he encountered “a presence” he described as “the combined essence of all good and all evil,” the divine energy drives all of the activity in the universe, thus making it impossible to distinguish between the natural and the supernatural, the good and the evil, insofar as Teilhard’s divinity manifests through them all. The conflation of the order of grace with the order of nature occupied so central a place in his “new Christianity” that the kindly Teilhard forgot his manners when Dietrich Von Hildebrand cited the writings of the Doctor of Grace, St. Augustine, against his evolutionary doctrine. “Don’t speak to me of that unfortunate man,” he protested violently. He “spoiled everything by introducing the supernatural.” True to their master, the Teilhardians of today find the “divine element” even in pagan religions and in immoral sexual behavior which objectively separates souls from communion with the living God. Yet Archbishop Sheen was so convinced of the fact of molecules-to-man evolution and of the credibility of Teilhard’s doctrine that he predicted the eventual elevation of Fr. De Chardin to the honors of a Doctor of the Church by 2017:
It is very likely that within 50 years when all the trivial, verbose disputes about the meaning of Teilhard’s ‘unfortunate’ vocabulary will have died away or have taken a secondary place, Teilhard will appear like John of the Cross and St. Teresa of Avila, as the spiritual genius of the twentieth century.
It is not my intention in this newsletter to deny the many good things that Archbishop Sheen accomplished in his life as a Bishop, writer, and preacher, especially through his promotion of Eucharistic Holy Hours for priests. But it would be a grave dereliction of duty on my part if I were to fail to point out the incoherence that his embrace of Teilhard’s evolutionary doctrine introduced into his thinking—just as it continues to introduce incoherence into the thinking of so many Catholic intellectuals and Church leaders today. To recognize and reject the negative influence of Teilhardian theistic evolutionism is especially necessary now when so many Church leaders are actively collaborating with their secular counterparts to build a godless New World Order, with a one-world religion, a “new Christianity,” based on evolution.
In Teilhard’s “new Christianity,” it is easy to believe that “the end justifies the means” because the god of evolution deliberately uses spiritual and material evils to achieve his ends. Thus, Teilhard could not bring himself to condemn totalitarian governments that imposed beneficial changes on the population that would hasten man’s evolution. Indeed, he foresaw and favored the rise of a one world government that would impose “beneficent” laws upon mankind that would hasten man’s evolution to the Omega point. The Vatican’s enthusiasm for vaccine mandates imposing abortion-tainted vaccines on the entire world’s population is Teilhardian to the core, as it rationalizes its complicity in a global industry of child trafficking, abortion, and fetal experimentation for the sake of a notion of the “common good” that has been emptied of its primary supernatural dimension and reduced to the level of merely natural, material goods.
Through the prayers of Our Lady of Fatima on this First Saturday, may the Holy Ghost inspire us all to live our consecration to Jesus through the Immaculate Heart of Mary in every moment, so that we can help to obtain the grace for the consecration and conversion of Russia, an era of peace, and the social reign of Christ our King throughout the world!
Yours in Christ through the Immaculata in union with St. Joseph,
P.S. Today is a First Saturday. Please be sure to answer Our Lady’s appeal for the First Saturday devotions as described by the Fatima Center at this link.
P.P.S. I have been invited to give a Kolbe seminar at a Maronite parish in Florida on the weekend of February 18-19. I will be driving to Florida from Virginia and then to Texas before heading north again. If you can organize a Kolbe talk anywhere close to that route, I will be happy to oblige, but please let me know if you are interested in organizing something as soon as possible.