An excellent article from Wanderer Press examines this question as well as any I’ve read.
You can see why Catholics in the United States might be confused about where the Church stands on the theories of the French Jesuit Teilhard de Chardin. Recently, as reported by David Gibson in Religion News Service, “Gerhard [Cardinal] Mueller, head of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith,” warned the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, the group representing more than 40,000 American sisters, that “the principles of ‘conscious evolution’ — that mankind is transforming thorough the integration of science, spirituality, and technology — are opposed to Christian revelation and lead to fundamental errors.” According to Gibson, Mueller warned that “if the nuns persist in pursuing such dangerous ideas, Rome could cut them loose.”
There is general agreement that the term “conscious evolution” is a reference to the theories of Teilhard (1881-1955), who achieved considerable fame as a philosopher, theologian, geologist, and paleontologist. Teilhard believed, writes Gibson, “that creation is still evolving and that mankind is changing with it; we are, he said, advancing in an interactive ‘noosphere’ of human thought that leads inexorably toward an Omega Point — Jesus Christ — that is pulling all the cosmos to itself.”
There was a time when Rome was highly suspicious of what Teilhard meant by this. In 1962, the Vatican issued a formal warning about the “dangers presented by the works of Fr. Teilhard de Chardin and his followers.”
That was then. Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, as the young theologian Joseph Ratzinger, praised Teilhard’s “great vision” of the cosmos as a “living host.” One of Benedict’s spokesmen, according to Gibson, responded to questions about whether Benedict still felt that way, with a statement that read as follows: “By now, no one would dream of saying that [Teilhard] is a heterodox author who shouldn’t be studied.” Beyond that, there are reports that Pope Francis is likely to make favorable comments about Teilhard in an encyclical on the environment that he is currently writing.
So which is it? Is Rome warning us about Teilhard’s message — as Cardinal Mueller’s strong words to the Leadership Conference of Women Religious would indicate? Or calling upon Catholics to ponder his work for insights into a correct understanding of Catholicism for our time — as the comments of Pope Benedict and Pope Francis seem to say?
Yes, and yes. The problem is that it is possible to interpret Teilhard’s theories in an orthodox manner, in line with Catholic teaching. But it is also possible to interpret them in a far different manner, as a call for an evolving consciousness that leaves no room for the Church and its teachings. We can’t get around it: There are secular humanists and proponents of an eccentric New Age spiritualism who are proponents of Teilhard’s theories. They see them as a vehicle for helping Catholics grow out of what they believe is an immature literal understanding of Jesus’ role in salvation history.
Consider some key passages from Teilhard’s The Divine Milieu. “Nothing is more certain, dogmatically, than that human action can be sanctified; the actions of life, of which we are speaking, should not be understood solely in the sense of religious and devotional works (prayer, fasting, almsgiving).” Christians should “dignify, ennoble, and transfigure in God the duties inherent to one’s station in life, the search for natural truth, and the development of human action.”
Does Teilhard mean by the above that we have an obligation to “remake all things in Christ,” as St. Paul instructed? To live our faith in our daily lives in the manner that a member of Opus Dei would call for? Or is he subtly hinting that we should leave behind the Church’s sacramental life and its concentration on saving our souls in favor of a new Catholicism that stresses transforming the physical world of our earthly existence? Is he placing less stress on prayer and fasting because they make no sense if there is no Creator who will reward us in an afterlife for these spiritual exercises?
Retrieved July 28, 2014 from http://thewandererpress.com/frontpage/5053/#more-5053