About Christian Progressivism
By Father Julio Meinvielle
Translated from the Spanish by Roberto Hope
The progressivism of Emmanuel Mounier
Maritain had drawn up an entire theory of personalism which fed the myth of a new Christendom. Emmanuel Mounier was to constitute himself as the prophet of this new messianism in France. With his journal Esprit, he would inspire an entire Catholic generational movement which would arouse a new spirit — the spirit of Christian progressivism — in the works of the Catholic apostolate in France and in Europe. The Christian progressivism that now dominates the Catholic realm in France and even in the world can be considered to be the work of Mounier.
He has influenced decisive Dominican and Jesuit groups of theologians and sociologists, so that it is not an exaggeration to assign to them a first-level influence in the progressivist current which dominates the Catholic circles nowadays, and in which it has created a powerful structure to which Catholics, even sometimes the episcopate, willingly or unwillingly, have to give in.
Mounier begins by re-valuing the notion of progress as a substantial idea of Christianity. But in this, he is wrong because, even though it is true that there is a growth in the Mystical Body of Christ until reaching the fullness of the perfect age, it does not follow that there is also a progress in the civilization supporting such progress of the Mystical Body. Mounier does not make the pertinent distinction and in his study ‘Christianity and the notion of progress’, he upholds the error, as if progress were to be translated to the same temporal reality. In this, he coincides fully with Lammenais and Maritain. On this erroneous idea of progress, Mounier is to build up all the entire system of his personalism which is to constitute a new civilization or new Christendom, to substitute the civilization emerged from the Renaissance.
To understand the significance of Mounier's Revolution of personalism it is necessary to be attentive and see against which realities he struggles, And his struggle develops especially against the world of capitalism, of the bourgeoisie, and of money. These are the principal figures which serve him as a contrast. Against Capitalism, he deploys his most powerful weapons. In the same way that he castigates strongly the bourgeoisie and capitalism, he has strong words against fascism.
But the harshness that Mounier displayed against capitalism and fascism was not the same as what he had with Communism. With the latter, he demonstrated a significant complacency. He has written innumerable pages and leaves the impression that Communism exerted a true hypnotic suggestion as though it were an authentic humanism. In the first volume of his works, on page 515 we read “Marxism´s denunciation of bourgeois idealism and of its social ideology was or could have been a considerable contribution to the humanism sought, with which, especially Christians, felt a historical fraternity.” With respect to his complacent position in the face of Communism, nothing more suggestive than what André Dumas wrote on October 9, 1949, on the subject of the Holy Office decree of October 13, 1949, whereby severe sanctions were applied to those which lent their support to Communism.
Mounier insinuates that this is an abusive act of worldly meddling incurred by the Church, following Constantine and Gregory. And so he writes: “So, all those Catholics are currently combating against the crystallization of a certain «defense of the Christian civilization» of a certain agglutination of the Church with the capitalist and American West, of which the Church is not entirely responsible (she is pushed from the East) but of which she is firstly responsible. That the forces coming from that blasphemous tendency should push our Church's attitude before Communism in the current direction, there is no doubt. That she be anguished, among other threats, by the threat that Communism poses on her post-Constantinian or post-Gregorian power there is not the least doubt, and this we should combat without reticence.”
Mounier was the first one to invent this Constantinian character alluding to Constantine and this Gregorian character, alluding to Gregory VII, to label the Church's determination to defend Christian civilization. To Mounier, Christian civilization, Catholic city, Christian social order, are nothing but abusive remedies of Constantinian and Gregorian Christianity which should be combated just like the gentrification of the Church. This is why the letter to André Dumas we refer to ends with this suggestive close: “with all my heart, yours in Christ (not in Christian civilization)”
The theory wrought by Lammenais and Maritain and disseminated by E. Mounier wound up by imposing itself in Catholic circles. There is no longer the need to strive for Christian civilization to reign, no need to resolve to have the right be recognized of the Kingship of Christ to rule over the schools, the workers' unions, the social groups, the public power. Allow instead that everything temporal be left in the hands of secularism. And if all of such temporal order has fallen in the hands of liberalism, socialism or Communism, leave it there, because that way nothing has taken place but attainments in the progress of the majority of age in current society, which has passed from the old childish and naive state, and hence from the Constantinian and Gregorian sacred character, to the perfect maturation of adulthood of the current modern society.
Together with this underrating of the authentic Christian civilization and of a public social order in accordance with the Gospel as has always been held by Christendom, the idea is spread that, ridding it of its atheism, Communism might be a system compatible with the Catholic faith. They want to make us forget that Communism is intrinsically perverse as a social system. It has been declared so in definite and impossible to distort terms by Pius XII in his Christmas message of 1955: “we reject Communism as a social system by virtue of the Christian doctrine.”
With this we want to uphold the Christian necessity, It must be said, imposed by Christian demands, to combat Communism and make a Christian society flourish in the social realm, that is, to strive for the Christian civilization. Christian progressivism, on the contrary, consists precisely in the affirmation of the opposite, namely that Christian demands do not make it necessary to strive for the flourishing of a Christian society. Christianity could spread as well or perhaps better, progressivists say, in a society where Communism reigns.
Mounier's ideas were to nourish the Progressivist Christian movements of Mandouze which gathered strength around 1948, they also had influence on theologian groups united around Jeunesse de l'Eglise of the former Dominican Montuclard, and especially through these, on the movement of the Pretres-ouvriers, the condemnation of which, still made by Pius XII, would acquire world resonance.
The progressivism of Teilhard de Chardin
Teilhard de Chardin constitutes the topmost figure of Christian progressivism. But his trajectory follows a course different from that of Lammenais, Maritain, and Mounier. Although the fundamental reason for his progressivism is constituted by the strong passion that moved him to put together in a single sheaf his two faiths, his faith in heaven and his faith in the earth. Teilhard de Chardin was simply in love with the world, and especially with the modern world. In his case, this particular love of the world was strongly felt for modern science in general, and particularly for the biological sciences. It is for this reason that, drawn by the prevailing current in this type of sciences, he would pronounce himself decidedly a partisan of the evolution of the species and of universal evolution.
'I believe in evolution' was his first profession of scientific faith. 'I believe that evolution leads towards the spirit'. 'I believe that the spirit leads towards what is personal'. 'I believe that the supreme personal culminates in Christ'. Teilhard de Chardin, for the same reason that he believed in universal evolution, believed also in progress. A progress from a primeval cosmic dust to the first elements of the atom, from the atom to the molecule, from the molecule to the virus, from the virus to the cell, from the cell to the protozoa, from these to the more complete animals and plants, and finally to man. And even there the evolutive process would not end, but it would advance further to attain more complex forms of collective and planetary organization of what is human, up until reaching the Omega point and the Christic filum. A whole progressive process of Cosmogenesis, Biogenesis, Noogenesis, and Christogenesis.
But Teilhard de Chardin's specialty was paleontology. It was to provide, according to him, the rigorous scientific foundation of all his evolutionism. That specialty compels us to set forth Teilhard de Chardin's thinking on this topic. Fortunately, Teilhard has summarized his thinking in this regard in his article on “The question of the fossil man” published in Psyché number 99-100, appearing in volume II of his complete works.
Teilhard de Chardin establishes therein that his universal evolutionism has as its foundation man's evolution. And, in fact, in such study, he draws the conclusion that “it is also the key to the future”. “If it is true, in fact scientifically true, that since a hundred million years ago, man has not ceased to move (without ever moving back as a whole and always at the head of life) to constantly growing states of organization and of conscience, then there is no reason to suppose that this movement has now stopped. On the contrary, the Homo Sapiens group is still around us in full force (not to say in its first youth) of his development. Thus our hope and our modern faith in human progress are justified and specified on a scientifically solid basis. No, indeed, the anthropogenesis is not closed. Humanity has always advanced and will go on advancing for another hundred million years, on condition that we shall know how to keep the same march of our predecessors towards an ever greater conscience and complexity.”
What worth does Teilhard´s paleontological foundation have? To examine it, let us explain his theory briefly:
For Teilhard de Chardin, man appears in the Quaternary age. He also admits that the clear ascendant of current man is the Homo Sapiens, which appears in the higher Pleistocene. But before that, he appears in intermediary forms represented especially by the Sinanthropus, who appears in the lower Pleistocene and by the Neanderthal man who appears in the middle Pleistocene.
What value has this progressive gradation on which Teilhard de Chardin sustains his theory? Is it true that there is a progressive ascension from the Sinanthropus — animal — primate — and from this to the Homo Sapiens? We must answer that there is no such progressive gradation on which Teilhard de Chardin bases his theory. Indeed Homo Sapiens pieces have been found which are earlier than the man of Neanderthal and have to be placed in the lower Pleistocene.
In fact, in the prehistoric station of Fonte-Chevade in Charante, Mlle. Germaine Henri Martin has made known her discovery of a cranial cap in anatomic connection, comprising a portion of the frontal bone, two parietal bones, a portion of the left temporal bone and a portion of the occipital bone. What is interesting about these discoveries resides on the fact that they conform to the Homo Sapiens type but are dated earlier than the Munsterian, in other words, we have to place them in the lower Pleistocene. Therefore it is clearly evident that before the Neanderthal Man, a type of Homo Sapiens already lived in Europe.
Apart from that, the famous Sinanthropus or Peking man, which for Teilhard de Chardin constitutes a link between the animal and the human, has no such value. This matter has been studied extensively by Rev. Patrick O'Connell in “Science of Today and the Problems of the Genesis”. The matter warrants being treated exhaustively, which is not possible in this space. We will summarize some facts that must be taken into consideration
First fact: We must take into account that in the course of the excavations in Choukoutien about 30 complete or incomplete skulls had been found, 11 jaws and 147 teeth of the purported Sinanthropus. All this has completely disappeared.
Second fact: The importance of the industry found in Choukoutien, which consequently presupposes the existence there, of men with the development of the Homo Sapiens, has been hidden from the public.
Third fact: In 1934, Dr. Pei found three human skulls of the modern type, and remainders of skeletons of six human beings. Weidenreich, who directed the excavations after the death of Dr. Black, said in his explanation chronicling the excavations in the 1939 issue of De Paleontologia Sinica, and repeated in his lecture to students in the University of California in 1945, says textually “In the so-called upper level excavation in Choukoutien, which yielded the remainders of the Sinanthropus, three well-conserved skulls were found, various fragments of other skulls and skeleton bones of about ten individuals which seemed to be of the same family. The three skulls belonged to a middle age man, a middle age woman, and a younger woman. Although of the same family, they had different features: the cranium of the man was of a Mongolian type with some Neanderthalian characteristics; the cranium of the middle-aged woman looked like that of an Eskimo while that of the younger woman was like that of an inhabitant of Melanesia”
The fourth fact which ought to be taken into account is that all of the skulls of the Sinanthropus showed a hole in the posterior part, which had been made to suck the brain from them.
From all these facts, one must conclude the plausibility of the assertion made by the great paleontologist Marcellin Boule in his Antropologie, third edition, page 126, where he writes “to this hypothesis (that of Teilhard de Chardin on the Sinanthropus) as fantastic as it is ingenious I would rather prefer this other one which conforms itself more with our body of knowledge, the hunter was an actual man of whom the typical industry has been found, and who had made of the Sinanthropus his victim.” And in that same piece, Boule writes: “It seems rash to me to consider the Sinanthropus as the monarch of Choukoutien since he appears in the deposits where it has been found as game next to other animals”
This, to keep ourselves within the field of paleontology from which evolutionists draw their arguments. Because, if we put ourselves in the field of Biology, it is easy to demonstrate that in the concept of 'species' as in that of 'inheritance', as well as in that of 'acquired characteristics' and that of 'genetics', evolution is implausible. About the French Encyclopedia, volume 5 of 1938, in the words written by Paul Lemoine, which still stand, we read:
“The fifth volume of the French Encyclopedia will signal a date in the history of our ideas on evolution; from their reading emerges that this theory is on the eve of being abandoned.
“From this exposition, it results that the theory of evolution is impossible. At bottom, despite appearances, nobody believes in it any more, and the word evolution is used without assigning to it any special importance, to signify 'linking', or 'more evolved' or 'less evolved' in the sense of 'more perfected' or 'less perfected', because that is the conventional and almost obligatory language in the scientific world.”
“Evolution is a kind of dogma in which the priests no longer believe but which they maintain for consumption by the people. It is necessary to have the courage to say this so that men of future generations orient their research in some other direction.”
Teilhard de Chardin's idea of progress has no scientific basis whatsoever. Neither can any philosophical basis be assigned to it.
What is important to highlight — and it is here necessary to establish why it is that Communism is so determined to propagate and favor Teilhardism in Catholic circles — is that, for Teilhard, in actuality, it is necessary to operate a combination or mixing of Christianity with Marxism. Indeed, in his article “The Heart of the Matter”, contained in volume 5 of his works, he proposes, as a solution for humanity, an O combination resulting from Oy which represents the Christian faith or faith in the High, with Ox which represents the Communist or Marxist tendency, or the faith on human advances, or faith in the world. There, Teilhard says “two religious forces up to now antagonistic in the hearts of all men, two forces, we have just seen, which weaken and languish if they remain isolated: two forces, consequently, (this is what I yet have to demonstrate) which do not await but one thing: not that we make an election among them, but that we find a way to combine one with the other”.