The Catholic Church as Gamechanger:
from de Chardin to Sheehan
to Pope Francis
Bro. Joshua Wilson
September 24, 2015
Pierre Teilhard de Chardin Daniel Sheehan
Change is in the air, but the kind of change we will see is dependent upon the actions of individuals, and the quality of our institutions of family, school, and church. This essay could alternatively be titled “The Christian Church as Both Embarrassment and as Liberator,” as both monikers have been accurate. However, in the two personalities of de Chardin and Daniel Sheehan we see great liberators for thinking, caring people. Much of what they have envisioned is now coming to pass under the leadership of Pope Francis.
Pierre Teilhard de Chardin was born in Auvergne, France, in 1881, and did much as a paleontologist and priest to harmonize science and religion against all odds, given the objections of his own Church.
Daniel Sheehan works as a public interest lawyer, is chief counsel to the Romero Institute, and is the founder of the Christic Institute. He was born in Glenn Falls, New York, in 1945. He has played a key role in many of the most famous public interest cases of our times. These include the Pentagon Papers Case, Eisenstadt v. Baird, the Watergate burglary case, the Wounded Knee trials, Morton v. Mancari, the Silkwood Case, Three-Mile Island Incident (PIRC v. Three Mile Island), American Sanctuary Movement Case (U.S. v. Stacey Lynn Merkt, et al.), Greensboro Massacre (Waller v. Butkovich), and the Iran Contra Affair. He is litigating now on behalf of the Lakota tribe regarding the foster care system that they are suffering under.
Laboring under great embarrassment
Both the Protestant and Catholic Churches get low marks for the embarrassment of being bedfellows with secular government. The Protestant Church has done this by fostering the usury banking system since Calvin, through empire building, and via warfare. The Catholic Church achieved a like distinction by warfare, totalitarianism, and mistakes such as her war on Communism under Pope John Paul II, which many Catholic scholars of today bemoan as tragic.
But I speak of a different, important error, a greater embarrassment. Consider this quote:
Paul and his contemporaries applied all of Jesus' spiritual implications regarding himself and the individual believer to the church as a group of believers; and in doing this, they struck a deathblow to Jesus' concept of the divine kingdom in the heart of the individual believer.
And so, for centuries, the Christian church has labored under great embarrassment because it dared to lay claim to those mysterious powers and privileges of the kingdom, powers and privileges which can be exercised and experienced only between Jesus and his spiritual believer brothers. And thus it becomes apparent that membership in the church does not necessarily mean fellowship in the kingdom; one is spiritual, the other mainly social. (The Urantia Book, 170:5.19)
If a clerk at the White House issued on his own/independently, without basis or authorization, a memorandum declaring that the president had said such-and-such, or if an emperor were to be seen in the marketplace, under full sun, without clothes, these would be embarrassing causes for red faces and red buttocks.
But for a Church and its priests to interpose themselves as intermediary between God and man—this is the most egregious. Such behavior is the primary historic and current embarrassment of the church. I am happy to report that de Chardin and Sheehan have addressed with clarity this paramount issue.
The Society of Jesus, also known as the Jesuits, has about 18,000 members worldwide, approximately 2,500 of whom are in the United States. The Society has ten provinces in the U.S., while most countries have but one. De Chardin was a Jesuit priest. Daniel Sheehan, a theologian and lawyer, in 1975 accepted the position of General Counsel of the United States Jesuit Order’s National Office of Social Ministry in Washington, DC. As many of you know, Pope Francis became the first Jesuit Pope in the history of the papacy.
The Order was founded in 1540 by Ignatius of Loyola, in Spain.
The Society is characterized by its ministries in the fields of missionary work, human rights, social justice and, most notably, higher education. It operates colleges and universities in various countries around the world and is particularly active in the Philippines and India. In the United States it maintains more than 50 colleges, universities and high schools. A typical conception of the mission of a Jesuit school will often contain such concepts as proposing Christ as the model of human life, the pursuit of excellence in teaching and learning and lifelong spiritual and intellectual growth. (Wikipedia)
In my opinion, one would be hard pressed to find a higher standard of high school or university education than that provided by the Jesuits. I say this from my personal observation of writers and contemporaries who have been so educated. I find the quality and level of intellectual acumen, moral discernment, and spiritual insight to be high. One example is the work of author E. Michael Jones, founder of Culture Wars Magazine and Fidelity Press, whom I have studied extensively. Jones simply makes more spiritual, historical, and intellectual sense in fifteen minutes of discourse than many theologians can muster in a lifetime. And we will examine the similarly astute thoughts of de Chardin later in this essay.
The Jesuits are considered the theologians of the Catholic Church. The Jesuits are the only Order that does not report to the regular administrative bodies assigned to such oversight. They report only to the pope, and their day-to-day governance is in the hands of an elected Superior General.
Complaints against the Jesuits
Warnings about Catholics in general, and the Jesuits in particular, can be noted easily by reading the vitriol that regularly emanates from detractors who have free rein on the Internet. The complaints I observe come mainly from the following sources:
a. Disaffected Catholics
b. Conspiracy theorists. Since much of the work of the Jesuits appears secretive, they are easy targets for those who are concerned about any aggregation of power and influence, especially when groups are not under any kind of control outside of their own precincts, which is the case of the Jesuits, who are self-governing. This is not hard to understand, as the Jesuits did indeed set up early examples of intelligence networking. They were in full flower centuries before the CIA or MI6.
c. Capitalists. Paraguay is a striking example of how the Jesuits formed a society among an aboriginal people for the people’s good. A study of this undertaking reveals how the economic structure fostered by the Jesuits in Paraguay was neither capitalist nor communist. Capitalism rightly views Catholic social doctrine as a competitor. Pope Francis is now promoting the social doctrine with fervor. It is a cheap shot and quite mistaken for his detractors to simplistically call him Marxist merely because he is not capitalist.
Jorge Mario Bergoglio was born in Flores, a barrio of Buenos Aires, Argentina, in 1937, of Italian parents—his father an immigrant of Italy, and his mother, of Italian ancestry, born in Argentina. Jorge (Francis) as a teenager attended lay classes held by his father for the purpose of studying and disseminating the concepts of the encyclical Quadragesimo anno, written by Pope Pius XI in 1931. During this period Argentina became the third largest economy in the Western hemisphere.
In this encyclical Pius XI “discusses the ethical implications of the social and economic order. He describes the major dangers for human freedom and dignity arising from unrestrained capitalism and totalitarian socialism/communism. He also calls for the reconstruction of the social order based on the principle of solidarity and subsidiarity.” (Wikipedia)
From such an early educational exposure, we can see how young Jorge (Francis) came to interest himself in the Catholic social doctrine of the “third way,” which is neither capitalistic nor communistic.
Francis’s recent encyclical, Laudato si', nonetheless was surprising to observers both within and outside the Church. An encyclical is the Catholic Church’s most powerful and distinctive teaching tool, and they don’t come often. As for me, I can find no fault in this encyclical. Francis sent a shot across the bow of the modern ships of state, and made a clear statement excoriating the fictitious personhood of the corporations that reap all the profits yet none of the public costs of their malfeasance and pollution—shareholder immunity. This concept is simply untenable, and Francis made that clear. The Jesuits were among the first to use the term “company” (com pane, “with bread” or those who “share bread.”) They have their own proprietary meaning of the term and are apparently interposing it anew into the linguistics of today’s discourse.
The materialists, the nonbelievers, and many Catholics cry foul: “Stay out of politics.” But the principles of fairness are precisely the province of religion, and always have been. An economic order that purposes to balance the needs of business, workers, and the state thereby codifies the injunction to “love your neighbor.” Religious insight is the kernel that appropriately informs the culture, not the other way around.
Francis’s predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, was the last of the old guard. The new pope has instituted a ruling that any prelate in the Church who reaches eighty years of age must retire; several cardinals have already been replaced due to this age restriction. Francis considers himself to be bound by the same rule, which means that he will retire at age eighty, in about two years. Sheehan considers Francis to be “a transitional pope” who seems to be preparing for his successor proactively.
Cardinal Sean O’Malley, Archbishop of Boston, received the highest number of votes, aside from Bergoglio (Francis) at the last papal election. Sheehan informs us that O’Malley is likely next in line for pope, and if that occurred he would be the first U.S. pope. O’Malley, of the Franciscan Capuchin Order, wears a monk’s robe most of the time and sleeps on the floor, according to Sheehan. http://www.veteranstoday.com/2015/07/07/truth-jihad-pope-francis-planning-to-resign-jesuit-insider/
While most of the archdioceses have spent their time covering up priests’ sexual misconduct and delaying prosecution, O’Malley turned his errant priests over to the police and ordered their counsels to release all information to the courts.
Cardinal O’Malley was appointed by Francis to a council of eight cardinals tasked to help the pope govern the Church and reform its central administration.
There are many among us, from a variety of persuasions, who feel the imperial hubris of the United States is out of control, and who just as strongly feel there is no help in sight. There are also vague feelings that the current empire system will eventually implode under its own weight, that change will happen simply as an inevitability, or that perhaps a financial apocalypse will force a new order. Not so with the Jesuits. They have a plan.
As I see it, the Jesuits are the leaven that leavens the lump of the Catholic Church. As they go, so will go the Church. I am of the opinion that the Christian Church, the bulk of which are Catholics, are the leaven that can leaven the world. They have done it before.
On these points I imagine that many of my friends, both religious and nonreligious, may disagree. I will not try to convince you summarily in one short essay that what I submit will prove to be the case, but I would like to convince you that the Jesuits are going to try this. Francis has recently stated that if he is not sufficiently heard, his strategy will be to proclaim a “year of jubilee.” This term is well understood in the ancient Jewish terminology to mean a time of across-the-board debt cancellation and repudiation. It is easy enough to say that the pope has no such authority, ability, or influence to enact such a thing. However, pause to consider that a shift in only 3 percent to 5 percent of a population is sufficient to bring about major change, such as in the Bolshevik, Mao, and American revolutions. What if . . . Pope Francis made such a declaration and an American pope were to follow up on it? I think the Jesuits mean what they say, and the consequences of the Catholics of the world stepping into line is worth considering carefully. If the Catholics of the world follow their leader and in some manner repudiate debts owed—“forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors”—it would be a world economic Game Over and Reset.
The Catholic Catechism says:
CCC: 2242 “The citizen is obliged in conscience not to follow the directives of civil authorities when they are contrary to the demands of the moral order, to the fundamental rights of persons or the teachings of the Gospel.
Refusing obedience to civil authorities, when their demands are contrary to those of an upright conscience, finds its justification in the distinction between serving God and serving the political community.
“Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” “We must obey God rather than men.”
CCC: 1782 “Man has the right to act in conscience and in freedom so as personally to make moral decisions.
He must not be forced to act contrary to his conscience.
Nor must he be prevented from acting according to his conscience, especially in religious matters.”
Consider this quote:
Mistake not! there is in the teachings of Jesus an eternal nature which will not permit them forever to remain unfruitful in the hearts of thinking men. The kingdom as Jesus conceived it has to a large extent failed on earth; for the time being, an outward church has taken its place; but you should comprehend that this church is only the larval stage of the thwarted spiritual kingdom, which will carry it through this material age and over into a more spiritual dispensation where the Master's teachings may enjoy a fuller opportunity for development. Thus does the so-called Christian church become the cocoon in which the kingdom of Jesus' concept now slumbers. The kingdom of the divine brotherhood is still alive and will eventually and certainly come forth from this long submergence, just as surely as the butterfly eventually emerges as the beautiful unfolding of its less attractive creature of metamorphic development. (UB 1705.22)
If . . . you believe the above statement, then in order to contradict my thesis you will have to convince me that this statement is not referring to the Catholic Church, the largest exponent of Christianity on earth. Yes, I mean that Catholic Church, the one that so many love to browbeat, find fault with, act superior to, and accuse as being the prophesied great beast. Take your pick.
Getting up to date on Catholic theology
Daniel Sheehan has informed us that the idea of anything or anyone—a priest, a Church, or a doctrine—that interposes between God and man is in error from the Jesuit viewpoint. This can be heard from Sheehan’s lectures, which are freely available. He explains that the idea that “Jesus Christ died for your sins” is in error. With this one improvement, the Jesuits have swept aside the mistaken atonement doctrine that has long set relations between people and divinity upon a plane of unreality.
The Jesuit viewpoint is that each person is directly related to God, and that the believer enjoys his privileges and powers as a son of God personally with Christ. In so teaching, they have relieved the historic embarrassment of their Church. But the older Catholic viewpoint was informed by the Catholic Church’s relationship to the Roman Empire, which found immense secular value in a continual restatement and reconfirmation of the plebians’ subservience to authority. In this way the secular and the religious coalesced in the principles of governance. The beginning Christian Church early learned that they could be at peace with the Romans as long as they didn’t challenge the Roman system of governance and polity.
The Christians of the second and third centuries even had to give up using the term “kingdom of God,” offensive to the Romans, and replace it with terms such as “the brotherhood of believers,” “the communion of saints,” and “the will of God.” Failure to do so resulted often in consequences, sometimes deadly. These accommodations comprised the great compromise that allowed Christianity to spread throughout the Roman Empire and, as it has been said, to “turn it upside down.”
But the Greek ideas of Logos and the purer teachings of Christ remained, albeit in submerged form shrouded in ceremony and symbol.
The Jesuits, according to Sheehan, see opportunities for cooperation with the Muslims on common points, recognizing the Islamic acceptance of Christ as a prophet, and a shared view on the dangers of usury, and our direct connection with God without human intermediaries.
De Chardin had a broader interpretation of the body of Christ, beyond the consecrated Host, as can be seen in his writings.
The Jesuit interest in science seen notably with de Chardin continues today in that one of the world’s most advanced telescopes is operated by the Catholics on Mt. Graham, Arizona.
I write this essay to educate my fellows, but it is also my penance for having prejudged the Jesuits before studying their work, which condition I have now corrected.
Pierre Teilhard de Chardin
Pierre Teilhard de Chardin SJ, 1 May 1881 – 10 April 1955 was a French philosopher and Jesuit priest who trained as a paleontologist and geologist and took part in the discovery of Peking Man. He conceived the idea of the Omega Point (a maximum level of complexity and consciousness towards which he believed the universe was evolving) and developed Vladimir Vernadsky's concept of noosphere.
During his lifetime, many of Teilhard's writings were censored by the Catholic Church because of his views on original sin. However, Teilhard was praised by Pope Benedict XVI, and he was also noted for his contributions to theology in Pope Francis' 2015 encyclical Laudato si'. (Wikipedia)
De Chardin’s many books and writings are available in English, and his book The Divine Milieu, among many others, is well known and widely read by religionists of several denominations. Here is some commentary on De Chardin’s life and views:
The concept of the Noosphere or moving towards greater unity with Christ and other humans (both living and dead) is a central feature of Catholic liturgy. As Pope Benedict says, the transubstantiated Host is the anticipation of the transformation and divinization of matter in the christological “fullness” in the Noosphere.
Teilhard had a deeply Christocentric prayer life which encompassed all of his waking moments. He was truly Ignatian in that he found God in all things. Specifically, for Teilhard Christ was at the heart of all matter and Teilhard’s deep prayer life combined traditional Catholic devotions such as the Sacred Heart and the Eucharist and, echoing St. John and St. Paul, expanded them to the divinization of the entire cosmos.
The visit this week by Pope Francis to address the United Nations and the joint houses of the U.S. Congress (the first by a pope) can be a time for all ethically minded persons to ponder a fresh commitment to improving our society, which staggers under the guilt of tolerating “science without idealism, politics without principles, wealth without work, pleasure without restraint, knowledge without character, power without conscience, and industry without morality.” Let us pray, work, and believe together.
* * *
(Copyright by Joshua Wilson, 2015)