Teilhard caused such a fuss and bother in his life-time because he dared to assert that, in the light of science and what we know about evolution, Christians had to think about the implications for their faith. Of course, we might not all agree with exactly what Teilhard said, but that is not the point. For Teilhard the Sacred Heart was the great symbol of evolution has having a purpose and a point: it begins and ends with God's love.
In the modern era several Popes have clarified the position with regard to evolution.
Saint John Paul, for example, noted:
"In his encyclical Humani Generis (1950), my predecessor Pius XII has already affirmed that there is no conflict between evolution and the doctrine of the faith regarding man and his vocation, provided that we do not lose sight of certain fixed points…. Today, more than a half-century after the appearance of that encyclical, some new findings lead us toward the recognition of evolution as more than an hypothesis. In fact it is remarkable that this theory has had progressively greater influence on the spirit of researchers, following a series of discoveries in different scholarly disciplines. The convergence in the results of these independent studies — which was neither planned nor sought — constitutes in itself a significant argument in favor of the theory.”
Pope John Paul II, Message to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, October 22, 1996. (Here)
Benedict XVI later also restated St. John Paul's position and has expressed the view that the idea that there is a conflict between evolution and the belief in God as the Creator is 'absurd' (Here.) And most recently Pope Francis has set it out the Catholic position very clearly in his observations to the Pontifical Academy in 2014 (after unveiling a bust of Benedict XVI):
In regard to man, instead, there is a change and a novelty. When, on the sixth day of the Genesis account, we come to the creation of man, God gives the human being another autonomy, a different autonomy from that of nature, which is freedom. And He tells man to give a name to all things and to go forward in the course of history. He renders him responsible for creation, also so that he will dominate Creation, so that he will develop it and so forth until the end of time. Therefore, the attitude that corresponds to the scientist, especially to the Christian scientist is to question himself about the future of humanity and of the earth and, as a free and responsible being, to contribute to prepare it, to preserve it, and to eliminate the risks of the environment, be they natural or human. However, at the same time, the scientist must be moved by trust that hidden nature, in its evolving mechanisms, of potentialities that concern the intelligence and freedom, to discover and to act to arrive at development, which is in the plan of the Creator. Then, although limited, man’s action participates in the power of God and is able to build a world adapted to his twofold corporeal and spiritual life; to build a human world for all – for all human beings, and not for a group or a privileged class. This hope and trust in God, Author of nature, and in the capacity of the human spirit, are able to give the researcher new energy and profound serenity. However, it is also true that man’s action, when his liberty becomes autonomy, -- which is not liberty but autonomy -- destroys creation and man takes the place of the Creator. And this is the grave sin against God the Creator.
We should never think that Teilhard had all the answers: his significance is that he boldly posed so many important and challenging questions about the relationship between evolution and Jesus Christ. Many people do not like the questions he posed: but we have a responsibility as Christians to ask them!
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