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Loyola University New Orleans Hosts Lecture on Teilhard de Chardin

Loyola press release - February 16, 2018

Jesuit priest, scientist considered one of 20th century’s most visionary thinkers

Jesuit Fr. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (1881-1955) is considered one of the most influential and visionary thinkers of the Catholic Church in the 20th century. Next month, Loyola University New Orleans hosts a lecture and discussion about the writings and impact of this distinguished scientist, priest, philosopher, theologian, and mystic, who ably integrated science and religion in his teachings. Leading the discussion is one of the nation’s leading Teilhard de Chardin scholars, who hopes the priest will ultimately be named a Doctor of the Church.

The lecture, “Teilhard’s Mysticism: Seeing the Inner Face of Evolution,” will be held at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, March 14, 2018 in Nunemaker Auditorium, Monroe Hall at Loyola University New Orleans, 6363 St. Charles Ave., New Orleans, La. 70118. The event is free and open to the public. Free parking is available in the West Road parking garage.

Leading the discussion is Sister Kathleen Duffy, S.S.J., Ph.D., a member of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Philadelphia and professor of physics at Chestnut Hill College, where she directs the Interdisciplinary Honors Program and the Institute for Religion and Science. Duffy is editor of Teilhard Studies and author of Teilhard’s Mysticism: Seeing the Inner Face of Evolution (Orbis Books, 2014). In a comment to the staff at Loyola, Duffy said: “I look forward to sharing with members of the Loyola community some aspects of Teilhard’s mysticism and showing that Teilhard’s approach has much to teach about the path to mysticism.”

Hosting the event is Loyola President Emeritus and Gerald N. Gaston Distinguished Professor in Religion and Science the Rev. James C. Carter, S.J., Ph.D. His career at Loyola spans more than 45 years, and he is recognized as a theologian, scientist and civic leader.

Teilhard was a paleontologist and geologist who worked to integrate evolution and faith. He served on the front lines during World War I, participated in field work studying early human origins, and explored to a remarkable degree the geology of China. He also wrote many essays, some of a more mystical nature and others describing the evolutionary nature of the cosmos.

His accomplishments established him as a leading thinker and philosopher of his time. According to America magazine, a Jesuit publication, Teilhard participated in the excavation and discovery of Peking Man, conceived the idea of the Omega point (a maximum level of complexity and consciousness toward which he believed the universe is evolving, and which he identified with Christ as the Logos, or “Word” of God), and developed the concept of the noosphere (the sphere of thought).

A spiritual thinker who many believe was ahead of his time, Teilhard’s visionary writings on the reconciliation of faith and evolutionary theory aroused controversy with Church officials during his lifetime, and he was forbidden to publish on religious matters. However, after his death, the publication of his work gained him notice as one of the most influential Catholic thinkers of this century. He has also been cited for his relevance to contemporary spirituality. Recently, Teilhard’s work has found a resurgence of public interest. Three popes have cited his writings. Pope Francis refers to his writings in his encyclical Laudato Si’, and Popes Benedict XVI and John Paul II have cited his writings on the Eucharist.

Next month’s speaker at Loyola, Sister Kathy Duffy, has proposed that Teilhard be named a “Doctor of the Church.” A link to the petition can be found at The Teilhard de Chardin Project website. Doctors of the Catholic Church include approximately three dozen ecclesiastical writers, from early Christian to modern times, who have been honored posthumously by popes or general councils with that title “due to the integrity of their faith, eminent learning, and personal holiness. Those formally designated in the past as doctors of the church had previously been canonized; there is, however, no such requirement in the Code of Canon Law.