Evolutionary consciousness points to a Trinitarian cosmic …

Posted: October 28, 2014 at 1:47 am


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I have been following with interest Cardinal Gerhard Mller's criticism in April of recent speakers at assemblies of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious and its decision to honor St. Joseph Sr. Elizabeth Johnson for her theological writings, some of which have been questioned by the U.S. bishops. According to Mller, prefect of the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, "Such an intense focus on new ideas such as conscious evolution has robbed religious of the ability truly to sentire cum Ecclesia [to think with the church, or embrace its teachings]."

Although I am a male religious, I must admit that I too have focused (a lot but not intensely) on "conscious evolution." The more I've investigated its premises, the more I find it helpful, especially as I engage the many questions about faith that science raises. It also has helped me as I seek credibility (and believability) as a Catholic religious and priest called to proclaim our faith in a world rapidly being defined by new insights arising from physics, neuroscience and cosmology.

When I tell other religious and priests that my exploration of these ideas have made me more conscious of how the Trinity and Christ constitute the source and summit of everything in creation, I sometimes find their first reaction is skepticism or fear. However, when they truly examine the idea for themselves, their resistance turns to enthusiastic acceptance. One example might show what I mean. It involves a group of women religious, a U.S. province of an international congregation whose leadership belongs to LCWR.

The whole community had decided to study "the universe story." However, because some of the sisters knew little about evolution while others feared the idea didn't reflect a "sentire cum Ecclesia" Catholicism, the leaders experienced significant "pockets of resistance."

Because I had explored some of these ideas in my recent book Repair My House: Becoming a "Kindom" Catholic, I was invited to the province. The book had outlined three related points:

The workshop's theme was "How Can We Evolve in Consciousness of Our Connectedness in the Cosmic Christ?" I used a model I've developed that shows that the "economy of salvation" involves us evolving in our consciousness to realize that God's plan for the universe is that Trinitarian and cosmic patterns become embodied in the church and world of today.

As I shared my faith and insights using the Scriptures and Franciscan sources, I felt little or no resistance. Instead, I felt much enthusiasm. Our time together, a member of the provincial council told me later, was successful. A sign of this, she noted, was that it was actually the main topic at subsequent meals. Later she wrote to me: "We in leadership have noted that the sisters' attitudes have changed to a much more hopeful and open-mindedness."

One might ask why a priest like me was led to move in this direction of learning about conscious evolution. Briefly, it was an interview in The Wall Street Journal. The special millennial edition for Saturday, Jan. 1, 2000, included conversations with many experts in various fields. While all were fascinating, the one commanding my attention was the interview with Edward O. Wilson.

Wilson won two Pulitzer Prizes for his works on human nature and community while at Harvard University's Museum of Comparative Zoology. Noting that Wilson had once written that "the predisposition to religious belief is the most powerful and complex in the human mind," The Wall Street Journal interviewer asked him: "How can religion possibly survive what science is doing?" The interviewer's bias, it seemed to me, was clear: Religion is not only irrelevant; it has a short lifespan for any who are truly aware of what science is telling us about our world.

Wilson answered: "The more we understand from science about the way the world really works, all the way from subatomic particles up to the mind and on to the cosmos, the more difficult it is to base spirituality on our ancient mythologies."

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October 28th, 2014 at 1:47 am