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March 28, 2019
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v2.1 Reference

America's Teilhard

Christ and Hope in the 1960s

The period from 1959–1972 was the crucial years during which the French priest, paleontologist, and writer Pierre Teilhard de Chardin's writing and thought significantly impacted the spiritual thought of the United States. During this time his writings first became available in North America; indeed, over five hundred works concerning him were published in the US during these years.

America's Teilhard: Christ and Hope in the 1960s is a study of the reception of Teilhard in the United States during this period and contributes to an awareness of the thought of this important figure and the impact of his work. Additionally, it further develops an understanding of U.S. Catholicism in all its dimensions during these years, and provides clues as to how it has unfolded over the past several decades. Susan Sack argues that the manner and intensity of the reception of Teilhard's thought happened as it did at this point in history because of the confluence of the then developing social milieu, the disintegration of the immigrant Catholic subculture, and the opening of the church to the world through Vatican II. Additionally, as these social and historical events unfolded within U.S. culture during these years, the way Teilhard was read, and the contributions which his thought provided changed. This book considers his work as a carrier at times for an almost Americanist emphasis upon progress, energy and hope; in other years his teleological understanding of the value of suffering moves to center. Additionally, the stories of numerous persons – scientists, theologians, politicians, and scholars – who became involved in the American Teilhardian effort are detailed.

Finally America's Teilhard notes that in the end, it has been Teilhard's attempts to leap the interstice between the secular and the sacred, particularly in terms of Christology, that remain of value today. It is those which most had, and which continue to have impact upon U.S. Catholic theology.


"An interesting study. Provides a wealth of information both in regard to the cultural and ecclesial complexities of the 1960s and the reception of Teilhard's work in the U.S. during this periodDr. Sack has done an excellent job of bringing to light the import of Teilhard's writings for American culture and church during a period of destabilization and major paradigm shifts."—Sr. Ilia Delio, OSF, Villanova University

"In her comprehensive study America's Teilhard, Susan Sack examines the many and complex reasons for the rise and fall of Teilhard's popularity with the American people during the 1960s and gives valuable insights into the dynamic. The social and political climate, the opening of Vatican II, as well as the new interest in scientific and technological progress played their parts. However, as Sack notes, the complexity of Teilhard's language, the difficulty of accessing his entire opus, and what began to be seen as an overly optimistic world view, caused Teilhard's popularity to wane. This is an important work, especially for those who search for ways to learn from the past as they attempt to familiarize future generations with Teilhard's profoundly relevant world view."—Kathleen Duffy, SSJ, author of Teilhard's Mysticism: Seeing the Inner Face of Evolution

"Susan Kassman Sack presents a detailed and engaging account of the reception of Teilhard's thought in the United States between 1960 and 1972. Readers will be absorbed by her historical examination of those commentators who wrote and spoke about Teilhard in that time. Her even-handed interpretation attends to respondents committed to his thought and to his critics. She lays out a penetrating response to the questions about Teilhard's meteoric rise, his seeming decline in the late 1960s, and the ongoing resilience of his cosmological vision."—John Grim, Yale University

"This is a remarkable book. Based on detailed research, Susan Sack reveals the larger social, historical, and theological context of the reception of Teilhard de Chardin's exciting ideas in the United States during the post—World War II period marked by the Vietnam War, the civil rights movement, and the counterculture. She shows in detail how Teilhard's integral understanding of science, faith and spirituality, and his large vision of hope and the future of humanity caught on far more easily than the importance of the Christocentric focus of his thought. Readers will discover many fascinating details about Teilhard's works and influence here, the complex history of his publications, and the widely varying interpretations and many misunderstandings of his ideas."—Ursula King, University of Bristol

"Teilhard is back! Pope Francis invoked him in Laudato sì. Two years later, the Pontifical Council for Culture recommended that the 1962 Monitum against Teilhard's works be removed. A petition to make Teilhard a doctor of the church is currently circulating. For generations faced with escalating ecological devastation and the urgent challenges of Laudato sì, Teilhard's vision of a Christ-centered evolutionary cosmos offers a mystical stay against either despair or facile optimism. Susan K. Sack's well-researched, elegantly written account brings Teilhard and his vision to life in an American key as she tells a moving and deeply contextualized story of his initial reception in the United States between 1960- 1972. America's Teilhard is timely, cautionary, and inspiring, Highly recommended!"—William L. Portier, University of Dayton

9780813231655 : americas-teilhard-sack
Paperback / softback
336 Pages
$34.95 USD

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