Question: What is Process Theology? I was told by a Novus Ordoite that it doesn't matter that the Church changed its views during Vatican II because we have Process Theology.
Answer: Process Theology is a polite term for one of the innumerable species of Modernism. Modernism, you will recall, holds that "truth" is determined by the sentiment of society. Through dialogue with others, the "acting person" establishes a consensus that serves as "truth" in his particular time and place. Obviously, there can be as many "truths" as there are groups of like minded "acting persons." Modernism thus stands in opposition to God as a transcendent Creator and, at best, replaces Him with whatever concept of God is currently favored by the "acting person's" societal consensus.
Modernism can take on the appearance (although not the reality) of a transcendent religion like Catholicism. If the sentiment of a particular society includes ideas like original sin, the Immaculate Conception, and the Incarnation, it might present a convincing imitation of Christianity. It will fall short of religion, however, if these beliefs arise from dialogue rather than revelation, since future dialogue could alter or eliminate them altogether. This non-religion will represent the work of man rather than of God.
Process Theology is generally more materialistic than any Modernism with Christian sentiments. It attempts to explain reality in terms of an eternally existing material universe that has evolved into what we see around us today, and may well evolve into something else in the future. It is this process of evolution that gives name to this branch of Modernism. Depending on the particular process "theology" in question (there are many, and none are really "theologies") the creative principle in this universe will be something like "energy" or "chance." The closest that such theologies come to religion is pantheism -- the idea that the total material universe is somehow "divine," and that what Christians call creatures are no more than "lumps" in this divine cosmic "pea soup." An extreme form of the evolutionary process, advocated by the disgraced Jesuit paleontologist, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, has the universe evolving into God.1 But nothing says that the process has to be religious at all, and many of its exponents have discarded the guise of religion or theology. The following is from a summary of the Process Theology of Alfred North Whitehead:
Yet there are professed Catholics -- some followers of Teilhard, and others less extreme, but Modernists all -- who claim to have a Catholic Process Theology. They continue to use Christian terminology, but often with widely different meanings. Human existence is currently the most spiritual thing that can be found in such theologies, so much of what passes for religion is nothing more spiritual than psychology or social activism.
On some level, even Pope John Paul seems to have recognized this reduction of Catholicism to the psychological level:
Yet the Pope seems to remain undisturbed that Archbishop Michael Fitzgerald, of the Holy Father's own Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, placed precisely this psychological emphasis on the Rosary, while comparing it to the "Mala" meditation beads of the Buddhists:
While psychology comes as close to spirituality as process theology ever gets, social activism is often of much greater importance. Certainly concern for the poor, the sick, and the ignorant is a legitimate part of Christian practice -- "you did these things for Me when you did them for the lest of My brethren" -- but for the process theologian there is no concern with the "separation of the sheep from the goats"; no concern with "everlasting punishment" or "everlasting life." Indeed the social activism may be taken to degrees condemned by God's moral law -- the violent revolution of "liberation theology," for example.
It is not just that in process theology there is no "everlasting punishment" or "everlasting life."5 It is that man makes whatever it is that he is, in the here and now, by virtue of his worldly activity. The idea that man has a nature, an essence, or a soul depends on the existence of a transcendent God. To the naturalist or pantheist, the closest approximation to these concepts is the "authentic existence of the acting person" -- of man doing the things that are approved in the consensus of his society. All Modernism, Process Theology included, is shot through with existentialism. Even for the Catholic "process" theologian, these "actions of authentic existence" are not entirely religious:
Someone who says that it doesn't matter that the Church changed some item of dogma or the moral law is essentially saying that his church is not the Church founded by Christ to teach the unchanging things of the God Who Is.