BY Amanda Connelly | February 23 | comments icon 0 COMMENTS     print icon print


Game of Thrones actor discovers rare document in Jesuit archives

A Jesuit document which lay unseen in the Vatican for over 90 years was unveiled this week, after it was rediscovered by the actor who plays Game of Thrones’ version of the Pope

Paul Bentley, an accomplished actor who is recognised for his role as the High Septon, a figure analogous to the Pope in HBO’s Game of Thrones, the fantasy series based on author George R R Martin’s books, uncovered the ‘Six Propositions’ signed by the famous Jesuit priest and scientist Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (1881-1955).

The priest-scientist, who had a knowledge of and passion for fossils and evolution, was told to sign six propositions by the Vatican, ‘to prove he was absolutely orthodox on the subject of Adam and Eve and Original Sin.’

Having lain unseen since they were signed by Teilhard in 1925, Mr Bentley uncovered the propositions from the Jesuit archives in Rome, and they will now be shown in Scotland’s capital, at the premiere of a brand new play written by Mr Bentley, Inquisition, which looks at the signing of the document.

A ‘Six Propositions Day’ conference took place at New College, Edinburgh University, on Thursday February 22, organised by Mr Bentley and Dr David Grumett of Edinburgh University’s School of Divinity.

Mr Bentley, who attended a Jesuit grammar school and is editor of the British Teilhard Network, had planned to write the play for a number of years, but first needed access to the six propositions.

Having searched for a considerable time, contacting the Jesuit headquarters, the Vatican libraries, the Vatican secret archives and the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Mr Bentley eventually uncovered the documents in the Jesuit archives in Rome, a moment which he described as ‘wonderful.’

“They are essentially six of the traditional teachings of the Church about Adam and Eve and Original Sin,” Mr Bentley said. “He had to sign up to all six and he was prepared to sign five of the six, but the fourth proposition he felt he couldn’t sign up to because, as a scientist, he didn’t believe it was true.”



Mr Bentley spoke of how Teilhard ‘agonised for months about what to do,’ talking to a fellow priest before deciding to sign up to all six propositions. Of the document, he said that ‘nobody has seen it from that day to this, and that day was in 1925.’

It lay unseen because, Mr Bentley said, ‘no one has been as curious as me,’ but he needed to know ‘precisely what [the propositions] were’ in order to include them in his play. When Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI made available for study documents produced from 1922 to 1939, Mr Bentley had his opportunity. The release included the ‘crucial years’ of 1924 and 1925, when Teilhard was asked to sign the six propositions.

After writing to the Jesuit headquarters, Mr Bentley was told he could look through their archives, and eventually found the documents after searching through ‘folder after folder.’

“They actually photocopied it for me, so I was able to take it home, a photocopy of the actual six propositions, which are in Latin,” he said.

A name to conjour with

Teilhard, a paleontologist and specialist in fossils and geology, was banned from publishing books detailing his theological ideas during his lifetime as he was thought to be heretical.

Following his death in 1955, his books were published and he gained a considerable following.

“In the 1950s and 60s, Teilhard de Chardin was a name to conjour with,” Mr Bentley added.

Mr Bentley, who has had an interest in Teilhard since his days at a Jesuit grammar school, decided to write a play focusing on ‘his dilemma in whether to sign the six propositions or not,’ and the priest’s troubled relationship with Ida Treat, an American whose research he was asked to supervise while at the Natural History Museum in Paris.

“That’s the other element that goes into my play: the relationship between Ida Treat and Teilhard de Chardin and his dilemma about signing the six propositions—that’s what the play’s all about,” he said.


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