Catholic Views On Creation

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Catholic views on creation are set forth in the Humani Generis. Although the Church recognizes the role of God in creating the human soul at the moment of conception, recent popes (John Paul II and Benedict XVI) have also publicly accepted evolution as a scientific theory.

Contents

Evolution

In 1909, the Pontifical Biblical Commission ruled that the historical sense of the creation account in Genesis 1-3 cannot be excluded.

In 1950, Pope Pius XII forbade the theory of evolution being taught as true, although said that evidence for and against evolution should be considered.[1] In the Humani Generis, the Pope forbade any Catholic from teaching anything contrary to the existence of one Adam and Eve as the parents of all mankind.[2] The theory of evolution, as it is commonly taught today, denies the existence of one Adam and Eve and thus undermines the concept of original sin that made necessary the Passion of Christ.

On October 23rd 1996, Pope John Paul II made a speech to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, and said:

"Taking into account the state of scientific research at the time as well as of the requirements of theology, the Encyclical Humani generis considered the doctrine of 'evolutionism' a serious hypothesis, worthy of investigation and in-depth study equal to that of the opposing hypothesis. Pius XII added two methodological conditions: that this opinion should not be adopted as though it were a certain, proven doctrine and as though one could totally prescind from Revelation with regard to the questions it raises. He also spelled out the condition on which this opinion would be compatible with the Christian faith, a point to which I will return. ...

Today, almost half a century after the publication of the Encyclical, new knowledge has led to the recognition of more than one hypothesis in the theory of evolution. It is indeed remarkable that this theory has been progressively accepted by researchers, following a series of discoveries in various fields of knowledge. The convergence, neither sought nor fabricated, of the results of work that was conducted independently is in itself a significant argument in favour of this theory. ...

Consequently, theories of evolution which, in accordance with the philosophies inspiring them, consider the mind as emerging from the forces of living matter, or as a mere epiphenomenon of this matter, are incompatible with the truth about man. Nor are they able to ground the dignity of the person." [3]

This statement has sometimes been translated as saying that evolution is "more than a hypothesis",[4] and used to support the claim that the Pope has recognized the truth of evolution. Regardless of which translation is better, the Pope was certainly not saying that evolution was a single hypothesis that must now be accepted. He was saying that scientific advances have made the situation more complicated than was previously recognized. He went on to say that "we should speak of several theories of evolution". Some of these theories are compatible with Catholic teachings, and some are not.

In an interview that was published in 1997, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI) stated:

Part of faith is also the patience of time. The theme you have just mentioned - Darwin, creation, the theory of evolution - is the subject of a dialogue that is not yet finished and, within our present means, is probably also impossible to settle at the moment. Not that the problem of the six days is a particularly urgent issue between faith and modern scientific research into the origin of the world. For it is obvious even in the Bible that this is a theological framework and is not intended simply to recount the history of creation. In the Old Testament itself there are other accounts of creation. In the Book of Job and in the Wisdom literature we have creation narratives that make it clear that even then believers themselves did not think that the creation account was, so to speak, a photographic depiction of the process of creation. It only seeks to convey a glimpse of the essential truth, namely, that the world comes from the power of God and is his creation. How the process actually occurred is a wholly different question, which even the Bible itself leaves wide open. Conversely, I think that in great measure the theory of evolution has not gotten beyond hypotheses and is often mixed with almost mythical philosophies that have yet to be critically discussed.[5]

2007 speech

While speaking with priests in July 2007, Pope Benedict XVI appeared supportive of intelligent design in saying, "There is much scientific proof in favour of evolution, which appears as a reality that we must see and which enriches our understanding of life and being as such," but "it does not answer the great philosophical question 'where does everything come from?'" The speech also stressed the importance of environmentalism.[6]

This remains, as of August 2008, the most recent clear statement of Pope Benedict XVI's personal views on the subject. He has not delivered an official address on behalf of the Catholic Church on the topic.

Intelligent Design

The position of cardinals in the Church on intelligent design are nearly as diverse as the cardinals themselves. The Cardinal archbishop of Vienna has spoken out in support of intelligent design. The director of the Vatican observatory, Father George V. Coyne, has been critical of it. The Vatican itself has never taken an official position on the issue[7], though Catholics professors tend to be liberal like their peers.[8]

2009 Conference

In early March of 2009, in commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the publication of Charles Darwin's On the Origin of Species, a five-day conference titled "Biological Evolution: Facts and Theories" was held at the Pontifical Gregorian University. The symposium censored presentation of intelligent design and instead invited evolutionists who are hostile to it. Cardinal William Levada, who heads the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, stated that it is "absurd" for evolution to try to eliminate the possibility of God's existence; he added his personal, unauthorized view that those who "have a fundamentalist interpretation of the Bible which they want to see taught to their children in the schools alongside evolution or instead of it." Monsignor Gianfranco Ravasi, head of the Pontifical Council for Culture, claimed that there is "no a priori incompatibility between evolution and the message of the Bible".[9] No intelligent design researcher or advocate was allowed to rebut these comments.

Bibliography

  • Keane, Gerard J., "Creation Rediscovered", Credis, 1991, ISBN 0 646 04291 2.
  • Keane, Gerard J., "Creation Rediscovered: Evolution & the Importance of the Origins Debate", Tan, 1999, ISBN 978-0895556073. Chapter 13 (The Position within Catholicism) on-line: part 1; part 2.

References

  1. Keane, 1991, p.170.
  2. Keane, 1991, p.177
  3. http://www.cin.org/jp2evolu.html
  4. James Akin [1]
  5. Interview by Peter Seewald with Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, in Munich, F.G.R. (Aug. 15, 1996) reprinted in Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Salt of the Earth: Christianity and the Catholic Church at the End of the Millennium 31 (Adrian Walker trans., Ingnatius Press 1997) (1996).
  6. http://www.news.com.au/heraldsun/story/0,21985,22136550-5002700,00.html
  7. http://www.catholic.org/national/national_story.php?id=18503
  8. Gregorian University science and philosophy professor Gennaro Auletta stated his belief that ID "is not a scientific theory, even if it passes itself off as such."[2]
  9. http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/faith/article5859797.ece
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