Wednesday, April 03, 2013

Peter Hess: Science, Catholicism and the Papacy in the New Millennium

Peter Hess, the Director of Outreach to Religious Communities for the National Center for Science Education, has written a nice piece chronicling the acceptance of science in general and evolution in specific, with some very good quotes from the popes of the last decade or so. He writes:
John Paul II's principal theological advisor was Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, whom he named prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in 1981. Cardinal Ratzinger wrote an insightful theological reflection on the early chapters of the Book of Genesis, in which he noted that "the Holy Scripture in its entirety was not written from beginning to end like a novel or a textbook. It is, rather, the echo of God's history with his people."
Ratzinger, later Pope Benedict XVI, was a clear supporter of evolutionary theory. All is not wine and roses, however, in Catholic-land.  Hess continues:
However, despite this solid support by recent popes for understanding of our ancient, dynamic and evolving universe, there remain within the Catholic Church elements that are intransigently opposed to modern science. The oddly-named Kolbe Center in Virginia is a young earth creationist group committed to defending "the literal and obvious sense of Scripture" as upheld by Pope Leo XIII in his encyclical letter Providentissimus Deus (1893). Not only do the Kolbe Center rival Protestant fundamentalists in rejecting the evolutionary assumptions of modern biology, but they also pretend that "the modern 'anti-culture of death' grew out of the macro-evolutionary theory" -- a typical piece of bombastic creationist illogic.
That this organization relies on an out-dated encyclical is not surprising, since most of modern creationism is stuck in a 19th century understanding of science.

Although the article ends on a positive note, in the end, we still do not know anything about what Pope Francis thinks about evolutionary theory or about how best the Catholic church should interact with the world of science.  I guess we will just have to wait a bit longer.

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