The Catholic Church on Evolution: A Short History (2/2)

1963 – Encyclical Pacem in Terris, Pope John XXIII
“Our age rejoices, and justly so, in the remarkable progress that has been made in scientific and philosophical knowledge.”

1979 – Address to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, John Paul II
“I wish that theologians, scholars and historians, animated by a spirit of sincere collaboration, might examine more deeply the Galileo case and in an honest recognition of wrongs on whatever side they occur, might make disappear the obstacles that this affair sets up, in many minds, to a fruitful concord between science and faith, between church and world…Galileo had much to suffer — we could not hide it — from the men and agencies of the Church.”
1981 – Scripture and Science: The Path of Scientific Discovery. An Address to the Pontifical Academy of Science, by Pope John Paul II
“On the occasion of a previous solemn session (Address to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, 11/10/79) I have already had the opportunity to tell you how highly the Church esteems pure science: It is ‘a good worthy of being loved, for it is knowledge and therefore perfection of man in his intelligence…It must be honored for its own sake, as an integral part of culture’”.

“The Bible itself speaks to us of the origin of the universe and its makeup, not in order to provide us with a scientific treatise but in order to state the correct relationships of man with God and with the universe. Sacred Scripture wishes simply to declare that the world was created by God, and in order to reach this truth it expresses itself in the terms of the cosmology in use at the time of the writer. The Sacred Book likewise wishes to tell men that the world was not created as the seat of the gods, as was taught by other cosmogonies and cosmologies, but was rather created for the service of man and the glory of God. Any other teaching about the origin and make-up of the universe is alien to the intentions of the Bible, which does not wish to teach how the heavens were made but how one goes to heaven.”

“Any scientific hypothesis on the origin of the world, such as the hypothesis of a primitive atom from which derived the whole of the physical universe, leaves open the problem concerning the universe’s beginning. Science itself cannot solve this question: There is needed that human knowledge that arises above physics and astrophysics and which is called metaphysics; there is needed above all the knowledge that comes from God’s revelation.

1987 – John Paul II on Science and Religion: Reflections on the New View from Rome (Vatican City:Vatican Observatory) Reprinted in Robert Russell et al., ed.
“The scientific disciplines are endowing us with an understanding and appreciation of our universe as a whole and of the incredibly rich variety of intricately related process and structures which constitute its animate and inanimate components…The vitality and significance of theology for humanity will in a profound way be reflected in its ability incorporate these findings.”

1988 – John Paul II: Message to the Director of the Vatican Observatory (source: Physics, Philosophy and Theology: A quest for Common Understanding ed. Robert J. Russell, William R. Stoeger, S.J., and George V. Coyne S.J. – Vatican City State: Liberia Editrice Vaticana, 1988, M13.)
“Science can purify religion from error and superstition…religion can purify science from idolatry and false absolutes. Each can draw the other into a wider world, a world in which both can flourish”

“If the cosmologies of the ancient Near Eastern world could be purified and assimilated into the first chapters of Genesis, might contemporary cosmology have something to offer to our reflections upon creation? Does an evolutionary perspective bring any light to bear upon theological anthropology, the meaning of the human person as the imago Dei, the problem of Chirstology– and even upon the development of doctrine itself? What, if any, are the eschatological implications of contemporary cosmology, especially in light of the vast future of our universe? Can theological method fruitfully appropriate insights from scientific methodology and the philosophy of science?

1992 – From the L’Osservatore Romano: John Paul II: Faith Can Never Conflict with Reason. An Address to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences
“It is a duty for theologians to keep themselves regularly informed of scientific advances in order to examine, if such be necessary, whether or not there are reasons for taking them into account in their reflection or for introducing changes in their teaching.”

“From the Galileo affair we can learn a lesson which remains valid in relation to similar situations which occur today and which may occur in the future….The error of the theologians of the time, when they maintained the centrality of the earth, was to think that our understanding of the physical world’s structure was, in some way, imposed by the literal sense of Sacred Scripture…In fact, the Bible does not concern itself with the details of the physical world, the understanding of which is the competence of human experience and reasoning. There exist two realms of knowledge, one which has its source in Revelation and one which reason can discover by its own power. To the latter belong especially the experimental sciences and philosophy. The distinction between the two realms of knowledge ought not to be understood as opposition. The two realms are not altogether foreign to each other, they have points of contact.”

1996 – Magisterium and Evolution: Truth Cannot Contradict Truth, Message to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, by Pope John Paul II
“I had the opportunity with regard to Galileo to draw attention to the need of a rigorous hermeneutic for the correct interpretation of the inspired word. It is necessary to determine the proper sense of Scripture, while avoiding any unwarranted interpretations that make it say what it does not intend to say. In order to delineate the field of their own study, the exegete and the theologian must keep informed about the results achieved by
the natural sciences. New knowledge leads to recognition of the theory of evolution as more than a hypothesis. 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 provoked, of the results of work that was conducted independently is in itself a significant argument in favor of this theory.”

“And, to tell the truth, rather than the theory of evolution, we should speak of several theories of evolution. On the one hand, this plurality has to do with the different explanations advanced for the mechanism of evolution, and on the other, with the various philosophies on which it is based. Hence the existence of materialistic, reductionist and spiritualist interpretations. What is to be decided here is the true role of philosophy and, beyond it, of theology”.

“Theories of evolution which, in accordance with the philosophies inspiring them, consider the spirit 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”

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