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Scott P. Richert

Pope Benedict XVI: Evolution and Catholicism Compatible

By August 4, 2007

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Almost 11 years ago, Pope John Paul II, in an address to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, caused quite a stir by declaring that "new knowledge has led to the recognition of the theory of evolution as more than a hypothesis." Some Catholics, particularly traditionalists, believed that the Holy Father was stepping outside of his competence in making judgments on scientific matters. Others, including Catholic scientists, welcomed Pope John Paul's reaffirmation of the traditional Catholic principle that "Truth cannot contradict truth." In other words, to the extent that the theory of evolution has a solid scientific basis, it must be compatible with Catholic doctrine.

A decade before, the secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, delivered a series of homilies that were published in 1990 under the title In the Beginning . . . : A Catholic Understanding of the Story of Creation and the Fall. In those homilies, he made a similar argument: The creation story in Genesis is a spiritual history. It simply doesn't matter what physical means God used to create the world and all living creatures therein; what matters is that man is both body and soul, and his creation is not complete until God has breathed the breath of life into him. And about the creation of the soul (and, thus, of the complete man), science can tell us nothing.

That same Cardinal Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, recently restated his (and Pope John Paul's) argument. As MSNBC reported, Pope Benedict has referred to the debate between creationists and supporters of evolutionary theory as an "absurdity":

"They are presented as alternatives that exclude each other," the pope said. "This clash is an absurdity because on one hand there is much scientific proof in favor of evolution, which appears as a reality that we must see and which enriches our understanding of life and being as such."

On the other hand, there are certain questions that evolutionary theory can never answer: "Above all it does not answer the great philosophical question, 'Where does everything come from?'" Christians, thus, can learn truth from science, but scientists must learn to accept the limits of their own work. No scientific investigation can ever prove that God does not exist, or that He did not create the world, or even that man is only the sum of his physical parts.

August 7, 2007 at 10:18 pm
(1) Chris Biller says:

Amen ! For different faiths to be embroiled in this age old controversy tears apart Christians. Christians cannot deny scientific truths. We must all become unified & let our focus be on our dear Lord & Savior.

August 17, 2007 at 11:33 am
(2) Micael says:

I take both sides. First, we must all remember that no matter what science or the Pope says. The Theory of Evolution, no matter how good it sounds is just that a THEORY. That means it is a guess backed by some science which gives it creadence. However, it has its doubts even within science.

This is where I have a small problem with the Pope’s statement. It makes the theory of evolution sound like the Law of Evolution. We may latter find out, that evolution is only a contributor, but not 100% as it presumes.

Regardless, I also understand his point- the bottom line. That even if this theory were scientific proof. It does little to contradict the Word of God. You can have a Law of Evolution and the believe of intellent design perfectly compatable with each other.

It is the same concept as it relates to natural disasters. Did God creat the Huricane and/or did he allow the Huricane to destroy. Does God, create all, then at one point breaths the breath of life into man to create humanity, possibly and certainly not incompatable with the scriptural description of creation.

June 22, 2008 at 3:00 am
(3) Tracy says:

The pope is trying to keep Catholism relevant by incorporating it into popular science.

The problem is that the real science of the big bang theory, evolution, and global warming… is that there is more wholes in the theories than what their is solid foundation. We take things that we can see in micro evolution and extrapulate macro evolution. Something that if the theory were correct would continue to this day.

The pope by embrassing popular culture doesn’t achieve his goals. He lends credibility to the popular science… and diminishes the relevance of Catholism.

August 4, 2008 at 3:57 pm
(4) Steve Daniel says:

The Pope is spot on. Why do we insist that our faith agree with science? Evolution has been accepted FACT worldwide for over a century.
Does your literal word-for-word reading of the Bible mandate that the fossil record disappear?
Is there no room for symbolism in your reading?
Instead of looking at the mechanism of HOW life arose, maybe it’s more important to look at WHY it arose. THAT is the question that leads us to continued faith in our Church.

September 29, 2008 at 3:19 am
(5) pope kissed koran says:

Sura 96 Aya 2: allah created man, out of a (mere) clot of congealed blood.

koran 15 26: We created man from sounding clay, from mud molded into shape.

Surah 3 Aya 59: He created him from dust, then said to him: “Be!” -and he was.

Surah 19 Aya 67 and Surah 52:35: But does not man call to mind that we created him before out of nothing?

Surah 16 Aya 4: He created him from a sperm drop.

Surah 16 Aya 4: (other translation) He has created man from Nutfah (mixed drops of male and female sexual discharge), then behold, this same (man) becomes an opponent.

February 21, 2011 at 12:48 am
(6) mee says:

Two different languages telling the same story. I find it absurd that someone would deny evolution,God is clearly capable of using it isn’t he? Science tells us how it happened, the Bible give it’s meaning to us chiefly that God created the world freely out of love and that we sinned agains him.

February 20, 2013 at 5:53 am
(7) Catholic Creation says:

And now for what the Magisterium REALLY teaches: http://www.kolbecenter.org/the-traditional-catholic-doctrine-of-creation/

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