The Religion headlines of a variety of mainstream media news sources have noted that Pope Francis says evolution is real and God is no wizard. Social media was all atwitter with reaction, from shock and excitement…
…to sarcasm, because this is actually not new.
Sarcasm aside, the Catholic Church does (officially) teach that there is no conflict between faith and evolution / the Big Bang theory. Specifically, the Church teaches that Scripture is authoritative only in matters of faith, not science. To put this another way, the Church will speak to the Why of creation, but not the specific details as to the How. Catholic teaching asserts that God created all things from nothing, but does not say how. Explaining how everything came to be belongs to the realm of science.
The Church has held this position that there is no conflict between faith and evolution / the Big Bang theory since Pope Pius XII in 1951.
- Pope Francis made a statement at the Pontifical Academy of Sciences on October 28, 2014.
- Pope Saint John Paul II made a similar statement to that same group in October 1996.
- Pope Benedict XVI not only agreed with his predecessor and his successor there is no conflict, he specifically spoke against the idea of teaching “Intelligent Design” as a scientific theory.
It is important that popes reaffirm this teaching in continuity with one another because many people still do not know that this is what the Church teaches. So, of course Pope Francis made the statement! But no, Francis did not disagree with Benedict, nor is Francis’ statement in stark contrast to Benedict’s. There is continuity, as there should be.
In 2006-2007, during Pope Benedict’s papacy (2005-2013), there was a heated discussion about teaching Intelligent Design and/or Creationism alongside the theory of evolution and the Big Bang Theory. Concern arose because proponents wanted to teach Intelligent Design and/or Creationism as alternative scientific theories.
“Intelligent Design Theory” attempts to be a form of science, redefining science to accept miraculous explanations; Creationism specifically uses the bible as a source of scientific authority.
An article in the Vatican newspaper made it explicitly clear: “Intelligent design is not science and should not be taught as a scientific theory in schools alongside Darwinian evolution.” (Catholic News Service)
Good theology understands God’s role in creation, but that’s theology, not science. Believing in an “unmoved mover” or “superior cause” or “intelligent designer” is theology, not science. The Church grants science the rightful domain of explaining the origins of the universe, but acknowledges God’s guidance in some way (and does not define what that “way” is).
Recognizing that it speaks with authority in matters of faith, not science, the Church does not officially endorse any one specific theory. However, the Church does recognizes the overwhelming scientific evidence supporting the Big Bang Theory and evolution, and officially states that creation and evolution are not contradictory (the faithful do not need to choose one or the other).
Adam creation © Depositphotos.com/savacoco