EVOLUTION & CREATION - A Catholic Understanding by Rev. William
Kramer This book has the Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur markings.
Starting page 113:
"In the PASTORAL CONSTITUTION ON THE CHURCH IN THE MODERN WORLD
the Second Vatican Council recalled the statement of Vatican I
that there are two autonomous sources of knowledge, faith and
reason, and that there can be no real conflict between them.
Modern conditions tend to purify religions of remnants of magic
and superstition so that many are achieving a more vivid sense
of God (No.7). The independence of temporal affairs does not
mean they can be used without reference to the Creator, 'for
without the Creator the creature would vanish' (No. 36).
The Council deplores habits of mind sometimes found among
Christians 'which do not sufficiently attend to the rightful
independence of science.' As the note to No. 36 (above)
indicates, this was a deliberate reference to the condemnation
of Galileo, and may be taken as an apology for the unfortunate
and unwise action taken by Church agencies in the seventeenth
century. Pope John Paul II, in an address to the Pontifical
Academy of Sciences on November 10, 1979 (Origins, p. 391),
goes further in making amends, praising Galileo for his
admirable understanding or the relation between faith and
science and his insight into the interpretation of Scripture.
In another speech to the scientific community on October 3,
1981, he speaks of the creation of the universe in this way:
'Sacred Scripture wishes simply to declare that the world was
created by God, and in order to teach this truth[sic] it
expresses itself in terms of the cosmology in use at the time
of the writer.... Any other teaching about the origin and
makeup of the universe is alien to the intentions of the Bible,
which does no wish to teach how heaven was made but how one
goes to heaven' (Origins, p. 279).
This is an obvious reference to Galileo's famous saying (based
on Augustine): 'The Bible does not teach us how the heavens go,
but how to go to heaven.' One would have to be fairly dense not
to see that it was the pope's intention to warn against
repeating the mistake of the Galileo case by condemning the
scientific theory of evolution on the basis of a faulty
interpretation of the Bible.
After this, an occasional reference to evolution by the pope
should raise no eyebrows. In April 1985 he had this to say at a
symposium on evolution: "Rightly comprehended faith in creation
or a correctly understood teaching of evolution does not create
obstacles: Evolution in fact presupposes creation; creation
situates itself in the light of evolution as an event which
extends itself through time -- as a continual creation -- in
which God becomes visible to the eyes of the believer as
'creator of heaven and earth'' (National Catholic Register, May
On June 21, 1985, the Holy Father spoke to a group of
scientists on stellar evolution, as was reported in the July
15, 1985, edition of L'Osservatore Romano (pp. 11-12):
It is wonderful to see how much has been understood concerning
the structure of stars - their birth, life and death, the
origin and structure of galaxies, the formation of elements and
other building blocks of physical reality in the early
universe, and the interlocking roles of fundamental interaction
and processes, in the large and in the small.
These scientific achievements proclaim the dignity of the human
being and greatly clarify man's unique role in the universe.
On January 29, 1986, the pope restate his view of evolution in
a general audience: 'Indeed, the theory of natural evolution,
understood in a sense that does not exclude divine causality,
is not in principle opposed to the truth[sic] about creation of
the visible world, as presented in the Book of Genesis' (The
Wanderer, February 20, 1986).
In this country the bishops of Louisiana, as a guide to their
people during the creationism-in-schools controversy raging in
their state, issued in 1983 a statement in much the same
language we have already seen: Scripture does not teach
science, and commentators of the past did not settle the issue
of how Scripture is to be interpreted concerning the origin of
things. The bishops conclude with this admonition: 'Christians
should not reduce biblical truths[sic] which are so rich and
profoundly spiritual to the level of uncritical or simplistic
literalism. This would rob the Scriptures of their genuine
meaning and salvific power' (Origins, p. 603).
From all this it should be clear that six-day creationism is
badly out of tune with the teaching Church, which has slowly
and cautiously accepted the prevailing scientific ideas and
language of evolution and become comfortable with it, just as
it learned earlier to think in heliocentric terms and of a
spherical earth. Prior to that time the Church never taught
that the earth was flat or that the sun went around it, even
though there were times when most churchmen thought so. Now it
does not teach that the world evolved, or is round, or orbits
the sun. That is not its commission. These easy references to
scientific theories merely assure us that they are not in
conflict with the faith."