Did You Know - How We Change

Third in a Series

by John Houk

This is the third in the series devoted to changes in the Church’s position on important matters demonstrating that our Church is really alive as our new pope has so forcefully proclaimed. The subject here is the science of evolution. We continue to read of various Church groups that lobby to prevent the science of evolution being taught in schools or they support including the “science” of “intelligent design” in the classroom. Our own Church has a history of evolution on the topic of evolution.

Pope Alexander III, 1163 -- Called for the penalty of excommunication for clerics who “studied laws of the world”.

Pope Pius IX, 1877 -- Declared evolution “repugnant”, “depraved” and called it “this tissue of fables”.

Pontifical Biblical Commission, 1909 -- This commission affirmed a literal interpretation of the first three Chapters of Genesis (thus refuting the concept of evolution).

Pope Pius XII, 1950 -- Called the science of evolution “imprudent” and “indiscreet” and “audacious”, but did not forbid “research and discussion” in this field of science.

John Paul II, 1996 -- “New knowledge leads to recognition of the theory of evolution as more than a hypothesis.”

Cardinal Christoph Schonborn recently authored an article published in The New York Times (July 7) taking exception to the theory of evolution because he believes it disagrees with Catholic teaching. The cardinal is also quoted as saying that the 1996 statement by John Paul II was “rather vague and unimportant”. According to the Times a public relation firm associated with the Discovery Institute (a think tank that supports the “intelligent design” argument) helped place Schonborn’s article in the Times.

New knowledge, said John Paul II, has caused our Church to change its position on this field of science. The work of incorporating this new knowledge into our theological system of thought is still in process. You might say we are still evolving how to deal with the the concept of evolution from a religious perspective.