Monday, July 11, 2005

Excuse me while I go throw up

You know all those concerns I expressed earlier that Cardinal Ratzinger--as Pope Benedict XVI--would turn the Catholic Church in to a Bible-thumping, fundamentalist establishment hostile to the laity and intellectual discourse? Well, now Cardinal Schönborn of Austria has published--apparently with Benedict XVI's blessing--an op-ed piece in the New York Times that says, essentially, all that Catholic acceptance of evolution over the decades was a very bad mistake. The break with past Catholic teaching on evolution is so dramatic that the New York Times deemed it worthy of a full article, Leading Cardinal Redefines Church's View on Evolution:
In a telephone interview from a monastery in Austria, where he was on retreat, the cardinal said that his essay had not been approved by the Vatican, but that two or three weeks before Pope Benedict XVI's election in April, he spoke with the pope, then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, about the church's position on evolution. "I said I would like to have a more explicit statement about that, and he encouraged me to go on," said Cardinal Schönborn.

He said that he had been "angry" for years about writers and theologians, many Catholics, who he said had "misrepresented" the church's position as endorsing the idea of evolution as a random process.

Opponents of Darwinian evolution said they were gratified by Cardinal Schönborn's essay. But scientists and science teachers reacted with confusion, dismay and even anger. Some said they feared the cardinal's sentiments would cause religious scientists to question their faiths.

Reading Cardinal Schönborn's screed, I was struck by the uncomfortable feeling that I'd seen it all before. Oh yeah, the Discovery Institute. Looks like I'm not the only one that twigged to the "theology masquerading as science" angle:
One of the strongest advocates of teaching alternatives to evolution is the Discovery Institute in Seattle, which promotes the idea, termed intelligent design, that the variety and complexity of life on earth cannot be explained except through the intervention of a designer of some sort.

Mark Ryland, a vice president of the institute, said in an interview that he had urged the cardinal to write the essay. Both Mr. Ryland and Cardinal Schönborn said that an essay in May in The Times about the compatibility of religion and evolutionary theory by Lawrence M. Krauss, a physicist at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, suggested to them that it was time to clarify the church's position on evolution.

The cardinal's essay was submitted to The Times by a Virginia public relations firm, Creative Response Concepts, which also represents the Discovery Institute.

Mr. Ryland, who said he knew the cardinal through the International Theological Institute in Gaming, Austria, where he is chancellor and Mr. Ryland is on the board, said supporters of intelligent design were "very excited" that a church leader had taken a position opposing Darwinian evolution. "It clarified that in some sense the Catholics aren't fine with it," he said.

But wait a minute! I thought Catholics were fine with it. In fact, I thought that both Pope John Paul II and Pope Pius XII came down unambiguously on the side of evolution? And aren't the Jesuits famed for their reverence for science and fact? Apparently not. Cardinal Schönborn helpfully points out that everyone over the decades have been wrong, whereas he, in his infinite wisdom (no doubt helped along by Divine Inspiration) is correct:
In his essay, Cardinal Schönborn asserted that he was not trying to break new ground but to correct the idea, "often invoked," that the church accepts or at least acquiesces to the theory of evolution.

He referred to widely cited remarks by Pope John Paul II, who, in a 1996 address to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, noted that the scientific case for evolution was growing stronger and that the theory was "more than a hypothesis."

In December, Bishop Francis X. DiLorenzo, chairman of the Committee on Science and Human Values of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, cited those remarks in writing to the nation's bishops that "the Church does not need to fear the teaching of evolution as long as it is understood as a scientific account of the physical origins and development of the universe." But in his essay, Cardinal Schönborn dismissed John Paul's statement as "rather vague and unimportant."

Francisco Ayala, a professor of biology at the University of California, Irvine, and a former Dominican priest, called this assessment "an insult" to the late pope and said the cardinal seemed to be drawing a line between the theory of evolution and religious faith, and "seeing a conflict that does not exist."

For his next demonstration of piety, Cardinal Schönborn will dig up the disintegrating bones of Galileo and retry the remains for heresy. Thanks--I think--to Jacquandor for putting me on to this particularly malodorous scent.

Now Playing: The Kinks Live at the BBC

No comments:

Post a Comment