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Popes for Evolution - II

From John Paul II to Benedict XVI

Prof. Remi Amelunxen

In the first installment of Popes for Evolution, I presented the dubious position of Pius XII, who on the one hand, generically condemned the Nouvelle Theologie, but, on the other hand, opened the door for evolution. I also mentioned the effective support Paul VI gave to the heterodox theories of Fr. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin by affirming that his system is a model to find God in the universe. Today I close the topic by analyzing the positions of John Paul II and Benedict XVI.

John Paul II

John Paul II, Pontifical Academy of Sciences 1996

John Paul II pleases the scientists at the Pontifical Institute by opening the door to evolution
John Paul II strongly opened the door of the Church to change the doctrine of original sin. In a message to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences in 1996, he stated that the theory of evolution was more than just a hypothesis, that it had been buttressed by scientific studies and discoveries since Charles Darwin, and that evolution is compatible with the Christian faith.

The Pope affirmed: “Today, almost half a century after publication of the encyclical [Humani generis by Pius XII], new knowledge has led to the recognition of the theory of evolution as more than a hypothesis. It is indeed remarkable that this theory has been progressively accepted by researchers, following a series of discoveries in various fields of knowledge. The convergence, neither sought nor fabricated, of the results of work that was conducted independently is in itself a significant argument in favor of the theory. ” (1)

Evolution, a theory Pius XII only acknowledged as a possibility, is accepted 46 years later by John Paul as an effectively proven fact.

Benedict XVI

It was Card. Joseph Ratzinger who unofficially albeit effectively rehabilitated the teaching of Teilhard de Chardin.

As Cardinal and Pope, he made it clear that he sees no contradiction between faith and “science,” that is, evolution. In a 1988 work Card. Ratzinger called evolution a “reality” that is complementary to the Genesis account: “The story of the dust of the earth and the breath of God, which we just heard, does not in fact explain how human persons come to be but rather what they are. … And vice versa, the theory of evolution seeks to understand and describe biological developments. … To that extent we are faced here with two complementary – rather than mutually exclusive – realities.” (2)

Pope Benedict XVI evolution

Benedict XVI - still professing the same confidence in evolution
In that same work, the Cardinal effectively denied original sin: "The account [in Genesis] tells us that sin begets sin, and that therefore all the sins of history are interlinked. Theology refers to this state of affairs by the certainly misleading and imprecise term 'original sin.' What does this mean? Nothing seems to us today to be stranger or, indeed, more absurd than to insist upon original sin, since, according to our way of thinking, guilt can only be something very personal, and since God does not run a concentration camp, in which one’s relatives are imprisoned, because he is a liberating God of love, who calls each one by name.” (3)

In another work, we find Card. Ratzinger reaffirming the chapters on Creation in Genesis are only “pagan creation accounts on which the biblical story is in part based. ” (4)

In a July 2004 statement of the International Theological Commission endorsed by Card. Ratzinger, one paragraph supports the supposed “general consensus among scientists” that the world is 3.5–4 billion years old, and that all living organisms descended from a first organism. It reads:

“Converging evidence from many studies in the physical and biological sciences furnishes mounting support for some theory of evolution to account for the development and diversification of life on earth, while controversy continues over the pace and mechanisms of evolution.” (5)

In a speech in northern Italy on July 25, 2007, Benedict XVI called the debate raging in some countries between creationism and evolution an “absurdity” since evolution can coexist with faith. He states:

“They [creationism and evolutionism] are presented as mutually exclusive alternatives. … This juxtaposition is an absurdity because, on the one hand, there are many scientific proofs supporting evolution as a reality which we must recognize and which enriches our understanding of life and being as such.” (6)

Although Benedict XVI defends a theistic evolution, where God would supposedly step in at some time in the long evolutionary process and give man rationality, this is still an effective denial of the Genesis account and rejection of original sin.

Cardinal Pell: Adam and Eve are a myth

In view of this strong support of evolution and the denial of the Genesis account of Creation by Popes, it should come as no surprise that important Prelates of the Church are making similar statements that deny original sin.

Cardinal George Pell, myth

'Adam and Eve are a myth'
Some Catholics seemed surprised when Card. Christoph Schönborn, a close disciple of Benedict XVI, appeared to support Intelligent Design in a 2005 essay titled “Finding Design in Nature.” (7) But why should they be surprised when he is just faithfully echoing his mentor?

Recently Card. George Pell of Australia, generally thought to be conservative because of his anti-abortion, anti-homosexual and pro- traditional marriage stances, shocked the Catholic milieu with his statement that Adam and Eve did not exist. When questioned about evolution on an ABC program with atheist biologist Richard Dawkins, Card. Pell referred to the biblical Genesis account as a myth. (8)

His comments caused an explosion among the Catholics, who were shocked that he was denying Church dogma. Again, why the surprise, in view of the strong support by several Popes for the same unorthodox thesis?

Denying dogmas of the Faith

Darwin’s On the Origin of Species was published in 1859, during the time of Pius IX who presided over Vatican Council I. That Council has a section on "Faith and Reason" that includes the following:

"Hence all faithful Christians are forbidden to defend as the legitimate conclusions of science those opinions which are known to be contrary to the doctrine of faith, particularly if they have been condemned by the Church; and furthermore they are absolutely bound to hold them to be errors which wear the deceptive appearance of truth." (n. 9)

Notwithstanding this condemnation, we have seen ecclesiastics deny original sin, one of the most basic dogmas of the Catholic Faith. How is this possible?

I return to the quote of Card. Ciappi, who read the third secret of Fatima and gave us this hint about its contents: “In the Third Secret is foretold, among other things, that the great apostasy in the Church begins at the top.” (9)

1.“Pope Bolsters Church Support for Evolution” Chicago Tribune November 25, 1996
2. Joseph Ratzinger, In the Beginning: A Catholic Understanding of the Story of Creation and the Fall, Eerdmans, 1995, p. 50
3. Ibid., p. 72
4. A New Song for the Lord, Crossroad Publishing, 1996, p. 86.
5. "Communion and Stewardship: Human Persons Created in the Image of God," plenary sessions held in Rome 2000–2002, published July 2004, §63
6. “Pope Benedict XVI: Creation Vs. Evolution an ‘Absurdity,’MSNBC News Services, July 25, 2007
7. Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, "Finding Design in Nature", published in The New York Times, July 7, 2005.
8. “Pell Says Adam and Eve Didn’t Exist,” Yahoo7 News online, April 10, 2012
9. Paul Kramer, The Devil’s Final Battle, Terryville, CT: The Missionary Ass., 2002, p. i.

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Posted July 2, 2012

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