virus: what the church (pope) said re evolution

ken sartor (
Tue, 29 Oct 1996 11:43:10 -0600

Below is the statement issued by the Vatican. It hardly strikes me as
a endorsement of evolution - just says that it is maybe, perhaps
right and if it is ever proved, must be reconciled with the church

Found at:



VATICAN CITY, OCT 23, 1996 (VIS) - In a Message made public today to the
members of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, meeting this week in the
Vatican in plenary session, the Holy Father recalled that Pope Pius XI, who
restored this academy in 1936, called this group of scholars "the Church's
senate'" and asked them "to serve the truth."

The Pope expressed delight on the plenary's theme on the origin of life and
evolution, "a basic theme which greatly interests the Church, as Revelation
contains, for
its part, teachings concerning the nature and origins of man." If the
scientifically-reached conclusions and those contained in Revelation on the
origin of life seem to
counter each other, he said, "in what direction should we seek their
solution? We know in effect that truth cannot contradict truth."

John Paul II, noting the academy's "reflection on science at the dawn of the
third millennium," observed that "in the domain of inanimate and animate
nature, the
evolution of science and its applications make new questions arise. The
Church can grasp their scope all the better as she knows their basic

He pointed to the Church's magisterium on the question of the origin of life
and evolution, citing in particular Pius XII's 1950 Encyclical "Humani
Generis" and the
conciliar Constitution "Gaudium et Spes."

The Pope drew the academicians' attention to "the need for a correct
interpretation of the inspired word, of a rigorous hermeneutics. It is
fitting to set forth well the
limits of the meaning proper to Scripture, rejecting undue interpretations
which make it say what it does not have the intention of saying."

"'Humani Generis'," he stated, "considered the doctrine of 'evolutionism' as
a serious hypothesis, worthy of a more deeply studied investigation and
reflection on a
par with the opposite hypothesis. ... Today, more than a half century after
this encyclical, new knowledge leads us to recognize in the theory of
evolution more than a
hypothesis. ... The convergence, neither sought nor induced, of results of
work done independently one from the other, constitutes in itself a
significant argument in
favor of this theory."

He continued: "The elaboration of a theory such as that of evolution, while
obeying the exigency of homogeneity with the data of observation, borrows
certain ideas
from the philosophy of nature. To tell the truth, more than the theory of
evolution, one must speak of the theories of evolution. ... There are thus
materialistic and
reductionist readings and spiritual readings."

"The magisterium of the Church is directly interested in the question of
evolution because this touches upon the concept of man, ... created in the
image and likeness
of God. ... Pius XII underlined this essential point: 'if the origin of the
human body is sought in living matter which existed before it, the spiritual
soul is directly created
by God.' Consequently, the theories of evolution which, as a result of the
philosophies which inspire them, consider the spirit as emerging from forces
of living matter
or as a simple epiphenomenon of this matter, are incompatible with the truth
about man. They are moreover incapable of laying the foundation for the
dignity of the

"Consideration of the method used in diverse orders of knowledge allows for
the concordance of two points of view which seem irreconcilable. The
sciences of
observation describe and measure with ever greater precision the multiple
manifestations of life and place them on a timeline. The moment of passing
over to the
spiritual is not the object of an observation of this type, which can
nevertheless reveal, on an experimental level, a series of very useful signs
about the specificity of
the human being. But the experience of metaphysical knowledge, of the
awareness of self and of its reflexive nature, that of the moral conscience,
that of liberty, or
still yet the aesthetic and religious experience, are within the competence
of philosophical analysis and reflection, while theology extracts from it
the final meaning
according to the Creator's designs."