The secular media has grasped on to a recent speech that the Holy Father Pope Francis gave to the Pontifical Academy of the Sciences. In the speech which was given on the occasion of the unveiling of a bust of his predecessor, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, Pope Francis gave remarks concerning the theories of Evolution and The Big Bang.
“The Big Bang, which nowadays is posited as the origin of the world, does not contradict the divine act of creating, but rather requires it. The evolution of nature does not contrast with the notion of Creation, as evolution presupposes the creation of beings that evolve” the Pope Said.
In the typical fashion that we have gotten accustomed to, the media has presented this as novel approach for a Pontiff, a new direction, a break from his unenlightened, firmly planted in the dark ages, predecessors on the Chair of St. Peter. It is presented as though past Catholic teaching was similar to American Fundamentalism, and it’s scientifically awkward defense of “Young Earth” creationism.
But this is simply not the case.
The Church and the Popes have long been patrons of the sciences, from the earliest developments of the scientific method by Roger Bacon, OFM, a Franciscan Friar to Monseigneur Georges Lemaître, the Belgian Priest/Astrophysicist/Cosmologist who developed the theory of the Big Bang. To assert that Pope Francis’ remarks on these scientific theories is novel is simply a gross, and likely wanton, inaccuracy.
In fact, Pope Francis’ venerable predecessor, Pius XII gave an address to the very same body to which Francis gave his remarks, stating that there was NO conflict between Evolution, the Big Bang and the Catholic Faith… in 1951
The speech, given on November 22, 1951, was titled “The Proofs For The Existence Of God In The Light Of Modern Natural Science“. In this speech, Pius XII gives a graceful and learned spiritual grounding to the, at the time, new theory of the “Expanding Universe”.
“True science discovers God in an ever-increasing degree—as though God were waiting behind every door opened by science.” “It is undeniable that when a mind enlightened and enriched with modern scientific knowledge weighs this problem calmly, it feels drawn to break through the circle of completely independent or autochthonous matter, whether uncreated or self-created, and to ascend to a creating Spirit. With the same clear and critical look with which it examines and passes judgment on facts, it perceives and recognizes the work of creative omnipotence, whose power, set in motion by the mighty “Fiat” pronounced billions of years ago by the Creating Spirit, spread out over the universe, calling into existence with a gesture of generous love matter busting with energy. In fact, it would seem that present-day science, with one sweeping step back across millions of centuries, has succeeded in bearing witness to that primordial “Fiat lux” uttered at the moment when, along with matter, there burst forth from nothing a sea of light and radiation, while the particles of chemical elements split and formed into millions of galaxies.”
Just a year earlier, in his encyclical “Humani Generis“, Venerable Pius XII wrote concerning the theory of Evolution
“For these reasons the Teaching Authority of the Church does not forbid that, in conformity with the present state of human sciences and sacred theology, research and discussions, on the part of men experienced in both fields, take place with regard to the doctrine of evolution, in as far as it inquires into the origin of the human body as coming from pre-existent and living matter — for the Catholic faith obliges us to hold that souls are immediately created by God. However this must be done in such a way that the reasons for both opinions, that is, those favorable and those unfavorable to evolution, be weighed and judged with the necessary seriousness, moderation and measure, and provided that all are prepared to submit to the judgment of the Church, to whom Christ has given the mission of interpreting authentically the Sacred Scriptures and of defending the dogmas of faithful Some however rashly transgress this liberty of discussion, when they act as if the origin of the human body from preexisting and living matter were already completely certain and proved by the facts which have been discovered up to now and by reasoning on those facts, and as if there were nothing in the sources of divine revelation which demands the greatest moderation and caution in this question.”
Subsequent Popes, particularly Saint John Paul II and Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, have made similarly statements about the harmony between true religion and true faith. So when the media presents Pope Francis’ recent statements as a novelty that changes Catholic teachings or breaks with past Popes, do not put stock in it and remember the long standing patronage and acceptance of science by the Bride of Christ.
Fides Et Ratio!