Last week, Pope Francis’ words made front page and prime time news again. He said the evolution and Big Bang theories did not conflict with Catholic teaching. But it was really not news.
Only reporters and editors who don’t know what Catholic orthodoxy teaches about creation —which touches on Darwin’s evolution theory and the theory that Sir Fred Hoyle was the first to name the Big Bang in 1950—got excited and gave the Pope’s remarks before the Pontifical Academy of Sciences the status of news. Or maybe they did know–but they just wanted to give the secular public another hope that under Pope Francis the Roman Catholic Church would turn her back on what she has been teaching for centuries as part of the fundamental creed of the Faith.
Pope Francis wonderfully has the gift of giving the Church’s ancient—and taken for granted —teachings modern lyrics and a fresh tune.
When he spoke about the poor, he suddenly made lukewarm consciences of Catholics and other Christians perk up to the teaching that they have a duty to attend to the poverty of people they know and live with in the same community, society, country and planet. Suddenly, these Christians were paying attention to the old cry from Catholic pulpits and papal encyclicals that St. John Paul II the Great included in his Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Catholic Church: give the “preferential option for the poor.”
So, when Pope Francis spoke about evolution the other week, he was in fact not preparing to issue an amendment to the Church’s doctrine. He was actually reminding people of (1) the tendency of Roman Catholicism to think scientifically and encourage scientific research, (2) the falsity of the anti-Catholic, liberal, secular and atheistic description of the Church as an anti-scientific institution and (3) what the Church actually teaches about creation.
Pope Francis said to the participants in the meeting of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, “When we read about creation in Genesis, we run the risk of imagining God as a magician, with a magic wand able to do everything. But that is not so..…He created human beings and let them develop according to the internal laws that he gave to each one, so they would reach their fulfillment.”
That means, the Pope said, in God’s process of creating the universe, He was applying His supreme principle, and “[T]he Big Bang, that today we hold to be the origin of the world, does not contradict the intervention of the divine creator but, rather, requires it.”
The Holy Father also said, “Evolution in nature is not inconsistent with the notion of creation, because evolution requires the creation of beings that evolve.”
I suppose Pope Francis was assuming that his audience, being members of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, are scientists or at least believers in the correctness of the scientific method. (The Church does not at all object to and in fact supports it, despite the wrong perception created by the sad episode of Galileo for which, Pope John Paul II the Great apologized on behalf of the Catholics who erred, and sinned, in treating the priest-scientist badly). He said we “hold the Big Bang to be the origin of the world.” The fact, however, is the Catechism of the Catholic Church does not condemn those who believe in simplistic Creationism. Therefore, some Catholics may perfectly not “hold the Big Bang to be the origin of the world” (by which is meant “the physical universe.”)
Here are the two Numbers in the Catechism of the Catholic Church that are about the Theology of Creation and how it relates to natural science:
“283 The question about the origins of the world and of man has been the object of many scientific studies which have splendidly enriched our knowledge of the age and dimensions of the cosmos, the development of life-forms and the appearance of man. These discoveries invite us to even greater admiration for the greatness of the Creator, prompting us to give him thanks for all his works and for the understanding and wisdom he gives to scholars and researchers. With Solomon they can say: “It is he who gave me unerring knowledge of what exists, to know the structure of the world and the activity of the elements. . . for wisdom, the fashioner of all things, taught me.”
“284 The great interest accorded to these studies is strongly stimulated by a question of another order, which goes beyond the proper domain of the natural sciences. It is not only a question of knowing when and how the universe arose physically, or when man appeared, but rather of discovering the meaning of such an origin: is the universe governed by chance, blind fate, anonymous necessity, or by a transcendent, intelligent and good Being called ‘God’? And if the world does come from God’s wisdom and goodness, why is there evil? Where does it come from? Who is responsible for it? Is there any liberation from it?”
These points, I believe, are now being taken more seriously by catechists, professors in seminaries and Catholic universities, and in tertulias among Catholics who wish to upgrade their knowledge of their Faith. And this is happening because our Pope has charismatically talked about the subject, which liberal mass media made headlines of.
Reiterating the old moral sense
The same thing happened when Pope Francis mentioned homosexuality and unusual circumstances that, often tragically, happen to married Catholics who have ended up being divorced.
It turns out that all the Pope wants to remind us all is to continue loving and caring for our fellow Catholics who are divorced and have illicitly married other persons or have a homosexual orientation and are unable to restrain themselves from acting on their “love that dare not name itself.”
He just wants all of us to be doers of our Lord Jesus Christ’s commandment to love and care for ALL our fellow human beings, which logically means specially our own siblings, relatives and friends–no matter if they are sinners. In fact, I think, we have an extra duty to be more caring and loving to them.
Pope Francis last Friday, reiterated the old moral sense the Church has always advocated, in his homily at his Mass at Casa Santa Marta. In the Zenit report by Junno Arocho Esteves, titled “Pope Francis says Worldly Christians are enemies of the Cross, warns against falling into a mediocre mentality,” he is quoted as saying: “We must be careful not to slip toward the path of being pagan Christians, Christians in appearance [only].”
The Pope reflected on St. Paul’s Letter to the Philippians. In it, the Apostle warns against those Christians who “live like enemies of the cross of Christ.”
“Their end is destruction. Their God is their stomach; their glory is in their ‘shame.’ Their minds are occupied with earthly things,” St. Paul writes.
Calling them “pagan Christians,” the Pope described these people as those who identify themselves as Christians yet live a pagan life.”
“The temptation to get used to mediocrity, the mediocrity of Christians, these Christians, it is their undoing because their hearts cool, they become lukewarm,” the Pope said. “And the Lord had strong words for these lukewarm [Christians]: ‘because you are lukewarm, I will spit you out of my mouth’. These are very strong words! They are enemies of the Cross of Christ. They take the name, but do not follow the requirements of Christian life.”