Archive of September 9, 2010

Pastor won't burn Quran, but deal on NY mosque denied

Gainesville, Fla., Sep 9, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) -  

A pastor in Florida who incited the criticism of political and religious leaders for planning to burn a copies of the Quran on the anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks announced on Thursday afternoon that he is canceling the event.

Pastor Terry Jones of the Dove World Outreach Center in Gainsville, Fla. previously said his intention in burning the book was to raise “hard questions” about its content and the nature of Islam. Jones' church reportedly has around 50 members.

The pastor sparked global outrage with his plans, prompting harsh criticism from U.S. government officials, Catholic bishops and the Pontifical Council for Promoting Inter-religious Dialogue.

Jones held a press conference outside his church on Sept. 9 to announce his change of plans. According to the New York Times, the pastor  said that he will fly to New York instead to meet with the imam who plans to build a mosque and Islamic center near Ground Zero.

Jones claimed on Thursday that Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf in New York City has “agreed to move the mosque,” and that two will be accompanied by Imam Muhammad Musri, the head of the Islamic Society of Central Florida. However, Musri told reporters that no deal had been reached to move the Islamic center and mosque in New York.

The Associated Press (AP) reported that the Pentagon confirmed that Defense Secretary Robert Gates called Jones, urging him not to burn the Quran.

Press secretary for the Pentagon Geoff Morrells told the AP that Gates expressed "his grave concern" that burning of the Quran would endanger the lives of U.S. military, particularly in Iraq and Afghanistan.

On Tuesday, the Vatican's Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue also decried the planned burning. The council issued a statement expressing its “great concern” over the plan and stating that “deplorable acts of violence … cannot be counteracted” by burning another religion's sacred book.

Several U.S. bishops also spoke against the burning ceremony. Stating their support for numerous religious leaders who met in Washington, D.C. on Sept. 7 to oppose anti-Muslim sentiment,  Archbishop Wilton Gregory, Bishop William Murphy and Bishop Howard Hubbard said they voiced their “solidarity” with the leaders who gathered to “denounce categorically derision, misinformation and outright bigotry being directed against America’s Muslim community.”

The three prelates are chairmen of USCCB's Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs, Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development and Committee on International Justice and Peace, respectively.

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US Catholic bishops denounce 'outright bigotry' against Muslims

Washington D.C., Sep 9, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - Several U.S. bishops attended an interfaith dialogue earlier this week in Washington D.C. and voiced their opposition to recent events in the country that have displayed anti-Muslim sentiments.

Numerous religious leaders from Jewish, Christian and Muslim faiths attended a Sept. 7 meeting in D.C., titled “Beyond Park 51,” which was hosted by the Islamic Society of North America.

In a statement on Thursday, Archbishop Wilton Gregory, Bishop William Murphy and Bishop Howard Hubbard said they voiced their “solidarity” with the leaders who gathered to “denounce categorically derision, misinformation and outright bigotry being directed against America’s Muslim community.”

The three prelates are chairmen of USCCB's Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs, Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development and Committee on International Justice and Peace, respectively.

Both the protest of a planned mosque and Islamic center near Ground Zero in New York City and the plan by a Florida pastor to publicly burn the Quran on Sept. 11 have stirred controversy and contributed to what some fear is an increasing anti-Muslim sentiment in the U.S.

Agence France Presse (AFP) reported on Thursday that in recent months, there have been incidents of vandalism and attempted arson at a mosque in Arlington, Texas and threats to a mosque near Fresno, California. There has also been suspected arson at a construction site for a mosque at Murfreesboro, Tennessee.

Recently in New York, a Muslim cab driver was stabbed by a man who reportedly made jokes about Ramadan before attacking. The AFP also reported that a Sikh convenience store clerk in Seattle, Washington, was assaulted by a man who yelled “You're Al-Qaeda. Go back to your country.”

“All acts of intolerance aimed at a religious community should find no place in our world, let alone in our nation which is founded on the principle of religious freedom,” the bishops wrote.

The U.S. prelates also said they were “heartened”  by the recent statement from the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue on Wednesday condemning the planned Quran burning.

Pastor Terry Jones of the Dove World Outreach Center in Gainsville, Florida said earlier this week that his intention in burning the book is to raise “hard questions” about its content and the nature of Islam. Religious and political leaders alike have concurred with the sharp warnings expressed by General David Petraeus, the top U.S. general in Afghanistan.

On Thursday afternoon, Pastor Jones called off the planned Quran burning, saying that he had reached an agreement to move the so-called Ground Zero mosque.

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Catholic Vote gears up for mid-term November elections

Chicago, Ill., Sep 9, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - Preparing for the upcoming mid-term elections in November, Catholic Vote has announced the launch of a new website design as well as the reorganization of group's specific outreaches.

In a press release provided exclusively to CNA, Catholic Vote discussed the coinciding release of a two-minute video which is the first of a series of election-related clips, urging voters to seek God first in addressing the current problems of our nation.

“Americans may differ about how to best solve the social and economic problems facing our country, but we must come together in calling on God’s help,” said Brian Burch, president of the Education Fund.

“Politicians need to stop pretending like they can solve all of our problems, and we need to stop letting them try,” Burch added. “Americans intuitively know that the solutions to the problems that confront us will not come from bureaucracies thousands of miles away, but from prayer, hard work, and a revival of that American spirit that has guided us since our founding.”

Birch explained to CNA in a phone conversation Thursday the importance of electing officials who share the vision of “unleashing power” to the American people versus politicians who are more interested in their own agendas.

“There's a difference between politics and political activity,” Birch noted, adding that encouraging Catholics to become involved in the voting process “does not mean that we believe that politics,” in and of themselves, are “the answer.”

“Americans are a practical people. We hate bickering and blame-games. We simply want results. And we’ve been scandalized this past decade by a government that is out of touch and often incompetent,” Burch added in the Sept. 9 press release. “Both political parties, quite frankly, share some blame.”

Catholic Vote reported that the new video coincides with a re-launching of the group's family of organizations.

The group's updated website also introduces the non-partisan political action committee, which has endorsed candidates in races across the country. Other changes include’s 501c3 section being re-named the Education Fund.
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Feminist groups convince Mexican officials to reduce punishment for infanticide

Mexico City, Mexico, Sep 9, 2010 (CNA) - Feminist groups and leaders have pressured officials in the Mexican state of Guanajuato to drastically reduce the punishment for infanticide.

For weeks, feminist organizations such as Las Libres confused the public by claiming that six women in Guanajuato, who were in prison for killing their babies, were in fact in prison for abortion.

After being dismissed by local officials and U.N. delegates, the feminists changed their strategy to seeking a reduction in punishment for women who kill their children during the first hours following birth. Such a crime, punishable in the past by 35 years in prison, will now be punishable be only three to 10 years due to a controversial reform of the state's civil code.

Ivette Laviada, president of the Pro-Yucatan Network, and Patricia Lopez Mancera, director of the Center for Women’s Studies, said the efforts by feminists to pressure officials into making infanticide a right “will not resonate with other entities in the country.”

They expressed their deep concern that a mother attempting to kill her newborn within the first 24 hours after birth would no longer be considered a serious crime.  Infanticide should never be considered “normal,” they said. 

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Vatican Library prepares to reopen after three years of restoration

Vatican City, Sep 9, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - The Vatican Apostolic Library will be reopened again this month after three years of reconstruction. As its director explained to Vatican Radio, it aims to be a cultural aid, to offer a glimpse of the "great truth of the world of God."

Vatican Radio interviewed the library's prefect, Msgr. Cesare Pasini about the grand reopening set to take place on Sept. 20.

Noting a series of initiatives scheduled to mark the reopening of the library this fall, the prefect also spoke of the value of the library to all people.

He said that by reopening the library, "we not only show scholars and the world what we have done ... but we remodel ourselves on this fundamental spirit, on our mission, so that we don't just make it a place to consult books."

The library, which allows scholars from all walks and creeds to study its volumes, has an aspect of universality and cultural preservation because it conserves materials "for today and tomorrow," he said.

Msrg. Pasini also promotes culture by allowing works to be "used, seriously studied and then probed to find any further fragment of truth.

"There are many truths," he said, "historic truths, truths that make investigations into the reality of things, and these little truths form part of the great truth of the world of God."

In an article he wrote for last Sunday's edition of the L'Osservatore Romano, Msgr. Pasini described some of the 15,000 letters and e-mails his office has received hoping for the prompt conclusion to the restoration work and describing the library's importance to studies. Responding to the interest, he said that in looking around the now "silent and shining" library, he has seen that "only the friendly presence of our scholars is lacking." He added, "may they know that they are warmly awaited."

Archivist of the Vatican Secret Archives, Cardinal Raffaele Farina, will present the renovated, restored and restructured library in an on-site press conference next Monday.

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WYD cross teaches young people that Christ takes on all suffering, explains prelate

Madrid, Spain, Sep 9, 2010 (CNA) - Archbishop Jesus Sanz Montes of Oviedo in Spain has invited young people to embrace the meaning of the World Youth Day Cross, which is a sign that Christ “assumes every kind of suffering and challenge.”

The archbishop said that over the next year, the WYD Cross and Icon of the Virgin Mary will visit various dioceses in Spain. The cross has already visited cities and towns across Europe, Asia, the Americas and Australia. 

Archbishop Sanz recalled that the cross “is the sign of our victory and not the pin of our defeat. Blessed are the young people who understand this. Blessed are the pastors if they teach them to live it.”

Each WYD is a call of the Church and a “providential occasion in which God gives us his grace,” he said, noting that many young people often discover their vocations during the event.

“To gaze upon thousands and thousands of Christian young people helps us to recognize with joy what Pope Ratzinger said as he began his papal ministry: the Church is alive, the Church is young,” the archbishop concluded.

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Community to make 'act of reparation' for sacrilege against Eucharist

Valencia, Spain, Sep 9, 2010 (CNA) - The Catholic community in the Spanish town of Rotova will hold an act of reparation this Friday for a sacrilege committed against the Eucharist during Mass last weekend.

The incident occurred at a parish in Rotova when a group of young people who had been participating in an annual festival came to noon Mass. One of them took the host out of his mouth during Communion and threw it on the floor.

Witnesses—including a local justice of the peace—informed the priest who was celebrating the Mass, Father Victor Jimeno. The priest then had one of the parish assistants retrieve the trampled host and give it to him.

Becoming angry, Fr. Jimeno approached the young man, slapped him, and threw him out of church, calling him sacrilegious.

“For me, my love for the Eucharist is greater than the love for my parents. I just was overwhelmed and I don’t know what happened.” The priest explained that he “went over to the group of young people who were taking pictures in front of the altar, and I asked if the boy had thrown the host on the ground.” 

Fr. Jimeno continued saying that the boy just looked back at him “and smiled.”

The priest added that he was sorry for slapping the young man.

Hours later, Fr. Jimeno celebrated Mass again and apologized to the faithful, to the young man and his family for his conduct. The parents of the boy also apologized for the actions of their son.

Fr. Jesus Sanchez, episcopal vicar of Safor, told the newspaper Las Provincias that the incident was “sad” and that although Fr. Jimeno was wrong to lash out at the young man, “He reacted as a father would in response to an offense.”

Fr. Sanchez said “the priest, the mayor and the people deserve praise for their forgiveness and for restoring relations between all the parties.”

“All of this has affected me a lot, I am very said. I couldn’t sleep last night and I just prayed and cried,’ Fr. Jimeno admitted, noting that it is difficult for unbelievers to understand his reaction.  What happened to the Eucharist “is the worst thing that can be done to a believer.”

The “act of reparation and atonement” will take place in accord with directives given by the Archdiocese of Valencia and will be celebrated by Fr. Sanchez. The faithful and priests from the surrounding areas are encouraged to attend.

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Custom Scottish plaid created to celebrate papal visit

Glasgow, United Kingdom, Sep 9, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - A traditional plaid Scottish design, or tartan, has been created to commemorate the Pope's visit to Great Britain this month. The North Carolina creator of the design said the interlocking pattern of stripes tells the story of the Catholic Church in Scotland while interweaving elements of next week's trip.

With just a week remaining before the Holy Father's arrival to the nation's two major cities of Edinburgh and Glasgow, the Scottish Church announced the novelty of the first ever papal visit tartan on Thursday. Matthew Newsome, director of the Scottish Tartans Museum in Franklin, North Carolina, drew it up especially for the Sept. 16 occasion.

"Thrilled" that his design was chosen to be woven by a pair of Scottish companies for the trip, Newsome said that every element of the multi-color traditional pattern has a meaning behind it.

The tartan's "white line on blue field draws upon Scotland's national colors while the green reflects the lichens growing on the stones of Whithorn in Galloway," he said, explaining that it was there that the missionary St. Ninian arrived 1,600 years ago.

St. Ninian's feast day will be observed in a very special way this year as it coincides with the arrival of the Pope in Scotland.

Red lines also accompany the white lines, said Newsome, which is in remembrance of the colors of Cardinal John Henry Newman's crest, and thin yellow lines were also put alongside the white to reflect the colors of the Holy See.

He added, "(i)n terms of the weaving, each white line on the green contains exactly eight threads, one for each Catholic diocese in Scotland. There are 452 threads in the design from pivot to pivot, representing the number of Catholic parishes."

The design was presented by Cardinal Keith O'Brien and Newsome to members of Scottish parliament on Thursday afternoon. Every one of the 129 members received a tie or scarf with the design.

Cardinal O'Brien noted, “It’s a great honor to be able to hand over the first ever tartan created for a Papal Visit as a thank you to all the Holyrood parliamentarians who have been so overwhelmingly supportive of this visit, knowing it means so much to the Catholic community and many others in this country.

"I also intend to gift the tartan to the Holy Father only a week from today," he said, adding, "What could give him a greater Scottish welcome than a new tartan created in honor of this historic visit?”

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Dissident group marks 22 years of working for peace in Cuba

Havana, Cuba, Sep 9, 2010 (CNA) - This week, the coordinator of the Christian Liberation Movement, Oswaldo Paya, renewed the commitment of his organization to bringing about a peaceful transition to democracy in Cuba.

In a statement released this week, Paya said that after 22 years of existence, the CLM is entering a new era. The Cuban people are hopeful about the future, he explained, although they still do not enjoy their fundamental rights, and they live in poverty under a government that is run by a group of wealthy military officials under the leadership of two dictators.

Paya also reaffirmed the need for the Varela Project, which seeks a peaceful transition to democracy in Cuba. “We want true dialogue, but we will not accept any kind of dialogue that is not part of a transparent process and is not expressly and directly oriented towards the legal recognition of all the rights of Cubans,” he added.

Paya invited Cubans to work for reconciliation, transparency and peaceful change in the country. “The Cuban people have the right to know about their own lives and their destiny,” he said.

“A generous spirit and desire to leave behind hatred and anger exists in most Cubans. All political prisoners must be liberated and not deported. Transparent dialogue and the exercising of rights will create an environment for forgiveness and understanding among all Cubans and thus bring about peace,” Paya said.

He concluded his statement calling for “an end to the discrimination against Cubans in their own country” and for free elections “in order to elect representatives and leaders who will do the will of the people.”

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Universal recognition of human rights 'imperative' for future of Europe, Benedict XVI states

Rome, Italy, Sep 9, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - Dignity is not just a right for a select few human beings, stressed the Pope to European political leaders. Highlighting the need for the recognition of values, rights and duties of all people as Europe faces the future, he posed Christian principles as a solid foundation for action.

Marking 60 years since the adoption of the European Convention on Human Rights, Pope Benedict XVI hosted members of the Council of Europe's Parliamentary Assembly after the Wednesday's general audience.

Turning to the agenda of the council which aims to protect the most vulnerable through the promotion of human dignity, the Holy Father said that considering the diversity of society today, "it is imperative to develop the universal validity of these rights as well as their inviolability, inalienability and indivisibility."

Work for the protection of human dignity must be carried out for the benefit of all peoples, the Pope observed, as he also highlighted the risks of relativism poses for values, rights and duties. These three elements, he explained, "are rooted in the natural dignity of each person, something which is accessible to human reasoning."

In this regard, he observed, "(t)he Christian faith does not impede, but favors this search, and is an invitation to seek a supernatural basis for this dignity."

He expressed his own conviction that these principles, when "faithfully maintained," are "necessary conditions" to addressing the "decisive and urgent challenges" posed to the council today, especially as they pertain to the protection of life in all stages, marriage between one man and one woman, and the freedoms of religion and education.

In an interview with the Italian bishops' SIR news agency later on Wednesday, the Holy See's permanent observer to the Council of Europe, Msgr. Aldo Giordano, highlighted the Pope's statements in favor of human dignity and religious freedom. The Pope's words, he said, come at an important time, when "Europe is faced with some epoch-making challenges, especially that of rethinking its role, its responsibilities and its contribution in the world today."

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40 Days for Life launching London campaign

London, England, Sep 9, 2010 (CNA) - The American pro-life group 40 Days for Life is branching out across the Atlantic and beginning its first campaign in London, England on September 22, in conjunction with the launch of the U.S. fall campaign.

An announcement on the group's website stated that a constant vigil will be keep outside the Marie Stopes abortion clinic in central London, 24 hours a day, for 40 days from Sept. 22 – Oct. 31. The group explained that its activities will include prayer and fasting, peaceful vigils and community outreach throughout the 40 days.

Abortion provider Marie Stopes International has been the subject of controversy lately over a recent TV ad which urged women who might be pregnant to contact the organization, the Daily Mail reported in early August. During the ad, several worried-looking women in everyday situations were shown with the question “Are You Late?” displayed at the top of the commercial.

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), an independent regulatory agency, ruled in favor of allowing the ad to air.

Paul Tully, general secretary of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC), said in a statement on August 5 that advertising abortion, even indirectly, is “indecent and dishonest.”

Marie Stopes performs about 65,000 abortions a year in the U.K.

Commenting on the upcoming pro-life campaign, SPUC president John Smeaton said on his website on Sept. 3 that “This isn’t just an invitation or an awareness campaign aimed at churches and pro-life organizations; it’s a personal invitation to each and every person, to prayer (sic), fast, and act.”

“The bottom line is this: if you are prolife, care about the plight of unborn children, care about the countless women left scarred by abortion, want to reach out to the many men who should have been fathers, want to do something that will save lives and change the culture of death into a culture of life … Then please commit yourself to supporting 40 Days for Life London,” Smeaton urged.

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Vatican analyst: Catholic use of contraception linked to silence of clergy

Rome, Italy, Sep 9, 2010 (CNA) - Vatican analyst Sandro Magister highlighted a recent book that shows a link between the widespread usage of contraception among Catholics in the early 20th century and the silence of clergy in presenting Church teachings on the subject.

In a Sept. 8 article in the Chiesa section of the Italian newspaper L'Espresso, Magister discussed the 2010 book from author Gianpiero Dalla Zuanna, a professor of demography at the University of Padua. The book, explained Magister, “analyzes and thoroughly explains for the first time – with documents never studied before – why the Church did not stop the spread of contraception" in the early 20th century.

Magister began his piece by stating that a “divergence” has existed between the teachings of the Church and individual Catholic practice long before contraceptives were even on the market. The Vatican analyst then discussed how the book cites a case study involving a model Catholic area in Italy during the first half of the 1900s.

“Rural Veneto was at the time the most Catholic region in Italy, with an extremely solid, grassroots presence of the Church,” Magister explained. “But even in Veneto in the first half of the twentieth century – where almost everyone went to Mass on Sundays and to confession at least once a year – the birth rate was cut in half in the span of one generation.”

“It went from 5 children per woman in 1921 to 2.5 children per woman in 1951 because of generalized recourse to contraceptive practices, the most widespread of which was coitus interruptus.”
Magister said that the author attributes these numbers to silence on the part of the Catholic clergy at the time, who were employing the “theory of good faith” taught by St. Alphonsus Maria de Liguori.

“According to this theory,” said Magister, “in the presence of a penitent who is suspected of committing contraceptive actions but appears unaware of the gravity of the sin and in practice incapable of correcting his behavior, it is best to respect his silence and take his good faith into account, absolving him without posing any further questions.”

However, Magister wrote that “a change took place in 1931” with the publication by Pius XI's encyclical "Casti Connubii."

“From then on, at the behest of the hierarchy, conjugal morality became a bigger part of preaching. And therefore the room for inculpable ignorance was reduced,” Magister noted. “A few priests wrote about this: once it has been said in public what is good and what is evil between spouses, 'good faith can no longer be admitted.'”

“But decades of silence, interpreted by most of the faithful as consent to their contraceptive practice, had left its mark,” the Vatican analyst stressed. “In their answers to the question about birth control – a dozen years after 'Casti Connubii' – some priests recognized that their preaching on this matter made no impression.”

“In the meantime, in Catholic Veneto the birth rate had fallen to levels near zero growth,” he added. “But the distance between Church teaching and the use of contraceptives continues to be perceived by most of the population as neither a sin nor a rebellion.”

“Even afterward – and this brings us up to today – the condemnation of contraceptives would be the subject of papal documents, but already at the level of the bishops it would hardly appear in preaching.”

“The clergy, for their part, would be almost completely silent on it. And would continue to be very understanding and indulgent in the confessional,” Magister concluded.

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Evidence challenging Darwin 'could be valid,' explains Catholic scholar

Irvine, Calif., Sep 9, 2010 (CNA) - Commenting on recent evidence that Darwin's theories on competition driving the survival of species may be wrong, one Catholic expert explained that the new information “could be valid.” In an interview with CNA, Jesuit priest and scholar Fr. Robert Spitzer, also weighed in on the subject of evolution and its compatibility with Catholic theology.

Media outlets have recently buzzed over emerging evidence that the drive for habitat or living space – not competition, as scientist Charles Darwin believed – may have driven the survival of the species.

A recent study conducted by Ph.D student Sarda Sahney and colleagues at the University of Bristol and published in Biology Letters, used fossils to study evolutionary patterns over 400 million years of history, according to the BBC.

In their study, the research team proposed that big evolutionary changes happen when animals move into empty areas, challenging the idea that intense competition for resources in overcrowded habitats is the major driving force of evolution. The recent study ultimately critiques Darwin's widely held view that organisms clashing for dominance where only the fittest survived is what led to the evolutionary process.

CNA interviewed former president of Gonzaga University and noted scholar Fr. Robert Spitzer, who confirmed that “Darwin assumed that competition was what was driving the development of human species and particularly the dominance of one specie over another.”

However, “there is no way of reaching back in time and finding empirical evidence of that fact.”

The priest explained that “Darwin's theories are based on a series of inferences,” which are rooted in genetics, fossil evidence, empirical evidence and even mere conjecture.

“For all intents and purposes then, the argument that space may have driven the development of species or one species' dominance over the other could be very much valid and, frankly, just as valid as competition,” Fr. Spitzer said.

“Both theories could be valid,” he stated, adding that the development of species could also have been driven “by another explanation that we don't yet know of.”

Fr. Spitzer then weighed in on the issue of evolution and the Bible and whether the two are at odds with one another.

“Catholics hold that the Biblical author is inspired,” he said, “and what we mean by inspiration is not that God dictated something to the Biblical author.” Rather, “inspiration means that the Biblical author is using his human capacities – he's using his human categories for things that he understands.”

“In other words, God's not going to dictate a treatise to him about science that he can't possibly understand,” the scholar added, noting that when God “inspires a biblical author that biblical author is doing something that's important to him in his context and at his time.”

Instead of science being the main focus, the more important topic to a biblical author is “theology,” said the priest.

“The biblical author's purpose is not to write science at all,” Fr. Spitzer emphasized, especially given that “obviously science has not even been developed yet.”

“So, can science and the Bible be reconciled?” he asked. “Of course – the Bible is doing something theological and science is doing science.”

Fr. Spitzer then cited two major encyclicals from Pius XII – “Divino Afflante Spiritu” and “Humane generis” – clarifying that “Catholics can believe in evolution.”

“The only real limitation is that we do not believe that the human soul came from an evolutionary process,” he added, “because evolutionary processes are material, they're bodily.”

“Even though human embodiment may have evolved over a varied period of time – and it could have evolved even from subordinate species – the human soul is a special creation of God - it transcends the material order.”

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