.- Following a New York Times editorial by Vienna’s Cardinal Christoph Schonborn last week which stated that a “neo-Darwinist” idea of evolution--where an “unplanned” and “random” process, devoid of design is responsible for the earth‘s existence--is incompatible with the Catholic faith, a storm of debate over the Church’s true stand on evolution has ensued. During a luncheon with the National Press Club yesterday, Washington DC’s Cardinal Theodore McCarrick said that “as long as in every understanding of evolution the hand of God is recognized as being present, we can accept that. In other words, it does not -- you need not say that creationism is the only answer, that in six days or seven days God made the world.”
The Church has stated that while the faithful needn’t necessarily believe in seven 24-hour periods in which God created the earth, they do need to acknowledge His creative action within the individual steps of the earth’s formation.
The Cardinal clarified that “John Paul II would say, yes, evolution is fine as long as it has a place for the creator; as long as it has a place for God. But you cannot say this is all an accident, this is all something that happened by coincidence -- that I cannot accept, that the church cannot accept. The will of God is involved here.”
Critics have suggested that Cardinal Schonborn’s editorial is in conflict with the late Pope John Paul II, who said that evolution and the Catholic Church are not necessarily in disagreement.
Responding to this claim, Cardinal McCarrick told the Press Club, “I think that if you really very carefully study what Cardinal Schonborn is saying and what His Holiness Pope John Paul II was saying, you'll find that they do not disagree, that the hand of God must be in there; if it is not, it is unacceptable.”
Cardinal Schonborn said that many mistakenly use John Paul’s undefined openness to evolution as an open door to align the Christian faith with the neo-Darwinian dogma, as he calls it--which can never be true.
An article in Tuesday’s U.S. News and World Report opined that “despite outcries of many scientists and others that [Cardinal Schonborn’s editorial] represents a dangerous break with the church's far more ‘enlightened’ stance on evolutionary theory, it is possible to see Schönborn's views as being largely, if not entirely, consistent with the past 55 years of Roman Catholic teaching.”
The report cited Pope Pius XII’s 1950 document, Humani Generis, which states, “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.”
Mark Ryland, of Seattle’s Discovery Institute told CNA that, “The main point of Cardinal Schönborn’s article is to highlight the way that people have been glossing over the fundamental conflict between Catholic teaching, on the one hand, and any strong version of neo-Darwinian evolutionary theory, on the other.”
“Neo-Darwinism”, he added, “denies that there is any real order or purpose in biological things -- that there is only ‘apparent’ order that created by the unguided, unintelligent process of random variation and natural selection which, acting together, can mimic real design.”