Cardinal Schonborn clarifies Church’s stance on evolution: intelligent design is clear in nature

Cardinal Schonborn clarifies Church’s stance on evolution: intelligent design is clear in nature


In a New York Times piece published yesterday, Archbishop of Vienna, Cardinal Christof Schonborn called “neo-Darwinian”, evolution, or the idea that there is no intelligent design behind creation, incompatible with the Catholic Church and in conflict with nature itself.

While noting that the late John Paul II accepted evolution as “more than just a hypothesis”, he clarified that, “the Catholic Church, while leaving to science many details about the history of life on earth, proclaims that by the light of reason the human intellect can readily and clearly discern purpose and design in the natural world, including the world of living things.”

Many, he said, 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, this can never be true.

Evolution, in the sense of common ancestry may be true, the Cardinal wrote, but he sees neo-Darwinism, what he describes as “an unguided, unplanned process of random variation and natural selection” as completely false in the eyes of the Church.

“Any system of thought”, he clarifies, “that denies or seeks to explain away the overwhelming evidence for design in biology is ideology, not science.”

The Cardinal added that while many quote John Paul II’s “rather vague and unimportant” 1996 statement, referenced above, few truly explore what the pontiff really said about design in nature.

He cited a 1985 general audience in which John Paul said, "All the observations concerning the development of life lead to a similar conclusion. The evolution of living beings, of which science seeks to determine the stages and to discern the mechanism, presents an internal finality which arouses admiration.”

“This finality which directs beings in a direction for which they are not responsible or in charge,” he continued, “obliges one to suppose a Mind which is its inventor, its creator."

New Pope, new confusion

The Austrian prelate further lamented that the new Pope Benedict XVI now finds himself falsely aligned with an incorrect idea of evolution as well.

He said that many often quote “a sentence about common ancestry from a 2004 document of the International Theological Commission, [and point] out that Benedict was at the time head of the commission…”

He adds that they use this to conclude “that the Catholic Church has no problem with the notion of "evolution" as used by mainstream biologists - that is, synonymous with neo-Darwinism.”

In actuality, the cardinal points out, “The commission's document…reaffirms the perennial teaching of the Catholic Church about the reality of design in nature.”

“Commenting on the widespread abuse of John Paul's 1996 letter on evolution,” he wrote, “the commission cautions that ‘the letter cannot be read as a blanket approbation of all theories of evolution, including those of a neo-Darwinian provenance which explicitly deny to divine providence any truly causal role in the development of life in the universe.’”

In his conclusion, Cardinal Schonborn, almost exhaustedly pointed out that, as it has for years, the Church would not fail to “defend the truths of faith given by Jesus Christ.”

He calls scientific claims like that of the neo-Darwinists simply a way to “avoid the overwhelming evidence for purpose and design found in modern science”, and, quoting John Paul said that these theories are not science, but in fact, an “abdication of human intelligence.”