Cardinal redefines Church's view on evolution

The influential Cardinal Christoph Schönborn of Vienna has suggested that belief in evolution as accepted by science today may be incompatible with Catholic faith.

The New York Times reports that while the Church has long been regarded as an ally of the theory of evolution, Cardinal Schönborn, said in an op-ed article for the paper on Thursday that students should be taught that evolution is just one of many theories.

The cardinal, a theologian who is close to Pope Benedict XVI, wrote: "Evolution in the sense of common ancestry might be true, but evolution in the neo-Darwinian sense - an unguided, unplanned process of random variation and natural selection - is not."

In a telephone interview from a monastery in Austria, where he was on retreat, the cardinal said that his essay had not been approved by the Vatican, but that two or three weeks before Pope Benedict XVI's election in April, he spoke with the pope, then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, about the church's position on evolution. "I said I would like to have a more explicit statement about that, and he encouraged me to go on," said Cardinal Schönborn.

He said that he had been "angry" for years about writers and theologians, many Catholics, who he said had "misrepresented" the church's position as endorsing the idea of evolution as a random process.

The New York Times said that opponents of Darwinian evolution said they were gratified by Cardinal Schönborn's essay. But scientists and science teachers reacted with confusion, dismay and even anger. Some said they feared the cardinal's sentiments would cause religious scientists to question their faiths.

Cardinal Schönborn, who is on the Vatican's Congregation for Catholic Education, said the office had no plans to issue new guidance to teachers in Catholic schools on evolution. But he said he believed students in Catholic schools, and all schools, should be taught that evolution is just one of many theories. Many Catholic schools teach Darwinian evolution, in which accidental mutation and natural selection of the fittest organisms drive the history of life, as part of their science curriculum.

Catholic News Service quoted the cardinal's main point as suggesting that any evolutionary position that denies the "overwhelming evidence for design in biology is ideology, not science" and incompatible with Catholic teaching.

Leading Cardinal Redefines Church's View on Evolution (New York Times 9/7/05)
Scientific data supports design in evolution, says cardinal (Catholic News Service 8/7/05)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
[Cardinal] Christoph Schonborn: Finding Design in Nature (New York Times 7/7/05)

Catholic cardinal questions teaching of evolution (New York Times/TheState.com 10/7/05)
Cardinal Schonborn clarifies Church's stance on evolution: intelligent design is clear in nature (Catholic News Agency 8/7/05)
Evolving Debates (Beliefnet)

11 Jul 2005