The Roman Catholic Church has long affirmed the validity of evolutionary science. Unlike some (certainly not all) other Christians at the time, it never condemned Darwin or his ideas; and in 1950 Pope Pius XII described evolution as a valid scientific approach to the development of humans – a stance reaffirmed by Pope John Paul II in 1996.
Thus it’s no surprise that a Vatican representative, Archbishop Gianfranco Ravasi, president of the Pontifical Council for Culture, reaffirmed Tuesday that evolutionary theory “is not incompatible with the teachings of the Catholic Church or the Bible’s message.”
Apparently the Vatican (together with the University of Notre Dame in Indiana) will be hosting a conference in March celebrating the 150th anniversary of the publication of Charles Darwin’s “The Origin of Species.” Their purpose is to discuss how legitimate scientific discoveries inform philosophy and theology. They accordingly didn’t invite any supporters of “creationism” or “intelligent design”. Nor did they invite anyone who might use evolution as a basis to deny God’s existence.
According to Gennaro Auletta, professor of philosophy at the Gregorian University and head of the “Science, Technology and the Ontological Quest,” project, organizers hope the encounter will help theologians and philosophers be “a bit more humble and learn to listen a bit more” to what science is unveiling about humanity and the world.
As a Reuters article explains,
The Catholic Church teaches “theistic evolution,” a stand that accepts evolution as a scientific theory and sees no reason why God could not have used a natural evolutionary process in the forming of the human species.
It objects to using evolution as the basis for an atheist philosophy that denies God’s existence or any divine role in creation. It also objects to using Genesis as a scientific text.
As Ravasi put it, creationism belongs to the “strictly theological sphere” and could not be used “ideologically in science.”
This same article goes on to state that the organizers of the conference hope that one of the outcomes will be encourage American Catholics to take a more solid stand in the evolution/creationism debate in favor of science and against strict biblical literalism.