MOST of you know that the Vatican has pardoned Galileo, whom they had grotesquely persecuted more than three centuries earlier in the Galileo affair. More recently they’ve made their peace with Charles Darwin.
Regarding Galileo, see this statement of Pope John Paul II: Faith can never conflict with reason. It’s difficult reading, but worth the effort. Excerpts:
[T]he geocentric representation of the world was commonly admitted in the culture of the time as fully agreeing with the teaching of the Bible of which certain expressions, taken literally seemed to affirm geocentrism. The problem posed by theologians of that age was, therefore, that of the compatibility between heliocentrism and Scripture.
Thus the new science, with its methods and the freedom of research which they implied, obliged theologians to examine their own criteria of scriptural interpretation. Most of them did not know how to do so.
Paradoxically, Galileo, a sincere believer, showed himself to be more perceptive in this regard than the theologians who opposed him. “If Scripture cannot err”, he wrote to Benedetto Castelli, “certain of its interpreters and commentators can and do so in many ways”.
It is necessary to repeat here what I said above. It is a duty for theologians to keep themselves regularly informed of scientific advances in order to examine if such be necessary, whether or not there are reasons for taking them into account in their reflection or for introducing changes in their teaching.
From the Galileo affair we can learn a lesson which remains valid in relation to similar situations which occur today and which may occur in the future.
But the latest news is unsettling. In the Times of London we read: Vatican thumbs up for Karl Marx after Galileo, Darwin and Oscar Wilde. Here are some excerpts, with bold added by us:
Karl Marx, who famously described religion as “the opium of the people”, has joined Galileo, Charles Darwin and Oscar Wilde on a growing list of historical figures to have undergone an unlikely reappraisal by the Roman Catholic Church.
We’re not concerned about Oscar Wilde, but … Karl Marx? Let’s read on:
L’Osservatore Romano, the Vatican newspaper, said yesterday that Marx’s early critiques of capitalism had highlighted the “social alienation” felt by the “large part of humanity” that remained excluded, even now, from economic and political decision-making.
Social alienation? This is about social alienation? We continue:
Georg Sans, a German-born professor of the history of contemporary philosophy at the pontifical Gregorian University, wrote in an article that Marx’s work remained especially relevant today as mankind was seeking “a new harmony” between its needs and the natural environment. He also said that Marx’s theories may help to explain the enduring issue of income inequality within capitalist societies.
These people know nothing about economics. Nothing! Here’s more:
“We have to ask ourselves, with Marx, whether the forms of alienation of which he spoke have their origin in the capitalist system,” Professor Sans wrote. “If money as such does not multiply on its own, how are we to explain the accumulation of wealth in the hands of the few?”
Okay, that’s quite enough. Those who understand the free enterprise system will inevitably react to this the same way we react when we see the most outrageously ignorant creationist discussing evolution.
We’re left wondering — are these people as ignorant as it seems, or are they reading the American political tea leaves and behaving like slick politicians? Neither answer gives us a good impression.
There’s much more in the Times article. If this concerns you — and it should — click over there and read it all. Then see if you can make any sense of it. We can’t.
The Galileo pardon was a good thing to do — it took way too long, but it’s difficult for a religious institution to admit that it made a terrible error. Acceptance of Darwin’s work was another good move. We have often praised the Vatican for those actions. And Oscar Wilde, well … after talking about Galileo and Darwin — who cares about Wilde?
But Karl Marx — that’s a bad move. Very bad.
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