There have been many news accounts about what Pope Benedict XVI said this Easter about evolution. Some of the stories we saw made it seem as if he were rejecting evolution. That didn’t make any sense, because we’ve previously written that the Church’s position is pro-evolution. See, for example, The Vatican and Evolution, and also Pope Benedict’s 2007 Statement on Evolution.
We wanted to see for ourselves what had been said over the weekend, so we went to the source. At the Vatican website we find: HOMILY OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI, Holy Saturday, 23 April 2010. We’ll give you some excerpts, with bold font added by us; but this isn’t quote-mining. You have a link to the source of our quotes, so you can see for yourself what was said. Here we go, omitting everything that isn’t relevant to this topic:
At the Easter Vigil, the journey along the paths of sacred Scripture begins with the account of creation. This is the liturgy’s way of telling us that the creation story is itself a prophecy. It is not information about the external processes by which the cosmos and man himself came into being. The Fathers of the Church were well aware of this. They did not interpret the story as an account of the process of the origins of things, but rather as a pointer towards the essential, towards the true beginning and end of our being.
Okay, Genesis isn’t a science book. Skipping a bit, we read:
The central message of the creation account can be defined more precisely still. In the opening words of his Gospel, Saint John sums up the essential meaning of that account in this single statement: “In the beginning was the Word”. … The world is a product of the Word, of the Logos, as Saint John expresses it, using a key term from the Greek language. “Logos” means “reason”, “sense”, “word”. It is not reason pure and simple, but creative Reason, that speaks and communicates itself. It is Reason that both is and creates sense. The creation account tells us, then, that the world is a product of creative Reason. Hence it tells us that, far from there being an absence of reason and freedom at the origin of all things, the source of everything is creative Reason, love, and freedom.
Reason and freedom sound okay to us. Now we get directly into it; but we added a hyphen and divided this into paragraphs for clarity:
Here we are faced with the ultimate alternative that is at stake in the dispute between faith and unbelief [—] are irrationality, lack of freedom and pure chance the origin of everything, or are reason, freedom and love at the origin of being? Does the primacy belong to unreason or to reason? This is what everything hinges upon in the final analysis.
As believers we answer, with the creation account and with Saint John, that in the beginning is reason. In the beginning is freedom. Hence it is good to be a human person.
The part we put in bold font in the next paragraph is what has been widely quoted in various news media:
It is not the case that in the expanding universe, at a late stage, in some tiny corner of the cosmos, there evolved randomly some species of living being capable of reasoning and of trying to find rationality within creation, or to bring rationality into it. If man were merely a random product of evolution in some place on the margins of the universe, then his life would make no sense or might even be a chance of nature. But no, Reason is there at the beginning: creative, divine Reason.
And because it is Reason, it also created freedom; and because freedom can be abused, there also exist forces harmful to creation. Hence a thick black line, so to speak, has been drawn across the structure of the universe and across the nature of man. But despite this contradiction, creation itself remains good, life remains good, because at the beginning is good Reason, God’s creative love.
That’s pretty much it, although we’ve given you just a few excerpts from a much longer homily. You can read it all for yourself and reach your own conclusion. We don’t pretend to understand the Church’s theological pronouncements; that requires years of training, which we lack. It’s clear to us, however, that the Church isn’t a creationist outfit, and they don’t take the six-day creation account in Genesis literally. Thus, they’re not part of The Controversy.
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