Darwin & the Cardinal

Many Catholics would be surprised to hear that the Darwinian theory of evolution is incompatible with Christian faith. Yet this was the central contention of a recent New York Times op-ed piece by Cardinal Christoph Schönborn of Vienna (“Finding Design in Nature,” July 7).

“Evolution in the sense of common ancestry might be true,” the cardinal wrote, “but evolution in the neo-Darwinian sense—an unguided, unplanned process of random variation and natural selection—is not.” A front-page story in the July 9 Times (“Leading Cardinal Redefines Church’s View on Evolution”) explained that the op-ed article had been solicited and submitted by the Discovery Institute, a Seattle-based group that advocates teaching alternatives to evolution. Does Schönborn’s essay mean that the church has changed its position on evolution?

In a word, no. Catholic thinkers have long maintained that evolutionary biology provides a vitalizing stimulus to religious thought. By seizing upon several undeveloped papal remarks, curt catechism formulas, and recent statements of Pope Benedict XVI, the cardinal assumes that he has assembled a dogmatic arsenal powerful enough to blast away a century and a half of...

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About the Author

John F. Haught, author of God after Evolution and many other books, is a senior fellow at the Woodstock Theological Center, Georgetown University.