New papal reflection on evolution

 — Apr. 13, 200713 avril 2007

Update: This book is now available in English translation under the title Creation and Evolution: A Conference with Pope Benedict XVI in Castel Gandolfo. Order this book now through to support this website.

On Wednesday April 11, Pope Benedict XVI published a new book in German on the subject of creation and evolution. The book apparently arises out of the Schülerkreis, a group of his graduate students that continue to meet with him each fall. The annual gatherings have attracted a great deal of attention since Benedict was elected pope, particularly because the participants — each a former student of Benedict — represent some of the most well-known and highly-regarded theologians in Germany and around the world. In 2006 the gathering was held at Castel Gandolfo on the subject of creation and evolution.

It should be remembered that, in his 1950 encyclical Humanae Generis, Pope Pius XII taught that the “hypothesis” of evolution does not conflict with Catholic faith so long as it does not deny “that the spiritual soul is immediately created by God.” In 1996, John Paul II went further and stated that new knowledge leads to the recognition that the theory of evolution is more than an hypothesis. He pointed out, as many biologists would also insist, that there are “theories” of evolution rather than one theory.

John Paul II was concerned about the relationship of faith and reason, which he insisted are not in conflict. With this assertion, he reinforced the clear philosophical and theological teaching of the Catholic Church since the time of the great Scholastics in the late Middle Ages. Benedict XVI has also picked up this theme, most memorably in his lecture at Regensburg in September 2006. At that time, his quote of a Byzantine emperor about Islam, and the implication that Islam is a violent religion, was the focus of most of the news reports. However, the Regensburg lecture was actually concerned with Benedict’s insistence that Christian faith and Greek philosophy form a synthesis that is the foundation of European society. This synthesis presumes that hellenized Christianity is normative, affirms the Christian character of Europe, and defends the role of religious thought in modern intellectual discourse.

In this latest publication, Benedict reportedly praises the progress achieved by science but cautions that evolution raises philosophical questions that science alone cannot answer. Despite some expectations to the contrary, he did not endorse intelligent design, the latest fad among creationists. Instead he cautions that science and philosophy must engage in their respective inquiries in such a way that faith is not excluded. In a comment on John Paul II’s 1996 statement, Benedict apparently wrote: “The pope (John Paul) had his reasons for saying this. But it is also true that the theory of evolution is not a complete, scientifically proven theory.”

The book, entitled Schöpfung und Evolution, was published Wednesday by Sankt Ulrich Verlag. In addition to Benedict’s contributions, the book contains papers prepared by members of the Schülerkreis. Translations in other languages will be forthcoming.

Another papal book will also be released this spring. Jesus of Nazareth: From the baptism in the Jordan to the Transfiguration will be released on May 15. It is already available for pre-order at major bookstores and through

Posted: Apr. 13, 2007 • Permanent link:
Categories: NewsIn this article: Benedict XVI, books, creation, evolution, Joseph Ratzinger
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Catégorie : NewsDans cet article : Benedict XVI, books, creation, evolution, Joseph Ratzinger

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