Breathless liberals have been shouting from the rooftops since Monday that Pope Francis has broken with the Catholic Church and his predecessor Pope Benedict by giving a speech in which he discussed the Big Bang theory and evolution.
You can forgive some of the overjoyed reactions because it’s well-known among the Left Wing that Catholics, as well as Christians in general, hate science because it’s not in the Bible.
The odd thing is, that’s news to Catholics. And the thing about the Big Bang and evolution that liberals think is news, isn’t.
MSNBC reported, “Pope Francis made a significant rhetorical break with Catholic tradition Monday by declaring that the theories of evolution and the Big Bang are real.”
Let’s just zoom right past that loaded word. MSNBC went on to report – or rather, purport – that conservatives in the United States have “one more reason to be upset” with Francis.
The Independent in Ireland wrote that Francis’ speech put an end to the “pseudo sciences” of creationism and intelligent design.
There’s a barrel full of irony here that liberals are apparently unaware of.
First, the so-called “father of the Big Bang,” Georges LeMaitre, was a Jesuit priest and former president of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences.
That’s the very same group Francis was speaking to on Monday.
Also, long before there was Darwin’s “Origin of Species,” there was a man named Lamarck, a Catholic, who put together the first coherent theory of evolution.
NBC News nonetheless reported that Francis’ comments were a break with Benedict because Benedict was ostensibly a proponent of creationism, the nightmare-inducing bugaboo of liberals in lab coats.
In actuality, Benedict commented on evolution in several of his books, saying that it was ridiculous to suppose that creation and evolution were in opposition, the same view the Catholic Church has held officially since 1950, and the same view Francis restated on Monday.
What probably is most responsible for getting him tarred by liberals is that he dared to state that evolution doesn’t explain everything, especially where everything comes from.
A liberal acquaintance commented that it was still good of Francis to push a message of “we’re OK with science” because of the church’s “track record,” by which she meant the Galileo affair.
As it’s taught today, Galileo the noble scientist was the victim of the big, bad, ignorant church that put him through the Inquisition and placed him under house arrest.
What’s not taught is that Galileo largely brought his own troubles upon himself. His geocentric views, based on Copernicus’ works, were controversial. We’re usually told that the church arbitrarily ruled that his view was against Scripture and heretical. There’s a piece of that sentence missing, however, in that the geocentric view of astronomy was not yet accepted for two very good reasons: one, that the then-current method of calculating the positions of stars and planets worked, and two, Galileo’s theory suggested that there should be a visible solar parallax, but the technology of the time was unable to verify it.
So wrap your head around this: Galileo’s views were deemed heretical because they could not be proved by science. In other words, bad science itself was the heresy.
But even in the church, Galileo had supporters, including the Jesuits and the pope. In fact, it was at the pope’s request and under the papal insignia that Galileo published the first edition of his book.
However, in one of the most boneheaded moves in the history of boneheadedness, Galileo not only addressed the geocentric views of the old-school astronomers, but he put words spoken by the pope into the mouth of a fictional character named Simplicio, loosely translated as “idiot.” It was after that realization by the pope that poor Galileo found himself facing the Inquisition.
As for the rest of the church’s science “track record,” the church in the Middle Ages founded hospitals and universities. Mathematical studies led to feats of engineering such as the great cathedrals and many of Europe’s most famous castles and bridges. Catholic scholars were crucial in developing the scientific method itself, and founded several branches of modern science, such as genetics.
As for creationism, the church was debating whether to take Genesis literally or figuratively as far back as Augustine and Clement. While young-Earth creationism was mostly dropped by the church based on 19th century geology, creationism has not been abandoned or embraced. It’s seen as one possible, partial answer to questions about the origins of the world. The church’s current stance seems like a brand of intelligent design, but that’s not dogma, and Catholics are free to disagree.
The bottom line is that the church will continue to examine and weigh all the findings of scientists and scholars in its search for truth, and it will accept those that hold up to rigorous examination.
Perhaps the biggest irony in the reactions to Pope Francis’ speech is that while some people think they see a new open-mindedness from the church, it is the unchurched liberals, or the uneducated churched, who have the most closed minds of all.
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