“God is not… a magician, but the Creator who brought everything to life,” Francis said. “Evolution in nature is not inconsistent with the notion of creation, because evolution requires the creation of beings that evolve.”
I believe the Catholic church became hyper sensitized to issues of science vs. religion as a result of the Galileo debacle. This became a huge embarrassment to Catholicism. It was a clash that no pope wished ever to repeat. Post Galileo the church moved ever closer to uncritical acceptance of scientific theories. This accommodation posed no problems so long as the theories were actually physical rather than metaphysical. Thus Newton’s mechanics, Boyle’s law, and Lavoisier’s oxygen theory of combustion meshed uncontroversially with church doctrine.
Unfortunately Darwinism appeared mid 19th century posing as a normal physical theory about how the world works when in fact it was metaphysical speculation. Gun shy Catholicism accepted its claims at face value without doing the careful study that discernment demanded. As a result it was saddled with a fundamental contradiction: belief in a creator god who science had divested of all creative power. To say that science was wrong was to align the church with Protestant fundamentalists who protested in a style that was unseemly and tainted with an anti-science stance the church had long abandoned. Yet to unreservedly endorse evolution was clearly to abdicate all authority to an atheistic secularism.
So the church in its struggles to avoid the two ends of the spectrum eventually cobbled together a compromise solution perhaps best exemplified by Teilhard DeChardin’s The Phenomenon of Man. God let things run their course according to the “laws of evolution” interfering only on three occasions—the beginning of life, the creation of man, and the birth and resurrection of Jesus.
Though DeChardin did not receive official approval of that book, it now seems to have become the defacto stance of the Catholic church. The pope genuflects to Darwin because not to do so is to seem irrelevant and foolish in a world which has accepted Darwin as the Messiah. Yet the pope also reserves a few strongholds for god in a self-referentially incoherent system known as “theistic evolution.”
Anyone looking for logical consistency in the Pope’s statements should apply elsewhere. On the other hand post-moderns, mainline Protestants, and weak kneed evolutionists are free to derive solace as they may wish.
Eventually, the Church will be forced to grapple with the metaphysical naturalism that underlies Darwinism and allows it to br considered the “science” of biology. Many denominations will merely go under first.
See also: Pope on evolution? Wait, what? The Church published an encyclical 64 years ago saying exactly what Pope Francis said yesterday? You don’t say!