From an 11-page letter to an atheist mathematician, the whole of which will be published later in a book:
Overall, the letter is devoted to an unfailingly polite, though occasionally pointed, response from Benedict on several stock subjects in the exchange between believers and their atheist critics:
Whether theology can be considered a “science”
Whether empirical sciences such as biology, and even mathematics, also have their flights of fancy – what Benedict describes as lapses into “science fiction” …
Benedict also faults Odifreddi for proposing a “religion of mathematics” which fails to consider what he believes to be “three fundamental themes of human existence”: freedom, love and evil.
“Whatever neurobiology does or doesn’t say about freedom, in the real drama of our history it’s there as a determining reality, and it has to be taken into consideration,” Benedict writes.
We’ll need to see it in context, of course, but his choice of language is curious and evokes his friend Cardinal Schonborn’s comments that so shocked the New York Times eight years ago.
Clearly, unlike many clergy, Benedict understands what the issues are and — one can but hope — appears willing to avoid meaningless no-conflict-between-faith-and-science phraseology, in favour of asking: Whose faith? What science? What counts as science? For example, if neuroscientists insist that denying free will is the “science” view, the Church has no option but to oppose them, and they would say that that means the Church is “opposing science.”