Continued from Part 2…
Father then talks about how we must believe in a literal 6 day creation. This is just his opinion and other respected theologians disagree. I will site here a respectable theologian citing a Church father on this matter: “Augustine understands by the word “day,” the knowledge in the mind of the angels, and hence, according to him, the first day denotes their knowledge of the first of the Divine works, the second day their knowledge of the second work, and similarly with the rest. Thus, then, each work is said to have been wrought in some one of these days, inasmuch as God wrought in some one of these days, inasmuch as God wrought nothing in the universe without impressing the knowledge thereof on the angelic mind; which can know many things at the same time, especially in the Word, in Whom all angelic knowledge is perfected and terminated. So the distinction of days denotes the natural order of the things known, and not a succession in the knowledge acquired, or in the things produced. Moreover, angelic knowledge is appropriately called “day,” since light, the cause of day, is to be found in spiritual things, as Augustine observes (Gen. ad lit. iv, 28). In the opinion of the others, however, the days signify a succession both in time, and in the things produced.” This is St. Thomas Aquinas speaking of St. Augustine. Need I say more?
Finally, the Priest closes with criticizing modern science and saying that anyone who accepts it is just trying to be “enlightened.” Maybe people who accept it are actually just pursuing truth. It takes a lot of twisting words and rationalization to say there is a conspiracy going on in the areas of evolutionary biology, cosmology, geology, astronomy, and possibly more for the last 200 years. It takes a lot to say that most science text books are simply unreliable and the experts are either lying or not really experts. It takes a lot to do this for the sake of a theological opinion which some of the greatest theologians of our day and of all time would have disagreed with. Then the priest makes a comment, which I don’t know what he means although it implies something really scary. He says “[those who accept modern science’s views on evolution and the big bang] don’t want another Galileo case, as if Galileo was right.” Galileo was not right about everything, but with regards to his position that the earth rotated around the sun, yes he was certainly right. I sure hope Father was not implying that the sun moves around the earth. That is a scary thought because it is obviously not true and no reasonable people would believe that any more. Catholics cannot descend to the level of rejecting reason. Reason is fundamental to faith, it is fundamental to morals, and it is fundamental to what we are as human beings. Catholics now more than ever need to be reasonable otherwise we will be subject to ridicule. It is so sad to see priests who are mostly on your side, who are traditional and faithful, making such major mistakes.
The priest concludes saying that this pseudo-science blasphemes God. This is the biggest problem I have with the entire sermon. This gives people the impression that to accept the scientific theories in question is to commit the horrible sin of blasphemy when in fact, this is not the case. The Church does not teach this and the priest has no right to suggest it. This pits people between their reason and their conscience. It forces them to choose between blasphemy and believing in something that they know to be false unnecessarily. The priest may believe in 6000 year old 6 day creationism which flies in the face of modern science, but he absolutely should not impose this private view on other people under pain of sin. Such a thing is itself putting the souls of those in his care at risk.
Why do I bring this all up? Is it just to lament the state of the Church? No. The reason that I write this post is because I want to point out the errors in this priest’s way of thinking and in his arguments. I also wanted to make the point that good philosophy and good science work together as part of human reason which is ultimately a support of faith not an enemy of it. I also have a personal problem with Christians who act as though it is heterodox or sinful to believe what science tells us, even though, certain respectable theologians and even saints would have no problem with this. Do I have a solution? Yes, in fact I do think there are two very simple solutions:
1) We have to use our heads. God gave us intellect for a reason! The Church has a long history of using faith in conjunction with reason to pursue truth. We cannot abandon this tradition. St. Thomas was questioned when he combined Aristotelian philosophy with the Christian Scriptures. Actually, many things that Aristotle said seemed to be in direct opposition to Church teaching. Some Christian thinkers actually sought to refute Aristotle because of this. However St. Thomas almost always used Aristotle’s thought and incorporated it into Christian thought. We know now that Aristotle is not the be all and end all of human reason. But the principles of St. Thomas should remain with us today: We should seek not to oppose secular knowledge but incorporate it into Christian theology and use it to glorify God. Using our reason better as Catholics means having the humility to accept there are some things we do not know. It also means understanding the riches of Catholic philosophy and natural science.
2) We have to be obedient to the Church. We cannot interpret Scripture according to our own judgment. We cannot choose which Fathers to follow and which to ignore. We have to submit ourselves in all things to the judgment of the Church. When we talk about this we always think of dissident liberals who openly deny the Magisterium. Today though I am talking about traditional Catholics who think they know more than the Pope. I am not accusing the priest who gave the sermon of this exactly, but still, he should be more careful and remember that the Church teaches something much different from what he taught in his sermon. You may not understand the Church’s teaching, but you have to accept it. With respect to evolution and the big bang, Catholics may accept these as true and this is in no way an affront to God or orthodoxy. I can say this with 100% certainty because as they say: Rome has spoken…
Let’s pray to St. Albert the Great, patron of sciences, the Universal Doctor of the Church, and mentor of St. Thomas Aquinas for a better understanding of the relationship between faith and science.