Patrick Archbold is co-founder of Creative Minority Report, a Catholic website that puts a refreshing spin on the intersection of religion, culture, and politics. When not writing, Patrick is director of information technology at a large international logistics company in New York.
When I read headlines like this one: "Pope Francis Officially Endorses Evolution and The Big Bang Theory," I can do nothing other than shake my head and sigh.
The media breathlessly reports this as just another sure sign that Pope Francis is so radically different from those other Popes. Except that is not what the Pope said and he is not the first Pope to say it.
What the Pope said, in an address to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, is that such concepts are "not inconsistent with the notion of creation, because evolution requires the creation of beings that evolve."
Of course that is true, so far as it goes. The breathless media hype is merely additional unneeded testimony to the ignorance of the media to even basic Catholic theology.
Yet still, I think it is a prudential error to make any such statements regarding any current scientific theories or speculation, no matter how in vogue and widely accepted they might be.
Headlines such as the one above are entirely predictable and lamentable. First of all, there are so single theories of evolution and big bang cosmology to "endorse." Rather there are many bits and pieces of unproven theory and speculation that different people will understand to represent these theories, some of which are incompatible with the faith.
Further, it is entirely likely that significant elements considered to be part of these "theories" will one day be proven false. It is undoubtable that future generations will giggle with scorn at how we believed some of what we take for granted as 'scientific fact.' Yes, probably even elements of the unquestionable theories of a 'big bang' and 'Darwinian evolution."
The Church should not be in the business of endorsing scientific speculation, no matter how trendy or accepted. Much of what might make us look "reasonable" to people today will make us look very foolish tomorrow. Other than the occasional anathema, the Church should keep mum.