QUESTION: Is the Catholic Church faithful to the biblical truth of creation or isn’t it? Lately, I have begun to wonder if some leaders in the Catholic Church aren’t being taken in by the evolutionists. I’ll bet evolution is even being taught in Catholic schools these days!
ANSWER: Your question speaks of the “biblical truth of creation.” What is that truth? For me at least, as I read the pages of Genesis, the biblical truth of creation contains the following: that a loving God created the world totally out of love. It also contains the truth that what was created was ultimately dependent upon God, the creator. Finally, the biblical truth of creation tells us that the loving God continues to be active within the created world.
If one defines “evolutionists” as those who deny the above truths, then I would find it difficult to reconcile their view with that of Christian faith. But we must be very careful in determining precisely what we mean by the terms we use.
I am well aware that there are many who would contend that an essential element of the “biblical truth of creation” is that it all happened in six days.
It is important to note, however, that biblical scholars representing all major religions adhering to the Scriptures would agree that the authors of the first five books of the Hebrew Bible (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy) clearly did not intend to write a scientific account of creation.
The biblical truth of creation as contained in those first five books is essentially a theological work or a religious narrative of faith. It is expressing a faith-filled and inspired vision of the acts of a loving God. The human authors of those books cooperated with the Divine Author according to the limits of their knowledge. There were few ways to express the theological truth of creation apart from the account as they wrote it. Their goal, however, was to convey the theological truths, and not make statements about geology, astronomy or other branches of science.
Are they teaching evolution in Catholic schools? Catholic education is preparing young people for life in a world in which they will encounter people of many different systems of belief or unbelief. An awareness of the creation beliefs of others is necessary if students in Catholic schools are to speak intelligently and convincingly about their own beliefs.
To be aware of the beliefs of “evolutionists” is not the same as accepting them as the complete picture. The Creator, in the act of creating, was indeed free to utilize any process or plan. Catholic education is committed to teaching the biblical truth of creation. The ways in which that truth is understood in relation to the establishment of the various life forms is a process of careful explanation. That explanation occurs in dialogue with science and in fidelity to the essential truth of creation by a loving God, who is the ultimate author of life and upon whom we continue to be dependent.
Father Bober is pastor of St. Kilian Parish in Adams and Cranberry townships.