by Denyse O'Leary
Followers of the intelligent design controversy were taken by surprise by Christoph, Cardinal Schonborn's now-famous op-ed in The New York Times, in which he said,
Evolution in the sense of common ancestry might be true, but evolution in the neo-Darwinian sense - an unguided, unplanned process of random variation and natural selection - is not. Any system of thought that denies or seeks to explain away the overwhelming evidence for design in biology is ideology, not science.
This was not just a local priest holding forth on threats to the faith of Catholics. Cardinal Schoenborn is Archbishop of Vienna and advisor to Pope Benedict XVI, and the primary editor of the "Catechism of the Catholic Church." He is also the author of "Behold God's Son" and "Loving the Church."
Angry reaction - entirely predictable angry reaction - was not long in coming. Generally, the Catholic Church would be highly regarded in many elite American circles if it told its adherents that our secular betters know us far better than we know themselves, and that part of our betters' knowledge is that we really are just trousered apes and we had better get used to that fact.
It is dangerous to oppose the Gospel According to St. Fluke openly, as Expelled demonstrates - and dangerous not principally to the Catholic hierarchy, but to lay Catholics like Michael Behe and a number of members of the Biologic Institute, who have offered science-based critiques of ideological Darwinism.
Then, of course, there was Guillermo Gonzalez (Christian but not Catholic). His science-based critic of Carl Sagan's "pale blue dot" theory of Earth (a supposedly insignificant planet lost in space) cost him his chance at tenure at Iowa State University. He's soon to be at Grove City, a private university, instead.
A Cardinal like Schoenborn, we must remember, is a "prince of the church." It is part of his duty to be aware of the political and social implications for Catholics of the conflicts into which he and other Cardinals may be drawn - and thus draw the Church. Not surprisingly, therefore, in 2007 he published what I can only describe as a deeply conflicted book, Chance or Purpose? Creation, Evolution, and a Rational Faith, by Christoph, Cardinal Schoenborn (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2007).
In marked contrast to the straightforward style of his "no-dhimmis-for-Darwin!" op-ed, Schoenborn's book is very careful not to say much - without taking it back later. One gets the distinct impression that at least two different people wrote the book - one saying "look, this materialist nonsense is just not compatible with the Catholic faith" and the other saying "no, but, we need to placate the high profile Catholic Darwinists - can we just massage this a bit ..." But it is risky to try to guess how a book was composed. Better just give a sense of what is (and isn't said). And in this case, that is truly a challenge.
Introduction Christoph Cardinal Schoenborn's Chance or Purpose? Flickering light on the ID controversy at best
Part One: Is the proposed distinction between evolution and "evolutionism" legitimate in today's environment?
Part Two: Why is it called "intelligent design" instead of "intelligent intervention"?
Part Three: What Cardinal Schoenborn doesn't like about intelligent design
Part Four: Can the disgraced Teilhard de Chardin evolve into a pioneer of faith?
Part Five: Darwin's ladder knocking over Jacob's ladder?
Next: Part One: Is the proposed distinction between evolution and "evolutionism" legitimate in today's environment?
Toronto-based Canadian journalist Denyse O'Leary (www.designorchance.com) is the author of the multiple award-winning By Design or by Chance? (Augsburg Fortress 2004), an overview of the intelligent design controversy. She was named CBA Canada's Recommended Author of the Year in 2005 and is co-author, with Montreal neuroscientist Mario Beauregard, of The Spiritual Brain: A neuroscientist's case for the existence of the soul (Harper 2007).
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