General Question

Cruiser's avatar

Has the Catholic Church stopped teaching Creationism?

Asked by Cruiser (34962 points ) January 6th, 2011

I was reading this article where the Pope officially gives God credit for the Big Bang and other scientific issues that are usually at the center of the creation vs evolution debate. But what caught my eye was the statement at the end of the article where if made mention that “the Catholic Church no longer teaches creationism”.

“Galileo was rehabilitated and the Church now also accepts evolution as a scientific theory and sees no reason why God could not have used a natural evolutionary process in the forming of the human species.”

“The Catholic Church no longer teaches creationism—the belief that God created the world in six days as described in the Bible—and says that the account in the book of Genesis is an allegory for the way God created the world. But it objects to using evolution to back an atheist philosophy that denies God’s existence or any divine role in creation. It also objects to using Genesis as a scientific text.”

I have been out of the loop since my own Catholic school days and was a bit surprised to read this. So if this is the case, can anybody tell me what the current school of thought surrounding how we all got here is being taught in the Catholic Schools these days? Is this just a Catholic School issue or is this wider spread in the Christian community?

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20 Answers

marinelife's avatar

“As in other countries, Catholic schools in the United States teach evolution as part of their science curriculum. They teach the fact that evolution occurs and the modern evolutionary synthesis, which is the scientific theory that explains why evolution occurs. This is the same evolution curriculum that secular schools teach. Bishop DiLorenzo of Richmond, chair of the Committee on Science and Human Values in a December 2004 letter sent to all U.S. bishops: ”...Catholic schools should continue teaching evolution as a scientific theory backed by convincing evidence. At the same time, Catholic parents whose children are in public schools should ensure that their children are also receiving appropriate catechesis at home and in the parish on God as Creator. Students should be able to leave their biology classes, and their courses in religious instruction, with an integrated understanding of the means God chose to make us who we are.”[

Wikipedia

Cruiser's avatar

Thanks @marinelife. I am not a huge fan of Wiki answers but that shed a light a bit. I am curious though of how this plays out in the theological teachings in Catholic School. I mean I was taught that God created the heavens and earth and on day 7 he rested. Is that all out the door now?

JilltheTooth's avatar

really good Q, @Cruiser. Just sayin’

Cruiser's avatar

Thanks @JilltheTooth I guess I am mostly waxing poetically over my old Catholic School days….but I really do find this intriguing and wonder if this ultimately means a fundamental change over such a staunch religious foundation and mindset. IMO it really stands out as a dramatic shift to a whole new religious paradigm.

JilltheTooth's avatar

Not to mention what it will do to Fluther discussions! ;-)

marinelife's avatar

@Cruiser Yes, basically the creation story is now considered by Catholics to be allegorical. That Wikipedia article is actually quite interesting. It takes on the history of the change from Galileo’s time.

submariner's avatar

@Cruiser The Catholic Church made its peace with science a long time ago. May I ask when and where you attended Catholic school, and for what grades?

Let me add that the Catholic Church has always accepted the validity of allegorical interpretations of Scripture. St. Augustine, the most influential Christian theologian (and not just for Catholics), found the Old Testament to be an obstacle to his conversion until his mentor explained that it should not be taken literally. Even in the 5th century, people understood that not everything in the Bible could be literally true. Literalist fundamentalism is a relatively recent phenomenon in the history of Christianity. It is a reaction to the excesses of modernism and scientism.

The 1917 edition of the Catholic Encyclopedia is available online. That’s before Vatican 2, of course, so the Church’s teachings have continued to develop since then. But if you look at the articles on evolution and creation, you will see that even in 1917 the Church was not teaching Creationism, as that term is understood today.

Cruiser's avatar

@submariner I went K-2nd in Catholic Schools in Chicago and then continued CCD through confirmation a long time ago. Very hard core Latin masses and full habit nuns. I don’t recall being taught any distinction of or allowance for evolutionary theories but just that God created everything and scientific claims that he didn’t were unfounded.

submariner's avatar

I don’t think they would cover these distinctions in the early grades or in CCD. I went to public schools, and I don’t think we got into evolution until 7th grade general science or 9th grade biology (I can’t remember which), and I don’t remember talking about it at all in CCD. I suspect that had you stayed in Catholic schools through 12th grade, they would have explained the Church’s position on these matters to you in greater detail.

If you were attending Latin masses after 1962, then you may have been in an unusually conservative environment. I attended a Latin mass in Chicago in the 90s once; if I recall correctly, at that time only one parish in the Chicago area was allowed to offer it.

Dr_Dredd's avatar

It’s too bad that the Fundamentalists didn’t follow suit.

Cruiser's avatar

@submariner We had Latin service until 1969 and yes my Church was brutally conservative. I attended CCD at the parish I went to Catholic school and yes then being in public school attending Catholic studies at 7th grade did not afford the opportunity to provide a look at both issues in one classroom at the time.

Ron_C's avatar

Having been raised catholic and attending catholic grade school, I can attest the to fact that the Catholic church was never big on teaching the bible. Sure there were excerpts read during mass, but that is about it.

If you need to have some sort of Christian religion, I would recommend Catholicism. Good catholics look at the bible as an ancient collection of stories and allegory and not the direct word of god. This is their fall-back position since they lost their power to secular states in Europe.

The worst thing any people could do is to give a religion actual physical power. Political Christian religious power killed many people in Europe just like political Muslim power is responsible for innumerable deaths in the Middle east and Africa.

That being said, the Catholic church teaches that evolution is god’s way of creating life on earth.

submariner's avatar

@Ron_C Well, let’s be careful. The Catholic Church teaches that the Bible is the inspired word of God, meaning that its source is divine, but that the human beings who received that inspiration it had to come up with their own way of expressing those divinely inspired truths. So it’s not as if the ancient writers were taking dictation from God, as the Moslems say Mohammed did via the angel Gabriel, but nevertheless the Church recognizes that the Bible comes from God and accords it due reverence.

Ron_C's avatar

@submariner you’re right about the church seeing the bible as the inspired work from god but it steps away from the fundamentalist claim that every word is the exact truth straight from the mouth of god.

Espiritus_Corvus's avatar

This was officially settled at the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council in the 1960s thanks primarily to the writings and lobbying efforts of the liberal Jesuit theologian Hans Küng. It is interesting to note that he came up in the church with, befriended, and studied at Gregorian University with the man who eventually became ultra-conservative Pope Benedict. But times and people change. Later, Küng began refuting the infalability of the Pope in his writings and now the top Catholic theologian of the past century is no longer allowed by the Church to teach theology. It is interesting that he wasn’t excommunicated, which tells me that he has a large and powerful following inside the Church.

Ron_C's avatar

@Espiritus_Corvus I remember some of the Second Vatican council. I had bargained with my dad to be allowed to go to public high school instead of the Catholic high. As part of that bargain I had to go to Sunday School. Of course we never read the bible, I did but it was for curiosity’s sake. They talked a good deal about “Vatican 2” and it was assumed that everybody believed in evolution. That was before the fundamentalists started their full bore assault on science and the hogwash of the bible being the infallible word of God and the true history of the human race. We never even considered those views in the ‘60’s.

Espiritus_Corvus's avatar

@Ron_C: I agree. I was in Catholic school at the time as well, only in an earlier grade. Although modern science was being taught to us in the states and in some European countries, evidently it wasn’t being taught in Catholic schools in most of Latin America and the poorer countries and those run by other orders, Sisters of Mercy, Maryknolls, etc.. The SVC decision made the acceptance of the Theory of Evolution Catholic doctrine and enabled all Catholic schools to teach it. But from what I remember, the creation, Genesis, the Garden of Eden and all that, was still being taught in our daily religion classes in Catholic school. What did they teach you guys at Sunday School?

I remember the stories in religion class, but it’s really strange now that I never contemplated a contradiction between that and what I was taught in the other classes. I mean, our first science class started with Darwin. I remember that. I was very excited about taking science, for the first few classes, anyway. And I don’t remember the two subjects being a problem at all. Maybe I just wasn’t a very deep thinking kid. Baseball and my buddies were more important than fine tuning stuff that happened long before I was born, I guess. My world was pretty simple in those days.

Ron_C's avatar

@Espiritus_Corvus “what did they you guys in Sunday school?” It’s hard to remember. Most of it was a big yawn. I remember them talking about Vatican 2 as the greatest thing since sliced bread. They mentioned evolution and also changing the mass to make it more accessible to the congregation. They had the mass in English and guitar masses and all of that hippy stuff. I sort of enjoyed the guitar mass but they left all the boring religious boiler plate in, just changed it to English. I quit going to church when I went on active duty when I was 18 and have only been back for weddings and funerals.

Espiritus_Corvus's avatar

This is a sad page. Do you realize that half the people on this page—
@Cruiser, @Dr_Dredd, @BoBo1946, @JilltheTooth are all gone?

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