After Pope Francis referenced the Big Bang and biological evolution this past Monday, a flurry of media reports appeared, contrasting Francis’ views with those of his predecessors and the Catholic tradition.
“Pope Francis made a significant rhetorical break with Catholic tradition Monday by declaring that the theories of evolution and the Big Bang are real,” gushed MSNBC. And elsewhere, MSNBC reported that “conservatives in the United States” who have been unhappy with Pope Francis “today have one more reason to be upset.”
Yet the real story here is that Francis was just reiterating the Catholic understanding of evolution first articulated by Pope Pius XII in 1950.
Had the journalists dug a little deeper, they would have discovered that the “father of the Big Bang theory,” Georges Lemaître, was a Belgian cosmologist and a Catholic priest. He was also a former president of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, the very group Francis was addressing Monday.
The Catholic Catechism itself states that the “question about the origins of the world and of man has been the object of many scientific studies which have splendidly enriched our knowledge of the age and dimensions of the cosmos, the development of life-forms and the appearance of man.” It also notes that these discoveries “invite us to even greater admiration for the greatness of the Creator, prompting us to give him thanks for all his works and for the understanding and wisdom he gives to scholars and researchers.”
But it seems that these journalists really just wanted to drive a wedge between Francis and his immediate predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, holding the former up as a free-wheeling liberal and tarring the second as a stodgy conservative.
The theories of evolution and the big bang are not inconsistent with the biblical creation story, according to the head of the Roman Catholic Church.
God is not “a magician with a magic wand” says Pope Francis while speaking at the Pontifical Academy of Sciences Tuesday.
“When we read about Creation in Genesis, we run the risk of imagining God was a magician, with a magic wand able to do everything. But that is not so,” Francis said. “He created human beings and let them develop according to the internal laws that he gave to each one so they would reach their fulfillment.
The Pontiff continued:
“The Big Bang, which today we hold to be the origin of the world, does not contradict the intervention of the divine creator but, rather, requires it. Evolution in nature is not inconsistent with the notion of creation, because evolution requires the creation of beings that evolve.” continued here