Every year, we are told, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger spends a long weekend with his former graduate students for an informal debate on issues of the day. A topic is chosen and they seclude themselves away for some serious discussion. The topic of this years debate, which is going on as I write this, is the hot chestnut of Evolution v Creationism – or as many of our American friends choose to call it – Intelligent Design. And of course the main difference this year is that the old professor chairing the debate is no longer Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger but is now Pope Benedict XVI and is, as such, able to dictate Catholic doctrine.
We are assured by people close to the Pope that the debate and any conclusions it might reach are unlikely to be made public and that further, Benedict has tended to accept evolutionary theory in the past and sees no conflict between evolution and the hand of a creator. Good for him. It seems to me that if the Vatican came down hard against evolution not only would the resultant chaos of such a stance send shockwaves across the world for years to come but would ultimately lead to the sort of humiliation for the established church that it has undergone before when taking on scientific progress.
A doctrine that officially denies evolution would hand power to the kind of dark ages mentality that already, in many parts of the USA, has a stranglehold on politics and could, ultimately, cause schisms in western culture that haven’t been seen since the middle ages in Europe. To the Pope and any Catholic protagonists of Creationism I have only one comment: