Friday, July 27, 2007

Pope Benedict on Environmentalism & Evolution

John L. Allen in his weekly All Things Catholic reports on Pope Benedict regarding the environment and on evolution:

One could say that summer 2007 is when the Vatican decided to go green. First came an announcement in June that more than 1,000 photovoltaic panels will be installed atop the Paul VI Audience Hall, allowing the building to utilize solar energy for light, heating and cooling. A month later, the Vatican became the first state in Europe to go completely carbon-neutral, signing an agreement with a Hungarian firm to reforest a sufficiently large swath of Hungary's Bükk National Park to offset its annual CO2 emissions.

To some, these may seem curiously cutting edge moves from a pope whose recent decisions to revive the pre-Vatican II Mass and to reaffirm claims that Catholicism is the lone true church have cemented his reputation as the ultimate "retro" figure. He sometimes brings to mind the famous quip that rolling back the clock is a perfectly reasonable thing to do if it's keeping bad time.

So what gives?

..."Everyone can see today that humanity could destroy the foundation of its own existence, its earth, and therefore we can't simply do whatever we want with this earth that has been entrusted to us, what seems to us in a given moment useful or promising, but we have to respect the inner laws of creation, of this earth, we have to learn these laws and obey them if we want to survive," Benedict said. "This obedience to the voice of the earth is more important for our future happiness than the voices of the moment, the desires of the moment. … Existence itself, our earth, speaks to us, and we have to learn to listen."

From there, Benedict said, we may also learn anew to listen to the voice of human nature as well, discovering in other people and in human communities moral laws that stand above our own ego. In that regard, the pope said, we can draw upon the great moral experience of humanity. Doing so teaches that human liberty never exists in isolation from others; it works only if it's rooted in a sense of common values....

And given some rather confusing statements from a number of sources on where the Vatican and Catholicism in general stands on evolution, here is what the Pope said:

"Presently I see in Germany, and also in the United States, a fairly bitter debate between so-called creationism and evolutionism, presented as if they were mutually exclusive alternatives: whoever believes in a Creator cannot believe in evolution, and likewise whoever believes in evolution has to exclude God," Benedict said. "This opposition is an absurdity, because on the one hand, there are many scientific proofs in favor of an evolution that seems to be a reality that we have to see, and that enriches our understanding of life and of existence as such. But the doctrine of evolution does not respond to all questions, above all to the great philosophical questions: Where does everything come from? How did everything start on the path that finally arrived at humanity?"

...To put this into a sound-bite, Benedict believes in both evolution and creation, each understood on its own terms. Speaking later in the session on a different topic, Benedict XVI said that this passion for synthesis is the spirit of Catholicism, always seeking both/and solutions.

And one more unrelated tidbit from the pontiff that I liked while he was discussing change in the Church and in society:

"Yet," Benedict said, "while falling trees make noise, growing ones are silent."

If you have some time the entire article is interesting both in fact and tone.

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