Fresh from embracing gay values and blessing divorcées, Pope Francis went to the altar of science and declared allegiance to Big Bang and evolution. I swear I’m not searching for Pope related news but he keeps saying outrageous things that get widely reported and sneak into my news feeds.
A couple of days ago the Pope was speaking at a Vatican science conference and he gave a speech where he said quite a few head turning things about the subject. It wasn’t impromptu speaking, he read from a paper, words carefully selected by his speech writers and approved by himself. He meant what he said.
The speech was in Italian, I can’t understand it, but so far no one claimed that published bits were mistranslated or taken out of context. The only remaining problem is that news media might have put them in different contexts to stress their own narratives. I will probably do so, too, as Hare Kṛṣṇas we have our own story line to develop and Pope’s speech should be seen from our perspective, too.
Depending on what one considers important, there are several sentences to give most prominence to. I, for example, can’t get my head around “God is not a divine being..” but most media outlets focused on “or a magician” part of the speech, which came out twice.
Maybe it was a mistranslation here, I don’t know how any religious leader could say “God is not a divine being”. I don’t know what Pope Francis meant there, maybe just one particular aspect of God’s divinity that he refuses to acknowledge – the one where He acts as a creator. Maybe it’s so ridiculous that it’s not meant to be taken at a face value but then he also argued WHY God was not a divine being – in the magician part. He was serious. He stripped God of at least some of His divine powers.
Now, the most often quoted magician part is this:
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.
Ummm, how would he know? It was this same Pope who said he can’t judge if gay priests are okay by God or not, so how can he claim to know what God did during the creation?
Again, I don’t know what he meant there. From Bible’s Genesis God appears to be pretty magical, creating the entire universe in just six days. Of course it could be argued whether Christians should read it literally, our Lord Brahmā’s day consists of a thousand of maha-yugas, untold billions in Earth’s years, so on that scale six days is not particularly fast. Still, Genesis stuff IS magical.
There’s also the point about Pope’s choice of words – what’s the difference between “magical” and “miraculous”? In this context it seems the Pope denies God’s miracles. He actually denies that God is “able to do everything”, with His alleged magic wand. I don’t know what kind of God he is talking about but God is able to EVERYTHING by definition.
From here Pope went on to justify evolution: “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.” He also said that God gave creation full autonomy while also guaranteeing his constant presence in nature and people’s lives (how? what kind of presence?)
Perhaps Pope’s statements can be explained away and his new take on Genesis can be squeezed into familiar Christian tenets but I think whatever jugglery required for that would run into a myriad more questions from the orthodoxy. Can’t wait what Intelligent Design people respond to that.
Intelligent Design, btw, seems to be the main target of Pope’s attack. There was another Catholic scholar speaking at the same conference who went directly after the ID and in the end it seems Catholic church has embraced evolution through *natural* selection rather than the Creator’s direct involvement in the design.
Atheists jumped on it, the principle of “enemy of my enemy is my friend” worked fine here. Destroy the ID first and deal with Catholics later. Catholics do not seem to represent any real threat to atheism anyway, thanks to this Pope they have excluded God from every day life already, now God is just a sentimental notion for people to hang on to. God has no real powers, He doesn’t control anything, He gave us full autonomy, there are no God’s laws as opposed to nature’s laws, so who cares if Catholics still believe in Him or not.
This is where it can affect us because our ISKCON scientists tied their work with success of Intelligent Design. The strategy, afaik, is simple – sow doubts in Darvin’s natural selection, introduce the Creator, answer all subsequent questions from our books. So far, we have put all our efforts into discrediting evolution, Catholics embracing it would seem like a betrayal from people who were supposed to be our allies.
Well, it’s not up to me to judge, devotees working in science and with scientists might see the situation completely differently. Personally, I won’t be surprised if they ditch ID, too, and for the same reasons Pope did – it’s unfashionable.
Of course I don’t know what exactly moved the Pope to sign up for evolution without creator’s control but his overtures to atheists and gays were certainly influenced by public opinion. When he allowed communion for divorcées, for example, one of the cardinals explained that it would bring many more Catholics back to the churches again. Same attitude is evident in lots of Pope’s talks – how to make his church more appealing to the modern population, how to make it relevant again.
This is another area where his approach might impact ISKCON, too – we used to cite Catholic Church as an example of organization that remained conservative, did not compromise on its values or its teachings, and managed to keep its flock better than crowd pleasing protestants. From CC example we, and I meant our ISKCON strategists, concluded that “innovations” do not work in the long term. People go for them in the beginning but they won’t stay, they need commitments to something permanent, something they can sacrifice their momentarily interests for. Up until this Pope, Catholic church provided such a sanctuary and we thought we should not compromise on our practices, too.
CC changing course hasn’t changed the argument but now it must be cited with a disclaimer that we don’t know how these changes will affect the church in the next couple of generations. At least what happened from the revolution of the 60s and 70s up until now still stays.
Another popular point in Pope’s speech concerned the Big Bang. This one is not so important for us, however, not as much as denial of Intelligent Design. Theories about what caused the Big Bang are a dime a dozen, we don’t have a stake in that, it’s not described in our literature and we speculate about it just as everyone else. “Evolution”, however, was done by Lord Brahmā, and he does it every day when he wakes up, repopulates the universe with all the species from scratch. That we will not concede, not matter what the Pope says, though losing such an important ally is obviously disappointing.
OTOH, CC has accepted evolution half a century ago, long before Intelligent Design became a thing. The previous Pope seemed to lean towards ID but Catholic scholars speaking against it now weren’t born yesterday either, it’s just that they are given more prominence under the current regime.
Oh, and the best (or the worst) part of it was that this Pope delivered his evolution speech departing from the course set by the previous pontiff while unveiling a bust in Benedict’s honor. That looks mighty hypocritical to me.