Tuesday, July 05, 2005

KS Bishops: Speak Up!

An update on the creationism vs. evolution debate in Kansas, from the National Center for Science Education:
The place of evolution in the Kansas state science standards remains unsettled. The standards have been revised along the lines suggested by local advocates of "intelligent design," and are to be reviewed by the original writing committee in early August. Later in August, the board will consider the standards again in light of the original writing committee's comments, and decide on a final version, which will then undergo external review. A final vote is now expected in September.
Meanwhile, Fr. Darren Henson, a priest in the Archdiocese of Kansas City, asks a great question: Where is the Catholic Church in this debate?

In the UPI Religion & Spirituality Forum, Fr. Henson makes a case that this evolving debate offers an opportunity for Catholic pastors and bishops to speak up.
While the polarization in Kansas is deeply disturbing, what is even more disconcerting is the silence of pastors and bishops. At a time when much of the public perceives the Catholic Church as an unsympathetic moralizer and its bishops as less than glowing examples of moral rectitude, an opportunity presents itself for the Church to shine as a reconciler. The Church has a long history of addressing matters of creation, anthropology, science, and truth; church leaders can mediate in this unnecessary rift between creationists and evolutionists.

It is regrettable that the Kansas bishops have yet to vigorously embrace this rich piece of Catholic tradition. While many bishops are eager to assume activist roles and make public announcements, the range of topics seems severely limited. It appears clear that one of the bread-and-butter theological topics, the interplay between faith and reason, does not quite fit within the scope of their PR campaign.
Fr. Henson provides a bit of helpful history on the topic, too.
The reflections of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (1881-1955), a Jesuit paleontologist, were highly influential in helping the Church weave the mounting scientific evidence supporting evolution with its tradition and understanding of creation. Chardin postulated that in both the physical and spiritual worlds all living things partake of a common progress toward greater fulfillment, spontaneity, and consciousness. He described this as an upward spiral with all things culminating in the Omega Point.

While Chardin's positions were suspect in his day, the underpinnings provided by Chardin's thought can be seen in subsequent papal statements. Pius XII's encyclical Humani Generis (1950) was the first to mention evolution. He described it as a serious hypothesis with no opposition to human faith. John Paul II took a more notable step in 1996, in an address to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences. He recognized that evolution is more than a mere hypothesis, and that years of rigorous research have mounted evidence in favor of evolution. John Paul spoke of various evolution theories and philosophies to support it.
Fr. Henson's reminds us that this battle in Kansas is being waged in other states, too.
One might hope that the Spirit of unity will find its way to Kansas and the fifteen other states facing similar conversations. Bishops and pastors would do well to enthusiastically adopt a fundamental mission of the Gospel by helping two embattled sides seek peace, mutual understanding, and reconciliation.
I'm with Fr. Henson. Where are our bishops when we want (and need) to hear from them?


At 9:50 AM, July 06, 2005, Blogger Steve Bogner said...

Well how can I not comment on this since it mentions the state I was born & raised in, as well as one of my favorite Jesuits?

Fr Henson has a great point. Kansas has a very strong, vocal and fundamentalist strain of evangelical Christianity; so Catholics in that state need strong bishops to balance that out. But it seems that most bishops these days are not comfortable with taking a public role, and not just in Kansas. That is really not in the spirit of their apostolic role.

If the Kansas bishops were to take a public role, they would get a lot of hassle from non-Catholics, but in the process of doing so they would also gain the respect of, and serve as great roles models for their people.

At 10:56 AM, July 09, 2005, Blogger CafeCath said...

Seems like a great result for a lot of hassle, though.

I'm curious. Are Kansans hearing from their priests on this issue?

I happen to know their are some Kansans passing through these parts. Please, speak up!


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