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Sunday, April 14, 2013

Isn't the Church against Science?

“Love the Lord with all your heart, and with all your soul,
         and with all your MIND”--Matt 22:37

Prayer for our Holy Father Pope Francis:

O God, shepherd and ruler of all the faithful,
look favorably on your servant Francis,
whom you have set at the head of your Church as her shepherd;

Grant, we pray, that by word and example
he may be of service to those over whom he presides
so that, together with the flock entrusted to his care,
he may come to everlasting life.

Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
 who lives and reigns with you in the
unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.


Question:   Isn't the Church against Science?

So when we were touring colleges for our oldest daughter we visited a Catholic university, Notre Dame.  During the tour one clueless high schooler commented, "I am not CatholicBut since this is a Catholic university, will Notre Dame be teaching science here?" 


there is a world out there that thinks that Catholics are anti-science, because, in their view, if we really examined the world in the way that science does, and followed the evidence, the Catholic Church would be destroyed by the scientific evidence.

Of course, nothing could be further from the truth.  The Catholic Church has always been a patron of science.  From The Sun in the Church

"The Roman Catholic Church gave more financial and social support to the study of astronomy for over six centuries, from the recovery of ancient learning in the late Middle Ages into the Enlightenment, than any other, and probably, all other institutions." 
See this list of Catholic scientists who have paved the way for significant progress in the scientific method.  In particular, look at the prominence of Jesuit scientists who have contributed to the sciences!  Go Pope Francis!!It has been the constant teaching of the Church that we are to use our Reason/Intellect as well as our Faith to apprehend the Truth.  The First Vatican Council states there are two inseparable yet distinct orders of knowledge:

1) Reason, which is governed by our senses and our experience
2) Faith, which is nourished and enlightened by the Holy Spirit

In his splendid encyclical, Fides et Ratio (Faith and Reason), Pope John Paul II proclaims we can come to a knowledge of the truths of our human existence through:
  • Immediate evidence, informed and confirmed by experimentation (e.g., science)
  • Philosophical truth apprehended by use of the speculative powers of our intellect
  • Religious truths that come to us through Divine Revelation (faith)
In fact, the "mantra" of the Catholic Church throughout the ages has been fides quaerens intellectum, or, "faith seeking understanding".  Blind faith--believing without any attempt to understand--is to be rejected. Or, as Blaise Pascal said so eloquently, "Two errors: to exclude reason, and to exclude all but reason."

In other words, we are to reject 2 errors in thinking:
  • Fideism:  to accept all things on faith alone, rejecting science as evil and contrary to the faith.
  • Empiricism:  the belief that all knowledge can only be achieved through experimentation and observation.

Both are wrong. 

The Church, as usual, takes a both/and approach rather than an either/or.

However, while the Church champions science, and proclaims its goodness, the Church also maintains the superiority of Faith.  Science is limited in its approach and must be "set free from the fragility and limitations deriving from the disobedience of sin."  In other words, because of our wounded human nature, our intellect is fragile and limited.  Faith is required to apprehend the ultimate truths of God's revelation. Yet,
“Even if faith is superior to reason there can never be a true divergence between faith and reason, since the same God who reveals the mysteries and bestows the gift of faith has also placed in the human spirit the light of reason. This God could not deny himself, nor could the truth ever contradict the truth”.--Fides et Ratio

For more in-depth study visit these websites:
Summary of Fides et Ratio
Catholics Come Home


"Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect" - 1 Peter 3:15