One of the Pope’s closest Cardinals is creating something of a row
By JEFF ISRAELY
Sunday, Jul. 24, 2005
Why is an Austrian cardinal stirring up the evolution-vs.-creationism argument in the U.S.? In part, Christoph Cardinal SchĂÂśnborn says, to spark debate in an increasingly secular Europe. Earlier this month, the influential Archbishop of Vienna Ă˘âŹâ who is as close as any Cardinal to Pope Benedict XVI Ă˘âŹâ wrote an editorial in the New York Times lambasting what he calls “Neo-Darwinian dogma,” and suggesting that the Roman Catholic Church isn’t necessarily convinced that evolution is true.
“Evolution in the sense of common ancestry might be true, but evolution in the Neo-Darwinian sense Ă˘âŹâ an unguided process of random variation and natural selection Ă˘âŹâ is not,” SchĂÂśnborn wrote. Some Catholics see this as a perilous reversal of Pope John Paul II’s 1996 declaration that evolution was “more than a hypothesis.” The 60-year-old Cardinal told Time that his aim is to clarify misinterpretations of John Paul’s stance, and counter those who use Darwin to explain everything. “I believe in dogmas of faith but I don’t believe in dogmas of science,” he said.
SchĂÂśnborn said he is particularly pleased that reports of his essay have been picked up by the European press: “The discussions in the United States on bioethics are much more serious and open than our European debate. Confronting the evolution question is not just small talk for a dinner party.” And his opinions matter; SchĂÂśnborn is a member of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the body Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger presided over for 24 years before being elected Pope in April.
A onetime Ratzinger student, SchĂÂśnborn said his mentor had encouraged him last year to speak out on evolution. Though the two haven’t discussed the subject since Ratzinger became Pope, SchĂÂśnborn believes the Pontiff wants these issues publicized. Given a Europe the Austrian describes as “Christphobic,” however, convincing even the faithful to doubt Darwin may be a policy that needs time to evolve.