don’t believe everything you read, even in this book

A few months ago I posted something about the war taking place within the hierarchy of the Catholic Church over evolution and Intelligent Design. While I suspect the war’s still a long way from being won, it looks as though Team Reality may have won the first battle. Here, in the way of evidence, are a few clips from an article that ran in London’s Sunday Times entitled, “Catholic Church no longer swears by truth of the Bible“:

The hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church has published a teaching document instructing the faithful that some parts of the Bible are not actually true.

The Catholic bishops of England, Wales and Scotland are warning their five million worshippers, as well as any others drawn to the study of scripture, that they should not expect “total accuracy” from the Bible.

“We should not expect to find in Scripture full scientific accuracy or complete historical precision,” they say in The Gift of Scripture.

The document is timely, coming as it does amid the rise of the religious Right, in particular in the US.

Some Christians want a literal interpretation of the story of creation, as told in Genesis, taught alongside Darwin’s theory of evolution in schools, believing “intelligent design” to be an equally plausible theory of how the world began.

But the first 11 chapters of Genesis, in which two different and at times conflicting stories of creation are told, are among those that this country’s Catholic bishops insist cannot be “historical”. At most, they say, they may contain “historical traces”…

The Bible is true in passages relating to human salvation, they say, but continue: “We should not expect total accuracy from the Bible in other, secular matters.”

They go on to condemn fundamentalism for its “intransigent intolerance” and to warn of “significant dangers” involved in a fundamentalist approach.

“Such an approach is dangerous, for example, when people of one nation or group see in the Bible a mandate for their own superiority, and even consider themselves permitted by the Bible to use violence against others.”

(Thanks to Doug Skinner for the link… Speaking of Doug, I guess here’s as good a place as any to tell you that he’s got a new article on Tiffany Ellsworth Thayer, the eccentric actor and author who founded the Fortean Society, up at the Fortean Times site, and a piece on an odd rock formation (and its promotion as an ancient artifact) in the October issue of “Fate.” If you like the comments he leaves here, you’re sure to love his stuff in print.)

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11 Comments

  1. mike_1630
    Posted October 7, 2005 at 2:05 am | Permalink

    Mark, I hope you don’t mind – but this is so noteworthy, I just have to cut & paste it :) great stuff…

    What a slap-in-the-face, kick-in-the-balls for the ‘Creationism Museum’.

  2. Shanster
    Posted October 7, 2005 at 5:11 am | Permalink

    If I recall correctly, the Roman Catholic church has held that belief for a long time, and has accepted evolution as an explanation for the process of creation. This is one theory that falls within ID. The author is intellectually dishonest (Paragraph 5 in the post), trying to discredit ID as anti-Catholic, and implying that evolution is “a theory of how the world began”, when in reality it is a theory of how living things developed.

    This is hardly a slap-in-the-face for the Creationism Museum, because Evangelical Fundamentalists, as I know them, generally have little regard for the opinions of the ‘Papists of Rome’.

  3. mark
    Posted October 7, 2005 at 7:40 am | Permalink

    There are certain Catholic sects that have recently found themselves quite cozy with the evangelical movement here in America. I think in general, however, you’re right, Shanster. There has been little regard historically for the opinions of the ‘Papists of Rome.’ Even so, I agree with Mike that this represents a decision on the part of the Catholic Church to renounce those fringe beliefs on evolution and reassert their belief that such a process of development did in fact take place… As that link I posted a few months ago pointed out, there was some internal dissent over that.

  4. Posted October 7, 2005 at 11:46 am | Permalink

    Thanks, Mark! But I wonder what our latest medieval Pope, Benedict says about this. He is just too conservative – hell, he makes John Paul II look liberal! (almost)

  5. Doug Skinner
    Posted October 7, 2005 at 12:25 pm | Permalink

    Benedict is an erudite man; I’m sure he endorses a more scholarly approach to the Bible. He’s still medieval, though: he just banned all gays from the priesthood, even if they’re celibate. I guess we’ll learn more about Vatican gaydar in the months ahead.

    We’ll pobably learn more about JP2 as well, since the Roberto Calvi murder trial has just reopened in Rome. (Calvi, if you haven’t followed the story, was mixed up in embezzlement and money laundering that seemed to implicate both the Mafia and the Vatican.)

  6. Jim
    Posted October 8, 2005 at 10:00 am | Permalink

    Shanster, this is the first time I’ve ever heard divinely-guided evolution described as a form of ID. Do the major ID proponents consider theistic evolution a form of ID?

  7. mark
    Posted October 8, 2005 at 12:38 pm | Permalink

    In case you can’t all get to it, here are the first few paragraphs of the article I linked to back in July about Cardinal Christoph Sch

  8. Jim
    Posted October 8, 2005 at 5:56 pm | Permalink

    The pope has apparently backed off the crazy gay priest ban for a more moderate policy of “Don’t ask, don’t tell, and for goodness’ sake butch it up a little”:
    http://www.abcnews.go.com/International/wireStory?id=1191944

  9. mark
    Posted October 9, 2005 at 1:44 pm | Permalink

    From what I’ve heard, recruiting for the priesthood is harder than recruiting for the US military these days. I’m not surprised they backed down from that stupid ban. They can’t afford to lose anyone who might be interested, gay or not… Of course, that opinion isn’t based on evidence of any kind.

  10. Posted October 9, 2005 at 2:37 pm | Permalink

    Maybe they could offer potential clergymen free mp3 downloads.

  11. Jim
    Posted October 9, 2005 at 2:44 pm | Permalink

    You’re right, Mark: the Church is experiencing a great shortage of priests, and banning gays from the seminary would have made things much worse. I recently read a guess that 40% of priests are homosexual, which is in line with other estimates I’ve seen.

    If you really wanted to increase the number of priests, you could let women and married people join the priesthood, but don’t expect to see that any time soon!

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