As Pope Francis makes his trip to America I thought it would be a good time to talk about the statement that the world media seems to be freaking out about. See it here: Pope Declares Evolution and Big Bang are Real and God is not a Magician with a Magic Wand, and on Independent.com: Pope Francis: Evolution and the Big Bang Theory are Real. These and other similar articles insinuate that the Catholic Church and science have not gotten along, or that religious people can’t believe in evidence-backed scientific theories.
Pope Francis’ pre-papal history is not typical of a pope. He was a nightclub bouncer and chemical technician before entering seminary. He has a scientific background, so those in the media see this pope as different and more willing to accept science. In 195o Pope Pius XII wrote “Humani Generis,” which basically states that the idea of evolution and the Catholic faith are not in conflict. John Paul II, arguably the best pope to come before Pope Francis, reaffirmed that evolution was “more than just a theory” in October of 1996, and even Pope Benedict XVI held a conference on the topic in 2006.
What Pope Francis has stated is not new for the Catholic Church. The Catholic Church has a bad rap partly because of what happened to Galileo and his writings of a heliocentric universe during the inquisition, which was not a good point in history for anybody. Although many scientists have been Catholics, and many universities that study science have been Catholic universities, the belief that science and the Catholic church are at odds still holds. I don’t know many Catholics who take a literal interpretation of the old testament, but clearly they do exist. Here’s a map of schools in the US that teach creationism. As ideas and politics change, the church must adapt in order to continue to appeal to the educated masses.