The only news story worth reading about Pope Francis’ views on evolution

The media proves once again that it's basically clueless when it comes to science and religion (photo by PaoNu, via Flickr).

If you’ve been anywhere near Facebook the past couple days, then you know that Pope Francis has shaken the stuffy old Roman Catholic Church to its core by his stunning remarks recently that — believe it or not — evolution and the big bang theory are not inconsistent with church teachings.

No. WAY. Right?

Except, no.

While it’s true Francis did say that, and more, it’s absolutely not true that this is some kind of watershed moment for Catholicism. Because, you see, since at least 1950, when the Humani Generis was issued by Pope Pius XII, the Holy See’s official stance has been that the idea of the physical bodies of mankind originating from pre-existing, ancestral forms through a natural process guided by God (i.e., theistic evolution) is compatible with the Bible and church tradition. This view was explicitly confirmed by Pope John Paul II in 1996, speaking before the Pontifical Academy of Sciences (the same body to which Francis addressed his comments that almost broke the Internet).

And, of course, supportive views of individual Catholic leaders go back much farther than that.

If anything, Francis’ remarks represent little more than a reiteration of what has been established church policy for well over 60 years. Which makes the media frenzy of the past couple days silly and even a little irritating at best, and lackadaisical, shoddy journalism (not to mention blatant click bait) at worst.

So, anyway, if you want to read a news story that doesn’t breathlessly fawn over Francis’ words as though history were in the making, look no further than The Times of Israel. (Time Magazine’s Elizabeth Dias got it right, too.)

Just to be clear, we at God of Evolution applaud Pope Francis for his comments, and the Roman Catholic Church for its entirely biblical stance on science and the theology of creation. Any religious leader who fearlessly endorses the compatibility of science and scripture is a victory for the gospel, as far as we’re concerned.

But the real story here is not “OMG POPE FRANCIS <3 EVOLUTION!!!!!" The real story is that arguably the oldest and most prominent Christian institution in the world has hearted evolution for decades.

Sort of makes you wonder how anyone can take Ken Ham seriously when he says his peculiar (and modern) interpretation of Genesis is the “traditional view.”

Tyler Francke is the founder of God of Evolution and author of Reoriented. He can be reached here.

  • Dylan Gorman

    Thank you for putting this up.

  • Kele

    While I applaud your willingness to acknowledge what the media (as usual) ignored, I do object to your use of the phrase “stuffy old Roman Catholic Church”. Frequently you point out that Ken Ham belittles Christians who disagree with him by calling them “compromisers”. Please don’t fall on the hypocritical side by calling Roman Catholics “stuffy”. “Old” maybe, after all, they are the original Christians, but stuffy is uncharacteristically derogatory for you.

    • Chris Lilley

      I think he was just setting up his rightfully sarcastic reply, “No. Way. Right? Except, no.”

      • Yeah, Kele, sorry about the misunderstanding. That was just my sarcastic summary of the media coverage of Pope Francis’ remarks. I don’t think of the Catholic Church as stuffy or old. Indeed, in this regard at least, they are decades ahead of most evangelicals (which is what I identify as).

    • Yeah, Kele , sorry about the misunderstanding. That was just my sarcastic summary of the media coverage of Pope Francis’ remarks. I don’t think of the Catholic Church as stuffy or old. Indeed, in this regard at least, they are decades ahead of most evangelicals (which is what I identify as).

  • Kele

    i’ll accept that.

  • Kele

    No harm no foul. Just a pet-peeve of mine. Sometimes we forget to be as courteous on the internet as we would be in face-to-face conversation.

  • Larry Bunce

    William Jennings Bryan (lawyer for the prosecution at the Scopes trial) was a Presbyterian, a denomination thoroughly opposed to evolution at the time.
    The 1969 Presbyterian General Assembly issued the following statement:
    “We conclude that the true relation between the evolutionary theory and the Bible is that of non-contradiction and that the position stated by the General Assemblies of 1886, 1888, 1889 and 1924 was in error and no longer represents the mind of our Church.”
    Harmony and decorum don’t make riveting news stories, and newspeople who are not familiar with mainstream religion tend to assume that all religions are as insular and dogmatic as the most rabid voices that make the news. News anchors also get their impression of religion from the caricatures they see in the movies. created by screen writers with similar ignorance of mainstream religion.

    Pope Francis already has a reputation of being a rebel within the Church, so his statement on evolution would be just one more outrageous statement to those unfamiliar with the issuesnvolved, or opposed to Francis’ views.

    • Yeah, I love that statement by the Presbyterian GA. Thanks for sharing. Here’s a link to the full document, in case anyone is interested.

      • Larry Bunce

        Thanks for the link. I realized that I should have included it in my post after I hit ‘submit.’ The people who wrote the ’69 statement were born about the time of the anti-evolution statement of ’24,
        Maybe AiG will have a similar change of heart by 2059.

  • It’s as sad commentary on how little people know about the debates within religion (within science, of course, the debate ended a century ago) that this was regarded as news. And yet I welcome it; a friend’s son at a Catholic school in London is the only one in his class to accept evolution.

    • Yeah, I mean it’s good that the news media is actually covering a story about the compatibility of religion and science for once, rather than painting all believers as a bunch of crazies. I just wish they would report it accurately.

  • jesse

    I saw this and I agreed. I grew up believing in Jesus and evolution and wondered why its such a big deal now, saw a lot of coverage and people are acting like its a new thing. Definitely a slow news day.

    • Hey Jesse! Yeah, I had the same feeling. That’s cool that you grew up seeing no conflict between faith and science. Would you mind telling me what you or your family’s doctrinal background is (Catholic, Protestant, etc.)?

  • Alan S

    Like the Roman Catholic Church, I have no problem accepting the compatibility of evolution and Scripture. I actually DO have a problem accepting the compatibility of Roman Catholicism and Scripture. 😉 But I’m being naughty; that’s a topic for another blog.

    • Everyone loves to pick on the Catholics 😉

    • Kele

      Ouch!

  • xyzzy

    Those of us who are not Catholic don’t know what the pope said in 1950. (For that matter, I bet many Catholics don’t either.) But we do know that all the creationism / intelligent design advocates are trying to sneak in their religious views as “science” The Catholic Church has weird positions on many issues. Until we see an article like this one, why *shouldn’t* we be surprised that they are not officially creationists?

    If anything, you should be pleased by the media attention because it informs non-Catholics about the Catholic Church’s position on an important political issue that they have otherwise not said anything about.

    • Dylan Gorman

      Except the media is acting like this has never happened before and this pope is the only one to do it. That’s the problem.

    • I have absolutely no problem with the media covering the story, but they should cover it accurately, as a confirmation of longstanding official church policy, and not like it’s some groundbreaking shift in tradition. The way most outlets that I saw report on Francis’ remarks did so in a fundamentally misleading way.

  • Hamiam would probably view Pope Francis as an agent of Satan. Like a lot of evangelicals would. For everyone else, it’s judge by fruit, but for him, he is automatically disqualified. I have no problems with Pope Francis, he is a blessing to the Roman Catholic Church and the Church of Christ in general.

    • Sad but true. Too bad ol’ Jack Chick has slacked off the past few years. In his prime, he’d be cranking out all kinds of hilarious propaganda about Pope Francis.

  • Headless Unicorn Guy

    Note the difference between Catholics & “Born Again Bible-Believing Christians(TM)”:

    Catholics have the Pontifical Academy of Sciences.
    BABBECs have the Kentucky Creation Museum.

    • Yep. Though I must say I consider myself a “born again Bible-believing Christian” (no ™ symbol), and I would side with the Pontifical Academy of Sciences over the Creation Museum any day.

  • I wonder if Eastern Europe is more open this than the Southern States — as you notice that Reasons.org has a chapter in Chicago now. There is something I am going to talk with a museum with in Chicago and will do a science intervention with Bryn Riplinger as we’re going to teach her Egyptology in a way as you have to imagine from an Edgar Allan Poe short story. I love to imagine Hammy is on the floor bitching his head off and punching the floor laying on his stomach going “nooooo, noooo noooo. My scam…..I am f**ked”

    • BrianKeene

      Aren’t you the guy that posted a picture of his browser with links the Chechen BDSM porn?

      • Didn’t you go after my social security number as you practice doxing? I caught you red handed in the process as the person on the phone who answers for Drunken Tentacle Productions is you. You need years of prison time.

        • BrianKeene

          You made your social security number freely available to the public, so no, I didn’t “go after” it. If you didn’t want people to have it, you should have never posted it online. And yes, any monkey with a search engine can determine in 2.3 seconds that I am one of the partners in Drunken Tentacle. What is your point?

          • valannb22

            Don’t be silly. We all know there isn’t going to be a point. 🙂

          • I didn’t make that available as you went after it in some way so you want to keep my work getting plagiarized as you’re a plagiarism advocate and Christine Morgan is a fan fiction writer of 100 plus fan fiction properties.

          • BrianKeene

            And you’ve written fan fiction, as well. In fact, I think your fan fiction is the ONLY thing you’ve written that Baupader didn’t write better.

          • Hey guys, mod here. This thread, and a couple others you’ve been on, has gotten weird and awkward and waaay off-topic. If you want to continue it, I’m going to have to ask you to do it elsewhere.

          • Thanx Ty I was caught way off guard myself.

          • BrianKeene

            Apologies, Tyler. Mr. Pacione had emailed a bunch of us the link, “daring” us to quote “get into it”. Long story, from a very troubled individual. Nuff said, and moving on…

          • Sorry about that someone is doing comment jumping and chasing me around different comments not just here but on an article were a former buddy got arrested last year.

        • BrianKeene

          No, you freely posted your social security number on the internet, dummy. And yes, I am one of the 6 partners of Drunken Tentacle Productions. We make movies and contribute to society. You sit in a basement and eat cockroaches.