30 Jun 2017

Photo of the day: President Trump and the Chibok Girls!

 by Jonathan Ekene Ifeanyi
President Donald J. Trump, his daughter Ivanka Trump, and Chibok schoolgirls, Joy Bishara and Lydia Pogu among others at the U.S White House.

The above photo—US President Donald Trump meeting with two freed Chibok girls at the White House on Tuesday—is simply the “photo of the day.” The photograph is dated June 27 and was posted to the official White House website and Twitter page on Wednesday, showing Mr. Trump, along with his daughter, Ivanka, posing with two Chibok girls identified as Joy Bishara and Lydia Pogu.

Ms. Bishara and Ms. Pogu were among the 276 young women and schoolgirls who were abducted by Boko Haram terrorists from the Government Secondary School in Chibok, Borno State in 2014. Bishara and Pogu leaped from Boko Haram’s truck on the night of the kidnapping, according to a profile by People magazine. They were among a few who managed to escape on the night of the kidnapping. In the years since, more than 100 of the hostages have been released in negotiations or escaped. The rest remain in captivity, many forced to “marry” to the group’s fighters. The kidnapping prompted international outrage and the hashtag #bringbackourgirls, which former US First Lady Michelle Obama helped popularize.
In an image released on the White House Facebook page as “photo of the day” on June 28, Trump and his daughter Ivanka pose with the young women in the Oval Office. The White House seems to have released no other statement on the visit yet.

With the help of the Jubilee campaign, Bishara and Pogu were brought to the US in August of 2014 to attend a “Christian” boarding school in the Oregon countryside, according to People. The “Christian” non-profit has characterized the Boko Haram insurgency as a targeted attack on Christians. Pogu’s and Bishara’s fate has been very different from that of their classmates in Nigeria, as they recently graduated from Canyonville “Christian” Academy in Virginia and will attend Southeastern University—another so-called “Christian school” located in Florida, founded in 1935 by the (terribly Protestant) “Assemblies of God” Alabama District Superintendent J.C. Thames and other Southeastern district leaders—at the start of the next academic session.

Even among those who escaped captivity, many suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder and stigma in their communities because of their experiences. 

Today, even as I write, Boko Haram is still killing Christians almost on daily basis, some of which are no longer being reported by some newspapers especially since the new APC government took over power in 2015.

                               Shekau and his gang who abducted the girls
Since this month of June, for instance, I simply can't count the number of people that have been killed by the group. For instance--the one still fresh in my memory--eleven people were killed early in the month when the terrorist gunmen and suicide bombers launched a rare combined attack inside the strategic northeast Nigerian city of Maiduguri. See a video of it in the article, Boko Haram kills 11 in Maiduguri.

Again, see:  At least 12 dead in Nigeria in attack with Boko Haram characteristicsAnd so on!  

28 Jun 2017

How ISIS Cooked Baby Boy, Fed Him To His Unsuspecting Starved Mother

Children from the minority Yazidi sect, fleeing violence from forces loyal to the Islamic State in Sinjar town (Photo: Mirror/REUTERS/Rodi Said)
“One of the women we managed to retrieve from ISIS said that she was held in a cellar for three days without food or water. Afterwards, they brought her a plate of rice and meat, she ate the food because she was very hungry. When she was finished, they said to her: ‘We cooked your one-year-old son that we took from you, and this is what you just ate’.” (Ms Dakhil).
The Mirror reports that evil ISIS thugs cooked the baby boy of a Yazidi woman and then fed him to his unsuspecting mother after almost starving her to death.

The woman was allegedly being kept as a sex slave in a dark cellar and hadn’t eaten for three days.
The Mirror quoted Iraqi MP Vian Dakhil, as saying that a ten-year-old girl was also ‘raped to death’ in front of her family members.

A tearful Ms Dakhil was speaking to Egyptian TV channel Extra News when she revealed the horrific persecution endured by her people.

Ms Dakhil told interviewers: “One of the women we managed to retrieve from ISIS said that she was held in a cellar for three days without food or water.

“Afterwards, they brought her a plate of rice and meat, she ate the food because she was very hungry.
“When she was finished, they said to her: ‘We cooked your one-year-old son that we took from you, and this is what you just ate’.”

Ms Dakhil is the only Yazidi in the Iraqi Parliament.

She begged for international help when the Yazidi community was trapped on Sinjar Mountain in 2014 amid an ISIS onslaught.

ISIS believe they are entitled to rape, abuse, torture and murder Yazidi women after they declared them ‘devil worshippers’.

Ancient faith of Yazidism integrates some Islamic beliefs with elements of Zoroastrianism, the ancient Persian religion and Mithraism.

Yazidi women and children are expecting to convert to Islam if captured by ISIS, and are then sold as brides.

But those who refuse to convert are eventually murdered.

Ms Dakhil also told the news channel that a young girl was raped to death in front of her father and five sisters after they were taken captive. 

Related: ISIS pinpoints Rome as newest “target”—as Francis continues defending Islam and denouncing “Catholic violence”!

20 Jun 2017

Francis not yet a manifest heretic? This is serious!

by Jonathan Ekene Ifeanyi
Heretics praying for "Cardinal" Bergoglio

Heretics praying for "Pope" Francis.
Yesterday I read a certain article on the recent letter sent to Francis by the Dubia Cardinals. (In case you haven’t read the letter, here is it: Full Text of Dubia Cardinals’ Letter Asking Pope for an Audience.) On the comments section of the article, one commentator said the following:

“...Bergoglio knows full-well he is guilty and is refusing correction. There is only one recourse: the Cardinals must formally and publicly denounce him for heresy and seek an immediate retraction. If Bergoglio refuses, then his heresy is manifest and pertinacious, and he must be formally deposed. I don't care if the denunciation comes from only the four of them, but come it must, and soon.”

These comments are just funny. “If Bergoglio refuses, then his heresy is manifest and pertinacious.” So? So, up till now — with all the atrocities Bergoglio has committed from 2013 till now — his “heresy” is still not “manifest”? And will never be unless he refuses to answer the cardinals! This is serious. But I don’t blame the person commenting — the blame goes to the innumerable lying “Catholic” journalists around the world who, by their manifest lack of interest in what the Church really teaches with respect to manifest heretics, are just helping to harbour Bergoglio. The commentator was merely saying what he learnt from these journalists. 

What we should all note is the fact that the cardinals themselves — I mean even the Dubia Cardinals themselves — also have serious problems with Church teachings. They don’t accept all that the Church teaches, rather they pick and choose what they want to believe, and reject the rest of Church teachings. That’s why we notice that Bergoglio has even openly and officially contradicted some of the dogmas of the Church but these cardinals have no problem with that. Let us note that the war Bergoglio is leading right now was actually a war started by the other Vatican II popes—John XXIII, Paul VI, John Paul II, and Benedict XVI. Some of these Dubia Cardinals were cardinals during the pontificates of some of these popes, and they had no problem with all that they did and taught. They are all products of Vatican II and that's why in one way or the other they always try to defend the errors of that heretical Council. All this clearly shows that — as far as Church teaching is concerned — anyone who depends on these cardinals will simply remain in error. In order to know what the Church really teaches, we must then go back to the pre-Vatican II period.

However, we commend the cardinals’ courageous effort. See, for instance, If the dubia go unanswered, the consequences could be catastrophic.  

The articles below are well documented cases of what Francis has done and still does, what he taught and still teaches. Of course these are in no way all, but these few documented cases tell us who the man really is. Some of the articles also tell us who is a manifest heretic and what the Church really teaches regarding manifest heretics. Let us review them:

19 Jun 2017

Discernment of Situation


by Douglas Farrow (March 2017)
Francis and his fellow heretical "Jesuits"
“In other words, how are we to reckon with a situation, nicely timed to the quincentenary of the Reformation, in which being Catholic begins to look quite a lot like being Protestant?” (Douglas Farrow, March 2017.)

“Is the pope Catholic?” used to be an answer, not a question. Alas, it has become a question; or rather it has become five questions, in the form of the dubia put to Pope Francis by four of his cardinals. In good Jesuit fashion, Francis seems to be making his reply by other means—since responding directly to dubia is apparently distasteful, as even the Prefect of the Holy Office Gerhard Cardinal Müller has now said. Thus far, the replies (comments about pharisaical doctors of the law, and that sort of thing) are not very reassuring. Actually, very little one hears from the Vatican these days reassures.

This leaves those of us who are struggling with “discernment of situations” (to use the phrase from Familiaris Consortio that was taken up by Amoris Laetitia) in some perplexity, not so much in the matter of marriage and family life as in the life of the Church herself. Reckoning with a pope whose own remarks seem somewhat erratic is one thing. But how are we to reckon with a situation in which the administration of the sacraments, and the theology behind their administration, is succumbing, with his blessing, to regionalism? In other words, how are we to reckon with a situation, nicely timed to the quincentenary of the Reformation, in which being Catholic begins to look quite a lot like being Protestant?

The trauma of the two synods on the family, which led to Amoris and to the dubia, is a trauma for which Francis himself is largely responsible. The ongoing rebellion against Humanae Vitae and Veritatis Splendor is something that he has permitted, if not encouraged. And the flaws in Amoris are of his making. His unwillingness to respond directly to the dubia is not, then, a matter of taste only. In any event, the very fact that the dubia have been put—and they have been well put, whether or not they should have been put publicly—has carried the whole difficulty beyond matters of taste. Cardinal Müller’s denial that there is a doctrinal problem here is unconvincing.

Before I go any further, it is necessary to say something about the assumptions underlying these remarks. When I first criticized the synod’s Instrumentum Laboris in my online article for First Things, “Twelve Fatal Flaws,” I did not know how far the pope himself was in sympathy with the working document. Within a few days that sympathy was evident, just as it was evident that the synod was divided on important issues of faith and practice, with some leading bishops clearly concerned about Francis’s own views, attitudes, and actions. This is hardly the first time in the history of the Church that such a situation has occurred. Indeed, we encounter it in Acts. Which is to say: Being Catholic does not mean refusing to be critical of the bishop of Rome. There are times when one must be critical, and this is such a time.

By divine providence, the papacy has evolved over the centuries into a more vital feature of the Church in its daily function than it was in earlier eras. Modern technology has had something to do with that. But by the same providence, the papacy has been allowed to fall, at various points, into the most frightful parody of itself. We may be very thankful that this is not the case today. It is not merely poor history, however, but a false and dangerous papolatry—Catholics, not Protestants, should be the first to say so—to fancy that the Vicar of Christ is somehow above criticism, as if he were Christ himself.

Certainly the doctrine of infallibility entails no such thing, whether about the person of the pope or about particular papal documents. Infallibility is a guarantee regarding the magisterium, of which the pope, in and between ecumenical councils, is the primary guardian. The pope is not, however, its master. The Church has but one master, our Lord Jesus Christ. When on any serious matter one papal statement is in conflict with another, it is the task of the whole apostolic college to sort things out. As the First Vatican Council makes clear, this must be done with the pope, not apart from him, but there is nothing in the deliverances of that council or any other to the effect that the pope may not need sorting out. St. Peter himself needed sorting out, from time to time.

Now, there is conflict between the tradition as it appears in Trent and later councils, in papal or magisterial documents right through to the previous pontificate, and what is said or implied in Amoris; or rather, there is a conflict within Amoris, which both holds and does not hold to the tradition. If there were no conflict, there would have been no dubia. Since the conflict touches on the sacraments themselves, and not merely on pastoral judgment with respect to the sacraments, it must be resolved, however painful the process. But, like Francis, a good many bishops lack the will to resolve it. In fact, some of them have gone altogether soft on the sacraments, or on anything resembling sacramental discipline, and, sadly, they are appealing to Francis for justification. If ever a discernment of situation were called for, it is called for now.

The first of the dubia asks whether “it has now become possible to grant absolution in the Sacrament of Penance and thus to admit to Holy Communion a person who, while bound by a valid marital bond, lives together with a different person more uxorio [in a marital way] without fulfilling the conditions” laid out in Familiaris Consortio. The burden of the others is to enquire whether we may now safely set aside the teaching of Veritatis Splendor that neither circumstances nor intentions can render a bad act good, and that no manipulation of conscience can do so either.

Some prelates have already answered the first question with a yes, and are acting upon that answer. Others are saying no, or (like Cardinal Müller) saying in effect: of course not—the question need not even be asked. But it does need to be asked, as developments from the Americas to Malta make clear, and not only in the present form. It needs to be asked with respect to contraception, for example. Indeed, the refusal to ask it in that connection has led to the present situation. It also needs to be asked with respect to suicide and euthanasia, as we are discovering here in Canada.

I want to dwell for a moment on the Canadian situation. In Canada, regionalism is, so to speak, in our DNA. I will not go back as far as the notorious Winnipeg Statement, by means of which our bishops, in response to Humanae Vitae, took the doors to the internal forum right off their hinges, permitting the faithful to decide freely for themselves, without any fear of sacramental discipline, whether contraception is or isn’t a grave sin. I want instead to make clear the current situation, in which bishops in the eastern provinces have (with a few exceptions) taken much the same posture toward assisted suicide and euthanasia. The choice of these newly legal practices is discouraged but not forbidden. To choose them over natural death is not (or not necessarily) a barrier to participation in the sacraments of reconciliation, Eucharist, or healing. Much less is it an impediment to a church funeral.

The contrary stance, which some of us urged upon the bishops from the outset for the sake of both the Church and the country, has been rejected by Cardinal Lacroix in Quebec City and by the Atlantic Episcopal Assembly. The former’s rejection appeared on Facebook during the media firestorm generated by a document from the bishops of Alberta and the Northwest Territories—a model guide for clergy that stresses both pastoral readiness to accompany anyone who desires accompaniment and sacramental discipline for those who purposefully persist on the path to the mortal sin of suicide. Those western bishops, to their credit, have taken a similarly clear stance with respect to divorce and remarriage, while the primate and most of their colleagues east of Montreal appear to want no part in such countercultural shenanigans.

For the latter, not much has changed since 1968, apart from the near-complete collapse of their churches’ political and cultural relevance—that, and the fact that they can now appeal to the pope, rather than fight against him. Witness the Atlantic bishops’ “Pastoral Reflection on Medical Assistance in Dying” (yes, they actually use the preferred political euphemism), which, while making several sound points about the sacraments and rejecting suicide in principle, works its way toward this sorry conclusion: “As people of faith, and ministers of God’s grace, we are called to entrust everyone, whatever their decisions may be, to the mercy of God. To one and all we wish to say that the pastoral care of souls cannot be reduced to norms for the reception of the sacraments or the celebration of funeral rites.”

In other words, the most important thing in discerning situations is not this principle or that, but, well, discerning situations. Which is not really very difficult, because in the final analysis there is only one situation: Whatever your decision, we will commend you to God.

This unprincipled accompaniment forgets divine justice in its rush to divine mercy. It forgets that God himself, “when giving counsel, is present with those who attend to moral discipline” rather than with those who ignore it, as Irenaeus reminds us. It is Winnipeg all over again. There, the bishops made themselves chaplains to the contraceptive culture; here, to the culture of death. But here they justify themselves, as they could not there, by what is perhaps the single most problematic remark by a pontiff given to problematic remarks: “Pope Francis also calls us to practice this ‘art of accompaniment,’” they write, “removing our ‘sandals’ before the sacred ground of the other (cf. Ex 3:5).”

This Levinas-like expression is lifted from Evangelii Gaudium, §169, as quoted by the Synod on the Family’s final report. Let us stop to think about it.

At the burning bush, Moses fails to discern his situation. He is told to take off his sandals because, standing in the presence of YHWH himself, he is standing on holy ground. Now, by way of the doctrine of the imago dei and the link between love of God and love of neighbor, we can and do arrive at a concept of the sanctity of the human person, a sanctity derived from the holiness of God himself. This derivative character, however, is the very thing at stake at present.

When Moses returns to the holy mountain with his people, they are warned first and foremost to acknowledge no other gods and to make no idolatrous image. That commandment, together with the commandment against killing, is broken when we embrace suicide or euthanasia. Why? Because we claim that our lives are ours independently of God, that we possess them in such a way as to have the right to their disposal. We do likewise at the other end of life when we embrace contraception and abortion. We do it in the middle, as it were, when we claim the right to determine our own “gender identity” or to “marry” a same-sex partner. Throughout the West, all these actions have now been approved in law—steered through Parliament, in Canada, under Catholic prime ministers absorbed in the idolatry of our age.

What irony there is, then, in this appeal to Exodus to justify the kind of “pastoral accompaniment” that refuses to discipline sacramentally those who have chosen the path of self-assertion and self-destruction! It is scandalous (I do not use the word lightly) that an assembly of bishops should take up this analogy, which transfers the concept of “sacred ground” from God to man, and use it to deny the clear moral judgment of the Church against suicide and euthanasia.

The Atlantic Episcopal Assembly’s pastoral statement, it grieves me to say, reads like a document either entirely ignorant of Veritatis Splendor or deliberately opposed to it. Here, indeed, “freedom is exalted almost to the point of idolatry” (Veritatis Splendor). Here the focus is on situations “which are very complex and obscure from a psychological viewpoint,” but “in such a way that it objectively changes or casts doubt upon the traditional concept of mortal sin.” Here is an “attempt to adapt the moral norm to one’s own capacities and personal interests,” even to “the rejection of the very idea of a norm.” Here it is forgotten that “Christian moral teaching must be one of the chief areas in which we [bishops] exercise our pastoral vigilance, in carrying out our munus regale.” Here “the seriousness of what is involved, not only for individuals but also for the whole of society,” is not recognized. Here is not that “evangelical simplicity,” that following of Christ, which leads to “a more genuine understanding of reality” and draws out “the distinctive character of authentic Christian morality, while providing the vital energy needed to carry it out.” Here is only scandal, the scandal of bishop against bishop, and of bishops permitting their priests to offer the sacraments where mortal sin is being committed.

The pope, for his part, seems untroubled by this scandal. Perhaps he is unaware of it, or of his own role in it. Or perhaps, since the bishops are not only using his words but following his example, he thinks it no scandal. Perhaps he, too, mistaking real compassion for false, thinks Canada’s western bishops hard-hearted Pharisees. I don’t know. I do know that the Church has been under extraordinary pressure to compromise the sacraments and, just so, to change the Gospel that is embodied in them. And that from Rome, as from our own primatial see in Quebec City, we hear at best an uncertain sound on the trumpet.

Some are saying that the Church is entering a time of crisis, the likes of which we have not seen since the fourth century. If they are right, this removal of apostolic sandals before the autonomous man is just one indicator of that crisis. Another is the disunity among the bishops over these matters. That, as Cyril of Jerusalem observes in his fifteenth catechetical lecture, is a sign of Antichrist and of the second advent. It is “a sign proper to the Church,” because it goes to the core of the Church.

My own effort to read the signs of the times (along the lines laid out in my book Ascension Theology) is not entirely conclusive about the scope of the present crisis or the point we occupy in the history of salvation. Things have happened in recent days—both a sudden acceleration of the mystery of lawlessness and a marked increase in fractiousness within the Church—that impart a new sense of urgency. What is certain is that we are living in a long period of apostasy and of purification. In St. Peter’s words, “the time has come for judgment to begin with the household of God.”

It can be no surprise, then, that the sacraments are under renewed attack. For the sacraments are the means by which the Church is ordered and by which she distinguishes, on a practical level, between good and evil. (What is the point of forbidding the evil of divorce, if not to uphold the good of marriage and its witness to the covenant of our salvation? What is the point of forbidding suicide and euthanasia, if not to uphold the sanctity of life and the good of honoring the Lord and Giver of Life?) The sacraments, of course, are much more than that. They are instruments of grace by which God communicates to us his own life through participation in our Lord Jesus Christ. They are not rewards for goodness, but the means of sharing in the God who is good. That is why they are holy sacraments, and it is their very holiness that makes them the object of attack.

If the sacraments were merely means of moral and ecclesial order, or rewards for goodness, it might very well be “pharisaical” to deny them to those deemed somehow disordered, given that we are all disordered, each in our own way. We might then appeal for greater flexibility in sacramental discipline, tempering our concern for justice by our concern for mercy. But the sacraments are not ours; they are Christ’s—just as our bodies are not strictly ours, but have been reclaimed by God in Christ. We do no justice to the mercy of Christ, we show no mercy to those who would enter the justice of Christ, if we change the conditions for reception of the sacraments to conform to private decisions about good and evil.

The regionalism that we are currently witnessing in the West, under the rubric of “discernment of situations,” is the result of a failure to discern both the nature of the sacraments and the situation of the Church. The old gods, sex, mammon, and death, are reviving and reasserting themselves as the gods of autonomy. They are beginning to press their hands on the faithless and the faithful alike. They are groping even for the holy sacraments, that they might defile them. In this situation, do we really need more talk about the internal forum and “the sacred ground of the other”?

Surely what we need to hear is that God himself, and God alone, is the source of our sanctity. We need to hear that God is equally and indissolubly, without shadow of turning or contradiction, the God of mercy and of justice, of goodness and of judgment, of love and of holiness. If we do not know and recognize him thus in the sacraments, we become like those of whom Irenaeus wrote—those who, by trying to divide God, deprive themselves of the benefits both of his justice and of his goodness. We fail to discern our situation.

I, for one, do not hear this from the priest in my own parish. I do not hear it from the wise men to the East, on either side of the Atlantic, who seem to imagine that good and evil are one thing here and another thing there. I do not hear it, at least not clearly, from the Holy Father in Rome. He seems to be disciplining us, “for a short time, at his pleasure,” and we must respect him as best we can. But how much more must we respect the Father of spirits, who “disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness”?

The Book of Hebrews, which the Church has recently been reading in its daily lections, is all about discernment of situations. At its climax, in chapter 12, it not only places our Eucharistic feasts in their proper context, but reminds us of the right response to discipline and warns us against the error of Esau, that paradigm of failure to discern:

For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant; later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed. Strive for peace with all men, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one fail to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” spring up and cause trouble, and by it the many become defiled; that no one be immoral or irreligious like Esau, who sold his birthright for a single meal.

No doubt there is something different, in every sentence of this paragraph, for each of us to attend to, but its final line stands out as a query to us all. The sacraments are the birth rites of the Church and the birthright of Christians. Are they somehow being sold or sold out? And if so, for what?

It is only just, I think, to invite the Atlantic bishops, among whom I number at least one friend and father in God, to be the first to answer.

Douglas B. Farrow is professor of Christian thought at McGill University. This article was first published in March, 2017, by firstthings.com.

Please note: 

  • While we praise Prof. Farrow’s courage to point out Francis’ errors in this good article (something which millions of "Catholic" intellectuals out there simply can't do), it’s also important to point out his flaw—acknowledging a manifest heretic as pope. Also, his comparing of the scandal of Francis’ “papacy” to the “papacy of the past” is just ridiculous! (See the article: Why does Father Paul Kramer still maintain that Francis is not the true pope?)
  • One of the Dubia Cardinals, Carlo Cardinal Caffarra, has written a letter to Francis, signed by the other three cardinals, asking for an audience to discuss deep concerns over the scandalous "apostolic" exhortation on the family, Amoris Laetitia (The Joy of Love.) See: Full Text of Dubia Cardinals’ Letter Asking Pope for an Audience.

16 Jun 2017

The Vatican's View of Evolution: The Story of Two Popes

 by Doug Linder (2004)


"Big Bang theories become a problem for Catholic theology only when they consider “the moment of creation.”  That, at least, is what Pope John Paul allegedly told Stephen Hawking and other physicists during an audience that followed a papal scientific conference on cosmology.  (Some scientists dispute Hawking's account, and say that the Pope suggested no limitations on their inquiry.) The Pope told the physicists they should not inquire into the Big Bang itself because that was “the work of God.”  Stephen W. Hawking, in his “A Brief History of Time”, reported that he was among those physicists whom the Pope privately addressed.  He wrote:

"I was glad then that he did not know the subject of the talk I had just given at the conference—the possibility that space-time was finite but had no boundary, which means that it had no beginning, no moment of Creation."

The relationship between the papacy and scientists has sometimes—just ask Galileo—been testy.  Interestingly, however, the Catholic Church has largely sat out the cultural battle over the teaching of evolution.  One of the reasons Catholics have remained largely on the sidelines is the well-established system of parochial schools in the United States, which make state laws relating to the public school curriculum of much less concern to Catholic clergy and parents than to Protestant clergy and parents.  A second reason is that the Catholic Church, at least in the twentieth century, takes a more flexible approach to the interpreting Genesis than do several Protestant denominations.  

H. L. Mencken expressed admiration for how Catholics handled the evolution issue:

[The advantage of Catholics] lies in the simple fact that they do not have to decide either for Evolution or against it.  Authority has not spoken on the subject; hence it puts no burden upon conscience, and may be discussed realistically and without prejudice.  A certain wariness, of course, is necessary.  I say that authority has not spoken; it may, however, speak tomorrow, and so the prudent man remembers his step.  But in the meanwhile there is nothing to prevent him examining all available facts, and even offering arguments in support of them or against them—so long as those arguments are not presented as dogma.  (STJ, 163)

A majority of American Catholics probably sided with the prosecution in the Scopes trial, but—with one notable exception, defense attorney Dudley Field Malone—all the major participants in the controversy, from the author of the Butler Act, to the defendant, the judge, the jury, and the lawyers were either members of Protestant churches or were non-churchgoers.  Catholics tended to be viewed with some skepticism in Dayton; local prosecutor Sue Hicks discouraged William Jennings Bryan’s suggestion that Senator T. J. Walsh of Montana, a Roman Catholic, be added to the prosecution team.  (SOG, 131-32)  The Catholic Press Association did take enough interest in the case, however, to send a top correspondent to Dayton to cover the trial for diocesan newspapers.  Writing from Tennessee, reporter Benedict Elder wrote, “Although as Catholics we do not go quite as far as Mr. Bryan on the Bible, we do want it preserved.”  (SOG, 127)

Pope Pius XII, a deeply conservative man, directly addressed the issue of evolution in a 1950 encyclical, Humani Generis.  The document makes plain the pope’s fervent hope that evolution will prove to be a passing scientific fad, and it attacks those persons who “imprudently and indiscreetly hold that evolution …explains the origin of all things.”  Nonetheless, Pius XII states that nothing in Catholic doctrine is contradicted by a theory that suggests one specie might evolve into another—even if that specie is man.  The Pope declared:

"The Teaching Authority of the Church does not forbid that, in conformity with the present state of human sciences and sacred theology, research and discussions, on the part of men experiences in both fields, take place with regard to the doctrine of evolution, in as far as it inquires into the origin of the human body as coming from pre-existent and living matter—for the Catholic faith obliges us to hold that souls are immediately created by God."
Pius XII
In other words, the Pope could live with evolution, so long as the process of “ensouling” humans was left to God.  (He also insisted on a role for Adam, whom he believed committed a sin— mysteriously passed along through the “doctrine of original sin”—that has affected all subsequent generations.) Pius XII cautioned, however, that he considered the jury still out on the question of evolution’s validity.  It should not be accepted, without more evidence, “as though it were a certain proven doctrine.”  (ROA, 81)

Pope John Paul II revisited the question of evolution in a 1996 message to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences.   Unlike Pius XII, John Paul is broadly read, and embraces science and reason.  He won the respect of many scientists in 1993, when in April 1993 he formally acquitted Galileo, 360 years after his indictment, of heretical support for Copernicus’s heliocentrism.  The pontiff began his statement with the hope that “we will all be able to profit from the fruitfulness of a trustful dialogue between the Church and science.”  Evolution, he said, is “an essential subject which deeply interests the Church.”  He recognized that science and Scripture sometimes have “apparent contradictions,” but said that when this is the case, a “solution” must be found because “truth cannot contradict truth.”  The Pope pointed to the Church’s coming to terms with Galileo’s discoveries concerning the nature of the solar system as an example of how science might inspire the Church to seek a new and “correct interpretation of the inspired word.”

When the pope came to the subject of the scientific merits of evolution, it soon became clear how much things had changed in the nearly fifty years since the Vatican last addressed the issue.  John Paul said:

"Today, almost half a century after publication of the encyclical, new knowledge has led to the recognition of the theory of evolution as more than a hypothesis.  It is indeed remarkable that this theory has been progressively accepted by researchers, following a series of discoveries in various fields of knowledge.  The convergence, neither sought nor fabricated, of the results of work that was conducted independently is in itself a significant argument in favour of the theory."

Evolution, a doctrine that Pius XII only acknowledged as an unfortunate possibility, John Paul accepts forty-six years later “as an effectively proven fact.”  (ROA, 82)
John Paul II
Pope John Paul’s words on evolution received major play in international news stories.  Evolution proponents such as Stephen Jay Gould enthusiastically welcomed what he saw as the Pope’s endorsement of evolution.  Gould was reminded of a passage in Proverbs (25:25): “As cold waters to a thirsty soul, so is good news from a far country.”  (ROA, 820)  Creationists, however, expressed dismay at the pontiff’s words and suggested that the initial news reports might have been based on a faulty translation. (John Paul gave the speech in French.)  Perhaps, some creationists argued, the pope really said, “the theory evolution is more than one hypothesis,” not “the theory of evolution is more than a hypothesis.”  If that were so, the Pope might have been suggesting that there are multiple theories of evolution, and all of them might be wrong.

The “faulty translation” theory, however, suffered at least two problems.  Most obviously, the theory collapsed when the Catholic News Service of the Vatican confirmed that the Pope did indeed mean “more than a hypothesis,” not “more than one hypothesis.”  The other problem stemmed from a reading of the passage in more complete context.  In the speech, the Pope makes clear in his speech that he understood the difference between evolution (the highly probable fact) and the mechanism for evolution, a matter of hot dispute among scientists.  John Paul said, “And, to tell the truth, rather than the theory of evolution, we should speak of several theories of evolution.”  He recognized that there were “different explanations advanced for the mechanism of evolution” and different “philosophies” upon which the theory of evolution is based.  The philosophy out of bounds to Catholics, the pope indicated, is one which is “materialist” and which denies the possibility that man “was created in the image and likeness of God.”  Human dignity, the pope suggested, cannot be reconciled with such a “reductionist” philosophy.  Thus, as with Pius XII, the critical teaching of the Church is that God infuses souls into man—regardless of what process he might have used to create our physical bodies.  Science, the Pope insisted, can never identify for us “the moment of the transition into the spiritual”—that is a matter exclusively with the magesterium of religion.

Most scientists would be content to let Pius and John Paul have their “ensoulment” theory and walk away happy.  Not Richard Dawkins, however.  In an essay on the Pope’s evolution message called “You Can’t Have it Both Ways” the controversy-loving biologist accused Pope John Paul of “casuistical double-talk” and “obscurantism.”  (SAR, 209)  Dawkins took issue with the Pope’s declaring off-limits theories suggesting that the human mind is an evolutionary product. In his address the Pope said: "[I]f the human body takes its origin from pre-existent living matter, the spiritual soul is immediately created by God…Consequently, theories of evolution which…consider the mind as emerging from the forces of living matter, or as a mere epiphenomenon of this matter, are incompatible with the truth about man."

In his essay, Dawkins paraphrased the Pope’s statement:  “In plain language, there came a moment in the evolution of hominids when God intervened and injected a human soul into a previously animal lineage.”  Dawkins expresses mock curiosity as to when God jumped into the evolution picture: “When?  A million years ago?  Two million years ago?  Between Homo erectus and Homo sapiens?  Between ‘archaic’ Homo sapiens and H. sapiens sapiens?”  Clearly, Dawkins finds the divine intervention implausible.  He suggests that the ensoulment theory becomes a necessary part of Catholic theology in order to sustain the important distinction between species in Catholic morality.  It is fine for a Catholic to eat meat, Dawkins notes, but “abortion and euthanasia are murder because human life is involved.”

Dawkins contends that evolution tells us that there is no “great gulf between Homo sapiens and the rest of the animal kingdom.”  The Pope’s insistence to the contrary is, in the biologist’s opinion, “an antievolutionary intrusion into the domain of science.”

Dawkins makes no secret of his distain for the distinction so critical to the Pope John Paul’s 1996 speech on evolution:

"I suppose it is gratifying to have the pope as an ally in the struggle against fundamentalist creationism.  It is certainly amusing to see the rug pulled out from under the feet of Catholic creationists such as Michael Behe.  Even so, given a choice between honest-to-goodness fundamentalism on the one hand, and the obscurantist, disingenuous doublethink of the Roman Catholic Church on the other, I know which I prefer."  (SAR, 211)

Popes have had considerably less to say recently on the subject of the origin of the universe than they have on the subject of human origins.  In 1951, interestingly, Pius XII (who so grudgingly acknowledged the possibility of evolution) celebrated news from the world of science that the universe might have been created in a Big Bang.  (The term, first employed by astronomer Fred Hoyle was meant to be derisive, but it stuck.)  In a speech before the Pontifical Academy of Sciences he offered an enthusiastic endorsement of the theory: "…it would seem that present-day science, with one sweep back across the centuries, has succeeded in bearing witness to the august instant of the primordial Fiat Lux [Let there be Light], when along with matter, there burst forth from nothing a sea of light and radiation, and the elements split and churned and formed into millions of galaxies."  (ME, 254-55)

But the Pope didn’t stop there.  He went on to express the surprising conclusion that the Big Bang proved the existence of God:

"Thus, with that concreteness which is characteristic of physical proofs, [science] has confirmed the contingency of the universe and also the well-founded deduction as to the epoch when the world came forth from the hands of the Creator.  Hence, creation took place.  We say: therefore, there is a Creator. Therefore, God exists!"

The man who laid the groundwork for the Big Bang theory, astronomer Edwin Hubble, received a letter from a friend asking whether the Pope’s announcement might qualify him for “sainthood.”  The friend enthused that until he read the statement in the morning’s paper, “I had not dreamed that the Pope would have to fall back on you for proof of the existence of God.”  (ME, 255)

Other people, including Belgian astronomer Georges Lamaître and the Vatican’s science advisor, had a different reaction.  They understood that the Big Bang in 1951 remained very much a contested theory and worried what might be the effect if the Pope pinned the Catholic faith too much on its proving true.  They spoke privately to the Pope about their concerns, and the Pope never brought up the topic again in public.

Big Bang theories become a problem for Catholic theology only when they consider “the moment of creation.”  That, at least, is what Pope John Paul allegedly told Stephen Hawking and other physicists during an audience that followed a papal scientific conference on cosmology.  (Some scientists dispute Hawking's account, and say that the Pope suggested no limitations on their inquiry.) The Pope told the physicists they should not inquire into the Big Bang itself because that was “the work of God.”  Stephen W. Hawking, in his A Brief History of Time, reported that he was among those physicists whom the Pope privately addressed.  He wrote:

"I was glad then that he did not know the subject of the talk I had just given at the conference—the possibility that space-time was finite but had no boundary, which means that it had no beginning, no moment of Creation."

SOG= Summer for the Gods by Edward J. Larson (1997)
SAR= Science and Religion: Are They Compatible? (edited by Paul Kurtz)(2003)
ROA=Rocks of Ages: Science and Religion in the Fullness of Life by Stephen J. Gould (1999)
STJ= H. L. Mencken on Religion by S. T. Joshi (2002)
ME= Measuring Eternity by Martin Gorst (2001)