A statement by prominent Catholic scientists and prolife advocates has been released that calls for a reform of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences (hat tip to William (“Matt”) Briggs, one of the signers of the statement). Here’s a link to the statement. I’ll quote from the “Conclusions” section:
29. The Catholic Church exists for the salvation of souls. She has a long history of sponsoring and conducting scientific research, education, and human advancement. The Pontifical Academies of Science and Social Sciences are useful institutions and provide a valuable forum for dialog with the Church about the latest and most advanced findings on difficult and challenging issues as well as knowledge of exciting discoveries.
30. Since the time immediately after her foundation by Christ, the Church has always described Herself as “… one, holy, Catholic, and apostolic …” In secular terms, this is manifested as a worldwide, unified, yet multicultural institution that professes and teaches a common Faith. These are attractive characteristics for those wishing to leverage global issues or effect change on a global scale.
31. The world faces a number of serious challenges from issues relating to the environment. Resolving these challenges and providing the conditions for human life to thrive is both an issue of scientific, technical, and social/economic expertise and a matter of human capacity, will, and morality. Secular efforts to address such challenges always face the question of the moral and ethical guidance to be followed, and indeed the ever-present temptation to suspend moral and ethical principles in pursuit of quick results for what is perceived to be a larger good. Even programs aimed at addressing humanitarian needs can contain unjust, ineffective, or morally unacceptable elements. Globally organized programs of human development and environmental protection or management have been particularly prone to this problem.
32. A chronic problem in the operation of the academies recently has become acute. The Pontifical Academies, in their focus on issues of global environmental challenges and human development, have been importing secularist values, perspectives, and philosophies into their documents and statements, making it appear as if the Church was morally uncertain and is holding open different views on core teachings at the heart of Gospel teaching on matters of grave importance. The Church cannot accept, especially implicitly, that humanity can contracept and abort its way to a healthy environment, economy, or society.[emphasis added]
33. The problem is not the secularist scientists or economists of the Pontifical Academies as much as it is the Church supervision of the Academies. The membership of the Academies do not offer moral expertise. Yet the leadership of the Pontifical Academies consistently engages in selective invitation of experts who are leading advocates of morally problematic approaches, and provides a privileged forum for their views, which inevitably carries an implied endorsement by the Church. This pattern confuses Catholic lay faithful and those who observe the Church from the outside, and needs to be reformed before a virtual counter magisterium is set up under the sponsorship the Church Herself.
34. By contrast, the Catholic Church, by Her very nature, must always fulfill Her unique role as a protector of innocent human life. The Church did so, against the consensus of the international scientific, technical, and policy elites of the day, in the 1994 Cairo International Conference on Population and Development. In our time, Church leaders face the same temptation to remain silent on matters related to population control in order to preserve the good opinion of scientific, technical, and economic cultures that generally hold the Church’s mission in low regard. If this were to happen, Church leaders would then place human dignity and freedom at risk, most especially regard for the value of unrepeatable, individual human persons.”
I have written in posts on my own blog that the Church should not meddle in, i.e. make judgments about, science. (See “Galileo Redux: When should the Church meddle in science?
” ) Climate change and population control are not issues on which the Holy Father and the members of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences are qualified judges, nor were the Cardinals on Galileo’s advocacy that the earth circled the sun.
Let me conclude with an apt quotation from the Book of Wisdom:13, verses 1-9 (Douay-Rheims American Version):
¹But all men are vain, in whom there is not the knowledge of God: and who by these good things that are seen, could not understand him that is, neither by attending to the works have acknowledged who was the workman:
2 But have imagined either the fire, or the wind, or the swift air, or the circle of the stars, or the great water, or the sun and moon, to be the gods that rule the world.
3 With whose beauty, if they, being delighted, took them to be gods: let them know how much the Lord of them is more beautiful than they: for the first author of beauty made all those things.
4 Or if they admired their power and their effects, let them understand by them, that he that made them, is mightier than they:
5 For by the greatness of the beauty, and of the creature, the creator of them may be seen, so as to be known thereby.
6 But yet as to these they are less to be blamed. For they perhaps err, seeking God, and desirous to find him.
7 For being conversant among his works, they search: and they are persuaded that the things are good which are seen.
8 But then again they are not to be pardoned.
9 For if they were able to know so much as to make a judgment of the world: how did they not more easily find out the Lord thereof?
The featured image (from Wikimedia Commons) is of Abbe LeMaitre, the priest who formulated “The Big Bang” theory of cosmic evolution.