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Cardinal Schönborn on Creation and Evolution

12/13/2005 - 6:00 AM PST

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"Borders Are Neither Recognized nor Respected"

VIENNA, Austria, DEC. 13, 2005 (Zenit) - Here is a translation of a lecture Cardinal Christoph Schönborn delivered in October in Vienna on creation and evolution. The lecture was meant, in part, to clear up misunderstandings that arose from an article he wrote that appeared July 7 in the New York Times.

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Creation and Evolution: To the Debate as It Stands

Cardinal Christoph Schönborn's first catechetical lecture for 2005/2006:
Sunday, Oct. 2, 2005, St. Stephan's Cathedral, Vienna

It is with a measure of heartfelt trepidation that I begin the catechetical lectures for this working year, for the topic with which I have resolved to grapple is creation and evolution. I do not intend to delve into the scientific details; in that domain I would doubtlessly not be qualified. Instead, I shall examine the relationship between belief in creation and scientific access to the world, to reality.

Thus, I begin with the first words of the Bible: "In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth" (Genesis 1). These should be the first words of instruction as well. Belief in God the Creator, belief that he created the heavens and the earth, is the beginning of faith. It launches the credo as its first article. That already implies that here is the basis of all, the foundation on which every other Christian belief rests.

To believe in God and, at the same time, not to believe that he is the Creator would mean, as Thomas Aquinas puts it, "to deny utterly that God is." God and Creator are inseparable. Every other Christian conviction depends on this: that Jesus Christ is the Savior, that there is the Holy Spirit, that there is a Church, that there is eternal life: They all presuppose belief in the Creator.

For that reason, the catechism of the Catholic Church emphasizes the fundamental significance of belief in creation. In Article 282, it tells us that here we are dealing with questions that any human being leading a human life must sooner or later pose: "Where do I come from? Where am I going? What is the goal, what is the origin, what is the meaning of my life?" The belief in creation is also crucially related to the basis of ethics, for implicit in that faith is the assumption that this Creator has something to say to us -- through his creation, through his work -- about the proper use of that work and about the true meaning of our lives. Thus, from the earliest days of the Church, creation catechesis has been the basis of all doctrinal teaching. If you examine the patristic instruction given to the first catechumens, you will see that this teaching stood at the very beginning. During this year, we shall therefore endeavor to ponder the matter.

If it is true that the question of the origin (whence do we come?) is inseparable from that of life's goal (where do we go?), then the question of creation also concerns that of its purpose or end. Likewise related is the "design" of the plan. God not only is the Maker of all; he is also the maintainer of his creation, directing it to its goal. That too will be a subject of these lessons, for the question is quite an essential part of basic Christian convictions.

God is not only a creator who at the beginning set the work in motion, like a watchmaker who has fashioned a timepiece that will tick on forever. Rather, he preserves and guides it towards its goal. The Christian faith further teaches that the creation is not yet complete, that it is in "statu viae," in transit. God as Creator of the world is also its guide. We call this "providence" ("Vorsehung"). We are convinced that all of this -- that there is a Creator and a guide -- can also be perceived and recognized by us. Christian belief decidedly and tenaciously clings to the human capacity to discern both these divine aspects, though certainly neither "in toto" nor in every detail.

How do we know about it? A blind faith, one that would simply demand a leap into the utter void of uncertainty, would be no human faith. If belief in the Creator were totally without insight, without any understanding of what such entails, then it would likewise be inhuman. Quite rightly, the Church has always rejected "fideism" -- that very sort of blind faith.

Belief without insight, without any possibility of perceiving the Creator, of being able to grasp by means of reason anything of what he has wrought, would be no Christian belief. The biblical Judeo-Christian faith was always convinced that we not only should and may believe in the Creator: There is also much about him that we are capable of understanding through the exercise of human reason.

Allow me to cite a somewhat lengthy passage from Chapter 13 of the Book of Wisdom, an Old Testament text from sometime at the end of the second or the beginning of the first century ...

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