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Cardinal Schönborn on God and Creation

"It Is the Very Dignity of the Creature to Have Received Everything From Him"

VIENNA, Austria, DEC. 20, 2005 (Zenit) - Here is a provisional translation of a catechetical lecture given by Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, archbishop of Vienna, last month on creation and evolution.

A translation of his first catechesis in the series appeared last week. See the Dec. 13 article on Catholic Online.

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"In the Beginning God Created ..."
November 13
St. Stephan's Cathedral, Vienna

I hear that "March of the Penguins" is a wonderful film. Unfortunately I haven't yet seen it. In just a few weeks it has become a worldwide hit. In a fascinating way it portrays how these waddling animals live, care for their young, and survive in extreme climates.

And yet we have once again a dispute over evolution. Some Christian commentators in the United States are impressed by the virtues of the penguins; they think that the ability of these animals to withstand extreme temperatures, the ocean, and their natural enemies among the animals, as well as to be exemplary and sacrificial monogamous parents, is evidence against the theory of Darwin and in favor of "intelligent design." It is evidence for a creator and against Darwin, as some have recently said. The director of this film, a French director, emphatically resisted being co-opted like this; he says that he was "raised on the milk of Darwin" and simply wanted to make an animal movie, nothing more.

It seems to me that this controversy is typical for the state of affairs today. People get worked up over the issue, they are ready to quarrel about it, to call each other names. The controversy reminds us of something like a "culture-war." Thus Salman Rushdie, writing in the New York Times as well as in Die Zeit, sharply attacks those religions with which no peace can be achieved and no compromise can be reached. He says, "Moslem voices all over the world declare that the theory of evolution is incompatible with Islam." For him the theory of "intelligent design" is "the theory that wants to project into the beauty of creation the antiquated idea of a creator." He even thinks that this theory deserves to be treated with scorn.

Just recently in Die Zeit one could read much polemic and aggressiveness against "those who say that they have been created by God." Those who think this way are stamped as fanatics. Maybe some of them really are, or at least act fanatically, but just because people think that they are created by God does not yet justify such a fanatical rejection of their belief. In this article in Die Zeit we read that in Darwin's time "most people accepted crude religious creation myths," whereas this is no longer the case today. Leaving aside all polemics one might respond by asking whether the people who take delight in Haydn's wonderful oratory, "The Creation," accept "crude myths."

It seems to me that the rude tone and the aggressive attitude in this debate, especially on the part of those who hold out against any criticism of Darwinism, is not a good sign. But let me add right away that religious fanaticism is also not a good sign.

Are all who believe that they were created by God blind fanatics? Or is delight in Haydn's "Creation" just a romantic swelling of feeling? Can rational people still believe in a creator and see the world as created? That is the theme of today's catechesis. I promise to listen without any polemical spirit to all that faith and reason have to say on this subject and to listen to all that is said about it.

A scientist wrote me in response to my article in the New York Times that he would like to believe in a creator but just cannot believe in an "old man with a long white beard." I answered him saying that no one expects him to believe this. On the contrary, such a childish conception of a creator has nothing to do with what the Bible says about the creator and with the article of the creed that says, "I believe in God, the father almighty, the creator of heaven and earth."

In my response I wrote him that it would be a good thing if his religious knowledge would not lag so far behind his scientific knowledge and if his vast knowledge as a scientist did not go hand in hand with what is after all childish religious conceptions. For an old man with a long white beard is certainly not what is meant by the creator. I recommended that he simply read what, for example, the Catechism of the Catholic Church says on this subject.

Now there is another misunderstanding that is constantly found in the ongoing discussion, and I have to deal with it right here at the beginning. I refer to what is called "creationism." Nowadays the belief in a creator is automatically run together with "creationism." But in fact to believe ...

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