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Comments

John Farrell

Great points, UC. Thanks for the post and the link.

Talmida

UC, it seems to me that people who support ID are people of very weak faith.

Raised to trust Science, they are now trying to fit God into Science. It can't work.

God is above all science. God creates. Science explains how creation occurred -- not how God did it, but how it occurred. Faith tells us who.

Why is it that a people who believe the unbelievable (dead Man lives!!) have such trouble with myth and metaphor and mystery? Why does it all have to be literal? Where is the confidence in the big picture, the sure knowledge that God is big enough to contain all science, all worlds, all universes?

Whence comes this need for certainly, for explanation?

Is there no room left for mystery? For faith?

I'm not being very clear... but thanks for this post.

Tom

As the one who wrote what the "disrespect by Catholics" link links to, I note that what the "distinguished theologian" link links to says only that Fr. Coyne completed his STL at Woodstock, since which time he has very busy with his scientific studies.

You continue to use "distinguished" as though it meant "has an advanced degree."

I stand by my contention that the theological speculations I've read from Fr. Coyne -- granted, they are provisional and informal -- are poorly reasoned and ill-considered, and my judgment has nothing to do with Intelligent Design.

Unapologetic Catholic

I appreciate your comments but disagree with the characterization of how I use "distinguished." I did not say he ahd a distigushed degree. I said he was a distiguished theologian.

I agree there are more distinguished degrees and more distinguished universities, and in that sense Fr. Coyne's "degree" is not "distinguished."


But as a theoligian, I meant he is distinguished in two senses. First, it is far more distinguished than any blogger at St. Blog's parish. In my opinion the blogger "theologianship" is high--for self taught and very interested individuals. But they are not remotely in the league of professionals like Fr. Coyne. Any claims to be so are delusions of grandeur.

The second reason why Fr. Coyne is distinguished is because he has published extensively on the theological impact of science.

An article that references his work is here:

http://www.stthomas.edu/cathstudies/logos/volumes/9-1/9-1%20Article.pdf

The third reason he is distinguished is that a theologian we all consider distinguished also praised the work of Fr. Coyne by name on a number of occasions.

In 1992, Pope John Paul II praised Fr Coyne so:

"Two subjects in particular occupy our attention today. They have just been ably presented to us, and I would like to express my gratitude to Cardinal Paul Poupard and Fr. George V. Coyne for having done so."

These subjects were (1) the study of emerging complexity in scientific fields, including biology and (2) the resolution of the Galileo affair.

In the same address the Pope said:

"It is a duty for theologians to keep themselves regularly informed of scientific advances in order to examine, if such be necessary, whether or not there are reasons for taking them into account in their reflection or for introducing changes in their teaching."

http://www.disf.org/en/documentation/12-921031_PASC.asp


Many theologians have failed in this regard. Those sponsoring Intelligent Design have particular and offensively failed in their responsibility.

Now, I have no objection to informed criticism of Fr. Coyne's comments, and I wasn't objecting to that. I was objecting to amateurs pretending to have an expertise they do not have to claim that an orthodox expression of theology by a Catholic Priest trained in the subject and whose comments are specifically approved by the Pope is somehow unorthodox.

We can all disagree with various non-magisterial observations by the clergy. I respect your disagreement and the right to disagree. Nevertheless, the title of the link went way too far. It is not accurate, charitable or even Catholic, and also uncharacteristic of the level of posts there.

My complaint, which I still stand by,is that mere disagreement is not enough. There seems to be need to convict Fr. Coyne of heresy--non othodoxy. Once some heresy can be applied by name to his theology, whter accruate or not, it can then be dismissed.

Nobody who objected to Fr. Coyne had a detailed analysis of his theology. If you read the potifical address you'll see that the Pope focussed on the need for theologicangs to address scietific advances--and to adjust their theology accordingly. In light of the Gallileo affair theologians should especially be wary of apparent theological conflicts with evolution. The article above, written by an Archbishop, specifically rejected the arguments directed at Fr. Coyne by various Catholic blogs. Father Coyne's position is high enough up in Catholic hierarchy and is public enough to conclude that the Pope is well aware of what he is saying and the extent of its orthodoxy. For that reason, Fr. Coyne is unquestionably a distigushed orthodox theologian.

I reject any effort to belittle his accomplishments.

Tom

If you really think the three reasons you listed justify calling Fr. Coyne a "distinguished theologian," all I can say is we have different ideas of what the term connotes.

Still, I am not much moved by your concern for the disrespect you say I and others have shown him, when I recall the treatment Cardinal Schoenborn has received at your own hands.

You mention "an orthodox expression of theology by a Catholic Priest trained in the subject and whose comments are specifically approved by the Pope." Do you have a reference to the Pope specifically approving the comments of Fr. Coyne I linked to in my post? I would be absolutely gobsmacked if it existed, and it might even lead me to allow my own theology to mature.

Unappologetic Catholic

Well I suppose that people are entitled to hold their own opinions on an ill-defined term as "distinguished." I certainly consider someone distinguished in his field if he has published several articles and monographs and made significant contributions recognized by the Pope. Your mileage may vary.

Alas, I can refer to no Papal approval of Fr. Coyne's comment that ID is “absurd.” This request reminds me of those who demanded of me a similar Papal condemnation of the Iraq war as ""unjust." The Pope didn't do so, but I still contend that the Pope clearly indicated that the war did not meet Catholic just war teaching.

Neverthless, the full body of Papal commentary, fairly read, leads to the conclusion that Cardinal Schonborn is wrong when he says, “Evolution in the sense of common ancestry might be true, but evolution in the neo-Darwinian sense — an unguided, unplanned process of random variation and natural selection — is not. Any system of thought that denies or seeks to explain away the overwhelming evidence for design in biology is ideology, not science.”

The article I referenced above contains a number of quotes from Pope John Paul to Fr. Coyne on the subject of evolution and Catholic theology addressing evolution. In Truth Cannot Contradict Truth, the Pope said:

"Taking into account the state of scientific research at the time as well as of the requirements of theology, the encyclical Humani Generis considered the doctrine of "evolutionism" a serious hypothesis, worthy of investigation and in-depth study equal to that of the opposing hypothesis. Pius XII added two methodological conditions: that this opinion should not be adopted as though it were a certain, proven doctrine and as though one could totally prescind from revelation with regard to the questions it raises. He also spelled out the condition on which this opinion would be compatible with the Christian faith, a point to which I will return. Today, almost half a century after the 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 favor of this theory."

http://www.beliefnet.com/story/13/story_1352_1.html

A similar discussion is here:
http://www.flonnet.com/fl2221/stories/20051021001508500.htm

and then-Cardinal Ratzinger (distinguished?) approved this:

"Christians have the responsibility to locate the modern scientific understanding of the universe within the context of the theology of creation. The place of human beings in the history of this evolving universe, as it has been charted by modern sciences, can only be seen in its complete reality in the light of faith, as a personal history of the engagement of the triune God with creaturely persons.

63. According to the widely accepted scientific account, the universe erupted 15 billion years ago in an explosion called the “Big Bang” and has been expanding and cooling ever since. Later there gradually emerged the conditions necessary for the formation of atoms, still later the condensation of galaxies and stars, and about 10 billion years later the formation of planets. In our own solar system and on earth (formed about 4.5 billion years ago), the conditions have been favorable to the emergence of life. While there is little consensus among scientists about how the origin of this first microscopic life is to be explained, there is general agreement among them that the first organism dwelt on this planet about 3.5-4 billion years ago. Since it has been demonstrated that all living organisms on earth are genetically related, it is virtually certain that all living organisms have descended from this first organism. Converging evidence from many studies in the physical and biological sciences furnishes mounting support for some theory of evolution to account for the development and diversification of life on earth, while controversy continues over the pace and mechanisms of evolution."


http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/cfaith/cti_documents/rc_con_cfaith_doc_20040723_communion-stewardship_en.html

Imago Dei confirms common descent and natural selection--the backbone of evolution- as fully compatible with orthodox Catholic belief.

Cardinal Schonborn inaccurately claimed there was a conflict between evolution and catholic theology.

How did Cardinal Schonborn address the Pope’s statement quoted above:

Truth Cannot Contradict Truth is the Pope's "rather vague and unimportant 1996 letter."

Is the Pope’s statement really vague? Unimportant? In my opinion, the Cardinal got carried away with rhetoric.

Now I'm entitled to disagree with the Cardinal on this point. I did so. I always used his title (not "this guy") and I never sneered at his qualifications as a theologian ("as a theologian, he’s a great scientist”).

Those who justify their own mistreatment of Fr. Coyne by my disagreement with the Cardinal are using the same excuse people caught speeding use: "I was just keeping up with traffic, officer."

Fr. Coyne, on the other hand was convicted of heresy. Plainly wrong.

The point is that Fr. Coyne’s theology is orthodox. Yet people can’t just disagree—they must actually find him guilty of some heresy, even if that heresy is coined or not applicable. I think Talmida has a point about weak faith. People seem to be threatened by theology that they disagree with.

Tom

I'm sorry, I wasn't clear. In asking for a reference to papal approval of "the comments of Fr. Coyne I linked to in my post," I didn't have in mind his dismissal of ID as absurd. Honestly, I don't give a fig about ID.

Rather, I had in mind Fr. Coyne's specifically theological comments, which I described and to which I took explicit exception in my post.

I think this is a fair request, since you apparently referred to them as "an orthodox expression of theology by a Catholic Priest trained in the subject and whose comments are specifically approved by the Pope." Perhaps we have different ideas about what "specifically" means.

So far, the argument you present reads to me like this: "Fr. Coyne's scientific contributions have been welcomed and approved of by Pope John Paul II. Therefore, the theology he expressed several months after Pope John Paul II died is orthodox." Even if you can't see how I could get this from what you've written, I'm sure you can see why I don't find such an argument convincing.

Your take on Cardinal Schoenborn I find as wrongheaded as ever, though perhaps of a piece with your repeated imputation of pro-ID motives on my part. I suspect you read both the Cardinal and myself as though the conclusion we're both angling for is, "And that's why Intelligent Design is good science!"

Finally, I was not justifying my "own mistreatment of Fr. Coyne" by referring to your use of the words "dupe," "fool," and so forth in the neighborhood of the words "Cardinal Schoenborn." I was, rather, indicating why I don't find your judgment on what constitutes mistreatment of a distinguished theologian to be all that compelling -- and evidently you've reached the same conclusion about my judgment.

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Karel

I heard about Fr. Coyne and read some of his articles posted on the WWW. What seems obvious to me and should be to anyone, who has read any of his articles is that Fr. Coyne is nothing more than an Atheist/Diest masquerading
as a Christian. (His opinions in
regards to Theological questions are more in Tune with Deism, than they R with the 2000 yr. old teachings of the Church, he claims to be a part of.)

If Fr. Coyne truly believes that he's a Good Christan, he's either delusional or he needs to take a grade school course in Christian Theology & re-adjust his thinking.

As for his remarks & objections to ID. They stem more from the fact that ID Theory doesn't fit well with his own personal pseudo-christian "God-Of-The Gaps Diestic
Theology, than from any valid objection based on contradicting scientific evedience.

In short Fr. Coyne's objections to ID stem from his own personal biases, based on his own personal philosophies of origins theology.

What Fr. Coyne illustrates in his many writings via his objections to any non-materialistic scientific theories, while blindly accepting myths such as Big Bang and Evolution, is that his belief in a God resembling the Monothiestic traditions of the world, is merely superficial.

Any denial of this observation on his part is nothing more than dishonesty and delusion.

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