There often seems to be some confusion about what the Roman Catholic church thinks about evolution, so it was with some interest that I read yesterday's editorial in the New York Times by Christoph Schönborn, a Roman Catholic cardinal and the archbishop of Vienna. Here's the introduction:
Ever since 1996, when Pope John Paul II said that evolution (a term he did not define) was "more than just a hypothesis," defenders of neo-Darwinian dogma have often invoked the supposed acceptance - or at least acquiescence - of the Roman Catholic Church when they defend their theory as somehow compatible with Christian faith.
But this is not true. The Catholic Church, while leaving to science many details about the history of life on earth, proclaims that by the light of reason the human intellect can readily and clearly discern purpose and design in the natural world, including the world of living things.
Schönborn goes on to quote Pope John Paul II fairly extensively, including this bit:
"All the observations concerning the development of life lead to a similar conclusion. The evolution of living beings, of which science seeks to determine the stages and to discern the mechanism, presents an internal finality which arouses admiration. This finality which directs beings in a direction for which they are not responsible or in charge, obliges one to suppose a Mind which is its inventor, its creator."
The editorial makes pretty clear that neither Pope John Paul II, nor the current Pope, see purely naturalistic evolution as a viable option. Apparently, in his famous "more than just a hypothesis" statement, John Paul II was pointing to evolution as a means (or mechanism) , not the cause. In other words, although evolution might have been how life got here in its present form, even if it was the "how", God was behind it as the "inventor".