Saturday, September 20, 2008

Church of England apologises to Charles Darwin while the Vatican plans not to

A tale of two church responses.

On the one side, the Church of England (from Cranmer) [boldface mine]:

Cranmer is sick and tired of this utter nonsense. It makes the Church of England look and sound even more ridiculous that it already does - if that were possible. In the creation of a cohesive society and for the pursuit of the common good, it is conceivable that one might entertain an apology to the descendants of slaves for the role the Church played in that trade, and even to attempt some sort of bridge-building exercise with Muslims by apologising for the Crusades. But who exactly is the target audience for an apology addressed to Charles Darwin? Who is grieving for reconciliation?

Some scientists dismiss the gesture as ‘ludicrous’; Mr Darwin’s descendants describe it as ‘pointless’, and Ann Widdecombe wonders why the Italians aren’t apologising for Pontius Pilate.

The apology is written by the Rev Dr Malcolm Brown. It raises so many issues of credibility that Cranmer is at a loss to know where to begin.

Apparently, the apology is ‘for misunderstanding his theory of evolution’. Apart from the fact that the Church has historically ‘misunderstood’ far more important things, the Church of England did not actually ‘misunderstand’ Darwin’s theory at all, not least because (as always) it was divided on the issue. The bishops understood completely the significance of the nexus of the theory (and theory it remains) - that man is the progeny of apes. It really is so simple that even a bishop in the Church of England can comprehend it. Looking at the similarity between Mr Darwin and Dr Williams, it may indeed be adduced that they have a common hairy ancestor. But believers were and are divided into those who perceive this theory to be anti-Scripture and profoundly evil, and those for whom it is but another possible explanation of how God created, totally consistent with Scripture.

It is possible to be so preoccupied by atoning vicariously for the sins of one’s predecessors that one ceases to be aware of one’s personal failures and shortcomings. . .

And on the other, the Roman Catholic Church (from Reuters) [boldface mine]:
The Vatican said on Tuesday the theory of evolution was compatible with the Bible but planned no posthumous apology to Charles Darwin for the cold reception it gave him 150 years ago. ...

Archbishop Gianfranco Ravasi, the Vatican’s culture minister, was speaking at the announcement of a Rome conference of scientists, theologians and philosophers to be held next March marking the 150th anniversary of the publication of Darwin’s “The Origin of Species”. ...

Maybe we should abandon the idea of issuing apologies as if history was a court eternally in session,” he said, adding that Darwin’s theories were “never condemned by the Catholic Church nor was his book ever banned”.

Now, which approach seems the most sensible to you?

I know which one I'm voting for! What a great sentence: Maybe we should abandon the idea of issuing apologies as if history was a court eternally in session. I think I'll memorize that - I'm sure it will come in handy at some time.

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