Question about intersection between religion and science

The Catholic Church was wrong about Galileo.

Cardinal Dolan has said on Catholic Channel on XM radio that historically, the Church believed that suicide was an automatic ticket to hell, but that now thanks to new knowledge of psychiatry, that might not necessarily be the case, as one who commits suicide might be medically sick.

As we learn more scientifically, is it then possible for the Catholic Church to concede error about its teachings? For example, scientific knowledge of sexuality and the possibility of being wrong about marriage?

Yes, certainly the Church can and has erred. Just look at Galileo, four centuries ago. The theory of evolution has been accepted as valid since 1950. Fortunately, the Catholic Church is very open to new discoveries in science. In fact many discoveries were made by Catholics. The Belgian priest George Lemaitre with the Big Bang theory is just one of many examples.

I cannot say much about psychology and physiology, but yes, as we learn more about the nature of man, sexuality, psychological disorders etc., the Church needs to take these new findings into account. But I don’t think that the definition of marriage as a bond between a man and a woman is going to change. Science doesn’t have any say on that.

A bold statement, but factually incorrect.

The Church was not wrong in telling Galileo to stop asserting his scriptural interpretations as authoritative.

As has been covered ad nauseum, the Church did not have any problem with his actual scientific theories (as it did not have any problems of those before him or after him). It had problems with his theological theories that he was presenting as factual and authoritative.

Well, yes and no. And perhaps Cardinal Dolan is being paraphrased here… some people believed that suicide was an “automatic ticket to hell” and may have even told people that from the pulpit, in CCD class, or whatever.

The Church teaches now as it has *always taught *that mortally sinful acts can lead to hell if one dies unrepentant.

The Church teaching on suicide has not changed. You can still read all about it under the 5th commandment in the Catechism. Copied here for convenience:

2280 Everyone is responsible for his life before God who has given it to him.
It is God who remains the sovereign Master of life. We are obliged to accept life gratefully and preserve it for his honor and the salvation of our souls. We are stewards, not owners, of the life God has entrusted to us. It is not ours to dispose of.

2281 Suicide contradicts the natural inclination of the human being to preserve and perpetuate his life. It is gravely contrary to the just love of self. It likewise offends love of neighbor because it unjustly breaks the ties of solidarity with family, nation, and other human societies to which we continue to have obligations. Suicide is contrary to love for the living God.

2282 If suicide is committed with the intention of setting an example, especially to the young, it also takes on the gravity of scandal. Voluntary co-operation in suicide is contrary to the moral law.

Willfully taking your own life is grave matter, and as a final act may be an unforgiven/unrepentant act depending on whether the other two elements necessary for mortal sin (knowledge and free will) are present.

The Church also teaches there are things that can lessen or remove culpability for such an act, in which case it is not mortally sinful by the church’s own three fold requirement of mortal sin. As the Catechism states:

2282 Grave psychological disturbances, anguish, or grave fear of hardship, suffering, or torture can diminish the responsibility of the one committing suicide.

Of course, we can know none of what is in a person’s mind. So, as the Catechism states:

2283 We should not despair of the eternal salvation of persons who have taken their own lives. By ways known to him alone, God can provide the opportunity for salutary repentance. the Church prays for persons who have taken their own lives.

So all we can do is comment on the fact that taking one’s own life is grave matter against the 5th commandment.

There isn’t any error in Church teaching on faith and morals.

No.

Geocentrism was never a Catholic doctrine. Thus, I fail to see how the Catholic Church could be wrong about a doctrine that never existed.

Cardinal Dolan has said on Catholic Channel on XM radio that historically, the Church believed that suicide was an automatic ticket to hell, but that now thanks to new knowledge of psychiatry, that might not necessarily be the case, as one who commits suicide might be medically sick.

God, not humans, is the judge of souls. Cardinals, Popes, Bus Drivers can talk all they want about automatic tickets to hell – I humbly suggest that would be considered uncharitable.

As we learn more scientifically, is it then possible for the Catholic Church to concede error about its teachings? For example, scientific knowledge of sexuality and the possibility of being wrong about marriage?

Natural science is a gift from God. It benefits society especially in the medical arena and in communication areas, etc. However, powerful popular science does not have the power to update the Ten Commandments and remove the annoying ones.

I doubt modern psychiatry has led the church to change its position on suicide.

Hans W #2
Yes, certainly the Church can and has erred. Just look at Galileo, four centuries ago.

1ke and grannymh have already clearly identified the errors expressed by CaliLobo.

Hans W has however also expressed erroneous ideas on Galileo.

Galileo picked a very inopportune time to attack the Bible after the revolt of Luther and Luther’s public rejection of some of Sacred Scripture:

  1. He was publicly disrespectful
  2. He was wrong in his interpretation of the Bible
  3. He was wrong in his physics.
    He was not found guilty of heresy, but as suspected of heresy by the review of Cardinals. The popes promoted astronomical research, and there was no Papal or Conciliar declaration of heresy.

The theory of evolution has been accepted as valid since 1950.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church twice [28, 360] quotes Acts 17:26-28: “From one ancestor [God] made all nations to inhabit the whole earth…” That the Catechism refers to a single person is confirmed in footnote number 226 [360] which cites Tobit 8:6, “Thou madest Adam and gave him Eve his wife as a helper and support. From them the race of mankind has sprung…” Thus, the “one ancestor” could only be Adam. This is confirmed in [359] which quotes St Peter Chrysologus, “St Paul tells us that the human race takes its origin from two men: Adam and Christ…The first man, Adam,…was made by the last Adam.” The Catechism clearly teaches that polygenism is irreconcilable with Catholic Tradition.

All assumed evolutionist mechanisms for life arising from a chemical soup and evolving to include mankind from apes by blind chance and natural selection have failed totally.

AFAIK most of natural “scientific” knowledge about sexuality comes from one scientist who was an expert in his studies of fruit flies, but not very well known. Then he decided to extrapolate his conclusions about fruit fly sexuality onto humans and all of a sudden he becomes very well known and famous.

When natural science deals with any issue, morality is not there - that doesn’t mean natural science is unethical or immoral, it is looking at things without discussing the moral issues. Under no conditions can natural science rule that an immoral action is really moral using the scientific method. That’s outside of its jurisdiction.

The Church’s moral teachings cannot be proved wrong by natural science, because that’s like asking “what is the chemical formula of love?” - in this example, measuring love is outside of the jurisdiction of the natural science of Chemistry. Morality is outside of the jurisdiction or scope of natural science.

Concerning Galileo - as 1ke mentioned, this must have been discussed ad nausea on this forum. I have gone into the history in great depth (part of my philosophy study) but I cannot discern that the Church “had problems with his theological theories that he was presenting as factual and authoritative” (from 1ke’s post). Galileo maintained that, contrary to the literal reading of the Bible, the earth was moving. His fault was that in his book (“The Dialogue concerning the Two Chief World Systems”) he portrayed the simpleton character in such a way that the pope saw himself in that character. In no way did Galileo present any theological theories, only “scientific” theories (that expression didn’t exist yet at the time).

The Church actually did apologise to Galileo, and that was in 2000. Here is an article from the Vatican Observatory: vaticanobservatory.org/research/history-of-astronomy/54-history-of-astronomy/the-galileo-affair/370-the-galileo-affair

Concerning “All assumed evolutionist mechanisms for life arising from a chemical soup and evolving to include mankind from apes by blind chance and natural selection have failed totally” - please let’s not go down that way on this thread.

Natural science can and has been used to dispute Church teaching and Divine revelation but no censure of any official sort occurs today. Here, there is an issue.

Ed

Yes, certainly he was treated badly by the Pope with whom he got into a fight. House arrest.

Again, proclaiming that a miracle in the Bible was not true is going from science to theology. That is what started the fight. It didn’t help that Galileo fueled it by poking the bear at a bad time, as noted.

Science only supports the principle of marriage being between a man and a woman. A man and a woman are very obviously biologically designed for each other. A man and a man, or a woman and a woman, clearly are not. What do you think science could discover about the act of sodomy that would make the Church say that it could be substituted for the marriage act?

In fact, what we do know about it through science shows that nature itself rebels against unnatural sexual acts. For example, the body becomes confused when seminal fluid is deposited in the wrong place. The sperm fuse with whatever somatic body cell they encounter, often leading to cancerous malignancies. This is why the rate of anal cancer is astronomically higher in gay men than in the general population. Not to mention that men practicing homosexuality also have a much higher risk for Hepatitis B and C, syphilis, and AIDS.

Yes, house arrest. In a luxurious mansion. Living the 1% lifestyle.

Excuse me if I don’t cry any tears for “poor” Galileo. That wasn’t a punishment, it was more of a reward.

Doesn’t science also support that humans are not monogamous by nature, and that monogamy is a cultural construct? Doesn’t science also show that homosexuality is found in about 300 species?

Hans W #8
In no way did Galileo present any theological theories, only “scientific” theories (that expression didn’t exist yet at the time).

Hardly. The errors of Galileo should be clear.

From:
Science and the Church
Rev. Bro. Dr. V. McKenna, B.A., M.Sc., Ph.D.

An edited version of an address given by Rev. Bro. Dr. McKenna at the University of W.A., June, 1964.

**'1. The inopportune time. **
While not condoning in any way the action of some of the Cardinals at this time, one can hardly blame the Church authorities for taking a dim view of an attack on the veracity of the Bible, at a time when the Church was being rent by major heresies as in England, Germany and Switzerland.

’2. His public disobedience.
Just as today scientific contributions to reputable journals are passed to a panel of referees for censoring before being published, and just as any book on religious matters published these days by a Catholic author is submitted to his Bishop for an Imprimatur, so did Galileo obtain permission to publish his works, as can be seen on the frontispiece of most of his books. For his “Dialogue on Two World Systems”, published in 1632, after the first clash in 1616, Galileo had permission to publish on two conditions: (a) that the Copernican theory be presented as theory and not as fact; and (b) that the papal arguments be included in the book. He failed to comply with the first condition, and offended the authorities by placing the papal arguments in the mouth of Simplicio, the rather slow-witted member of the three characters in the book. It was for these reasons that he was asked to appear before the Inquisition and made to recant his statement that the sun was known to be stationary, and made to do penance for his rudeness, both of which he carried out. His so-called imprisonment was merely a curtailment of his movements about Italy. He was in receipt of a papal pension from this time, he carried out experimental work at his residence - discovering the small oscillations in the moon’s movements - and drew up a navigation system based upon the satellites of Jupiter. On his deathbed he was sent a papal blessing, a rather rare and highly prized privilege for any Catholic.

’3. His wrong interpretation of the Bible.
In the fourth century, St. Augustine had counselled his fellow Christians to read the scriptures to find spiritual truths - not matters of natural science. Galileo should have heeded this advice of thirteen centuries before, instead of asserting that the Bible was in error - in particular Joshua 10.13 “Sun and Moon stood still”. We will agree with Galileo’s own statement, “Holy writ is intended to teach men how to go to heaven, not how the heavens go” just as we would agree also with Cardinal Bellarmine’s reply, “If there is contradiction between the Bible and observed facts, let us say we have misunderstood the Bible rather than pronounce false what is demonstrated”. It was this over-literal interpretation of the language of the Bible that caused Galileo’s trouble.

’4. He was wrong in his Physics.
The Copernican theory needed the velocity of light , first measured in 1675, and Newton’s Law of Gravitation, formulated in 1700, for its proof, and obviously these were not available to Galileo in 1616. His proof from the tides was completely wrong. Most scientists of his day disagreed with his theory - two famous cases being Tycho Brahe and Francis Bacon. This alone would vindicate the action of the Cardinals who also condemned it; - (and, if it may help the present Ecumenical movement, let it be noted that Calvin and Luther both condemned it violently). As Huxley pointed out, “the Pope and the Cardinals had the better of it.” In America both Yale and Harvard taught the Geocentric theory plus the Heliocentric theory until the eighteenth century. According to Professor Bok, the first real proof of the Copernican theory came with the discovery of the aberration of starlight in 1725, a century after Galileo’s time.’

As a scientist I take issue with the idea that the Church follows science and not the other way around.

One thing I never understood is all the people that want or hope the Church changes to fit their way of thinking or morality are gambling with their souls. Saying the Church might be ok with Gay marriage at some point in the future not only grossly misunderstands the theology but also provides an excuse to hold views against God and His Church on the idea that someday the Church will be proven wrong and your own personal view of theology and morality was superior. That has never happened in the History of the Church. Nor will it. There is a word for those who hold this view, damned.

We must live by the moral of the Church in our own time. Not some future time when we are just so sure that a woman pope will be marrying two men who are also priests…:rolleyes:

I suppose you mean parallax.

I would love to know an example where science followed the Church.

You are kidding right? Well most modern medicine, and in the field my wife and I are in, the feeding of the poor…

Hans W #17
I would love to know an example where science followed the Church.

catholicleague.org/catholicism-and-science/
Catholicism and Science
by Rodney Stark
(from Catalyst 9/2004)

“All educated persons of Columbus’ day, very much including the Roman Catholic prelates, knew the earth was round. The Venerable Bede (c. 673-735) taught that the world was round, as did Bishop Virgilius of Salzburg (c. 720-784), Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179), and Thomas Aquinas (c. 1224-74). All four ended up saints. Sphere was the title of the most popular medieval textbook on astronomy, written by the English scholastic John of Sacrobosco (c. 1200-1256). It informed that not only the earth but all heavenly bodies are spherical.

“So, why does the fable of the Catholic Church’s ignorance and opposition to the truth persist? Because the claim of an inevitable and bitter warfare between religion and science has, for more than three centuries, been the primary polemical device used in the atheist attack on faith.

“The truth is, there is no inherent conflict between religion and science.** Indeed, the fundamental reality is that Christian theology was essential for the rise of science – a fact little appreciated outside the ranks of academic specialists.**

“It is the consensus among contemporary historians, philosophers, and sociologists of science that real science arose only once: in Europe. It is instructive that China, Islam, India, ancient Greece, and Rome all had a highly developed alchemy. But only in Europe did alchemy develop into chemistry. By the same token, many societies developed elaborate systems of astrology, but only in Europe did astrology lead to astronomy. And these transformations took place at a time when folklore has it that a fanatical Christianity was imposing a general ignorance on Europe—the so-called Dark Ages.”

‘Recent historical research has debunked the idea of a “Dark Ages” after the “fall” of Rome. In fact, this was an era of profound and rapid technological progress, by the end of which Europe had surpassed the rest of the world. Moreover, the so-called “Scientific Revolution” of the sixteenth century was a result of developments begun by religious scholars starting in the eleventh century.’[My emphasis].

Regarding the theory of evolution being accepted in 1950, I do wonder which species is being referred to. :o

Naturally, we all know that the evolution model can be applied to many different living organisms. That being standard information, the evolution model for humans (Science of Human Evolution) becomes very interesting because the Catholic Church considers that the dawn of human history is more complex than the beginging of plants and pandas. When one looks at Catholic doctrines regarding human origin and human nature, it is easy to understand why the Catholic Church opposes the population presumption which is prominent in the Science of Human Evolution. That is why I would like to know which species in 1950 is being referred to. The Catholic Church did not accept the population presumption for human origin as being valid. Humani Generis, Pius XII, 1950. In other words, the originating population for mankind is a population of two. The “scientific” humanizing breeding population is in the hundreds to thousands.

It is reasonable that a beginning human population of two is necessary to perpetuate moral guidelines for all future humans.

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