Relationship between Church and Science?

Can someone explain the relationship between the Church and Science?

In terms of papal infallibility I have heard that this only applies to faith and morals, but does this mean the Church can’t make any scientific claims? Doesn’t the Church sometimes make scientific claims that are related to issues of faith and morals?

For example on the abortion issue, the Church has to affirm that life begins at conception to uphold teaching on faith and morals yes? But in another sense this is also a very scientific question that deals with biology, and the Church is in the right on this against those who are pro-abortion who say life doesn’t begin at conception.

So is there/where is the line that divides what the Church can say that relates to science and what the Church cannot say?

In Lamentabili sane exitu Pope Pius X condemned the following:

  1. Since the deposit of Faith contains only revealed truths, the Church has no right to pass judgment on the assertions of the human sciences.

from: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lamentabili_sane_exitu

This seems to imply that Pope Pius X believed the Church did have a right to pass judgement on the assertions of the human sciences. So what exactly does this mean? Can the Church only make scientific claims if such claims are necessary to defend doctrines of faith and morals?

There is a question of life, human life, and the infusion of the immortal soul. According to a CAF poster, who says she is a Catholic theology professor, my understanding is that the Roman Catholic Church has never made an authoritative statement on the time of ensoulment, which seems strange to me, since the Church teaches that we must respect life from the moment of conception. But is this a scientific or a religious question?

That’s one of the key questions isn’t it?

Faith and morals can seem to often brush shoulders with science, such as in the case of the abortion issue. This isn’t the only case I see though, consider the issue of evolution where the scientific community largely accepts the view that humanity is not descended from two original parents, but a larger core population and the Church (as far as I know) does not permit this belief because of the apparent conflicts with the doctrine of original sin.

So it seems easy for someone to say the Church is not authoritative when it comes to science, but what about when there is a scientific issue at play in a point of doctrine on faith and morals?

There is no reason the Church can’t make scientific claims. Many Priest-scientists have made many scientific claims. But the Church doesn’t profess to teach infallibly on matters of science. The Church teaches so on matters of faith and morals.

For example on the abortion issue, the Church has to affirm that life begins at conception to uphold teaching on faith and morals yes?

The Church teaches that life begins at conception as a matter of faith, based on the Person of God, the fact that man is made in His image, man’s role on cooperating in creation, and that the soul is “immediately created”. Science supports this, but the teaching is not based solely on science. There is no reason that science cannot be incorporated into a teaching of faith and morals.

But in another sense this is also a very scientific question that deals with biology, and the Church is in the right on this against those who are pro-abortion who say life doesn’t begin at conception.

Very cool, isn’t it, that science and biology tend to agree with the Church? :wink:

So is there/where is the line that divides what the Church can say that relates to science and what the Church cannot say?

Not so much what the Church can or can not say, rather does not say. The Church does not say that it teaches science infallibly. It says that science can ever be learned and understood in the light of faith and morals.

In Lamentabili sane exitu Pope Pius X condemned the following:
5. Since the deposit of Faith contains only revealed truths, the Church has no right to pass judgment on the assertions of the human sciences.

from: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lamentabili_sane_exitu

This seems to imply that Pope Pius X believed the Church did have a right to pass judgement on the assertions of the human sciences. So what exactly does this mean? Can the Church only make scientific claims if such claims are necessary to defend doctrines of faith and morals?

It means the Church can pass judgments on assertion of human science. For example: “…*evolution seems really probable and likely, therefore *[here’s the assertion], there is no God”. The Church has the right to say, “…regardless of whether evolution is real, it has no bearing on whether God exists. There is no reason God could not have chosen to allow for some type of evolution.”

Can you provide a link which gives the teaching of the Church on the time of ensoulment? A Catholic theology professor claims that it has not been specified to be at the time of conception.

Yes, except that “immediately” here doesn’t mean “with respect to time”, but rather, “without mediation” (that is, directly by God, without anyone or anything else ‘helping’).

The teaching that life begins at conception isn’t arbitrary. It’s a judgment made on the science that is available. Science can tell us when a being becomes one, how the cells divide, when the heart starts beating, etc . . . What it cannot tell us is when this new human life becomes a person (if any such difference can be said to exist), or to state it better, what the criteria for personhood is. That itself is a question of ethics and morality.

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