Thursday, May 20, 2010

Prayer to the Guardian Angel of the United States

A group of us has decided to pray this prayer to the Guardian Angel of the United States as a novena (praying the prayer shown below every day for nine consecutive days). Here are the details:

We commence tomorrow, Friday May 21st 2010 with a day of fasting

The nine days of the novena will end on May 29th. 

The following day (May 30th) is the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity and we are offering the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass on that day for the intentions of the United States of America. 

Please join us and spread this around. Here's the prayer: 

O Glorious Guardian Angel of the United States, to whom God has entrusted the care of our beloved country, we honor you and thank you for the care and protection you have given to this great nation from the first moment of its inception.

O Powerful Angel Guardian, whose watchful glance encompasses this vast land from shore to shore, we know that our sins have grieved you and marred the beauty of our heritage. Pray for us.

O Holy Angel, before the throne of God. Obtain for us, from the Queen of Heaven, the graces we need to overcome the forces of evil so rampant in our beloved land.

Help us, our God-given protector and friend, to respond wholeheartedly to the urgent pleas of the Mother of God...Assist us to offer the prayer and sacrifice necessary to bring peace and goodness to our nation.

We want to make you known and loved throughout our land, so that with your help we may become once more "a Nation under God"!

God bless


Monday, May 17, 2010

Science & Faith: The Misrepresentation of Catholic Church Teaching in the Literalist Interpretation of Sacred Scriptures

NOTE: This response was written in order to address the misinformation being propagated by various supposedly Catholic institutions regarding the interpretation of sacred scripture in relation to science.

I have, since writing this, received several confirmations including from Card. Arinze, the USCCB Committee on Doctrine and several priests who have confirmed that what I have written here does not contradict Church teaching.

(Numbers in parenthesis refer to the references listed at the end of the paper unless otherwise indicated)

The interpretation of Genesis 1-11 and its implications in the study of the Physical and Material Sciences – A response to a Paper by Mr. Robert Sungenis on the Fathers of the Church and the literal interpretation of Genesis 1-11

The study of the bible “is never finished; each age must in its own way newly seek to understand the sacred books”(1). Indeed this great Book has been, and continues to be, the source of inspiration and a guide for many, and yet its interpretation has not been without controversy. It is my belief that the controversies that have arisen stem from two major factors:

1. The lack of Authority the “interpreter” has. By “authority” I am not referring to scientific authority (although that is relevant too) but to the teaching authority and the depositum fidei as handed down to the Catholic Church from the Apostles (2).

2. The misconceptions and misunderstandings of what the “other” side is saying.

Why this Paper ?

This paper resulted as a consequence of the constant search of my wife and I to provide the best education possible to our five children. As a result of various attitudes and events that arose in the parish we originally belonged to involving the outright neglect of the Church’s mandates and teachings, the support for false teachings clearly counter to those of the Church observed in both CCD classes as well as within the religious education program at the school where we were sending our children, my wife and I took the decision to homeschool our children in an effort to provide them with the best possible Catholic education, rooted in the true teachings of the Church.

We have absolutely no regrets as to our decision, however as we came to experience homeschooling more and more, we realized a very serious problem. This problem was the extensive reliance on Protestant literature at every level, but particularly disturbing in arithmetic and science. Even more disturbing was the dependence on this literature by major homeschool organizations that provide curricula and guidance to homeschooling parents.

We do not consider the issues present in the teaching of arithmetic as serious since there is very little possibility that mathematical concepts could be twisted to an absurd extent. Many parents I have spoken to mostly complain about the constant “preachiness” (3) –which very often is not only out of place but also erroneous.

The same cannot be said about our experience with science. There did not seem to be a science course for our children that provided a decent background in the principal sciences – meaning Biology, Chemistry and Physics. This led me to inquire with the various homeschooling institutions as to what they recommend, explaining clearly that we neither wish our children to be brought up as “atheist catholics” nor as “Baptist catholics”.

My inquiries with Seton Home Study School (4) resulted in my being referred to Kolbe Center for the Study of Creation (5) who in turn referred me to the document by Mr. Robert A. Sungenis who is listed as a member of the Advisory Council (6) for the Kolbe Center. The document was entitled “The Fathers of the Church on Genesis 1-11”.

It is an understatement to say that we, as parents, were disappointed with the responses that we obtained from the homeschooling institutions. As a neuroscientist who always has taken both my science and my faith seriously I was utterly dismayed at what I could only refer to as a major setback for the Roman Catholic Church in the field of science. I consider the Church as the bulwark and foundation of modern day civilization and amongst the consequential achievements, science has been one of the major beneficiaries. I will not detail these achievements since others who are more qualified to do so have documented this contribution of the Catholic Church extensively (7). More seriously however, I believe that the divergence expressed by Seton, other Catholic homeschooling organizations, as well as the Kolbe Center, towards protestant scientific ideas under the guise of the Catholic teaching and falsely utilizing the Church’s teaching to feed misinterpretation, reflects a serious disconnection and contradiction of Church teaching, which needs to be addressed immediately by the Church hierarchy.

The Goal of this Document

What follows is my effort to rebut the claims put forward in the paper mentioned above. While it is impossible to document all the errors in the more than 50 page document written by Mr. Sungenis, I make every effort below to give a clear idea what the issues at stake are and also try to address certain issues directly.

I therefore summarize the primary goal of this paper as an effort to refute and object in the strongest possible terms at the efforts of the likes of Mr. R.A. Sungenis, the Kolbe Center, homeschooling families and organizations such as Seton, who like false teachers, seek to misinterpret and misuse teachings of the Church, including those of the Church Fathers, to support the literalist interpretation of the scripture to the detriment of scientific, scriptural and theological integrity as well as to the moral and spiritual detriment of Catholics and especially of our children.

In summary the document seeks to confirm that:

1. The Church does NOT support the literalist interpretation
2. The church SUPPORTS scientific research and
3. That science and faith DO NOT contradict each other.


In the writing of this document, I do not claim to be an expert in Patrology, nor an expert or an authority in interpreting the Holy Scripture, nor am I a philosopher, nor a physicist. To anybody that wishes to object to what I wrote simply because I supposedly lack the “expected” credentials, I declare only that I have not done this as an authority but as a part of my own faith walk, my own search for the truth under the guidance of the teachings of the Church available to me – something which I have every right to do and which every Catholic should do. Thus in doing so, I have researched as much as time and resources have allowed me into the topic, and I rationalize what I say using what the Church teaches us. Thus, within this document, I have made every effort to refer to the interpretations and analysis provided by those who do have more authority than I do in the matter of scriptural interpretation to support my arguments. With respect to the scientific side, I am also not totally ignorant of this field since I am a neuroscientist and well versed in the issues that science “has” with religion. Furthermore, efforts were made to follow up and have the paper reviewed by experts within the Catholic Church, to ensure that what I have written is not in any way contrary to the teachings of the Catholic Church.

Moreover, while in what I write below, I express thoughts and conclusions that I have come to myself, under no circumstances do I wish to claim to be the originator of these concepts and conclusions. The information that I present below will make this very clear and I encourage the reader to look personally into the references cited.

The Issues

In the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC), we are taught that the Fathers of the Church distinguished between “theology (theologia)” and “economy (oikonomia)”. The former, we are told, refers to “the mystery of God's inmost life within the Blessed Trinity” while the latter refers to “all the works by which God reveals himself and communicates his life”(8). The roles seem to be quite clear-cut and complementary; however in the continuous investigating, discovering and unraveling of the works of God, in place of harmony we often find polemics and controversies.

The General Problem

Whilst I am fully aware of the fact that, in our current society, there are active efforts being made to remove God from every aspect, I am also fully aware that science has not been spared this scourge. In fact, not only do some scientists actively work to remove God from the picture, some are outright hostile (most recent good example is PZ Myers, a professor in biology at the University of Minnesota Morris who recently took to willfully desecrating the Eucharist), while others decide to take on the role of a god themselves. This scourge has certainly been most visible within the medical field, with issues that involve very serious abuses and disrespect for the sanctity of human life including in the field embryonic stem cell research, euthanasia, abortion, oral contraceptives, cloning….etc. None of these are justified by any means, however the presence of these is not a justification for the general condemnation of every scientific theory or science itself.

Science carried out honestly and in a humble manner is led by “the hand of God”(9). The humility and honesty are not defined by the theory but by the author/investigator. As an example to demonstrate my point I will mention The Big Bang Theory – simply defined as the event from which the universe started taking its shape – expanding from a highly dense beginning and proposed by Fr. Georges-Henri Lemaître. The immensity of this event is incomprehensible. The physicist Professor Walter Thirring calls the accuracy of this event as “beyond human capacity to conceive”(10). However, bring a Dr. Richard Dawkins into the picture and it takes a different twist…. There’s absolutely no problem with the theory, however once you wish to try to eliminate God from the picture, stating that matter is eternal, as the latter scientist proposes, and expect that because you don’t understand something, it cannot be – then there is an issue – an issue of pride – an issue of speaking outside one’s respective boundary of competence - Cardinal Schönborn (11) refers to it as “ideology, a way of looking at the world”, an act that in itself displays a great deal of ignorance – as a quote attributed Einstein puts it “The difference between genius and stupidity is that genius has its limits”(12).

A serious scientist knows his own limitations and knows the limits of the science he is conducting. Science may explain as far as the beginning of the expansion of the universe, however it cannot explain what was before, nor the reason why matter and the universe and all that it contains came into being the way they are and in the order they did. Only theology has the capacity to give insight into this, although science does not fail to point us towards this great mystery of creation.

Therefore from the scientific end, it is not the theories themselves that usually cause the problem or are incompatible with the faith, but the pride, arrogance and agenda of those who then interpret them.

However this issue is not simply one sided. Ignorance and ideology are just as much a problem at the other extreme – those who wish to interpret, deny or accept, only what suits them in their literalist (note not literal as the church suggests) interpretation of the Sacred Scriptures. This methodology not only does not do justice to the scriptures, it does not do justice to many scientists who are honest in their work, it often borders on the ridiculous, and is the source of mockery which should be avoided (see below). Our faith is under attack enough for the morals and teachings that it must uphold; adding mockery where it is absolutely unwarranted is contrary to our want and need to evangelize.

Science and God – Reason and Faith, a Conflict?

The Church teaches us of “two orders of knowledge” of which one finds its source in divine faith and these are the “mysteries hidden in God which, unless they are divinely revealed, are incapable of being known”(13). However, there is also a source based on “natural reason” i.e. at the intellectual level, and this cannot be ignored. We may not understand everything that our Faith teaches and all the mysteries of our Faith, however, from these two sources we may come to the one Truth and as Pope John Paul II tells us, these are “neither identical nor mutually exclusive”(14) – a fact often forgotten.

There is absolutely no reason for science to contradict faith, if the former is utilized for what it actually is. While the Catechism makes it clear that “faith is above reason” (15), however it does not stop there. It continues to say that “there can never be any real discrepancy between faith and reason” and this because God is the font of both “faith” and “reason”, and thus through one truth, God cannot deny the other truth, or He would be denying and contradicting Himself (16).

Science is God’s creation. Studied honestly and with an open heart and mind, it inevitably leads you to God because it is searching for the truth. Pope John Paul II tells us “every truth attained is but a step towards that fullness of truth which will appear with the final Revelation of God: “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall understand fully” (1 Cor 13:12)”(17). Thus only a hard heart and a closed mind would deny the existence of God in what is seen around us and in all that we discover and study.

Man’s constant search for the truth resonates in the teachings of the Catechism - “Man tends by nature toward the truth. He is obliged to honor and bear witness to it: "It is in accordance with their dignity that all men, because they are persons... are both impelled by their nature and bound by a moral obligation to seek the truth, especially religious truth. They are also bound to adhere to the truth once they come to know it and direct their whole lives in accordance with the demands of truth."”(18) Moreover, the search for the truth is an obligation – “All men are bound to seek the truth, especially in what concerns God and his Church, and to embrace it and hold on to it as they come to know it." This duty derives from "the very dignity of the human person." It does not contradict a "sincere respect" for different religions which frequently "reflect a ray of that truth which enlightens all men," nor the requirement of charity, which urges Christians "to treat with love, prudence and patience those who are in error or ignorance with regard to the faith."”(19)

The scriptures also offer their support in this matter. The Book of Wisdom informs us that God “hast ordered all things in measure, and number, and weight.”(20) and given us the ability “to know the disposition of the whole world, and the virtues of the elements, The beginning, and ending, and midst of the times, the alterations of their courses, and the changes of seasons, The revolutions of the year, and the dispositions of the stars, The natures of living creatures, and rage of wild beasts, the force of winds, and reasonings of men, the diversities of plants, and the virtues of roots,”(21), while both the Book of Sirach and Paul in Romans tell us respectively that “As the rising sun is clear to all, so the glory of the Lord fills all his works”(22) and that “Ever since the creation of the world, his invisible attributes of eternal power and divinity have been able to be understood and perceived in what he has made”(23).

God not only created an orderly universe that can be followed and thus studied but gave us the intellect to do so! Thus, in what is around us, what our senses perceive, what our inquiries discover, and what our mind learns from the ordered creation, God has made and is making himself evident and is being glorified. I believe that very often the reasons why confrontation and issues arise, relate mostly to an inappropriate organization of priorities and misunderstandings rather than true incompatibilities.

The chief misunderstanding is the definition of literal vs literalist interpretation. The former is what the church does, taking into consideration many criteria described below; the latter is the error committed in the Sungenis manuscripts and others that follow this line of interpretation (which they wrongfully call “literal”), where they interpret the word seen as the absolute meaning. These people commit the same error of somebody who interprets “raining cats and dogs” as actually raining cats and dogs instead of pouring rain. It is from the perspective of this confusion and its implications on knowledge and truth, within the inclusive and intricate relationship of science and faith that I wish to discuss the objections to the Sungenis manuscript.

Many of the arguments that Sungenis uses, in effect concoct the contradictions, solely in order to enable the literalist interpretation of the Scripture. Furthermore, such methodology of interpretation clearly refuses to recognize the distinction (i.e. difference not contradiction) in the knowledge transmitted by two fields and the subsequent limitations of each field. Reflecting this sentiment Cardinal Schönborn tells us “Belief in creation and the approach of natural science can best complement each other, without each trying to speak and decide on behalf of the other”(24).

  1. The point or respecting boundaries is made clear at least several times in Pope John Paul II’s encyclical Fides et Ratio - “Philosophy and the sciences function within the order of natural reason; while faith, enlightened and guided by the Spirit, recognizes in the message of salvation the “fullness of grace and truth” (cf. Jn 1:14) which God has willed to reveal in history and definitively through his Son, Jesus Christ (cf. 1 Jn 5:9; Jn 5:31-32).”(25) (emphasis added)…and again – “Although they insisted upon the organic link between theology and philosophy, Saint Albert the Great and Saint Thomas were the first to recognize the autonomy which philosophy and the sciences needed if they were to perform well in their respective fields of research.”(26) (emphasis added)
  2. In the Summa Theologica St. Thomas tells us “For when anyone in the endeavor to prove the faith brings forward reasons which are not cogent, he falls under the ridicule of the unbelievers: since they suppose that we stand upon such reasons, and that we believe on such grounds. Therefore, we must not attempt to prove what is of faith, except by authority alone, to those who receive the authority; while as regards others it suffices to prove that what faith teaches is not impossible.”(27)
  3. Cardinal Schönborn also makes reference to the above in a very blunt statement relative to this matter “The Catholic position on “creationism” is clear…..It is nonsense to maintain that the world is only six thousand years old. An attempt to prove such a notion scientifically means provoking what Saint Thomas calls the irrisio infidelium, the mockery of unbelievers. Exposing the faith to mockery with false arguments of this kind is not right; indeed it is explicitly to be rejected.” (emphasis added) (28) (See also under Conclusion below).
  4. In Providentissimus Deus, the Church teaches us that “…(Theology) does not receive her first principles from any other science, but immediately from God by revelation. And, therefore, she does not receive of other sciences as from a superior, but uses them as her inferiors or handmaids” (29). In effect, Sungenis’ explanations contradict this. Through a lack of understanding of what the specific roles of science and Sacred Scripture are, through the misinterpretation and misrepresentation of the scientific information itself, and by making every effort to contradict scientific findings that are absolutely irrelevant to salvation but contribute to our ability to come closer to God through His own creation, Sungenis ultimately makes scripture and revelation inferior to, and the slaves of scientific research, because ultimately his conclusions, though not so bluntly stated, dictate that what is the scripture should be proven by science.
  5. The absurd obsession of Sungenis’ claims that are counter to scientific conclusions based on sound logical research and investigation such as in matters relating to various aspects of the age of the earth and the universe, clearly reflect a lack of comprehension of the fact that under no circumstances do these discoveries undermine the fact that “…God, the Creator and Ruler of all things, is also the Author of the Scriptures - and that therefore nothing can be proved either by physical science or archaeology which can really contradict the Scriptures”(30) (emphasis added). The misconception exists solely in the distorted understanding and interpretation of science and religion.
  6. This argument is further supported in Divino Afflante Spiritu where we are taught – “Let those who cultivate biblical studies turn their attention with all due diligence towards this point and let them neglect none of those discoveries, whether in the domain of archaeology or in ancient history or literature, which serve to make better known the mentality of the ancient writers, as well as their manner and art of reasoning, narrating and writing.”(31) (emphasis added) – clearly indicating how the sciences can serve to deepen our knowledge and understanding of God and Sacred Scripture and not the other way around. Such a statement would not be possible or would be contradictory if the Church held the beliefs proposed by Sungenis.
  7. St. Paul tells us “But the spiritual was not first; rather the natural and then the spiritual”(32) which seems to in itself imply that our first steps to God are through the material world that we see around us. The theological virtue of faith is a gift given to us from God (33), and while we need to be open to receiving it, the first steps in faith are taken through the experience of what is around us – the physical world.
  8.  “Faith and reason are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth; and God has placed in the human heart a desire to know the truth—in a word, to know himself—so that, by knowing and loving God, men and women may also come to the fullness of truth about themselves (cf. Ex 33:18; Ps 27:8-9; 63:2-3; Jn 14:8; 1 Jn 3:2).”(34) (emphasis added)
  9. Again, directly counter to what Sungenis strives to achieve in the deriding scientific discoveries, theories and explanations that in themselves do not undermine the faith, the same encyclical tells us, “Faith intervenes not to abolish reason’s autonomy nor to reduce its scope for action, but solely to bring the human being to understand that in these events it is the God of Israel who acts…Therefore, reason and faith cannot be separated without diminishing the capacity of men and women to know themselves, the world and God in an appropriate way” (35) (emphasis added).
  10.  Responding to objections relating to whether all the days of creation described in Genesis were one day, St. Thomas Aquinas does not revert to belittling theories that contradict the literalist understanding of the scriptural passages in question, however seeks to show how they, in fact do NOT contradict each other. Moreover, St. Thomas’ responses confirm the true focus and teaching of these passages – and it is certainly not that of explaining scientific theory! St. Thomas Aquinas writes “If, however, these two explanations are looked at as referring to the mode of production, they will be found not greatly to differ…On the day on which God created the heaven and the earth, He created also every plant of the field, not, indeed, actually, but "before it sprung up in the earth," that is, potentially. And this work Augustine ascribes to the third day, but other writers to the first instituting of the world…God created all things together so far as regards their substance in some measure formless. But He did not create all things together, so far as regards that formation of things which lies in distinction and adornment. Hence the word "creation" is significant…All things were not distinguished and adorned together, not from a want of power on God's part, as requiring time in which to work, but that due order might be observed in the instituting of the world. Hence it was fitting that different days should be assigned to the different states of the world, as each succeeding work added to the world a fresh state of perfection.”(36) (emphasis added)
Thus, while faith and science have their individual roles, they are not exclusive. Citing and meditating from the Book of Wisdom (Wis 7:17, 19-20) Pope John Paul II teaches us that in “reasoning about nature, the human being can rise to God” (37).Thus, if science and faith appear to conflict, it is solely because we choose to make them so.

In an interview that appeared in 1998 in The New York Times (38), with the American experimental physicist and Nobel Prize in Physics laureate for his work with neutrinos, Leon Max Lederman, the issue of God, creation and science was discussed. His response clearly highlights two aspects: 1. that scientific research does lead ultimately to the “God question” and 2. that leaving God out of the picture is a totally voluntary and willful act.

To the question about “how much does thinking about God and creation come into play with your work?” Lederman responds that it does come into play, but states that it does not have to. His response reflects an admittance to the limits of science - “There's always a place at the edge of our knowledge, where what's beyond is unimaginable…” He also truthfully states that we have gotten closer to understanding what happened at the beginning of time when the universe was created around 13 billion years ago, in what has become known as the Big Bang, though he questions if this is creation. As to what was before the Big Bang, logically he responds, that the laws of physics had to precede this event and dictate how and when it was to take place. However relative to the question of how the laws of physics came to be, he responds that he would refer the questioner to the theology school because he did not know.
As conflicting or confusing as Lederman’s responses appear to be, they clearly reflect the fact that science does not have to be exclusive of God and in fact the limits of research and science in general, as well as human knowledge inadvertently lead you there. It is solely a willful decision to deny God’s intervention in the creation of the universe.

While the above scenario presents an obstinacy to accept that there is more beyond the most that we can ever know, the opposite scenario is reflected in the Sungenis paper, where we find at outright mockery of both what we have come to know and what is soundly theorized.

The specific issues that arise out of a document such as Sungenis’ include:

1. Literalism and error in interpretation that ultimately lack true understanding of the context in which the scriptures are to be taken – this is the foundation of the whole Sungenis document. In his efforts to disprove science, Sungenis ignores many a Church teaching that contradicts his agenda.

2. Mockery of scientific investigation and ultimately of the truth since truth cannot contradict truth and science is the search for the truth through the investigation of God’s creation (see below under “Scientific Research and the interpretation of Sacred Scripture”)

3. Mockery of our faith – undermining and contradicting not only our Catholic faith, but also the teachings and the authority the Church

It is my conclusion therefore, that conflict between science and faith is not a real conflict but rather a concocted conflict resulting from the obstinacy of people at both ends of the arguments in persisting to discuss matters outside their boundary of expertise.

Specific Issues in the Paper

The Sungenis document (39) is rife with misunderstandings and misinterpretations of science, scripture and the Church Fathers. The claims made are absurd and result in ridiculing not only science but also our faith. Again, many statements in the Sungenis document not only lack any logical credibility, aside from lacking scientific integrity but also directly contradict what we are taught in the Catechism itself and the Church’s stand in relation to science. Why this approach is wrong and contrary to Church teaching is what the rest of the paper strives to show.

Sungenis makes his arguments by continuously blurring information and arguments thus throwing the reader into utter confusion. For example when he asks the question as to whether scripture is not a science book, his answer is that it is “not a simple yes or no”. This is absolutely untrue. The material I quote in this document clearly confirms that the answer is very simple. Scripture is NOT a science book. St. Augustine tells us “Nowhere in the Gospel do we read that the Lord said: “I am sending you a Paraclete who will teach you about the course of the sun and the moon.” For He wanted to make Christians, not mathematicians” (40) (emphasis added). To make his argument that the answer to this question is not simple, Sungenis makes the comparison to the Constitution of the United States and the Declaration of Independence, which “are not religious documents”, but which certainly draw attention when either of the documents “addresses a matter of religion”. What Sungenis seems to miss is the fact that neither document tries to explain religious truths, irrespective of the fact that they are, to use Sungenis’ terms, giving “factual information” about religious rights and freedom…. Neither document defines dogmatic teachings. The analogy given is more comparable to Holy Scripture describing the fact that God created the universe. The irrationality of Sungenis’ argument further misses the point that no author could have simply said that God created everything – such a statement would have left too much to question. Thus as the many documents of the Church state, the authors utilized imagery and stories available and understood at the time to make their point. This does NOT detract from the fact that they were divinely inspired, because it was obviously God that illuminated the minds of these writers to do so. However, again, one needs to take into consideration that this was God’s way of revealing to us matters related to our salvation or to use a term that repeats itself constantly through Church documents is “profitable for our salvation” which clearly excludes the arguments of how the universe came to its current shape as this is absolutely immaterial to our salvation (41).

Moreover, it is my conclusion that the letter of “support” provided, from the Patriarch of Antioch and all the East, of Alexandria and of Jerusalem is not surprising nor does it add weight to Mr. Sungenis’ arguments. From various documents that I have come across it becomes evident that there is a serious difference between the Scholastic Theology of the West and the Orthodox Theology of the East (42). While the difference and separation of the Greek Orthodox Church from the Catholic Orthodox Church of the East are understood, it does not exclude the possibility of influence of the former on the latter in non-dogmatic teachings and thought. This difference is quite fundamental because the Greek Orthodox concept contradicts what the Catholic Church has taught for centuries. Prominent in this argument which was raging in the 14th century, are the exchanges of Barlaam of Seminara also known as Barlaam of Calabria, a Greek/Italian clergyman and scholar and eventually Bishop of Gerace, who was also involved with others in combating various heresies in the Eastern Orthodox Church, and Gregory Palamas, a monk of Mount Athos in Greece and later the Archbishop of Thessalonica. The argument of the Eastern Orthodox Church summarized suggests that truth is not singular but is defined as “wisdom” and “knowledge”- as Gregory Palamas put it "truth is of a double kind: one is the result of God-inspired teaching, whereas the other is neither necessary nor does it save, it seeks out secular wisdom, but achieves much less”(43). While at face value this definition appears to be in concordance with what the Church teaches (see below under “The interpretation of Sacred Scripture” and also Fides et Ratio, Para 30 (44)), its interpretation and implications in the context used are certainly not, because in reality what it ultimately does is split what can never be split – Truth itself – ultimately saying that God can contradict Himself i.e. Who He IS vs What He Created – which is impossible.

The arguments and differences touched upon in the previous paragraph are very much deeper than what I have described above, however the information I have provided suffices to describe a fundamental issue in the writings of Sungenis that are actually contrary to what the Catholic Church has taught on the matter.

It is impossible to quote all the text that are clearly out of line without quoting the whole document, however here’s an overview of some selected quotes and examples of specific problems within the text:

1. A lack of clear understanding and confusion of concepts e.g. ex nihilio creation vs evolution, scientific theory and findings etc. in general which do not in themselves deny or undermine the greatness of God’s creation or that God created everything from nothing

2. Obsession with details in the Scripture that are irrelevant to the role of scripture in our salvation e.g. Emphasis of the fact that the days of Genesis 1 are as “one day or 24-hour period”.

3. Quoting the statements of the Church Fathers out of context and as those with scientific authority. Sungenis appears to ignore the seriousness of the heresies that the Fathers were responding to – heresies pertaining directly to the faith (and not science or scientific theory) – to the direct efforts to remove God from his rightful place in creation or to make creation into a god. Sungenis imposes a scientific authority equivalent to authority on matters of dogma on the Fathers which surely they themselves would have objected to e.g. “the patristic consensus on the interpretation of Genesis 1 and 2 is equal to, or often stronger than, the consensus in favor of many other dogmas the Church holds today (e.g. the Real Presence, Confession, Confirmation, the Immaculate Conception and Assumption of Mary, the Canon of Scripture, Purgatory, and Indulgences).”

4. Trivialization of scientific findings and outright mockery of outstanding Catholic and other scientists more knowledgeable in the field than himself: e.g. commenting on the Fr. Stanley Jaki (45) statement that the “Hebrews “did not take Genesis 1 for a physics textbook, for the very simple reason that they had no physics.”” Sungenis enters into a diatribe querying whether man needs “F=ma or E=mc2 to say that men know physics”, that “mathematical formulas can be quite deceiving” and that “the very concepts of Galilean, Newtonian and Einsteinian physics, especially the latter’s Relativity theory are just that, numbers and often do not represent what is really taking place”. Such outright ignorant comments question fundamentals such as the function of education, the energy that the Church itself has spent in supporting science and ultimately Church teachings about science. Such logic stoops towards the lowest levels of intellect and the highest in pride. It shows outright misunderstanding of science and math and their role and suggests that the only reality that exists is a Sungenian reality based on the wrong, out of context and literalist interpretation of the Scriptures. Sungenis fails to see that the laws of nature that Physics and other sciences seek to explain and comprehend, and that he so clearly derides, are the same laws that God the creator put in place. Another example is in relation to the subject of light and the descriptions that the scripture gives us in Genesis. He states that “The biggest stumbling block, of course, is that we are taught to believe that light cannot exist without being generated by a luminous body. But this has never been proven true.” Thus, in his statements and conclusions Sungenis seems to forget to take into consideration simple natural and physical facts that surround us. In a similar manner to his approach of scriptural interpretation, commenting about the light of the stars and the fact that by the time light travels the distance to earth, the star may not exist any longer, Sungenis disconnects connected physical concepts such as source, presence at a particular point, velocity and distance to create utter chaos.

5. Misunderstanding of the role of scripture/faith and science: The foundation of the Sungenis document is solely rooted in misunderstanding e.g. “As noted previously there is one thing about science common to all its branches (including philosophy, psychology, medicine, chemistry, biology etc), that is, its history shows that it cannot cease from overturning its own theories, whereas the Bible’s “science” always remains the same”, and again in relation to light “In light of man’s puzzlement over the very nature of light, this should give anyone pause in making hasty conclusions about its form and origin. Indeed the Christian should seriously consider that, because the Bible says so, light does not necessarily need the emanating bodies of the sun or stars to exist, nor does the absence of the sun or stars mean darkness will result.”

6. Misinterpretation and distortion of scriptural passages to justify negating scientific findings which in themselves, do not in reality, contradict scripture at all e.g. quoting Hebrews 11.3 “By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God so that what is seen was not made out of things which are visible”. He then proceeds to interpret this as a confirmation that the words of Genesis reflect exactly what they say e.g. that “let the birds fly” means that the “birds suddenly came into existence, fully formed and began flying”.

7. Contradictions and inconsistencies e.g. despite the fact that the whole document focuses on the fact that scripture is to be interpreted literally, yet Sungenis advocates that “if someone wants to add figurative sense to the words of Genesis in order to teach theological truth, that is acceptable” and even says at one point that “whether this sequence of events [creation] is precisely what happened is not the real issue of this exercise” which questions as to what exactly is supposed to be taken literally and what is not and what authority he actually has to dictate the difference. Moreover, while Sungenis utilizes the Fathers to support his claims, he also selectively trivializes those that do not fit his view including Origen and Augustine e.g. “Origen, who is considered on the lower rung of patristic authority, had, because of his influence from the Greek Philo, interpretations of Scripture that were consistently prone to allegory at the expense of the literal meaning.” The contradictions also extend to the interpretation of the scripture. Again, whereas the focus is the literalist interpretation of Genesis, several times Sungenis takes the liberty of interpreting outside the literalist sense and extrapolating to his end or on the contrary, ignoring the contradictions associated with literally interpreting the Scriptures e.g. “…Genesis 2:5 specifies that “not every herb of the field had yet sprung up,” which would mean there were some that had sprung up on the third day of creation, and some which sprung up on or after the sixth day of creation.”

While nothing is impossible for God, such claims trivialize and ridicule creation itself, our faith, true science, and make a mockery of the truth and ultimately of God himself. 

The role and interpretation of Sacred Scripture

As I am no scholar of the scriptures, in this section I will rely heavily on and be quoting from what the Church, the Fathers, and scripture scholars have said about this topic. In these, the role of the scriptures in salvation becomes clear.

The Role of scriptures

1. St. Justin Martyr reminds us not only how God chooses to reveal Himself by utilizing His own creation as an “instrument” but also that the nature of revelation (which includes Sacred Scripture) is divine knowledge, otherwise unattainable - “so that the Divine Plectrum Himself, descending from heaven and using righteous men as an instrument like a harp or lyre, might reveal to us the knowledge of things divine and heavenly”(46) (emphasis added)

2. “Through divine revelation, God chose to show forth and communicate Himself and the eternal decisions of His will regarding the salvation of men” (47)

3. “….the first eleven chapters of Genesis, although properly speaking not conforming to the historical method used by the best Greek and Latin writers or by competent authors of our time, do nevertheless pertain to history in a true sense, which however must be further studied and determined by exegetes; the same chapters, (the Letter points out), in simple and metaphorical language adapted to the mentality of a people but little cultured, both state the principal truths which are fundamental for our salvation, and also give a popular description of the origin of the human race and the chosen people. If, however, the ancient sacred writers have taken anything from popular narrations (and this may be conceded), it must never be forgotten that they did so with the help of divine inspiration, through which they were rendered immune from any error in selecting and evaluating those documents.” (48) (emphasis added)

4. Pertaining directly to the “Mystery of Creation”49 the Catechism makes five definitive statements about God and His creation:

a) God creates by wisdom and love
b) God creates “out of nothing” (ex nihilio)
c) God creates an ordered and good world
d) God transcends creation and is present to it
e) God upholds and sustains creation, referred to in theology as “creatio continua”, “continuing creation” (50)

These statements summarize all that creation is about and are dealt with in detail in the catechism. Also, Cardinal Schönborn, in his book Chance or Purpose? Creation, evolution and a rational faith also expands and discusses these matters. None of these statements are in conflict with science. On the contrary, the interpretations provided by Sungenis, not only contradict science but fail to recognize that:

i. Time is immaterial to God and only significant to us as creatures. Cardinal Schönborn states that “Belief in creation says that God does not create in time, at some time or other, at a given point on a time-line. Creation is not a temporal act”(51). Outside of the created universe time does not exist. Therefore since time is irrelevant to God, since He IS(52) eternally in the present, I posit that the “days” of creation are irrelevant in relation to time as we know it, as they reveal nothing to us relative to the mystery of God and in relation to our salvation.

Scripture also tells us:

a. “…that one day with the Lord is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.” (53);
b. “For a thousand years in thy sight are as yesterday, which is past. And as a watch in the night, Things that are counted nothing, shall their years be.”(54);
c. “Behold thou hast made my days measurable and my substance is as nothing before thee. And indeed all things are vanity: every man living.”(55)

An aspect of the concept of “time” is naturally evolution, which of course is a heated topic in itself. Cardinal Schonbörn (56) also discusses this in detail explaining how evolution in itself is creation and does not have to be viewed as exclusive of God. Two principal reasons for this are:

a. Creation is contingent i.e. “Nothing that has a material existence exists “necessarily”. It could equally not exist”
b. This contingency is not only applicable to God’s act of creating something out of nothing but also to the fact that creation is dependent on God to continue to exist, grow and progress or evolve – this is what is referred to as creatio continua.

ii. God gives nature freedom. Nature’s freedom to act within the laws that God himself gave it are clear in the words of Cardinal Schönborn - “Because God created the world and all the creatures in sovereign freedom, without any kind of pressure or obligation – that is, he freely granted them existence and activity – creation has true independence…because God creates in complete freedom, his creatures are independent.” (57)

iii. God created an ordered world and therefore consequently laws that are followed. Again, while nothing is impossible for God, the confusion associated with the literalist interpretation suggested by Sungenis and others inevitably has to forego these laws that God himself created simply to make science fit what is written in Genesis which also indirectly implies that God would potentially contradict himself. God does not work against the very nature that He created but works with it.

5. “Inspired by the Divine Spirit, the Sacred Writers composed those books, which God, in His paternal charity towards the human race, deigned to bestow on them in order "to teach, to
reprove, to correct, to instruct in justice: that the man of God may be perfect, furnished to every good work." This heaven-sent treasure Holy Church considers as the most precious source of doctrine on faith and morals…….”(58) (emphasis is mine)

6. “…To understand how just is the rule here formulated we must remember, first, that the sacred writers, or to speak more accurately, the Holy Ghost "Who spoke by them, did not intend to teach men these things (that is to say, the essential nature of the things of the visible universe), things in no way profitable unto salvation." Hence they did not seek to penetrate the secrets of nature, but rather described and dealt with things in more or less figurative language, or in terms which were commonly used at the time, and which in many instances are in daily use at this day, even by the most eminent men of science. Ordinary speech primarily and properly describes what comes under the senses; and somewhat in the same way the sacred writers-as the Angelic Doctor also reminds us - `went by what sensibly appeared," or put down what God, speaking to men, signified, in the way men could understand and were accustomed to.” (59,60) (emphasis is mine)

7. “Scripture would not wish to inform us about how the different species of plant life gradually appeared or how the sun and the moon and the stars were established. Its purpose ultimately would be to say one thing: God created the world”(61).

The interpretation of Sacred Scripture

1. The care and consideration required in interpreting the scripture is evident in many Church documents. In the book “‘In the beginning…’ A Catholic Understanding of the Story of Creation and the Fall”” written while still a Cardinal, Pope Benedict tells us “He [Christ] indicates to us in reliable fashion what an image is and where the real, enduring content of a biblical expression may be found. At the same time he is freedom from a false slavery to literalism and a guarantee of the solid, realistic truth of the Bible” (62). These sentiments are also summarized in the Catechism where we are clearly told “Christians therefore read the Old Testament in the light of Christ crucified and risen” (63) and again “As a result the Church, to whom the transmission and interpretation of Revelation is entrusted, "does not derive her certainty about all revealed truths from the holy Scriptures alone. Both Scripture and Tradition must be accepted and honored with equal sentiments of devotion and reverence"” (64) (emphasis added).

2. In the document the Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation (Vatican II) we are told that “since God speaks in Sacred Scripture through men in human fashion, (6) the interpreter of Sacred Scripture, in order to see clearly what God wanted to communicate to us, should carefully investigate what meaning the sacred writers really intended, and what God wanted to manifest by means of their words” (65).

The same document then continues on to describe how this is to be done and describes matters to which attention should be given. These include (66):

b) The “contemporary literary forms” which would have been used and influenced by the time in which he was writing, the social and cultural environment, as well as familiarity with “styles of feeling, speaking and narrating”. All of these factors would have contributed to what was finally written, all of which would have led to different forms and ways of expressing the truth (historical, prophetic, poetic etc.), but nevertheless expressed the truth. Further detail on the different forms can also be found in the St. Jerome Biblical Commentary (67).

c) “The content and unity of the whole of Scripture”

d) “The living tradition of the whole Church… along with the harmony which exists between elements of the faith.”

3. In the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church (Vatican II) we also read “In the old Testament the revelation of the Kingdom is often conveyed by means of metaphors. In the same way the inner nature of the Church is now made known to us in different images taken either from tending sheep or cultivating the land, from building or even from family life and betrothals, the images receive preparatory shaping in the books of the Prophets”(68).

4. The teachings from these documents and others are reaffirmed and summarized in the Catechism (69), which also cautions that Sacred Scripture must be read “within "the living Tradition of the whole Church…and is written principally in the Church's heart rather than in documents and records, for the Church carries in her Tradition the living memorial of God's Word "”(70); interpreted “in the light of the same Spirit by whom it was written” or it would be no more than a “dead letter” (71); and that the interpretation of the scriptures must pay attention “above all to what God wants to reveal through the sacred authors for our salvation. What comes from the Spirit is not fully "understood except by the Spirit's action' (cf. Origen, Hom. in Ex. 4, 5: PG 12, 320)”(72).

5. Again, these ideas were reinforced in Pope Benedict’s book “‘In the beginning…’ A Catholic Understanding of the Story of Creation and the Fall”” - “The form would have been chosen from what was understandable at the time - from the images which surrounded the people who lived then, which they used in speaking and in thinking, and thanks to which they were able to understand the greater realities.”(73)

6. Moreover in Divino Afflante Spiritu we are clearly warned that consideration needs to be given to the literary form - “What is the literal sense of a passage is not always as obvious in the speeches and writings of the ancient authors of the East, as it is in the works of our own time. For what they wished to express is not to be determined by the rules of grammar and philology alone, nor solely by the context; the interpreter must, as it were, go back wholly in spirit to those remote centuries of the East and with the aid of history, archaeology, ethnology, and other sciences, accurately determine what modes of writing, so to speak, the authors of that ancient period would be likely to use, and in fact did use”(74).

7. One factor that is certainly of importance in the first few chapters of Genesis is the cultural tolerance for “versions” i.e. different stories of the same events. Pope Benedict XVI in his book ‘In the beginning…’ A Catholic Understanding of the Story of Creation and the Fall”, explains the depth that exists within these chapters, beyond the literalist interpretation; the use of “narrative as the vehicle to serious thought” (75) and why exegetes are able to interpret beyond what is written. In relation to the creation account he states “…the classic creation account is not the only creation text of sacred Scripture…..Thus we can see how the Bible itself constantly readapts its images to a continually developing way of thinking…In the Bible itself the images are free and they correct themselves ongoingly. In this way they show, by means of a gradual and interactive process, that they are only images, which reveal something deeper and greater”(76) (emphasis added).

8. “…we Christians do not read the Old Testament for its own sake but always with Christ and through Christ….Christ frees us from the slavery of the letter…the Bible is a whole and that we only understand its truth when we understand it with Christ in mind – with the freedom that he bestowed on us and with the profundity whereby he reveals what is enduring through images” (77) (emphasis added).

9. The New St. Jerome Biblical Commentary explains how the modern reader not familiar with this form of writing/narration and the depth that may exist behind what may appear as utterly simplistic, will find it “difficult to appreciate the profundity and abiding relevance of these chapters. Some readers even end up concentrating their energies in defending a “literal interpretation” of esp. chaps. 1-3 against modern evolutionary theory, something that the ancient authors of Gen, with their tolerance of versions, would never have done”(78).

10. The immensity of the repercussion of such banalities in the interpretation of science and scripture as found in the Sungenis document endanger so much more than our superficial credibility as Catholics in facing the world. It endangers the credibility of fundamental truths that run much deeper. One such truth is that of the infallibility of the Magisterium. While one might think this as far fetched, let us consider the facts and consequences. The Catechism tells us that “infallibility extends as far as does the deposit of Divine Revelation”(79). Now, we are also taught that Sacred Scripture is one of the modes of transmission of Divine Revelation (80). Furthermore, the “task of giving an authentic interpretation of the Word of God, whether in its written form or in the form of Tradition, has been entrusted to the living teaching office of the Church alone” (81). Thus, it is my opinion that if a naïve mind starts perceiving the error expressed in such views as those of Sungenis, there is no need to stretch the imagination too far, for one to start questioning the validity of the scriptures as well as the validity of the infallibility of the Magisterium. One might argue that the infallibility is only related to moral teachings, however, once the scriptures start being used to interpret the findings of science and as the source of truth relative to scientific matters, the reality is that the line between theology and science, between what is necessary for our salvation and what is not, becomes immensely blurred. Other faiths have enough problems accepting this teaching as it is. If one then adds incredulous and baseless interpretations, making scripture an authority in the interpretation of scientific matter (I am not here referring to matters of morality and essential to salvation), it becomes very difficult to maintain seriousness in matters where in reality the Church does have all the authority.

Scientific research and the interpretation of the Sacred Scripture

While the Church does not fail to warn about the problems inherent in the nature of scientific investigation – “…The Catholic interpreter, although he should show that those facts of natural science which investigators affirm to be now quite certain are not contrary to the Scripture rightly explained, must nevertheless always bear in mind, that much which has been held and proved as certain has afterwards been called in question and rejected”(82). Pope John Paul II reemphasized this in the encyclical letter Fides et Ratio stating that in modern society “reason, rather than voicing the human orientation towards truth, has wilted under the weight of so much knowledge and little by little has lost the capacity to lift its gaze to the heights, not daring to rise to the truth of being”(83). The Church however, does not stop there. The same encyclical also speaks of the “innate property of human reason to ask why things are as they are” (84) and emphasizes the importance of human reason stating that “On her part, the Church cannot but set great value upon reason's drive to attain goals which render people's lives ever more worthy…human reason with its many questions has developed further its yearning to know more and to know it ever more deeply. Complex systems of thought have thus been built, yielding results in the different fields of knowledge and fostering the development of culture and history. Anthropology, logic, the natural sciences, history, linguistics and so forth – the whole universe of knowledge has been involved in one way or another” (85).

The importance of not neglecting or ignoring the scientific findings and how these are part of the process of coming to the ultimate Truth, God Himself, and thus cannot contradict faith, resound through many a Church document. John Paul II refers to philosophy and science as “…directly concerned with asking the question of life's meaning and sketching an answer to it.” He calls this “one of noblest of human tasks” (86).

1. In Divino Afflante Spiritu, Pope Pius XII teaches us “Let the interpreter then, with all care and without neglecting any light derived from recent research, endeavor to determine the peculiar character and circumstances of the sacred writer, the age in which he lived, the sources written or oral to which he had recourse and the forms of expression he employed”(87).

2. In the Vatican II document “Gaudium et Spes” we are taught “For by the very circumstance of their having been created, all things are endowed with their own stability, truth, goodness, proper laws and order. Man must respect these as he isolates them by the appropriate methods of the individual sciences or arts. Therefore if methodical investigation within every branch of learning is carried out in a genuinely scientific manner and in accord with moral norms, it never truly conflicts with faith, for earthly matters and the concerns of faith derive from the same God. Indeed whoever labors to penetrate the secrets of reality with a humble and steady mind, even though he is unaware of the fact, is nevertheless being led by the hand of God, who holds all things in existence, and gives them their identity” (88).

This paragraph summarizes one of the primary objections that I have towards the Sungenis document, because in what he discusses he seeks to ridicule what has been discovered and described by methodical investigation, and which intrinsically does not conflict with faith. These objections taken into consideration leave Sungenis’ document without a foundation and solely a mockery to logical and honest investigation and ultimately to God Himself (and therefore in the process undermining our faith, and what the Church itself teaches) since earthly matters also derive from the same God that faith does, and honest research is led by the hand of God, who holds all things in existence and gives them their identity. In fact the same paragraph continues to condemn the exact methodology that Sungenis himself employs –

3. “Consequently, we cannot but deplore certain habits of mind, which are sometimes found too among Christians, which do not sufficiently attend to the rightful independence of science and which, from the arguments and controversies they spark, lead many minds to conclude that faith and science are mutually opposed”” (89) (emphasis added).

4. “The new historical thinking wanted to read every text in itself, in its bare literalness. Its interest lay only in the exact explanation of particulars, but meanwhile it forgot the Bible as a whole… As a result of this isolation from the whole and of this literal-mindedness with respect to particulars, which contradicts the entire nature of the Bible but which was now considered to be the truly scientific approach, there arose that conflict between the natural sciences and theology.” (90) (emphasis added).

The Church Fathers

The Sungenis paper relies heavily on what the Church Fathers had to say in an effort to disprove scientific findings. There is no need to explain the problem with doing so in detail. This is a problem for the following reasons:

1. Who where they: They are referred to as Church Fathers simply because of their authority relative to spiritual matters and not relative to math or science. Moreover, most of the Church fathers were not scientists. The criteria for a person to be regarded as a “Father of the Church” are orthodoxy of doctrine, holiness of life, ecclesiastical approval, and antiquity (91). The same reference continues to state that the Church “Regards the unanimis consensus patrum as infallible, if it concerns the interpretation of Scriptures” however this statement is to be taken in the context of various other references within the same text, clearly pointing to their authority in matters of doctrine, which science, in principal, does not contradict. The author quotes J.H. Cardinal Newman’s description of the importance of this consensus, “I follow the ancient Fathers, not as thinking that on such a subject they have the weight they possess in the instance of doctrines or ordinance” (92). The same source also cites St. Vincent of Lerins, “...and whatsoever these (Church Fathers) may be found to have held, with one mind and one consent, this ought to be accounted the true and catholic doctrine of the Church, without any doubt or scruple – Nothing ought to be believed by posterity save what the sacred antiquity of the holy Fathers consentient in Christ has held” (93) (emphasis added).

2. Authority: Even if they were scientists, one has to distinguish what they are discussing and their authority in discussing the matter. It is clear that while their teachings relative to scripture and the truths and authority that it holds being inspired by God, are to be appropriately respected, in matters that pertain only to the investigation of matter and that do not in any way contradict the truths of faith, their authority is limited if not irrelevant.

3. Limit of knowledge: Again, even if they were scientists, there have been immense leaps in technology, methodology and knowledge acquired and therefore it is preposterous to assume that the Fathers spoke with the same “scientific authority” (which I maintain – see previous point – they did not have) as they could not possibly have had the resources and knowledge available to come to the conclusions that modern science presents to us.

4. Inerrancy: The Fathers like everybody else were human and consequentially subject to error as much as anybody else. Their opinions relative to scientific matters and which do not pertain to salvation are not “proposed by the Church as matters to be believed as divinely revealed”(94), and therefore are not as Sungenis is suggesting with the use of the literalist interpretation of the scripture as his point of departure to describe scientific discoveries. It is therefore inappropriate and demeaning to utilize both Sacred Scripture and the teachings of the Church Fathers out of context to counter scientific discoveries and to argue against matters that do not fall within the limits of the authoritative teaching of the Church

5. Context: One also needs to look at the context in which the Fathers are writing. It becomes clear that the writings are directed at those who fail to acknowledge God as the supreme being and creator of all things, which again is not what science in principle is or does: for example Tertullian tells us in his arguments against the Gnostic Hermogenes of Carthage that he [Hermogenes] learned “how to place Matter on the same level with the Lord, just as if it too had existed ever both unborn and unmade, having no beginning at all nor end, out of which, according to him, the Lord afterwards created all things”(95). St. Basil among his homilies “I know of the laws of allegory, though not from my own works but from the works of others. Some preachers do not concede the ordinary sense of the Scriptures. They will not call water water, but something else. They interpret a plant or fish as their fancy wishes. They change the nature of the reptiles and wild beasts to fit their allegories, like those who explain phenomena that appear in dreams to suit their own ends. When I hear the word grass, I understand that grass is meant. Plant, fish, wild beast, domestic animal, - I take all in a literal sense, ‘for I am not ashamed of the Gospel’ (Hex. 9, 80)(96).

The teachings of the church reflected in many of the documents quoted above are not a modern invention. Many a Church Father has made similar comments. St. Jerome tells us “Occasionally in the Holy Scriptures terms are used in accord with what the opinion of the times would employ, and not in accord with what is really the truth of the matter” (97).

St. Augustine, refocusing our attention to where it should be tells us “…what difference does it make whether he inserts the matter in the proper order, or brings in at a particular point what was previously omitted, or mentions at an earlier stage what really happened at a later……At least this might hold good in the case of those incidents with regard to which the question of order, whether it were this or that, detracted nothing from evangelical authority and truth” (98) Moreover, St. Augustine seems to also focus on the need for the deeper understanding and reason behind what is being taught by the scriptures. He writes, “And at the same time we should understand that in what pertains more closely to the teachings of the faith, it is not so much the truth of words as the truth of facts that is to be sought and embraced...”(99). This statement clearly applies to the interpretation of the scripture since the scripture pertains to the faith. The inability to distinguish between the “truth of words” vs “truth of facts” is the error evident in the Sungenis document and others like him, including many of our Protestant brothers and sisters, since the focus becomes deviated from the primary objective and reason for the scriptures – in the same way that light is defracted when passing through a convex or concave lens.

St. Augustine continues - “With the scriptures it is a matter of treating about the faith. For that reason, as I have noted repeatedly, if anyone, not understanding the mode of divine eloquence, should find something about these matters [about the physical universe] in our books, or hear of the same from those books, of such a kind that it seems to be at variance with the perceptions of his own rational faculties, let him believe that these other things are in no way necessary to the admonitions or accounts or predictions of the Scriptures. In short, it must be said that our authors knew the truth about the nature of the skies; but it was not the intention of the Spirit of God, who spoke through them, to teach men anything that would not be of use to them for their salvation”(100) (emphasis added).

St. Cyril of Alexandria also cautions that when matters of history arise (and one can apply matters of science to the same statement), it is not a matter of dismissing the history or in our case the science, but it is a matter of looking beyond that and seeing the relevance of the event in what ultimately pertains to our salvation…“When some historical deed is introduced to us in the Sacred Writings, then it is seemly to seek out the usefulness of that history, so that on all sides the divinely inspired Scripture is seen to benefit and assist us”(101). It follows logically therefore, given the higher order of faith, faith being “…the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen”(102), that it is the natural that should direct us to the spiritual rather than the spiritual to the natural. This point is reaffirmed by Pope John Paul II who describes how the Church views philosophy as the “way to come to know fundamental truths about human life” and that it is an “indispensable help for a deeper understanding of faith” (103) (emphasis added, note the order of philosophy/science and faith).

A final comment and some questions

It is my belief that such efforts to interpret or dictate to science through the literalist interpretation of the scriptures are wrong as long as the scientific statements or theories do not undermine the theology and the teachings of the Church, which science innately does not do. Furthermore I would go as far as saying that these efforts are contrary and dangerous to truth itself since rather than seeking to utilize a tool (science) to the glory of its Maker (in our faith), it seeks to confound truth to suit the ends sought – in other words – the end (literalist interpretation) justifies the means (the distortion of legitimate science and research). It is also my belief that to take such a route is to commit the same erroneous act as that of scientists who seek to utilize discoveries to eliminate God rather than to glorify Him.

To take the liberty of saying what I have said in the previous paragraph, I take into consideration, all I have discussed in this document and more. One particular important situation in the scripture which I believe further supports the arguments I have put forward – a situation without which our salvation would not have been possible – the birth of Jesus – the mystery of the Incarnation. I am sure that if our Blessed Mother did not comprehend anything on that most blessed day when the Angel Gabriel announced to her that she was to be the Mother of God (104), she comprehended the immensity of what had just been revealed to her….here is God, who could create ex nihilio, requiring her to carry his only Son. God allowed nature, the regular 9 months of pregnancy etc., to take their course. He had absolutely no reason to. He did not need us. Yet he did. He chose to work within that natural course to reach His end. I believe that this act of infinite humility is a clear example of God’s creatio continua – His continuing role in creation – and yet also an example of the freedom God gives nature.

Why could the same principles not be applied to the creation of the universe? Why would and why should the immensity of the complexity of the Big Bang, of an old universe and an old earth etc. etc. not allow us to see the immense glory of God? Why should they be a stumbling block? Are we not limiting an infinite God to within a time frame or within an understanding that is more comprehensible to our mind? Is this not an act of pride?


In conclusion, while the Kolbe Center makes every effort to justify its stance, including by the presentation of seemingly scientific evidence, I find, in the light of the above evidence, that their interpretation of the scriptures, in particular in reference to the first chapters of Genesis, greatly disturbing, erroneous and contrary to the teachings of the Church as well as a serious reversal, if not demolition, of the immense contribution and progress that the Church made to science.

While the Church can NEVER reverse its moral and theological stance, the various documents above show that extreme caution should be utilized in efforts to make scientific interpretations and hypotheses out of the Holy Scriptures. It would bode well for institutions, organizations or individuals exhausting their efforts making science fit the scripture, to observe meticulously and study in great depth how science, and in particular in relation to its discoveries relating to the age of the earth, the beginnings of the universe created by God, and the formation of what we see around us, exalts further and beyond the wildest imagination the narratives within the Scriptures of God’s creation, the beauty, complexity, orderliness and purpose of this creation, and to heed, in the process, St. Augustine when he states that “Nowhere in the Gospel do we read that the Lord said: “I am sending you a Paraclete who will teach you about the course of the sun and the moon.” For He wanted to make Christians, not mathematicians”(105).

Moreover, let us take care that aside from taking care not to make utter fools of ourselves by ridiculing that which is reasonable we do not, in the process, make a mockery of our faith. In this respect let us heed St. Augustine’s own words, “It not infrequently happens that something about the earth, about the sky, about other elements of this world, about the motion and rotation or even the magnitude and distances of the stars, about definite eclipses of the sun and moon, about the passage of years and seasons, about the nature of animals, of fruits, of stones and of other such things, may be known with the greatest certainty, by reasoning or by experience, even by one who is not Christian. It is too disgraceful and ruinous, however, and greatly to be avoided, that he should hear a Christian speaking so idiotically on these matters, and as if in accord with Christian writings, that he might say that he could scarcely keep from laughing when he saw how totally in error they are” (106 ) (emphasis added).

1 The Interpretation of the Bible in the Church; Pontifical Biblical Commission; March 18, 1994
2 Catechism of the Catholic Church; Section III. The Interpretation of the Heritage of Faith
3 An example is here taken from A Beka Book, Arithmetic 1 Pg T35 under the title “Traditional Arithmetic promotes Absolute Truth” the authors state “Do you believe that there is a right answer and a wrong answer? Do you believe that Jesus Christ died and rose for your sins? A Christian answers yes because a Christian believes in absolute truth. Traditional arithmetic is the mathematics program that promotes absolute truth. In traditional arithmetic, your child is not taught to manipulate sets and thus change truth. Instead, he is taught truth as created by an orderly, rational God.” Comment: I consider this quote as erroneous since I do not believe that arithmetic and it concepts have even a choice of providing anything by the truth.
7 How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization by Thomas E. Woods, Jr. PhD; Regnery Publishing Inc.
8 CCC 236 “"Theology" refers to the mystery of God's inmost life within the Blessed Trinity and "economy" to all the works by which God reveals himself and communicates his life. Through the oikonomia the theologia is revealed to us; but conversely, the theologia illuminates the whole oikonomia. God's works reveal who he is in himself; the mystery of his inmost being enlightens our understanding of all his works. So it is, analogously, among human persons. A person discloses himself in his actions, and the better we know a person, the better we understand his actions.”
9 CCC 159
10 Chance or Purpose? Creation, Evolution and a Rational Faith by Christoph Cardinal Schönborn, Ignatius Press
11 Chance or Purpose? Creation, Evolution and a Rational Faith by Christoph Cardinal Schönborn, Ignatius Press
13 Vatican Council I: Dogmatic Constitution on the Catholic Faith; Dei Filius Chapter 4. On faith and reason, Para 3
14 Fides et Ratio, Para 9, John Paul II; 1998
15 Vatican Council I: Dogmatic Constitution on the Catholic Faith; Dei Filius Chapter 4. On faith and reason, Para 5
16 Vatican Council I: Dogmatic Constitution on the Catholic Faith; Dei Filius Chapter 4. On faith and reason, Para 6
17 Fides et Ratio, Para 2, John Paul II; 1998
18 CCC 2467
19 CCC 2104
20 Wisdom 11:21
21 Wisdom 7:17-20
22 Sirach 42:16
23 Romans 1:20
24 Chance or Purpose? Creation, Evolution and a Rational Faith by Christoph Cardinal Schönborn; Ignatius Press
25 Fides et Ratio, Para 9
26 Fides et Ratio, Para 45
27 Summa Theologica Pt1Q32 Art. 1 Resp
28 Chance or Purpose? Creation, Evolution and a Rational Faith by Christoph Cardinal Schönborn; Ignatius Press
29 Providentissimus Deus; Para 16, citing S. Greg. M. Moral xx., 9 (al. II)
30 Providentissimus Deus, Para 23
31 Divino Afflante Spiritu, Para 40
32 1 Corinthians 15:46
33 CCC 1815
34 Fides et Ratio, opening Paragraph
35 Fides et Ratio, Para 16
36 Summa Theologica Pt1 Q74 Art. 2 Reply to Obj 1, 2 & 4
37 Fides et Ratio, Para 19
38 A Conversation: With Dr. Leon Lederman; Science Is Serious Business to the 'Mel Brooks of Physics', by Claudia Dreifus, The New York Times July 14, 1998
39 The Fathers of the Church on Genesis 1-11 by Mr. Robert Sungenis
40 The Faith of the Early Fathers by W. A. Jurgens, Volume 3. St. Augustine - A Debate with Felix the Manichean
41 Vatican Council II: Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation; Dei Verbum, Para 6
42 Orthodox theology and Science by The Rev. Metropolitan of Nafpaktos and St. Vlassios Hierotheos
43 Ibid. citing the translation from the original Greek text published in Gregory Palamas: Works Vol. 2, in the series Ellenes Pateres tes Ekklesias, Thessaloniki 1987, p. 270.
44 “It may help, then, to turn briefly to the different modes of truth. Most of them depend upon immediate evidence or are confirmed by experimentation. This is the mode of truth proper to everyday life and to scientific research. At another level we find philosophical truth, attained by means of the speculative powers of the human intellect. Finally, there are religious truths which are to some degree grounded in philosophy, and which we find in the answers which the different religious traditions offer to the ultimate questions.” Fides et Ratio, Para 30
45 Fr. Stanley L. Jaki is a Benedictine priest and Distinguished Professor of Physics at Seton Hall University, New Jersey since 1975. He is a leading thinker in philosophy of science, theology and on issues where the two disciplines meet and diverge.
46 St. Justin Martyr – Exhortation to the Greeks
47 Vatican Council II: Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation; Dei Verbum, Para 6
48 Humani Generis, para 38
49 CCC 295-301
50 Chance or Purpose? Creation, Evolution and a Rational Faith by Christoph Cardinal Schönborn; Ignatius Press
51 Chance or Purpose? Creation, Evolution and a Rational Faith by Christoph Cardinal Schönborn; Ignatius Press
52 Exodus 3:14
53 2 Peter 3:8
54 Psalm 90:4
55 Psalm 39:6
56 Chance or Purpose? Creation, Evolution and a Rational Faith by Christoph Cardinal Schönborn; Ignatius Press
57 Chance or Purpose? Creation, Evolution and a Rational Faith by Christoph Cardinal Schönborn; Ignatius Press
58 Divino Afflante Spiritu, Introduction
59 Providentissimus Deus; Para 18
60 Divino Afflante Spiritu, Para 3
61 “‘In the beginning…’ A Catholic Understanding of the Story of Creation and the Fall” by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI) Eerdmans, 1986, 1995;
62 “‘In the beginning…’ A Catholic Understanding of the Story of Creation and the Fall” by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI) Eerdmans, 1986, 1995;
63 CCC 129
64 CCC 82
65 Vatican Council II: Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation; Dei Verbum, Para 12
66 Vatican Council II: Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation; Dei Verbum, Para 12
67 St. Jerome Biblical Commentary. Some forms described include “Laws, Etiology, Ritual, Geneology, Blessing, Saga, Legend, Story, History” Pg 5.
68 Vatican Council II: Dogmatic Constitution on the Church; Lumen Gentium, Para 6
69 CCC 109-114
70 CCC 113
71 CCC 111
72 CCC 137
73 “‘In the beginning…’ A Catholic Understanding of the Story of Creation and the Fall” The Difference between Form and Content in the Creation Narrative”; Pg 4
74 Divino Afflante Spiritu, Pope Pius XII; Para 35
75 St. Jerome Biblical Commentary
76 ‘In the beginning…’ A Catholic Understanding of the Story of Creation and the Fall by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI) Eerdmans, 1986, 1995; Christology as a Criterion
77 ‘In the beginning…’ A Catholic Understanding of the Story of Creation and the Fall by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI) Eerdmans, 1986, 1995; Christology as a Criterion
78 St. Jerome Biblical Commentary, Edited by R.E. Brown SJ, JA Fitzmyer SJ, & RE Murphy O.CARM; Prentice Hall
79 CCC 2035
80 CCC 81-82
81 CCC 85
82 Providentissimus Deus, Para 19
83 Fides et Ratio, Para 5,
84 Fides et Ratio, Para 3
85 Fides et Ratio, Para 5
86 Fides et Ratio, Para 3,
87 Divino Afflante Spiritu, Para 33
88 Gaudium et Spes, Para 36
89 Gaudium et Spes, Para 36
90 ‘In the beginning…’ A Catholic Understanding of the Story of Creation and the Fall by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI) Eerdmans, 1986, 1995; Christology as a Criterion
91 Patrology by Johannes Quasten Volume I The beginnings of Patristic Literature; Christian Classics
92 Patrology by Johannes Quasten Volume I The beginnings of Patristic Literature; Christian Classics
93 Patrology by Johannes Quasten Volume I The beginnings of Patristic Literature; Christian Classics
94 First Vatican Council, Dei Filius Para 8
95 Patrology by Johannes Quasten Volume II The Ante-Nicene Literature After Irenaeus; Christian Classics
96 Patrology by Johannes Quasten Volume III The Golden Age of Greek Patristic Literature; Christian Classics
97 The Faith of the Early Fathers by W. A. Jurgens, Volume 3. St. Augustine - Commentaries on Jeremias
98 The Faith of the Early Fathers by W. A. Jurgens, Volume 3. St. Augustine - The Harmony of the Gospels, Bk. 2, Chap. 21
99 The Faith of the Early Fathers by W. A. Jurgens, Volume 3. St. Augustine - The Harmony of the Gospels, Bk. 2, Chap. 12
100 The Faith of the Early Fathers by W. A. Jurgens, Volume 3. St. Augustine - The Literal Interpretation of Genesis
101 Commentary on Isaias
102 Hebrews 11:1
103 Fides et Ratio, para 5
104 Luke 1:26-38
105 The Faith of the Early Fathers by W. A. Jurgens, Volume 3. St. Augustine - A Debate with Felix the Manichean
106 The Faith of the Early Fathers by W. A. Jurgens, Volume 3. St. Augustine - The Literal Interpretation of Genesis