The shameful case of Galileo explains why Pope John Paul II warned that “the exegete and the theologian must keep informed about the results achieved by the natural sciences….” In enforcement of Church dogma, Pope Urban VIII threatened an elderly and very ill Galileo with torture if he would not renounce his claim that the earth revolved around the sun. On his knees before Rome’s Holy Office of the Inquisition, in fear for his life, Galileo recanted of this “heresy”—with his lips but not in his heart. That the sun and all heavenly bodies revolved around the earth remained official Roman Catholic dogma for centuries, with one “infallible” Pope after another affirming it. Only in 1992 did the Vatican at last admit officially that Galileo had indeed been right.
John Paul II’s quotation of Pope Leo XIII that “truth cannot contradict truth” is a capitulation to science. Rome’s theologians must take care that their interpretation of biblical truth agrees with the latest scientific theories. Yet Peter, who Catholics say was the first Pope, declared that all Scripture was inspired of the Holy Spirit (2 Peter:1:21). Surely the Holy Spirit’s knowledge of science is not dependent upon the theories of scientists, who often contradict one another and must revise their theories periodically! If the Bible is not infallible when it comes to science, then why believe it is infallible regarding salvation or anything else?
“The Church, then, does not accept…the literal interpretation of the opening chapters of the Book of Genesis that would lead us to think that God, for example, actually made two grown adults suddenly from clay and rib…. Catholics should be against creation-science for at least three serious reasons:
“First: It effectively teaches a distrust of science and ultimately hurts religion as well. By defending a literal understanding of the opening chapters of Genesis…creation-science sets itself squarely against the world of true scientific discovery…. The myths used by the Genesis authors are simply tools with which they communicate their religious beliefs.
“Second: Creation-science is contrary to the method of interpreting Scripture favored universally by scholars and strongly approved by our Church. This favored approach…[allows us to] accept the divine revelation contained in Scripture, while accepting at the same time human author’s errors in matters of science or history….
“Third: Creation-science leads to deep prejudice and bigotry against the Catholic Church. The case in point is the Book of Revelation. When creation-science advocates ply their fundamentalist tools to this final scripture book, the Church often becomes a target for vehement attack….”