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Wednesday, 31 August 2011

A most sensible statement by the SSPX

The USA district of the Society of Saint Pius X has replied to a news report implying that the SSPX promotes geocentrism as a Catholic teaching based upon the Bible. As well as pointing out that the SSPX holds no such position, the SSPX has issued a sensible statement on the relative competence of the scientist and the theologian:
As declared by Pope Leo XIII in Providentissimus Deus, science cannot contradict the Faith:
There can never… be any real discrepancy between the theologian and the physicist, as long as each confines himself within his own lines, and both are careful, as St. Augustine warns us, "not to make rash assertions, or to assert what is not known as known.
Even today, many commonly-held tenets of natural science are merely theories, not certainties. This is not the case with the Catholic Faith, which is a certainty.

The Church’s magisterium authoritatively teaches on the correct interpretation of Sacred Scripture. As Pope Pius XII taught in Divino Afflatu Spiritu:
"The Holy Ghost, Who spoke by them [the sacred writers], did not intend to teach men these things—that is the essential nature of the things of the universe..."; which principle "will apply to cognate sciences…”
Providentissimus Deus also states that Scripture does not give scientific explanations and many of its texts use “figurative language” or expressions “commonly used at the time”, still used today “even by the most eminent men of science” (like the word “sunrise”). Such expressions are not scientific teachings about the cosmic world.

So Catholics should not use the Bible to assert explanations about natural science, but may in good conscience hold to any particular cosmic theory. Being faithful to the Church’s magisterium, the Society of St. Pius X holds fast to these principles: no more and no less. 
Catholics are free to hold geocentrism if they wish, and they are also free to deny evolution; but neither position is essential to the Catholic faith and it is a serious concern if either is seen to be necessary for the true traditionalist.

In the case of evolution, we may not hold that the soul "evolves" from matter - which would in any case be nonsense philosophically. The soul is spirit, not matter and therefore cannot evolve with or from matter but is directly created by God at the first moment of conception. However we are free (but not obliged) to accept an evolutionary view of the development of the material universe.

The SSPX does not enter this discussion but their statement sets out some important fundamental principles for those who do. If you are interested in using science as a part of apologetics, you may be interested in some of the Faith Movement's pamphlets in the Reasons for Believing series.
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