From Fr Neil Evans SIR – Peter Wilson (Letters, April 24) points out that the Church has no competence “in questions of paleontological fact”. Quite so. The Magisterium has no competence or authority to affirm any of the theories of science. She cannot affirm, nor even “accept”, theories of universal gravitation, of electro-magnetism, of nuclear physics or of astronomy. (Though the vast majority of Catholics believe that the earth revolves around the sun, it is not part of the teaching of the Church, and the Church, as the Church, has no means of “accepting” heliocentrism. It is not part of the faith.) Likewise, the Catholic Church cannot (ever) affirm or accept the theory of evolution, which arose outside of Revelation and is therefore “alien” to the teaching of the Church, as are other theories of science. The Catholic Church, quite simply, does not have a divine “mandate” to affirm the theories of science.
However, the Catholic Church does have a competence, negatively, to deny that any theory of science is true if she judges the theory to be contrary to the faith of the Church. For this, the Church does not require any competence in any particular area of science but makes the judgment from her own divinely given “competence” to infallibly judge matters relating to faith and morals.
Thus the Church does not need to know any of the science involved, or what scientific theories may be contradicted, in affirming that Jesus walked on the water, and that He rose from the dead. Similarly, whereas the Magisterium of the Church cannot affirm that the theory of evolution is true, if she came to believe that the theory of evolution was contrary to Revealed Truth, she has the competence (without any competence in palaeontology) to repudiate the theory of evolution as contrary to the faith.
Yours faithfully, NEIL EVANS St Benedict’s church, Sketty, Swansea