The Theory of Evolution in the Writings of Joseph Ratzinger

Francisco J. Novo



In this article I analyse the texts in which Joseph Ratzinger deals with the topic of evolution, particularly in the context of the compatibility between faith in creation and acceptance of the theory of evolution. I have grouped his writings into three periods that reflect the changes in his ideas on this topic. His early writings, until 1979, contain the most elaborate and deepest theological insights, with a defence of the compatibility between faith in creation and the theory of evolution when each one is kept within the boundaries of its own explanatory framework. There is a clear change of attitude at the beginning of the 1980s, when he becomes aware of the attempts by some atheist scientists to portray evolution as a “first philosophy”. This triggers a critical response against some technical aspects of the theory of evolution, a position that was reinforced by his contacts with anti-evolution German intellectuals during this period. The conflict reached its climax in the 1999 lecture at the Sorbonne University and the 2006 meeting of the Schulerkreis in Castel Gandolfo. After 2006 his references to this topic were few, and he seemed to return to the original ideas expressed in his early writings, stressing the intrinsic rationality and inner logic of the cosmos.


Joseph Ratzinger; theory of evolution; faith in creation

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