Archbishop Martin of Dublin gave a speech in Italy to the members of the Communion and Liberation movement. The speech dealt with Cardinal Newman's time as rector of Ireland's first Catholic University. Most of the commentary has dealt with Archbishop Martin's comments on the state of Catholicism in Ireland and it's apparent dearth of theological maturity. However, I had a different reaction to this speech. This link will take you to a full translation, but the following short extract really hit home to me:
"In the Catholic university Gazette of 9 February 1855, Newman quotes from an earlier speech: "One of the greatest disasters of modern times is the separation between religion and science, and the perfection of knowledge is a combination of both ... which makes men not only educated but good Christians."
Directly after this quote, Martin shifts Newman's point entirely:
The question of relationship between faith and reason was particularly delicate at that time — maybe less in Ireland than the rest of the United Kingdom and continental Europe — with the increase of the sceptical attitude toward religion. Newman wanted to show his contemporaries that faith and reason do not conflict, but also that “reason could not be the sole arbiter of all truth”.
This substitution of Archbishop Martin's is done all the time by Catholic teachers. Newman was referencing faith and science, not faith and reason. There is a huge huge difference between the two concepts. In Newman's time, as with our own, there are major conflicts between traditional faith and scientific understandings, gaps which reason is hard pressed to reconcile. Equating reason with science is a nice trick, one which the teaching authority attempts to do with regularity. Reason is an intellectual tool both science and theology use to arrive at truth. The difference is science uses reason to rule out false assumptions, theology all too often uses reason to justify false assumptions. Where as there may not be an inherent conflict between faith and reason, depending on one's starting assumptions, there can be a huge conflict between faith and science.
At no point in his entire speech does Archbishop Martin refer to Newman's original point about reconciling faith and science. It's faith and reason which must be reconciled, which in too many cases means ignoring scientific evidence which contradicts underlying unexamined faith assumptions. Some tenants of Natural Law morality come to mind.
I am personally very frustrated by the dearth of theologians who are delving into the latest scientific advancements, especially in quantum theory and human consciousness. I don't understand how an honest person trying to reconcile faith and science can ignore whole fields of science which describe an incredible reality of enormous potential. Maybe it's too frightening, but to continue to ignore these kinds of scientific advances is to admit traditional Christian understanding can not be reconciled with scientific reasoning. I happen to think that's not true, but reconciling the two will take the courage to read the Gospels with fresh eyes, minus the accretions of centuries of false assumptions as to how the universe really works.
Short personal note. I should be back up and posting regularly by the end of the week. I sincerely want to thank the people who have donated to the support of this blog. It's been both affirming and humbling, giving me a real boost when I needed one.