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Negotiating Darwin

The Vatican Confronts Evolution, 1877–1902

Mariano Artigas, Thomas F. Glick, and Rafael A. Mart

Publication Year: 2006

Drawing on primary sources made available to scholars only after the archives of the Holy Office were unsealed in 1998, Negotiating Darwin chronicles how the Vatican reacted when six Catholics—five clerics and one layman—tried to integrate evolution and Christianity in the decades following the publication of Darwin's Origin of Species. As Mariano Artigas, Thomas F. Glick, and Rafael A. Martínez reconstruct these cases, we see who acted and why, how the events unfolded, and how decisions were put into practice. With the long shadow of Galileo's condemnation hanging over the Church as the Scientific Revolution ushered in new paradigms, the Church found it prudent to avoid publicly and directly condemning Darwinism and thus treated these cases carefully. The authors reveal the ideological and operational stance of the Vatican and describe its secret deliberations. In the process, they provide insight into current debates on evolution and religious belief.

Published by: The Johns Hopkins University Press

Series: Medicine, Science, and Religion in Historical Context

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pp. vii-viii

Work in the Vatican archives has not been easy. Systematic cataloging of records is currently in progress, but for our work the only catalogs available were the old ones. At times we had to search blindly, though usually successfully, for dossiers of whose existence we were not sure, among a host of other dossiers carrying the dust of a century and with no clear indication of their contents. Of ...

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pp. 1-6

When on October 22, 1996, Pope John Paul II declared that the theory of evolution was considered today as more than a hypothesis, he was acknowledging the Church’s inclusion in the great evolutionary consensus, a step that followed from an open and creative debate over the issue in the years after Pope Pius XII’s encyclical Humani Generis (1950). The occasion was provided by an address to the members of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, gathered in the Vatican for a meeting on the origins and evolution of life. ...

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1. The New Documents

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pp. 7-31

January 22, 1998, was a historic day for the Vatican and for cultural history. In the seat of the Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei, successor of the famous academy founded by Prince Federico Cesi in 1603, there took place a symposium titled “The Opening of the Archives of the Roman Holy Office.” Although the whole archive has not been preserved, the collection is still ample. For the first ...

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2. An Ineffective Decree

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pp. 32-51

One of the biggest surprises emerging from the Archive of the Index is that the Vatican condemned a book favorable to evolution, but no one ever knew it. For more than half a century, theology texts mentioned the cases of Leroy, Zahm, Bonomelli, Hedley, and Mivart, in none of which did the Vatican pronounce publicly. But they never mentioned Raffaello Caverni, the only instance in which the support of evolutionism by a Catholic merited a public condemnation. ...

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3. Retraction in Paris

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pp. 52-123

The Leroy affair is very well documented in the Vatican archives and can be reconstructed in fine detail. Early on, it looked as though the denunciation of Leroy’s book, The Evolution of Organic Species, would lead nowhere. But then the book was examined in greater detail, and four written reports, some very long, were produced. The final decision was to condemn the book but, out of consideration for the author—a Dominican—and for his order, the prohibition was never ...

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4. Americanism and Evolutionism

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pp. 124-202

The compatibility of evolutionism and Catholic doctrine. Zahm extended his thesis to the origin of man (that is, of the human body). The Congregation of the Index decided to condemn the book, but it did not publish the corresponding decree. The matter was then carried into the public arena, because both Zahm’s supporters and his adversaries waged a long struggle with the Roman ...

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5. Condemned for Evolutionism?

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pp. 203-219

For more than a century, Bishop Bonomelli has been cited as one of the authors who retracted his defense of evolutionism because of pressure from the Holy Office. The case is significant because Bonomelli was an important figure in Italian public life. The Archive of the Holy Office furnishes new data, although Bonomelli’s correspondence had already shown that his retraction was not the ...

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6. “The Erroneous Information of an Englishman”

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pp. 220-235

Among the evolutionists who retracted, John Hedley, bishop of Newport, Wales, is usually listed, alongside Bishop Bonomelli. Gruber presents him as “Mivart’s first champion among the hierarchy” and attributes to him a retraction that can be summed up in the following line: “the ‘Mivartian’ theory . . . can no longer be sustained.”1 However, in Hedley’s original text, this phrase is preceded by two limiting conditions. Hedley says that “according to ...

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7. Happiness in Hell

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pp. 236-269

St. George Mivart is the author most cited whenever the difficulties of reconciling evolution with Christianity are mentioned. This English scientist published a book in 1871 in which he accepted evolution, said it was compatible with Christianity, and, at the same time, criticized the importance, exaggerated in his view, that Darwin attributed to natural selection as a mechanism that explained evolution. His objections were important, to the extent that Darwin gave close ...

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8. The Church and Evolution: Was There a Policy?

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pp. 270-283

It would be an illusion to expect a simple conclusion or a short summary of the six cases we have examined. Each was the product of very different circumstances, and if the cases appear to have been similar, that is not owing to any preconceived plan that guided the Church authorities. Indeed, in assessing the role of the Church, one of the principle conclusions that we might extract from the archival documents is that, in three of the cases examined (Bonomelli, Hedley, and Mivart) there was no action taken against the authors, nor did ...


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pp. 285-308


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pp. 309-317


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pp. 319-326

E-ISBN-13: 9780801889431
E-ISBN-10: 080188943X
Print-ISBN-13: 9780801883897
Print-ISBN-10: 080188389X

Page Count: 336
Illustrations: 7 halftones
Publication Year: 2006

Series Title: Medicine, Science, and Religion in Historical Context