Cardinal Schönborn links financial crisis to evolutionism

January 7, 2009

Vienna Cardinal Christoph Schönborn is one of the Catholic Church’s most vocal critics of what he calls evolutionism, which he defines as an ideology that applies Darwin’s theory of natural selection to a wide variety of questions beyond biology. He usually directs his criticism at scientists and philosophers who say evolution proves that God does not exist.

(Photo: Cardinal Schönborn, 16 March 2007/Leonhard Foege)

In an interview with the Austrian provincial newspaper Vorarlberger Nachrichten on Jan. 5, Schönborn, a former student and close associate of Pope Benedict, said his criticism also applied to the current financial crisis:

Q, One of your favourite topics is evolution and creation. Wouldn’t it be more reasonable to devote yourself to more practical things than those that cannot be proven anyway?

A. Look at the current economic crisis. The question of evolutionism and the economic crisis are very closely linked. What we can call the ideological Darwinist concept that the stronger survives has led to the economic situation we’re in today. I think that if education only focuses on making young people fit for the rat race and doesn’t teach them the great human values that society needs, it’s because it’s based on an image of humanity linked to ideological evolutionism. So it has very, very practical consequences.

Q. Where is this discussion leading and what can emerge at the end of it?

A. We can’t say, but (scientific) research continues. Very successful, very exciting. On the one hand, it certainly is going very strongly in the direction that says all life can really be proved to be linked together. In this respect, the scientific theory of evolution is, of course, supported and carried by very strong arguments.

(Photo:Staff at Lehman Brothers in London, 11 Sept 2008/Kevin Coombs)

On the other hand, one must clearly highlight the distinctive qualities of humans, their dignity and their intellectual abilities and responsibility in the face of reductive thinking that understands them in a materialistic way or as just a product of evolution. That is certainly insufficient.

The interview is here in German (registration required) and a summary (open access) in the Vienna daily Die Presse is here.


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Posted by Catholics link evolution and the economy | The Row Boat by Nathan Schneider | Report as abusive

Thank you for this insightful post. Among other things it provided me a way to justify why I only had Cardinal Schönborn at #8 in my top 10 papabili rankings:

A number of people, including you in your comments  /12/23/have-you-thought-about-the-next- papal-election-yet/, questioned this. So please let me use these interview comments to elaborate on why I think Cardinal Schönborn is not as papabili as many think. But before I start, let me please state that this only my opinion and I could very easily be 100% wrong.

This is the 3rd time in the last 2 years that Cardinal Schönborn has been drawn in, by the media, into this ‘Intelligent Design’ vs. Darwinism debate. [I won’t get into the merits of his argument as to the ‘strongest survives’ as it applies to the current economic crisis. I only hope the cardinal fully appreciates that Darwin stressed that the survival of the fittest occurred over many, many, many generations … and not the comparative short period of the Bull Market that ended with today’s economic turmoil. But let scientists, more qualified by me, argue this generational issue.]

Yes, we can all applaud the cardinal for:
1/ Faith in his convictions.
2/ Courage to openly and repeatedly state his opinion without worrying about the repercussions.
3/ Stoutly defending the traditional, biblical idea of creation.

This is all good. Bravo.

But it is not very ‘politic’ and what one would call ‘presidential’ (or in this case ‘pababilical’).

From what I recall, over 75% of Americans will agree with his views — whether Catholic or not. I would also guess that at least 98% of the cardinals agree with him — given that all of them, like him, were chosen for their rationalistic views. So all of that is good.

But here is where he is going to run into problems in terms of being elected pope. You will notice that the interview was NOT VERY respectful of the cardinal. If anything it appears to be humoring him. Tat is the problem. From a MEDIA perspective he appears to have lost his gravitas. He has become the Ron Paul (U.S. presidential hopeful) of the papabili.

And yes, you may say, who cares what the European press thinks of him. They don’t have a vote. It is the cardinal electors that elect the pope and they must like what he stands for.

There in is the rub. The many in the current set of cardinal electors, in my opinion, are very WORLD WISE, savvy and politic.

Many did NOT enjoy the beating the Church took in the clergy abuse scandal and the scrutiny that the prelates came under.

Plus, the cardinals from Latin America, Asia and Africa, by the mere dynamics of their countries, tend to me very politically astute and attune to secular world opinion.

Pope Benedict XVI has had a few run ins related to Islam and sexual orientation. It was bad PR for the Church.

Pope John Paul II, for all his popularity, had a few run ins too. And all of that was BEFORE the clergy abuse scandal and its lingering resentment.

Latin American, Asian and African cardinals will want a non-controversial, POLITIC pope … a charming, diplomat that like Pope John XXIII will woo the world and build bridges. Cardinal Schönborn is much loved and admired by the cardinals BUT they will see him as a loose canon. Of late I have had e-mail correspondence with an Austrian Brother who come into contact with Cardinal Schönborn on a regular basis. He has confirmed that Cardinal Schönborn is extremely personable and approachable in the mould of John XXIII and John Paul I. I don’t think anybody denies that.

The opinion of European YOUTH will also count. European youth, in marked contrast to those in the USA, are NOT WEDDED to ‘Intelligent Design.’

So in my opinion Cardinal Schönborn is unlikely to get the non-European vote. He probably will also not get all of the European votes. I don’t think he will make it past the first couple of rounds of balloting. But again, I could be dead wrong. So that is what I think. Thank you.

Anura Guruge

Posted by Anura Guruge | Report as abusive

I’m not a creationist at all but isn’t what the Cardinal is arguing against here not really linked to intelligent design versus evolution but rather about the way an interpretation of Darwinism is expressed both economically and socially.
For instance some historians refer to the way the power dynamics worked in Hitler’s Germany as “institutionalised social-darwinism” – I think I’ve seen it referred to in management texts as well. You can be pro-evolution and against that sort of way of setting people and societies off agaisnt one another – however only if you frame it in the way the Cardinal has chosen to will you make the religious headlines!

Posted by jane | Report as abusive

As I said near the top of my comments this interview was not the first time that this Cardinal touched upon this issue.
Here is a link to a previous article: rticle_1837.htm
That might help to give more context to this interview. But I see and agree with what you are saying. I like your closing statement — which was really what I was trying to get at re. the papabili rankings.
You can find more articles on that same ‘cardinalrating’ Web site. I use it all the time.
Thank you.

Posted by Anura Guruge | Report as abusive

Anura – saying Schönborn has been “drawn in, by the media, into this ‘intelligent design vs Darwinism’ debate” three times in the past two years makes it sound as if the media have been pushing him into this. But Schönborn has spoken frequently about this in public, starting with that New York Times op-ed piece that drew so much attention. Since then, he has given a series of sermons, published a book and spoken many times in public about the issue, so it’s clear he wants to discuss it. His subsequent comments have been covered by the Austrian media, but most times he is essentially saying the same thing so it does not get reported as news in foreign media. In this interview, the previous question was about priestly celibacy and the journalist changed the topic with this one about evolution. Schönborn chose to use that opening to talk about the economy.

Jane – yes, it’s more about social Darwinism than anything else. I’ve spoken with Schönborn about his interest in this and he said that his core concern is to confront the philosophy of materialism. This is reflected in the line about “reductive thinking that understands (humans) in a materialistic way.” He’s not really talking science, but philosophy.

Posted by Tom Heneghan | Report as abusive


Since the last few days and a couple of weeks we have been listening to what is happenning in this IT major SATYAM computers. All the pride built up not only in the name of SATYAM but also HYDERABAD as a major IT hub is being blown up into pieces and dreams shattered.

Who ever is behind all these and whoever people are involved in these things, one thing is a concern for every public citizen of the country.

1. INDIAN pride as a software mammoth has got its big dent and a severe blow on its face. Though the Indian techies’ skill or knowledge is undoubtedly the best but just being best & sound is not sufficient. The attitude the morality and the mind of the Indian Techie will be under the scanner. Several small issues of data theft,
monetary swindlings were reported earlier especially in the BPO sector. But such a scam will have a lasting impact, which every individual Software Marketing face has to face in the global market from tomorrow, will understand better.

2. India is a poor and developing nation. If our country has to become a developed nation the country has a whole needs to follow certain value system and the wiser and older have to check the practicability and authenticity and grade it before it goes offshore to the external world. If the fastest growing present generations (who are bringing more wealth to the country and are a part of the development and growth of Indian economy ) show this kind of resilence, the credibility will be hit first which will have a longterm impact on the economy and its growth for futur generations will suffer.

3. The present trend in all sectors, society , economy,
social,value systems all are changing with the rapid growth in the economy. But unless we take care of the Indian value system and have a cautious growth and checks every moment we cannot build a good credible growth which will march us into the next generations.

4. Entrepreneurship is come to be hit hard and such role models for the new generations will have given a completely wrong signal to the social system and society as a whole. The new generation entrepreneur will have a subtle setback.

5. Share trading, balance sheets of businesses, conducting small and big businesses, government, people every body should be brought into the value system.

6. Also we should equally punish, wrongdoings in politics, as in business.The alleged Horse trading of MPs in central parliaments,state assembly if proven sever punishment has to be mooted out. Swindling publc money in government schemes by anybody should be severly punished. Misusing the political office also should be given a severe punishment.

Posted by D Krishna Sastry | Report as abusive

Genesis 1:27, “So God made man in his own image”.
Genesis 2:7, “And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground.”
Genesis 2:21-22, “And the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, …the Lord had taken from man, made he a woman, & brought her unto the man”.
From the above verses, it is obvious that God formed man/woman from dust instead of transforming apes to human beings.

Posted by Jonathan CHM | Report as abusive

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