Saturday, June 23, 2018

BREAKING: Fr. Phillips Permanently Out at St. John Cantius, Faculties for Public Ministry Remain Withdrawn

Fr. Frank Phillips

A few hours ago, this letter from Fr. Gene Szarek, the Provincial Superior of the Congregation of the Resurrection (the "Resurrectionists") - the order that investigated Fr. Frank Phillips, the pastor of Chicago's St. John Cantius, concerning allegations of "improper conduct involving adult males" - was released. It was enclosed in this week's bulletin at tonight's anticipatory Mass, and is now posted on the St. John Cantius website:


The letter stated that "(w)e accept the Archdiocese's decision that Fr. Phillips' faculties for public-ministry will remain withdrawn and that he will not return as pastor of St. John Cantius and as Superior of the Canons Regular of St. John Cantius."

There were no other statements issued by either the Archdiocese, the Resurrectionists or the Canons. No additional information was offered in the homily, and there are apparently no plans by any of the parties to make any additional statements before, during or after any of the four Masses tomorrow.  

The letter and its determination may have come as a shock to some, as just three days ago a press release from Protect our Priests, the main independent parishioners group formed to support Fr. Phillips when the charges were made three months ago, claimed that he had been "exonerated.": It stated that "(t)he Review Board [of the Resurrectionists] has concluded that Fr. Phillips has not violated any secular criminal, civil or canon law."



I can tell you that those close to the case feared or anticipated that though the facts of the investigation seemed to clear Fr. Phillips, he would nevertheless not be allowed to return. But I think most of us assumed there would be some explanation for that decision, including an effort to make clear why, despite the "exoneration," other considerations or factors dictated their conclusion.

Instead there was only the terse two paragraph letter, above.


*****

This result if of course a travesty.

The precise nature of the original charges was never made clear and indeed at the time, the Archdiocese made contradictory claims about them. The report on the what the investigation found regarding the charges (whatever they were) has not and apparently will not be released. Neither the Resurrectionists nor the Archdiocese gave any sort of reason for the decision.


******

So what actually happened? 

Read the following carefully:

I can tell you that based upon what I know, Fr. Phillips is completely innocent of any wrongdoing, with "wrongdoing" interpreted in any way you wish - legal, civil or moral. And, yes, this also covers consensual sexual behavior as well as homosexual actions or behavior of any kind.

The false charges were made out of malice by an extremely troubled individual who had also enlisted two allies. Soon, the allegations would be seized upon by hostile forces in the Chicago Archdiocese and elsewhere as an opportunity  to attack and (hopefully) destroy an incredibly successful traditionalist pastor and (perhaps later) the traditionalist order that he founded and the old Chicago church that he saved from the wrecking ball and turned into one of Chicago's most thriving parishes.

The final result was not based on justice but on politics.

Catholic traditionalists and conservatives have assumed that the liberal Cardinal Cupich is somehow behind it all - not without reason, I think, given his past behavior and reputation. But I do not believe that blaming Cupich for all of it is correct, or at least, given what we know, entirely correct.

Fr. Phillips had other enemies.

Who are they?

Who are the accusers?

Why did they initially make their accusations?

Were there any extenuating circumstances in the case? Did Fr. Phillips do anything to possibly justify or cause what happened?

Since the statement from the Resurrectionists essentially says nothing, we'll start to answer those questions in the next post.

And, yes, we will be naming names.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

On the Status of the Fr. Phillips Case

An ordination at St. John Cantius

A reader wrote to me yesterday, asking why there had been no posts or updates on the situation with Fr. Frank Phillips and the Canons Regular at St. John Cantius in Chicago.

You can read about the case and some of my initial reactions here. But below is a short summary:

Approximately three months ago, Fr. Phillips was removed as pastor of St. John Cantius and as head of the order he founded, the Canons Regular of St. John Cantius, after the Archdiocese made public that there were "credible allegations of improper conduct involving adult men." 

Cardinal Cupich appointed Scott Thelander, a member of the Canons Regular and Pastor of St. Frances Xavier Cabrini Parish in Springfield, Illinois, as interim Administrator of the church and interim Superior for the Canons.

It was also announced that as Fr. Phillips was ordained by, and was still a member of the Congregation of the Resurrection (the "Resurrectionists"), he would be investigated by that body.

As a parishioner, I can confirm that on the surface at least, life in the last three months has gone on as usual. In specific terms this means that, among other things, Cantius has continued to offer sixteen regular Masses a week, celebrated in both the "Extraordinary" and "Ordinary" forms, as well as all the Sacraments as normal and what seems to be our regular schedule of special Masses and religious, quasi-religious and secular events.

Two Canons brothers were ordained to the diaconate on May 12.

The Canons and St. John Cantius have continued their mission to, in Fr. Phillips's words, "restore the sacred" in the parish and the larger Catholic community, as well as continuing to be a recognized hub for sacred art and music in Chicago.  

Obviously, parishioners and friends continue to feel grief and worry and entertain all sorts of thoughts and speculations as to what happened, is happening and will happen concerning Fr. Phillips, the Canons and Cantius itself. But Mass attendance in the stunningly beautiful but unairconditioned church has not decreased and the ubiquitous multiple Sunday morning confession lines are as long as ever.

Why haven't I written about it? The answer is simple: the Canons desired that friends of Cantius refrain from any public commentary, speculation or "news" reporting until the investigation was concluded and an official announcement or possible further official actions were taken by the Archdiocese, the Resurrectionists and the Canons. This is of course very reasonable for many reasons, most of them obvious.

I don't believe it's a dereliction to report that it seems now to be understood by many that a resolution will occur quite soon, and that thus many questions will shortly be answered. Will all of them be answered? I honestly don't know. I've never been even peripherally involved with a situation like this. But I trust that the good priests and other good men and women involved will work to insure that there is as much transparency as possible.

In an interview for Restoring the Sacred, a film about the recent history of St. John Cantius that was featured on EWTN, Fr. Phillips said that his goal was very simple: to create saints.



This is of course the default mission for any pastor, but it deserves to be restated. If you haven't seen this wonderful short documentary, I urge you to.

What is a saint? I've always felt that this story about our patron, the 15th century Polish priest and professor John Cantius, was particularly evocative. It was told every year by Fr. Phillips. Here is a version of the story from an article in Crisis magazine:
The radical nature of St. John’s commitment to God is perhaps best seen in his extreme generosity with his own personal possessions. Early sources refer to the most remarkable instance. Once while travelling, apparently on one of his many pilgrimages near and far, he was accosted by bandits, something not very surprising since clergy, often well-to-do, and unarmed, made especially inviting targets. After the thieves had stripped him of all his travelling money and everything of value, they threatened him with bodily harm, and demanded to know if he had any other cash. He said no, and they went on their way. But, in fact, he had some extra coins sewed into his clothing, and feeling contrition at having lied, he ran after them shouting that yes, indeed he did have more, confessing his fault. Bemused by this behavior, the robbers gave him back all they had taken. He was also famed for his generosity to the poor in the ordinary occasions of life, giving away his excess money and even the clothing off his back and the shoes off his feet whenever he saw poorly clad paupers in cold weather. Besides his own once stated reason for copying his own manuscripts, that is, avoiding idleness, many scholars have thought he likely did so also in order to have more money to give away to the needy. As a more direct service to God yet, he was reputed to frequently stay up late into the night, praying prostrate or kneeling on earth, and to practice voluntary fasts, although, unfortunately, nothing much survives in the early sources about the details of his devotional practices.
They gave him back all they had taken.

Does this always happen in "real life"? It certainly wouldn't seem so. And it didn't exactly happen with Our Lord.

But this I know with certainty: God sees all. And He is the God of justice in all its forms.  

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Bishop Barron on Genesis

Exquisite theological poetry.

I've been quite critical of Bishop Robert Barron - the founder of Word on Fire Catholic Ministries and Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles - a number of times before. If you're in the mood for punishment, see here and here.

Okay, also see here, here and here.

For the record, relative to many members of the extended Francis Junta, I don't think Barron is evil.

Rather, he is simply an incredibly annoying blatheramus.

More to the point, for all his faux-intellectualism, many of his arguments and views, far from being particularly profound or deep are merely shallow and silly.

Below is a transcript (I believe the first actual transcript) of a well-known YouTube video of Barron discussing the Book of Genesis. You may have seen it or heard of it, or you may have seen other videos of Barron making the same points.

Now, most people when they read Genesis (this is still me writing, we'll get to Barron's transcript in a moment) view it as in part a collection of stories. We start with the creation of the world including the creation of the first man from the dust of the earth and the creation of the first woman from his side. Then there is the Fall and man's exile from the Garden. Adam and Eve bear children, but their oldest son Cain commits the first murder and thereby receives a "mark." Years later, man's wickedness prompts God to send a Flood to destroy all the earth's creatures save a few members of the same family and a selection of animals given refuge in an ark whose exact dimensions are given in cubits. Soon after its narrow escape from that, humanity tempts God again by attempting to build a tower to the sky. God responds by creating the first foreign languages and scattering the newly confused peoples across the face of the earth. Then we meet Abraham, Sarah, Hagar and Ishmael. There is a Covenant. We hear of Mesopotamia, Canaan, Egypt and many other places and peoples. Next there is the story of Sodom and Gomorrah where these cities are destroyed and Lot's wife is turned into a pillar of salt. Abraham's son Isaac is almost sacrificed. At the end of the Book, we learn of Jacob, Joseph and the beginnings of the Jews' slavery in Egypt.

I've left a few things out. There are of course angels and other mysterious beings who come and go. Also people often seem to live an extremely long time. We learn this in part through three genealogies that track individuals and nations over many generations going back to Adam.

It's natural for readers to interpret Genesis as making certain claims about things that happened thousands of years ago. To that extent, much of Genesis is history, or at least purports to be. Or at least appears to purport to be.

It's also of course natural for cynical moderns (I'm one of them) to ask whether any of this history, including people coming from ribs, and floods and arks, and angels and giants, and God nuking entire habitations of unwelcoming rapists is true.

But Barron rejects that. According to Barron, not only does Genesis not relate actual history, it doesn't even intend to. Instead it's sort of an extended allegorical poem.

Here is the actual video:



And here is the transcript:        
You know, I'm continually amazed how often in my work of evangelization the problem of Genesis comes up. What I mean is people that are just balking over what seems to be the bad science on display in the book of Genesis. They say, look how can you possibly make sense of this text that says God made the world in six days, all the species came into being, you know, roughly at the same time, that light existed before the sun and moon. I mean, come on, how do you square this very naive mythological cosmology with the subtle work of Newton and Einstein and Stephen Hawking. Genesis is just bad science. Who can take it seriously today? 
Well, here's a way to get at it. When looking at the Bible - and Vatican 2 is real clear on this - you've got to be sensitive to genre. What kind of text are we dealing with? See, people make mistakes about that all the time. It would be, it would be a mistake to look at Moby Dick and expect it to be a 19th century history, a mistake to look at T.S. Eliot's The Wasteland and expect it to be a spy novel. You have to know what kind of text you're dealing with. 
So, what is Genesis? If I can borrow a page from father George Coyne, the great Jesuit priest and astrophysicist, he said, look, modern science commences in the late 16th, early 17th century with Galileo and Descartes and Pascal and company. The last biblical book is written around the Year 100 A.D. There's just no way that the Bible is modern science. Modern science didn't exist yet. So whatever is going on in the Bible, it's not what we mean by modern science. What Newton and Stephen Hawking and Einstein and company were doing is just simply not what the biblical authors are doing. Newton and company are following the ideas and principles of modern science, namely to observe, to form hypotheses, to test them with experimentation, draw conclusions, etc. Okay, so don't look at Genesis as bad science. That's like looking at The Wasteland as a bad spy novel. It's not a spy novel at all. Genesis is not science at all. 
So what is it? I would call it theology, mysticism, spirituality. It's a theological reflection on the origin of all things. 
So, what are some of the insights we gain once we get this genre issue clear? Well, there are many, many. Genesis is so rich and so multivalent. I'll just pick out a couple. 
Here's the first one. God makes the whole world. Now translate this, philosophically, if you want, into the non-contingent ground of contingency gives rise to all things. Even here and now. So creation is happening now. Genesis is talking theologically about something that's happening even now. God is giving rise to the world. How? How - through a nonviolent act of speech. God says "let there be light," and there's light. God says "let the earth come forth," and it comes forth. In almost all the mythologies of the ancient world, all the ancient cosmologies, the world comes forth in a great act of violence. God or the gods battle with some opponent. They wrestle a rival into submission, and in that act order ensues. By the way, notice how that myth is very prevalent even to this day. We still tend to believe that order comes through violence, through the conquest of a rival. There's none of that, though, in Genesis. God brings forth the world not through violence, not through conquest, but through a sheerly generous nonviolent act of speech. Link it now, if you want, to the great ethical teachings of Jesus, about the love of enemies, about non-violence. What he's recommending is not just a more correct ethical path. He's recommending to fall into line with the deepest grain of the universe - that God makes the world through non-violent love. There's a first theological theme in Genesis. 
Here's a second one. People of that time, the time the Bible was written, worshiped all kinds of gods, right? Some worshiped the stars. Some worshiped the moon. Some worshipped the Sun. Some worshipped animals, right? All these different features of creation were worshipped as gods. Now, what does the author of Genesis say? God created the heavens and the earth. God created the stars. God created the planets and the moon and the sun. God created all the animals. You see what he's doing, is he is dethroning all these false claimants to divinity. He's saying none of these is in fact God. But they all come from God and they bear witness to God. But he's enunciating, if you want, a great anti-idolatry principle. Nothing in this world is God. The true God is the creator of all things. 
Relevant message today? You bet. I mean, we worship all kinds of things, you know, from pleasure, to money, to power etc. No, no. God makes all those things. They're all under the aegis of God, but they're not to be worshipped. It's a second theological point. 
Here's a third one, and again I could pick many, many, it's such a rich text. Adam - now don't read it literally, we're not talking about a literal figure, we're talking in theological poetry - Adam, the first human being, names all the animals. He catalogues them. Kata logon in the Greek means "according to the word." God has imbued all things with intelligibility. Adam, noticing the intelligibility, names them, gives them their proper title. Who is he? The Church Fathers, read him as the first scientist. He's the first philosopher. He's the human being in his proper role as the steward of creation, and the one who names and orders all things according to God's creative intention. This is the great humanism that's implicit in Genesis: eat of all the trees, right, we hear. The Church Fathers said that's the great permission of Genesis. Adam and Eve, who are kind of at play in the field of the Lord, that stands for science, for art for politics, for conversation, for friendship -  all these forms of human flourishing under the lordship of God. Genesis is a great humanistic text. 
Now, those are three insights I could garner many many more. Read great commentators on Genesis. Read the great spiritual and theological interpreters of it. Get over the problem of Genesis as bad science. It's not bad science. It's not science at all. Rather, it is exquisite theology.
For the record, relative to the long sweep of interpretive history, this is a very modern view. While a small minority of Fathers and Doctors of the Church made or entertained claims that a few portions of Genesis were merely figurative, no Catholic theologians until quite recently would have endorsed the thesis that the whole thing was merely figurative.

Though Barron doesn't acknowledge it, if this view of Biblical interpretation is correct, Catholics and Christians got the first part of the Bible wrong for close to 2,000 years.

What is Barron's argument for the view? On the surface, frankly, it's inane. He begins with the straw man that some have viewed Genesis as some sort of science textbook. Then "modern science" is tautologically defined as beginning 450 or so years ago. Thus, since Genesis was written 2,000 years ago (it was traditionally dated to more than 3,000 years ago), its genre is not history or quasi-history but "theology, mysticism, spirituality."

Thucydides came before Newton. Thus, the History of the Peloponnesian War is mysticism.

Wait, what?

As far as I can tell, Barron never explicitly denies that Genesis is history, Rather, he denies that it's science or "modern science." But what he really means is that it's not history. This kind of dishonest bait and switch is par for the course for the new evangelist. 

But let's move on. Barron wants to take our history away. But what does he wish to replace it with? Genesis isn't (according to Barron) telling us about actual events. What is it telling us?

1) Non-violence is (in some sense) the way of the universe.

Given the actual text, this claim is more than silly. It's insane. Non-violence? Genesis states that the first naturally born human being was a murderer. After that, killing - by human beings and God - seems to appear on almost every page. Indeed, the violence reaches such a point that God decides to kill everyone (by drowning) except for eight lucky people. He also kills almost all the animals.

Did all this actually happen? Perhaps not. An alternative account (presumably endorsed by Barron) is that for more than a billion years, the engine of God's creation was the "survival of the fittest," with trillions of creatures killing other creatures in a violent and deadly struggle for resources. And to emphasize, they didn't just do this on their own. Rather, God set the whole bloody mechanism up as his preferred method of creation. Xenocidal meteor strikes also occur with regularity.

Do not misunderstand my point. I'm not claiming here that God endorses violence per se in Genesis or anywhere else. He'd have a bit more to say about that in Exodus of course. But using Genesis to, as it were, find Gandhi in "every grain of the universe" is an insult to hidden meanings.

If you've read some of his other writings, you would know that Barron very much likes (and wants you very much to know that he very much likes) Gandhi and Martin Luther King. But still.    

Finally, and not to rub it in, it's just not true to assert that all alternative religious creation stories feature violence as an essential component. I know a bit about this. It just isn't and they don't. Indeed, that's an insult to other religions that Barron, an arch-ecumenist, should be ashamed of. Actually, many creation stories, including one that was quite popular in the ancient middle-east, use sex. (I wonder why, the cynic might rhetorically ask.) The Chinese even have a rooster.

Exquisite. Theological. Poetry.

2) The moon is not God. Etc.

32,000 words to say that? Exquisite.

3) Adam was the first scientist.

Since, according to Barron, modern science didn't start until the Enlightenment, Adam was presumably a pre-modern scientist, which I guess means he didn't do repeatable experiments and probably put too much emphasis on Thomistic analogies.

But to be serious, since Barron does not think of Adam as a literal or historical figure, what Barron is really saying is that man or mankind was made to do science. Too bad it took him thousands of years to get past the allegory. 

Man was also apparently meant for politics, which if you think about it is pretty sick. And if Barron is implying that politics is also embedded in the deepest grain of the universe, I'm now going to get a bit violent...

4) Many, many others...

It's funny, though. In all the interviews and talks I've seen, he only mentions the above three. It's almost as if he has the lecture notes from some liberal 1980's seminary class up his sleeve. 

Enough.

This is the "new evangelization."

It's also religion for idiots.

If you're wondering why atheism or quasi-atheism seems to be currently in the ascendence, you need to look no further than Barron and his like.

Or for that matter, if allegory is all there is, why not just go Pagan? At least it would be more fun.

Or to put it another way, if allegory is all there is, why not just pick the allegory (from the sacred texts of any religion) that one likes best? If Genesis merely expresses theological truth, how do we know it is the truth?

Perhaps because it was Jesus' favorite, though, according to the text, Jesus did not believe Genesis to be mere allegory.

Of course, as we'll see next, Barron appears to believe that much of the Gospels are mere allegory as well...

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Thomas Evans Breaks Silence: "They paid £143k on murdering my son and taking our lives away from us!!!! We are not done!"




Yesterday, in a post on the Alfies Army Official Facebook group, Thomas Evans, the father of Alfie Evans, broke more than six weeks of silence on the death of his son.

This followed posts by Sarah Evans and Daniel Evans, the child's aunt and uncle, revealing the results of a recent Freedom of Information Act request that Britain's National Health Service had paid at least £143,000 in legal fees to keep Alfie Evans at Alder Hey hospital.



As far as I understand it, the parents of Alfie Evans had been effectively silent since Thomas Evans had made an accommodationist "statement" on April 26th, a few hours before Alfie Evans would pass away. This came after weeks of angry words against Alder Hey and the NHS from Thomas and Katie, as well other family members. Many felt that the apparent turnabout was due to some sort of deal with the hospital, perhaps made in return for a promise - a promise which would be tragically unfulfilled - that Alfie Evans would be allowed to be taken home.

In the statement at that time, partly addressed to the family's supporters, Thomas Evans said:
We would now ask you to return back to your everyday lives and allow myself, Katie and Alder Hey to form a relationship, build a bridge and walk across it. 
We also wish to thank Alder Hey staff at every level for their dignity and professionalism during what must be an incredibly difficult time for them too... 
From this point onwards there will be no more statements issued or interviews given.
But yesterday on Facebook he wrote:
We wanted everyone to know that in time as we grieve, we will be speaking out further to the build up to alfies death and we will be speaking out the truth and in detail about the week that we had to go through... 
[Alder Hey] paid £143k on murdering my son and taking our lives away from us!!!! 
We are not done!
Alfie Evans was murdered by the state, and abandoned by his Church.

An online mob, many members of whom would rather see an infant killed than be caught making a grammatical error on social media, bayed for his death.

But on this Father's Day, I can't imagine how he could have been graced with better parents than Tom and Kate.   

Thomas Evans, June 16: 
It’s been 1month and 2 weeks since our gladiator was taking away from us, deprived,neglected,mistreated,and disrespected!!  
Me and Kate will never come to terms with it and will never accept alfies death or cause of death! But there is one thing that keeps us going and that’s our belief and faith that we will meet our angel again in the future, so we cherish the times we have had with him and look forward to the future to making more memories with him💙 
We wanted everyone to know that in time as we grieve, we will be speaking out further to the build up to alfies death and we will be speaking out the truth and in detail about the week that we had to go through, THAT NO OTHER PARENT SHOULD EVER EVER GO THROUGH OR IMAGINE!. 
The world need to know what happened in those five days and what we did and went through to have Alfie cared for when he proved drs wrong!! 
PLEASE DO NOT FORGET I FOUGHT AGAINST DRS AND ALDER HEY BOSSES FOR WHAT WE BELIEVED IN AND FOR OUR SONS RIGHTS.
I WOULD LIKE TO REMIND THE WORLD THOSE DRS TOLD ME AND KATE AND ALL YHE COURTS ALFIE WOULDN’T LAST LONGER THAN FIVE MINUTES!!!!! 
HE SURVIVED FOR A FURTHER FIVE DAYS AND FAUGHT HARD HE SHOULD OF BEEN GIVING RESPECT,CARE,DECENCY! 
Instead they paid £143k on murdering my son and taking our lives away from us!!!! 
We are not done! 
we are angry,upset,distraught,and truly heartbroken 😔 Alfie ment the world to us he’s been apart of our lives for 2 years and through the good and bad we have cherished him through every moment and always felt blessed to have him apart of us. 
We thank everyone for your amazing courageous support it’s helped us in the deepest struggles and in the hardest days but you along with Alfie have helped us get through it and we thank you all sincerely.
We will get JUSTICE FOR ALFIE 
#JFAJE #JUSTICEFORALFIEJAMESEVANS 💙💙

Friday, June 8, 2018

What is Darwinian Evolution?

Charles Darwin in 1880

Readers of this blog may have noticed that in the last few weeks I've written a number of posts on evolution and competing theories of origins. You can find them under the tags "evolution" and "creationism". Or for convenience, they are:

Evolution, Creation and Catholic Faith
Was Adam an Ape-Man?
Slumming with the Creationists
Was There a Biblical Flood?
The Biblical Literalism of English Catholic George Leo Haydock

I've jumped around a bit and I've also been, some might say, a bit cagey. I've been critical, in one way or another of all the alternatives. But one of them must be true. After all of it, what do I actually believe? What do I think a Catholic can believe or should believe? I've made some hints, but I haven't firmly taken a side.

I'm getting there. But before I do get there, if you'll indulge me, I want to clearly lay out the alternatives, with an emphasis on the alternatives for faithful Christians or Catholics.

I see five of them:

Darwinian Evolution
Old-Earth Creationism
Young-Earth Creationism
Intelligent Design
Theistic Evolution

In the next five posts, I want to look at each one of these in turn, briefly defining and describing them and then listing what I see as the strong points and weak points (or advantages and disadvantages - in opposite order) of each one.

For me, it's an entertaining break from Bergoglio bashing and Islam bashing. But of course I also think the topic is interesting and, in the end, incredibly important, especially for Christians and Catholics.

Again, I ask that you indulge me, but more importantly I hope you find the discussion interesting. As always, please tell me where you think I'm wrong.

And also as always, in the great Christian blogger moral tradition, I won't stop you from being abusive, but I just might get abusive back. (Insert your own mental smiley or frowny emoji, here.)

So, here's the first alternative:

DARWINIAN EVOLUTION

Definition:

All organisms and species, including Man, came into being via evolutionary descent from a common ancestor or set of similar common ancestors. The engine for this is natural selection operating on or against random genetic mutation.

Various evolutionary theories were proposed generations before Darwin and quickly acquired a certain cache in establishment and elite cultural circles. Charles Darwin's grandfather, Erasmus Darwin, wrote Zoonomia in 1794. While this work would soon make the Vatican's Index of Prohibited Books, it probably only became widely known after his grandson's works became popular. By contrast, Vestiges of Creation by the scientific popularizer Robert Chambers came out in 1844 and was wildly successful. It wasn't until the end of the 19th century that its total sales were surpassed by Darwin's The Origin of Species.

But while these and other works proposed evolutionary theories of life's origins, theories which were in convenient agreement with steadily growing secular zeitgeist, none of them could precisely explain why or how evolution occurred. It was Charles Darwin in Origin who first came up with a scientifically plausible mechanism for how evolution could occur. At that time, Darwin would speak of natural selection operating against the background of "slight changes" - the genetic mutation part would come later, partly as a result of the roughly simultaneous scientific discoveries of Gregory Mendel, a Catholic monk who, arguably, was opposed to Darwinism as a general theory   

Origin was published 1859. It is perhaps notable that this most modern of theories was publicly launched two years before the start of the American Civil War.

What are the disadvantages and advantages of Darwinian evolution in its contemporary (2018) form?

Disadvantages:

1. From a scientific standpoint, the theory has proven to be an utterly bankrupt failure. (And someday I'll tell you what I really think.) Far from the case for Darwinian evolution becoming stronger in the last 150+ years, it has steadily become weaker. Here are some of the major problems:
  • The continuing gaps and oddities of the fossil record, completely at odds with what Darwin predicted. Instead of species gradually changing, they abruptly appear, remain unchanged and then abruptly disappear. There is no general trend from simplicity to complexity beyond a few discreet points in an allaged four-billion year timeline. There are rapid mass "explosions" as well as mass extinctions of species, etc.
  • The failure, even after 150 years, to come up with a firm evolutionary timeline for Man's origins. Despite the popular conception, there is still no agreed upon sequence of species for how man progressively evolved from ape-like ancestors. New discoveries, rather than "filling in the blanks," tend to simply make things more puzzling. If Darwinian evolution is true, then there must be such a sequence, but scientists are no nearer to having one now than they were three generations ago.
  • The failure to solve the problem of irreducible complexity. Darwin argued that evolution proceeded in small steps, each one of which had to be to the advantage of the organism or species. Indeed, in the Origin of Species he claimed, " if it could be demonstrated that any complex organ existed, which could not possibly have been formed by numerous, successive, slight modifications, my theory would absolutely break down." Critics have claimed that many complex organs, such as the eye, have this feature, though this has been disputed by Darwinists who have come up with ingenious (while arguably implausible) proposals for how such complex organs could have been formed in successive stages. But the best example is the cell. Darwin and his contemporaries thought of the cell as a simple blob of protoplasm. We now know it to be akin to an incredibly complex miniature machine. The design of the machine is coded in the DNA of the organism, but no account has as yet been given of how the code builds the machine, or how a succession of different machines could have gradually "evolved" via beneficial changes at each stage from simpler origins.
  • The failure to explain how life could have arisen from non-life. This is somewhat related to the above. Various "just-so" stories have been proposed, but no evidence for them has ever been produced.
  • The failure to show how mere random mutation could steadily produce beneficial changes at the genetic level. Genetic protein sequences are incredibly complicated, and virtually all of them "don't work," in the same way that, say, virtually all random sequences of a page worth of letters and punctuation marks don't work to produce a page of intelligible prose. The mutations that do arise, almost always hurt an organism, rather than helping it
  • The failure to produce long-term beneficial mutations even in a laboratory. This is in a sense the empirical conformation of the previous claim. While it well-known that, say, bacteria can develop "new" resistances to hostile agents, the actual mechanism involved is the creation of a genetic "glitch" that masks recognition by the agent of, say, a particular protein. But no changes may be seen to occur past that point or "edge."
  • Finally, we might add that many of the best historical evidences adduced for Darwinian evolution have been exposed as intentional hoaxes or mistakes. This is not completely determinative, of course, but it should give any honest Darwinian evolutionist pause. Some examples of actual fraud include Piltdown Man, the Haeckel embryos and even the famous peppered moths. Even the evidence for the beak growth on Darwin's finches has been shown to be problematic.          
Darwinian evolutionists have reacted to each problem by doubling-down, and sometimes even boldly incorporating disconfirming evidence as confirmatory. Thus the independent evolution of distinct and complex organs such as the eye or similar animal morphologies, something that Darwin argued the theory probably ruled out, have been labeled "convergent evolution" - evidence for how wonderful and rich the theory is. The non-gradual timeline shown in the fossil record has been explained as "punctuated equilibrium." And so on.

With all of these problems, why has Darwinian evolution continued to be the dominant theory? See Advantages, below.

2. Darwinian evolution is strictly incompatible with conventional Christianity. This is of course only a problem for Christians. And indeed, it is celebrated by many atheist Darwinians. What do I mean by "strictly incompatible"? All Christians believe a) there is a God, b) God created (somehow, by some means, directly or indirectly) the world and all life in it, including Man, and c) God intended to create the world, life and Man in a certain way, according to His plan. But now recall that standard Darwinian evolution asserts that the engine for evolution is random mutation. Random means, well, random, or accidental. Or to see it another way, as the evolutionist Stephen Jay Gould put it, if we were to rewind the tape of life, say, two billion years, and then started things again, we'd get something, but it would be something completely different from what we actually have.

But why couldn't God have used evolution as His method of creation? That He could not have is not to invoke the infallible authority of some 19th century pope or to put a limitation on Gos's power, but simply to express a claim of logic, in the same way that we might say that God could not make 1 + 1 = 3. Random processes do not produce planned outcomes, unless there is some power or tendency or law also simultaneously in force. Again, this is not an empirical point but a logical one. If I randomly throw different colored paint at a board,  I could not produce the Mona Lisa. And neither could God (!), at least if we say that He randomly threw the paint. Christian evolutionists often claim that on their theory, the hand of God (somehow) guides the process, or that life as we know it, including the existence of Man was (somehow) front-loaded into things at the beginning. Why can't they say that? Well, they can, of course, but if they do, they're not anymore putting forth Darwinian evolution, which by definition incorporates a random process. Instead they would be (at a minimum) defending some sort of theory of Intelligent Design (see future post).

You can't have your cake and eat it, too.

Sorry, Christian evolutionists.

Advantages:

1. Darwinian evolution is still the overwhelmingly dominant theory or paradigm within the scientific and cultural establishment. If you dissent from the theory, you run the serious risk of torpedoing your career (or your career may fail to launch completely) in academic science and related fields. If you dissent from the theory as an actual or prospective scientist, not only will you probably not be popular or hip but you might also starve (at least if you're also unwilling to or unable to drive for Uber). Is this an "advantage" for the theory? Damn right it is. How could it not be?

2. Darwinian evolution is still the only even remotely plausible naturalistic theory of origins. By "naturalistic theory," I mean a theory that doesn't invoke supernatural agents or causes such as, most obviously, God. This of course provides the answer to why theory is still believed despite the massive amount of disconfirmatory considerations discussed above. The current philosophical and cultural zeitgeist will simply not allow God into "science" - for reasons independent of any scientific considerations themselves. And thus atheist or secular evolutionists are strictly correct when they assert that whatever it's problems, Darwinian evolution is the only game in town. If we assume away God at the beginning, it is the only game in town, at least so far. Why we should assume away God at the beginning is another question. But regardless, it has already been done for us.

And if you have a problem with that, I have an Uber pick up for you.

3. All else said, Darwinian evolution is a very clever theory. I mean that sincerely. True or false (and I obviously think it's false) it's ingenious. It has an undeniable superficial plausibility. Richard Dawkins famously claimed that Darwin finally made it possible to be an intellectual fulfilled atheist. What he meant by that is that before Darwin's theory, the atheist or secularly inclined philosopher or scientist had to confront a major problem - there simply was no good non-supernatural explanation for how all of life, up to and including Man, came to be. That the world and all the life on it had always existed was proposed of course. But that, as they say, didn't quite cut it. Life itself was a seemingly insurmountable obstacle to atheism. Darwin changed that.

In the interests of fairness, I should also add that the Darwinian paradigm has clear applications outside of biology. That some of these applications, or in this case, rather, alleged applications were subsequently used for morally horrific purposes is undeniable. But it's also true that it has been and can be used, if applied carefully and correctly, to better understand some phenomena in the social sciences. For those interested, I recommend David Axelrod's The Evolution of Cooperation, as just one of many examples of where the use of a sort of Darwinian theory can have positive and fruitful results.

Darwin and Darwinism was a huge wrong turn for science. I have previously described it as perhaps the greatest hoax in history. But that doesn't mean there aren't some positive things that honest and curious thinkers can get out of it - and yes, that even goes for Catholics.

That's the way it goes, sometimes.

Next: Old-Earth Creationism