Cardinal Schonborn of Vienna takes strides toward clarifying the Catholic Church's position on evolution, a position which has been rather murky in the public mind since John Paul's remarks on the relation of science and religion in 1996. Schonborn's entire editorial in the New York Times is important and shouldn't be missed by anyone interested in this issue, but the key passage, in our view, is this:
This is indeed the heart of the matter, the crux that so many who comment on this controversy simply overlook or ignore. Intelligent Design theory, regardless of what some of its supporters and opponents may think, does not require that we reject evolution. There very well may have been descent through modification in the history of organisms, but the key point is that however life came to be here, as Cardinal Schonborn insists, it did not arise through blind impersonal chance. To the extent that physical processes were involved in bringing about the complexities of living things they did not act solely by themselves. They served at the pleasure of a transcendent mind. This is the position of many, if not most, ID theorists. One can deny these assertions but doing so takes one out of the realm of scientific competence and into the realm of metaphysics. In other words, no scientist qua scientist has any business denying that intelligence played a role in the development of life.
It is surprising that some Catholic scientists appear to be upset by the Cardinal's essay. What reason is there, after all, for being a theist, let alone a Catholic theist, if one believes that God plays no role in creation? What is the difference between this kind of Catholicism and a Jeffersonian deism?
Cardinal Schonborn points out while discussing a 2004 document of the International Theological Commission that:
Yet this is exactly what the Neo-Darwinians believe. They are willing to allow that there is a god out there somewhere, but he's a god who has never done anything and in fact has nothing to do. We might ask of such evolutionary theists, however, what exactly the difference is between this sort of god and no god at all.
Thanks to Uncommon Descent for the tip on the Cardinal's essay.