Bugs Bunny: [watching the Gremlin try to detonate a bomb with a mallet] “What’s all the hubbub, bub?”
Gremlin: “Shh. These blockbuster bombs don’t go off unless you hit them just right.”
Bugs Bunny: “Yeah?”
I thought of this classic Looney Tunes dialogue as I read the press reports about Pope Francis’ most recent statement to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences about evolution and the Big Bang Theory. If you haven’t seen it, here’s what the Pope said:
The beginning of the world is not the work of chaos that owes its origin to another, but derives directly from a supreme Origin that creates out of love. The Big Bang, which nowadays is posited as the origin of the world, does not contradict the divine act of creating, but rather requires it. The evolution of nature does not contrast with the notion of Creation, as evolution presupposes the creation of beings that evolve.Though I hate to interfere with a good story, the Pope’s statement is no blockbuster bombshell; in fact, it’s not even news. In 1951, Pope Pius XII gave a speech to the very same Pontifical Academy of Sciences entitled The Proofs for the Existence of God in the Light of Modern Natural Science, in which he acknowledged that the Theory of the Expanding Nature of the Universe, now known as the Big Bang Theory, did not contradict Catholic beliefs on creation. As an interesting aside, a Catholic priest, Father Georges Lemaître, SJ, first proposed what would become the Big Bang Theory in 1927. If you don’t believe me, just ask Dr. Sheldon Cooper. Likewise, in 1950, Pope Pius XII stated that Catholic doctrine does not preclude the possibility of evolution in his encyclical Humani Generis. Subsequent Popes, including Pope John Paul II, Pope Benedict XVI and now Pope Francis, have confirmed these teachings.
It seems that the swirl surrounding the Pope’s recent speech is the result of a lack of understanding of Catholic beliefs. Catholics believe that we need both faith and reason to understand our world and our God (to the extent we can understand God). As Pope John Paul II so beautifully put it, “Faith and reason are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth.” Catholics are not asked to check our brains at the door when it comes to faith. We believe that God gave us brains to use them, even in contemplating God. Just the same, we can't turn a blind eye to faith as we contemplate the world and its Creator through the lens of the sciences.
So while Catholics believe that the Bible conveys God’s truth, we do not believe that every story is necessarily literally true (as some Christian denominations do). We view the Bible as a library, not as a book. Like a library, the Bible contains different genres of literature: nonfiction, fiction, poetry, allegory, etc. Why would God limit his inspiration to non-fiction writers alone when truth can be conveyed so beautifully in so many different styles of literature? If our reason tells us (or science proves, if you will) that a particular story cannot be literally true, we look at it as another form of literature while searching for the truth God intends to convey through it. For example, science has shown that dinosaurs preceded humans by tens of millions of years. That means that the world and all living creatures could not have been created in six days, as the Book of Genesis tells us. So while the Genesis creation stories (note that there are two that contradict each other in some respects) may not be literally true, they do convey the truth that God created the heavens and the earth and all things visible and invisible.
So the reality is, the press didn't hit it just right. Pope Francis hasn't said anything controversial or even new. So what’s all the hubbub, bub?
 Pope Francis, Discourse of Pope Francis on the Occasion of the Dedication of the Bust in Honor of Pope Benedict XVI at the Pontifical Academy of Sciences (October 27, 2014).
 Pope Pius XII, Humani Generis (Vatican City, Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1950).
 Pope John Paull II, Fides et Ratio (Vatican City, Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1998).