Spring-Summer 2012

Aggiornamento and the Sciences: What Does It Mean?

Michael Hanby

Aggiornamento toward the sciences cannot mean ceding sole authority over nature to science, but must instead mean bringing science and nature within the ambit of Christ’s revelation of man to himself as a creature given to himself by God, created in and destined for communion.”

Of the many ambiguities to follow in the wake of the Second Vatican Council, perhaps none is more difficult to resolve, or in more urgent need of resolution, than the meaning of aggiornamento
as it concerns the Church’s relationship to modern science. This ambiguity stalks the pages of the council documents themselves. On the one hand, Gaudium et spes, 36 affirms the “legitimate autonomy” of the sciences, and the documents as a whole praise and marvel at scientific and technical progress in a way, to be perfectly honest, that sometimes looks naïve in retrospect. On the other hand, Gaudium et spes regards the cultural dominance of scientific rationality and progressivism as one of the principal sources of that pervasive atheism, that eclipse of the sense of God and man, which made the council so urgent in the first place. This eclipse has only grown darker in the years since the council, and no one has done more to stress the urgent need for a new theological and metaphysical engagement with the sciences than Joseph Ratzinger.1 This essay cannot hope to approach this task in anything like the exhaustive fashion it demands; I merely hope to sketch the outlines of a future treatment.2

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1. Among the many examples, see Ratzinger, Without Roots: The West, Relativism, Christianity, Islam, trans. Michael F. Moore (New York: Perseus, 2006), 126–28.

2. See my book tentatively titled, No God, No Science: Creation, Cosmology, Biology, forthcoming from Blackwell.