Evolutionary Ideas Amongst the Faithful in Britain

An Insight into How Evolutionary Ideas Operate
Amongst the Faithful in Britain

The following article was written by Anthony Nevard, B.Sc., editor and publisher of  Daylight magazine, and appeared in its Summer 2005 issue. From 1977 to 1983 Daylight was published by John Campbell RIP, as a publication of the Counter-Evolution Group. It has been published since 1991 by Tony Nevard, who arranges Creation lectures for Catholic groups in Great Britain, as well as producing pamphlets and organizing a stall at the annual “Faith of Our Fathers” conference in London. For further information please contact: Mr. A.L.G. Nevard, 19 Francis Avenue, St. Albans, Hertfordshire, AL3 6BL, England.

Agree to Disagree? The Evolutionary Convictions
of the Faith Movement

Anthony Nevard, B.Sc.

Some of our readers in England and Scotland are familiar with ‘faith’ magazine, which is promoted in some parishes, along with pamphlets on a range of theological, moral and social issues. While much of the content of these publications might be commended as based on sound Catholic principles, we regret that even now they continue to propagate what could be termed the ‘Holloway Theory’ of Theistic Evolution, which has aroused heated opposition even from their own readership.

This article was prompted by a letter I received last October from a Daylight supporter, who told me of the concerns of two readers of the Sept/Oct 2004 issue of faith [1] about the Editorial therein, entitled Evolution and the Doctrine of Creation. As she wrote: “I am surprised, and sorry, that FAITH keep on about evolution all the time – there are more important aspects of our Faith which they ignore.” [2]. There were also four letters printed in this issue, including a long one by Fr. Roger Nesbit, all in support of evolution, and including such jibes as these:

 

 

 

“It is sad that so many people writing to the magazine still seem completely ignorant of the claims that Faith makes… To declare (in Luddite fashion) that Faith would be better off without evolution shows a total lack of understanding of the vital context of its catechesis.” [3].

“Are anti-evolutionists so paranoid about evolution out of fear that it threatens the whole of Christian belief? … current trends show that it [evolution] actually supports the biblical view – that is the amazing point that anti-evolutionists completely miss.”[4].

“After all, surely we all agree that we are a fallen race, in need of redemption? …If we agree further that Christ is Son of God and Redeemer, does it really matter how we come to be here?”[5].

“Why do Catholics align themselves with the creationism which is rooted in American Protestant biblical fundamentalism?” [6].

Time did not permit me to complete my intended letter in response to these comments before I received the next issue of ‘faith’. The letters pages included three pro-evolution and three ‘antis’, and some good points were made. One writer opined: “In our effort to evangelize we must not cheat ‘modern man’ by offering him the theory of evolution as if it were a scientifically proven fact, ‘practically indisputable’ as we read in the editorial. Such an approach is evil, it brings the Faith movement into disrepute and makes a bad service to the Catholic Church.” [7].

This provoked a two page Editorial Comment, in which Fr. Patrick Burke wrote: “On the question of evolution and the various ‘creationist’ positions, first let us be clear that FAITH movement does not teach ‘evolutionism’, if by this is meant a philosophy which regards the whole course of history as fluid and open ended and therefore that moral and doctrinal truth can and should change from age to age… There are those who deal with modernity by vehemently rejecting the inter-relative view of matter and life as a whole. They regard our whole enterprise as unnecessary and ill founded. Needless to say, we do not. In fact we, in turn, regard the ‘creationist’ reaction as ill founded and unnecessary… FAITH movement does not have an ‘idee fixe about evolution’ nor do we ‘use evolution as a tool of evangelization’. …Nothing in the ‘creationist’ objections convinces us that affirming the unity of matter in development across all existent forms is anything other than credible. In any case it is certainly not harmful to divine faith to think, in common with most of the modern world, that it is so.” [8].

It is noticeable that several of the ‘anti-evolution’ letters refer to the teachings of Popes and scientists while the ‘pro-FAITH’ comments tend to be long on philosophical speculation, caricaturing and misrepresenting opposing arguments. The Editor concluded: “To close, then, before we trigger a further atomic explosion of words, which will not result in either side changing their position in any case, let us simply agree to disagree. We all strive to be loyal sons and daughters of the Church. Our antagonists are sincere men too, but they are in reality a handful of tenacious correspondents who have debated this point with us for many years. Therefore, on the point of ‘evolution’ as such, this correspondence is now closed.” [9].

We appreciate the openness, candor and courtesy that the Editor, Fr. Burke, has shown both in publishing some very critical letters and in his own responses. It is certainly also true that some of the principal proponents of Fr. Holloway’s ‘Unity Law of Control and Direction’ have shown a level of conviction in Evolution that has resisted a battery of scientific, philosophical and theological facts and arguments provided against it.

While the FAITH movement continues to attempt to achieve official recognition by the Catholic Church for their views, the growing number of Catholic ‘creationist’ activists will continue to oppose it. [10].

Despite the comments of Fr. Burke, there is good reason for believing that FAITH’s raison d’etre is indeed dependent on Evolution. The magazine cover design includes, in letters 1cm high, ‘PROMOTING A NEW SYNTHESIS OF FAITH AND REASON’. Fr. Holloway’s book Catholicism – A new synthesis is advertised prominently inside the cover. Why does FAITH think a new synthesis is needed? To reconcile Catholic doctrine with modern science, i.e. the theory of evolution (they say – K.C. editor).

Anyone still curious about why the Faith Movement really persist in their promotion of evolutionism can find the surprising answer under “Aims and Ideals” on their internet website. [11]. “The essential mark of the Faith Movement is a new synthesis of contemporary Science and divine Revelation which re-vindicates the primacy of Jesus Christ over all creation, throughout history, culture and society, and within individual mind, heart and body.” They believe that Agnes Holloway, “a humble South London housewife and mother,” was given in 1929 “divine promptings and locutions” that formed the principles of, a new synthesis of contemporary Science and divine revelation” in her book God’s Master Key: The Law of Control and Direction. She believed it was the divinely appointed mission of her son, Fr. Edward Holloway, to reveal this to the world, through his book and writings. “The Faith Movement exists to promote, defend and develop this vision of the Catholic faith to the glory of God, as a service to the Church and to meet the urgent needs of our times. This is its sole reason for being a distinctive movement within the Church.” This ‘vision’ is entirely suffused with the assumption that science has proved that man evolved from animals. [12]. This has never been formally taught as Catholic doctrine, and as a consequence confusion and disquiet have been induced in some of Faith’s erstwhile supporters, who see the Movement’s obsession with evolution as outmoded and harmful to the Church.

Despite the interpretations that may be put on some Papal pronouncements, the Catholic doctrinal position remains officially opposed to accepting evolution. Fr. Holloway sent details of his ‘New Synthesis’ to Pope Pius XII in 1946 and 1950, but it seems the Vatican has to date declined even to consider it worthy of comment. [13].

In 1950, Pius XII, in the encyclical Humani Generis, linked the theory of evolution with false “monistic and pantheistic speculations that represent the whole universe as left at the mercy of a continual process of evolution.” [para. 5]. He warned that, though Catholic theologians must study and understand these fallacies, there are “others… who have too ready an ear for novelties. Perhaps, too, they are afraid of seeming ill-informed about the progress which science has made in our day… the danger is that they will lose touch… with the truth divinely revealed to us, leading others besides themselves into error.” [para 10]. The Pope clearly warned Bishops and teachers not to treat the hypothesis of the evolution of the human body as a proven fact [para 36], nor to entertain the idea of polygenism [para 37].

Since then, no Papal teaching of comparable authority has formally contradicted these teachings, but clearly many Bishops, priests and theologians have ignored them. Through the rise in neo-Modernism, the Second Vatican Council, and its disastrous aftermath can be traced the out-workings of the false philosophy of evolutionism. Many highly qualified and informed Catholics, including scientists, theologians and clergy, are convinced that the general theory of evolution is false scientifically, and that theology could not accommodate an evolutionary origin of man. [14].

In defense of truth and Catholic Doctrine, let us examine objectively, unbiased by human respect, the claim that the late Agnes Holloway was inspired by God to inform the world that Evolution is true and therefore traditional Christian doctrines need to be corrected. More recent opinions aired in editorial and correspondence columns in Faith magazine citing the fossil evidence, the ‘big bang’, DNA, Professor Dawkins and the views of Pope John Paul II do not bear directly on this issue.

Personal beliefs about science and religion are obviously influenced by our education. Fr. Holloway was brought up in England in the 1920’s, when Darwin’s Theory of Evolution was already being widely taught as an established fact, boosted by fossil discoveries such as Java Man (1891) and Piltdown Man (1912), the development of genetics, and the application of evolutionary theories in social, political and religious affairs.

Where did his mother, Agnes Holloway, derive her opinions on creation and evolution? Not from any deep study of the Bible, Church Fathers, Saints or theologians, but from a conviction that God had given to her a direct personal message that Evolution was true. She writes of her ‘conversion experience’: “There had been much discussion in the press at about this time of the theory of Evolution and Darwin’s book was causing much excitement. […] I was – like all my friends in the Guild [Catholic Evidence Guild] – strongly against it.” [15].

We can therefore assume that Agnes had previously been quite sure that Evolution contradicted her Catholic Faith. However, having heard a ‘voice’ with a short and enigmatic message, she writes emotionally: “I knew these words held the key to the theory of Evolution. I would there and then have died for the truth of it, whereas five minutes before I would have given my life against it.” Agnes is now utterly convinced, despite her Catholic upbringing and devotion, that the Church’s teaching was false. She claims that, over the next six months, she heard and wrote down locutions, coming intermittently from (she supposed) the Blessed Trinity.

Fr. Holloway writes: “She then began to look for some sort of corroboration from the sciences for this vision (sic). I can remember The Science of Life, by H.G. Wells and J. Huxley, being around the house in weekly parts. I also read it with interest… My mother had neither the money nor the education for more serious reading in the philosophy of science, or in the relationship between science and theology… Besides, she would not have had the knowledge to distinguish between the reliable and the slanted in more specialized works.” [16]. [Agnes H. later collated these messages as God’s Master Key – the Law of Control and Direction, written privately in 1940 and published by faith keyway in 1988].

Anyone who imagines that the works of anti-Christian atheists like Wells and Huxley were unbiased expressions of objective scientific truths is absurdly naive. Newman Watts, in Britain Without God (1935), wrote: Professor Julian Huxley, in Religion Without Revelation, dismisses in one paragraph the belief in a personal God. The empty pessimism of the Godless universe of modern science is revealed in H.G. Wells’ Science of Life, in which he asserts: “Man is an inhabitant of a thin rind on a negligible detached blob of matter belonging to one among many millions of stars, in one among many island-universes.” [17].

Watts concludes that: “…religious faith [in creation] has to a large extent passed away, and its place has been taken by another faith – scientific faith. Belief in Biblical creation has not been destroyed by scientific proof but by scientific belief – that is, scientific hypothetical anticipation, theory which scientists hope one day to prove by research and discovery.” [18]. Even back in 1925, George Barry O’Toole, Professor of Theology, Philosophy and Animal Biology, wrote: “…Evolution has long since degenerated into a dogma, which is believed in spite of the facts, and not on account of them.” [19].

Cardinal Ernesto Ruffini, expert in Biblical Studies, prefaced his book (written before Humani Generis) with the words: “I have undertaken this work in order to show that evolution applied to living beings, as it is propounded by materialists, has no scientific basis; and that, in particular, transformism applied to man – even if restricted to the body – cannot be admitted.” [20]. Archbishop Thomas Boland, writing in the Foreword, commented: “The significance and great value of the study lies in the wealth and weight of the theological and scriptural argument against the theory, although His Eminence with equal force points out the weaknesses in the scientific arguments advanced in favor of the theory of evolution of the human body.” [21].

It seems to me hardly credible that a devout Catholic, reading these highly informed, factual and authoritative works, still valid today, would reject their conclusions and defer to the views of materialists and atheists.

Although the evolutionary philosophy of Wells and Huxley was surely based on Darwin’s Origin of Species, some clergy are now arguing that evolution does not mean Darwinism but the theory of ‘punctuated equilibria’, invented by Eldredge and Gould to try to explain the absence of transitional forms demanded by neo-Darwinism. “Without fossils”, writes Eldredge, “we would have no record of the history of life on earth, indeed we would be unaware that it had a history of more than a few thousand years.” [22]. Yet numerous highly qualified scientists, quoted in numerous books, have shown that the fossil record does not support any evolutionary theory; the ‘Big Bang’ and billion-year old scenarios are merely scientific stories to displace the logical requirement of a Creator.

Pope Pius XII did indeed allow ‘research and discussion’ on the hypothesis of an evolutionary origin of the human body ‘from pre-existing living matter’, but not the evolution of life and ‘physics and chemistry’. He also insisted that Genesis taught true history, not myths.

Over the past thirty years, increasing numbers of Catholics have been concerned to counter the atheistic evolutionary myths with sound doctrines and Biblical interpretation. This has culminated in the International Symposium on Creation held in Rome in October 2002, when members of the Kolbe Center for the Study of Creation were welcomed and blessed by Pope John Paul II and met Cardinal Ratzinger.[23]. The proceedings show the consensus of the Fathers and Doctors of the Church with the authoritative statements of the Councils, which strongly support special creation and the global flood within a young earth framework. Bishop Andreas Laun has concluded from his recent studies on the subject: “Theologians should take leave of the theory of evolution ‘acceptable to Catholics’ and in consequence write a new presentation of the teaching of creation – without being caught up in an antiquated theory and without philosophically untenable fantasies.” [24].

In contrast, the Faith priests seem intent on trying to prove that Pope John Paul II, and even St. Basil and St. Augustine, agreed with Evolution. However, Fr. Holloway ruefully admitted that Pope Pius XII did not even acknowledge the copy of his book he sent him in 1950, “which… would, if it had been taken seriously and in all humility [his emphasis] have given the Holy See the essential vision on which to base a new framework of speculative Catholic philosophy and theology in time for the Second Vatican Council.” [25]. It is open to conjecture as to what positive difference this might have made to the deliberations of the Council. In the event, the subject of creation v. evolution was never raised. Some twenty years later, the new Catechism of the Catholic Church gave strong affirmation to the traditional doctrines of Creation and Original Sin, with no suggestion that the Holy Father was urgently seeking what FAITH calls its “much needed creative approach of orthodox Catholicism”.

The FAITH Movement seems to expect Catholics to accept that the Holy Ghost has delayed revealing what its Web site calls this “vital and immensely synthetic insight” for two millennia, hiding it from all the Popes, Councils, Fathers and Doctors of the Church, but whispering it exclusively in the ears of a 1930’s South London housewife. If they really believe this, it seems incongruous that Mrs. Agnes Holloway is not mentioned anywhere in the latest five issues of faith magazine, not even in Editorials or long letters by Frs. MacKenzie and Nesbitt defending their stand on evolution! Nor is her booklet included on their own publications list. Perhaps at least we can now agree that its contents in fact may seriously undermine the credibility of the Faith Movement. If so, there has been some progress!

FOOTNOTES

[1]. Faith-Keyway Publications, 16a off Coniston Way, Reigate, Surrey,RH2 0LN, England.
[2]. D. M., Surrey – private correspondence to Daylight editor.
[3]. Fr. Chris Findlay-Wilson – letter to faith editor.
[4]. Fr. Roger Nesbitt – letter to faith editor.
[5]. Fr. Aldhelm Cameron-Brown OSB – letter to faith editor.
[6]. Martin Hussingtree – letter to faith editor.
[7]. M. Skarpa – letter to faith editor, Nov-Dec 2004 Volume 36, Number 6, p. 24.
[8]. Patrick Burke, Editorial Comment faith, Nov-Dec 2004 Volume 36, Number 6, p. 25.
[9]. ibid, p. 26.
[10]. Your Editor [Daylight] first encountered FAITH about 1977 and engaged in correspondence with Fr. Nesbitt. My first article on the subject, Fr. Nesbitt’s Pamphlet, appeared in Daylight (Organ of the Counter-Evolution Group) in April 1978. A public debate on the motion ‘The Theory of Evolution cannot be truly harmonised with the teaching of the Church’, was held in St. James’, Spanish Place, London, on Oct. 29th 1989, between Fr. Peter Lessiter and Peter Wilders, and Fr. Roger Nesbitt and Hugh McKenzie. A report was published in the CESHE:UK Newsletter 6, Feb. 1990.
[11]. http://www.faith.org.uk/WhyFaith/AimsAndIdeals.htm
[12]. For more details, see ‘Theistic Evolution – the Faith of our Futures?’, Daylight 25, Spring 1998, and ‘The Mystery of the FAITH Movement’, Spotlight pamphlet 6.
[13]. Agnes Holloway, God’s Master Key, Faith-Keyway , 1988, p. 101.
[14]. For a summary of the relevant official Catholic teaching, see my article: ‘Where is Evolution in Catholic Teaching?’ Spotlight 1, and ‘Catholic Reactions to Darwinism’, Spotlight 4.
[15]. Agnes Holloway, God’s Master Key, p. 92-93.
[16]. ibid., p. 6.
[17]. Newman Watts, Britain Without God, The Lutterworth Press, 1935, p. 79.
[18]. ibid., p. 77-78.
[19]. O’Toole, G.B., The Case Against Evolution, Macmillan, 1925, p. xiv.
[20]. Ruffini, Card. E., The Theory of Evolution Judged by Reason and Faith, Wagner, 1959, Preface.
[21]. ibid., p. viii.
[22]. Eldredge, N. Fossils, Aurum Press, 1991, inside front cover.
[23]. See the Kolbe Center Letter and report, Jan. 2003, in Daylight 33, Autumn 2003, pp. 5-10.
[24]. Bishop Andreas Laun, Evolution and Creationism – Theological Considerations, Daylight 34, pp. 5-11.
[25]. Agnes Holloway, God’s Master Key, p. 101.

KOLBE CENTER FOOTNOTE

Some very slight modifications have been made from the original printed article, principally the renumbering of the footnotes.