According to the San Francisco Examiner in an article entitled "Pope Cites Universe's 'Intelligent Project'":
Pope Benedict XVI has waded into the evolution debate in the United States, saying the universe was made by an "intelligent project" and criticizing those who in the name of science say its creation was without direction or order.
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Benedict focused his reflections for the audience on scriptural readings that said God's love was seen in the "marvels of creation."
He quoted St. Basil the Great, a fourth century saint, as saying some people, "fooled by the atheism that they carry inside of them, imagine a universe free of direction and order, as if at the mercy of chance."
"How many of these people are there today? These people, fooled by atheism, believe and try to demonstrate that it's scientific to think that everything is free of direction and order," he said.
"With the sacred Scripture, the Lord awakens the reason that sleeps and tells us: In the beginning, there was the creative word. In the beginning, the creative word — this word that created everything and created this intelligent project that is the cosmos — is also love."
I think that it is great that Pope Benedict XVI has stood up for what is becoming increasingly obvious to anyone interested in the subject: the universe demands the existence of a creator or creative being. By taking up in a very clear way that the Biblical position is that there must be an intelligent project behind the universe, he has hopefully awakened the Roman Catholic community that may have been lulled to sleep by Pope John Paul II's earlier talk on evolution where he seemed content to accept the larger portion of evolutionary theory.
Regardless of the way Pope John Paul II's talk was couched by the press or the advocates of Darwinism which suggested that the former pope embraced evolutionary theory in its entirety, Pope John Paul II rejected the Darwinian view that life arose in the universe by chance and natural selection alone. In his earlier talk, linked above, the Pope made it clear that such a randomeless creation was not within the teaching of the Roman Catholic church.
[R]ather than the theory of evolution, we should speak of several theories of evolution. On the one hand, this plurality has to do with the different explanations advanced for the mechanism of evolution, and on the other, with the various philosophies on which it is based. Hence the existence of materialist, reductionist and spiritualist interpretations. What is to be decided here is the true role of philosophy and, beyond it, of theology.
5. The Church's magisterium is directly concerned with the question of evolution, for it involves the conception of man: Revelation teaches us that he was created in the image and likeness of God (cf. Gn 1:27-29). The conciliar constitution Gaudium et Spes has magnificently explained this doctrine, which is pivotal to Christian thought. It recalled that man is "the only creature on earth that God has wanted for its own sake" (No. 24). In other terms, the human individual cannot be subordinated as a pure means or a pure instrument, either to the species or to society; he has value per se. He is a person. With his intellect and his will, he is capable of forming a relationship of communion, solidarity and self-giving with his peers. St. Thomas observes that man's likeness to God resides especially in his speculative intellect, for his relationship with the object of his knowledge resembles God's relationship with what he has created (Summa Theologica I-II:3:5, ad 1). But even more, man is called to enter into a relationship of knowledge and love with God himself, a relationship which will find its complete fulfillment beyond time, in eternity. All the depth and grandeur of this vocation are revealed to us in the mystery of the risen Christ (cf. Gaudium et Spes, 22). It is by virtue of his spiritual soul that the whole person possesses such a dignity even in his body. Pius XII stressed this essential point: If the human body take its origin from pre-existent living matter, the spiritual soul is immediately created by God ("animas enim a Deo immediate creari catholica fides nos retinere iubei"; "Humani Generis," 36). Consequently, theories of evolution which, in accordance with the philosophies inspiring them, consider the spirit as emerging from the forces of living matter or as a mere epiphenomenon of this matter, are incompatible with the truth about man. Nor are they able to ground the dignity of the person.
Pope Benedict XVI's statement really seems to me to be no different than what Pope John Paul II originally said. Neither of them deny completely the idea of evolution, but both of their statements can be seen as supporting the idea that there has been a creative force behind the universe. This creative force created the universe in such a way as to ultimately lead to humanity. Both Popes are in agreement that this is not, as the Darwinists would have you believe, a process that occurred divorced from God, or as the Statement of the National Association of Biology Teachers on the Teaching of Evolution says, "The diversity of life on earth is the outcome of biological evolution —- an unpredictable and natural process of descent with modification that is affected by natural selection, mutation, genetic drift, migration and other natural biological and geological forces."
What is more difficult to read from the two statements is exactly how far the Popes have claimed this intelligent project extends. Is the creative moment limited to the time of the creation of the universe, or is the pope extending approval to the idea of such concepts as irreducible complexity in biological systems that seems to make the naturalistic arising of life all but impossible. As a friend of mine pointed out on a discussion board a few days ago, it is bad theology to assume that God couldn't design a universe that produced life without having to intervene to juryrig the process from time to time. Thus, it could be the case that the Popes have adopted his view that God created the universe in such a way that He knew would ultimately result in man, and he did not step in to alter the otherwise purely naturalistic process at any time since.
At the same time, the question -- when it comes to ideas about evidence of intelligent design in complex theological systems -- is not about whether God could have created a universe in such a way, but whether he did in fact create such a universe. When I see the evidence for design in biological systems, I don't say "God couldn't have created the universe in such a way as to produce life without having to intervene to juryrig the process from time to time", rather I am saying "here is evidence that can be seen in nature that shows that there is an intelligent designer behind these biological systems."
I am looking forward to seeing what Pope Benedict XVI has to say further on the subject of this "intelligent project". In the meantime, to those of the Roman Catholic faith who may have been woken up to this subject by the statements of Pope Benedict XVI, welcome aboard.