Tuesday, 13 September 2016

Sheehan's Apologetics (Apologetics and Catholic Doctrine)

The book generally known as Sheehan’s Apologetics was the standard issue for Catholic Secondary Schools in Ireland for the study of Christian Doctrine. Archbishop Sheehan (Coadjutor Sydney) (1870
-1947) was a noted scholar of the Irish Language and had studied Latin, Greek and Sanskrit in Germany and taken his Phd. at Bonn writing on Isocrates. (in Latin)
Sheehan Wikipedia
Given all that and assuming his acquaintance with historical criticism and other German novelties his treatment of Darwinism and Evolutionism is extremely odd and reading it now one is reminded of the wilder shores of Bible Belt Evangelicalism.

After ten pages with extensive footnotes eg. Has Evolution taken place, remarks on the evidence, alleged causes:
Nor, as we shall see presently, have evolutionists succeeded
in discovering any natural cause which could have produced large scale evolution.
He disputes those alleged causes and offers the bolded heading: Evolution not Proved Scientifically but Useful as a Working Hypothesis.

For his final paragraph he offers 10 lines -(heading) If Evolution has occurred it is the work of God.Fine but why impugn the science which you don’t understand and lead others down an irrelevant cul de sac. There seems a lack of due epistemic modesty. On the charitable interpretation and from a rhetorical point of view which is suggested by his interest in Isocrates , Sheehan knowing that Darwinism as commonly presented has a corrosive effect on the sentiment of religion, would be justified in deflecting an interest in it.

On reflection it is a belief in the literal truth of the bible that guides his opposition to evolution.

The Church teaches that God built up the body of Eve from a portion of matter which he took from the body of Adam. So far, no interpretation of this teaching has been offered which would allow us to ascribe the origin of her body to evolution. And if evolution must be excluded in her case, it must be excluded also in the case of Adam.

At the end of that chapter he remarks:
The age of the human species is a question on which the Church has never given any decision, and may be left to the investigation of scientists.

It may, perhaps, be worth noting that the Church has never condemned the opinion, which was proposed centuries ago, that a race of men lived on the earth, but became extinct, before the creation of Adam.

Sheehan believed that myth can contradict science. Myth as I understand it is a symbolic representation of metaphysical reality. It draws us into relationship with it.

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