Faith and Science at Notre Dame
John Zahm, Evolution, and the Catholic Church
- Catholic Press Association Book Award: Faith and Science, Honorable Mention
- Philip J. Pauly Prize, Finalist
The Reverend John Augustine Zahm, CSC, (1851--1921) was a Holy Cross priest, an author, a South American explorer, and a science professor and vice president at the University of Notre Dame, the latter at the age of twenty-five. Through his scientific writings, Zahm argued that Roman Catholicism was fully compatible with an evolutionary view of biological systems. Ultimately Zahm’s ideas were not accepted in his lifetime and he was prohibited from discussing evolution and Catholicism, although he remained an active priest for more than two decades after his censure.
In Faith and Science at Notre Dame: John Zahm, Evolution, and the Catholic Church, John Slattery charts the rise and fall of Zahm, examining his ascension to international fame in bridging evolution and Catholicism and shedding new light on his ultimate downfall via censure by the Congregation of the Index of Prohibited Books. Slattery presents previously unknown archival letters and reports that allow Zahm’s censure to be fully understood in the light of broader scientific, theological, and philosophical movements within the Catholic Church and around the world.
Faith and Science at Notre Dame weaves together a vast array of threads to tell a compelling new story of the late nineteenth century. The result is a complex and thrilling tale of Neo-Scholasticism, Notre Dame, empirical science, and the simple faith of an Indiana priest. The book, which includes a new translation of the 1864 Syllabus of Errors, will appeal to those interested in Notre Dame and Catholic history, scholars of science and religion, and general readers seeking to understand the relationship between faith and science.
“No other book has gone into such depth in probing the story of the Catholic Church’s censorship of the attempts by the Notre Dame priest and scholar John Zahm to demonstrate that Catholic teaching, generally speaking, is consonant with Darwin’s evolutionary science. Faith and Science at Notre Dame provides an original and well-written account of Zahm’s life and career. It also provides a detailed study of the often fearful and unjust way in which the Catholic Church in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries dealt with some of its most devoted members when they sought to accommodate Church teachings intellectually and religiously to the age of science.”—John Haught, author of Resting on the Future: Catholic Theology for an Unfinished Universe
"According to John Slattery, John Zahm's scientific credentials and expertise far outstripped that of his opponents, but his lack of theological and philosophical sophistication severely hampered his ability to steer clear of condemnation. Faith and Science at Notre Dame explains Zahm's position and the background factors that led him to adopt a pro-evolution perspective in conflict with Church authorities both in the United Sates and in Rome." —Paul Allen, Concordia University
"Slattery’s account of Zahm’s work provides a much-needed bridge between this reactionary era in the Church’s recent intellectual history and the more open era of Catholic thought that preceded the French Revolution. Faith and Science at Notre Dame is an indispensable addition to this history." —Commonweal
"Faith and Science at Notre Dame gives us a fresh look at the work of Fr. John A. Zahm, C.S.C., the prominent Notre Dame advocate of the compatibility of evolutionary biology and Catholic thought. John Slattery examines Zahm's work within the larger context surrounding the rise of Neo-Scholasticism and against the background of the 'Americanist' controversies of the late nineteenth century. Slattery synthesizes the work of earlier scholars and gives us a new picture of Zahm both as a priest-scientist and also as a religious controversialist writing in a complex period of the history of the Roman Catholic Church. The work is supported by new archival research in Vatican archives, and includes translations of important official Church texts." —Phillip R. Sloan, Professor emeritus, University of Notre Dame
"Slattery’s book draws on new archival information from letters and reports that deepen our understanding of the scientific, theological and philosophical forces in the Church and put Zahm’s stance and the consequences he faced in a new light." —Notre Dame Magazine
"Father Zahm's life story is a cautionary tale of the challenge that men of faith face as scientists." —The Pilot
"The great merit of Slattery’s book is its detailed analysis showing that Zahm and the Vatican officials in the Congregation of the Index (and their chosen 'expert') were operating with vastly different understandings of what 'science' is." —Theological Studies