Catholic Schools: Meeting the Challenges

Feb. 2-8, 2006
VOL 125 NO. 4
Catholic Schools: Meeting the Challenges
By Catholic News Service
SUN photo(s) Paul Finch
ALBANY

Bishops praise N.Y. Gov. Pataki’s education tax credit proposal (CNS) — New York’s Catholic bishops praised Gov. George E. Pataki’s budget proposal to give income tax credits for the education expenses of many families in the state. “The bishops of New York state have made an education tax credit a top priority of their legislative agenda and they are grateful to Gov. Pataki for this action,” said Richard E. Barnes, executive director of the New York State Catholic Conference, which represents the bishops in policy matters.

The governor laid out the proposal Jan. 17 as part of his proposed $110.7 billion state budget for the 2006-07 fiscal year. It would provide an education credit of up to $500 per child to families with incomes below $90,000 if they live in a school district that includes underachieving schools. If approved, it would provide an estimated $400 million in tax credits in the 2006 tax year. Dennis Poust, the Catholic Conference’s communications director, said if Pataki’s proposal is approved by the Legislature, it will be the first time the state will offer a tuition tax credit for parents with children in nonpublic elementary and secondary schools. Barnes said, “The tax credit proposed by the governor could be used by parents for a variety of expenses, including tuition at independent and religious schools, tutoring and summer instruction services.”

He noted, however, that the governor’s plan is not as comprehensive as that sought by the bishops. “We continue to support an expanded version … such as a bill sponsored by Sen. Marty Golden and Assembly Member Vito Lopez, which would provide an education tax credit to all parents in public, independent and religious schools,” he said. Poust said education tax credits have previously been proposed in the Legislature but did not get enacted. Pataki’s proposal, however, marks the first time a New York governor has initiated such a plan, he said.

VATICAN CITY

Intelligent design not science, says Vatican newspaper article

(CNS) — Intelligent design is not science and should not be taught as a scientific theory in schools alongside Darwinian evolution, an article in the Vatican newspaper said. The article said that in pushing intelligent design some groups were improperly seeking miraculous explanations in a way that creates confusion between religious and scientific fields.

At the same time, scientists should recognize that evolutionary theory does not exclude an overall purpose in creation — a “superior design” that may be realized through secondary causes like natural selection, it said. The article, published in the Jan. 17 edition of L’Osservatore Romano, was written by Fiorenzo Facchini, a professor of evolutionary biology at the University of Bologna in Italy.

The article noted that the debate over intelligent design — the idea that certain features of life and the universe are best explained by an intelligent designer rather than adaptive evolution — has spread from the United States to Europe. The problem with intelligent design is that it turns to a “superior cause” — understood though not necessarily named as God — to explain supposed shortcomings of evolutionary science. But that’s not how science should work, the article said. “If the model proposed by Darwin is held to be inadequate, one should look for another model. But it is not correct methodology to stray from the field of science pretending to do science,” it said. The article said a Pennsylvania judge had acted properly when he ruled in December that intelligent design could not be taught as science in schools.

“Intelligent design does not belong to science and there is no justification for the pretext that it be taught as a scientific theory alongside the Darwinian explanation,” it said. From the church’s point of view, Catholic teaching says God created all things from nothing, but doesn’t say how, the article said. That leaves open the possibilities of evolutionary mechanisms like random mutation and natural selection. “God’s project of creation can be carried out through secondary causes in the natural course of events, without having to think of miraculous interventions that point in this or that direction,” it said.

What the church does insist upon is that the emergence of the human supposes a willful act of God, and that man cannot be seen as only the product of evolutionary processes, it said. The spiritual element of man is not something that could have developed from natural selection but required an “ontological leap,” it said. The article said that, unfortunately, what has helped fuel the intelligent design debate is a tendency among some Darwinian scientists to view evolution in absolute and ideological terms, as if everything — including first causes — can be attributed to chance.

“Science as such, with its methods, can neither demonstrate nor exclude that a superior design has been carried out,” it said. From a religious viewpoint, it said, there is no doubt that the human story “has a sense and a direction that is marked by a superior design.”

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