As if this weren't enough to put his readers into a state of near catatonic fear, Fr. McBrien concluded by saying he would have more to say about Senator Brownback in the following column.
I couldn't help being curious what Sen. Brownback had done (other than converting to Catholicism) to offend Fr. McBrien badly enough to inspire a two part series, so I tuned in this week to find out. Part Two, it turns out, is titled "Theology and Science", and is designed to be a critique of Sen. Brownback's NY Times essay about "What I Think About Evolution".
There is, in some ways, less overtly to be annoyed about in this second part than in the first, though McBrien can't help slipping in several more statements that in the post-Vatican II world (or at least that version of the post-Vatican II world which resides within McBrien's imagination) it is impossible to believe there is only one true religion.
Still, his main bone to pick is with Brownback's take on "Faith and Reason":
While insisting that he opposes "the exclusion of either faith or reason from the discussion" about evolution vs. creationism (or "intelligent design"), Senator Brownback nonetheless concludes that any explanation of the origins of the universe that excludes God "should be firmly rejected as an atheistic theology posing as science."Now, I was sufficiently fond of Brownback's point that one doesn't "believe" in evolution but rather "thinks that it is correct" that I pretty much game him a pass on terminology. Others have pointed out (that McBrien does as well) that the senator uses the terms "reason" and "science" as interchangeable when discussing "faith and reason" and thus comes out making it sound like faith does not itself derive in part from reason. This may simply be sloppy use of vocabulary, or it may (as McBrien accuses) be a result of a lingering American Protestant worldview.
But here the argument becomes slippery. Does the senator mean to imply that some, most or even all scientists explicitly "dismiss the possibility of divine causality"? If there are, in fact, scientists who do that, they are in clear violation of their own scientific methods.
Scientists as scientists can neither prove nor disprove the existence of God, nor should they even try to do so. God is knowable only through faith of some kind. The most that people of any specific faith can hope for is the assurance that their belief in God is not contradicted by reason or science.
However, my impression is that, however distasteful Sen. Brownback's other opinions may be to Fr. McBrien, on the question of theology and science, they're actually saying very much the same thing.