A couple of years ago I met a Jesuit priest in Vancouver. He was talking to a group of Catholic school teachers about evolution and the Church. When he began to compare the attributes of a monkey to himself, he captured my attention.
It turned out that Fr. John McCarthy was also a boreal forest scientist. Every summer he would trundle up to northern Labrador to do research on tiny lichens on behalf of the federal government. He would also write short reflections on what his solitude and exposure to this wilderness taught him about life, the universe and God.
We have been fortunate enough to gather these writings together in a single volume called Do Monkeys go to Heaven? Finding God in all Creation, just released by Novalis.
The reflections contained in this book talk about what Fr. McCarthy saw in nature and what he knew about the scientific foundations for his observations. But he also takes his thoughts a bit further to ponder what he learned about the creation of the world and its creator.
These reflections are full of wonder, awe even, at the grand beauty of creation. They flow from the author’s faith and understanding of Catholic teachings, but they are also grounded in scientific knowledge. They form a bridge between faith and science, proving by example that the two are not only compatible, but actually complementary ways of understanding the world.
For us at Novalis, Fr. MCarthy’s ideas draw on the best of the Christian tradition of melding faith with understanding. For some years now we have tried to find ways to provide our readers with a more nuanced, less fundamentalist approach to the global debate — a war in some circles — over which is supreme, faith or science. Fr. McCarthy demonstrates that this is a false debate. There is room for both in the Christian mind.