Providentissimus Deus

Speaking of signed integer overflow and other such thorny issues…

On 1893-11-18, Pope Leo XIII issued the encyclical Providentissimus Deus. In this letter, among much else, the Pope writes as follows:

In the second place, we have to contend against those who, making an evil use of physical science, minutely scrutinize the Sacred Book in order to detect the writers in a mistake, and to take occasion to vilify its contents. Attacks of this kind, bearing as they do on matters of sensible experience, are peculiarly dangerous to the masses, and also to the young who are beginning their literary studies; for the young, if they lose their reverence for the Holy Scripture on one or more points, are easily led to give up believing in it altogether.

And again:

There can never, indeed, be any real discrepancy between the theologian and the physicist, as long as each confines himself within his own lines, and both are careful, as St. Augustine warns us, “not to make rash assertions, or to assert what is not known as known.” If dissension should arise between them, here is the rule also laid down by St. Augustine, for the theologian: “Whatever they can really demonstrate to be true of physical nature, we must show to be capable of reconciliation with our Scriptures; and whatever they assert in their treatises which is contrary to these Scriptures of ours … we must either prove it as well as we can to be entirely false, or at all events we must, without the smallest hesitation, believe it to be so.”

And again:

The unshrinking defence of the Holy Scripture, however, does not require that we should equally uphold all the opinions which each of the Fathers or the more recent interpreters have put forth in explaining it; for it may be that, in commenting on passages where physical matters occur, they have sometimes expressed the ideas of their own times, and thus made statements which in these days have been abandoned as incorrect.

And again:

We recognize without hesitation that neither the extent of the matter nor the time at disposal allows each single Book … to be separately gone through. But the teaching should result in a definite and ascertained method of interpretation — and therefore the Professor should equally avoid the mistake of giving a mere taste of every Book, and of dwelling at too great length on a part of one Book. If most schools cannot do what is done in the large institutions — that is, take the students through the whole of one or two Books continuously and with a certain development — yet at least those parts which are selected should be treated with suitable fulness; in such a way that the students may learn from the sample that is thus put before them to love and use the remainder of the sacred Book during the whole of their lives.

Leo concludes:

The principles here laid down will apply to cognate sciences …

Posted 2018-03-13