We all know the Catholic Church evolves. It is not static. For example, just in my lifetime, the Catholic Church:
- introduced non-Latin mass translations (1963);
- introduced Canon Law (1983, replacing changes introduced in 1917);
- abolished the concept of Limbo (2007);
- altered the English-language translation of the mass (2011); and
- offered reduced time in Purgatory for following Pope Frances on Twitter (2013).
Yes, you read that last bullet correctly. Follow Pope Frances on Twitter, earn “indulgences” redeemable for reduced time in Purgatory.
As reported today by The Guardian:
In its latest attempt to keep up with the times the Vatican has married one of its oldest traditions to the world of social media by offering “indulgences” to followers of Pope Francis’ tweets.
As one who views all religions as memes, I find this story simply delicious evidence that the Catholic Church evolves.
Religion as Meme
Biologist Richard Dawkins coined the term meme to represent a unit of cultural ideas or practices. Memes are ideas that can be replicated from mind to mind. The term is intentionally similar to “gene”. A gene is a unit of genetic information that can be replicated from generation to generation. As with genes, the replication process can introduce variations. These variations allow for the evolution of new forms.
When viewed from this perspective, it is easy to see how religions in general, and Catholicism specifically, are products of memetic evolution. Over millennia, the memes morph, slowly, nearly imperceptibly from one form to newer, derived forms.
Catholic Church Evolves
It’s ridiculous to imagine Mathew, Mark, Luke, or John, two-thousand years ago, evangelizing that one could avoid time in Purgatory by following the Pope’s Twitter feed. But when we view religion as memes, it’s easy to see how, over very long stretches of time, very small incremental changes can accumulate.
Yes, the Catholic Church evolves. As any meme might.