News reports from a variety of sources are claiming that the Vatican has endorsed evolution and condemned Intelligent Design. For example, at Science and Theology news the headline declares, "Vatican sides with Darwin." The subheader for the piece states, "There is no more confusion swirling around the Vatican over its stance on ID. Darwin has won out, and scientists are breathing a collective sigh of relief." Glad to know that scientists care so much what the Vatican says about things like this.
Then there is The Australian, which states, "The Vatican has issued a stout defence of Charles Darwin, voicing strong criticism of Christian fundamentalists who reject his theory of evolution and interpret the biblical account of creation literally."
Not as direct about the issue of evolution, ABC News declared, "Vatican: Faithful Should Listen to Science."
Lots of online media have picked up on the story and repeated it. The problem is, so many are getting it wrong. "The Vatican" has said nothing on the subject. No statements have been issued by the Vatican. Cardinal Paul Poupard, who heads the Pontifical Council for Culture, made some remarks pertaining to the subject of evolution at a religion and science conference being held at the Vatican. Some other churchmen at the same conference made some remarks. But "the Vatican" has issued no declarations, nor has it "endorsed Darwin."
When Pope John Paul II declared evolution to be more than a hypothesis in his 1996 Address to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, he didn't "endorse Darwin," as I pointed out at the time. To say that versions of the theory of evolution are compatible with Christianity is not to "endorse Darwin." It is to say that versions of the theory of evolution are compatible with Christianity. That much was implied by Pius XII half a century ago.
Whether the theory of evolution can account for the diversity and present forms of biological species is primarily a scientific question, not a theological one, even if, indirectly, it has theological implications. Perhaps evolution can account for these things; perhaps it can't. But whether it can or not, the Vatican hasn't weighed in. It has, however, maintained what we should expect it to maintain--that whatever we say about evolution or biology as a matter of natural science, God is the Creator of all life and his creative activity can be rationally discerned from the world around us.