For many centuries, since the beginning of the modern age, the Roman Catholic Church held an ambivalent attitude toward science, until an enlightened position seemed to prevail at the end of the twentieth century, with two papal statements that respectively concerned Galileo's trial and Darwin's theory. In the last few years, however, within the higher circles of the Vatican, a less open-minded stance with regard to both the natural and the social sciences seems to have gained strength again.

In this article, the roots, nature, and implications of this less-tolerant trend are discussed by analyzing two key case studies. The first concerns the view of the Roman Catholic Church with regard to the Darwinian theory of evolution (which, surprisingly, seems now less accepted than it used to be in the recent past, in favor of views clearly at odds with the scientific worldview, such as purposeful evolution or even intelligent design). The second case study concerns the methodological issue of how Jesus's historical figure should be studied.

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