Not all scientists are as convinced as John Young is ("Genesis on creation and fall", August 2011) that the age of the earth is to be measured in billions, rather than thousands, of years. (To see some significant, though 'politically incorrect', arguments for a young earth based on up-to-date science, visit www.creation. com and www.kolbecenter.org)
Also, there are plenty of erudite biblical scholars - including liberals and unbelievers uninhibited by any felt need to defend the Bible's truthfulness - who see no justification whatever in literary or exegetical science for claiming that "day", as used in Genesis 1, was intended by the ancient Hebrew author to mean an indefinite period of time, or that the ages of the patriarchs in Genesis 5 were meant to be understood as "symbolic" rather than historical. (What on earth is supposed to be "symbolised" by numbers such as 895, 727 or 969?)
Nevertheless, Mr Young is quite right that the Church's magisterium, in its present state, leaves it open for Catholics to freely debate the scientific and exegetical pros and cons of the above issues; and in general his little article does quite a good job of setting out which features of the Genesis creation accounts the Church does require us to accept as historically true.
However, he omits one of these features: the non-evolutionary and directly supernatural formation of Eve from the side of Adam. Pope Leo XIII, teaching about the revealed origin of marriage in the 1880 encyclical Arcanum, declared that this is a certain truth - "known to all [Catholics] and doubtful to no one". And in 1909 the Pontifical Biblical Commission listed this among those teachings of Genesis that "touch the foundations of the Christian religion", and whose "literal and historical sense ... cannot be called in question". (Indeed, St Paul, writing under divine inspiration in I Cor. 11:8, 12, clearly interprets the Genesis teaching of woman's derivation from man as historical, not 'symbolic' or 'metaphorical'.)
I invite interested readers to take a look at my 60-page article arguing that the literal and historical formation of Eve from the adult Adam's side is an infallibly proposed doctrine of the Church's ordinary magisterium: "Did Woman Evolve From the Beasts?", Faith & Reason, Vol. XXIX, Nos. 2-4, Summer-Winter 2004, pp. 207-267 (accessible online in two parts, at www.rtforum.org/lt/lt97. html and www.rtforum.org/lt/lt 98. html ).
In this article I offer a rebuttal of every objection to my position that I have so far come across based on science, Scripture or theology. The 'bottom line' here is that the Church's magisterium permits Catholics to hold for an evolutionary origin of the human body as such (i.e., Adam's body), but not for Eve's body.
FR BRIAN HARRISON, O.S.
St Louis, Missouri, USA