Papal teaching (letter)

Papal teaching (letter)

John Young

Gerry Keane has for many years done good work in exposing the errors of evolutionists and giving the scientific case against the theory. But I strongly disagree with his contention (September AD2000) that the teaching of the Catholic Church obliges Catholics to reject human evolution.

He refers to the 1880 encyclical of Leo XIII, Arcanum Divinae Sapientiae, but without quoting it. Doubtless the passage he has in mind is where the Pope speaks of God making man from the slime of the earth on the sixth day of creation, and breathing into his face the breath of life. I am sure it is reading too much into the passage if one interprets it as leaving "no room whatsoever for evolution of human beings", as Mr Keane contends.

Almost all the Church Fathers of the early centuries, says Gerry Keane, "held to ex nihilo special creation of kinds each 'in its whole substance'...". This is incorrect. They thought God directly made the different kinds from pre-existing non-living matter, not that He created them from nothing.

But we cannot validly argue that because nearly all the Fathers held this we are obliged to accept it. The fact is that they did not consider the possibility of evolution but took for granted that God had produced each kind directly from matter. This is similar to their understanding of the Biblical text that "the sun stood still". They were making no doctrinal statement.

If Mr Keane were right in saying that Catholics are obliged to reject human evolution, then both Pope Pius XII and the present Pope have violated this obligation! Pius XII, in his 1950 encyclical Humani Generis, taught that the evolution of the human body may be taught, with due prudence. John Paul II stated: "... from the viewpoint of the doctrine of the Faith, there are no difficulties in explaining the origin of man, in regard to the body, by means of the theory of evolution. It must, however, be added, that this hypothesis proposes only a probability, not a scientific certainty" (General Audience, 15.4.86; L'Osservatore Romano, English edition, 21.4.86).

We must be very careful not to tell Catholics they have an obligation to believe something when the Popes have said otherwise.

Eastwood, NSW

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