Evolution and the Roman Catholic Church

Evolution and the Roman Catholic Church

The position of the Catholic Church on the theory of evolution has moved over the last two centuries from a large period of no official mention, to a statement of neutrality in the 1950s, to a more explicit acceptance in recent years. Today, the official Church's position remains a focus of controversy and is fairly non-specific, stating only that faith and scientific findings regarding human evolution are not in conflict, though humans are regarded as a "special creation", and that the existence of God is required to explain the spiritual component of human origins. This view falls into the spectrum of viewpoints that are grouped under the concept of "theistic evolution". [ ] [cite web |url=http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/faq-god.html |title=God and Evolution |accessdate=2007-10-10 |author=Warren Kurt VonRoeschlaub |publisher=Talk Origins Archive ]

Pope Pius IX

Darwin's "Origin of Species" was published in 1859, during the papacy of Pope Pius IX, who defined dogmatically papal infallibility during the First Vatican Council in 1869-70. The council has a section on "Faith and Reason" that includes the following on science and faith:

:"9. Hence all faithful Christians are forbidden to defend as the legitimate conclusions of science those opinions which are known to be contrary to the doctrine of faith, particularly if they have been condemned by the Church; and furthermore they are absolutely bound to hold them to be errors which wear the deceptive appearance of truth." (Vatican Council I)

:"10. Not only can faith and reason never be at odds with one another but they mutually support each other, for on the one hand right reason established the foundations of the faith and, illuminated by its light, develops the science of divine things; on the other hand, faith delivers reason from errors and protects it and furnishes it with knowledge of many kinds." (Vatican Council I)

On God the Creator, the Vatican Council was very clear. The definitions preceding the "anathema" (as a technical term of Catholic theology, let him be "cut off" or excommunicated, cf. Gal 1:6-9; Titus 3:10-11; Matt 18:15-17) signify an infallible dogma of Catholic faith (De Fide):
# On God the creator of all things
## If anyone denies the one true God, creator and lord of things visible and invisible: let him be anathema.
## If anyone is so bold as to assert that there exists nothing besides matter: let him be anathema.
## If anyone says that the substance or essence of God and that of all things are one and the same: let him be anathema.
## If anyone says that finite things, both corporal and spiritual, or at any rate, spiritual, emanated from the divine substance; or that the divine essence, by the manifestation and evolution of itself becomes all things or, finally, that God is a universal or indefinite being which by self determination establishes the totality of things distinct in genera, species and individuals: let him be anathema.
## If anyone does not confess that the world and all things which are contained in it, both spiritual and material, were produced, according to their whole substance, out of nothing by God; or holds that God did not create by his will free from all necessity, but as necessarily as he necessarily loves himself; or denies that the world was created for the glory of God: let him be anathema.

According to Catholic theologian Dr. Ludwig Ott in his 1952 treatise "Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma", ["Grundriss der Katholischen Dogmatik" (in German), Ludwig Ott, Verlag Herder, Freibury, 1952; First published in English as "Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma", Ludwig Ott, translated by Dr. Patrick Lynch and edited by James Canon Bastible, D.D., The Mercier Press, Limited, May, 1955.] it is to be understood that these condemnations are of the errors of modern materialism (that matter is all there is), pantheism (that God is all there is), and ancient pagan and gnostic-manichean dualism (where God is not responsible for the entire created world, since mere "matter" is evil not good, see Ott, page 79).

The First Vatican Council also upholds the ability of reason to know God from his creation:

:"1. The same Holy mother Church holds and teaches that God, the source and end of all things, can be known with certainty from the consideration of created things, by the natural power of human reason: ever since the creation of the world, his invisible nature has been clearly perceived in the things that have been made." (Chapter 2, On Revelation; cf. Romans 1:19-20; and Wisdom chapter 13)

Pope Pius X

The Pontifical Biblical Commission issued a decree ratified by Pope Pius X on June 30, 1909 that "special creation" only applied to man, not to the other species. [http://www.ewtn.com/library/HUMANITY/EVOLUTN.TXT "EVOLUTION: A CATHOLIC PERSPECTIVE"] , James B. Stenson, Catholic Position Papers, Series A, Number 116, March, 1984, Japan Edition, Seido Foundation for the Advancement of Education, 12-6 Funado-Cho, Ashiya-Shi Japan.]

Pope Pius XII

The Church, beginning in 1950 with Pope Pius XII's encyclical "Humani Generis", took up a neutral position with regard to evolution:

:"The Church does not forbid that...research and discussions, on the part of men experienced in both fields, take place with regard to the doctrine of evolution, in as far as it inquires into the origin of the human body as coming from pre-existent and living matter." (Pius XII, [http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/pius_xii/encyclicals/documents/hf_p-xii_enc_12081950_humani-generis_en.html encyclical "Humani Generis"] )

Pope Pius XII's teaching can be summarized as follows:
* The question of the origin of man's body from pre-existing and living matter is a legitimate matter of inquiry for natural science. Catholics are free to form their own opinions, but they should do so cautiously; they should not confuse fact with conjecture, and they should respect the Church's right to define matters touching on Revelation.
* Catholics must believe, however, that the human soul was created immediately by God. Since the soul is a spiritual substance it is not brought into being through transformation of matter, but directly by God, whence the special uniqueness of each person.
* All men have descended from an individual, Adam, who has transmitted original sin to all mankind. Catholics may not, therefore, believe in "polygenism," the scientific hypothesis that mankind descended from a group of original humans (that there were many Adams and Eves).

Some theologians believe Pius XII explicitly excludes belief in polygenism as licit. The relevant sentence is this:

:"Now it is in no way apparent how such an opinion (polygenism) can be reconciled with that which the sources of revealed truth and the documents of the Teaching Authority of the Church propose with regard to original sin, which proceeds from a sin actually committed by an individual Adam and which, through generation, is passed on to all and is in everyone as his own." (Pius XII, "Humani Generis", 37 and footnote refers to Romans 5:12-19; Council of Trent, Session V, Canons 1-4)

Post Vatican II


Some modern theologians do not necessarily see a conflict between polygenism and Catholic teaching on original sin. A clear example of this opinion can be found in "The Christian Faith in the Doctrinal Documents of the Catholic Church" (1996 edition), on Humani Generis where the authors / editors Fr. Neuner and Dupuis, S.J. state:

Further, see also the article published in "L'Osservatore Romano", "The Credo of Paul VI: Theology of Original Sin and the Scientific Theory of Evolution" by Roberto Masi:

A biological polygenism, which the scientific evidence is against, can be combined with a theological monogenism where one couple is ensouled by God. This article appeared in the Vatican's own newspaper and was found on the conservative EWTN site's old document library before it remodeled. [ [http://www.ewtn.com/library/Theology/SINEVOL.HTM THE CREDO OF PAUL VI: THEOLOGY OF ORIGINAL SIN AND THE SCIENTIFIC THEORY OF EVOLUTION] ]

The Church has not yet clarified the question of monogenism versus polygenism, though an International Theological Commission document on creation and evolution endorsed by Cardinal Ratzinger [He was president of the Commission that produced the statement, see bottom of [http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/cfaith/cti_documents/rc_con_cfaith_doc_20040723_communion-stewardship_en.html Communion and Stwardship] ] from 2004 states:

This passage admits of both monogenetic and polygenetic interpretations, since it is unclear whether the "humanoid population" is to be regarded as the first humans, or the immediate ancestors of the first humans. And further:

Lastly, the document mentions Adam:

In a January 16, 2006 article in "L'Osservatore Romano", Fiorenzo Facchini states:

The Vatican has avoided making any recent explicit pronouncement on the question of the theological necessity of monogenism. [Neuner/Dupuis, Roberto Masi, the ITC statement above, and especially [http://jimmyakin.typepad.com/defensor_fidei/2006/10/monogenism_scie.html "Monogenism and Science"] from Jimmy Akin's blog]

Pope John Paul II

— John Paul II, 1996 [ [http://www.ewtn.com/library/PAPALDOC/JP961022.HTM MESSAGE TO THE PONTIFICAL ACADEMY OF SCIENCES:ON EVOLUTION] , John Paul II, 22 October 1996] ] In an October 22, 1996, address to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, Pope John Paul II updated the Church's position to accept evolution of the human body:

:"In his encyclical "Humani Generis" (1950), my predecessor Pius XII has already affirmed that there is no conflict between evolution and the doctrine of the faith regarding man and his vocation, provided that we do not lose sight of certain fixed points....Today, more than a half-century after the appearance of that encyclical, some new findings lead us toward the recognition of evolution as more than an hypothesis. In fact it is remarkable that this theory has had progressively greater influence on the spirit of researchers, following a series of discoveries in different scholarly disciplines. The convergence in the results of these independent studies -- which was neither planned nor sought -- constitutes in itself a significant argument in favor of the theory." [John Paul II, [http://www.ewtn.com/library/PAPALDOC/JP961022.HTM Message to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences on Evolution] ]

In the same address, Pope John Paul II rejected any theory of evolution that provides a materialistic explanation for the human soul:

:"Theories of evolution which, because of the philosophies which inspire them, regard the spirit either as emerging from the forces of living matter, or as a simple epiphenomenon of that matter, are incompatible with the truth about man."

Pope Benedict XVI

Because of recent statements by Cardinal Schönborn, confusion has arisen over the Church's stance on the compatibility between evolution and Catholic dogma, which have both been addressed.

The Church has deferred to scientists on matters such as the age of the earth and the authenticity of the fossil record. Papal pronouncements, along with commentaries by cardinals, have accepted the findings of scientists on the gradual appearance of life. In fact, the International Theological Commission in a July 2004 statement endorsed by Cardinal Ratzinger, then president of the Commission and head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, now Pope Benedict XVI, includes this paragraph:

The Church's stance is that any such gradual appearance must have been guided in some way by God, but the Church has thus far declined to define in what way that may be. Commentators tend to interpret the Church's position in the way most favorable to their own arguments. The ITC statement includes these paragraphs on evolution, the providence of God, and "intelligent design":

quotation|In freely willing to create and conserve the universe, God wills to activate and to sustain in act all those secondary causes whose activity contributes to the unfolding of the natural order which he intends to produce. Through the activity of natural causes, God causes to arise those conditions required for the emergence and support of living organisms, and, furthermore, for their reproduction and differentiation. Although there is scientific debate about the degree of purposiveness or design operative and empirically observable in these developments, they have de facto favored the emergence and flourishing of life. Catholic theologians can see in such reasoning support for the affirmation entailed by faith in divine creation and divine providence. In the providential design of creation, the triune God intended not only to make a place for human beings in the universe but also, and ultimately, to make room for them in his own trinitarian life. Furthermore, operating as real, though secondary causes, human beings contribute to the reshaping and transformation of the universe.

A growing body of scientific critics of neo-Darwinism point to evidence of design (e.g., biological structures that exhibit specified complexity) that, in their view, cannot be explained in terms of a purely contingent process and that neo-Darwinians have ignored or misinterpreted. The nub of this currently lively disagreement involves scientific observation and generalization concerning whether the available data support inferences of design or chance, and cannot be settled by theology. But it is important to note that, according to the Catholic understanding of divine causality, true contingency in the created order is not incompatible with a purposeful divine providence. Divine causality and created causality radically differ in kind and not only in degree. Thus, even the outcome of a truly contingent natural process can nonetheless fall within God’s providential plan for creation.

In addition, the Vatican's former chief astronomer, Fr. George Coyne, prior to his retirement, issued a statement on 18 November 2005 saying that "Intelligent design isn't science even though it pretends to be. If you want to teach it in schools, intelligent design should be taught when religion or cultural history is taught, not science." Cardinal Paul Poupard added that "the faithful have the obligation to listen to that which secular modern science has to offer, just as we ask that knowledge of the faith be taken in consideration as an expert voice in humanity." He also warned of the permanent lesson we have learned from the Galileo affair, and that "we also know the dangers of a religion that severs its links with reason and becomes prey to fundamentalism." Fiorenzo Facchini, professor of evolutionary biology at the University of Bologna, called intelligent design unscientific, and wrote in the January 16-17, 2006 edition "L'Osservatore Romano": "But it is not correct from a methodological point of view to stray from the field of science while pretending to do science....It only creates confusion between the scientific plane and those that are philosophical or religious."

In a commentary on Genesis authored as Cardinal Ratzinger titled "In the Beginning..." Benedict XVI spoke of "the inner unity of creation and evolution and of faith and reason" and that these two realms of knowledge are complementary, not contradictory:

In a book released in 2008, his comments prior to becoming Pope were recorded as:

On September 2-3, 2006 at Castel Gandolfo, Pope Benedict XVI conducted a seminar examining the theory of evolution and its impact on Catholicism's teaching of Creation. The seminar is the latest edition of the annual "Schülerkreis" or student circle, a meeting Benedict has held with his former Ph.D. students since the 1970s. [ [http://www.beliefnet.com/story/197/story_19764_1.html Pope to Dissect Evolution With Former Students] , Stacy Meichtry, Beliefnet] [ [http://ncrcafe.org/node/435 Benedict's Schulerkreis] , John L. Allen Jr, National Catholic Reporter Blog, Sep 8, 2006] The essays presented by his formers students, including natural scientists and theologians, were published in 2007 under the title "Creation and Evolution" (in German, "Schöpfung und Evolution"). In Pope Benedict's own contribution he states that "the question is not to either make a decision for a creationism that fundamentally excludes science, or for an evolutionary theory that covers over its own gaps and does not want to see the questions that reach beyond the methodological possibilities of natural science," and that "I find it important to underline that the theory of evolution implies questions that must be assigned to philosophy and which themselves lead beyond the realms of science."

In commenting on statements by his predecessor, he writes that "it is also true that the theory of evolution is not a complete, scientifically proven theory." Though commenting that experiments in a controlled environment were limited as "we cannot haul 10,000 generations into the laboratory," he does "not" endorse creationism or intelligent design. He defends theistic evolution, the reconciliation between science and religion already held by Catholics. In discussing evolution, he writes that "The process itself is rational despite the mistakes and confusion as it goes through a narrow corridor choosing a few positive mutations and using low probability....This....inevitably leads to a question that goes beyond science....where did this rationality come from?" to which he answers that it comes from the "creative reason" of God. [ [http://www.signonsandiego.com/news/world/20070411-0300-pope-evolution-.html Pope says science too narrow to explain creation] , Tom Heneghan, San Diego Union-Tribune, April 11, 2007] [ [http://www.smh.com.au/news/world/evolution-not-completely-provable-pope/2007/04/11/1175971179873.html Evolution not completely provable: Pope] , Sydney Morning Herald, April 11, 2007] [ [http://www.usatoday.com/news/religion/2007-04-11-pope-evolution-creation_N.htm Pope praises science but stresses evolution not proven] , USA Today, 4/12/2007]

Catholic teaching and evolution

The "Catechism of the Catholic Church" (1994, revised 1997) on faith, evolution and science states:quotation|159. Faith and science: "...methodical research in all branches of knowledge, provided it is carried out in a truly scientific manner and does not override moral laws, can never conflict with the faith, because the things of the world and the things of faith derive from the same God. The humble and persevering investigator of the secrets of nature is being led, as it were, by the hand of God in spite of himself, for it is God, the conserver of all things, who made them what they are." (Vatican II GS 36:1)

283. The question about the origins of the world and of man has been the object of many scientific studies which have splendidly enriched our knowledge of the age and dimensions of the cosmos, the development of life-forms and the appearance of man. These discoveries invite us to even greater admiration for the greatness of the Creator, prompting us to give him thanks for all his works and for the understanding and wisdom he gives to scholars and researchers....

284. The great interest accorded to these studies is strongly stimulated by a question of another order, which goes beyond the proper domain of the natural sciences. It is not only a question of knowing when and how the universe arose physically, or when man appeared, but rather of discovering the meaning of such an origin....

Paragraph 283 has been noted as making a positive comment regarding the theory of evolution, with the clarification that "many scientific studies" which have enriched knowledge of "the development of life-forms and the appearance of man" refers to mainstream science and not to "creation science". [harvnb| Akin| 2004.]

Concerning the doctrine on creation, Ludwig Ott in his "Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma" (originally published in 1952 in German) identifies the following points as essential beliefs of the Catholic faith ("De Fide"):
* All that exists outside God was, in its whole substance, produced out of nothing by God. (De Fide)
* God was moved by His Goodness to create the world. (De Fide)
* The world was created for the Glorification of God. (De Fide)
* The Three Divine Persons are one single, common Principle of the Creation. (De Fide)
* God created the world free from exterior compulsion and inner necessity. (De Fide)
* God has created a good world. (De Fide)
* The world had a beginning in time. (De Fide)
* God alone created the world. (De Fide)
* God keeps all created things in existence. (De Fide)
* God, through His Providence, protects and guides all that He has created. (De Fide)

These are the specific De Fide statements found in Ott on "The Divine Act of Creation," pages 79-91. The various Councils (Lateran IV, Vatican I, Florence, and others), the traditional statements of the Saints, Doctors, Fathers, and Scriptures are cited by Ott to document the Catholic dogma that God is ultimately the Creator of all things however he chose to do the creating (Genesis 1; Colossians 1:15ff; Hebrews 3; Psalm 19).

Catholic schools and evolution

Catholic schools teach evolution, not theistic evolution, as part of their science curriculum. They teach the fact that evolution occurs and the modern evolutionary synthesis, which is the scientific theory that explains why evolution occurs. This is the same evolution curriculum that secular schools teach. Catholic schools do teach theistic evolution in their religion classes though. Bishop DiLorenzo of Richmond, chair of the [http://www.nccbuscc.org/shv/ Committee on Science and Human Values] in a December 2004 letter sent to all U.S. bishops: "...Catholic schools should continue teaching evolution as a scientific theory backed by convincing evidence. At the same time, Catholic parents whose children are in public schools should ensure that their children are also receiving appropriate catechesis at home and in the parish on God as Creator. Students should be able to leave their biology classes, and their courses in religious instruction, with an integrated understanding of the means God chose to make us who we are." [http://www.findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m1141/is_21_41/ai_n13592804/print]

Unofficial catholic organizations

There have been several organizations composed of Catholic laity and clergy which have advocated positions supporting evolutionFact|date=March 2008 and opposed to evolution. For example:
*The Kolbe Center for the Study of Creation operates out of Mt. Jackson, Virginia and is a Catholic lay apostolate promoting Young Earth creationism (including biblical literalism and flood geology). [ [http://www.kolbecenter.org/ "Kolbe Center for the Study of Creation: Defending Genesis from a Traditional Catholic Perspective"] official website.] [ [http://www.kolbecenter.org/missionstatement.htm Kolbe Center Mission Statement] ]

*The "Faith Movement" was founded by Catholic Fr. Edward Holloway in Surrey, England ["Catholicism: a New Synthesis", Edward Holloway, 1969.] and "argues from Evolution as a fact, that the whole process would be impossible without the existence of the Supreme Mind we call God." [ [http://www.theotokos.org.uk/pages/creation/daylight/faith2.html "Theistic Evolution and the Mystery of FAITH (cont'd)"] , Anthony Nevard, Theotokos Catholic Books website; Creation/Evolution Section.]

*The "Daylight Origins Society" was founded in 1971 by John G. Campbell (d.1983) as the "Counter Evolution Group". Its goal is "to inform Catholics and others of the scientific evidence supporting Special Creation as opposed to Evolution, and that the true discoveries of Science are in conformity with Catholic doctrines." It publishes the "Daylight" newsletter. [ [http://www.theotokos.org.uk/pages/creation/daylight/daylight.html#anchor159668 "Daylight Origins Society: Creation Science for Catholics"] official homepage.]

There are many Catholic organizations who gain insight into the relation between Catholic faith and evolution from the writings of Fr. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin.Fact|date=March 2008 However, there have been numerous condemnations of Teilhard by church officials and other Catholics. [ [http://www.columbia.edu/cu/augustine/arch/dechardin.txt "Warning Considering the Writings of Father Teilhard de Chardin"] , Sacred Congregation of the Holy Office, June 30, 1962.] [ [http://www.columbia.edu/cu/augustine/arch/dechardin.txt Communiqué of the Press Office of the Holy See] , English edition of L'Osservatore Romano, July 20, 1981.] [ [http://www.theotokos.org.uk/pages/creation/misc/teilhard.html "Letter about Teilhard de Chardin"] , Etienne Gilson writing to Cardinal De Lubac, in "Teilhard de Chardin: False Prophet", Dietrich von Hildebrand, Chicago: Franciscan Herald Press, 1968.]

Even the semi-official Catholic website "catholic.net", successor to the "Catholic Information Center on the Internet", sometimes features polemics against evolution. [ [http://www.catholic.net/RCC/Periodicals/Homiletic/11-96/3/3.html "Theistic evolution: A tragic misunderstanding and grave error - Christians should realize that evolution is not part of genuine natural science, but is an excuse invented by men to reject God."] , Clement A. Butel, [http://www.catholic.net/index.phtml Catholic.net website] ] Many "traditionalist" organizations are also opposed to evolution, see e.g. the theological journal [http://www.rtforum.org/lt/index.html Living Tradition] .Nonspecific|date=March 2008

ee also

* Relationship between religion and science
* Mormonism and evolution
* Jainism and non-creationism
* Jewish views on evolution
* Hindu views on evolution



* [http://www.ewtn.com/library/COUNCILS/V1.HTM Vatican Council I (1869-70), the full documents.]
* From the 1913 Catholic Encyclopedia: [http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/05654a.htm Catholics and Evolution] and [http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/05655a.htm Evolution, History and Scientific Foundation of]
* Pope Pius XII, [http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/pius_xii/encyclicals/documents/hf_p-xii_enc_12081950_humani-generis_en.html Humani Generis 1950 encyclical]
* Roberto Masi, " [http://www.ewtn.com/library/Theology/SINEVOL.HTM The Credo of Paul VI: Theology of Original Sin and the Scientific Theory of Evolution] " (L'Osservatore Romano, 17 April 1969).
* Pope John Paul II, general audience of 10 July 1985. " [http://www.its.caltech.edu/%7Enmcenter/sci-cp/sci85071.html Proofs for God's Existence are Many and Convergent] ."
* Cardinal Ratzinger's Commentary on Genesis [http://www.bringyou.to/apologetics/p81.htm Excerpts from In the Beginning: A Catholic Understanding of the Story of Creation and the Fall] .
* Pope John Paul II, 22 October 1996. " [http://www.ewtn.com/library/PAPALDOC/JP961022.HTM Message to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences on Evolution] ."
*Citation | last = Akin | first = Jimmy | title =Evolution and the Magisterium | newspaper =This Rock | year = 2004 | date = January 2004 | url =http://www.catholic.com/thisrock/2004/0401bt.asp | accessdate =2007-08-14
* International Theological Commission (2004). " [http://www.bringyou.to/apologetics/p80.htm Communion and Stewardship: Human Persons Created in the Image of God] ."
* Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, " [http://www.catholiceducation.org/articles/science/sc0060.html Finding Design in Nature] ," published in the "New York Times", July 7, 2005.
* Cardinal Paul Poupard, " [http://www.livescience.com/othernews/ap_051103_vatican.html Vatican Cardinal: Listen to What Modern Science has to Offer] ," November 3, 2005.
* Mark Brumley, " [http://www.intelligentproject.net/popeevolution.htm Evolution and the Pope] , of [http://www.ignatiusinsight.com Ignatius Insight]
* John L. Allen [http://www.catholic.org/international/international_story.php?id=21156 Teaching of Benedict XVI on Evolution before becoming Pope.]
* [http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/homilies/documents/hf_ben-xvi_hom_20050424_inizio-pontificato_en.html Benedict XVI's inaugural address.]

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