Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Humani Generis Part 1 - The Pope Speaks on Evolution

We sometimes tend to think of the 1950s as a golden age for the Catholic Church, an era before theological dissent erupted in the sixties and seventies (after the Council). But the seeds of that later rebellion were already well laid by the Modernists dating back to the nineteenth century. Eugenio Pacelli, the Venerable Pope Pius XII (reigned 1939-1958), took a long hard look at a few of the errors already infiltrating the Church in his 1950 encyclical Humani Generis

Specifically, the Pope was concerned with the "Nouvelle Theologie" emanating from France after the War, which saw Catholic dogma as only relatively true. These theologians wanted to abandon traditional Catholic terms and to replace them with terminology drawn from modern philosophy. In the process of doing this they were changing the meaning of fundemental Catholic truths. In his encyclical, the pope also defined the Church's position on the Theory of Evolution. In relation to this, Papa Pacelli looks at two then popular ways of interpreting Genesis in light of recent scientific hypothesis, namely polygenism and an ahistoric reading of Genesis 1-11. In addressing these errors, Pius shored up the faithful against "false opinions threatening to undermine the foundations of Catholic Doctrine."

Let's take a closer look at what Pius had to say on the topic of Evolution. Does the Church deny what science has to tell us? (with my emphases and comments)

Sin enters the world

Venerable Brethren,
Greetings and Apostolic Benediction

Disagreement and error among men on moral and religious matters have always been a cause of profound sorrow to all good men, but above all to the true and loyal sons of the Church, especially today, when we see the principles of Christian culture being attacked on all sides (If this was true in 1950, how much more so is it today?).

5. If anyone examines the state of affairs outside the Christian fold, he will easily discover the principle trends that not a few learned men are following. Some imprudently and indiscreetly hold that evolution, which has not been fully proved (an important point to remember!) even in the domain of natural sciences, explains the origin of all things, and audaciously support the monistic and pantheistic opinion that the world is in continual evolution (the LCWR should read this at every meeting)...

8. In all this confusion of opinion it is some consolation to Us to see former adherents of rationalism today frequently desiring to return to the fountain of divinely communicated truth, and to acknowledge and profess the word of God as contained in Sacred Scripture as the foundation of religious teaching. But at the same time it is a matter of regret that not a few of these, the more firmly they accept the word of God, so much the more do they diminish the value of human reason (think: fundamentalists), and the more they exalt the authority of God the Revealer, the more severely do they spurn the teaching office of the Church, which has been instituted by Christ, Our Lord, to preserve and interpret divine revelation. This attitude is not only plainly at variance with Holy Scripture (cf. Luke 10:16), but is shown to be false by experience also. For often those who disagree with the true Church complain openly of their disagreement in matters of dogma and thus unwillingly bear witness to the necessity of a living Teaching Authority.

10. is apparent, however, that some today, as in apostolic times, desirous of novelty, and fearing to be considered ignorant of recent scientific findings, try to withdraw themselves from the sacred Teaching Authority and are accordingly in danger of gradually departing from revealed truth and of drawing others along with them into error. (i.e. some fall into these errors out of fear of seeming "behind the times")

36. ...the Teaching Authority of the Church does not forbid that, in conformity with the present state of human sciences and sacred theology (both scientists AND theologians need to weigh in on evolution), 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 - for the Catholic faith obliges us to hold that souls are immediately created by God. (Catholics cannot believe the soul evolved, only the body.) However, this must be done in such a way that the reasons for both opinions, that is, those favorable and those unfavorable to evolution, be weighed and judged with the necessary seriousness, moderation and measure, and provided that all are prepared to submit to the judgment of the Church, to whom Christ has given the mission of interpreting authentically the Sacred Scriptures and of defending the dogmas of faith.(It is the Church who has the last word on evolution, not scientists. The Church must take the research of scientists and theologians and reconcile it with both Sacred Tradition and Scripture.)

37. When, however, there is question of another conjectural opinion, namely polygenism, the children of the Church by no means enjoy such liberty. For the faithful cannot embrace that opinion which maintains that either after Adam there existed on this earth true men who did not take their origin through natural generation from him as from the first parent of all, or that Adam represents a certain number of first parents. Now it is in no way apparent how such an opinion 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. (Polygenism is out. A single couple, Adam and Eve, were everyone's first parents.)

38. Just as in the biological and anthropological sciences, so also in the historical sciences there are those who boldly transgress the limits and safeguards (to protect us from error) established by the Church. In a particular way must be deplored a certain too free interpretation of the historical books of the Old Testament... (T)he first eleven chapters of Genesis, although properly speaking not conforming to the historical method used by the best Greek and Latin writers or by competent authors of our time, do nevertheless pertain to history in a true sense, which however must be further studied and determined by exegetes; the same chapters... in simple and metaphorical language adapted to the mentality of a people but little cultured, both state the principal truths which are fundamental for our salvation, and also give a popular description of the origin of the human race and the chosen people. If, however, the ancient sacred writers have taken anything from popular narrations (and this may be conceded), it must never be forgotten that they did so with the help of divine inspiration, through which they were rendered immune from any error in selecting and evaluating those documents. (Genesis contains real history. It may be told in a poetic fashion, indeed in a way very different from the methods of modern historians, but it contains real history. Adam and Eve existed and sinned.)

39. Therefore, whatever of the popular narrations have been inserted into the Sacred Scriptures must in no way be considered on a par with myths or other such things, which are more the product of an extravagant imagination than of that striving for truth and simplicity which in the Sacred Books, also of the Old Testament, is so apparent that our ancient sacred writers must be admitted to be clearly superior to the ancient profane writers. (if the sacred author took anything from something like the Epic of Gilgamesh, he only took what was true and what God guided him to take.)

44. Relying on this hope, which will be increased by your pastoral care, as a pledge of celestial gifts and a sign of Our paternal benevolence, We impart with all Our heart to each and all of you, Venerable Brethren, and to your clergy and people the Apostolic Benediction.

Given at Rome, at St. Peter's, 12 August 1950, the twelfth year of Our Pontificate.


No comments:

Post a Comment