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Editor: Msgr. John F. McCarthy, J.C.D., S.T.D.Distributed several times a year to interested members.
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No. 37 Roman Theological Forum | Article Index | Study Program September 1991
The Evolution of Original Sin
  by Joseph H. Gehringer
        A critical review of Anthony Zimmerman, S.V.D., Original Sin: Where Doctrine Meets Science
Rolling Back the Tide of Evolutionism  by John F. McCarthy
Michael J. Wrenn, Catechisms and Controversies: Religious Education in the Post-Conciliar Years 
        reviewed by John F. McCarthy
A critical review of Anthony Zimmerman, S.V.D., Original Sin: Where Doctrine Meets Science
(Vantage Press: New York, 1990)

by Joseph H. Gehringer

        After nearly a decade of making headlines, the creation-evolution controversy in the United States has quietly faded from public view. Having won two major court victories (Arkansas, 1982; U.S. Supreme Court, 1987), evolutionists are now working quietly to consolidate their hold on the educational system (e.g., the California Science Framework; Project 2061 of the American Association for the Advancement of Science). Meanwhile, media interest has shifted to new issues such as AIDS and sexual harassment.

        Surprisingly, however, evolution continues to attract sympathetic attention in many orthodox Catholic publications. Even publications which are considered 'conservative' have been giving circulation to the erroneous claim that the Catholic Church has "never had a problem with evolution." A recent editorial suggested that evolution was so probable - for philosophical reasons - that Catholics are almost obliged to accept it. Apparently the constant attacks on creationism in the secular media during the 1980's have had their effect: Humani Generis has been forgotten and theistic evolution has become part of the new orthodoxy.

        One of the clearest signs of this evolutionary trend is the appearance of a new book by Father Anthony Zimmerman, S.V.D., who is well-known for his work in Japan combating the twin evils of contraception and abortion. Fr. Zimmerman's uncompromising position on these moral issues stands in strange contrast to his treatment of Scripture, Tradition, and dogma on matters related to human origins. On moral questions he relies upon the Magisterium as an infallible guide; on the question of Adam and Eve, he relies upon scientific theories as the most reliable guide.

        Father Zimmerman clearly recognizes the problems caused by the widespread acceptance of evolutionary theory. For, if man evolved gradually from an animal species millions of years ago (as he believes), the Genesis story of Adam and Eve becomes a religious myth of little significance in today's secular culture. As a consequence, the doctrine of original sin and all those doctrines which depend upon it, lose their meaning for a modern Catholic. Father Zimmerman feels that this situation can be remedied if we "locate Adam on our family tree as we look at the fossil record THROUGH THE EYES OF SCIENTISTS" (page 2, emphasis added) and correct the errors of "theologians based on a wrong reading of Genesis" (page 202). In the Foreword, Paul Hallett hails this approach as "groundbreaking." But I find nothing new in the Modernist error that "Scientific progress demands that the concepts of Christian doctrine ... be re-adjusted" (No. 64, Syllabus of Errors).

        Reflecting the priority given to scientific hypotheses, there are charts facing page 1 and page 2, each of which shows that the first humans evolved from Australopithecus afarensis about 2.5 million years ago. Then followed various types of "humans" including Homo habilis, Homo erectus, Neanderthal Man, and Non-Adamite Homo sapiens. Lest we misunderstand the term "human," we are assured that Homo habilis "is immortal, and must be living still; living with God...." (page 66). Further, "Pre-Adamites are, we may believe, equally happy in eternity as are children who pass to eternity now without Baptism" (page 93). Finally Adam and Eve appear, and all these other humans conveniently disappear ("the other hominids who eventually became extinct," page 108) for reasons that are unstated. In presenting this scenario, the author relies heavily on Johanson (the discoverer of "Lucy"), Leakey, and Lieberman (on the evolution of speech). We are assured that "evolution bespeaks God's respect toward His own cosmos, as well as a certain deference to scientists...." (page 89).

        Once the book begins to focus on Scripture, Tradition, and dogma, its tone changes quickly. For the author's goal is to challenge the Church to reconsider - and change - a number of its teachings.

        The rulings of the Pontifical Biblical Commission and the encyclicals of Leo XIII and Benedict XV are ignored as if they did not exist. Essential words from Humani Generis are deliberately suppressed ("In a particular way must be deplored a certain too free interpretation of the historical books of the Old Testament ... the first eleven chapters of Genesis ... do nevertheless pertain to history in a true sense..."). But the words which then follow are quoted and used to claim that when Augustine and Aquinas treated Genesis as historical, "they erred" (page 193).

        Tradition is divided into two types (page 208). Those teachings which Fr. Zimmerman accepts are called "Magisterial Tradition"; those he rejects are labeled "folklore tradition."

        As for dogma, under "Preternatural Gifts" in the Pocket Catholic Dictionary (by Rev. John Hardon, S.J.) we read: "They include three great privileges to which human beings have no title - infused knowledge, absence of concupiscence, and bodily immortality. Adam and Eve possessed these gifts before the Fall." Because they do not fit into his scenario of a gradual, natural evolution, Fr. Zimmerman rejects the idea that Adam and Eve possessed these gifts. Although Vatican II refers to "bodily death from which man would have been immune had he not sinned," Fr. Zimmerman suggests this is a "doctrinal mistake," adding: "I look forward to the day when the teaching Church will come to grips with tradition about ... the supposed lack of physical death in the original Paradise. Is that a folklore tradition?" (page 208). Over and over, both the great theologians and the actual teachings of the Church are challenged and questioned. For example, "The pre-sin Adam of Augustine, then, is not a functional Adam at all" (page 149). And, "The Church has not made its own this belabored reasoning of Thomas" (page 146). On the other hand, Fr. Zimmerman gives us extensive excerpts ("delightful and informative") from Lucy, the Beginnings of Humankind, by Johanson and Edey (pages 64-65).

        Since the gift of bodily immortality to Adam is considered to be a "de fide" teaching of the Church, Fr. Zimmerman employs a variety of devices to try to convince the reader that this ancient dogma is actually a misinterpretation of Genesis. He claims the Church has erred on a related issue; he explains that the statements of the Councils do not mean what they have always been understood to say; he ignores relevant Scriptural and Magisterial statements; and he caricatures traditional interpretations, subjecting some to outright ridicule.

        Fr. Zimmerman's effort to show that the Church has erred in the past reflects the kind of illogical and contradictory thinking apparent throughout the book. On page 140 we are told that St. Augustine introduced, in his City of God, "the false concept that the sex drive is itself a punishment" for original sin. By page 145 this "false concept" has become "that sexual pleasure was absent from Paradise...." Instead of its being an idea in the City of God, we are now told it "had been in force for 850 years in Europe before Thomas contradicted it in his Summa Theologica." Since the words of St. Thomas do not contradict St. Augustine, Fr. Zimmerman explains: "Thomas covers up for his colleague, stretching the import of Augustine's words to make them seem to say what Augustine didn't really say" (page 145). By page 188 the story changes again, to "the Church recently corrected an ancient error about sex and original sin, an error once manufactured by theologians and held for over a thousand years...." Finally, on page 208 the author tells us that "Folklore tradition, which says that sex is a punishment for original sin, was dismissed by the teaching Church quite recently as a doctrinal mistake." On the basis of such distortions and misrepresentations, Fr. Zimmerman argues that the Church should now reconsider its teaching on the immortality of Adam.

        The Decrees of the Councils fare no better at Fr. Zimmerman's hands. Canon 1 of the Council of Carthage, approved by Pope St. Zozimus, is quoted on page 188, but it is described as a "sentence" written by 200 bishops. By page 207, Fr. Zimmerman admits it was a Canon, but he argues that it was not "a positive doctrinal assertion," only an "ad hominem argument about physical death directed against the heretics." The old Catholic Encyclopedia, in the article on "Pelagius," tells us that "these clearly worded canons (... death did not come to Adam from a physical necessity, but through sin ...) came to be articles of faith binding the universal Church." Yet Fr. Zimmerman dismisses it as an "ad hominem argument."

        In its Decree on Original Sin, the Council of Trent promulgated five canons. The first canon declares: "If anyone does not profess that Adam, the first man, ... drew upon himself ... death with which God had threatened him, and together with death captivity in the power of ... the devil ... anathema sit." Fr. Zimmerman ignores what the canon clearly states, arguing that "Missing ... is the explicit statement that Adam would not have died a physical death had he not sinned, which had been in an earlier version" (page 10).

        Note Fr. Zimmerman's use of the "Heads I win, tails you lose" type of argument. The Council of Carthage adopted a canon which stated explicitly that Adam was immune from physical death before he sinned; Fr. Zimmerman rejects this as an "ad hominem argument." The Council of Orange adopted a canon which refers specifically to "bodily death which is the punishment of sin"; Fr. Zimmerman does not quote it, but dismisses it as "something commonly accepted." The Council of Trent reaffirmed these earlier teachings in different words ("Adam ... by his sin ... drew upon himself the ... death with which God had threatened him"); Fr. Zimmerman rejects this as not being an explicit declaration. Clearly, Fr. Zimmerman shows himself unwilling to accept this Catholic dogma, no matter how it is expressed.

        Trent's Canon 2 declares: "If anyone asserts that Adam's sin ... transmitted to all mankind only death and the suffering of the body but not sin as well which is the death of the soul, anathema sit. For he contradicts the words of the Apostle: 'Sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men as all sinned in him'" (Rom. 5:12 Vulg; see Council of Orange II, Canon 2). Fr. Zimmerman begins by placing quotation marks around the word "death," even though none appear in his source, Neuner and Dupuis No. 509. Denzinger-Deferrari also has no quotation marks around the word. Next he asserts that Trent explicitly accepted "death of the soul" but did not explicitly accept a lack of physical death, an obvious misinterpretation of the words of the Canon. In an effort to support his misinterpretation, Fr. Zimmerman omits the quotation from Holy Scripture and the reference to the Council of Orange, both of which make it quite apparent that the Council was speaking about physical death.

        Father Zimmerman's disregard for the rulings of the Magisterium is apparent from his handling of other solemn statements as well. On page 207 he quotes from Vatican Council II, "that bodily death, from which man would have been immune had he not sinned." After first claiming that "this English translation misses precisions of the Latin," he proposes his interpretation. "The living Adam would go directly from his living body to heaven, and then the body would die.... Adam wouldn't die, but his body would die. In this way all the bases are covered...." In the Foreword, this book is hailed as a "unique piece of theological exposition." Unique indeed! Who else would propose as a new Catholic dogma that "Adam wouldn't die, but his body would die" in order to 'cover all the bases'?

        When considering paragraph 37 of Humani Generis, Fr. Zimmerman replaces two crucial sentences with one of his own creation (page 96). And in a subsequent volume, The Religion of Adam and Eve, Fr. Zimmerman changes the words "Adam, the first man," in Canon 1 of the Council of Trent to "Adam (our first ancestors)... " (page 3). Needless to say, dozens of quotations are pulled out of context and used to justify Fr. Zimmerman's claims. Because it suits his purposes on page 110, the author tells us that Genesis "pictures one couple who received the revelation, one couple who sinned ... and founded our race." But in another context we are told that the idea "that the first ancestors who committed original sin were one couple only" is new in the teaching of the Encyclical Humani Generis, issued by Pope Pius XII in 1905 (page 13).

        Perhaps the best way to grasp Fr. Zimmerman's approach to Scripture and Tradition is to read several excerpts from the book. According to Genesis, "Both the man and his wife were naked, but they felt no shame.... She took the fruit and ate it ... then ... they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig-leaves together and made themselves coverings." In contrast, Fr. Zimmerman tells us (under the caption "Naked without Shame" Lacks Sartorial Precisions): "The redactors of Genesis - how would they know whether Adam and Eve wore clothing? ... We should not ascribe to the redactors an intention to enrich our knowledge about the sartorial conventions of our ancestors, or to titillate our curiosity about such matters.... Peking Man warmed himself at the fires in the Choukoutien Caves five hundred thousand years ago ... we can assume they were wise enough to wear clothes.... Homo habilis was splitting sharp stone tools 2.5 million years ago. We can assume they ... fashioned clothes.... Why should Adam and Eve not make life more comfortable for themselves by doing the same?" (page 157).

        Again, Genesis tells us "The Lord God planted a garden in Eden ... the tree of life also in the midst of the garden...." Now back to Fr. Zimmerman: "The tree of life, I think, could cause problems.... Shall we eat of the tree of life, or stand in line for transfer to heaven?... Before we elect a new president, we should ask him about his transfer schedule.... A professional football player might be asked to sign a clause in his contract that he will eat of the fruit of the tree of life during the duration of the contract.... Papa doesn't return home from his job to eat supper with the family. Shall we call the police to make a search, or shall we sing the Te Deum because he probably made an unseen Enoch-style exit?... Gene and Collete love children. Many children! ... so they eat of the fruit of the tree of life as often as required to ward off aging. Children are born to them every two or three years in a span of eight hundred years.... And if 'overpopulation' mongers would challenge them, they and their tribe would simply outvote and outpopulate them. ... I think we are better off without that tree of life" (pages 198-202). Unfortunately, this kind of juvenile trash is being advertised as "an extraordinary and revolutionary thesis that successfully combines classical Christian theology with the principles of contemporary science" (book jacket).

        From cover to cover, the book is filled with gems. "Homo sapiens is our Adam" (page 84). "If nature, then, prepared motherhood..., why should not God put his stamp of approval on nature..." (page 87)? "The theory of segmented creation ... makes God appear more like a bricklayer and hod carrier...." (page 95). "We ask why it is that Mary kept herself immaculate.... Much is unknown to us" (page 166). In Paradise "conditions were the ones we know today" (page 210).

        Having accepted the evolutionary hypothesis and integrated it into his theology, Fr. Zimmerman concludes that even without original sin, we would have "taxes, banks and post offices, our TV, world series, Olympics..." (page 198). On the other hand, in his Creed of the People of God, Pope Paul VI spoke about "our first parents ... (who) knew neither sin nor death."


by John F. McCarthy

        Joseph Gehringer, in his critical review of Father Anthony Zimmerman's recent book, Original Sin: Where Doctrine Meets Science (Vantage Press: New York, 1990), gives a graphic illustration of how more and more tradition-minded Catholic thinkers and publications are caving in to unabashed evolutionary thinking. The movement to accommodate traditional Catholic doctrine, as well as the traditional interpretation of the accounts in Sacred Scripture, to the supposed "fact" of the evolution of man from primitive matter by a relentless process of spontaneous transformations of species over an enormous period of time has become so widespread in Catholic intellectual circles that it has now assumed the appearance of a "mainstream" point of view. The assumed "fact" of biological evolution, as pictured in contemporary biological theories, has moved in our time from a far-out to a central theological position and is now threatening to become a supposition of the updated "teaching of the Church," with all the inevitable consequences of such a development, not only as regards the two-thousand-year-old teaching of the Church on such issues as Original Sin, but also as regards the very credibility of Church teaching as such. At this moment in the historic assault of modern secular humanism upon Catholic belief, we are witnessing to our dismay more and more heretofore "solid" defenders of Catholic tradition ceding to Darwinism and its progeny ground without which they cannot survive for long as orthodox thinkers.

        A number of errors in scientific method underlie current attempts to accommodate Catholic doctrine to evolutionary belief. One such error is to assume without having seen adequate proof that the claims of neo-Darwinian "scientists" are in fact true. Few of the theological writers who are engaged in producing these accommodations are qualified, or even consider themselves qualified, to assess the scientific truth or falsity of Darwinism. They take it on faith - human faith - and they speculate on its implications in a strikingly uncritical way. How worthy of our faith is the Darwinian theory itself? How worthy of human trust are the proponents of this theory?

        Related to this error in method is the failure to distinguish adequately between the field of natural science and the field of historical science. Not only has the alleged transformation of species never been observed according to the standards of natural science, so that the "scientific" picture of evolution remains a pure historical conjecture that has never been substantiated, but even the reliability of the testimony regarding what has been observed is open to question. I am referring especially to the long history of downright dishonesty on the part of many "scientists" relating their findings amidst lies, distortions, unobjective selection of data, suppression of data that do not fit in with the desired results, and a pronounced overall bias in the way the investigations were first drawn up and afterwards reported. We are dealing here, on the historical level, not so much with a scientific process as with the unfolding of an emotional need, of a group obsession that has for well over a century captivated the minds of spiritually undisciplined persons.1

        Regarding the alleged "fact" of biological evolution, our Catholic accommodators seem to be little aware of the increasing doubts maintained by unbiased natural scientists as to the possibility even of revised Darwinian transformations.2 In truth, the rising tide of discoveries that contradict the notion of transformism and render the whole notion of biological evolution scientifically unsalvageable is making Darwin's failure more and more difficult to hide, although that failure is still being kept well out of sight in the biased ambients of academia. The big lie about where we came from is, indeed, imposing, and it constitutes a snare of the Devil for unsuspecting ecclesiastics who are not prepared to hypothesize that this human nature that we have inherited can be as perverse as it is. Homo sapiens as homo modernus has great difficulty in learning the lessons of history, even such a great lesson as that presented in the history of the Garden of Eden, where the big lie believed reduced homo praeternaturalis to homo primitivus.

        A second error in the method of contemporary Biblical accommodators to evolutionary thinking consists in the use of an inadequate concept of science. They are using terms like "the eyes of science" without first having analyzed what "the eyes of science" means. If the definition of science is unreasonably limited to purely mathematical deduction plus the statistical results of inductive investigation, then the truth about evolution can never be attained, not only because statistical sciences ignore spiritual causes, but also because the question of evolution is not a statistical problem, it is an historical problem: it is a question of whether these alleged transformations did or did not take place in actual historical fact. And historical facts are concrete historical events, which as real events are the object, not of statistical science but of historical science. Yet, the contemporary accommodators of whom we are speaking do not possess even the concept of historical science, and they are addressing the historical question of evolution without the use of the framework of historical principles that is needed to answer it correctly.3

        Pope Pius XII touched brilliantly on the question of historical science versus evolutionary theory in Humani Generis in 1950 where he pointed out concerning the alleged "fact" of the biological evolution of man:

For these reasons the Teaching Authority of the Church does not forbid that, in conformity with the present state of human sciences and sacred theology, research and discussions on the part of men experienced in both fields take place with regard to the doctrine of evolution, inasfar 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. 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. Some, however, rashly transgress this liberty of discussion, when they act as if the origin of the human body from pre-existing and living matter were already completely certain and proved by the facts which have been discovered up to now and by reasoning on those facts, and as if there were nothing in the sources of divine revelation which demands the greatest moderation and caution in this question.4

        More than forty years have passed since Pius XII spoke in this encyclical about those who "rashly transgress" the reasonable liberty of discussion concerning the truth or falsity of biological evolution, "when they act as if the origin of the human body from pre-existing and living matter were already completely certain and proved ...," but the facts about living forms that have been discovered since the year 1950 make the theory of evolution even less convincing than it was before. As Pope Pius XII pointed out, all should be prepared to submit in this matter to the judgment of the Church, but how ironical it would be if the pressure of so many ill-informed neo-Darwinists in low places and high should influence the Magisterium to make compromising statements that will confuse true believers and obscure what has up to now been the clear teaching of the Church. Such a collapse of the authority of the Church is certainly not what Pope Pius XII had in mind as the final outcome of this issue.

        As a remedy for this unfortunate pressure to replace plain Biblical teaching with evolutionary thinking, there is needed a fresh approach to the exegesis of Sacred Scripture and a fresh start regarding the scientific interpretation of Genesis 1-11. The fresh approach consists in the use of correct historical method in rejection of the pseudoscientific approach of form-criticism. Historical science is a science, and, therefore, is based upon a differentiated awareness of the concept of reality, as opposed to the confused and ambiguous notion of reality that appears in form-critical discussions. Historical science concentrates exclusively upon the reality of the past and upon the past as it is real. Historical science, therefore, is supremely interested in past events as real and in past events as concrete facts.5

        Now, neither Catholic form-critics nor contemporary evolutionary accommodators are adequately placing the alleged "fact" of spontaneous evolution under scientific historical scrutiny. They believe the biased assertions of secular humanists speaking from their own compulsion to exclude God from the world; they baptize the Godless process of Darwinian evolution with a sprinkling of creative interventions by God, whose action, however, remains in this method a mere supposition that is foreign to the historical process - a belief that does not escape the pitfall of fideism. They superimpose upon the Biblical narrative of creation a set of dogmatic principles which they claim to see beneath the "mythology" of the narrative itself, and which is supposed to remain as the Word of God like the smile of the Cheshire cat, which remained in Wonderland after the face and the lips of the cat had disappeared. This method of accommodation is a kind of delusion; the historical scientist knows that, when the historical assertions of a narrative have been erased from reality, the reality of their message disappears with them. Determined believers can continue to assure themselves that the "smile" is still there, but the fact remains that the "cat" is gone.6

        The needed fresh start in the interpretation of Genesis 1-11 must go back to the solid road of Patristic-Scholastic exegesis and begin from there a search for the historical facts that are narrated therein. Deductions from the false assumptions of form-criticism result only in false conclusions; they do not result in historical science.7 Nor do deductions from the false general assumptions of Darwinism result in a scientifically updated Catholic doctrine; they lead only to belief in false general assumptions having nothing to do with historical fact. Contrary to the methods of evolutionism and of form-criticism, historical science studies concrete facts as concrete facts; it never excludes narrated facts, such as those expressed in Genesis, on the ground that they do not accord with the assumptions of some general theory. A fresh start requires a return to the scientific historical exegesis of Catholic tradition as opposed to deductions from misplaced statistical science.

        For taking up the task, we require the use of a systematic distinction between the simple literal sense and a possible subtle literal sense of the early chapters of Genesis. The simple literal sense means what the text seems to say from a simple understanding of the meaning of the words; what it says on the simple level is historically true but is not intended to be technically precise. We suggest as a working hypothesis that these same words of the inspired text are also technically true, when looked at through the framework of technical science. On the technical level, questions about the scientifically historical truth of the text can be satisfactorily answered, because the text does not contradict in its narration anything that technical science can solidly establish. Yet the technically correct affirmations of the inspired text remain always ambiguous inasmuch as they are being made with non-technical terms, and deliberately so: they are chosen in one sense for non-sophisticated listeners and in another sense in order to express by analogy in the same words mystical meanings of visible things and events. We do not contend that the Biblical narratives teach technical science, but we do contend that they teach historical truth in a way that does not offend against technical science - statistical or historical - on the technical level of the text.

        Form-critics talk about the meaning of particular verses of the Bible. Their system does not provide for the interpretation of an inspired text that may have more than one level of meaning - even in its literal sense. We need a method of interpretation that is more comprehensive. Such a method is the neo-Patristic approach, which examines the text of Sacred Scripture systematically both on its literal and on its mystical levels. On the literal level, it begins by distinguishing the simple, or plain, literal sense from the subtle, or historical, literal sense. What has heretofore been seen together as the "literal and historical sense" it now examines on two levels. A good place in the Old Testament to begin using this distinction is in the first three chapters of the Book of Genesis. The current assault of evolutionism and form-criticism upon traditional Catholic interpretation of these chapters makes the task all the more urgent.

        The neo-Patristic approach to the first three chapters of Genesis does not exclude reasonable discussion of the theory of biological evolution, even in the case of the human body. But it makes the necessary methodological distinctions. It first determines the plain and simple meaning of the text, and it recognizes the significance of this meaning for the picture that it gives, for the doctrine that it presents, and for the mystical meanings that it contains. This simple picture is true, it is factual, but it is not complete in itself. To understand it completely one must penetrate to other levels of the text. To answer technical questions regarding the literal sense, one must probe the subtle and technically historical level of the text.

        The simple picture of the creation of the world presented in Genesis 1 is historically true, and the doctrine of creation based upon this simple account is historically based. But technical questions about the process of the creation of the world are answered only on the level of the implicitly subtle level of the account. Just as the text of Genesis 1 does not violate the physical picture of the universe with its living forms to the extent that it was known in ancient times, so neither does it violate the picture of the universe with its living forms as it is known to authentic science today. By holding up the framework of the universe with its living forms as authentic science knows it today to the text of Genesis 1, one can both raise and answer technical questions regarding the affirmations of this chapter.

        As Pope Pius XII pointed out in the citation from Humani Generis given above, the question of biological evolution can be asked of this text, but the arguments against this kind of evolution must always be taken into consideration. It seems that some kind of development from lower to higher forms of life is implicit in the text, but the Darwinian explanation, with its absence of finality, its spontaneous generation, and its random selection is excluded, both by Genesis and by biological science. To exclude divine Providence from the development means to exclude rational science itself.

        It seems that, on the technical level, both the Big Bang theory and the cosmic plasma theory of the origin of the universe will fit the wording of Genesis 1 without any contradictions, as a not-yet-published attempt at such an exegesis of the text seems to have shown. Such a coherence is always ambiguous, and it does not confirm either of these theories, but it answers contemporary questions while leaving intact the picture given in the plain reading of the text. The systematic distinction between the simple and the subtle reading shows the wondrous depth of the inspired word while leaving undisturbed the doctrinal import of the account, so that accommodations to Darwinian thinking as such are seen to be harmful and unnecessary. Catholic exegetes and theologians are neglecting their neo-Patristic task wherever they surrender to form-criticism and to the offspring of Darwinism. The time has come to take back from evolutionism the ground that has carelessly been lost.


1. Numerous exposes have been published of the dishonesty shown by many of those reporting evolutionary data and discoveries. See, for example, J.W.G. Johnson, The Crumbling Theory of Evolution (3rd printing, 1987: Perpetual Eucharistic Adoration Incorporated, P.O. Box 84595, Los Angeles, California 90073). See also Malcolm Bowden, Science vs Evolution (1st edition, 1991: Sovereign Publications, P.O. Box 88, Bromley, Kent BR2 9PF, England).

2. See, for example, Michael Denton, Evolution: A Theory in Crisis (Adler and Adler: Bethesda, Maryland, 1986) ISBN 091756152X. Denton, a molecular biologist, is not unbiased as regards the facts of creation and the Providence of God, but he competently points out with rigorous objectivity the unscientific claims of Darwinism. For a discussion of Denton's inability, nevertheless, to rise to an awareness of divine creation, see my review of his book in Living Tradition, No. 26 (November, 1989).

3. See J. F. McCarthy, The Science of Historical Theology (2nd printing, TAN Books, 1991 - $10), pp. 60-63; 117-119.

4. Pope Pius XII, Encyclical Letter Humani Generis (August 12, 1950), No. 36. N.C.W.C. English translation taken from Rome and the Study of Scripture, Grail Publications, St. Meinrad, Indiana, 1962, p. 114.

5. Cf. J. F. McCarthy, The Science of Historical Theology, pp. 78-79.

6. Cf. ibid., "The Question of Science," pp. 103-113.

7. Cf. ibid., "Demythologizing and the Principle of Literary Genres," pp. 162-164.


(Ignatius Press: San Francisco, 1991, 220pp, $12.95)

reviewed by John F. McCarthy

        Monsignor Wrenn undertakes to present an understanding of some faulty methods that have been promoted in religious education since the Second Vatican Council in relation to the forthcoming Catechism for the Universal Church. Since a catechism is of its very nature a "compendium of Catholic doctrine," Msgr. Wrenn documents the error perpetrated by exponents of the "new catechesis" in shifting the focus of attention from the tenets of the Catholic Faith to the struggle of modern man for natural human benefits and in making the professional views of the teacher as an educator more important than the communication of an established set of truths. In his Foreword to the book, Cardinal O'Connor suggests that this may well be the reason for the increasing "hunger on the part of the faithful to learn more about the faith which we profess."

        The present-day confusion in the field of catechetics points up the need of the Catechism for the Universal Church, which may be issued before the end of the year 1992, as the point of reference for the teaching of religion. Catechisms and Controversies seeks to explain the context and environment out of which the Catechism has come and into which it will go. Wrenn sees the Catechism as providing a new framework of objectivity according to which teachers of religion will once again consistently teach and communicate "the Catholic Faith that comes to us from the Apostles." In the meanwhile, catechesis in places like the United States of America is often failing to convey the truths of the Faith, and Msgr. Wrenn in this essay gives a detailed presentation of why this is so.

        Catechisms and Controversies tells its readers where the action is in the troubled field of religious education today. It is also a source book for the great debate soon to come over the implementation of the Catechism for the Universal Church. The time to prepare for that debate is now.

Click here to buy it now from Amazon Books: Catechisms and Controversies: Religious Education in the Post-Conciliar Years

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