Living Tradition
ORGAN OF THE ROMAN THEOLOGICAL FORUM
Editor: Msgr. John F. McCarthy, J.C.D., S.T.D.Distributed several times a year to interested members.
Associate Editor: Rev. Brian W. Harrison, O.S., M.A., S.T.D.  Not to be republished without permission.
Please address all correspondence to:www.rtforum.org    e-mail: jfm@rtforum.org
 
Living Tradition, Oblates of Wisdom, P.O. Box 13230, St. Louis, MO 63157, USA

No. 73-74 Roman Theological Forum | Article Index | Study Program January-March 1998

DID THE HUMAN BODY EVOLVE NATURALLY?
A FORGOTTEN PAPAL DECLARATION

by Brian W. Harrison

 
        Most Catholic scholars wanting to review significant statements of the Church's teaching authority regarding the problems of science and the early chapters of Genesis, creation, evolution and so on, will probably feel that the field is already pretty well-known and well-covered. On asking themselves what the most weighty magisterial pronouncements in this area would be, they will quickly recall the 1950 encyclical Humani Generis of Pope Pius XII, and those passages of the great biblical encyclicals which deal with science in relation to hermeneutics, as well as Vatican II's reminder of the relative autonomy of earthly affairs, including scientific investigation (cf. Gaudium et Spes, no. 36). As to less authoritative interventions, such investigators will no doubt direct some attention to the now widely ignored, but still fairly well-remembered, decisions of the Pontifical Biblical Commission on how the opening chapters of the Bible should be interpreted, and three or four papal allocutions or documents of relatively low magisterial authority, especially (in view of its being the most recent and perhaps most widely-publicised statement) John Paul II's message to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences of 24 October 1996. The scholar wanting to dig still deeper than all this will most probably tend to scour indexes of papal documents looking for anything likely to cover the general areas of science and/or Old Testament scholarship.

        What he will probably never think of scrutinizing, while science and evolution are on his mind, are papal interventions dedicated to the theme of . . . Marriage. I confess it has never occurred to me to sift through magisterial statements on that theme while looking for light to be shed on the question of historicity in the Creation narratives. And, judging by most of the literature on this theme that I have come across, the idea of exploring such unlikely byways has not occurred even to most of the acknowledged Catholic experts on the subject. If they had, one suspects we would have seen quoted with some frequency in the discussions a vigorous statement which I 'discovered' quite by chance recently while leafing through an old papal document that has long since fallen into oblivion. And it is by no means a low-ranking document on the scale of papal interventions. We are not dealing here with a mere Allocution, a Motu Proprio, a Brief, an Apostolic Exhortation, or a Nuntius, 1 but a fully-fledged piece of pontificating endowed with no less inherent or formal authority than Humani Generis or Providentissimus Deus: the Encyclical Letter Arcanum Divinæ Sapientiæ of Pope Leo XIII on Christian Marriage, dated 10 February 1880. 2

        Arcanum, today, seems rather arcane in more than just its title. At a time when most inquirers look principally to the abundant teaching on life, marriage and sexuality of the present Holy Father and his predecessor Paul VI when seeking the authentic Catholic position on these matters (Humanæ Vitæ, Familiaris Consortio, Evangelium Vitæ, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, etc.), even Pius XI's Casti Connubii, nearly seventy years after its publication in 1930, strikes even some orthodox Catholic readers as being somewhat dated or superseded - at least in tone and emphasis. Surely, then, might not an encyclical on marriage dating from the era of Queen Victoria be presumed even more 'irrelevant' now, when the Church has to confront threats to Christian marriage and family life that Leo XIII could scarcely have imagined even in his worst nightmares? Think of the scenario now surrounding us on the verge of the Third Millennium: high-tech contraceptives, surrogate wombs, test-tube babies, sodomite and lesbian 'marriage,' homes invaded by full-colour, 'living' pornography on videos and the Internet, explicit and immoral classroom 'sex-ed,' dress fashions approaching nudity, legalized slaughter of the unborn (and even partially born), societies and laws increasingly permeated by the ideologies of radical feminism and militant homosexuality, and (worst of all) numerous Catholic priests, nuns, and even bishops who, with impunity, remain silent, or compromise with, wink at, or even bless and promote, not a few of these trends.

        It is certainly true that Pope Leo, in Arcanum, was writing for an age with certain concerns which are no longer ours. He was, for instance, in the midst of a battle which, like so many others, was destined to be lost by the Church in the furious revolution of centuries against the reign of Christ the King over Western society: the battle to keep not just civil divorce, but even civil marriage, out of what was left of Christendom, and indeed, to keep all marriage legislation conformed to Church doctrine and authority, free from the usurping grip of the secularized State.

        Nevertheless, if much of what this document says does not address itself to those matrimonial issues which most demand our attention today, what the Pontiff asserts about the origin of this divinely-ordained relationship can scarcely be ignored by loyal Catholics searching for light as to how to interpret the Genesis creation accounts. In this essay my purpose is to argue, in the light of Arcanum, understood in its historical context and in conjunction with other pertinent evidence of authentic Catholic tradition on this matter, that by the time of Leo XIII's encyclical at the very latest, the traditional teaching of the Church's ordinary magisterium that God formed the bodies of both our first parents by direct, supernatural interventions was already 'set in stone.' Expressed in more precise terms, my thesis is that, at least by the year 1880, the conditions subsequently laid down by Vatican Council II for infallibility had been fulfilled in the case of the Church's ordinary magisterial teaching, drawn from Genesis 1-2, which implicitly 3 excluded, as directly or indirectly contrary to revealed truth: (a) any exclusively natural evolutionary explanation for the formation of Adam's body; and (b) any evolutionary explanation whatsoever for the formation of Eve's body.

        A clarification of terminology will be necessary at this point. I have used the words "exclusively natural evolutionary explanation" in (a) above, and the expression "evolve naturally" in the title of this essay, even though practically all evolutionary biologists and palaeontologists, whether theists or atheists, would regard such expressions as practically redundant, since they understand "evolution," precisely as a scientific theory, to refer by definition to an 'exclusively natural' process; that is, one in which natural causes alone - reproduction, mutation, natural selection, etc., - brought about all the physical characteristics of every living creature, including man, without the need for any supernatural interventions - at least after the first appearance of life on earth.

        I am defining 'evolution' more broadly than this, to mean any 'common-descent' theory of the development of life-forms 4 which includes the view that the first human being began his or her life as an embryo in the womb of a female brute. This broader definition has been preferred because the present essay is a theological one; and some theologians 5 - in contrast to scientists - have included among the theoretically possible varieties of "evolution" a hypothetical scenario which they call "special transformism" (as distinct from "natural transformism"). According to this hypothesis, evolution from primitive, cellular forms up to the level of hominid creatures may well have occurred by exclusively physical laws and processes; but these would have been incapable of producing the superior genetic make-up of a being physically apt for - and hence requiring - a rational soul. Hence, it is said, a last-minute supernatural intervention at the moment of Adam's conception would have been necessary in order to give his embryonic body the genetic constitution and physical features of a true human being. We shall argue in this essay that special transformism, limited to the case of Adam's body, is the only 'evolutionary' explanation of man's body which could perhaps be reconciled with the Catholic doctrine on this point, which, while commonly forgotten or ignored today, could, already in 1880 if not before, be recognized as having attained infallible status.

        Having clarified our use of terms, let us return to the text of the encyclical Arcanum. Stressing that marriage is the foundation of all human society, Leo XIII declares to the Catholic bishops of the world on the second page of the encyclical:

What is the true origin of marriage? That, Venerable Brethren, is a matter of common knowledge. For although the detractors of the Christian faith shrink from acknowledging the Church's permanent doctrine on this matter, and persist in their long-standing efforts to erase the history of all nations and all ages, they have nonetheless been unable to extinguish, or even to weaken, the strength and light of the truth. We call to mind facts well-known to all and doubtful to no-one: after He formed man from the slime 6 of the earth on the sixth day of creation, and breathed into his face the breath of life, God willed to give him a female companion, whom He drew forth wondrously from the man's side as he slept. In bringing this about, God, in His supreme Providence, willed that this spousal couple should be the natural origin of all men: in other words, that from this pair the human race should be propagated and preserved in every age by a succession of procreative acts which would never be interrupted. And so that this union of man and woman might correspond more aptly to the most wise counsels of God, it has manifested from that time onward, deeply impressed or engraved, as it were, within itself, two preeminent and most noble properties: unity and perpetuity. 7

        In concluding this paragraph on the "true origin" of marriage, Pope Leo refers to the teaching of Jesus himself in Matthew ch. 19, confirming that these fundamental properties of marriage were ordained by God from the very beginning.

        We shall proceed to comment on this passage, first as regard its 'matter' or doctrinal content, and then in regard to its 'formal' characteristics and the degree of authority attaching to the doctrine it reaffirms. In other words, two questions will be addressed: (a) What, exactly, is the Pope teaching here? and (b) What degree of authority or binding force does this teaching carry?

        A. What does Arcanum teach about our physical origin?  

        There are essentially five points of Catholic truth explicitly affirmed by the Pope in the paragraph we have reproduced above, in addition to another point (the first in the following list) which is presupposed or implied as the necessary foundation of those which follow:

        (1) the historical character of chapters 1-3 of Genesis;
        (2) the creation of Adam by God on the sixth day, including the formation of his body from the slime (or dust) of the earth;
        (3) the formation of Eve's body from the side of Adam;
        (4) monogenism - the doctrine that the entire human race has been propagated from this original couple alone;
        (5) the unity of marriage - that it is between one man and one woman, thus excluding adultery and polygamy;
        (6) the perpetuity of marriage - its life-long character, excluding divorce.

        In regard to the first of the above points, it is clear that in this passage Leo XIII wants not only to profess, but even to emphasize, the truly historical 8 character of the Genesis narratives. In the first place, he makes a point of asserting that those "detractors of the Christian faith" whose views he wishes to censure are striving to "erase the history" 9 of the nations. Then, immediately after that, he makes a point of placing the divine creation of Adam and Eve - body and soul - in its precise time-slot within biblical history: "on the sixth 10 day of creation." The implication is unmistakable: Leo XIII is asserting here that first among those historical truths whose light the enemies of the faith "can neither extinguish nor weaken" are those recounted in Genesis 1-2: the creation of the world by God in six days, 11 including the creation of Adam and Eve.

        A further observation is in order about the polemical context of the Pope's enunciation of these doctrines - his assertion of them, that is, in conscious and deliberate opposition to persons who reject them. This needs to be stressed to those modern Catholic readers of Leo's encyclical who, as heirs of a culture that takes evolution for granted as 'common knowledge' among educated people, are likely to react with a certain sense of shock on finding that Peter's Successor bluntly asserts as history, in points (2) and (3), the Genesis descriptions of how the first male and female human bodies were formed. Such readers may well be tempted to try mitigating or explaining away these 'scandalous' words with the plea that they express not a true doctrinal affirmation, but rather, a mere 'presupposition' - an 'unreflective' or 'ingenuous' repetition of historically contingent assumptions which held sway in a 'pre-scientific' culture, so that Leo XIII's very 'physical' statements, no less than those of the Bible itself, will now require a 'demythologized' or 'spiritual' or 'deeper' interpretation if they are still to be accepted as in some sense true.

        Now, it seems to me that hard-headed unbelievers are right in judging that kind of sophisticated 'theologizing' to be mere sophistry at the best of times. After all, why should any teacher be aqcuitted of having formally taught error simply because he was unaware - albeit inevitably and innocently - of certain facts which would eventually discredit his teaching? But in any case this kind of lame 'defence' of Pope Leo, if proffered by those who might feel the need to protect him from the charge of 'fundamentalism,' would be simply inapplicable here. For this highly cultured Pontiff was speaking not from some kind of ingenuous ignorance of modern research, but with full awareness of the fact that learned men had for many years been writing lengthy tomes adducing scholarly arguments in opposition to what he was now reasserting.

        Further light on Pope Leo's purpose is shed by the historical context of his words. For a century or more before he wrote this encyclical, plenty of scholars of various religions, or none, had been expressing ever-increasing doubts regarding the historical character of the Genesis creation accounts, 12 but the publication of Darwin's Origin of Species in 1859, two decades before Arcanum, gave much more prominence to these speculations. Rome did not react immediately with formal declarations of her own, but gave her firm, if quiet, support to those German Catholic bishops, who, in their Provincial Council of Cologne (1860), condemned the idea of natural human evolution in no uncertain terms:

Our first parents were formed immediately by God. Therefore we declare that the opinion of those who do not fear to assert that this human being, man as regards his body, emerged finally from the spontaneous continuous change of imperfect nature to the more perfect, is clearly opposed to Sacred Scripture and to the Faith. 13

        Champions of Darwin such as Thomas Henry Huxley gained enormous prominence round the world as publicists for the new ideas in the succeeding years. Huxley accurately understood the mind of the Catholic Church at that period, asserting in 1873 that the theory of (natural) evolution was utterly incompatible with "Catholic theology," since the latter was, as he put it, "based on the assumption of the truth of the account of the origin of things given in the Book of Genesis." 14 Darwin's Descent of Man was published in the following year, 1874, giving still further international prominence to the application of evolutionary theory to the specific question of human origins. It is obvious, then, that these thinkers and writers, and others of their ilk, are precisely those whom Leo XIII has in mind, writing in 1880, as being the latest in that line of "detractors of the Christian faith" who have long been striving to "erase" or "blot out" (delere) the commonly accepted history of human origins. In total agreement with Huxley as to the content of Catholic doctrine on this point, while in total opposition to him as to its truth, the Pontiff presents here not the naive "assumption," but the carefully premeditated assertion, that Catholics must indeed accept (in Huxley's words) "the truth of the account of the origin of things given in the Book of Genesis."

        We will now argue in more detail that, in view of this evident anti-Darwinian context of Arcanum's teaching on human origins, any attempt to interpret Pope Leo's doctrinal theses as leaving the door open for a purely natural 'ape-to-man' evolutionary process will necessarily distort his meaning. The two theses dealing respectively with the origins of the first man and the first woman can conveniently be treated separately.

        THE FORMATION OF ADAM'S BODY  

        It would seem that any attempt to find room for a natural evolutionary explanation of human origins in Leo XIII's statement about Adam would have to run more or less along the following lines:

        "Yes, it is obviously true that the Pope here requires Catholics to believe as historically true that God 'formed man from the slime of the earth and breathed into his face the breath of life.' But the encyclical does not tell us how, precisely, these familiar and hallowed words are to be understood. And since it is obvious from the outset that the Pope (like all the Fathers, Doctors and classical theologians) would accept some metaphorical content in these words - for God is not a physical being who literally 'breathes' in people's faces - can't one argue that, simply by extending this metaphorical reading a little more, we could take the idea of 'formation from dust' as a reference to the millions-of-years-long process of evolution according to natural laws, beginning with inorganic matter ('slime') and ending with an advanced hominid ready to receive a human soul?"

        Many Christian and Jewish evolutionists have of course tried to interpret those words in that way when they are found in Genesis. But it is clear that they cannot be interpreted thus when found in Arcanum, 15 both because of what the text fails to say, and what it does say.

        First, if the Pope's intention had been to leave Gen. 2: 7 open to the possibility of a thoroughly metaphorical interpretation such as the above, he would certainly have needed to express this innovative idea, knowing that otherwise, the solidly traditional recipients of his letter - the world's Catholic bishops of the year 1880 - would naturally interpret that verse, as cited by the Holy Father, in the classical, time-honored way so recently reaffirmed by the Council of Cologne - that is, as an affirmation that God intervened to act directly and supernaturally on pre-existing matter 16 in order to form Adam's body. This is particularly clear in view of the fact that the Pope prefaces his specific references to Genesis by saying that he simply wishes to reaffirm truths which are already "well-known to all" (nota omnibus). It goes without saying that the kind of exegesis of Gen. 2: 7 according to which that verse is so indeterminate in meaning as to be compatible with Darwinism could scarcely be described as "well-known to all" in Catholic circles around the year 1880.

        If the Pope's decision not to state any innovative intention on this point is therefore eloquent, still more eloquent is what he explicitly does state: namely, that his reaffirmation of the Genesis texts in question is to be understood in opposition to certain errors about human history which were currently being circulated by "detractors of the Christian faith."

        What theses, precisely, could Pope Leo have had in mind as meriting this rebuke on the part of the Church? Obviously, he had in mind some version or versions of the evolutionary scenario which scientists had been elaborating in recent years. Let us review the various relevant hypotheses, beginning with the most radical and ending with the most cautious:

        (a) atheistic, agnostic, or pantheistic versions of evolution, along the lines of Darwin and Huxley, postulating a natural origin for all aspects, physical and psychological, of man, and open to polygenism;
        (b) theistic versions allowing for both polygenism and the purely natural 17 evolution of the human soul as well as the body;
        (c) theistic versions allowing only one or other of the two specific theses mentioned in (b), but allowing in any case for the purely natural evolution of the human body;
        (d) theistic versions insisting on both monogenism and the direct creation by God of human souls, 18 but allowing that Eve's body, as well as Adam's, may have been formed by purely natural evolutionary processes;
        (e) theistic, monogenist versions holding that the formation of Eve's body must have required a direct, supernatural intervention, but allowing for a purely natural, evolutionary origin for Adam's body ('natural transformism');
        (f) theistic, monogenist versions holding that the formation of Adam's body as well as Eve's must have required a supernatural intervention, i.e., that purely natural, physical processes could never have produced a body apt for, and hence requiring, a rational soul. This position ('special transformism') would concede to evolutionists nothing more than the possibility that natural processes, after the first emergence of life on earth, managed to get as far as producing a hominid sperm and ovum - 'pre-existent living matter' - upon which God would then have acted supernaturally, in the moment of their union in the womb of the female animal, in such a way as to 'upgrade' the resulting zygote into the embryonic body of Adam.

        There we have a display - adequate at least for present purposes - of the various hues making up the spectrum of theories of human evolution. The question which interests us now is which of them must definitely - albeit implicitly - have been included by Leo XIII in his censure of contemporary "efforts to erase the history" of the human race.

        Certainly, his disapproval cannot be limited to option (a) - non-theistic, as opposed to theistic, versions of evolutionary theory. Apart from the fact that the Pope does not even mention atheism, agnosticism or pantheism (none of which need necessarily be sustained by a person who spurns or "detracts" revealed Christian doctrine 19), there is in any case no historical difference, only a metaphysical one, between non-theistic evolution and the most liberal theistic position, that presented above as option (b). 20 It is evident that (c) would also certainly have been rejected absolutely by Leo XIII, since this passage from Arcanum explicitly insists on the monogenist origin of the entire human race; and while the question of the soul's origin is not explicitly dealt with here, it would be completely gratuitous to postulate that Leo, unlike all his predecessors and successors, intended to treat its direct creation by God as a matter open to question or debate among Catholics.

        At the opposite end of the spectrum, version (f) - 'special transformism' - quite possibly might fall under Leo XIII's ban, at least implicitly, and if so he would, a fortiori, be tarring all the preceding options with the same brush. After all, even this very cautious form of evolutionism undeniably represents a considerable 'erasure' of that age-old 'common knowledge' of history according to which Adam's body did not issue forth from the womb of any creature, human or sub-human. 21 Nevertheless, it would seem difficult to know for sure if Pope Leo was treating this variant of evolutionary theory as unacceptable; first, because he does not, in quoting the biblical affirmation that God "formed man from the slime of the earth," insert any word such as "directly" or "immediately" to qualify the verb; 22 and secondly, because special transformism at least avows the direct, supernatural origin of both male and female bodies (even though in that case the "direct" action of God would have been not upon slime or dust, but upon a uniting hominid sperm and ovum).

        We are thus left now with a choice between options (d) and (e) as limiting the extent of Leo XIII's censure. It is obvious that he includes (d) as reprehensible, since his words expressly rule out any purely natural explanation of Eve's body. (We shall demonstrate this in more detail in the next section of this essay.) But a careful reading of the Pope's statement, in its historical and literary context, leaves no doubt that he also includes in his censure option (e), insofar as it retains a purely natural explanation for the body of Adam, thereby admitting the most essential, most novel, and most notorious element of the recently publicised Darwinian thesis.

        We must remember that at this time the 'reigning' Catholic view on evolution - the one accepted throughout the Church and taught in all the seminaries and theological faculties for at least twenty years as sound, orthodox doctrine - was that voiced by the Provincial Council of Cologne in 1860, when it condemned this same thesis of natural transformism ("spontaneous, continuous change" from lower forms right up to man) as not only contrary to the faith and to Scripture, but "plainly" so! The traditional position opposed to that thesis - namely, belief in a direct, supernatural intervention of some sort as the proximate efficient cause of Adam's body - was precisely that "fact well-known to all and doubtful to no-one" which was generally understood to be revealed by God in Gen. 2: 7.

        It follows that if Pope Leo, writing in 1880, had not intended to include natural transformism as such among those errors which he rejects here as being opposed to "the Church's permanent doctrine," then his encyclical would certainly not have been worded as in fact it is. For, coming immediately after the expressions we have just cited ("facts . . . no-one"), and after the Pope's insistence that these commonly-known "facts" he is about to recall must be defended anew against current theories calculated to "erase . . . history" and "extinguish . . . [the] light of the truth," his practically word-for-word quotation of Gen. 2: 7 could only have been understood by his readers as an emphatic confirmation of the existing consensus among Catholics, namely, that this verse reveals to us some kind of supernatural act on God's part as the proximate cause of Adam's body. In other words, if Leo XIII's intention here had been to prescind from the acceptability or otherwise of natural transformism in the case of Adam's body, and to insist on a supernatural intervention only in the case of Eve's body, then he would not have cited at all, directly after having reminded his "venerable brethren" that the truth about human history was under fire, the scriptural account of the manner in which Adam's body was produced - especially since that question had little or no relevance to the doctrine of marriage, which is the main theme of this encyclical. What we would expect, in that case, would be a simpler, more general statement to the effect that after the formation (or creation, or appearance) of the first man, "God willed to give him a female companion, whom he drew forth . . . [etc.]."

        The point is reinforced when we note that the Pope records here not only what Genesis says about the manner in which God formed Adam's body, but also what it says about when He did so - "on the sixth day of creation." This renders even more strained and artificial any reading of Arcanum which tries to maintain that the encyclical leaves the door open to human evolution in the form of 'natural transformism.' The relevant point here is not that several days of 24 hours would be insufficient for such evolution to take place; for, as we have already noted, 23 it seems entirely possible that the Pope wished to leave open the question as to whether a "day" in Genesis 1 means a period of 24 hours or a longer period of indefinite duration. The argument I have in mind here does not depend in any way on how long the "days" of creation were, but can be expressed, rather, in the following sequence of propositions, which assume (as Leo XIII certainly did) that the first chapters of Genesis are what the Pontifical Biblical Commission declared them to be nearly thirty years after Arcanum: "accounts of events that truly took place; accounts, that is, corresponding to objective reality and historical truth": 24

        (i) The words of Genesis 2: 7 cited by Leo XIII, "God formed man from the slime of the earth," clearly indicate and record some sort of direct divine action upon matter as an efficient cause (either remote or proximate) of Adam's body. 25

        (ii) If natural transformism is true, the direct divine action in question cannot have taken place any later than the third day of creation; for that is when life first appeared on earth. 26

        (iii) Therefore Leo XIII's synthesis of Gen. 1: 31 and 2: 7, affirming that God formed man from the slime of the earth on the sixth day of creation, is incompatible with natural transformism.

        Natural transformism, it will be remembered, is (in its theistic form) the theory that at least after the first emergence of life, God has never acted or intervened directly in the evolutionary process, so that the first human body, no less than the bodies of plants, animals and all other organisms, was the result of exclusively natural secondary causes. On this hypothesis, God's direct action upon matter was limited to endowing it right from the time of creation - or at the very latest, from the moment when the first living cell came into being - with the inherent potential to evolve into ever more sophisticated organisms, including the first human body.

        We can now summarize the position we have arrived at regarding the meaning and implications of Leo XIII's teaching on the origin of Adam's body, namely, his statement that God "formed man from the slime of the earth on the sixth day of creation." We have taken into account: first, its historical context, that is, a period when the thesis of man's natural bodily descent from ape-like creatures was, in Catholic circles, a shocking novelty condemned already for twenty years by a Provincial Council of the Church; secondly, its literary context, wherein it is presented as the first in a series of "well-known" Catholic truths being assailed by contemporary attempts to "erase" human history; and finally, its intrinsic content, which presents God's causative intervention with regard to Adam's body as occurring on the same day (or epoch) of creation as that in which Adam actually began to exist. In the light of these three considerations, especially their combined or cumulative force, we have concluded that the papal statement in question must certainly be understood as censuring natural transformism as such, and, therefore, as implicitly censuring the position we have presented as option (e) within the evolutionary spectrum, as well as the preceding, and more radical, options (a) to (d). 27

        THE FORMATION OF EVE'S BODY  

        Similar considerations make it just as clear that the Pope, in referring to Gen. 2: 21-22, is reaffirming the supernatural rather than natural evolutionary origin of Eve, the first woman. If anything this is even more obvious than in the case of the man, because the notion of being taken from the side of an adult man while he sleeps is much more detailed and specific - and therefore less malleable, less open to metaphorical readings - than the simpler notion of being "formed from dust." Indeed, once it is granted that these chapters belong to the literary genre of true history - and Leo XIII, as we have seen, is insisting on that - then any attempt to harmonize the text with the theory that the female human body evolved naturally must be discarded as a strained and futile exercise in concordism.

        A theory put forward by the late Professor Jerôme Lejeune, a well-known geneticist, and by certain earlier Catholic writers, is open to criticism on this count. As is well-known, the Pontifical Biblical Commission subsequently recalled this doctrine concerning Eve in its Response of 30 June 1909, which included "the formation of the first woman from the first man" (formatio primæ mulieris ex primo homine) as one of a series of "facts," recorded in Genesis 1-3, the "literal and historical sense" of which cannot be called in question because they "involve the foundations of the Christian religion" (christianæ religionis fundamenta attingunt). 28 Taking the above six words of the PBC (formatio . . . homine) in isolation, Lejeune sought to give them an evolutionary reading by surmising that Adam and Eve may well have been twins in the womb of a female hominid from which both of them evolved, in which case the doctrine that the first woman was 'taken from' the first man would be verified in the natural process whereby the original zygote divided into two embryos in the early days after conception - Eve 'splitting off,' as it were, from what was originally just Adam.

        Lejeune, highly distinguished in his field, claimed that the available genetic evidence was entirely compatible with that hypothesis. But quite apart from the fact that such evidence was, and always will be, equally compatible with a miraculous origin for Eve's body (since a miracle, by definition, is capable of producing any conceivable physical state of affairs which scientists might observe empirically), Lejeune's attempt to harmonize the Genesis text with the prevailing opinion among the secular scientists of his own day is unconvincing. As Leo XIII makes clear in Arcanum - a document of higher magisterial authority than a PBC Response - it was from an adult, sleeping man (viri . . . dormientis) that her body was formed, not a two-week-old embryo. There can be no doubt whatever that this is what Pope Leo means - for at least four reasons.

        First, the word vir practically always means "man" in the sense of an adult (or at least, physically mature) male person. 29 The normal way of referring in Latin to a male human being who could be of any age, even an infant or fetus, is to use words such as mas (pl. mares), masculus, or masculinus. 30 (Those words can also refer to male animals, but the context makes it clear when they refer to humans.) The fact that Leo XIII mentions also the fact that the vir was "sleeping" (dormientis) when Eve was formed from his side reinforces the point that he had an adult in mind. Whoever speaks (or even thinks) of a tiny embryo in the womb as being either "asleep" or "awake"?

        Secondly, it would be anachronistic to suggest that Leo XIII might have intended to leave his statement about Eve's origin open to the kind of natural, biological explanation subsequently offered by Lejeune and others; for there seems to be no evidence that such an idea crossed anyone's mind for at least half a century after Arcanum was promulgated. Fr. E. C. Messenger, writing in 1931 after having spent many years studying the relevant theological and scientific literature, shows no awareness, in his treatment of Eve's origin and the 1909 PBC response, of any hypothesis to the effect that our first parents possibly began their lives as mutant twin embryos. He thus gives an unequivocally supernatural explanation of Eve's formation, even while arguing that the divine intervention in question would have had some sort of natural basis in the genetic composition of that part of Adam's body from which God formed that of Eve. 31 It seems most unlikely that Messenger, a determined advocate of evolution in regard to Adam's body, would have failed to mention the 'twin-embryo' hypothesis if he had known about it.

        Thirdly, the 'twin-embryo' hypothesis is incompatible with the historical character of Genesis 2, which was certainly insisted upon by Leo XIII. For even though chronological precision does not appear to be observed in every detail of ch. 2, 32 it is clear that if the account is to be considered 'historical' in any sense worthy of the name, Eve must have been formed from Adam only when he already had the use of reason. This is clear from the fact that by the time she was taken from his side, he had already given names to the beasts that were led before him. Nor is that sequence of events merely superficial or incidental, so that one might postulate, without sacrificing the narrative's fundamentally historical character, that the real chronological order of these two events could conceivably have been the reverse of that in which they are recorded in the text. No, the essential logic of the narrative requires that Adam name the beasts before Eve is created, because he must first discover, by means of this experience, his solitude and incompleteness: out of all these irrational creatures under his dominion, "there was not found a helper like himself." 33

        Finally, Leo XIII even adds the word mirabiliter -"marvellously," "wondrously," "in a marvellous manner" - to describe the formation of Eve's body from the side of the sleeping Adam. Indeed, one of the standard meanings of this word in ecclesiastical Latin is "miraculous" - indicating the kind of event which, by definition, transcends the laws of nature.

        It is indisputable, therefore, in the light of these four considerations, that the Pope's teaching in Arcanum rules out evolution of any sort - that is, any kind of transformism, whether natural or special - as the origin of Eve's body. She was, according to Leo XIII and the unanimous teaching of all the Popes, Fathers and Doctors before him, formed from the body of a human male having the use of reason. This excludes ipso facto the thesis that she was born - even as a twin sister of Adam - from the body of a female brute.

        B. How binding is the teaching confirmed by Leo XIII?  

        In proceeding to address this question, it is worthwhile, first of all, casting our eye down all of Pope Leo's six doctrinal points which we summarized at the beginning of part A - not only the second and third which are our main focus of interest. It becomes clear that in reaffirming these "facts" (or "truths," or "realities"), as he calls them, 34 Pope Leo makes no distinction between any of them as regards their certainty. All orthodox Catholics will agree that the last two, at least - the "unity and perpetuity" of marriage - are definitely infallible, immutable teachings of the magisterium; but the Pope gives no indication that these two points are either more or less open to question than the first two he mentions - the supernatural formation of man and woman in both body and soul. 35

        Indeed, while the structure and wording of Arcanum do not exhibit the characteristics of an ex cathedra (per se infallible) definition, 36 what the Pope says explicitly in this passage of the encyclical leaves it clear that he is here bearing witness, as Peter's Successor, to the fact that all of these doctrines have been so constantly and firmly taught by the popes and bishops, throughout the world and throughout the ages up until his own time, that there can be no question of their ever being changed. In other words, he is, in effect, testifying to their being proposed infallibly by the Church according to a mode which was expounded in the following century by Vatican Council II in Lumen Gentium 25: the infallibility of the universal, ordinary magisterium.

        A recent article by John Beaumont 37 has redirected our attention to this frequently forgotten mode in which the Church can teach infallibly, twenty years after the definitive demonstration by Ford and Grisez of the fact that the constant Catholic doctrine against contraception fulfilled Lumen Gentium's requirements for infallibility. 38 As all these scholars point out, Vatican II recognizes four conditions which must be fulfilled in order for a doctrine to be proposed infallibly by the ordinary magisterium; and as we shall show, these conditions had indeed already been fulfilled by the year 1880 in the case of the doctrines regarding the origin of Adam and Eve recalled by Leo XIII.

        1. The first condition laid down in Lumen Gentium 25 is that the bishops teaching the doctrine be "in communion amongst themselves and with Peter's successor." 39 This condition is obviously fulfilled in the case before us, as it was never just heretical and/or schismatic bishops who taught that the bodies of Adam and Eve were produced by supernatural acts of the Creator: Catholic bishops and popes proposed these doctrines for over eighteen hundred years before 1880.

        2. The second condition to be verified is that bishops be "teaching authentically in matters of faith and morals." 40 Again the fulfilment of this condition is obvious. The doctrines concerning the formation of Adam and Eve respectively were proposed by the Catholic bishops and popes throughout all those long centuries in their role as authentic teachers in the Church - not as individuals expressing private historical or philosophical opinions. Such teaching was expressed in the approved catechesis and preaching about Creation - including even the innumerable artistic representations of Eden in churches, which reinforced catechesis in the ages of mass illiteracy. All this was authorized and/or personally carried out by each bishop in his diocese. The teaching, furthermore, was certainly presented as a matter of faith - as the Church's authentic understanding and exposition of the revealed Word of God in Genesis 1-2. As we have noted already, 41 the German bishops' declaration of 1860, basing itself on this teaching of all the ages of Judæo-Christian revelation, asserted that theories ascribing the formation of the human body to spontaneous, continuous, natural processes were "clearly opposed to Sacred Scripture and to the Faith." 42

        Nor was the 1860 Cologne declaration the first formal magisterial statement to present the traditional understanding of Genesis 2: 7 and 22 as a matter of faith. On 3 February 557 Pope Pelagius I wrote an epistle to King Childebert I beginning with the same two words as the encyclical promulgated fourteen centuries later by his successor Pius XII, Humani Generis. This document contains a profession of faith ("Fides Pelagii papæ") which was shortly afterwards repeated in the epistle Vas electionis addressed to the whole Church. 43 In reference to the Last Judgment, the profession of faith includes the following affirmation:

I acknowledge . . . that all men from Adam onward who have been born and have died up to the end of the world will then rise again and stand "before the judgment-seat of Christ," together with Adam himself and his wife, who were not born of other parents, but were created: one from the earth and the other from the side of the man (. . . ). 44

        3. Thirdly, Vatican II states that the teaching in question must be one that the popes and Catholic bishops agree upon (in unam sententiam . . . conveniunt). (This agreement, as all theologians are aware, need only be that of a moral or general unity, not an absolute, exceptionless unanimity - something which in any case would nearly always be difficult, if not impossible, to verify in practice.)

        After the German bishops' 1860 condemnation of human evolution (at least in the form of natural transformism), not a ripple of a criticism of this judgment, in the ensuing years, issued forth from the See of Peter, nor, it seems, from anywhere else in the world episcopate, which probably tended to see the shepherds of the German Church as having a particular pastoral responsibility in such matters in view of the fact that avant-garde philosophical, scientific and biblical theories had long been proliferating more abundantly in the German states than in most other nations.

        We have mentioned already Pope Pelagius I's teaching - as part of a profession of Catholic faith - that Adam and Eve were "not born of other parents." It goes without saying that this affirmation, too, went uncontested by subsequent popes and bishops throughout all those centuries before human evolution was even raised as a possibility. Pope Pelagius was simply voicing the consensus of all the Fathers of the Church regarding the interpretation of Genesis 2: 7 and 2: 22. 45 Indeed, it might be argued that since this Pontiff of the patristic era knew nothing of human evolutionary hypotheses in any shape or form, his teaching that our first parents were "not born of other parents" in effect contradicts special transformism as well as natural transformism. In other words, someone might argue that Pelagius' teaching requires Catholics to believe that an observer present at Adam's first appearance would have seen him taking shape directly from material on the ground, not emerging as a baby from the womb of a female creature. Such a conclusion, however, would seem to go beyond the evidence. We can scarcely doubt, of course, that this scenario of Adam's direct formation from earthy substance must have been the mental image entertained by Pope Pelagius, like all his orthodox Christian and Jewish contemporaries. Nevertheless, since he (and they) would have unanimously understood the concept of being "born from parents" to mean the ordinary, natural process of sexual reproduction, i.e., a process without any supernatural, species-altering action on the genetic material at the moment of conception, it is theologically more correct to exercise caution here, and to read Pelagius I's teaching as certainly denying only that normal or natural sort of "birth from parents" which the Pope himself had in mind - that is, as ruling out natural transformism only. 46

        Another important testimony to the episcopal consensus about this matter prior to 1880 was the following statement prepared by the bishops and theologians of Vatican Council I:

This, our Holy Mother the Church believes and teaches: When God was about to make man according to His image and likeness in order that he might rule over the whole earth, He breathed into the body formed from the slime of the earth the breath of life, that is, a soul produced from nothing. . . . And blessing the first man and Eve his wife who was formed by divine power from his side, God said: "Increase and multiply, and fill the earth" (Gen. 1: 28). 47

        This passage, which presents the Genesis account of the way in which Adam's and Eve's bodies were formed as straightforward history, naturally suggests the traditional understanding of these events as immediate, divine interventions. It is noteworthy that while the words "the breath of life" are explained as being a symbol or metaphor (for the soul), no similar explanation is offered for the expressions "slime of the earth" or "from his side." If the authors had wished to indicate that they were prescinding from the question of whether or not those expressions are to be understood literally, they could easily have done so by placing them in inverted commas.

        This draft statement never reached the point of promulgation by the Council; but given the present context, in which we are considering the ordinary magisterium of the world's Catholic bishops, it is a piece of relevant evidence as to the extent to which the direct, supernatural origin of our bodies had hitherto been taught by the successors of the apostles in union with Peter. After all, the men preparing doctrinal statements for Vatican I were, obviously, drawn from among those regarded by the Holy See as the most learned bishops and the most erudite and trustworthy theologians of that era. If they were not in a position to know what the ordinary magisterium of the Church was up till their own time, who ever would be? Moreover, it is worth while recalling that the reason for the non-promulgation of this draft statement by Vatican I was not dissatisfaction with it on the part of the conciliar Fathers. The problem was simply that the conciliar proceedings were cut short because of the political crisis of 1870, before the Fathers had a chance to complete their discussion of this schema so as to endorse and promulgate it. There is no evidence in the Acta of Vatican I that any of the conciliar Fathers raised any objections to the passage we have cited above, which is taken from the second draft of the schema. Indeed, the initial discussion indicated a favourable response to the first draft as a whole, 48 and, in regard to the passage mentioning the formation of Adam and Eve, the bishops deputed to discuss the first draft, far from showing any signs of wanting to 'liberalize' the wording of that passage, made it more explicitly traditional than that of the first draft by adding the words "formed by divine power from his side" (e costa eius divinitus formata). The initial draft, in speaking of Eve, had mentioned that she was the "mother of all living" 49 but was silent about the mode of her formation.

        The wording employed by Leo XIII in Arcanum is still further evidence of the time-honored unity of Catholic episcopal teaching on this question. 50 Leo, addressing his "Venerable Brethren" of the world episcopate, can affirm as a matter of course that these teachings on the respective origins of the male and female bodies, like those on the unity and perpetuity of the marital bond, are matters of "common knowledge" or "universal agreement" amongst them (Constat inter omnes). The Pope goes on to emphasize that in this paragraph he is writing neither to settle what has hitherto been controverted among Catholic bishops, nor to inform them of something they did not already know, but simply to "call to mind" or "recall" (commemoramus) what is already "well-known to all" - or even "notorious" (Nota omnibus).

        4. The fourth and final condition for an infallible teaching of the ordinary magisterium, according to Lumen Gentium 25, is that this unanimous teaching of the popes and bishops be presented as one "to be held definitively" (tamquam definitive tenendam). As Beaumont points out in the article already referred to, Vatican II's footnote at this point clarifies the meaning of this expression. The Vatican I schema De Ecclesia Christi, cited in the footnote, makes it clear that by doctrines "to be held definitively" are signified those which are presented as having to be "held or to be handed on as undoubted." That is, as certainly true - as the final and unchangeable position of the Church.

        Here too it is not difficult to show that this condition had been amply fulfilled by the time of Pope Leo XIII. As we have seen, a draft statement of that same First Vatican Council presented the supernatural formation of Adam and Eve in body and soul as something which, in 1870, "Holy Mother Church believes and teaches." According to standard magisterial and theological phraseology, this solemn formula never was, and never has been, used to present Catholic teaching about which there remains some shadow of legitimate doubt or uncertainty - that is, teaching which is merely "authentic" (or "authoritative") but not infallible. On the contrary, the verb "believes," in this context, means precisely that the doctrine being enunciated is to be held as a truth of faith - de fide.

        Another interesting testimony to the undoubted and certain historicity which Catholic bishops, in their ordinary magisterium, traditionally ascribed to the Genesis creation accounts is an illustrated Bible dictionary by Rev. Bernard O'Reilly 51 which, in the second half of the last century, enjoyed great popularity in the English-speaking Catholic world as a model of clear and orthodox Scripture scholarship destined for a general readership. The book carries the express approval of twenty-three Catholic bishops and archbishops from England and the United States, including Cardinal Wiseman of Westminster and Cardinal McCloskey of New York. Its entries under "Adam" and "Eve" 52 are 'thumbnail biographies' which no more hint at any doubt or uncertainty regarding historicity than do the entries for the New Testament historical figures, including Jesus himself. 53 O'Reilly's summary of the Book of Genesis positively exults in the blessed certainty which it gives, precisely as a cosmogony - a true account of our origins:

Before the coming of Christ the whole pagan world was plunged in darkness impenetrable concerning the origin of man and the world, and the sublime destinies appointed in Christ for Adam and his posterity in the very beginning. Christian teaching dispelled this midnight darkness and revealed to all believers both the secret of man's origin and the incomprehensible glory of his supernatural destinies. . . . So, in these first verses and pages of Genesis - the Book of Origins - we are treading on abysses of revealed truth - of truth which explains to us both the world beneath and around us, and that unmeasured world which extends on all sides above and beyond our little globe, . . . 54

        Now, if evolution of any sort, even special transformism, were the true origin of man, it would be a bizarre exaggeration to say that "Christian teaching [i.e., the traditional or classical teaching which O'Reilly is referring to] "dispelled" the "midnight darkness [of paganism] and revealed to all believers . . . the secret of man's origin." For the simple biblical statement that God formed Adam "from the slime of the earth," even supposing it to be compatible with an evolutionary origin for Adam's body, cannot be said to reveal anything whatsoever of such an origin. That O'Reilly assumed Adam to have been formed immediately from inorganic matter is also insinuated in his reference to a possible link between Adam's name and the "red earth from which he was made." 55 Finally, as further evidence of the finality and certainty which is ascribed to the historical truth of Genesis in this work - a historical truth understood to include the immediate formation of Adam from slime or dust - we read in regard to the Pentateuch:

Of all books ever written, this fivefold book of Moses is the only one that enlightens us with infallible certainty on the origin of all things in this universe, visible and invisible; on the creation of mankind and their destinies; on their duties, during this life, toward their Almighty Creator and toward each other, and on the rewards and punishments of the eternal life hereafter. 56

        In short, we have here a book expressly approved by dozens of Catholic bishops which assumes as certain and undoubted that Adam was formed directly from lifeless matter. Since this belief is incompatible with even the most cautious evolutionary hypothesis, that of special transformism, then a fortiori it excludes natural transformism. In this essay my claim is limited to the more cautious thesis that natural transformism, at least, is excluded infallibly by the cumulative weight of ordinary episcopal and papal teaching up to that of Leo XIII. I would not, however, rule out the possibility that future scientific, exegetical, and theological study could in future lead the Church to determine with certainty that any form of human evolution is incompatible with Scripture and Catholic faith. After all, the example of ordinary episcopal teaching represented by O'Reilly's book could probably be supplemented by any number of similar examples emanating from Catholic hierarchies in other countries round the globe, century after century. For instance, a dogma text used in Rome itself at the time Arcanum was promulgated - authored by a professor of the Pope's own seminary, the Collegio Romano, and published by the Vatican's Propaganda Fide press - affirms as its 25th thesis: "It is certain that [man] did not begin to exist as the result of some organic and animal evolutionary process, but was established directly in his species by God." 57 Father (later Cardinal) Camillo Mazzella was professor of dogma at Rome's Gregorian University at this time. His text describes the immediate or direct formation of Adam's body as a "most certain truth" which is "established from divine revelation." 58 A text used by the Austrian Jesuits at this period denounces natural transformism (as expounded by the English Catholic lay scholar Mivart in the 1870s) as "completely false, if not heretical." 59 All this can serve as a reminder of the background, the substratum, the huge and monolithic consensus on which Leo XIII's 1880 declaration is based.

        Pope Leo himself, bearing witness in Arcanum to the constant faith of all his predecessors in the papacy and episcopate - and confirming that faith of his brethren 60 - asserts that the truths recalled here, including those regarding the formation of our first parents, belong to the "permanent doctrine of the Church (perpetuam doctrinam Ecclesiæ)." The word perpetuam, as any Latin dictionary will show, expresses the idea of "forever": perpetual, constant, for all time, unchanging and unchangeable. Finally, as if to make still clearer the fact that these doctrines are "to be held definitively," Leo XIII uses explicitly the key word referred to in Vatican II's footnote to explain this concept: they are "doubtful to no-one" (nemini dubia) - certain and undoubted.

        In the light of the foregoing discussion, our conclusion is that Leo XIII's affirmations in Arcanum bear witness to and make manifest the fact that the traditional belief of Catholics in God's direct, supernatural intervention in forming the first human bodies - prescinding from whether, in the case of Adam, that intervention had for its object inorganic matter or the uniting sperm and ovum of a pair of hominid creatures - was a teaching proposed with such constancy, unanimity and unhesitating certitude by bishops and popes around the globe - up to and including Pope Leo himself - that it had by that time met all the requirements later set out by Vatican Council II for an infallible, and therefore irrevocable, doctrine of the Catholic Church's ordinary and universal magisterium.

        C. Two objections considered  

        It remains to consider two questions which are likely to occur to many readers.

        I. First, some might raise what they would see as a reductio ad absurdum argument against my claim of infallibility for the doctrine in question. It might be asked whether the line of argument which I have employed in this essay, in regard to a question wherein theology touches natural science, might not be equally used to 'prove' that the Church's support for geocentrism - the old astronomy contrasting with the modern world-view pioneered by Copernicus and Galileo - had already reached the status of an infallible teaching of the Church's ordinary magisterium by the time that controversy erupted in the Renaissance period. After all, the Fathers and Doctors of antiquity held it as certain and undoubted that the earth was immobile at the centre of the universe, and the geocentric world-view was not only upheld by Galileo's inquisitors (to say nothing of a theologian as great as St. Robert Bellarmine), but had already by that time been enshrined in the Catechism of the Council of Trent. 61

        I would reply that whether or not the traditional belief in geocentrism ultimately turns out to be vindicated by science, 62 it cannot be shown that, in the period prior to Galileo, the second of Vatican II's four requirements for an infallible teaching was fulfilled in regard to that belief: the requirement that the teaching be proposed precisely as a matter of faith or morals. The geocentric world-view was based fundamentally on natural reasoning or philosophy, and indeed, on what seemed to everyone, educated and unlettered alike, mere common sense. For that reason the earlier Fathers and theologians understandably read that world-view into certain biblical texts when they had occasion to comment on them. But the well-spring or root of that sense of certitude which churchmen enjoyed for sixteen centuries with respect to geocentrism was always the seeming requirements of natural reason, rather than the revealed Word of God as such. Certainly, there is no reason to doubt that the ancient human authors of Scripture, like all their contemporaries, personally adhered to, or took for granted, the geocentric world-view. However, as Leo XIII explained over a century ago in the encyclical Providentissimus, that in itself does not prove that geocentrism was formally taught by them when they described certain cosmic phenomena "according to the appearances."

        In contrast to this predominantly philosophical basis of geocentrism, the source of traditional Christian and Jewish belief that the bodies of the first man and woman were created by direct supernatural interventions of the Creator, and "not born of other parents" (as Pope Pelagius I put it), was always divine Revelation and nothing else - the inspired creation accounts of Genesis. Philosophy had nothing to offer on this question but guesswork, and so the teaching about Adam and Eve was necessarily proposed by both Church and Synagogue precisely as a matter of faith.

        It is true that in Galileo's time the Roman Inquisitors, oblivious to the hermeneutical distinction later clarified by Leo XIII in Providentissimus, did propose geocentrism as a truth of 'faith or morals,' in the decree of 5 March 1616 by which they placed Copernicus' work on the Index of Forbidden Books. But from this point onward, the third and fourth conditions for an infallible teaching cannot be shown to have been simultaneously fulfilled. That is, it cannot be shown that there ever was, after 1616, a consensus of bishops in union with the Pope that the truth of geocentrism had to be seen as "tamquam definitive tenenda" - as certainly and unquestionably true. To begin with, the 1616 decree of the Congregation for the Index was only disciplinary, not formally doctrinal, in nature, and the Pope at that time, Paul V, gave it only verbal approval. Neither his signature nor that of any other Pope ever appeared on a document condemning the Copernican world-view. Where, then, is the proof that even one Pope or Bishop - let alone the episcopal college as a whole - ever proposed the said Congregation's teaching as tamquam definitive tenenda? Indeed, it would seem hard to prove that the Vatican decision was even received favorably - let alone as permanently binding - by a moral unanimity of the Catholic bishops. Galileo's prestige was already strong and widespread, and the decision against him was immediately recognized by some bishops as a controversial one. In short, there is no true parallel between the quality and quantity of magisterial recognition once given to geocentrism and that given before the present century to belief in the supernatural formation of the first human bodies.

        II. Finally, it might be asked whether papal teaching in this century, i.e., since the time of Leo XIII, supports or discredits my thesis of infallibility for the traditional understanding of human origins.

        It should be noted, first of all, that the claim of infallibility deserves to be considered on its own merits, independently of what the Popes of this century may have said about this matter. If the conditions for infallibility were in fact fulfilled last century, then no subsequent statements of the magisterium, if they should be irreconcilable with this doctrine, can ever prevail against it, in the sense of having a greater claim on our obedience and assent. Infallibility trumps all other cards, as it were, now or in the future. As the Oxford jurist and philosopher John Finnis put it, in discussing the infallibility of the ordinary magisterium's teaching against contraception,

It is important to bear in mind that if at any one period of time the conditions for an infallible teaching are fulfilled, then that teaching can be recognised then and at all subsequent times as certainly true. And it follows, as a matter of elementary logic, that its truth and certainty can in no way be affected by the fact that at some later period some, even a considerable number, of Catholic bishops fall away from this teaching, or fail to recognise that it was once infallibly taught. 63

        In short, once infallible, always infallible - by definition! One could add to what Finnis says that the principle he enunciates will still hold good even if most bishops and even some popes should fall away for a time from such a teaching, or at least cease to insist on it. When Pope John XXII publicly taught on three occasions in 1331-1332 that the souls of the blessed will not enjoy the beatific vision until the final judgment, certain theologians did not hesitate to dissent strongly and publicly from this teaching, on the same kind of grounds as those to which I have appealed in this essay, namely, that such an opinion went contrary to the constant ordinary teaching of the Church, even though this had never up till that time been solemnly defined by Pope or Council. Pope John eventually came to realize the weight of this earlier consensus against his view, and so formally retracted it shortly before his death in the Bull Ne super his (3 December 1334). 64

        However, a true parallel with Pope John XXII does not arise in the case before us: in order to sustain the thesis argued in this essay it is not necessary to contradict any papal statement, because in fact no Pope after Leo XIII has taught that natural transformism in the case of Adam, or evolution of any sort in the case of Eve, is compatible with orthodox Catholic doctrine. What has happened is that the teaching against both those theses has simply been left more or less unstated - but by no means reversed - in more recent magisterial statements. In the first half of the century, however, the tradition was upheld more clearly. The Pontifical Biblical Commission's Response of 30 June 1909, for instance, not only insists on "the formation of the first woman from the first man," but also on the "special creation of man." 65 Since "woman," in this text, plainly refers to Eve's body, there is no reason to doubt that "man," in the previous phrase, refers to the body of Adam as well as his soul. If the Commission had wished to insist only on the special creation of Adam's soul, it presumably would have said so. The Response, therefore, while not ruling out the evolution of Adam's body in the form of special transformism, should not be read as allowing for natural transformism.

        Pope Pius XII was also conscious of this distinction within the spectrum of evolutionary theories when he addressed the Pontifical Academy of Sciences on 30 November 1941. He too clearly ruled out the latter version in regard to Adam, while also reasserting the traditional doctrine regarding Eve:

God formed man and crowned his brow with the diadem of his image and likeness. . . . Only from man could there come another man who could call him father and parent; and the helpmate given to the first man also comes from him and is flesh of his flesh . . . . Her name comes from the man, because she was taken from him. 66

        At first sight the words emphasised might appear to rule out special as well as natural transformism as explanations of the origin of the first man. However, in the light of the Pope's next remarks in the same discourse, to the effect we should await further light from biology and palæontology in regard to human origins, that conclusion would seem to be unjustified. The words in question do rule out natural transformism, however, since if Adam's body were the result of an exclusively natural generative process, the male hominid who generated Adam could hardly be denied the status of being his "father and parent." The fact that Adam's soul was infused directly by God would not be a sufficient reason for denying the said hominid that status: our own souls, too, are directly infused by God, and yet nobody suggests that, because of that fact, the man immediately responsible for our presence here is not our "father and parent." Nor could we argue that the far higher dignity or ontological status of Adam, as the "image and likeness of God," is a good reason for denying the hypothetical brute who generated Adam's body the status of being his "father." For then, in consistency, we should have to sustain the Nestorian heresy that Mary cannot be called "Mother of God," since Jesus, as a divine Person, was ontologically of infinitely greater dignity than the holy, but created, woman who bore Him in her womb.

        What Pius XII is teaching, therefore, is that first man's human nature in its entirety - soul and body - must have had a proximate efficient cause that was supernatural, so that even if further scientific research should one day definitively establish that natural evolutionary processes caused the development of life-forms up to the level of the higher primates or hominids, revealed truth and sound philosophy (which can never conflict with true science) make it clear that an irrational brute can never be the parent, in the true sense of that word, of a human being. God, as well as directly creating Adam's soul, would have had to intervene directly and supernaturally to form his body, even if this intervention conceivably had as its object the uniting male and female gametes of a pair of hominid creatures rather than lifeless dust or slime.

        Pope Pius XII's 1950 encyclical, Humani Generis, is entirely consistent (as we would expect) with what he taught about evolution nine years earlier in his discourse to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences. Not only does the encyclical cite that very page of the AAS which contains the above passage from the 1941 discourse; 67 its own wording again reflects the Pope's consciousness of the distinction between special and natural transformism. In stating what he means by that "evolutionismus" which he says Catholic scholars may continue to discuss prudently, Pius XII does not speak of the hypothesis that man's body has "descended" from ape-like creatures and other lower forms of life, but rather, of the hypothesis that it has its origin in "pre-existent living matter" (ex iam exsistente ac vivente materia). Such terminology never appears in scientific works advocating evolution, and has always sounded a little strange or stilted to those who equate evolution with natural transformism, and who therefore suppose that the "living matter" in question would be a complete living animal (or series of animals). But the Pope's choice of the words "pre-existent living matter" is perfectly intelligible once we appreciate that he was looking for an expression which would designate some part or other of a live organism, such as the genetic material - the male and female gametes - upon which, according to special transformism, God would have intervened supernaturally in the moment of their union, in such a way as to change what would otherwise have become just another hominid fetus into the embryonic body of Adam. As Fr. Sagüés explains it in his comment on Humani Generis:

It is to be noted that as regards the method in which evolution may be supposed to have taken place the words used in the Encyclical are "from already existing living material." Undoubtedly the words "from a brute beast" were avoided lest it might be supposed that man, if evolved, could have been derived from a brute beast by natural generation, an obvious supposition, but impossible, since there would be no proportion between cause and effect. But the formula "from existing living material" makes it clear that if evolution did take place, it was through some power given from outside to the material, and therefore by the special action of God.

The admission of liberty of discussion about the fact of transformism must not be taken to mean that special action or influx on the part of God may be excluded from the hypothesis. 68

        The reigning Pontiff, John Paul II, has never contradicted the traditional doctrine by teaching that such special action on the part of God may in fact be "excluded from the hypothesis" of evolution by faithful Catholics. It is true that he has not made the distinction between special and natural transformism in his discourses on this matter, but in his most important intervention on the subject of evolution, the message of 24 October 1996 to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, Pope John Paul makes it clear that as regards the doctrinal (as distinct from the scientific) state of the question, his intention is to adhere to the position already adopted by Pius XII in this regard. He appeals to and confirms the teaching of Humani Generis in three distinct passages in his discourse, 69 and in the last of these repeats explicitly that terminology which, as we have seen, implies that special transformism is the only kind of evolutionary hypothesis (or theory) which might be compatible with revealed truth: "Pius XII had underlined this essential point: if the human body has its origin in pre-existent living matter, the spiritual soul is created directly by God . . ." 70

        Conclusion  

        With great respect, therefore, I submit that it is high time for Catholics at all levels to 'rediscover' Leo XIII's Arcanum, which bears witness to, illustrates, and confirms the perennial Catholic doctrine - certain and unchangeable, and yet presently languishing in oblivion - that both Adam and Eve, in body as well as soul, owed their existence to direct supernatural interventions of the Creator. The fact that the doctrine, as it has been proposed up till now, does not necessarily exclude the possible evolution of Adam's body in accordance with the hypothesis of special transformism does not, of course, shed much light on the distinct question as to whether or not special transformism represents the historical truth as to how Adam's body was in fact formed. Whether there are solid scientific, exegetical and/or theological grounds for sustaining that hypothesis, or whether, rather, it will inevitably 'fall between two stools' as a gratuitous and fragile attempt to harmonize two fundamentally incompatible belief-systems or world-views, is a subject we hope to address in a future essay.

        In any case, an important consequence of the infallible character of the doctrine we have examined is that we can be certain that natural science will never be able to disprove it. For the truth that comes to us via God's word can never contradict the truth to be discovered in His works - the created universe. True scientific knowledge can never contradict faith. Indeed, a moment's reflection should suffice to show us that in any case - that is, even prescinding from the infallibility of the doctrine in question - natural science could never, without transgressing its own proper limits, claim to demonstrate conclusively that no extraordinary act of God took place in the formation of the First Adam's body, any more than it could ever legitimately claim to demonstrate that nothing extraordinary and supernatural took place in the formation of the Second Adam's body, namely his virginal conception in the womb of Mary, the Second Eve.

        The parallel in this respect between the beginnings of the old and new humanities respectively is quite close. The mass of scientific evidence to the effect that virgins have never been observed to become pregnant does not disprove - or even render improbable - the traditional Christian doctrine that a unique exception took place in the case of the Incarnation. Likewise, even if science should one day amass vast amounts of solid evidence that lower life-forms had evolved naturally up to the point of 'hominid' creatures bearing a close physical resemblance to homo sapiens - and I am personally unconvinced that this has in fact been done, or is ever likely to be done - this would still not disprove, or even render improbable, the traditional Christian doctrine that in the unique case of the first real man the Creator acted in a direct and extraordinary way in the formation of his body as well as his soul. The thesis argued in this paper, therefore, in no way offends against Vatican II's warning about the need for believers to respect the legitimate autonomy of scientific investigation according to its own methods. 71 Rather, it is scientists who step outside the limits of their field of competence - the systematic study of the natural order - when they presume to dictate to Theology about unique historical events of the supernatural order.


ENDNOTES

1. 'Announcement,' or 'Message.' Nuntius is the official Vatican title of the type of written papal statement exemplified by that on the subject of evolution which was read out to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences on 24 October 1996 (cf. Acta Apostolicæ Sedis 89 [1997] p. 186). Appearing in each issue of the AAS after the texts of the various Allocutiones which the Pontiff has delivered orally in special audiences, Nuntii are about the lowest-ranking papal interventions published in this official monthly record of the Holy See's more important acts. (A Pope's Wednesday general audience talks and Sunday 'Angelus' messages are never published in the AAS, his homilies only rarely.)

2. The original text can be found in Acta Sanctæ Sedis 12 (1879-1880) pp. 385-402. The best-known Catholic theologian writing in English on evolution in the earlier part of this century was certainly E. C. Messenger. Yet in his 313-page book Evolution and Theology (New York: Macmillan, 1932), Messenger never even mentions Leo XIII's encyclical in the chapter purporting to give a thorough examination of all pertinent magisterial statements on this matter (cf. Ch. XVIII, "The Origins of Man in Public Doctrinal Decrees of the Church," pp. 226-231). It is true that in another chapter Messenger (who maintains that the evolution of Adam's body is compatible with revelation) gives Arcanum one fleeting mention. But even then, he fails to quote what Leo XIII actually said, or even to refer in any way to what the encyclical teaches about the origin of the first man. Referring to St. Augustine's view that the formation of Eve from Adam's side was "a sacred symbol, a magnum mysterium, of something which was to be realized in the order of Redemption," Messenger simply remarks (without any footnote references) that this point "is clear in tradition from St. Paul down to the Encyclical Arcanum of Leo XIII" (ibid., p. 264).

The last eight words of that citation represent the sum total of all that I have been able to find in the way of theological commentary on Arcanum, in relation to the question of how the human body originated. Even anti-evolutionist theologians - those who regard any form of naturalistic hypothesis for the origin of man's body as incompatible with the faith - appear to be quite unaware of the existence of this potential weapon for their own armoury. The learned Spanish Jesuits Dalmau and Sagüés, for instance, make no reference to the encyclical in their four-page exposition of relevant magisterial statements on this precise point (J. M. Dalmau & J. F. Sagüés, Sacræ Theologiæ Summa, Vol. II [Madrid: B.A.C., 1952], pp. 642-645). Nor does Fr. Patrick O'Connell mention Arcanum anywhere in his 386-page book Science of Today and the Problems of Genesis (2nd. edition of 1968, reprinted by TAN Books [Rockford, Illinois, 1993]). O'Connell's defence of the historicity of the Genesis creation accounts, first published in 1959, has been published also in French and Italian, and was very favorably reviewed in L'Osservatore Romano (July 11, 1964).

3. "Implicitly," because during all the long centuries before the nineteenth, in which nothing was known of the evolutionary theories first proposed by Darwin and others, it was obviously impossible for those theories to be condemned explicitly.

4. It is also worth noting that the term "evolution," in this essay, refers solely to theories of organic evolution - those which attempt to explain the history and diversification of living forms. That is, the term does not include here - as it does in many works - cosmological hypotheses about the origin and development of inorganic matter and energy, and of the universe as a whole, prior to the emergence of life.

5. Cf. for instance, the discussion of various theological treatments of evolution given in Dalmau and Sagüés, op. cit., pp. 642 ff.

6. I have used the word "slime" rather than "dust" throughout this essay, simply because that is the correct translation of the word limus used by Leo XIII, who in turn is following the traditional Vulgate translation of Gen. 2: 7. Modern scholarly opinion favours "dust" rather than "slime" as the more accurate rendering of the Hebrew text.

7. "Constat inter omnes, Venerabiles Fratres, quae vera sit matrimonii origo. - Quamvis enim fidei christianæ vituperatores perpetuam hac de re doctrinam Ecclesiæ fugiant agnoscere, et memoriam omnium gentium, omnium sæculorum delere iamdiu contendant, vim tamen lucemque veritatis nec extinguere nec debilitare potuerunt. Nota omnibus et nemini dubia commemoramus; posteaquam sexto creationis die formavit Deus hominem de limo terræ, et inspiravit in faciem eius spiraculum vitæ, sociam illi voluit adiungere, quam de latere viri ipsius dormientis mirabiliter eduxit. Qua in re hoc voluit providentissimus Deus, ut illud par coniugum esset cunctorum hominum naturale principium, ex quo scilicet propagari humanum genus, et, numquam intermissis procreationibus conservari in omne tempus oporteret. Atque illa viri et mulieris coniunctio, quo sapientissimis Dei consiliis responderet aptius, vel ex eo tempore duas potissimum, easque in primis nobiles, quasi alte impressas et insculptas præ se tulit proprietates, nimirum unitatem et perpetuitatem" (Acta Sanctæ Sedis 12 [1879-1880], p. 386). The above English translation is that of the present writer.

8. To uphold this truly historical character does not commit one, as is sometimes supposed, to a slavishly 'literal' or 'literalist' reading of Genesis. Historical prose, like any other prose, can make use of popular approximations and metaphor (cf. the 1909 response of the Pontifical Biblical Commission regarding Gen. 1-3: DS 3516, 3518). Who would be so pedantic, for instance, as to accuse a historian of departing from his proper genre simply because he penned a sentence such as this: "On August 6, 1945, a huge, ghastly mushroom enveloped the skies over the city of Hiroshima."? Likewise, the first three chapters of Genesis include certain anthropomorphic metaphors (always recognized as such by the Church Fathers and classical Jewish and Christian commentators), such as a God who "rests" on the seventh day, "breathes" into Adam's nostrils and "walks" in the garden. But such expressions in no way justify the ascription of a 'non-historical' genre to Genesis 1-3, as a facile way of evading the problem of reconciling this inspired cosmogony with the data of modern science.

9. ". . . memoriam omnium gentium, omnium sæculorum delere" (emphasis added). "History" is one of the standard meanings of memoria in Latin, and the one that is clearly most appropriate here. To translate memoriam delere by "erase the memory" might suggest that those the Pope wishes to rebuke are trying to discredit only orally transmitted ('remembered') traditions, whereas in fact the written account of Genesis is obviously the main record he wishes to defend. Why does Leo XIII mention here that these "detractors" of Christianity are undermining the history "of all nations and all ages," when his own positive doctrinal teaching in this paragraph is limited to what happened at the commencement of the human race? On reading the rest of the encyclical we see the reason for this: according to the Pope, these modern secularists, sceptics and 'free-thinkers' also seriously distort the record of the more recent past when writing, for instance, the history of the nations of Christendom from an anti-Catholic perspective. Moreover, the very notion of polygenism, condemned in this passage of Arcanum, requires another "erasure" of world history as revealed in Scripture.

10. It is of interest that the Pope, reading the first two chapters of Genesis as forming a coherent historical account, has no hesitation in engaging in what many modern scholars would deride as 'concordism.' Those exegetes who look for pretexts to assign the creation narratives to some sort of 'non-historical' literary genre like to point out that ch. 2, v. 4 introduces the sequence of events to be narrated - including the way Adam came into being - by placing them all in "the day" (singular) of creation. They then assure us that this contradicts chapter 1, which speaks of creation in six days. Leo XIII, however, does not hesitate to synthesize both accounts, affirming that Adam's formation "from the slime of the earth" (2: 7) indeed took place on the sixth day (1: 26, 31). The implication, clearly, is that both accounts give us historical truth, but that the word "day," at least in 2: 4, is to be understood in a broader sense than in ch. 1, as referring to the whole period during which creation took place.

11. By this time Catholic exegetes and theologians were debating - without any censure from the magisterium - the question as to whether the Hebrew word yom ('day'), in the context of Genesis 1, necessarily had to be taken as a period of 24 hours, given that in some parts of the Old Testament it means a longer, indeterminate period. Leo XIII in Arcanum appears to have no intention of settling that question; but the historical character of the narrative - which he certainly does insist on - does not in any case depend on the length of time signified by yom. Indeed, that question has importance only for those who believe that the Creation account is historical - that it is indeed a cosmogony (or "cosmogenesis") telling us a series of true events that took place at the origin of the world.

12. Cf., for example, Chapter 7, "The Age of Scientific Cosmogenesis," in Stanley L. Jaki, Genesis 1 through the Ages (London: Thomas More Press, 1992), pp. 223-253.

13. "Primi parentes a Deo immediate conditi sunt. Itaque Scripturæ sanctæ fideique plane adversantem illorum declaramus sententiam, qui asserere non verentur, spontanea naturæ imperfectioris in perfectiorem continuo ultimoque humanam hanc immutatione hominem, si corpus quidem species, prodidisse" (Tit. IV, c. 14). The original Latin text is cited in E. C. Messenger, op. cit., p. 226, n. 1. However the above English translation, which seems to me more accurate than Messenger's, is that found in P. O'Connell, op. cit., p. 187. (By the inclusion of the word "spontaneous," this judgment against evolution stops short of condemning the hypothesis of 'special transformism' referred to on p. 3 above.). I have said above that the Holy See gave "firm, if quiet, support" to the German bishops' position. Silence, in this case, obviously signified Rome's consent, since those bishops were simply repeating what the Church had always taught, and what was of course taught in all approved Catholic theology faculties at the time. By the 1890s the silence was broken, though not in a public way: the first two priest-theologians who were so bold as to sustain a natural evolutionary origin for Adam's body, Leroy and Zahm, were obliged by the Holy Office to renounce their opinion, although not in published decrees of the Congregation (cf. discussion in Messenger, op. cit., pp. 232-239). It is interesting that the only nineteenth-century Catholic evolutionist who escaped ecclesiastical censure for affirming what the Council of Cologne had condemned, the lay English biologist Mivart, published his opinion in 1871, nine years before Leo XIII promulgated Arcanum (cf. ibid., p. 232).

14. T.H. Huxley, "Mr. Darwin's Critics," in Critiques and Addresses (New York: D. Appleton, 1873), p. 239 (cited in Jaki, op. cit., pp. 233-234).

15. which in turn, of course, is presented to Catholics authoritatively as the correct way to interpret Genesis.

16. The Provincial Council of Cologne very probably had in mind inanimate rather than living matter as the object of God's "immediate" creative intervention, but did not spell this out. Strictly speaking, therefore, the Council's judgment does not exclude absolutely every form of evolutionary hypothesis in regard to Adam's body. It excludes natural transformism ("spontaneous" change of lower forms into the human body), but not necessarily special transformism.

17. The qualification "purely natural" is not inconsistent with designating this a theistic version of evolution. What we mean by (b) above is that very common theistic position which, like atheistic versions of evolution, postulates that between the emergence of the primordial living cell and that of man there took place a vast series of gradual physical changes, brought about by biological reproduction and according to exclusively natural laws (chance, natural selection, mutations, etc.) over immense æons of time. This position differs from atheistic evolution only in regard to the metaphysical (not historical) question as to whether or not that process as a whole, including those natural laws themselves, could be adequately explained without supposing an intelligent Creator.

18. It seems unlikely that any thesis insisting on monogenism for theological reasons would have allowed for a natural evolution of the human soul; hence, such a position is not included in the above spectrum of evolutionary hypotheses.

19. The Freemasons, who have generally believed in a Supreme Being while frequently "reviling" or "detracting" revealed Christian dogma, spring naturally to mind in this context. Pope Leo himself was to publish a severe encyclical against them only four years after Arcanum (Humanum Genus, 20 April 1884).

20. Cf. above, n. 17.

21. Cf. for instance the profession of faith of Pope Pelagius I in his epistle of 3 February 557, which expressly affirms (DS 443) that Adam and Eve "were not born of other parents" (non ex aliis parentibus nati sunt).

22. Such an insertion would clearly have meant that God's supernatural intervention had inanimate, inorganic matter as its object; i.e., it would have excluded evolution in any shape or form as the origin of Adam's body.

23. Cf. above, n. 11.

24. ". . . rerum vere gestarum narrationes, quæ scilicet obiectivæ realitati et historicæ veritati respondeant" (Response of PBC, 30 June 1909, DS 3513).

25. This proposition does not (though other exegetical considerations perhaps might) imply that Gen. 2: 7 in its own immediate context, that is, read without taking into account the sequence of events related in Gen. 1, especially 1: 31, is sufficient to exclude natural transformism as an explanation for Adam's body. This is because the creation narrative of chapter 2 does not set out to give us a strictly chronological sequence. Chapter 2, verse 4 speaks of all creation as happening in one "day." Assuming that these chapters are both historical and inerrant, 2: 4 and what follows can be satisfactorily reconciled with the six days of chapter 1 only by supposing that "day," in 2: 4, means "the whole period of creation" - however long it may have taken in terms of (literal) days or years. Therefore, if it were not for Gen. 1: 31, which in conjunction with 2: 7 implies (as Leo XIII recognized) that God's act of "forming Adam from dust" occurred on the sixth day, those seeking to harmonise natural transformism with the historicity of the creation narratives could argue that the direct supernatural action of God upon matter which is plainly indicated by the descripton of His "forming man from the dust of the earth" was simply His act of impressing upon inorganic matter at the beginning of time (or perhaps upon the first microscopic cell at the moment when life first emerged) the potential to develop or evolve from that moment onward, by means of of purely secondary or natural causes, into an animal body so sophisticated as to be apt for, and hence require, the infusion of a rational soul. On that reading of Gen 2: 7, the direct action upon matter attributed therein to God would still have been an efficient cause of Adam's body, but only a very remote one.

26. Cf. Gen. 1: 11: "Then God said, 'Let the earth bring forth vegetation: every kind of plant that bears seed, [etc.]'."

27. Cf. above, pp. 6-7.

28. DS 3514.

29. Cf. under vir in Lewis & Short's standard Latin Dictionary, which defines the word as meaning "a male person, a man." The many examples given to show the different usages of this word are divided into two groups, "in general" and "in particular." Nearly all examples given in the first group clearly refer to males who are sexually mature or have the use of reason: "a woman united to a man" (mulier coniuncta viro), and instances in which the noun is qualified by adjectves denoting rational qualities ("wise," "prudent," "good," etc.). The only apparent exception is the first example given: "virum me natam vellem." However, since this quotation is taken from Terence's comedy Phormio, where the words are placed on the lips of a female character lamenting the social disadvantages of her sex, it is more than likely that the dramatist's intention was to have this character speak in a humorous vein - whimsically or ironically - in which case the appropriate translation would not be "I wish I had been born male," but "I wish I had been born a man," i.e., using vir in its normal sense, but jokingly. In the second category of meanings given by Lewis & Short ("in particular"), the examples given in subdivisions 'A' to 'F' are all unequivocally adult: men as related to women as wives or lovers; men as opposed to boys; virtuous or 'manly' men; soldiers etc.. As subdivision 'G,' Lewis & Short quote a couple of rare poetic usages of the plural (viri) in which the word means the same as homines, that is, human beings in general, prescinding from sex. This seems to be the caseomines in one unusual expression found in the Latin Vulgate, where we read in Gen. 17: 23 that Abraham circumcised cunctos mares ex omnibus viris domus suæ, literally, "all the males among the men of his house." Since there could be no females among "the men" of his house, the expression would be tautological unless viris here means "people" in general. Apart from this I have been unable to find any instance in the Vulgate wherein vir would clearly be meant broadly enough to include a male infant as well as an adult.

30. Cf., for example: the reference to Gen. 17: 23 in the preceding footnote (some infants would probably have been among the mares whom Abraham circumcised); the Vulgate version of I Kings 11: 15: "cum . . . occidisset omne masculinum in Idumea" (". . . had killed every male in Idumea"); and of Exodus 1: 16-17, where the infant Hebrew boys ordered to be killed by Pharaoh are referred to as masculus and mares.

31. Cf. Messenger, op. cit., pp. 269-273 ("A Possible Explanation of the Formation of Eve"). As far as I can discover, the first writer who suggested that Adam and Eve may have been twins was J. Paquier, in his book La Création et l'Evolution, la Révélation et la Science (Paris: Gabalda, 1932), p. 132. Paquier is cited to this effect by J. Gross ("The Problem of Origins in Recent Theology") in the post-war sequel to Messenger's Evolution and Theology. Cf. E.C. Messenger (ed.), Theology and Evolution (London & Glasgow: Sands & Co., 1950), p. 144.

32. Cf., for instance, our above comments about "day," in Gen. 2: 4, in footnotes 10 and 25.

33. Gen. 2: 20.

34. The Pope uses the neuter plural form to describe them collectively: "Nota . . . et nemini dubia." The most basic sense of this expression is the equivalent of res - "things." But since inanimate objects are not under discussion here, we have opted for "facts" in our translation.

35. That of course does not imply that the "hierarchy of truths" mentioned in Vatican II's Decree on Ecumenism has no relevance here. It may well be that points 5 and 6 on the list were seen by the Pope as more important within the total Catholic doctrine of marriage - especially from the practical and pastoral standpoint - than the preceding ones. But a lesser degree of importance or centrality in some Catholic doctrines by no means implies they are less certain, and so more open to question or more 'negotiable,' than the others. (No more does the greater importance and centrality of the King and Queen, in playing chess, render these pieces more essential to the game itself than the other pieces and pawns. For if even one humble pawn is missing, you cannot even begin the game.)

36. Cf. my article on this subject: B.W. Harrison, "The Ex Cathedra Status of the Encyclical Humanæ Vitæ" (Living Tradition 43 [September/November 1992] pp. 1-24; reprinted in Faith & Reason 19 [Spring 1993] pp. 25-78).

37. J. Beaumont, "Contraception, authority and Catholic truth" (Homiletic & Pastoral Review [January 1998] pp. 25-32, 43-44).

38. Cf. John C. Ford, S.J. & Germain Grisez, "Contraception and the Infallibility of the Ordinary Magisterium" (Theological Studies 39 [June 1978] pp. 258-312).

39. ". . . communionis nexum inter se et cum Successore Petri servantes."

40. " . . . authentice res fidei et morum docentes." Following the usage of St. Thomas and mediæval Latin, authentice could also be translated as "authoritatively" (cf. M.-D. Chenu, Toward Understanding Saint Thomas [Chicago: Henry Regnery Co., 1964] pp.129-132).

41. cf. above, over n. 13.

42. As we have explained in part A, this assertion of the German bishops does not necessarily and certainly exclude the theory of 'special transformism,' which would allow for a supernatural intervention in the evolutionary process in the case of Adam's body. Much less does it exclude the kind of 'evolution' in which God would have intervened supernaturally on many previous occasions as well, modifying the genetic code of inferior animals at the moment of conception so that creatures of a given species would produce offspring of a new and different species. No modern scientist, however, whether theist or atheist, would recognize such a theory as 'scientific,' because in today's accepted terminology a 'scientific' theory - at least in those contexts where 'science' has to do with physical phenomena - excludes supernatural interventions by definition. A miraculous (supernatural) explanation of any given phenomenon, even though it be the true explanation, is not, in contemporary parlance, a 'scientific' explanation. (Cf. our clarification of terminology on p. 3 above. ) The only scientist I am aware of whose views seem to suggest the kind of 'evolution' in which the change-producing factor would be a long series of intermittent supernatural interventions in the normal processes of reproduction is the biochemist Michael Behe, author of Darwin's Black Box (New York: The Free Press, 1996). Behe states briefly that he is not a 'creationist,' since he thinks it probable that all presently living organisms share a common ancestry. However the purpose of his book is to reject as rationally indefensible all attempts to explain naturally, i.e., by an appeal to 'blind' physical causality, the immense complexity and continual diversification of differing species, and to argue that intelligent design by a superior Power is the only adequate explanation of these phenomena. It is evident, however, that Behe himself does not consider his own theory to fall within the parameters of "evolution," for the very subtitle of his book is "The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution," and his usage of the word throughout the book manifests his assumption that "evolution," by definition, means a process of change brought about by natural causes alone, such as the chance mutations and 'natural selection' postulated by Darwin.

43. ". . . ad universum populum Dei " (DS 444). According to the editorial note introducing the earlier epistle addressed only to the king (DS 441-443), it was in the subsequent (universal) epistle that "Fides [the Pope's profession of faith], seems to have appeared for the first time in its entirety, that is, with a repetition of the text presented below (. . . in hac altera ep. primum Fides qua tota exstitisse videtur, repetito scl. textu infra posito)" That "text presented below" includes the statement about Adam and Eve cited in note 44 below.

44. "Omnes enim homines ab Adam usque ad consummationem sæculi natos et mortuos cum ipso Adam eiusque uxore, qui non ex aliis parentibus nati sunt, sed alter de terra, alter [altera] autem de costa viri creati sunt, tunc resurrecturos esse confiteor et adstare 'ante tribunal Christi' (. . .)"(DS 443, emphasis added).

45. It is sometimes said that St. Augustine's supposition that there were rationes seminales ("seed-causes") of more complex beings embedded in primitive matter makes him a kind of forerunner of Darwin. But whatever may be said for or against the idea that Augustine's view corresponds somehow with modern evolutionary theories on the origin of sub-human living creatures, it can hardly be said that the great Doctor is open to a purely natural evolution of man's body, for he expressly says that in Adam's case the 'seed-causes' of his being themselves were such as to require an extraordinary divine action. He says: "Man was made according to the way in which the first causes disposed for the coming-into-being of the first man, who had to be formed not by birth from parents, for none preceded him, but from the dust, according to the causal reason in which he was originally made. (. . . sic factus est homo, quemadmodum illæ primæ causæ habebant ut fieret primus homo, quem non ex parentibus nasci, qui nulli præcesserant, sed de limo formari oportebat, secundum causalem rationem in qua primitus factus erat)" (De Genesi ad Litteram, vi, 15, emphasis added). St. Augustine also says, in speaking of the first appearance of man, that this occurred "not, however, from the generation of parents, but the man from slime and the woman from his side. (. . . non tamen parentibus generantibus, sed ille de limo, illa de costa eius)" (ibid., vi, 6). It is clear, then, that St Augustine's interpretation of Adam's formation "from slime [or dust]" is irreconcilable with the view of modern Christian evolutionists - or at the very least, of those who sustain natural transformism - who hold that Adam's body was indeed "born from parents" (animal parents, supposedly).

46. It should be noted that our reason for not seeing special transformism as necessarily excluded by Pope Pelagius's statement is not the simple fact that he wrote long before that hypothesis was even proposed. If that were our argument, consistency would obviously require us to say that this papal statement does not exclude natural transformism either. Indeed, there are Catholics who maintain that, in principle, no magisterial statement prior to the time of Darwin could ever be taken as evidence against evolution, because until then no such statement could have been formally addressing the question of evolution, or taking into account the arguments in its favor. But it is false and dangerous to say that no magisterial statement can ever be understood as ruling out theses which were not proposed until a later date. The Church can teach her doctrines - and teach them infallibly - without having to wait until heretics raise every possible argument against them. Did the Church have no right to propose her doctrine of grace infallibly until the sixteenth century, when Luther raised against that doctrine certain previously unheard of arguments? Such a hermeneutic of magisterial statements would radically undermine, right now, our confidence in every Catholic dogma, because we can never know, at any given moment in history, what new arguments might be raised against a given dogma at some future date.

47. "Hæc credit et prædicat Sancta Mater Ecclesia: Facturus Deus hominem ad imaginem et similitudinem suam, ut praeesset universæ terræ, corpori de limo terræ formato inspiravit spiraculum vitæ, animam scilicet de nihilo productam. . . . Primo autem homini et Hevæ uxori, e costa eius divinitus formatæ, benedicens ait: 'Multiplicamini et replete terram' (Gen. 1, 28)" ("Schema reformatus constitutionis de doctrina catholica", ch 2). This text can be found in Acta et Decreta Sacrorum Conciliorum Recentiorum: Collectio Lacensis, Vol. VII, (Freiburg: Herder, 1890) cc. 554-555. In citing it, Fr. Sagüés mistakenly refers to column 516, which gives the initial draft (cf. Dalmau & Sagüés, op. cit., p. 645).

48. "Having carefully considered everything, the deputed Fathers are of the view that the doctrine in the proposed schema should be retained, while the form in which it is expressed can be changed (Omnibus perpensis Patribus deputatis visum est, ut doctrina in schemate proposita retineretur, ratio vero eam proponendi immutaretur)" (Collectio Lacensis, op. cit., c. 78).

49. ". . . Adam, . . . cum uxore sua Heva matre cunctorum viventium" (ibid., c. 515).

50. Indeed, so strong is the similarity between the wording the Pope uses about the first male and female human bodies and that of the draft statement of Vatican I cited above that one suspects he was intending to finish off the incomplete work of the Council on this point by the exercise of his own personal authority.

51. B. O'Reilly, An Illustrated and Comprehensive Catholic Bible Dictionary and Comprehensive History of the Books of the Holy Catholic Bible (Boston: E.W. Sawyer, 1881 edn., reproduced in facsimile edition by Catholic Treasures [Monrovia, California: 1991]). The list of the 23 American and English bishops and archbishops who gave their endorsement to this work is found immediately after the title page in the facsimile edition. The book was originally published, it seems, in the 1850s or early 1860s (Wiseman, named among the endorsing prelates as Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster, held that position from 1850 to 1865).

52. ibid., pp. 6 and 45 respectively.

53. Cf. ibid., p. 6, where the pertinent entry begins as follows: "AD'AM (Gen. ii. 19), the first man created by God (Gen. i. 26, 27). As Adam means red, it is supposed by some that he was called so from the red earth of which he was made (ii. 7). The name also signifies man in general (Gen. v. 2). God breathed into his face the breath of life (ii. 7), and placed him in a paradise of pleasure (ii. 8); he gave him dominion over all animals, and brought them to Adam to name (ii. 19); he forbade Adam to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (ii. 17). Then God created Eve out of one of the ribs of Adam (21-24). . . . [etc.]." The entry on p. 45 reads, in its entirety, "EVE, the first woman, made out of a rib of Adam (Gen. ii. 21); induced by the serpent to eat the forbidden fruit (iii. 6); persuades Adam to eat thereof (6); her sentence (16); God makes her a garment of skins (21); mother of Cain (iv. 1); of Abel (2); of Seth (25) and of daughters (v. 4)."

54. ibid., p. 4, second part of book. (The page numbering for the "Comprehensive History" of the biblical books begins again from 1 after p. 128, where the dictionary section, with entries in alphabetical order, finishes.)

55. Cf. above, n. 53.

56. O'Reilly, op. cit., p. 3, second part of book (emphasis added).

57. Cf. D. Palmieri, S.J., Tractatus de Deo Creante et Elevante (Rome: Propaganda Fide, 1878): "Thesis XXV: Nobilissimum creationis opus inter visibilia est homo. Certum est autem ipsum non incepisse exsistere veluti terminum cuiusdam evolutionis organicæ aut animalis, sed immediate in sua specie conditum fuisse a Deo" (p. 215, emphasis added). Palmieri here refers to natural transformism. He does not rule out absolutely special transformism, but considers it at least difficult to reconcile with the Genesis narrative (cf. pp. 218-219).

58. Cf. C. Mazzella, De Deo Creante, 4th edn. (Rome: Forzani, 1896): "Primi parentes, prout ex divina revelatione constat, non modo quoad animam, sed etiam quoad corpus, immediate a Deo conditi sunt. . . . Quam certissimam veritatem frustra evertere aut infirmare nituntur qui nunc audiant Transformistæ" (pp. 353-354, emphasis added).

59. Cf. H. Hurter, S.J., Theologiæ Dogmaticæ Compendium, Vol. II, 8th edition., (Innsbruck: Libraria Academica Wagneriana, 1893): ". . . falsa . . . prorsus, si non hæretica" (p. 224).

60. Cf. Luke 22: 32.

61. Cf. Part I, Article II, ("Creator of Heaven and Earth"): "God also, by his word, commanded the earth to stand in the midst of the world, 'founded upon its own basis'."

62. Most readers will probably be surprised that I even raise the possibility that geocentrism could be scientifically rehabilitated! The fact is, however, that there has been since the 1970s an articulate, if so far very limited, revival of belief in geocentrism among certain Protestants, Catholics and Jews - some of whom have doctorates in disciplines such as astrophysics. They argue not only on the basis of theological and exegetical considerations, but also in the light of new problems raised by post-Einsteinian cosmology and by experiments on the speed of light first carried out in the 1880s by Michelson and Morley. Such experiments consistently give results which seemingly indicate that the sun revolves annually around the earth rather than vice versa; but such a conclusion has been just as consistently deemed unthinkable by the scientific community. It was the desire of Einstein and virtually all other scientists to find a non-geocentric explanation of these Michelson-Morley experiments which led to the formulation of the theory of relativity - which in turn continues to be the object of philosophical and scientific controversy.

63. J. Finnis, "Conscience, Infallibility and Contraception" (The Month [December 1978], p. 414, cited in J. Beaumont, op. cit., p. 31).

64. Cf. the editorial comments to DS 990-991.

65. ". . . peculiaris creatio hominis" (DS 3514).

66. ". . . Dio plasmò l'uomo e gli coronò la fronte del diadema della sua immagine e somiglianza. . . . Dall'uomo soltanto poteva venire un altro uomo che lo chiamasse padre e genitore; e l'aiuto dato da Dio al primo uomo viene pure da lui ed è carne della sua carne . . . , che ha nome dell'uomo, perché da lui è stata tratta" (AAS 33 [1941] p. 506, emphasis added).

67. In reproducing this citation and footnote, the editors of Denzinger have added their own comment to the effect that in quoting his earlier discourse, the Pope was referring to his words about the need to await further light from future research : ". . . quæ a futuris investigationibus certiora sperat." (footnote to DS 3896). This comment, not to be found in the original of Humani Generis, seems to me gratuitous, and was presumably motivated by a desire to distance the encyclical from its author's 1941 teaching, on the very page cited (p. 506), about the origin of Adam and Eve. This teaching, after all, has been seen as embarrassing by those 'progressive' Catholics who think the Church should admit the possibility of natural as well as special transformism. In Humani Generis the footnote is placed at the end of that sentence which contains the Pope's permission for Catholic scientists and theologians to continue discuss the possibility that the human body has its origins in "pre-existent living matter," provided they observe due caution and objectivity, and maintain an appropriate readiness to submit to the magisterium. Presumably, the footnote refers to everything on p. 506 of the 1941 AAS which is related to that sentence of Humani Generis, including, therefore, the Pope's statements that a brute cannot be "father and parent" to a man, and that Eve was taken from Adam.

68. Dalmau & Sagüés, op. cit., pp. 644-645. (The text states that this section of the work is by Sagüés alone.) The translation from the Latin given above is that found in P. O'Connell, Science Today and the Problems of Genesis (Rockford, Illinois: TAN Books, 1993) pp. 190-191.

69. Cf. AAS 89 (1997) pp. 187, 187-188, and 189.

70. "Pie XII avait souligné ce point essentiel: si le corps humain tient son origine de la matière vivante qui lui préexiste, l'âme spirituelle est immédiatement créée par Dieu" (ibid., p. 189, emphasis added).

71. Cf. Gaudium et Spes, no. 36.

Go to: Roman Theological Forum | Living Tradition Index | Previous Issue | Next Issue