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No. 98 Roman Theological Forum | Article Index | Study Program March 2002


by Brian W. Harrison, O.S., M.A., S.T.D.
Associate Professor of Theology,
Pontifical Catholic University of Puerto Rico

[Editor's Note: This is the continuation of Father Harrison's article begun in the previous issue.]

V. Assigning a Theological Note

Vatican Council 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.

V. 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."34 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 1880.35

V. 2 The second condition to be verified is that bishops be "teaching authentically in matters of faith and morals."36 Again, the fulfilment of this condition is obvious. The doctrine concerning the formation of Eve was proposed by Catholic bishops and popes throughout all those long centuries in their role as authentic teachers in the Church — not just as individuals expressing private historical, exegetical, 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 2: 21-22. As we have noted already,37 Pope Pelagius I proposed the teaching within what he expressly styled a "profession of faith", while the Council of Vienne also affirmed it in a Constitution entitled "The Catholic Faith"(Fidei Catholicae), the literary form of which is also that of a profession of faith: each item is grammatically preceded by the verb confitemur at the beginning.38 More recently, the language we saw employed by the Fathers of Vatican I, by Leo XIII and by St. Pius X's Biblical Commission bears the same implication.

V. 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 unity, not an absolute, mathematically exceptionless unanimity — something which in any case would nearly always be impossible to verify in practice.) Therefore, the unique dissenting voice of Cardinal Cajetan in regard to the doctrine of Eve's supernatural formation, during a period of sixteen hundred years, by no means implies the non-fulfilment of this condition.

The proposal of this doctrine by an Ecumenical Council, that of Vienne, also represents a clear instance of the world's Catholic Bishops teaching it in union with each other and with Peter's Successor. Significant also is the fact that, as we have seen, the Catholic world's most doctrinally trusted bishops and theologians could confidently propose the doctrine for the expected promulgation of another Ecumenical Council, Vatican I. Finally, the wording employed by Leo XIII in Arcanum is still further evidence of the time-honored unity of Catholic episcopal teaching on this question.39 Leo, addressing his "Venerable Brethren" of the world episcopate, can affirm as a matter of course that this teaching regarding the origin of the first woman's body, no less than those regarding 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").

V. 4 The fourth and final condition for an infallible teaching of the ordinary magisterium, according to Lumen Gentium §25, is that this (morally) unanimous teaching of the popes and bishops be presented as one "to be held definitively" (tamquam definitive tenendam). Vatican II's footnote at this point clarifies the meaning of this expression. The Vatican I schema De Ecclesia Christi, cited in this note, makes it clear that by doctrines "to be held definitively" are signified those which are proposed 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 on the point under consideration. This certainty which is correlative to infallibility in a doctrine which is definitive tenendam can (as Ad Tuendam Fidem and the accompanying Nota Doctrinalis have recently clarified), be either the certainty of ‘divine and Catholic faith’, in which case the theological virtue of faith is operative in response to a truth of God's revealed Word promulgated by and to the universal Church; or it can be the less supernatural, but still complete, certainty deriving from Christ's promises to Holy Mother Church of assistance by the Holy Spirit. For she can thereby infallibly discern truths which are logically or practically linked to the revealed deposit, and so are required for guarding and expounding it.40

How well, then, does the historical witness to Eve's formation from the adult Adam measure up to this final requirement for infallibility? Right from the beginning of the magisterial record on this subject, the note of certainty — at times, the certainty of divine faith, or even ‘divine and Catholic faith’ — shines through clearly. Pope Pelagius I's document, as we have already noted, was itself a "Profession of Faith". In it the solemn word "confiteor" — "I confess"— is used repeatedly to introduce the various articles of the profession, including that affirming the origin of Adam's wife. In antiquity this verb, and the cognate noun "confessor" are invariably linked to the notion of faith: one recalls the Nicene Creed's phrase, "confiteor unum baptisma ...", and the fact that those saints styled "confessors" were originally those who had confessed the faith, especially in times of persecution. Since this document was eventually promulgated to the universal Church, and since the origin of Eve was not a disputed question in the sixth-century Church, we can only presume that the Catholic bishops in general accepted and made their own the Pope's "confession" that this truth coming straight from Scripture was to be held as certain and undoubted.

In the case of the Council of Vienne, which we have examined, no such presumption is even necesssary: for here we find the bulk of the world's Catholic bishops, gathered together with Peter's Successor, signing and promulgating with him a solemn Constitution in which the historical origin of Eve from sleeping Adam's side is closely linked to a central mystery of the Redemption — the origin of the Church in the blood and water flowing from Christ's side on the Cross. The language with which this document begins also testifies to the complete certainty which the Pope and Bishops ascribe to its contents: "Firmly adhering to that foundation of the Catholic faith none other than which, as the Apostle testifies, any man can lay [I Cor. 3: 11], we confess openly with Holy Mother Church that ...".41 Once again the weighty verb "confess" (confitemur) is used, and is understood as repeated before the words "And that ... " (Et quod ...), which begin the sentence referring to Eve and the wounds of Christ.42

In the light of such a precedent, it is scarcely surprising that, in that draft Constitution (already discussed) prepared by the bishops and periti of the First Vatican Council's theological commission, the affirmation of the first woman's origin is preceded by opening words very similar to those of Vienne: "This, our Holy Mother the Church believes and teaches: ... 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)". According to standard magisterial and theological phraseology, that 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. And the commission, it must be remembered, was evidently confident of gaining the approval of the world's bishops for this text. Indeed. the very title of the draft document, De doctrina catholica, implies the intention of handing down what has been definitively and infallibly taught. In recent centuries, the theological note ‘doctrina catholica’ has been used to signify the kind of truth which at present the Magisterium since Vatican II classifies as definitive tenendam: a truth which is infallible, but which has not necessarily been proposed precisely as revealed. In article 6 of the 1998 Nota Doctrinalis accompanying Ad Tuendam Fidem, the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith uses the term doctrina catholica in this technical sense, stating that those who dissent from doctrines "to be held definitively" would be "rejecting a truth of Catholic doctrine and so no longer be in full communion with the Catholic Church".43

The final document we would adduce in evidence is Leo XIII's very strong and explicit affirmation of Eve's supernatural origin in article 5 of the encyclical Arcanum, which we have already considered twice, under different aspects. This has a particular significance in being the first papal reassertion of the doctrine to be promulgated after, and indeed, in conscious response to, the new and supposedly ‘scientific’ challenge to it coming from those Darwinians whom Leo alludes to here as "revilers of the Christian faith". The aspect of Arcanum #5 that interests us now is the degree of force or emphasis with which Leo reiterates this doctrine. On re-reading the pertinent paragraph, we note this time that the Pope, bearing witness in Arcanum to the constant faith of all his predecessors in the papacy and episcopate, and confirming that faith of his brethren,44 asserts that the truths recalled here as constituting the "true origin of marriage", including that regarding the first woman's formation, belong to the "permanent doctrine of the Church (perpetuam doctrinam Ecclesiæ)." The word perpetuam (which can also be translated as "constant", "perpetual", "unchanging", "uninterrupted", etc.) expresses clearly the idea of permanence — of that which is fixed and immutable. That idea, of course, is integral to the theological notion of a doctrine taught "definitively". Then, as if to make the point still more clearly, 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. Moreover, if doctrinal propositions, like men, are (according to the proverb) "known by the company they keep," then this will also reinforce the point we are making. For in the same paragraph, immediately after asserting the formation of Eve from sleeping Adam's side, Pope Leo specifies as being equally "permanent": first, the origin of the entire human race from this one original "spousal couple" (par coniugum) blessed by God; secondly, the unity of marriage (excluding polygamy and adultery); and thirdly, its life-long perpetuity. Of those three doctrines, another paper paralleling this one could easily be written demonstrating the infallibility of the first (monogenism),45 while for all orthodox and well-informed Catholics, no such defence should even be necessary in regard to the definitive, infallible character of the second and third doctrines, referring as they do to essential properties of marriage. Yet Pope Leo XIII places Eve's ‘wondrous’ formation from Adam side by side with these doctrines, under the same ‘umbrella’ that guarantees them all as "permanent" and "undoubted" Catholic truth.

Finally, and very importantly, the language used by Leo XIII makes very clear his conviction that this doctrine regarding the origin of woman is already held as "permanent" and "undoubted" by those "Venerable Brethren" of the world-wide Catholic episcopate to whom he is addressing this encyclical. The reader receives the impression that the Pope feels almost embarrassed in insisting to his fellow Successors of the Apostles on this ‘elementary Christian teaching’!46 Along with the other doctrines Leo specifies regarding the "true origin of marriage", this one too, he asserts, is one which is already evident — manifest, well-known, common knowledge — to all the bishops: "Constat inter omnes, Venerabiles Fratres". Then, as the first clause in the sentence regarding the respective origins of our first parents, he prefaces the enunciation of these doctrines by the words "Nota omnibus et nemini dubia commemoramus": "We call to mind facts well-known to all and doubtful to no one". The verb commemoramus indicates that the Pope's intention is not to hand down a new decision, in order to clarify some existing confusion or controversy among his brother bishops, but just to remind the whole world, along with them, of these truths which are now being challenged anew. Also, the indicative, rather than imperative or subjunctive, verb implied in the words "nemini dubia" is significant: it is not that Pope Leo is instructing the bishops not to doubt the historical formation of Eve from Adam's side, or informing them that this may not be doubted (though of course that is implied a fortiori); rather, he is simply recalling the doctrine while expressing his confident persuasion that none of the "venerable brethren" do in fact have any doubts about it.

There is, in fact, a certain similarity between this paragraph of Arcanum and those in Evangelium Vitae wherein Pope Leo's successor, John Paul II, makes a point of confirming (although in more formal language than Leo) the already "undoubted" and definitive Catholic doctrines against the direct taking of innocent human life, especially in the cases of abortion and euthanasia which are of particular contemporary relevance.47 The Nota Doctrinalis of the CDF accompanying Ad Tuendam Fidem comments as follows, in referring to this mode of papal teaching:

[W]hen in regard to a given doctrine there is no judgment in the form of a solemn definition, but when the doctrine is taught by the ordinary and universal Magisterium — which necessarily includes that of the Pope — as pertaining to the patrimony of the deposit of faith, it is then to be understood as infallibly proposed. Hence, the Roman Pontiff's declaration of confirmation or reaffirmation is not a new act of dogmatization, but the formal attestation of a truth already possessed and infallibly transmitted by the Church.48

V. 5 I believe we are now in a position to draw the main conclusion of this essay. In order to demonstrate the infallibility of any Catholic doctrine by virtue of the universal and ordinary magisterium, it is only necessary to show that at some point in Church history the conditions laid down for that infallibility in Lumen Gentium #25 reached fulfilment. For the principle ‘once infallible, always infallible’ is evident as a matter of elementary logic. Now, we have seen so far in this section (V. 1-4) several moments in Church history, ranging from the patristic era (the year 557), through the mediaeval era (1312) to the late nineteenth century, during each one of which the only reasonable conclusion to be drawn from the historical evidence is that the Successor of Peter and the bishops in union with him were confirming the unanimous consensus of the Fathers regarding the origin of woman, as a certain and indubitable truth of Christian doctrine. That is, in modern theological parlance, a doctrine "to be held definitively". Therefore, the cumulative force of the teaching from all three of these moments can only be seen as an overwhelming confirmation that the doctrine has indeed been proposed infallibly since the time of Leo XIII. It was clearly on the basis of this background that the Pontifical Biblical Commission, in 1909, declared that the "literal historical sense" of the pertinent Genesis text "cannot be called in question", — i.e., that it is certain and undoubted — since it "involves the foundations of the Christian faith".

V. 6 In drawing this conclusion, of course, I am far from being alone. A few examples of the theological notes ascribed to this doctrine by recognized theologians will be helpful.49

V. 6.1 The most universally approved of all theologians, St. Thomas Aquinas, lived before the modern vocabulary of theological notes had been developed, but it is clear that he judged the doctrine, understood literally and historically, to be totally certain. This is evident from ST, Ia, Q. 91, articles 2 and 3, inquiring, respectively, whether in general it was fitting for woman to be formed from man,50 and whether, more specifically, it was fitting for her to be formed from the man's rib. In both articles, the ‘sed contra’ is a peremptory appeal to Scriptural texts: Sir. 17: 5 in art. 2 and Gen. 2: 22 in art. 3. When, in his ‘sed contras’, Aquinas cites a Scriptural text rather than magisterial, patristic or philosophical authorities, he means to show that the answer he discerns to the question being posed is backed up by the supreme authority of God's own written word, in a passage, moreover, whose meaning is so clear that merely to cite it is to understand it. So in modern theological parlance, we would have to say that St. Thomas is proposing the formation of Eve from Adam's rib or side as at least ‘proximate to faith’.

V. 6.2 Suarez, another truly great theologian, teaches that the immediate formation of both Adam's and Eve's bodies by God is "doctrina catholica", that is, definitive tenenda.51

V. 6.3 Perrone, also widely renowned, classifies the same belief as ad fidem spectare52 which would be virtually equivalent to proxima fidei.

V. 6.4 Garrigou-Lagrange, O.P., one of Pope Pius XII's trusted theological advisers, joins Suarez in classifying the doctrine as doctrina catholica.53

V. 6.5 The French Jesuit Fr. Charles Boyer, professor of dogma at Rome's Gregorian University during the era of Popes Pius XI and XII, goes even further than I or the foregoing theologians would do, in classifying the formation of Eve from Adam's side as de fide catholica — that is, as divinely revealed, without any doubt or qualification.54

V. 6.6 The Spanish Jesuit J.F. Sagüés, also writing in Pius XII's time, and in a widely used manual of dogmatic theology, joins Boyer in giving the note de fide catholica to this teaching, "to the exclusion of any form of evolution".55


VI. Objections Answered

VI. 1 Several relatively minor objections raised by other theology professors who have considered my doctrinal thesis have already been countered in the course of my general argument, and so do not, I believe, require any more explicit discussion. The main objection I find repeatedly being urged is that the Church's magisterium itself has, during the course of the twentieth century, ‘moved beyond’ the older belief regarding the formatio primae mulieris — a belief which no Pope has explicitly enunciated now for more than sixty years, and which has now, quite simply, been ‘superseded’.

I would reply that, given the form in which I have argued my thesis in this present essay, that objection is a clear case of begging the question. As I have already stressed above, it is a matter of elementary logic, if we are considering a doctrine proposed infallibly by the ordinary and universal magisterium, that "once infallible, always infallible". Therefore, after any such historical verification of the conditions, any subsequent doubt, dissent or neglect of the doctrine in question, even if it should temporarily become widespread among bishops — or even affect the papacy itself — cannot objectively call in question the certain truth of the doctrine. It is well-known that during the debates at Vatican Council I, over forty instances of misleading or erroneous papal statements over the centuries had to be carefully considered, in order to verify that none of them was proposed with sufficient force to qualify as an ex cathedra definition and so militate against the definition of papal infallibility as a dogma.56 Therefore, since I have argued that this ‘point of no doctrinal return’ was already reached by the pontificate of Leo XIII, it follows that if I am right, no subsequent utterances on the part of Popes or Vatican dicasteries — and much less their mere silence — can serve to ‘trump’ and disprove my thesis. In a word, I must respectfully insist that my argument up till now be taken on its own merits: it will first be necessary, therefore, to refute the arguments I have given in sections I to V of this essay, before any appeal to subsequent Roman interventions can become relevant. So far, no critic of my position has seriously attempted to do this. I admit, certainly, that if some major and highly authoritative magisterial intervention of the twentieth century — in a papal encyclical or a document of Vatican Council II, for instance — had clearly declared that Catholics may not (or at least, need not) believe any longer that Eve was formed from the side of sleeping, adult Adam, then this, certainly, would be strong presumptive evidence that there must be some fatal error in the argumentation I have presented in sections I to V above. However, of course, no such clear and weighty intervention does exist, and no one is claiming that it does. Even if such did exist, moreover, the probable error in my argument would still need to be identified and rebutted.

In any case, it will be worthwhile looking more specifically at those twentieth-century magisterial documents which some critics of my position have in fact adduced as evidence against it. But in considering the following objections, the reader should remember that the argument I have just advanced — namely, that they beg the vital question — is being urged generically against all of them, and that I consider this argument in itself, strictly speaking, to be a sufficient rebuttal.

VI. 2 It has been suggested that with the 1943 encyclical Divino Afflante Spiritu, Pope Pius XII in effect ‘revolutionized’ Catholic biblical studies by giving much greater recognition than before to the varying literary genres in Scripture, thereby allowing exegetes much more freedom in questioning the historicity of narrative passages such as the early chapters of Genesis. I would reply, first, that Divino Afflante Spiritu confines itself to generalizations, and nowhere identifies any specific biblical passages — and certainly not Genesis 2: 21-22 — which allegedly need no longer be understood in the traditional sense. Secondly, I have argued in detail elsewhere that the so-called "revolutionary" character of Pius XII's encyclical has in any case been greatly exaggerated in recent decades by biblical scholars deeply influenced by liberal Protestant trends, whose exegesis of Divino Afflante is far from impartial.57 Finally, the gratuitous idea that Pius XII had the intention here of undermining the biblical basis for the traditional doctrine of Eve's formation is made still more implausible by the fact that he himself, only two years earlier, had explicitly reaffirmed that doctrine — twice in two lines — in an allocution to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences. He declared on that occasion:

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.58

VI. 3 It has also been put to me by more than one critic that my argument fails to take into account the 1948 Letter of the Pontifical Biblical Commission to Cardinal Suhard of Paris, which, it is said, goes much further than the magisterium had ever gone before in relativizing and qualifying the ‘historical’ character, such as it is, of the first chapters of Genesis, and therefore allegedly undermines my insistence on the historicity of the text regarding the formation of Eve. Apart from recalling, once again, the question-begging character of this argument in the face of a claim to infallibility, I would reply that in any case the 1948 PBC Letter in no way implies any change in the Vatican's position regarding the specific doctrine which interests us here.

If anything, the Letter implies the reverse: a decision not to change the doctrine regarding the origin of woman! First, it needs to be remembered that when the Biblical Commission sent this Letter to the Cardinal Archbishop of Paris, it did so in response to a request: Cardinal Suhard had written asking the Commission to declare officially that three of its earlier responses — those of 1905, 1906 and 1909 — were no longer binding on Catholic biblical scholars. He wanted them, in effect, to be simply ‘struck from the record’. But the Commission, after it gained the personal approval of Pius XII,59 replied in the negative to this bold request. This is indicated politely in the 1948 Letter when it informs His Eminence that the PBC "does not believe there is any good reason — at least for the time being — to promulgate new decrees regarding these questions".60 What the PBC does instead is to point out that the earlier decrees themselves, to the extent that they are merely disciplinary in character, are already open to an interpretation which is broad or flexible enough to leave modern scholars a legitimate and necessary freedom of research, and to accommodate any genuine advances in biblical and other relevant sciences that have been achieved over the intervening forty years.61

However, it would certainly be false to say that everything in the 1909 Response was of a merely disciplinary character, open in principle to change in possible future decrees. The 1948 Letter implicitly recognizes this by stating that the "full liberty" of research accorded to biblical scholars by the magisterium must still be understood as being confined "within the limits of the traditional teaching of the Church".62 And included within that "traditional teaching" were, obviously, each and every one of those doctrines specified in #3 of the 1909 Response, which are said to "involve the foundations of the Christian religion", and which therefore "cannot be called in question" by Catholics. As well as the formation of Eve from Adam, these doctrines listed in #3 include such fundamental defined dogmas as God's creation of all things at the beginning of time, original justice and original sin.63 In short, to claim that the 1948 PBC Letter casts any doubt on # 3 in particular of its own earlier 1909 Response is gratuitous, and indeed, indefensible.64 Moreover, such a claim in any case has little relevance to the precise thesis argued in this essay, which does not depend on the authority of the 1909 PBC Response. My claim, after all, is that the traditional doctrine of Eve's formation had already reached infallible status many years before the Pontifical Biblical Commission even existed.

VI. 4 It has also been claimed that doubt is cast on my thesis by none other than the very conservative encyclical Humani Generis, promulgated by Pius XII in 1950.

VI. 4.1 First, it is asked, why did the Pope fail to reassert the formation of Eve from Adam's side in this document? The natural response would be, first, that an appeal to a Pope's mere silence, in a given document, is scarcely the kind of argument that can overturn a carefully developed case for the infallibility of that doctrine (especially if, as in this case, the Pope in question had in fact reaffirmed it only nine years previously). Also, it needs to be noted that Pius XII expressed no intention in Humani Generis of explicitly censuring every specific doctrinal error that might have been circulating at that time. For all we know, the Pope may have thought either that dissent from the doctrine on Eve did not seem to be very widespread anyway, or, that if it was, it was referred to generically in his censure of excessively liberal opinions — often appealing wrongly to the 1948 PBC Letter! — on the historicity of Old Testament books, particularly the early chapters of Genesis.65

VI. 4.2 Secondly, it has been claimed that the Pope's very observations on these first eleven chapters of Genesis suggest that he is calling in question the true historicity of the particular verses telling of the formation of Eve from Adam's side. This alleged ‘demythologizing’ is supposed to be somehow implied in Pius XII's teaching that these chapters give what he calls a "popular description" of human and Israelite origins, in "simple and metaphorical [or figurative, Lat. figurata] language adapted to the mentality of a people but little cultured". Again, there are excellent reasons for rejecting this interpretation of Humani Generis. First, what we have said above about the 1948 Letter in VI. 3 above applies with even greater force here. As we saw, that Letter itself, approved by the Pope, provides not the slightest objective basis for casting doubt on the doctrine in question, which Pius XII himself had explicitly reasserted before an audience of scientists only seven years earlier. How, then, can the same Pope plausibly be interpreted as intending to cast doubt on it only two years after the 1948 Letter, in an encyclical wherein he actually makes a point of rebuking false, excessively liberal, interpretations of that document — particularly in regard to its teaching on Genesis, chapters 1-11, which he now reaffirms as being "history in a true sense"? Furthermore, the very words of Humani Generis which my critics consider ‘innovative’ in character, and which they therefore adduce as evidence against my thesis, in fact do nothing more than repeat, substantially, what the PBC had already taught in its 1909 Response — and indeed, with more detail than we find in the 1950 document! Like Pius XII in 1950, the Pontifical Biblical Commission in 1909 had already denied that we should expect modern or scientifically exact terminology in these ancient narratives, and had noted that the inspired author's intention was "to hand down popular information to his own race, according to the forms of speech common at that time, and accommodated to the sense-experience and intellectual level of ordinary people".66 Like Pius XII in 1950, the same 1909 decision already freely acknowledged that not everything in Genesis 1-3 is to be taken literally, since those chapters contain expressions which are "manifestly" used in a way that is "metaphorical" or "anthropomorphic" (cf. DS 3516). In short, the ‘new development’ of doctrine that we are often told took place between 1909 and 1950, with regard to the literary genre of Genesis 1-3, is basically non-existent! Now, the 1909 Response also insists, of course, on the "literal, historical sense" of (amongst other texts) Gen. 2: 21-22, describing the "formation of the first woman from the first man". Therefore, since the PBC's clarifications in the year 1909 about the literary genre of Genesis 1-3 were still perfectly compatible with its upholding simultaneously the thesis that Gen. 2: 21-22 is essentially historical in character, then, clearly, Pope Pius XII's substantial repetition of those clarifications in the year 1950 can scarcely be interpreted as casting doubt on that same thesis.

VI. 5 Finally, it has been objected against my thesis that the present Supreme Pontiff, John Paul II, has not only failed to reaffirm the traditional doctrine concerning Eve's formation, but has implicitly denied it on two occasions.

The first of the occasions referred to was the Pope's Wednesday general audience allocution of 7 November 1979. In the course of commenting on the second chapter of Genesis, the Holy Father made the following observations on Gen. 2: 21-22:

The woman is fashioned "with the rib" that God-Yahweh had taken from the man. Considering the archaic, metaphorical and imaginative manner in which the thought is expressed, we can establish that this passage has to do with the homogeneity of the total being of both persons.67

It appears to this writer quite unwarranted to conclude from these remarks that John Paul II is necessarily implying a negation of the traditional doctrine we are defending in this essay. In the first place, the context of the Pope's observations needs to be kept in mind. This was one of a unified series of Wednesday allocutions, beginning on September 12, 1979, and continuing till April 2, 1980, of which the overall theme was precisely that alluded to by the Pope in the above statement: the unity of man and woman.68 Neither in this allocution nor in any others of the series was the Holy Father setting out to address, in the light of modern evolutionary claims, the question of the historicity of the Genesis accounts of how the first human bodies were formed. Rather, the Pope consistently prescinded from that issue, and focussed his teaching on the spiritual, anthropological and moral dimensions of these first chapters of the Bible. Thus, the mere fact that he observes here that Gen. 2: 21-22 "concerns" or "has to do with" (Italian trattarsi di) the general theme of this series of talks – "homogeneity" between man and woman – in no way implies that this anthropological truth is the only truth contained in the said Genesis text, i.e., that the text has little or no historical truth.

The Pope says indeed that this anthropological conclusion is drawn (at least partially) from a consideration of what he calls "the archaic, metaphorical and imaginative manner in which the thought is expressed." But these adjectives are quite compatible with a classical reading of the text. We have already noted that from patristic times onwards Catholic exegetes have recognized a certain amount of figurative, anthropomorphic symbolism in these texts which by no means detracts from their substantial historicity. And that kind of linguistic expression, applied to God, can legitimately be described as "archaic" (‘ancient’ or ‘antiquated’), as it is not found in the most recent pre-Christian Scriptures or in the New Testament. The Hebrew word tselaj, as we noted at the outset, can mean either "rib" or "side", and the fact that the Pope's written text here places the phrase "with the rib" in quotation marks need not imply anything more than a recognition of this element of vagueness or ambiguity. As regards the language being "metaphorical and imaginative" as well as "archaic", the Holy Father's address by no means manifests any intention on his part to apply these adjectives in such a radical way as to deny the substantial historical substratum of the passage. Indeed, certain such symbolic elements in the language of these verses have never been denied by any traditional Catholic commentator. If given a slavishly literal interpretation,69 they would awaken a mental image of the Creator, in the manner of a potter or sculptor, physically ‘moulding’, ‘fashioning’ or ‘building’ (Vulgate aedificavit) the woman's body from the extracted "rib". Then, having completed this task, the Lord God would be imagined engaging in local motion, walking beside Eve – perhaps taking her by the hand – as He ‘leads her’ or ‘brings her’ (Vulgate adduxit eam) to Adam, just as He subsequently (3: 8) "walks in the garden in the cool of the day" (Vulgate deambulantis in paradiso ad auram post meridiem).

These same considerations are equally relevant – and indeed, almost sufficient – as a reply to the similar objection to our thesis based on another intervention of the present Pontiff. In the 1988 Apostolic Exhortation Mulieris Dignitatem, #6, the Pope comments as follows on this passage after referring to the preceding creation account of Genesis 1:

The second description of the creation of man (cf. Gen. 2: 18-25) makes use of different language to express the truth about the creation of man, and especially of woman. In a sense the language is less precise, and, one might say, more descriptive and metaphorical, closer to the language of the myths known at the time.70

Here again, the context of these papal observations is important. They are part of a discourse (a chapter entitled "The Image and Likeness of God") whose formal object is by no means the question of just how much (and what sort of) historical content we should recognize in this Genesis text at a time when the dominant secular scientific consensus pressures us to accept an evolutionary scenario as the ‘true history’ of both man's and woman's origins. Rather, as in the Pope's 1979 allocution, his teaching emphasis here in Mulieris Dignitatem prescinds from such questions and focuses on what we can learn from Genesis about the personal dignity and complementarity of man and woman, especially in marriage, and their relationship to God. The Pontiff's only reason for mentioning, in passing, the differing literary characteristics of the accounts of human origins found in Genesis 1 and 2 respectively is to point out (immediately after the passage cited above) that in spite of such differences, "there is no essential contradiction between the two texts". It should be stressed that, in saying that the language of the "second description" is "closer to the language of the myths known at that time" (emphasis added), the Pope is not saying or implying that Genesis 2 is itself a "myth". His remark is certainly true, since the kind of anthropomorphisms we have noted in that chapter are not in fact found in the previous one (cf. Gen. 1: 26-30) and they are indeed "closer to" (but not nearly as crude as) the grossly anthropomorphic representations of pagan divinities found in the creation myths of the Babylonians and other ancient peoples of that era. (Recognizing this relative similitude does not imply that the Genesis 2 accounts were written under the influence of such pagan mythologies, as many ‘higher critics’ contend. Common elements in the mode of thinking and writing of these ancient Near Eastern cultures could well account for the degree of similarity that exists.)

Over and above these reasons for seeing no conflict between the thesis of this essay and the teachings of John Paul II, it should be added that, in any case, it seems certain that the Holy Father himself would agree that his comments on the literary form of Genesis 2: 21-22 make no pretense at being definitive, and that it was not his intention to require the assent of the faithful to the exegetical observations expressed in those comments, as if this were in itself a teaching of faith or morals. The guarded and tentative language used by the Pope, especially in the more authoritative document (the Apostolic Exhortation), make this clear: "In a sense the language is less precise ... "; "one might say, ... closer to the language of the myths ...".

VI. 6 Finally, we should consider the most recent and most authoritative teaching of John Paul II's pontificate on the question that interests us, namely, that found in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (1992). The Catechism discusses the Genesis account of the origin of woman, and does so without any implication that the traditional doctrine of Eve's formation from Adam's side might be unhistorical. It is true that in article 371 (the main pertinent passage) the Catechism, like John Paul II's personal observations on this point, gives more stress to the spiritual and moral significance of woman's formation from man rather than to its historicity as such. This, as well as other points narrated in the relevant verses of Genesis 2, are said to teach us the intimate communion and complementarity of man and woman. But in referring to this supernatural mode of formation, the Catechism in no way states or suggests that the Genesis text is at this point substantially ‘metaphorical’, ‘symbolic’, or ‘figurative’, or in other words, unhistorical. Article 371 in its entirety reads as follows (with emphasis added):

God created man and woman together and willed each for the other. The Word of God gives us to understand this through various features of the sacred text. "It is not good that the man should be alone. I will make him a helper fit for him." None of the animals can be man's partner. The woman God "fashions" from the man's rib and brings to him elicits on the man's part a cry of wonder, an exclamation of love and communion: "This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh." Man discovers woman as another "I", sharing the same humanity.

Some might argue that the Catechism's use of the present tense here, rather than the past, could be taken to insinuate a non-historical interpretation of the corresponding biblical text. But this suggestion would be gratuitous, given that the Catechism (following a usage which is more common in some other languages than it is in English) frequently uses the ‘historic present’ tense in other passages where past realities of biblical history are most certainly intended and affirmed.71

Again, it might perhaps be claimed that the Catechism sees the Genesis creation narratives (chapters 1 and 2) as being globally or generally "symbolic" in character, so that this adjective would implicitly encompass what is said about the formation of Eve. However, there is no such sweeping generalization in the Catechism — a generalization which would contradict (among other magisterial statements) Pius XII's insistence in Humani Generis that these narratives are "history in a true sense". It is true that the Catechism uses the word "symbolic" (and related words) four times in relation to the creation accounts; but never is the scope of these words all-encompassing, and they are always applied in such a way as to be compatible, not only with Humani Generis, but even with the 1909 Responsum of the Pontifical Biblical Commission. This is worth demonstrating in detail:

VI. 6.1 The first instance is in #337, where we read that "Scripture presents the work of the Creator symbolically as a succession of six days of divine ‘work,’ concluded by the ‘rest’ of the seventh day (Gen. 1:1 - 2:4)." Not only does the word "symbolically" here refer to nothing in Genesis coming after the so-called first Creation account, but the only expressions which the Catechism places in quotations marks here, as if to underline their figurative or symbolic character, are "work" and "rest". This is quite in harmony with the Church's constant recognition, from the patristic era onwards, that the inspired text of Genesis describes some divine actions in figurative, anthropomorphic terms.72

VI. 6.2 The second instance is in #362, where the Catechism states:

The human person, created in the image of God, is a being at once corporeal and spiritual. The biblical account expresses this reality in symbolic language when it affirms that "then the Lord God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being." Man, whole and entire, is therefore willed by God.

This passage of the Catechism, emphasising the spiritual as well as corporeal nature of man, is also entirely compatible with the traditional and patristic understanding that the Creator's act of "breathing" into Adam the "breath of life" is a symbol for the infusion of a spiritual soul. Far from implying an equally ‘symbolic’ reading of the subsequent text regarding the origin of woman, this understanding of Gen. 2: 7 is quite in harmony with a substantially historical reading of 2: 21-22, as we saw in the draft text prepared for Vatican Council I.73

VI. 6.3 The Catechism's third reference to ‘symbolism’ in Genesis 1-2 is in #375, where we read: "The Church, interpreting the symbolism of biblical language in an authentic way, in the light of the New Testament and Tradition, teaches that our first parents, Adam and Eve, were constituted in an original ‘state of holiness and justice.’" No specific Genesis texts are cited here, but presumably the most relevant one would be 2: 17 (especially read in the light of 3: 5), where the man is forbidden to eat of "the tree of knowledge of good and evil". Indeed, this has generally been taken by classical commentators to symbolize the fact that, prior to disobeying this divine precept, man had no personal experience of evil, i.e., was originally holy and just. Likewise, 2: 25, in the light of 3: 7, is relevant: the original lack of shame in nakedness also symbolizes the state of original justice, wherein the disorder of concupiscence was absent.

VI. 6.4 In its fourth and final reference to ‘symbolism’ in Genesis, the Catechism effectively confirms what we have just said in relation to #375. We read in #396, which speaks of the original test of man's obedience to God: "The ‘tree of the knowledge of good and evil’ symbolically evokes the insurmountable limits that man, as a creature, must freely recognize and respect with trust. Man is dependent on his Creator and subject to the laws of creation and to the moral norms that govern the use of freedom." Again, this kind of "symbolic" understanding of Gen. 2: 17 is entirely in accord with the ancient and constant tradition of the Catholic Church.

VI. 6.5 In reading the Catechism, one also needs to keep in mind its own general affirmation in the Prologue that it sets out to present the essentials of Catholic doctrine not only on the basis of the most recent papal or Vatican documents, but "in the light of the Second Vatican Council and the whole of the Church's Tradition ... the Sacred Scriptures, the Fathers of the Church, the liturgy and the Church's Magisterium" (#11, emphasis added). Thus, given the constant tradition of the Church from patristic times right through to Humani Generis that the Creation narratives — and especially the second chapter of Genesis74 — are fundamentally historical in character, it seems entirely reasonable to interpret the Catechism as intending to ascribe definitely a ‘symbolic’ or figurative meaning only to those specific expressions in Genesis which it clearly designates as such.

Let us apply that hermeneutical norm to the particular case of article 371, which deals with the origin of woman. As we have already noted, the emphasis in this article is upon the ‘timeless’ anthropological and spiritual significance of the man-woman relationship ("‘Each for the other’ — ‘A unity in two’", as the sub-heading preceding #371 puts it). Nevertheless, we may conclude from the absence of any mention of symbolism, metaphor, or figurative language that the Catechism is implicitly presenting here, in line with Tradition, an essentially historical reading for this Genesis passage which it paraphrases.75 I use the word "essentially" here in a restrictive sense, because the Catechism does in fact indicate one ‘symbolic’ or figurative element in the Genesis account of the first woman's formation. However, this indication actually strengthens, rather than weakens, our case that the Catechism is quietly upholding the historicity of Eve's origin from Adam's side. As can be readily seen from our above citation of article 371, the one word "fashions" in this statement ("efformat" in the definitive Latin version of the Catechism) is placed in quotation marks, signalling imagery or metaphor of some sort. And that is perfectly in accord with Tradition, as we have already pointed out above in discussing Pope John Paul II's observations on this Genesis text. But the very fact that the Catechism deliberately limits its quotation marks to the word "fashions", and does not extend them to the following words, ("from the man's rib") speaks for itself, reinforcing our contention that the Church is here presenting those words as historical in character.

VI. 6.6 Finally, it is also worth noting that in reaffirming the monogenistic origin of the human race in #360, the Catechism adopts the more common textual reading of Acts 17: 26, wherein Paul's words to the Athenians, which are cited here, imply the literal formation of woman from man which he has asserted in I Corinthians 11: "From one ancestor [God] made all nations to inhabit the whole earth."76



The mere reserve, or near-silence, of Catholic magisterial documents in recent decades regarding the historicity of Genesis 2: 21-22 does not constitute a serious theological basis for considering nullified, overruled or ‘out-dated’ the great weight of evidence, from Scripture, Tradition, Magisterium and natural reasoning, for our contention that the essential historicity of this text is a definitive, infallibly-proposed part of Catholic doctrine. Such reserve is humanly understandable in the light of the massive (though, as we have argued, rationally unwarranted) consensus of the contemporary scientific elite or ‘establishment’, which today pressures all of us simply to take for granted the evolutionary origins of both man and woman. Also, it should be kept in mind that since the doctrine which interests us here has never been considered especially high up in what Vatican Council II calls the "hierarchy of truths" contained in (or connected with) the deposit of faith, it is not the kind of doctrine that, by its very nature, needs to be repeated in every age with great frequency in the Church's teaching and preaching.

However, when any part of infallible Catholic doctrine comes to be widely neglected, questioned and even denied, it is for that very reason timely, and the task of responsible theology, to reassert and defend the endangered truth in question. We may thus conclude by repeating the thesis enunciated at the beginning of this study: since the year 1880 at the latest, it has been, and so will forever remain, true to affirm the following:definitive tenendum est mulierem primam vere et historice formatam esse a Deo e latere primi viri dormientis. And this truth of Catholic doctrine, if it regains its rightful recognition among the People of God after a half-century or more of relative oblivion, will necessarily have some impact on our understanding of a closely-related question which we have deliberately not touched upon at all in this essay: the origin of the body of the first man, Adam. Karl Rahner, among others, has said that once we accept an evolutionary origin for the male human being, we can scarcely deny it for the female. On the basis of that kind of logic — which may or may not be watertight — the reverse would appear to be an equally valid inference: that is, once Catholics return to recognizing the non-evolutionary origin of the female human being as a truth taught by God's Word, they can scarcely uphold an evolutionary origin for the male. Whether or not such inferences are in fact valid would be an interesting and timely subject for another article.


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

35. See above.

36. " ... 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).

37. Cf. above, LT No. 97, Section III.1

38. Cf. DS 900, and Cf. above, LT No. 97, Section III.2.

39. Indeed, so strong is the similarity between the wording Pope Leo 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.

40. Cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, ## 88 and 2035, with the latter's footnote references.

41. "Fidei catholicae fundamento, praeter quod, teste Apostolo, nemo potest aliud ponere, firmiter inhaerentes, aperte cum sancta matre Ecclesia confitemur ..." (DS 900, = D 480).

42. Cf. DS 901 (= D 480).

43. Cf. L’Osservatore Romano [daily Italian edn.], 30 June/1 July 1998, p. 5, present writer's translation.

44. Cf. Luke 22: 32.

45. This was reasserted by Pius XII in Humani Generis and confirmed in the Catechism of the Catholic Church in its treatment of original sin: cf. DS 3897, referenced in CCC #390.

46. Cf. Heb. 6: 1.

47. Cf. AAS 87 (1995), #57 (P. 465); #62 (P. 472; #65 (P. 477).

48. Cf. Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Nota doctrinalis Professionis fidei formulam extremam enucleans (29 June 1998): "Idicrco, cum de aliqua doctrina nullum in forma sollemni definitionis exstet iudicium, sed eadem a Magisterio ordinario et universali in cuius numerum Papa necessarie confertur doceatur quippe quæ ad patrimonium depositi fidei respiciat, intellegenda est tunc tamquam infallibiliter proposita. Ergo Romani Pontificis declaratio confirmandi seu iterum affirmandi actus dogmatizationis novus non est, sed confirmatio formalis veritatis ab Ecclesia iam obtentæ atque infallibiliter traditæ" (L'Osservatore Romano [daily Italian edn.], 30 June/1 July 1998, p. 5, emphasis in original).

49. As well as direct evidence regarding what, specifically, the world's Catholic bishops teach as "to be held definitively", indirect evidence can be found in the teaching which Catholic bishops officially approve and authorize in their dioceses, especially in the form of theological textbooks widely approved around the world in seminaries and faculties of theology under episcopal control. Ford and Grisez, in their classic essay demonstrating the infallibility of the ordinary magisterial teaching against contraception, also appeal to this source. Cf. John C. Ford, S.J. & Germain Grisez, "Contraception and the Infallibility of the Ordinary Magisterium" (Theological Studies 39 [June 1978] pp. 258-312). In this sense, theologians of renown actually share in the Church's magisterial function even if they are not bishops. Blessed Pope Pius IX makes this clear in his 1863 epistle Tuas libenter, insisting that the faithful must assent not only to papal and conciliar decrees but also to those doctrines which the universal Church's ordinary magisterium proposes as divinely revealed, "and which are therefore regarded as belonging to the faith by a universal and constant consensus of Catholic theologians" ("... quae... universali et constanti consensu a catholicis theologis ad fidem pertinere retinentur" [DS 2879, = D1683]). The Pope clearly means that this kind of theological consensus is a good guide as to what the universal and ordinary magisterium of popes and bishops does in fact propose, since a certain professional expertise is often necessary in order to evaluate difficult questions of that sort.

50. Cf. note 2 above.

51. De Opere Sex Dierum, 1, 3. ch. 1, nos. 4 and 6.

52. De Deo Creatore, part 3, ch. 1, p. 1. This and the preceding reference are furnished by Cardinal Camillo Mazzella, De Deo Creante, 4th edn. (Rome: Forzani, 1896), p. 353. Mazzella had been a theology professor at the Roman diocesan seminary.

53. De Deo Trino et Creatore (Turin & Paris: Marietti & Desclée, 1944), p. 413.

54. Boyer justifies this theological note simply by stating that the teaching is "clearly contained in Scripture and the Church's magisterium". Cf. De Deo Creante et Elevante (Rome: Gregorian, 1940), p. 209.

55. "... ut excludens omnem transformismum" (J. M. Dalmau & J.F. Sagüés, Sacrae Theologiae Summa, Vol. II [Madrid: B.A.C., 1952], p. 645.

56. One remembers, for example, how in the fourth century, Arianism still permeated the thinking of many bishops in communion wth Rome long after the Council of Nicaea, and even touched Peter's See in the wavering of Pope Liberius. As is well-known, Pope John XXII in the fourteenth century repeatedly preached an unorthodox doctrine about the beatific vision. Even though the doctrine of infallibility had not yet been developed to the explicit form in which Vatican Council II expounds it, numerous theologians at that time were so clearly aware of the force and certainty with which the orthodox doctrine had been handed down in Tradition that they respectfully protested, and finally persuaded John XXII to retract his error. Perhaps most shamefully of all (as the Catechism of the Catholic Church now acknowledges with "regret" in #2298), Pope Innocent IV, in the Bull Ad Extirpanda of 1252, authorized the use of torture — stopping short only of mutilation or inducing danger of death — in order to force confessions from persons suspected of heresy (cf. Lex 25 [§26] of the Bull [Bullarium Romanum, Vol. III {Turin: Franco, Fory & Dalmazzo, 1858}, p. 556]). So gross a papal error was committed even though this barbarous practice of ancient Roman law had been constantly eschewed by the Church throughout the first thousand years (or more) of her history, and had already been condemned as contrary to divine as well as human law by Innocent's predecessor Pope St. Nicholas I in the ninth century (cf. the Response Ad Consulta Vestra [13 November 866] to the newly-evangelized Bulgarians, #86 [DS 648]). The continued endorsement of this cruel error, sad to say, stained the See of Peter for approximately five centuries after Innocent IV's Bull.

57. Cf. B. W. Harrison, "The Encyclical Spiritus Paraclitus In Its Historical Context," Part I, Living Tradition, No. 60, September 1995, pp. 1-11; Part II, Living Tradition, No. 61, November 1995, pp. 1-18. This article was reprinted in Faith & Reason, Vol. 23, No. 1, Spring 1997, pp. 23-88. What Pius XII really did in Divino Afflante Spiritu was basically to recognize with magisterial authority certain sound and very moderate advances in Catholic biblical scholarship, the results of which had already been frequently published in the preceding decades without any censure from the Church's magisterium. The Pope did not ‘open’ any doors which had been ‘closed’ until 1943, and in fact insists explicitly that the teaching of his predecessors Leo XIII and Benedict XV on biblical interpretation and inerrancy are permanently valid and must always be adhered to.

58. "... 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).

59. Details about this consultation between the Pope and Father (later Cardinal) Augustin Bea can be found in S. Schmidt, Agostino Bea: il cardinale dell’unità (Rome: Città Nuova, 1987). Bea was the scholar whose advice several Popes (Pius XII, John XXIII and Paul VI) most relied on in biblical matters.

60. "... la Commission Biblique ne croit pas qu’il y a lieu de promulguer, du moins pour le moment, de nouveaux décrets à propos de ces questions" (DS 3862). In regard to the phrase "at least for the time being", it is worth noting that more than half a century has since passed without any further magisterial decrees on the precise interpretation of Genesis 1-3.

61. Cf. ibid. In regard to the 1909 Response which interests us here, the PBC in 1948 clearly had in mind especially DS 3516 and 3518, in which the Commission had already acknowledged four decades earlier that not everything in Genesis 1-3 is to be taken literally, and that we should not expect modern or scientifically exact terminology in the popular style of these ancient narratives.

62. "... dans les limites de l’enseignement traditionnel de l’Eglise" (ibid.).

63. Cf. DS 3514 (= D 2123).

64. Pius XII himself was to "deplore", only two years later in Humani Generis, the diffusion of unduly ‘liberal’ interpretations of this 1948 Letter which were undermining confidence in the historical books of the Old Testament. Cf. DS 3898 (= D 2329).

65. Cf. preceding note.

66. "... suae genti tradere notitiam popularem, prout communis sermo per ea ferebat tempora, sensibus et captui hominum accommodatam" (DS 3518).

67. "La donna è plasmata ‘con la costola’ che Dio-Jahvé aveva tolto all’uomo. Considerando il modo arcaico, metaforico e immaginoso di esprimere il pensiero, possiamo stabilire che si tratta qui di omogeneità di tutto l’essere di entrambi" (L’Osservatore Romano [daily Italian edn.], 8 November 1979, p. 1).

68. So clearly was this "homogeneity" the general theme of this series of discourses that the entire collection was subsequently published in English translation by the American Daughters of St. Paul in a small volume entitled Original Unity of Man and Woman: Catechesis on the Book of Genesis (advertised on the back cover of a volume containing a subsequent series of John Paul II's allocutions, Reflections on Humanae Vitae: Conjugal Morality and Spirituality [Boston: St. Paul Editions, 1984]).

69. Some non-Catholic Bible-believers actually do interpret them thus. This writer has seen an article published recently by a Seventh-Day Adventist writer with a commentary on Genesis that clearly takes its anthropomorphisms literally. And, as is well-known, the standard doctrine of the Mormons (Latter-Day Saints) presents God the Father as a physical being of flesh and bone, largely on the basis of the Creation accounts and their reference to man as the "image and likeness of God".

70. "In altera creationis descriptione (cf. Gn 2, 18-25) dicendi genus, quo veritas exprimitur creationis viri, et praesertim mulieris, dissimile est, quasi minus pressum; est — dicere licet — potius narrativum et translatum: similius mythorum tunc cognitorum sermoni" (AAS 80 [1988] p. 1663). The English translation above is from the Vatican website.

71. Some examples will be appropriate here. Even though public Revelation was completed by the end of the apostolic age (cf. #66), the Catechism repeatedly uses the present tense in recording the different historic periods of God's plan of revelation, as the following citations (with emphasis added) exemplify. The heading preceding # 51 reads, "God Reveals His ‘Plan of Loving Goodness’." In #53 we read that "The divine plan of Revelation is realized simultaneously ‘by deeds and words’ ... God communicates himself to man gradually. He prepares him to welcome by stages the supernatural Revelation". In #58 the Catechism tells us that "The Covenant with Noah remains in force during the times of the Gentiles, until the universal proclamation of the Gospel." In #59, after the sub-heading "God chooses Abraham", we read that "God calls Abram from his country, ... and makes him Abraham, that is, ‘the father of a multitude of nations’." Many other examples of this ‘historic present’ usage could be cited. For instance, in #762, speaking of the Old Testament antecedents of the Church, the Catechism says that "This remote preparation for this gathering together of the People of God begins when he calls Abraham and promises that he will become the father of a great people." Even in a matter such as the apparitions of the risen Christ, the historicity of which is fundamental to our faith, the Catechism does not hesitate to use the ‘historic present’, affirming in #645 that "By means of touch and the sharing of a meal, the risen Jesus establishes direct contact with his disciples. He invites them in this way to recognize that he is not a ghost ... the risen body in which he appears to them is the same body that had been tortured and crucified".

72. Although the Catechism refrains here and in #345 from placing the words "six days" in quotation marks, it does so in #339 and #342. This apparent ambivalence suggests the intention to leave open to scholarly discussion, as did the 1909 PBC decision, the precise interpretation of the word yom (day) in Genesis 1. This is of particular relevance now that science, after a 150-year consensus to the effect that the earth took billions of years to reach its present state, has recently found evidence which radically undermines the accepted geological time-scale, and is compatible with the hypothesis that the earth's age is to be measured in only thousands — not millions, and much less billions — of years. I refer to (for instance) the demonstrated incoherence of many radiometric dating results, and the studies of the American Dr. Robert Gentry on the common presence of polonium ‘haloes’ in granite rocks — a phenomenon which, given the known half-life of polonium, can only be explained by postulating that these primordial ‘building blocks’ of the earth were formed, not over millions of years, but in less than three minutes. Gentry’s studies on this phenomenon have been published since the 1970s in respected scientific journals, where they have been generally ignored, but never rebutted, by his peers. Of particular importance are recent studies in sedimentology carried out and published by Dr. Guy Berthault, a highly qualified French geologist who has demonstrated experimentally that, in moving currents of water, strata consisting of different sediments are laid down not very slowly, one after the other in vertical succession (as geologists have assumed for centuries), but rather, simultaneously. Again, these empirically observable results — which effectively demolish the long-accepted geological time-scale — have been published during the last decade in respected French scientific journals without any serious attempt at rebuttal. They are now appearing also in highly respected and specialized geological journals published in Russia and China. See the following articles by Berthault: "Analysis of Main Principles of Stratigraphy on the Basis of Experimental Data", Lithology and Mineral Resources (Litologiya i Poleznye Iskopaemye), vol. 37, no. 5, September-October 2002, pp. 442-446; "Geological Dating Principles Questioned: Paleohydraulics: a new approach”, Journal of Geodesy and Geodynamics [English version of a journal originally published in Chinese], vol. 22, no. 3, August 2002, pp. 19-26.

73. Cf. above, section III. 4 (pp. 11-12).

74. As is well known, a minority of Fathers and Doctors, including Augustine and Aquinas, favored a non-historical interpretation of Genesis 1, while at the same time recognizing the legitimacy of the opposite opinion.

75. Since Adam is clearly presented as an adult here, and since his “rib” is specified as the material from which the woman is formed, the Catechism scarcely leaves room for the ‘twin-embryo’ hypothesis.

76. Cf. our comment above in note 2, section I.

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