ORGAN OF THE ROMAN THEOLOGICAL FORUM
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|Associate Editor: Rev. Brian W. Harrison, O.S., M.A., S.T.D.||Not to be republished without permission.|
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Living Tradition, Oblates of Wisdom, P.O. Box 13230, St. Louis, MO 63157, USA
|No. 64||Roman Theological Forum | Article Index | Study Program||May 1996|
by John F. McCarthy
Wherefore, the Magisterium of the Church, in view of the present state of opinion in the fields of the human disciplines and of sacred theology, does not prohibit that the doctrine of "evolutionism" be looked into through the research and discussion of experts in both fields, namely, to the extent that this doctrine seeks the origin of the human body as having emerged from already existing and living matter - for Catholic faith requires us to hold that the souls are created immediately by God - (proceeding), indeed, in such a way that the reasons for both opinions, that is, of those favoring and those opposed, be weighed and adjudged with due gravity, moderation, and restraint, and with the proviso that all are prepared to abide by the judgment of the Church, to which has been entrusted by Christ the office of authentically interpreting the Sacred Scriptures and of safeguarding the dogmas of faith. But some are recklessly going beyond the bounds of this freedom of discussion, when they comport themselves as if the origin of the human body from already existing and living matter were now completely certain and proven both by the evidence so far discovered and by reasonings deduced from the same evidence, and as though nothing is known from the sources of divine revelation which demands on this issue the greatest moderation and caution (DS 3896).I do not think that scientific research since 1960 has made any more likely the emerging of the first human body from a simian ancestor. Indeed, the opposite is the case. 48 Regarding the teaching of Humani generis quoted just above, Enrico Zoffoli certainly does not pretend that the origin of species and of the human body by transformist ascent from the chemical elements to a simian ancestor is a proven fact, but neither does he present with due consideration the many serious points of evidence that are being advanced against this theory, as the encyclical requires such writers to do, and he favors the evolutionary theory in spite of the warning expressed in the encyclical, "as though nothing is known from the sources of divine revelation which demands on this issue the greatest moderation and caution." Here is the full treatment that Father Zoffoli gives to the evidence on the other side: "Everything considered, the evolutionist hypothesis seems much less distant from the biblical text and context than does the contrary one; it, above all, explains better some data that have emerged from comparative anatomy, palaeontology, embryology, etc." 49 About these data he says nothing more, and one is led to suspect that he has not reviewed any of the serious counter-evidence that has been brought against those alleged findings from comparative anatomy, palaeontology, embryology, etc., and especially from microbiology during the last few decades.
by Brian W. Harrison
Moreover, all the Fathers and Doctors were so utterly convinced that the original texts of the divine Writings are absolutely immune from all error that they laboured with no less ingenuity than devotion to harmonise and reconcile those many passages which might seem to involve some contradiction or discrepancy (and these are for the most part the same passages as are now raised as objections in the name of modern science). They professed unanimously that these Books, entire and in their parts, were equally inspired by God Himself, who, in speaking through the sacred authors, could not have uttered anything at all which was foreign to the truth. What Augustine wrote to Jerome is equally valid for all: "For I confess to your charity that I have learnt to regard those books of Scripture now called canonical - and them alone - with such awe and honour that I most firmly believe none of their authors has erred in writing anything. And if I come across anything in those Writings which troubles me because it seems contrary to the truth, I will unhesitatingly lay the blame elsewhere: perhaps the copy is untrue to the original; or the translator may not have rendered the passage faithfully; or perhaps I have just not understood it."Defending the absolute inerrancy of Scripture, in accord with the perennial doctrine of the Catholic Church, can at times be a difficult and faith-challenging task; but it remains necessary, not only in order to remain loyal to the Church's Magisterium, but also in order to uphold the rational foundations of Christianity, which is a revealed and yet historical faith in its very essence.