Thursday, November 10, 2011

The Catholic Church and Evolution

Q - Does the Catholic Church believe in some sort of evolutionary process or that humans came from Adam and Eve as stated in Genesis? 

A - Thanks for the question! The Catholic Church teaches the following about creation from the Catechism:
  • God created man and all of creation out of nothing and has no need of His creation. (CCC, 296)
  • Man is the height of God's creation (CCC, 343)
  • There is good in God's creation. (CCC, 302; 315; 339)
  • God's Providence guides history toward it's final end. (CCC, 314)
  • All of creation is for man's purpose. (CCC, 358)
  • Man was created in goodness and relationship with God and fell from grace by man's sin and not by anything God did. (CCC, 374; 396; 311)
So, the mechanism by which man became man (e.g., evolution guided by God's design, literal seven day creation, etc), is still left for an individual Catholic to decide on their own as long as the above are part of the belief. The other thing we must remember was given to us by Pius XII. He wrote:
"the teaching authority of the Church does not forbid that, in conformity with the present state of human sciences and sacred theology, research and discussions...take place with regard to the doctrine of evolution, in as far as it inquires into the origin of the human body as coming from pre-existent and living matter—[but] the Catholic faith obliges us to hold that souls are immediately created by God."
So, while we can say that our bodies came from other creatures that existed before us, our souls did not "evolve". But, at some point man became fully "man" with the infusion of eternal human souls.

The reason that individual Popes in recent ages have given opinions that the creation texts in Genesis are more metaphor than literal is because the scientific evidence points us to a non-literal understanding of how God created the world. But, we just don't know this with 100% certainty, because nobody was there when God created something from nothing. So, a Catholic is still free to believe in a literal 7-day creation, if they so choose. But, the evidence points toward some progression in life, which Catholics are free to believe as well, as long as the points above are also held as true.

For more on this topic here are more good reads:
I hope this helps.