Yesterday I was told I was delusional because I am a Young Earth Creationist. Not surprising, it happens all the time. Interesting thing though is that in over 20 years I have never been called delusional because I am YEC by anyone other than evangelical non-believers. No person of faith has ever, although disagreement does exist, had a serious issue with me personally over it, not once, and faith is something I talk about all the time.
What did surprise me about this conversation is that I was also told that there is no way a Catholic could possibly endorse YEC, or creation at all really, because it undermines their faith.
I understand that many Catholics, and even some popes, have endorsed some form of theistic evolution over a literal historical interpretation of the creation account in Genesis 1. But, is evolution the official historical position of The Catholic Church?
Both the Council of Trent and Vatican Council I taught that no one is permitted to interpret Sacred Scripture “contrary to the unanimous agreement of the Fathers.” In the words of Fr. Victor Warkulwiz:
The Fathers and Doctors of the Church unanimously agreed that Genesis 1-11 is an inerrant literal historical account of the beginning of the world and the human species as related by the prophet Moses under divine inspiration. This does not mean that they agreed on every point in its interpretation, but their differences were accidental and not essential. Pope Leo XIII, following St. Augustine, affirmed the Catholic rule for interpreting Sacred Scripture, “not to depart from the literal and obvious sense, except only where reason makes it untenable or necessity requires.”
For the first five centuries of the Church, all of the Fathers believed and proclaimed:
- That less than 6,000 years had passed from the creation of the world to the birth of Jesus.
- That the creation of the cosmos took place in six 24 hour days or in an instant of time
- That God created the different kinds of living things instantly and immediately
- That Adam was created from the dust of the earth and Eve from his side
- That God ceased to create new kinds of creatures after the creation of Adam
- That the Original Sin of Adam shattered the perfect harmony of the first-created world and brought human death, deformity, and disease into the world.
In 1950, in the encyclical Humani generis, Pope Pius XII gave permission to Catholic scholars to evaluate the pros and cons of human evolution. But this permission in no way abrogated authoritative teachings. Permission to investigate an alternative view is not tantamount to approval! On the contrary, it is often a means to expose an error root and branch. Pope Pius XII also called the German philosopher Dietrich Von Hildebrand a “twentieth century Doctor of the Church.” Commenting on a Catholic catechism that spoke favorably of theistic evolution, Von Hildebrand wrote the following:
A grave error lies in the notion of “an evolutionary age” – as if it were something positive to which the Church must conform. Does the author consider it progress, an awakening to true reality, that Teilhard de Chardin’s unfortunate ideas about evolution fill the air? Does he not see that the prevailing tendency to submit everything, even truth – even divine truth! – to evolution amounts to a diabolical undermining of revealed truth? Truth is not truth if it is ever changing. The “courageous response” called for is precisely the opposite of yielding to evolutionary mythologies.
Nowadays many Catholics reject the “traditional” Catholic doctrine with respect to the special creation of man, the creation of Eve from Adam’s side, and other doctrines derived from the literal historical interpretation of Genesis 1-11 on the grounds that the authoritative teaching of the Magisterium in recent decades has “moved beyond” and “corrected” certain errors in its earlier pronouncements on these subjects in the light of scientific advances. However, in the passage quoted above Dr. Von Hildebrand has given the simple reason why the special creation of Adam and the creation of Eve from Adam’s side, among other doctrines derived from Genesis 1-11, are authoritative and unchangeable Catholic doctrine. He reminds his readers that “Truth is not truth if it is ever changing.” Therefore, it is impossible for the Magisterium to have taught these doctrines as authoritatively as it has in the past and then to contradict that authoritative teaching.
This would not be a “development of doctrine,” like the definition of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception or Papal Infallibility, but a deformation of doctrine.