Dear Father Angelo,
I think you have dealt with this topic many times, but I would ask you for clarification about Genesis.
The story of Adam and Eve is :
– A true story told in a mythological way, namely the first man and the first woman really existed, but the story was narrated mythologically; or
– A false story, in the sense that with Adam and Eve, one wants instead to symbolize the creation of mankind by God?
I noticed the existence of several interpretations in the ecclesial context, so I wonder if, in the doctrinal context:.
– There is an unambiguous answer, or
– There are many acceptable interpretations
With regard to the compatibility between the evolutionary theory and Catholic thinking, they seem to me to hardly be compatible, considering that the existence of the human soul prompts the question of when it was introduced, i.e. in which part of the evolutionary chain.
It seems to me that if the evolutionary theory is compatible with Catholic thinking, we will wonder when the human soul was introduced, because it’s not the result of an evolutionary process. And so, which is the moment?
Could one think that this moment is the same moment which Genesis describes as the moment of man’s creation?
I think it is only in this case that the theory of evolution is compatible with Catholic doctrine.
I thank you, and ask you to remember me in your prayers. I’ll do the same, in return.
A priest answers-
1. Firstly we should be clear that Genesis (in its first chapters) doesn’t seek to give a scientific description of the origin of the world and of mankind. Therefore it’s inappropriate to look for historical documentation of these events, which for a believer are undeniable.
2. Genesis, through a religious and primitive language, wants to make important statements about the creation of all reality, visible and invisible, made by the one God (against polytheism and Manichaeism) and that in the moment of man’s creation, there was a new intervention by God, the creator of the spiritual soul.
3. So far, the explanations of the theory of evolution don’t clash with the creation of the spiritual soul.
Assuming that man derives from apes, it would not be a problem to acknowledge the existence of different kinds of apes which in more or less long periods of time evolved into superior species and which God has transformed into the members of the human species with the creation of the spiritual soul.
4. The main problem, in my opinion, is linked to the transmission of original sin. But this is an essentially theological truth. Science can never prove that there was an original sin in the beginning. This is beyond its scope.
5. The problem is the following: if at the time of the original sin there had been more couples or more people, in addition to the two who committed the sin, it would not have been right for the others to suffer the same consequences. The explanation, on the other hand, becomes plausible if we all descend from a single stock.
6. This fact forces us to believe that initially there were two people, the first human stock, from whom all mankind descended. I repeat: this is not a scientific statement, but one of faith. St. Paul, in his speech to the Areopagus, is convinced of this when he states: “He made from one the whole human race to dwell on the entire surface of the earth, and he fixed the ordered seasons and the boundaries of their regions” (Acts 17,26)
7. You tell me that the theory of evolution (man comes from apes…) seems hardly compatible with Catholic thinking because we don’t know at what point of evolution the human soul was introduced. It does not seem to me that this is the essential difference, also because, with the creation of the human soul, God has given man grace and preternatural gifts.
This too is a matter of faith. Certainly the spiritual soul is not the result of evolution. But there is nothing to prevent God from choosing a particularly evolved organism, to transform into man. Nor should it be forgotten that grace itself has further perfected nature.
I thank you for your prayers, and I pray for you too.
In the meantime, I bid you farewell and I bless you,