Authority of the Church Fathers

To make the Council’s formula compatible with the modern geological time-scale requires modification of its intended meaning. Changing its meaning, however, runs counter to the magisterial teaching of Vatican I. This teaching anathematises those who say: that it is possible that to the dogmas declared by the Church a meaning must sometimes be attributed according to the progress of science, different from that which the Church has understood and understands (Faith and reason – canon 4; 3).[1]

To know whether the meaning of the Lateran IV formula read in terms of “long ages” corresponds with that intended by the Council fathers, other sources must be taken into account. Apart from the scientific reasons for disputing long ages examined below, those touching upon Church teaching are more important for Catholics. These are as follows:

1. The teaching of the Church Fathers is invariably taken into account in the definition of Council doctrines, and in professions of faith such as the Credos. This being so, it should be recalled that all the formal declarations on creation were made in the context of the Fathers’ unanimous teaching that all things were created instantaneously in a period not longer than six days.

 …no one is permitted to interpret Sacred Scripture…contrary to the unanimous agreement of the Fathers” (Vatican I, session III, Dogmatic Constitution concerning the Catholic Faith)

 The question before us, therefore, is “Can the ‘six days’ of Genesis 1 be inserted into a several million year period?” (The question is posed assuming lack of knowledge regarding the recent experimental invalidation of the geological principles upon which the supposed multi-million year ages of rocks are based. This will be discussed later). To answer the question the following points should be considered.

2. Adam was the first man (Councils of Carthage, 418; Trent, 1546). He was created in the state of immortality (Trent, Pontifical Biblical Commission 1909). The first woman was created from the rib of the first man (Encyclical Arcanum Divinae Sapientiae, 1880). Death didn’t enter into the world before the original sin of Adam (Romans 5:12; Council of Orange, 539; and Council of Trent). The historicity of these matters cannot be called into question (PBC 1909)

As an historical sequence of events, therefore, Adam was specially created by God (PBC 1909); then Eve was formed from his side (Arcanum Divinae Sapientiae 1880). They were not subject to death or suffering until after they had disobeyed God’s command not to eat the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Evolutionary palaeontology asserts that animals, known as hominids, having developed the ability to form conceptual thought, evolved over three or four million years into early man. According to the fossil record these “men,” albeit brutish, supposedly reached the homo sapiens stage around a half a million years ago and, in evolutionary terms, are referred to as our original ancestors. Anthropology attributes signs of culture such as language, art and religion to a much later stage of evolution around 80 to 120 thousand years ago. So the early men who lived in groups, hunted and used fire would have had none of the rudiments of a primitive culture defined above. Their origin was a slow natural development from non-rational to rational being. At some point in the process these pre-humans would have been endowed with a human soul. As noted above, this scenario is opposed to the Church’s teaching for the following reasons. The first man, Adam, was specially, directly and instantaneously created by God. His body and soul were created together.  This is implicit in the teaching of the ecumenical Council of Vienne that the rational or intellective soul is the form of the human body (Dz. 481). He was created:

(i)    with a fully rational soul, and not on the road to complete rationality (CCC 365); St Paul compares his perfection with that of Christ: he was a type of the one who was to come (Rom. 5:14); Sirach 49:16 accounts him to be: above every living being in creation

(ii)  as a fully mature man with the graces of justice, sanctity, integrity and immortality (CCC 376) allowing knowledge of God and his creation, and not without religious understanding;

(iii)  with conceptual thought sufficient to name the animals;

(iv)   he had the ability to discuss with his wife Eve the problem of good and evil regarding the command not to eat the forbidden fruit, rather than the lack of language attributed to early man by evolutionary anthropology;

(v)  and, therefore, lacked ancestors whether partly rational or otherwise, notwithstanding the supposed fossil evidence of pre-Adamites;

(vi)  and had children who farmed the land and tended cattle, rather than nomadic hunters who had not reached the stage of planting and domesticating animals;

(vii)  and was placed into a world where all things had been created by God from nothing (Lateran IV), i.e. instantaneously, and not by millions of years of non-living matter slowly transforming into “simple” living matter, which further changed  by degrees into more complex matter and finally into man.

[1] By the phrase “progress of science,” the canon means the development of science, which may be good or bad from a Catholic perspective.  The Church welcomes genuine growth in scientific understanding, which can never contradict Catholic doctrine.


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