The desire to accommodate long ages was undoubtedly the driving factor behind questioning the meaning of Lateran IV, and the relevance of Council statements to “evolution” was demonstrated by other portions of Fr. Vacant’s study.
The Vatican I Council Fathers…were happy to reproduce the Lateran IV declaration on the distinct creation of man because it responded to other pre-occupations of the 19th century. Studies of our time have drawn the attention of the scientific world to the irreducible difference which places reasoning man above all the animals, and disallowing the thought that he could derive from them.
Fr. Vacant’s reference to “other pre-occupations of the 19th century” alluded not just to “pantheism,”—which in any case is evolutionary in nature and was condemned by Vatican I—but to the anthropological position of man vis-à-vis the irrational animals and the thought that he could evolve from them. Fr. Vacant recommends examination of the Council’s teaching regarding the creation of man and whether it can be reconciled with the evolutionistic hypothesis of man transforming from a lower species.
…we do not want to distance ourselves from their teachings (Lateran IV/Vatican I), but rather develop them by examining up to what point the creation of man was a distinct operation. Evolutionists of our day have asked if God didn’t create an evolutionary force capable not only of producing the higher animal species by transforming them from lower species, but even giving rise to the human body.
Fr. Vacant then makes a statement in the context of Vatican I which from a theologian of his reputation can be taken to be historically certain. He says that all ancient theologians (i.e. before long ages and evolution theory were proposed) accepted divine intervention in the formation of man’s body.
All the ancient theologians regarded the intervention of God in the formation of Adam’s body as incontestable. It is precisely this divine intervention which puts in doubt contemporary evolutionist claims that natural evolution of living matter could eventually produce the body of the first man (emphasis added).