Kolbe Report 1-25-20

Dear Friends of the Kolbe Center,

Pax Christi!

In a recent newsletter, we demonstrated that the Catholic community has been suffering from "collective amnesia" in regard to the true Catholic doctrine of creation, just as our Hebrew ancestors in the Faith suffered from collective amnesia in regard to Genesis and the rest of the Law for long periods of time on at least two separate occasions in salvation history. In this newsletter, I would like to demonstrate that this collective amnesia in regard to the sacred history of Genesis actually began much earlier than is generally acknowledged and that this has contributed to confusion within the ranks of traditional theologians with regard to views held by mainstream Catholic theologians in the 1890's and early 1900's in regard to evolution up to the human body and long ages, when Catholic society still had the appearance of being in good health. Some well-intentioned, Tradition-minded theologians wrongly conclude that these views were harmless because they were widely tolerated long before the revolution against the traditional liturgy of the Roman Rite and other traditional teachings of the Church on faith and morals.

Contrary to popular belief in the English-speaking world, Charles Darwin was not nearly as successful a propagandist for microbe-to-man evolution as his German colleague Ernst Haeckel, author of the fraudulent drawings used to "prove" the common descent of all of the different kinds of creatures from a "primitive" one-celled common ancestor. Haeckel's bogus "proof" was the single most effective piece of propaganda in the campaign to convince the intellectual elite of the Western world that microbe-to-man evolution was a scientific fact rather than a wild conjecture. It convinced Catholic intellectuals from Fr. John Augustine Zahm at Notre Dame at the dawn of the twentieth century to Fr. Karl Rahner towards the end of the twentieth century that the traditional teaching of the Church on the special creation of Adam and Eve had been falsified by this "scientific" discovery.

Haeckel himself acknowledged how quickly the intellectual elite of the Catholic Church changed its position on evolution in his "Last Words on Evolution" in 1906. He commented on:

the interesting efforts that the Church has lately made to enter into a peaceful compromise with its deadly enemy, Monistic science. It has decided to accept to a certain extent, and to accommodate to its creed (in a distorted and mutilated form) the doctrine of evolution, which it has vehemently opposed for thirty years. This remarkable change of front on the part of the Church militant seemed to me so interesting and important, and at the same time so misleading and mischievous, that I chose it as the subject of a popular lecture, and accepted the invitation to Berlin.

It was obvious that both the general theory of evolution and its extension to man in particular must meet from the first with the most determined resistance on the part of the Churches. Both were in flagrant contradiction to the Mosaic story of creation, and other Biblical dogmas that were involved in it, and are still taught in our elementary schools. It is creditable to the shrewdness of the theologians and their associates, the metaphysicians, that they at once rejected Darwinism, and made a particularly energetic resistance in their writings to its chief consequence, the descent of man from the ape. This resistance seemed the more justified and hopeful as, for seven or eight years after Darwin's appearance, few biologists accepted his theory, and the general attitude amongst them was one of cold scepticism. I can well testify to this from my own experience. When I first openly advocated Darwin's theory at a scientific congress at Stettin in 1863, I was almost alone, and was blamed by the great majority for taking up seriously so fantastic a theory, "the dream of an after-dinner nap," as the Göttinger zoologist, Keferstein, called it.[1]

Here Haeckel reveals a number of forgotten facts that urgently need to be recalled by Catholic intellectuals. In the first place, he acknowledges that the Church completely rejected Darwin's microbe-to-man hypothesis in the first decade after the publication of Origin of Species. More importantly, Haeckel reveals one of the main reasons why the Pope and the Bishops did not see the need to explicitly anathematize biological evolution at the time of the First Vatican Council - namely, that the "theory" was rightly deemed so "fantastic" that it did not need to be taken seriously. For example, when Blessed Pope Pius IX endorsed the work of Dr. Constantin James, an eminent French Catholic physician, for writing the book On Darwinism, or the Man-Ape, in which he refuted "the aberrations of Darwinism," the Pope added that:

a system which is so repugnant at once to history, to the tradition of all the peoples, to exact science, to observed facts, and even to Reason herself, would seem to need no refutation, did not alienation from God and the leaning toward materialism, due to depravity, eagerly seek a support in all this tissue of fables . . . And, in fact, pride, after rejecting the Creator of all things and proclaiming man independent, wishing him to be his own king, his own priest, and his own God - pride goes so far as to degrade man himself to the level of the unreasoning brutes, perhaps even of lifeless matter, thus unconsciously confirming the Divine declaration, When pride cometh, then cometh shame. But the corruption of this age, the machinations of the perverse, the danger of the simple, demand that such fancies, altogether absurd though they are, should - since they borrow the mask of science - be refuted by true science.[2]

It should be noted that at the top of the list of bodies of knowledge that are "so repugnant" to Darwin's "tissue of fables," Blessed Pope Pius IX cites, not natural science, but history and "the tradition of all peoples." Part of our "collective amnesia" regarding our own Catholic heritage extends to our almost complete forgetfulness of the fact that our fathers in the Faith rightly considered the historical information in the Book of Genesis to be inerrant data that allowed Catholic scholars to determine the approximate age of the universe. Moreover, our fathers in the Faith recognized that "the tradition of all peoples" included a living memory of key events in mankind's history, such as the creation of an original couple in a state of perfection, their Fall from grace, a global Flood, and a confusion of languages at the Tower of Babel. Catholic intellectuals like Blessed Pope Pius IX and Orestes Brownson rightly took this historical memory much more seriously than the wild extrapolations of Darwin and his disciples into the unrepeatable past.

In the light of these facts, it is not surprising that the Pope and the Bishops of the First Vatican Council in 1869-70 re-affirmed the Firmiter dogmatic decree on creation of Lateran IV and anathematized the proposition that "the progress of science" required that the doctrine of creation, among others, be changed; but they did not see the need to explicitly condemn molecules-to-man evolution. This was also because the gold standard for teaching and preaching the Faith at the time of Vatican Council I was the Roman Catechism, the Catechism of the Council of Trent, which clearly taught that God specially created all of the different kinds of creatures, including man, in six days, just as recorded by Moses in what the Roman Catechism called "the sacred history of Genesis." The same Catechism went on to teach that God rested on a literal seventh day from the work of creating new kinds of creatures, thereby totally excluding the hypothesis of molecules to man evolution in its theistic or atheistic forms, as well as progressive creation, the idea that God spread out the work of special creation over millions of years.

God at Rest

Haeckel's "Greatest Triumph"

Not surprisingly, in his "Last Words on Evolution," Haeckel regarded his success in changing the Church from his greatest enemy into an active supporter as "his greatest triumph." He wrote:

Today, when evolution is almost universally recognised in biology, when thousands of anatomic and physiological works are based on it every year, the new generation can hardly form an idea of the violent resistance that was offered to Darwin's theory and the impassioned struggles it provoked. In the first place, the Churches at once raised a vigorous protest; they rightly regarded their new antagonist as the deadly enemy of the legend of creation, and saw the very foundations of their creed threatened . . . Our science of evolution won its greatest triumph when, at the beginning of the twentieth century, its most powerful opponents, the Churches, became reconciled to it, and endeavoured to bring their dogmas into line with it.[3]

Haeckel went on to note the unique role played by scientists within the Society of Jesus in accomplishing this revolution against the "foundations" of the Creed. He wrote:

the Jesuit Father Wasmann, and his colleagues, have - unwittingly - done a very great service to the progress of pure science. The Catholic Church, the most powerful and widespread of the Christian sects, sees itself compelled to capitulate to the idea of evolution. It embraces the most important application of the idea, Lamarck and Darwin's theory of descent, which it had vigorously combated until twenty years ago. It does, indeed, mutilate the great tree, cutting off its roots and its highest branch; it rejects spontaneous generation or archigony at the bottom, and the descent of man from animal ancestors above. But these exceptions will not last. Impartial biology will take no notice of them, and the religious creed will at length determine that the more complex species have been evolved from a series of simpler forms according to Darwinian principles . . .

the open acknowledgment of [the truth of evolution by] the Jesuit, Father Wasmann, deserves careful attention, and we may look forward to a further development. If his force of conviction and his moral courage are strong enough, he will go on to draw the normal conclusions from his high scientific attainments and leave the Catholic Church, as the prominent Jesuits, Count Hoensbroech and the able geologist, Professor Renard of Ghent, one of the workers on the deep-sea deposits in the Challenger expedition, have lately done. But even if this does not happen, his recognition of Darwinism, in the name of Christian belief, will remain a landmark in the history of evolution. His ingenious and very Jesuitical attempt to bring together the opposite poles will have no very mischievous effect; it will rather tend to hasten the victory of the scientific conception of evolution over the mystic beliefs of the Churches. [4]

With this statement Haeckel showed keen insight into the weakness of theistic evolutionist attempts to reconcile molecules-to-man evolution with the antithetical dogma of creation. He rightly anticipated that if Catholic theologians accepted the naturalistic accounts of Darwin and his disciples for the origin of man and other living things and abandoned the constant teaching of the Church on the fundamental doctrine of creation, thoughtful Catholics would realize the absurdity of trying to reconcile these opposites. He realized that theologians who allowed natural scientists to dictate to them in regard to the dogma of creation would end up ceding the primacy of theology as the Queen of the Sciences and allow Natural Science to usurp her place. Haeckel also noted the irony that Jesuits and other Catholic apologists for theistic evolution at the end of the nineteenth century tried to make it seem as if the Church had "admitted the theory of evolution for decades" when just a decade or two before the Church had been united against evolution as a mortal threat to the very foundations of the Faith.

As Karl Escherich well says: "Hitherto we read in the faces of our clerical opponents only hatred, bitterness, contempt, mockery, or pity in regard to the new invader of their dogmatic structure, the idea of evolution. Now (since Wasmann's apostasy) the assurances of the Catholic journals, that the Church has admitted the theory of evolution for decades, make us smile. Evolution has now pressed on to its final victory, and these people would have us believe that they were never unfriendly to it, never shrieked and stormed against it. How, they say, could anyone have been so foolish, when the theory of evolution puts the wisdom and power of the creator in a nobler light than ever." We find a similar diplomatic retreat in the popular work of the Jesuit, Father Martin Gander, The Theory of Descent (1904): "Thus the modern forms of matter were not immediately created by God; they are effects of the formative forces, which were put by the creator in the primitive matter, and gradually came into view in the course of the earth's history, when the external conditions were given in the proper combination." That is a remarkable change of front on the part of the clergy.[5]

Indeed, the anti-Catholic forces have been "smiling" at this "remarkable change of front" ever since, delighted to have Catholic intellectuals like Dr. Ken Miller assure us that the literal historical interpretation of Genesis was an invention of protestant fundamentalists at the end of the nineteenth century, in flagrant contradiction to the indisputable fact that every one of the Fathers and Doctors of the Church would have died to defend the literal historical truth of every word of the "sacred history of Genesis." In a remarkable fulfillment of Haeckel's predictions, Dr. Miller now assures his youthful audiences that twenty-first century natural scientists will discover how life came from non-life when "the external conditions" were "in the proper combination," without any special creative act of God. Thus, as Haeckel predicted, mainstream Catholic theistic evolutionism has become indistinguishable from atheistic evolutionism, except in its adherence to the absurd notion that God placed a human soul into the conception of two sub-human primates!

"Homo alaliis" or speechless man presented by the artist to Prof. Ernst Haeckel, 1887

Lucifer's Secret Weapon Against the True Catholic Doctrine of Creation

To realize how badly Catholic intellectuals allowed themselves to be duped at the end of the nineteenth (and the beginning of the twentieth) century can actually be a first step to liberating ourselves from our intellectual slavery to a host of evolution-based errors. But there is one piece of the puzzle that Haeckel cannot supply, and that has to do with the sources of Catholic doctrine in regard to the creation of man and the universe. We saw earlier that ten years after the publication of Origin of Species the First Vatican Council reaffirmed the Firmiter of Lateran IV which had defined the creation of "all things" by God "at once" from "the beginning of time." An objection often raised by modern scholars against the thesis that the Firmiter of Lateran IV and Vatican I was intended to define once and for all that God created all of the different kinds of corporeal creatures in the beginning of time asserts that the Firmiter itself is rarely mentioned by theologians or Doctors of the Church in their writings against later errors in regard to the doctrine of creation.  If the Firmiter was intended to define the creation of all of the different kinds of corporeal creatures at the beginning of time, the argument goes, then later Doctors and preeminent theologians would have cited the Firmiter as a kind of proof text against later heretics who deviated from the true doctrine of creation.

Unfortunately, this objection exemplifies the very attitude that makes it so hard for modern scholars to understand the thinking of the medieval doctors and the Firmiter correctly - an attitude of irreverence for Sacred Scripture as the totally inerrant, God-breathed Word of God.  The Firmiter was intended to correct heresies based on a rejection or misinterpretation of the first chapters of Genesis, but it was never intended to replace Genesis as the primary source of information revealed by God about the creation of the world.  The common notion among Catholic theologians today, that the content of Genesis 1-3 is not sufficient to prove that God created all of the different kinds of creatures by fiat at the beginning of time, would have been incomprehensible not only to Pope Innocent III and the fathers of Lateran IV but also to Blessed Pope Pius IX and Pope Leo XIII.  Indeed, in one of the most respected summaries of dogmatic theology published after Vatican I, the Dogmatik of Mathias Scheeben, the author completely rejected microbe-to-man evolution and upheld the special creation of all of the different kinds of creatures, including man. However, even though the Dogmatik was written in the immediate aftermath of Vatican I, Scheeben's defense of the doctrine of special creation does not rest on the Firmiter of Lateran IV and Vatican I but on the testimony of the sacred history of Genesis. In the words of A Manual of Catholic Theology Based on Scheeben's Dogmatik, the authors explain that:

Organic beings, which now propagate themselves by generation, owe their existence neither to spontaneous generation nor to unconscious evolution of inorganic matter and forces; each species has been created to represent a Divine exemplar, and has received the power to perpetuate itself by producing individuals of the same speciesThis doctrine is most expressly contained in the narrative of creation in Genesis (emphasis added).[6]


To repeat: The Firmiter of Lateran IV and Vatican I was meant to exclude erroneous teachings about creation based on the rejection or misinterpretation of Genesis, not to supplant Genesis as God's inerrant account of how He created all of the different kinds of spiritual and corporeal creatures for man at the beginning of time.  Thus, for St. Thomas and the Church Doctors who came after him until the generation of Haeckel's "greatest triumph," it was sufficient to say, "according to Moses, God said X, Y, or Z," to settle an argument.  No reference to a Church Council or papal document was necessary.  However, one of the signs of Haeckel's "greatest triumph" was the erosion of the faith of many Catholic intellectuals in the inerrancy of Scripture beginning with Genesis. This, in turn, gave rise to the modern attitude - so common even among Tradition-friendly theologians today - to insist on some kind of conciliar or papal decree to ratify the literal historical truth of Sacred Scripture. Lucifer's secret weapon in his war against the true doctrine of creation has been the abandonment of the traditional reverence for Sacred Scripture and for Scriptural inerrancy which characterized all of the Fathers, Doctors and theological masters of every generation that preceded Haeckel's "greatest triumph." With that out of the way, subsequent generations of Catholic scholars down to the present day appeal in vain for evidence that the Firmiter of Lateran IV and Vatican I excludes theistic evolution and progressive creation, heedless of the fact that only in the impoverished atmosphere of faith after Haeckel's "greatest triumph" would Catholic scholars look anywhere but to the "sacred history of Genesis" for the source of the true Catholic doctrine of creation.[7]

Yours in Christ through the Immaculata, in union with St. Joseph,

Hugh Owen

P.S. Please let us know if you are interested in attending our leadership retreat in the first week of August at the S.O.L.T. retreat center in Corpus Christ, Texas, and especially if you are interested in helping us to produce a play with the young people who attend the retreat on the life of Venerable Maria of Agreda, the "Blue Nun." We also plan to produce a series of videos for young people between the ages of 5 and 12 on the doctrines of Genesis 1-11, so please let us know if you would be interested in that project as well.

P.P.S. Please continue to spread the word about our DVD series "Foundations Restored" and encourage your friends and relatives to visit the website and to view the first two episodes gratis.


[1] Ernst Haeckel, "Last Words on Evolution" (accessed 1-15-20)

[2] Quoted in White, A.D., The History of the Warfare of Science with Theology in Christendom (1895), Arco Publishers (1955), pp. 75-76.

[3] Ernst Haeckel, "Last Words on Evolution" (accessed 1-15-20)

[4] ibid.

[5] ibid.

[6] A Manual of Catholic Theology Based on Scheeben's Dogmatik, Joseph Wilhelm and Thomas B. Scannell, Vol I, Chap. IV, Sect. 122 (London: Kegan Paul, 1890), p. 383.

[7] Proof that the plain sense of Scripture had sufficient authority for the Fathers of Lateran IV to define doctrine can be found in the teaching of St. Thomas in the Summa Theologica on transubstantiation.  Since Lateran IV had just defined the dogma of transubstantiation for the first time, one might expect St. Thomas to cite the teaching of the Council in his treatment of the topic. But he does not.  It is sufficient for him to cite the text of Scripture and to comment on it with the help of the Church Fathers.  The same is true of the Firmiter's treatment of the doctrine of creation.  It makes no mention of Genesis because it assumes that the literal and obvious sense of Genesis is true.  It merely defines creation in a way that excludes any doctrine of creation that rejects or misinterprets the literal and obvious sense of the sacred history of Genesis - and that includes the modern errors of progressive creation and theistic evolution.

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