Dear Friends of the Kolbe Center,
I am happy to announce that the streaming version of the second DVD in our series “How the World Was Made in Six Days” is now available. The physical DVD of Day Two will be available in approximately two weeks. The video explains the mysterious nature of the firmament that God created on the second day of the Hexameron using Scripture, Tradition, and the authentic discoveries of natural science. It also shows the indispensable role that the firmament plays in our Heavenly Father’s grand design for our cosmic home. You can watch the “Day Two” trailer HERE.
The Mission of the Kolbe Center: A Clarification
When I was in Europe a few years ago to give a series of seminars, a friend of mine invited me to have a videotaped discussion with a prominent Catholic pro-life medical doctor who espoused theistic evolution. As the discussion got under way, my counterpart in the discussion wasted no time in telling me that I was guilty of a "serious heresy" because my colleagues and I were contradicting the Magisterium by claiming that the literal historical interpretation of Genesis 1-11 is the only viable interpretation for Catholics. Since the doctor's accusation reflects a common misunderstanding, I would like to use this newsletter to set the record straight.
Anyone who reads the articles on our website or who attends our seminars knows that the Kolbe Center is not in the business of calling people "heretics." Even when the doctor who accused me of “heresy” for rejecting evolution asserted that there were “errors in the Bible,” I did not call him a “heretic” for contradicting the infallible decree of the First Vatican Council on Scriptural inerrancy. I simply stated that the Church had defined infallibly that the Bible is free from error in all that it affirms, whether in regard to faith, morals, or any other subject. At the Kolbe Center we defend the understanding of Genesis 1-11 that was believed and taught by all of the Fathers, Doctors, Popes and Council Fathers in their authoritative teaching from the beginning of the Church, an interpretation which holds:
That Genesis is a sacred history, not a myth or a poem
That Moses was the author/redactor of the first five books of the Bible
That God created all of the different kinds of creatures for mankind in the beginning of creation in view of the Incarnation and the Immaculate Conception, by fiat--not through any kind of natural process
That God created Adam's body and soul and Eve from Adam's side, perfect in body, mind and soul, in an exalted state of holiness
That God stopped creating new kinds of creatures after He finished creating Adam and Eve and that we cannot extrapolate from the order of providence in which we are living back to the beginning of creation to explain the origins of man and the universe
That human death, deformity, disease and man-harming natural disasters entered the world because of the Original Sin of Adam
That the chronological and genealogical information in Genesis 1-11 is inerrant and that this information tells us that less than ten thousand years have elapsed since the Creation of the material universe
That the long ages of the Patriarchs and other historical propositions contained in Genesis 1-11 are to be taken at face value
That Noah's Flood was a global flood which totally destroyed the face of the Earth so that it is impossible to extrapolate from observations of the present-day Earth to understand what the Earth was like before Noah's Flood, much less what it was like in the first-created world before the Original Sin.
When we say that these truths are elements of the "true Catholic doctrine of creation," this does not mean that all of these points have been defined de fide by the Magisterium--although some have been taught at a very high level of authority. It means that these are truths that all of the Fathers and Doctors of the Church believed and taught, including St. Thomas, truths that are rooted in the literal historical truth of the sacred history of Genesis, and that the burden of proof remains on those who question any of these truths, and not on those of us who defend them. This was certainly the position of the Pontifical Biblical Commission (PBC) when it was an arm of the Magisterium because the 1909 decrees take pains to insist--with St. Augustine and all the Fathers--that the proper sense of the text of Genesis should be the default interpretation for Catholics and that even an improper interpretation of "day" in Genesis One must be made with "the Church AND the Fathers leading the way" and in harmony with these three facts: "the creation of all things by God at the beginning of time"; "the special creation" of Adam; and the formation of Eve from Adam's side.
Our focus is on what the Fathers, Doctors, Popes and Council Fathers handed down, and we point out that the evidence from the natural sciences harmonizes perfectly well with this traditional reading of Genesis. Perhaps most importantly we are trying to restore the reverent attitude that the Fathers and Doctors maintained toward the sacred history of Genesis, an attitude that had already largely disappeared from the theological manuals of the 20's and 30's, an attitude of reverent awe before the sacred history of Genesis and an insistence that the literal historical truth of everything in Genesis 1-11 must be upheld unless "reason dictates or necessity requires," rather than the attitude, already apparent in Ludwig Ott's manual of dogmatic theology, among others, that the literal historical truth of Genesis 1-11 should be believed only if the consensus view in natural science confirms that reading of Genesis.
The Defenders of the Traditional Doctrine of Creation and the “Burden of Proof”
We show that all of the Church Fathers and Doctors, liturgical traditions, and relevant papal and conciliar decrees from the beginning of the Church teach the truths conveyed by the literal and obvious sense of the sacred history of Genesis in the inerrant Word of God; and we claim that these truths are not compatible with theistic evolution or progressive creation. We have a right and a duty to affirm that the burden of proof remains on those who challenge these fundamental truths of our Faith, not on those of us who defend them.
It is also our right and duty to ask the Magisterium of the Church to review the evidence for and against the traditional interpretation of Genesis 1-11 and to make a definitive judgment in favor of the traditional interpretation. In doing this, we are following in the footsteps of those who for centuries worked, prayed and sacrificed for a papal definition of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception, convinced as they were of the great blessings that would redound to the Church with the proclamation of this dogma. Like them, we work, pray and sacrifice for a definitive judgment in favor of the traditional doctrine of fiat creation and against theistic evolution and progressive creation--for the greatest possible glory of God and for the greatest possible good of souls.
We argue that the consensus of the Fathers on Genesis 1-11, the liturgical traditions of all of the rites of the Catholic Church, and the conciliar decrees on creation of Lateran IV and Vatican I, rightly expounded, exclude theistic evolution and progressive creation. We are showing how the conciliar decrees on creation were understood by the greatest commentators for more than five hundred years, while demonstrating that there is nothing in subsequent authoritative teaching of the Magisterium or in the new and proven discoveries of natural science that calls any part of the traditional doctrine into question.
If Two Interpretations Are Allowed, Are They Necessarily Equal?
We have noticed that many theologians today take the position that since the PBC decrees of 1909 allow scholars to discuss whether “day” in Genesis One means a “24 hour day” or “an indefinite space of time,” both interpretations—a “24-hour” day or “an indefinite space of time”—are equally valid. However, as explained above, this is not the case. When one of my colleagues and I were invited to give a presentation at a Catholic institute in Grenada in Spain a few years ago, I was told that an association approved by the Church had been founded in Grenada in the sixteenth century whose members dedicated their lives to work for the dogmatic definition of the Immaculate Conception. As late as 1853, one was technically “free” to accept or reject the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception, but it would not have been difficult for any well-informed Catholic to prove that the overwhelming weight of Tradition favored the view that Our Lady was conceived without Original Sin. In a similar way, we have never denied that Catholics are free to hold to a different interpretation of “day” in Genesis One than the one that we are defending, but we argue that the overwhelming weight of Tradition supports the 24-hour day interpretation and that the dogmatic definition of “day” in Genesis One as a 24-day would foster a greater intimacy between the faithful and Our Creator and would serve as a powerful antidote to some of the principal errors, such as naturalism, which afflict the faithful in our day.
When the Roman Catechism teaches that God finished the work of creation after creating man on the sixth day of the Hexameron, it hastens to add that God consecrated the seventh day to Himself at the foundation of the world. The Roman Catechism then refers pastors to Exodus where Moses tells us that God wrote the Ten Commandments with “the finger of God” on tablets of stone. The Third Commandment is the only one in which God commands us to “remember” something because there is nothing in the present order of nature that reminds us that God created all things in six days and consecrated the seventh day. Thus, the Lord commands us to “remember” this revelation so that we understand that we must work for six days and consecrate the seventh day to God because He created the world according to this rhythm. By means of this teaching, St. Charles Borromeo and his co-authors made sure that every Catholic understood that, while God could have created the world over any period of time that He chose, He deliberately created it according to the very rhythm that we must follow, if we want to live a happy, healthy, holy life.
It has been our experience all over the world, that Catholics who fully understand this teaching of the Roman Catechism experience a profound sense of gratitude and intimacy with Our Lord, which protects them against the currents of materialism, naturalism and indifferentism that erode or destroy the faith of so many Catholics today. Catholics who understand that God created the world according to the rhythm that we must follow to live a happy, holy, healthy life, also become profoundly aware of the fact that the rhythm by which God created the world also established the liturgical rhythm of the Church from the beginning of creation. We have noticed that religious communities whose members understand the origins in Genesis One of the liturgical rhythm by which they live, like the Benedictines of Mary whose foundress was recently found incorrupt, and where one of my daughters is a novice, radiate a marvelous spiritual joy because of their keen sense that they are “the apple of God’s eye,” and that He established the liturgical rhythm by which they live from the foundation of the world.
In the seventeenth century, St. Robert Bellarmine argued that St. Thomas Aquinas would have been more favorable to the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception if he had been more familiar with the traditional liturgical celebrations that celebrated her freedom from Original Sin. In a similar way, we believe that all traditional Catholic theologians would support the dogmatic definition of the meaning of “day” in Genesis One as a “24 hour day,” if they examined more closely the way in which this meaning has been enshrined in all of the liturgical traditions of the Catholic Church. For example, in the Melkite Greek Catholic Rite to which I belong, our official prayer book teaches that the liturgical day begins with Vespers, because on the first day of the Hexameron, “there was evening and morning, one day.” Similarly, in the Vespers hymns of the Roman Rite, attributed to St. Gregory the Great, each hymn sums up the work of creation that God accompanied on that specific day of the Hexameron. And I could give many other examples from the other liturgical traditions of the Church.
Just as those who worked for the dogma of the Immaculate Conception in 1853 foresaw the harm that came to the Church through the postponement of the dogmatic definition and the blessings that would flow to the Church through a universal acceptance of the dogma, so do we see the great harm that befalls the faithful who deny the traditional doctrine of creation and who embrace theistic evolution or progressive creation--and the great blessings that flow to those who embrace the traditional understanding of the sacred history of Genesis. Just as the dogma of the Immaculate Conception ultimately redounds to the glory of God, and meditation on this mystery deepens our love for Him, so does the traditional doctrine of creation redound to the glory of God and deepen our love for Him. Ultimately, that is why we are so sure that the Magisterium will define the traditional doctrine of creation at the highest level of authority and anathematize the principal deviations from that doctrine in the era of peace promised by Our Lady of Fatima.
Through the prayers of the Mother of God, may the Holy Spirit guide us all into all the Truth!
Yours in Christ through the Immaculata, in union with St. Joseph,
P.S. Fr. Lawrence Carney has graciously agreed to serve as the chaplain of our annual leadership retreat from August 25-31. For information about the retreat or to register, please contact me at email@example.com.
P.P.S. The Cosmic Evolution Debate between Fr. Robert Boyd, FSSP (Ph. D., Princeton) and Dr. Thomas Seiler, (Ph.D., Technical University of Munich) has been rescheduled to Saturday, February 17, 2024, at 2:00 p.m. Please join the virtual debate on whether the Big Bang Theory constitutes a sound explanation for the origins of our universe in the light of Scripture, Tradition, authoritative Magisterial teaching, and current scientific research. A zoom link will be provided in the near future.