Dear Friends of the Kolbe Center,
Glory to Jesus Christ!
For the past 150 years, there has been a great deal of theological discussion in regard to “development of doctrine” as a way to justify various changes in the way that doctrines of faith and morals are explained and understood within the Church. As our beloved former chaplain, Fr. Thomas Hickey, liked to point out, however, in a true development of doctrine “there should be no inconsistency between first and last.” Quoting from Vincent of Lerins at our symposium in Rome in 2015, Fr. Tom reminded us that:
The religion of souls should follow the law of development of bodies. Though bodies develop and unfold their component parts with the passing of the years, they always remain what they were. There is a great difference between the flower of childhood and the maturity of age, but those who become old are the very same people who were once young. Though the condition and appearance of one and the same individual may change, it is one and the same nature, one and the same person… If, however, the human form were to turn into some shape that did not belong to its own nature, or even if something were added to the sum of its members or subtracted from it, the whole body would necessarily perish or become grotesque or at least be enfeebled. In the same way, the doctrine of the Christian religion should properly follow these laws of development, that is, by becoming firmer over the years, more ample in the course of time, more exalted as it advances in age. In ancient times our ancestors sowed the good seed in the harvest field of the Church. It would be very wrong and unfitting if we, their descendants, were to reap, not the genuine wheat of truth but the intrusive growth of error. On the contrary, what is right and fitting is this: there should be no inconsistency between first and last, but we should reap true doctrine from the growth of true teaching, so that when, in the course of time, those first sowings yield an increase it may flourish and be tended in our day also.
Theistic Evolution: Development of Doctrine or Diabolical Deception?
One of the points that we have been trying to make in our recent seminars is that the initial response of the Pope and the Bishops to molecules to man evolutionary hypothesis was extremely negative because of the obvious contradiction between Darwin’s conjectures and the sacred history of Genesis. A related point is that the conversion of most Catholic intellectuals to embrace theistic evolution—which Ernst Haeckel dubbed “evolution’s greatest triumph”—was achieved through deception and disobedience not through an honest reconciliation of evolution with traditional Church doctrine.
It is worth comparing the dishonest way in which the cockle of theistic evolution was sown alongside the wheat of the true doctrine of creation with the way that a legitimate development doctrine took place in the Church at around the same time. In 1854, Blessed Pope Pius IX, the same Pope who was soon to reject Darwinism as “a tissue of fables,” defined the dogma of the Immaculate Conception. This was the culmination of a legitimate development of doctrine that began in the time of the Apostles and Apostolic Fathers and found expression in the various liturgical traditions of the Church which hailed Our Lady as “immaculate,” “most pure,” and “all-holy.” The reconciliation of the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception with the doctrine of Redemption took time but was eventually accomplished with the acknowledgement that Our Lady was “saved” from Original Sin in advance by the foreseen merits of the Redeemer. Thus, the proclamation of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception defined what had been prayed for almost two millennia in all of the liturgical traditions of the Church and resolved the apparent contradictions in the writings of the Fathers and Doctors of the Church in a way that kept the traditional doctrine of Redemption completely intact.
Contrast this with the alleged “development of doctrine” that theistic evolutionists ascribe to the acceptance of theistic evolution. In this case, theistic evolution attempts to canonize an evolutionary account of the origins of man and the universe little different from the pagan accounts of human origins penned by Epicurus and Lucretius which the Fathers of the Church categorically rejected. Theistic evolution contradicts the literal and obvious sense of the sacred history of Genesis that had been held to be true by all of the Apostles, Fathers, Doctors, Popes and Council Fathers for almost two thousand years and does so on the authority of fallible human natural science. In short, the same system of thought that claims, without any solid evidence, that a land mammal turned into a whale, claims that the Church’s understanding of God’s revelation of how He created the world and of what happened in the first two millennia of human history could evolve from a straightforward interpretation of the literal and obvious sense of Genesis 1-11 into an exegesis that totally denies the literal historical truth of that part of God’s Revelation.
Moreover, the “evidence” that convinced most of the leading intellectuals of the western world that the evolutionary hypothesis was true beyond a reasonable doubt is now known to have been totally bogus. When, on the centenary of the publication of Origin of Species, the world’s leading evolutionist scientist Sir Julian Huxley pontificated that “embryology” as displayed in Ernst Haeckel’s drawings provided “the most striking proof of evolution,” his evolution-believing colleagues had enjoyed control of almost all of the universities and research centers in the Western world for more than half a century. Yet “embryonic recapitulation” was, by his own admission, the best proof that they could come up with. If the Holy Ghost wanted to enlighten His Church leaders as to the truth of a new and radically different interpretation of Genesis, what Catholic would be so impious as to believe that He would use bogus “evidence” like Haeckel’s drawings and Piltdown Man, to persuade them? The claim that there is much “better evidence” for evolution today—a claim that has been thoroughly refuted in “Foundations Restored”—does not change the fact that most Catholic intellectuals embraced theistic evolution at the dawn of the twentieth century in defiance of the Magisterial condemnations in force at that time and on the strength of fraudulent scientific claims.
“A Few Momentous Facts” vs. Evolution’s Fabulous Fictions
Appeals are often made to Blessed Cardinal Henry Newman’s writings on “development of doctrine” to justify the reconciliation of evolution with Catholic dogma. However, even Newman had to admit that Divine Revelation had established “a few momentous facts” that could not be denied. In The Idea of a University he wrote:
...it is true...that Revelation has in one or two instances advanced beyond its chosen territory, which is the invisible world, in order to throw light upon the history of the material universe. Holy Scripture...does declare a few momentous facts, so few that they may be counted, of a physical character. It speaks of a process of formation out of chaos which occupied six days; it speaks of the firmament, of the sun and moon being created for the sake of the earth; of the earth being immovable; of a great deluge and of several other similar facts and events.
Newman’s language recalls the words of the Pontifical Biblical Commission in response to eight questions regarding the first three chapters of Genesis in 1909. At a time when Pope St. Pius X had made the PBC an arm of the Magisterium and dissent from its decrees a serious sin, the PBC’s answer to Question III established that the literal and historical truth of the following “facts” pertaining to the foundations of the Christian religion could not be called into question:
- “The creation of all things wrought by God in the beginning of time”This passage upholds the Lateran IV doctrine that all things were created by God “in the beginning of time.” This in and of itself contradicts the conjecture that the days of Genesis could represent a longer period of time than a 24-hour day.
- “The special creation of man”This excluded any process in the formation of man and required that the creation of man was immediate and instantaneous.
- “The formation of the first woman from the first man”This, too, excluded any process in the formation of the first woman and required that the creation of Eve was immediate and instantaneous.
Theistic evolutionists like to say that the Magisterium has “moved on” from these antiquated decrees and point to the many statements by recent Popes favorable to molecules to man evolution as an hypothesis in natural science. But none of these statements invoked Magisterial authority or set forth theistic evolution as a doctrine of faith contained in the Deposit of Faith handed down by the Apostles. Moreover, none of the recent Popes has ever abrogated the PBC decrees on Genesis or any of the prior, highly authoritative Magisterial teachings on creation that, as traditionally understood, exclude theistic evolution and progressive creation. In this bizarre situation, Catholics who know the truth must hold fast to the traditional doctrine, confident that the Holy Ghost will eventually raise up leaders who will reaffirm the truth of the traditional doctrine and put an end to this doctrinal confusion. Those who do so perform a great service to the Church, because once one acknowledges theistic evolution as a legitimate doctrinal development, it becomes virtually impossible to oppose any innovation or blatant heresy that dresses itself up as a “development of doctrine.”
Through the prayers of the Mother of God and of all the Holy Angels and Saints, may the Holy Ghost deliver us from all error and lead us all into all the Truth!