Catholicism and Evolution: Polygenism and Original Sin (Part II)
Dei Verbum
Humani generis
Karl Rahner
Paul VI
Issue Date: 
Uniwersytet Mikołaja Kopernika
Hoffmann, J.R. (James R.). "Catholicism and Evolution: Polygenism and Original Sin (Part II)". Scientia et Fides. 9 (1), 2021, 63 - 129
As documented in the first installment of this essay (Hofmann 2020b), through-out the first half of the twentieth century, theological conformity to monogenism, the alleged descent of all human beings from Adam and Eve, was closely linked to Catholic doctrines of original sin. Receptivity to polygenism, the more scientifically supported account of human origins through a transitional population, was further discouraged by Pius XII’s 1950 encyclical Humani generis. Nevertheless, de facto acceptance of polygen-ism became commonplace following Vatican II. A significant turning point was reached when an effort to have polygenism designated “contrary to Catholic faith” failed to persuade the Council Fathers and the topic was not included in Dei Verbum, the 1965 Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation. In 1968, the presentation of polygenism as a viable theological option in TheSupplement to A New Catechism was clear evidence that opposition to polygenism within the Roman Curia had abated. Furthermore, a pre-ponderance of post-Vatican II theological discourse on original sin either marginalized monogenism or retained it in a spiritual rather than a biological sense. The historical record shows that theological commitment to monogenism has been more deeply rooted in doctrines of Catholic tradition than was the case for geostasis. Secondly, again in contrast to geostasis, monogenism has been amenable to nuanced conceptual development, including purely spiritual characterizations. These two historical factors provide some explanation for the longstanding Catholic commitment to monogenism. To the extent that dogmatic convictions premised upon traditional doctrines of original sin continue to be perceived as both compelling and authoritative, it can be expected that some form of theological monogenism will also persist.

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