The Problem with ‘Catholic’ Evolution

For many years, I have made it a practice to challenge my children and grandchildren with questions about philosophy and the Faith. Sometimes, I can hear their teeth grind with angst or I catch the subtle roll of the eyes as they brace themselves for another one of “those” sessions. Because I am a close relative who is much older and deserving of some modicum of respect, I figure they are unable to dismiss me too easily, so I persist.

Recently, I asked one of my grandsons if he thought there was such a thing as a “Catholic” version of the Theory of Evolution1. Though he had heard and read arguments that supported such a notion he was not entirely convinced of Evolution of any stripe — Catholic or not. He said that it did not seem likely and that the answer was to be found in philosophy.

His reply represented the first time I have heard such an answer from a modern, college-educated Catholic, other than one educated in the “Mind of the Saint Benedict Center.” Our time was cut short by a call for dinner (or some-such-thing), so in a few moments, we agreed that the answer was to be found in the errors of the Greek philosophers, including Heraclitus. Though we did not have the opportunity to return to the topic later, I knew that he was on the right track: that a Catholic may not hold the Theory of Evolution, no matter whether it is atheistic or has been “baptized” into the Church and that the argument against it is philosophical. The following are a few reasons why this is the case:

  1. Adherents of “Catholic Evolution” will often present it as a possibility. “It is possible for a Catholic to hold Evolution, as long as he holds that God is the agent of change rather than some sort of purely natural process.” At first blush, this sounds fairly reasonable, even intelligent, in the manner of an intellectual who is hedging his bets. Unfortunately, for the Theistic Evolutionist, this argument is not valid. It violates one of the most fundamental rules of logic: From the possible to the real is not a valid inference. Could God change one species into another? Of course. It is up to the Evolutionists to demonstrate how this happened and provide at least one example. In fact, they have no evidence to support this claim. The more learned of them will admit as much, but they will continue to insist that the possibility be left open. There is absolutely no good reason for a faithful Catholic to agree to this.

  2. For Catholics, who accept the veracity of Holy Scripture and that it is the Word of God, there is another reason not to accept the Theory of Evolution, even Theistic Evolution. This theory, of either stripe, effectively denies what God reveals in the Book of Genesis, wherein it says no fewer than eight times, that all created, living beings will produce seed of their “own kind.” Nowhere in the Bible is there even the hint of a monkey becoming a man or, even, of one species becoming another. All species continue to produce their “own kind.” The Book of Eccliasticus says “He that liveth forever created all things together.” (18:1) Despite the countless speculative papers written on the topic of the “evolution of species,” no hard evidence has ever been discovered or presented to contradict what it says so plainly in Holy Scripture.

  3. Both Atheistic and Theistic Evolutionists share the same root error, that of Heraclitus, who maintained that all things are in a state of flux; there are no individual beings, but only a process of continual change. Living beings are just piles of atoms that change into something else2. Because there is no fundamental unity to the individuals, there is no unum per se, nothing that exists as a complete substance on its own. As a result of this error, Evolutionists believe that one living species can morph into another, which implies there is no true identity among the individual members of a species.

  4. There are two ways to deny that something is unique and supernatural. One is by asserting it does not exist at all. The other is by claiming it exists all over the place, that it is a frequent, natural occurrence. For example, Atheists gratuitously deny that the Incarnation, in which God became Man, ever took place. On the other hand, Pantheists deny the Incarnation by professing their erroneous doctrine of Reincarnation, that every living being is an “incarnation.” Both are incorrect — one by direct denial, the other by dilution into meaninglessness.

In the same manner, the assertion that species continually evolve into other species denies the singular Gift of God, the unique Transubstantiation of the host into the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus. A living being undergoes substantial change by dying. Needless to say, no species changes or continues when the individuals die. For a species to evolve into another species, at some point, an individual living being must undergo substantial change while remaining alive. It must undergo a change of souls, the substantial form of the living body. Even if Theistic Evolutionists claim that God performs their imagined transubstantiation of species, instead of it happening by blind chance as claimed by Atheistic Evolutionists, they effectively deny the Catholic dogma of Transubstantiation, by minimizing it into oblivion.

  1. Historically, the result of Catholics trying to baptize Atheistic Evolution has been to undermine the Faith. The Modernist heresy of the Evolution of Dogma is the direct result of this attempt. If it is possible for substances to evolve, for the forms to be switched without the normal substantial change caused by death, then why cannot other things, such as ideas, evolve as well? Dogmas are built on words; words are based on ideas; and ideas are based on individual substances. If the individuals of a species, which are the real things, can magically change into a new species, it must be possible for dogmas, which are based on these realities, to change as well. After all, if they are based on real things in the world and those things are in constant flux, the ideas based on those real things must be in a state of flux as well.

  2. Evolutionists, Atheistic and Theistic, have failed to produce one shred of empirical evidence to support their theories. Not one shred. Ever. All they have ever done is to point to individual fossils and artifacts and simply assert they are evidence of Evolution. What makes these assertions believable are the stories that are woven around the objects in question. It’s all mythological. That is all there is to it. Many good books have been written to debunk the claims of the Evolutionists, but it is important for our purposes to address the problem on a higher level and one of the ways we do this is to simply say, “If you believe species changed from one to another by a process of Evolution, show me.” This has never been done. The burden of proof is on the Evolutionists and they have utterly failed to provide any.

  3. Some Theistic Evolutionists hold their position out of fear, fear that they may someday be forced to admit that traditional Catholic teaching about creation is wrong. They do not want to look like those crazy, bible-thumping Evangelicals. After all, they say, look at the conflict between the Church and Galileo: he was right and the Church was wrong. Right? Not necessarily. The truth of that situation can be found in a variety of Catholic sources. The Church simply told Galileo to stop inferring theological conclusions which undermined the Faith from his observations of nature. The Church maintains that truths of science cannot conflict with truths of nature. All truth comes from the Creator and cannot be contradictory. As has happened already, the so-called “truths” of evolution have been revised, revised, and revised again. They are in a state of continual flux just like the fictional process it purports to explain.

If one wants to get a sense of where Theistic Evolution leads, he only has to read some of the numerous condemnations of Teilhard de Chardin3. Inevitably, because it is based upon faulty premises, belief in the Theory of Evolution, theistic or atheistic, leads to the destruction of the Faith, as well as subversion of the truths about the universe itself.

In summary, belief in the theory of the Evolution of one species into another is not a viable option for Catholics. Not only is there no proof to support Evolution, the theory is contrary to basic truths of philosophy and theology and there is a grave danger of it leading one into heresy. Belief in Evolution has caused countless people to lose their Faith. Believing Catholics must gird their loins for temptation and put a halt to this attack on the One True Church.

1 In this article we are referring to macro evolution, where one species supposedly changes into another. Micro evolution, in which varieties develop within species, is not problematic.

2 For an explanation of the substantial form of a living substance see Cosmology by Brother Francis, p. 151, et. seq.

3 For one of many discussions of the errors of Teilhard de Chardin see article here from Salve Regina Info on Chardin.

Note Bene: In Brian Kelly’s article “Enough With the Monkey Business”, on this website. He stated at the start that he could not call evolution heresy. Only the Church can do that. Then he posts at the end of the article this insight:

However, has the Church not done that? I think it has, at least implicitly, that is as a theological conclusion based on a defined dogma. That dogma is the Immaculate Conception. I have used the Immaculate Conception and, of course, the Incarnation of Christ, as an argument refuting the absurdity of speculation, from Catholics, on the possibility of intelligent life on other planets. But, I did not use this dogma in any of my writings against evolution. Briefly, Our Lady identified herself to Saint Bernadette thusly: “I am the Immaculate Conception.” And, in the ex cathedra definition of the same by Pope Pius IX, it is stated that Our Lady was granted this exemption from original sin by a “singular grace and privilege.” Singular!

There you have it. If Adam were “conceived” (which he was not), he would have been conceived without stain of sin (immaculately, i.e., “without stain.”). Our Lady would then not be THE Immaculate Conception. She would share that with Adam (and Eve, too, if she were conceived and not formed from the rib of Adam.) Needless to say, I am prescinding from Our Lord Himself, who was conceived miraculously and virginally by the Holy Ghost. On this subject, you can read an excellent article by Paul Kelly for The Kolbe Center for the Study of Creation here.