Homanisation by Karl Rahner
Karl Rahner, S.J., studied theology under Martin Heidegger, then taught dogmatics in Catholic unversities in Munich and Innsbruck, Germany, between 1937 and 1984. He wrote more than a half-dozen books and was an observer at Vatican Council II in 1962-1965. This book originally appeared in 1958. This edition was published in West Germany by Herder K.G., in 1965. Translated by W. J. O’Hara. Prepared for Religion Online by Rev. Herbert F. Lowe.
The Official Teaching of The Church on Man
in Relation to the Scientific Theory of Evolution
In view of the purpose of this exposition we may perhaps be permitted to summarize and translate the pronouncements of the magisterium without explicitly citing the sources, to omit for the same reason any more exact determination of the various degrees of theological certainty of the different theses, and similarly to omit the proof that in this version, which is an interpretation made in view of our theme, the meaning of the Church's pronouncements has remained inviolate.
In principle, the Catholic scientist enjoys no absolute autonomy in his genuine or supposed scientific results in relation to revealed doctrine concerning man. The genuine results of the sciences cannot, of course, contradict the teachings of Revelation, because truths which ultimately derive from the same fount of all reality and truth cannot mutually cancel one another (Denzinger 738, 1634 ff., 1649, 1797 ff., 1947, 2023ff., 2146). But the Christian scientist as such in his own sphere is bound as a matter of principle and method by the Church's magisterium as the higher and more comprehensive authority, in the sense that even as a scientist he may not affirm as established with certainty by his science something which would involve a definite contradiction of a doctrine taught officially by the Church as certain (Denzinger 1656, 1674 ff., 1681, 2085).
It is not possible, according to Catholic teaching, to avoid even the mere possibility of a conflict between sacred theology and science by delimiting beforehand and on principle the domain of reality to which the propositions asserted by each refer, in such a way that even the material object of each set of affirmations would be different from the start and as a consequence no contradiction at all would be possible (Denzinger 2109). God's Revelation can in fact and in principle concern realities which themselves are accessible to secular experience of a scientific or historical kind, so that on the one hand what Revelation states about them is open to possible threat of an eventual at least apparently opposed discovery of secular science and on the other hand natural science must in principle always reckon on a possible veto on the part of theology (Cf. Denzinger 1947 ff., 2187). A radical a priori division of the object to be known cannot resolve possible apparent conflicts, and so answer the question of who is ultimately competent to settle such conflicts for a human being who is at one and the same time both Christian and scientist and whose cognition is to form one whole. Nor can it settle the problem of the competence to decide competence, that is to say, the question who is ultimately to decide in any particular case whether the teaching Church or secular science has overstepped its limits. For Revelation in the ultimate resort and in principle claims the whole of reality as the possible subject-matter of its affirmations, even if only subrespectu salutis (in relation to salvation), and from this point of view even events and realities which are accessible to secular experience fall within its material scope. And as the magisterium claims to decide without appeal whether something is within its competence, its definitive judgment cannot be set aside by claim that it has acted ultra vires:
Though a real objective conflict between the two authorities is not possible, and though it is not possible, either, to assert with inescapable certainty and justification that such a conflict exists, it is nevertheless perfectly possible that for a shorter or longer time a positive settlement of an apparent conflict of the kind may not be reached. In other words, real tensions may make their appearance which really do not permit of immediate and direct resolution. This is not the place to examine whether and under what conditions someone may certainly and invinciblythink that he holds and must hold some secular proposition of a rigorously certain kind, (some truly "incontrovertible result of science"), whose compatibility with a doctrine of the faith he not merely cannot actually in fact perceive, but one whose incompatibility with the doctrines of faith he thinks he perceives with quite inescapable certainty. In such a case, if it exists, the scientist would, of course, be compelled to withdraw his assent to the legitimate teaching authority of the Church, if it were supposed that he really considered the certainty of the scientific "result" as definitively truer and surer than the grounds which he had previously believed he possessed in justification for the claim of the Church to teach. All the more so, of course, because the Church's own teaching denies him the expedient of a "double truth", and does not permit him to adapt the Church's doctrine by some de-mythologizing or other re-interpretation, in order to reconcile it with his scientific conviction. Such a case amounts to the same thing as the question whether a Catholic of the kind we need to postulate in this instance, namely a man with a scientific, philosophical and theological formation, could, without guilt, come to the subjectively honest conviction that he can no longer honestly and in conscience believe and affirm the Church's authority. The question we are putting is a real one only if it is possible, at least in the individual case, for there to be an inculpable apostasy of that kind, at least supposed or taken to be apostasy, for, of course, the man in question would remain a believer, because in possession of the "infused habitus of faith", but he would be a believer who was mistaken in thinking himself not to be one. As this much disputed and obscure problem in theology cannot be discussed here, the question we have just raised must also remain unanswered.
In the second section of this essay it will have to be considered whether at least in principle a relative demarcation of the respective domains of theology and science is possible even despite the comprehensive basic principle already laid down that the material or subject-matters of theology and the secular sciences partly overlap and that consequently it is impossible to avoid from the start absolutely all contact or conflict. Despite the principles already indicated, secular knowledge, its objects and methods, enjoys relative autonomy.
According to Catholic teaching, man in fact possesses a plurality of cognitive powers (Denzinger 1795 etc.). Indeed from a certain point of view, natural secular knowledge has a certain priority over revealed doctrine (Denzinger 553 $., 1622 ff., 1634 ff., 2305, 2319 ff. etc.), despite the comprehensive regulative character of this doctrine for Catholic scientists and their sciences. It follows as a matter of course that the subject-matter and method of the natural sciences are secular, that is to say, in principle they are of such a kind that Revelation itself forbids them to seek their source in Revelation and establishes their independence.
Revelation occurring historically and therefore at a certain point in space and time, within an existing world and its history, recognizes, therefore, that it is addressed to human beings who have already attained responsible self-awareness, even if this in fact is already enveloped by the principle which Revelation appeals to, grace. They are already therefore in possession of experience and of a certain conception of themselves, of which scientific knowledge, in however rudimentary a form, is a part. Revelation, therefore, is addressed to man in that state, and aims at initiating a dialogue. It is not intended simply to constitute entirely by itself a person who until then was wholly indeterminate. It is not merely that Revelation cannot in fact do so, but thar it has no intention of doing so. Of course the revealed word is intended to be the comprehensive principle of the whole of reality and consequently quite definitely of intellectual and human reality. It declares itself to be the highest, supreme authority from which there is no appeal to some superior court such as, for example, philosophy. But at the same time Revelation itself enters a sphere of reality which is also determined by other forces, which indeed derive from God, the author of Revelation, but which on that account cannot, in the actual form they take and in their special character, simply be derived from Revelation, which itself cannot simply be identified with God as he is in himself. Despite the pre-eminence of Revelation as the ultimate normative principle of the whole of the spiritual and intellectual life of man, therefore, a genuine dialogue ensues between two ultimate authorities which have a common origin only in God himself, but which in their created reality stand irreducibly separate from one another. This dialogue really has a history surprising and unpredictable to both partners and one which really influences both, including Revelation and, when this is closed, its theology, even if not by providing an actual source for theology or science. The possibility of reconciling the two authorities, and their enduring reconciliation, subjectively, in the Church as a whole, is never, therefore, realized by means of a principle that men can apply, but only in the promise of God that he, the source of both modes of knowledge, will again and again ensure in the Church as a whole that unity will remain possible to men, despite the duality of their sources of knowledge. As a consequence, the relation between Revelation, theology, and the Church's teaching office on the one hand, and natural science on the other, can be defined in the first place by the fact that the former is a norma negativa for the latter. In other words, revealed doctrine is not a source of the content of scientific statements nor a positive principle of scientific method and research. It is a negative regulating principle merely to the extent that, as a higher authority, it in certain circumstances declares, on the ground of higher knowledge and greater certainty, that this or that supposed result of natural science cannot objectively be correct, and cannot therefore be put forward as true by a scientist who wishes to remain a Christian, nor by his science, which is always an element in a man's actual living activity, and cannot be hypostatized into an autonomous entity. At the same time, the recognition that the proof of the rejected scientific thesis was not compelling an inescapable, objectively speaking at least, sets a fresh task for science.
It must be made clear, however, that this concept of a negative norm does not adequately define the relation between the two modes of knowledge. The deeper problems which it leaves untouched are usually dealt with under the heading of the relation between philosophy and theology and that of "Christian philosophy"2 What is said in that connection might, mutatis mutandis,3 be transferred to the relation between theology and science. The first set of problems would show that the latter set cannot be fully resolved merely by the use of the concept of norma negativa. The more limited a sphere of knowledge is, and the more peripheral its philosophical significance in relation to man, the less directly, therefore, it concerns man himself and what essentially defines his own existence, the more readily of course the teaching of the faith can be viewed as a mere norma negativa in regard to that science. To that extent the formula more or less fits physics and biology, though to different degrees, but more than it does philosophy and other branches of inquiry which directly concern man as a whole, in his totality.
2.Positive theses of sacred theology important for the scientific theory o f evolution
The Church has given express warning against an evolutionary theory that transposes knowledge regarding one definite domain in a uniform way to all domains, and on a monistic or pantheistic basis seeks a facile explanation of the reality and origin of everything in the concept of "development" or "evolution", and which finally ends up as a "dialectical materialism" (Denzinger 2305), or casts doubts on the essential difference between spirit and matter (Denzinger 2318, cf. 1802, 1804).
Man is one substance, but in such a way that his unity is ontologically prior to, and comprises, a real. and genuine, irreducible plurality of essential composition. Man is one by origin, nature and last end (Denzinger 255, 480ff., 738, 1655, 1911 ff., 1914). Consequently no statement can be made about anything in him, about one component in the plurality of his essential constitution, which can be quite without significance for the rest of him, nor could any statement be adequate even in a limited way, unless its actual precise meaning were drawn from its relation to the one human being in his unity. That has always to be remembered when there is talk of man's "body" and "soul". Every statement about one part of man implies another statement about the whole man. If it did not it would not be a statement that referred to the human being or to a "part" of him. It follows at once from the substantial unity of man that all problems are far from being solved when evolution of man's "body" is admitted, and excluded for his "soul". For the statement about his body implies one about his soul, and vice versa. The two statements have not, of course, the same content, but have a mutual relationship by reason of the dialectically complex ontological structure of the one entity which they both refer to, and they are only true and intelligible through this relationship. This substantial unity of man which is not a conjunction of already existing things, but holds variety in unity as the realization and accomplishment of one essence, is not only a defined truth of faith, but is a fundamental presupposition of the Christian understanding of man, his world and the history of his redemption. Only in that way, for example, can it be true that, as Tertullian put it, caro cardo salutis (the flesh is the hinge of salvation); that the Word became flesh; that there is no abyss between the secular world and the sacred economy of redemption; that there is a resurrection of the flesh; that we are redeemed by a death, that is, by what is also a biological event; that by signs and wonders the other world can announce itself in this tangible world; that the Church is a visible society with significance for salvation, and so on. It is, therefore, understandable that ecclesiastical theology was not swift and eager to accept a proffered harmonization of science and belief which delivered the body to science in order to save at least the soul for theology. Even from the point of view just mentioned, such a delimitation of respective domains can only be a pointer indicating that on account of the plurality in unity, both partners and authorities must really have their full say regarding the whole reality of man in his unity, though each will make its pronouncements with a different part of human reality as its basis.
There is, however, a genuine plurality of realities in man, which are not reducible to one another. What we term man's spiritual soul is not a mere mode or manifestation of what we designate as his materiality and corporeality (Denzinger738, 1802, 1910 ff., 2327). Conversely, matter is not the mere external manifestation of the finite spirit that we are. It cannot, therefore, be fully deduced and "understood" from a purely spiritual standpoint, as opposed to one which takes account from the start of human nature in its entirety, nor from an a priori standpoint, that makes nothing of the experience of the purely factitious and impenetrable character of matter. Both have their own irreducible essential character, which can only be posited indivisibly, but cannot be viewed as formed by the combination of other similar elementary parts. That holds for the spirituality of the person and for matter, as such and in general at least, to the extent that it cannot be derived from something that is other than itself and non-material.
Above all, the spiritual nature of the one human being in his unity must not be regarded, in the manner of pan-psychism or crude materialism, as a phenomenal manifestation or modality or complicated combination related to the "inner" side of matter generally. Its ontological root and ground is different in kind from matter, that is to say can only come about by the creative positing (Denzinger20, 170, 2327) of a truly new, original and different kind of reality, and not as something derivative. In this connection, authentic, original and therefore immutable essence (Denzinger 2306: imrrautabiles rerum essentiae; 2323), involves a genuine multiplicity of properties in one and the same being, which despite their variety, can only exist in the unity of that being and by virtue of its unity, and not apart from it. Consequently they do not first exist outside that unity and are put together to form the -being, so that any new features would merely be the consequence of the combination. It follows that there is a genuine purality of propositions to be made about man, and despite ultimate unity of a systematic doctrine of man (anthropology in that sense), there are in principle several sciences that can and must treat of man. These are as irreducible one another as their different subject-matters, which themselves necessarily follow from the complex nature of man, and . :they form a unity just as man does.
T'he constitutive principle essentially characterizing and .determining man's whole being is a simple, substantial "soul" (Denzinger 422, 429, 480, 738). Despite the unity of man, this• soul is different in kind from matter and is intrinsically :independent in being and meaning from matter (Denzinger 533, 1783, 1802, 1910 ff., 2327), and of its very nature immortal (Denzinger 738). Consequently the soul can only come into existence by the act which is called creation because it does not fashion from what is already there, but constitutes a new being in its irreducible uniqueness, and which therefore presupposes power absolutely independent of any datum, that is to say, God (Denzinger 2327).
To the extent that man in his ontological complexity is a corporeal and material being, he stands in causal connection with the whole material world. That is not only not disputed by the teaching of faith, but is positively affirmed by it (Denzinger :•. 1783; Gen. 2:7; 3:19). Yet that is not something merely platitudinous when we recall the ultimately original and derivative nature of man in his unity and totality. Consequently the affirmation of Scripture and the Church's doctrine that man, despite the irreducible specificity of his own nature, originates from the earth, was formed out of the already existing material universe, opens out, in principle and on the basis of revealed doctrine itself, the possibility of a scientific study of man, without prejudice to his direct relation to God and his incomparable uniqueness, within the framework of the material universe, not as an alien in it, but as from the start earthly and of this world. Such a possibility opened out by Scripture and the teaching of faith is not simply immediately and self-evidently a matter of course. In any case it is much more decisive than any momentary disagreements about the precise mode of this connection which is positively asserted by revealed doctrine. For this assertion is not one without fundamental theological significance, a mere concession to the empirical facts of material change and decay. It forms the basis of positive dogmatic statements, for example, those on the eschatological transfiguration of the whole universe and on the Incarnation of the Logos.
It appears to be of capital importance that Christians and theologians at the present time should reflect more clearly and attentively on the "obviousness" of this doctrine of the faith. They are still far from being sufficiently aware of the metaphysical and theological scope and implications of the simple statement that man was formed from the earth. We reduce it to insignificance and remove its ontological and theological sting, by construing it as though it said that man's body was taken from the earth and in doing so we think of "body" as meaning just what fits into the framework of our standard and superficial ideas, and as something that has nothing to do with the "soul". The original doctrine of faith (whether or not every official ecclesiastical pronouncement is fully adequate to it or not), is that man comes from the earth, that the whole man is concerned in this origin of his, which is at least "also" one of his sources. At any rate his material origin is a determining factor which affects the whole man. It is true that what it determines, itself varies with the various factors that go to constitute the complex nature of man. And from this point of view it can and must be said that the way man's earthly origin affects the "soul" and how it affects the "body" are specifically different. That is the case, provided it is correctly understood. But such shades and distinctions introduced into the affirmation are not rightly understood unless in advance man has been posited with an ontological and substantial unity of the strictest kind, which permits and requires statements to be made about him that are prior in themselves, and not merely in some subsequent formal systematization, because they concern the one complete human being in his totality. Nor are they rightly understood unless it is always clearly remembered that "soul" is not a thing on its own, which at any given moment can exist or be understood really independently of a relation to matter, but is the name of one component in the inner complexity of the one human being. Even on that basis it is evident, and we shall frequently have occasion to return to this evident truth, that a scientific study of man is really a legitimate branch of inquiry, because and if it takes its rise from what is one of man's origins. It is evident, too, that a science of man is truly an anthropology and not a somatology or something of the kind, provided that it remains conscious of the partial nature of the source of its inquiry, does not shut itself off in isolation, contrary to its own nature as science, and does not constitute itself as the absolute and sole science. It has to remain clearly aware that as a scientific inquiry it not only has its source where the object of its investigation originates, but derives equally from the source of the inquiry itself, from the mind, that is, of which it possesses a fundamental, primordial concept, even if this concept is not made a topic of the scientific inquiry. The scientific inquirer already knows what inquiry is, even before the object inquired into has given an actual answer to the particular question put to it.
As regards the way man is connected with the whole of material reality, the Church's teaching permits us, without prejudice to the rights of the magisterium, which are expressly reserved, and providing the soul's direct creation by God is maintained, to think of man's original connection with nature as a whole as involving a real ontological connection between the animal kingdom and man's corporeal nature. Any attitude is to be avoided which would suggest that such an evolutionary theory is iam certa omnino ac demonstrata, already quite certain and proved apodictically, and that it is quite plainly outside the range of competence of the sources of Revelation (Denzinger 2327). Earlier ecclesiastical pronouncements on the matter, before Plus XII's Allocution (Denzinger 2285) and the Encyclical Humani Generis, are therefore superseded, or must and can be interpreted in this sense, the Reply of the Biblical Commission of 1909 (Denzinger 2123), for example. (Compare the Letter of the Biblical Commission to Cardinal Suhard, Denzinger 2302, 2329.) Though the Encyclical refuses to describe the theory of evolution as an absolutely certain and strictly demonstrated theory, the word hucusque (until now) which it uses must be noticed, as well as the fact that the Encyclical recognizes positive reasons in favour of the theory (rationes faventes), and. clearly does not intend to prevent the scientist within his domain of inquiry from affirming evolution as being to all extents and purposes established, as a fundamental conception, that is, which can also be applied to mankind, rather than as one of various special theories which are still largely controverted. For it must be noted that the Church's magisterium as such cannot and does not seek to attribute to itself any real competence to decide on the degree of intrinsic scientific probability of a theory in cases where it does not at least provisionally declare the theory to be contrary to the teaching of Revelation. The magisterium can only reject a scientific theory if directly or indirectly it contradicts a revealed doctrine. Consequently its competence ceases on principle when such a contradiction is not the basis of the argument. We can therefore regard this affirmation of the Encyclical regarding the degree of scientific certainty as an observation made in passing, of a purely factual kind, which the scientist himself can evaluate by re-examining his arguments and more precisely determining the very obscure concepts of certainty, proof and so on. Where the magisterium does not reject a secular doctrine as directly or indirectly opposed to Revelation, it can only note the degree of probability attributed to the theory by secular science, state this and take it into account for the purpose of its own reflections, but cannot establish and pronounce upon it. Even from this point of view it cannot in principle be forbidden for a Catholic scientist to attribute a higher degree of probability to the theory than the Encyclical, which in fact does no more than report what is generally held in scientific circles. He is consequently free to infer his right to go forward in this question carefully and slowly.
There is, of course, no doubt of the actual correctness of the magisterium's observation regarding the degree of probability so far achieved in this matter. A responsible scientist will not regard the theory as absolutely certain in every respect and as strictly demonstrated, even if he ascribes a certain pragmatic certainty to it such as is appropriate in the scientific domain. He would only find himself in opposition to the attitude of reserve expressed in the Encyclical if he were to claim for his theory such certainty that any further right of the magisterium to speak would be absolutely excluded from the start. We need not recall here the history of what led up to the declaration of Humani Generis (which is doctrinal in character, even if it does not constitute a dogmatic definition), starting with the pronouncement of the local synod at Cologne in 1860 rejecting evolution in any form, the censure passed on the works of theologians favourable to evolution, such as M. D. Leroy (1895) and P. Zahm (1899), the decree of the Biblical Commission in 1909, the tacit toleration of works favourable to evolution by theologians such as Ruschkamp (1935), Messenger (1931), Perier (1938), down to Pius XII's Allocution to the Papal Academy of Sciences in 1941. The story is both instructive and painful, yet at the same time understandable.
Another observation must be made. Though the declaration in the Encyclical is presented as provisional, revocable and subject to revision, and quite rightly so in view of the present state of theology, science and the stage reached in the problem itself, nevertheless in practice a real revision of the position adopted is not to be expected. Changes on the scientific side cannot essentially modify this decision of a theological kind. That is perfectly clear as regards an increase in the certainty of scientific knowledge regarding the actual fact of evolution. But even if the case were the other way round, nothing would be changed, theologically speaking. The magisterium does not judge on the basis of scientific knowledge. The latter is merely the external occasion which provokes a more precise examination of the data that derive from theology's own sources and methods. The theological recognition, now achieved, that a quite possibly correct theory of evolution does not conflict with the data of Revelation, would still be correct even if in the meantime that theory turned out to be false, just as the present attitude of the Church to the Copernican system would not need to change even if that system turned out to be false. In the minds of men and in the Church, a revealed truth can be compatible with an error in secular matters, as can be seen from the very fact that the Church declares contrary theories in theology to be equally "safe", that is to say, without danger to Revelation. But a revision of the newly occupied position is not to be expected on theological grounds either. It is, of course, correct, generally speaking, that a previously tolerated doctrine can, as a consequence of later development of dogma, be recognized as false, and it is even possible that a contrary doctrine may be defined. But it is hardly possible to point to any example in the history of dogma where a thesis that at first was generally rejected by theology was later expressly and officially permitted and then was once again rejected. Such a thing would not merely mean that the Church's knowledge and certainty can slowly grow, which is indisputable, but that a clarity and certainty already achieved can be abandoned once more, and that by a positive measure taken by the magisterium itself. We may well think that incompatible with the nature of a teaching authority guided by the Spirit.
Nor is it clear where a new increase of theological clarity and certainty regarding some anti-evolutionary thesis could come from. The arguments against evolution have been so explicitly and thoroughly expounded in the Catholic theology of the last eighty years, that it is not to be expected that later on they will become even more evident, in relation to the Church's awareness of what she believes, than they are now, and so become capable of providing new and certain grounds for rejecting the theory of evolution of a kind that have been declared to be not yet at present available. Even less to be expected is a retrospective revision of the exegetical principles for the interpretation of Genesis that have been worked out in the course of the last century and which in the end have led to theological toleration of the theory of evolution. Genuine progress exists even in theology, and it is recognized and accepted by the teaching Church. The exegetical principles referred to, do in fact represent a real progress, and this forbids any retrospective revision even of the position at present reached in the question of evolution. The conditional reserve expressed in Humani Generis regarding an eventual change in the attitude of the magisterium, may, therefore, more appropriately be regarded as one of principle than as having any practical significance. There are other similar examples, for instance the controversy on actual grace (De auxiliis, Denzinger 1090), or on the Johannine Comma (Denzinger 2198), or on Attrition (Denzinger 1146). In these, the Holy See reserved to itself the possibility of further pronouncements, but in practice they did not ensue, and probably will never in. any foreseeable future be made.
As regards the set of metaphysical and theological problems raised by the official declaration of the Church that a theory of the evolution of man's body is not objected to, but that it would be heretical to extend it to the soul, these will have to be gone into later in a wider context.
The present position of the Church's official teaching can also perhaps be made clearer by reference to the views of theologians at the present day. The following are a few brief indications. From the middle of the last century until the first decades of the twentieth, the theory of evolution was almost unanimously rejected by theologians and by some it was explicitly declared to be heretical (for example, Perrone, Mazzella, B. Jungmann, J. Katschthaler). Appeal was made to the testimony of Scripture, which was to be understood "literally". A similarly "literal" interpretation of the account of the formation of Eve from Adam was made the foundation of the argument that Adam must also have been created by God just as miraculously and directly. Reference was made to Tradition, especially to the Decree of the Biblical Commission in 1909 which laid down that a special creation (peculiaris creatio) of the first man was to be held to be the literal historical sense intended by the second chapter of Genesis. The slow change of opinion, therefore, took place almost wholly behind the façade of published theology, a fact which presents some rather delicate aspects. Since Pius XII officially declared the matter open to discussion, theology has, of course, presented a different and more varied picture. There are still theologians who reject any transformism in regard to mankind, though they have become more reserved and modest in characterizing the degree of theological certainty that they attach to its rejection when a cautious and moderate theory of evolution is in question. This opinion is represented by Cardinal Ruffini, and the theologians Ternus, Boyer, Daffara, Baisi, Sagues, Rabeneck and Siwek. Nevertheless among theologians themselves the number has increased of those who expressly maintain as theologians the compatibility of a theory of biological evolution, not extending to the whole reality of man, with the teaching of the Church and the sources of Revelation. Thus, for example, B. Marcozzi, Schmaus, Colombo, Carles, and Catholic exegetes of the present day more or less generally; exegetes seem to be more progressive or less embarrassed than dogmatic theologians. Sagues remarked as late as 1955 that the thesis hostile to evolution is "saltem communius" (at least more common) among theologians. Only very exhaustive examination of the whole theological literature of the subject could determine whether the remark was correct. It is quite possible to question it, all the more so as the change of view has taken place more rapidly in the oral teaching of lectures (which are much more numerous and livelier than printed textbooks), than in printed books, which are few and always voice the views of only a small number of theologians. In any case it is to be expected that the state of opinion described will change very rapidly in favour of freedom to maintain a theory of evolution. In relation to the tempo of Catholic theology, twenty years is a short time.
If nowadays ecclesiastical professors and teachers of theology were asked whether they consider themselves indubitably or probably bound by the principles of their faith and of their special branch of study, to reject the moderate theory of evolution, which is restricted to man's body, as incompatible with Christian belief or the certain data of theology, or whether they would like to see a new restrictive measure taken by the official teaching Church because it would be objectively correct and opportune, even in spite of the present situation of mankind, in which an anti-evolutionary tendency would create great additional difficulties in belief, there is no doubt at all that by far the greater proportion of theologians in Central Europe and North America would answer No. Very likely the majority in other Catholic countries would be of the same opinion. It is better to leave out of account the views of theologians behind the various "Iron curtains", because if they were counted towards a majority, their testimony could be objected to as not entirely freely given. Furthermore, it must always be clearly noted that when the theory of evolution is declared theologically permissible, it is really no longer the business of theologians themselves to decide for or against the theory itself, for in the circumstances that we are postulating, that theory would not be susceptible of solution by their methods of inquiry, but remains a matter for scientists. The theologian for his part has primarily only to ask whether in the name of Revelation he must reject the evolutionary thesis or whether he is not obliged to do so. If he can see no objection, he can take an interest in the question again when it is taught by scientists with some certainty. What questions then present themselves for the theologian we shall have to consider later.
2Cf. the excellent survey by J. B. Metz in Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche, III (°1959) cols 1141-7.
3That is to say, taking into account the a posteriori and specialist character of the various natural sciences as compared with the a priori, transcendental character of philosophy.