In comments appearing in diocesan newspapers across the United States, Father Michael Guinan, a professor of Old Testament at the Franciscan School of Theology in Berkeley, California, has dismissed the teaching of Venerable Pius XII on polygenism and the Catechism of the Catholic Churchon the historicity of Adam and Eve.
In his 1950 encyclical Humani Generis,Pope Pius taught that
When, however, there is question of another conjectural opinion, namely polygenism, the children of the Church by no means enjoy such liberty. For the faithful cannot embrace that opinion which maintains either that after Adam there existed on this earth true men who did not take their origin through natural generation from him as from the first parent of all or that Adam represents a certain number of first parents. Now it is in no way apparent how such an opinion can be reconciled with that which the sources of revealed truth and the documents of the Teaching Authority of the Church propose with regard to original sin, which proceeds from a sin actually committed by an individual Adam and which through generation is passed on to all and is in everyone as his own.
Father Guinan told Catholic News Service–which did not publish comments from other scholars with orthodox views–that in the decades since the encyclical’s publication, “the Catholic Church has accepted the use of historical-critical tools to understand the Scriptures … The question of biological origins is a scientific one; and, if science shows that there is no evidence of monogenism and there is lots of evidence for polygenism, then a Catholic need have no problem accepting that.”
Commenting on the Catechism of the Catholic Church’steaching that “the account of the fall in Genesis … uses figurative language, but affirms a primeval event, a deed that took place at the beginning of the history of man,” Father Guinan, who taught for 13 years at the San Francisco archdiocesan seminary, said:
It recognizes that Genesis is figurative language, but it also wants to hold to historicity. Unfortunately, you can’t really have both. The Catechism is clearly not the place to argue theological discussions, so whoever wrote it decided, as it were, to have it both ways.
“The man and woman of Genesis … are intended to represent an Everyman and Everywoman,” he added. “They are paradigms, figurative equivalents, of human conduct in the face of temptation, not lessons in biology or history. The Bible is teaching religion, not science or literalistic history.”
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