Robert, this issue is really bothering me. Please, if you have time, I'd love to know your thoughts,
Vatican I said the following:
A) If anyone does not confess that the world and all things which are contained in it, both spiritual and material, were produced, according to their whole substance, out of nothing by God; or holds that God did not create by his will free from all necessity, but as necessarily as he necessarily loves himself; or denies that the world was created for the glory of God: let him be anathema. (Vatican Council I).
QUESTION: Yet, we know that God created Adam out of pre-existing non-living matter (the dust of the earth). How can we reconcile this fact with what Vatican I taught?)
R. Sungenis: Because the dust of the earth does not contain all of the elements needed to create man, and therefore, it is inconsequential whether the dust was used or not, since, in the large, man had to be created ex nihilo. The dust is merely classified as a mediate process, not an immediate or necessary process.
B) In Humani Generis, Pius XII stated that:
36. For these reasons the Teaching Authority of the Church does not forbid that, in conformity with the present state of human sciences and sacred theology, research and discussions, on the part of men experienced in both fields, take place with regard to the doctrine of evolution, in as far as it inquires into the origin of the human body as coming from pre-existent and living matter - for the Catholic faith obliges us to hold that souls are immediately created by God.”
QUESTION: You pointed out that the pope was merely not prohibiting Catholic experts from discussing the issues, in order to give the biblical perspective a fair say. However, his reasoning for allowing discussion of the evolution of the body from pre-existing and non-living matter was, in his words: “for the Catholic faith obliges us to hold that souls are immediately created by God.” It would seem that it is reasonable to interpret the pope as saying, “the soul is off limits, but the body is fair game, since the Church has no law against the evolution of the body from pre-existing and living matter.” Why else would he say, “for the Catholic faith obliges us to hold that souls are immediately created by God”?
R. Sungenis: Because the Church has already allowed the position of St. Augustine, a position that puts any teaching on physical matter (except the Eucharist) in a wait-and-see status, whereas spiritual matters are definitive and cannot be objected to or disproven by science. If science can prove any of its theories about physical matter, then the Church will oblige and concede and interpret Scripture accordingly. Hence, the Church will always be investigating the claims of science for that very purpose, and this investigation requires “discussion” between the Church and science. Underneath it all, however, science won’t be able to prove its claims (especially in regard to cosmogony), since it is the very nature of science to be severely handicapped in such areas. The Church knows about this handicap, and therefore, when it allows “discussion” it is more or less a polite gesture towards science, but certainly not an admission of ignorance. In regard to Vatican I’s statement (which comes from Lateran IV), the Church will continue to hold a literal interpretation of this dogma until if and when science could prove it wrong, which it never will. In fact, various Catholic evolutionists are quite aware of Lateran IV’s dogma and, in turn, they have tried to change the meaning of various words in the dogma to fit evolutionary theory. I have written about this elsewhere.