Creationism Apart of Ordinary and Universal Magisterium?

I realize that there is a ban on debating creationism, so I would like to avoid that entirely.

My question though is this: Doesn’t a literal creationism meet the qualifications for an infallible teaching under the ordinary and universal magisterium of the Church? Jimmy Akin lays out the formula, according to the CCC, for a teaching falling under the ordinary and universal magisterium as follows:

This sets forth a number of conditions required for the exercise of infallibility when the bishops are not gathered in an ecumenical council: (1) the bishops are teaching while “maintaining the bond of communion among themselves and with the successor of Peter”, (2) they are “authentically teaching matters of faith and morals”, and (3) “they are in agreement on one position as definitively to be held.”

Looking back into history, the overwhelming majority of bishops prior to 1700 held to a literal 6-day creation. Even those that dissented believed in an instantaneous creation followed by 6 days of development of some kind, or an instantaneous creation with 6 days acting as allegory for the teaching. Here is a link by a creationist documenting this:

So here we have bishops teaching in communion with one another, an issue of faith, and they are all in agreement on the issue. Yes, some bishops believed the 6 days were allegorical, but virtually no one believed the earth was created in more than 6 days. In fact, I cannot find a single instance in the first 500 years of Christianity or so of anyone holding to a purely allegorical view. Even if there are some exceptions in the first 500 years, surely the majority of the Church seemed to be on the same page. I can find more dissent on the real presence of Christ than I can on this, and I think the Church would definitely hold that to be protected by the ordinary magisterium (as well as the extraordinary).


I have lots of thoughts.:smiley:

First. Regarding the guidelines that you quoted.
This sets forth a number of conditions required for the exercise of infallibility when the bishops are not gathered in an ecumenical council: (1) the bishops are teaching while “maintaining the bond of communion among themselves and with the successor of Peter”, (2) they are “authentically teaching matters of faith and morals”, and (3) “they are in agreement on one position as definitively to be held.”
Please note number (2) which specifies teaching matters of faith and morals. Genesis 1:1 is basic Catholic Faith. Genesis 1:2 is an explanation of some of the physical/material aspects or elements of the material world. Precise knowledge of the material universe, aka natural science, is not a matter of faith or morals.

Clarification about ban. Here is the sticky at the top of this Forum.

Sticky: Temporary Ban on Evolution/Atheism Threads
It is effective in both the Apologetics and Sacred Scripture Forums. Check **sticky **notes for other Forums.

In addition to the faith and morals requirement grannymh raised (which is the most important point), a) there is a difference between the bishops all being in agreement on one position, and the bishops all being in agreement on one position** as definitively to be held,** which is a much stronger requirement, and b) the current bishops don’t seem to think so.

For a), take as an example the issue of limbo. So far as I have read, the theory of limbo used to be pretty widely held to be true, but was never held as something that must be held to be true. So even on an issue that is unambiguously an issue of faith, general consensus is not enough. (The issue of women priests, for another type of example, is different - it is taught not only that it is not possible, but that we most hold that it is not possible.)

For b), the Church isn’t going to lose its memory and suddenly decide that something that it has infallibly declared to be true is no longer necessary to believe. And it has clearly said that Catholics are not required to believe in Creationism.

And finally, I suggest taking anything you read on that website with a pretty large grain of salt, and point you towards St. Augustine’s response to similar uses of scripture.

A very good source on this is

** Chance or Purpose? Creation, Evolution and a Rational Faith by Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn (Oct 25, 2007) **

I actually had the chance to speak with Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn through CA Live and discussed this very issue with him. He points out that the church has no infallible teaching on this, so we are able to discern by faith and reason what we believe, so long as God is the creator.

By “creationism” do you mean the Young Earth theories, or something else?

You might also check out the number of creation threads that have been closed.

*]Teaching the Earth is 4.5 BILLION years old
*]Creation, wanting answers from Catholics and NonCatholics
*]Refuting Old Earth Creationism - Help
*] Did the Church Flip-Flop on Genesis/Evolution?
*]Is the world really only 6000 years old?
*]If 6000 plus yrs is unacceptable,?

That must have been pretty cool! :slight_smile:

It has to be intended to be definite. How this would actual happen is anyone’s guess…

Is it a faith issue, or is it a faith-based interpretation of a scientific issue? In other words, were the bishops teaching on the basis of their understanding of geological history, or on the basis of their understanding of the faith? It seems to me more likely that the former is the case, whereas the latter is covered by that idea of the Magisterium.

Those who held to an “instantaneous” creation did not necessarily mean everything was created instantaneously at once in its final form. For example, St. Augustine puts forward this idea in his work “the Literal Meaning of Creation.” In Book 6 on the creation of man, he explains the idea that the six days represent not literal days, but a scheme or plan of creation. The actual creation during those “days” was instantaneous and of things in potency and causation, but not necessarily their final visible form which would be shaped later over time. For example, he places the actual formation of man’s body after the seventh day:

[quote=St. Augustine]There can be no doubt, then, that the work whereby man was formed from the slime of the earth and a wife fashioned for him from his side belongs not to that creation by which all thing were made together, after completing which, God rested, but to that work of God which takes place with the unfolding of the ages as He works even now.

I find this explanation interesting as well because it explains why there are two separate creation accounts of man.

Many people may have held to a particular opinion about how creation came about, but I don’t see any evidence that they were unanimous that this understanding was a dogma of faith that all needed to hold, and that to deny it was heresy. Teaching something and teaching it as a dogma are two different things.

In fact, the development of organisms, the age of the earth, etc. are things which can be discovered by natural means using natural reason. As such, they wouldn’t really fall into the realm of dogma, which can only be known by the revelation of God received by faith.

I found three articles that might help:

Creation and Genesis - by Catholic Answers

How was the Genesis account of creation interpreted before Darwin? - by Biologos

St. Augustine on Evolution - by the Catholic Apologetics Insitute of North America

I think these articles demonstrate that there was a variety of opinions in the early Church about how to interpret the Genesis account. Statements by St. Clement of Alexandria and Origen appear to suggest a purely allegorical view. St. Cyprian and St. Augustine appear to have allowed for long amounts of time. Even St. Thomas Aquinas has some statements that appear to support the idea of gradual evolutionary change.

For these and other reasons, I don’t think it’s safe to say that there was a general consensus on this point. Also, even among the Church Fathers who appear to have believed in something similar to Young Earth Creationism, I don’t think they asserted it as an article of faith. It was their interpretation, but I don’t think they held that other beliefs were heretical. If I’m correct about that, then the second criteria of the ordinary magisterium does not appear to be fulfilled in this case: I don’t think the Church Fathers taught anything like Young Earth Creationism as a matter of faith or morals.

Is that any help?

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