Donum Immortalitatis & Evolution

Hello,

I’ve been reading some articles discussing the compatibility between Catholic theology and Evolution. Gladly, I was relieved to see that there are seemingly no direct contradictions.

My only concern was this:

According to Pius XII’s 1950 encyclical Humani Generis 36–37, our first parents “were also endowed with donum immortalitatis, i.e., the gift of bodily immortality.”

This statement by Pope Pius is clearly an attempt to explain the natural world - which I am not necessarily opposed to.

Knowing, however, that this is in direct contradiction to a proven scientific truth (according to modern biology), doesn’t this suggest that this “infallible” teaching (de Fide) is wrong, which could possibly undermine the entire authenticity of the Church?

Could anyone help me to reconcile this dogma with our evolution?

Many thanks and blessings,

André L.

Where did you learn Latin? The Latin phrase for “the gift of bodily immortality” would be “donum et corpus immortalitatis.” The document you cite omits “corpus” (body). This is your own translation, and it introduces a critical term that is not present in Our Holy Father’s actual teaching.

If you remove “bodily” from your question (as it is unsupported in your citation), you arrive at a perfectly Catholic idea that EVERYONE is immortal - but not necessarily in our bodies, but also in our spirit.

That’s a good point actually. Unforuntately, my latin skills are a bit rusty. I actually borrowed the translation from the following site (and have seen several others with the same translation).

catholicfirst.com/thefaith/churchdocuments/dogmas.html

As you can see below, the site lists several of the Church’s dogmas (along with their respective contextual translations):


The donum rectitudinis or integritatis in the narrower sense, i.e., the freedom from irregular desire. (Sent. fidei proxima.)
The donum immortalitatis, i.e., bodily immortality. (De fide.)
The donum impassibilitatis, i.e., the freedom from suffering. (Sent. communis.)
The donum scientiae, i.e., a knowledge of natural and supernatural truths infused by God. (Sent. communis.)

Are you suggesting that our Holy Father simply meant “Spiritual Immorality”? If so, I have two questions:

  1. Why have I not seen this translation (i.e. ‘the gift of immortality’) on any other site? (As a student of linguistics, I can surely tell you that sometimes what appears to be a simple translation often refers to a highly specific concept that, if literally translated, would not only be misleading, but contextually incorrect.)

  2. What changed? “Spiritual Immortality” simply means “people’s souls don’t die”. If people’s souls didn’t die before our first parents and they don’t die after our first parents, why did our Holy Father even find this worth mentioning? (In other words, what effect did Adam and Eve’s “disobedience” have at all, if, in the end, spiritual death was not possible to begin with?)

After all, just a few lines down in this very encyclical, Pope Pius writes, “Our first parents became subject to death and to the dominion of the Devil.” (Note here that the word “became” denotes a change - that is, one did not die before this. If so, he could have used a static verb [e.g. **were] but deliberately chose not to. Having said that, my final question is, is the Pope speaking of a ‘physical death’ or a ‘spiritual one’, which, going by what you suggested earlier, was never possible to begin with?)

I look forward to your response and thank you again for your assistance.

Best,

AL

I am “suggesting” nothing. I am ASSERTING that the Holy Father did not refer to “bodily” immortality. It should be common knowledge among Catholics that the Latin word “Corpus” refers to “body.” We celebrate the Feast of Corpus Christi, and the figure attached to Catholic Crucifixes is known as the Corpus (body). This little bit of Latin should be familiar to many Catholics, but it was absent from Our Holy Father’s teaching that you cite.

If so, I have two questions:

  1. Why have I not seen this translation (i.e. ‘the gift of immortality’) on any other site? (As a student of linguistics, I can surely tell you that sometimes what appears to be a simple translation often refers to a highly specific concept that, if literally translated, would not only be misleading, but contextually incorrect.)

Probably because, if you Google the phrase, you will find many more “hits” for Dungeons and Dragons" than Catholic sites. But, c’mon - you know that I’m right. Run it through Google Translate if you have doubts. If you can offer any subtleties that are inferred by the OMISSION of some text, feel free to elaborate here.

  1. What changed? “Spiritual Immortality” simply means “people’s souls don’t die”. If people’s souls didn’t die before our first parents and they don’t die after our first parents, why did our Holy Father even find this worth mentioning? (In other words, what effect did Adam and Eve’s “disobedience” have at all, if, in the end, spiritual death was not possible to begin with?)

Spiritual death was never possible, but salvation was not possible without Jesus.

Please excuse this dumb question.

In English, what is the full sentence (Humani Generis 36–37) you are describing plus the context sentences above and below. I am having trouble locating these. This granny brain is not yet awake.

Link to Humani Generis

vatican.va/holy_father/pius_xii/encyclicals/documents/hf_p-xii_enc_12081950_humani-generis_en.html

For that matter, if I may ask: Where are you getting this so-called encyclical?

The Vatican website has this encyclical in English, Latin, and several other languages, and I see nothing like *immortality *(bodily or otherwise) mentioned in either of them?

:shrug:
tee

Thank you all so much for your intriguing responses.

After looking through the document on the Vatican website, I must admit that I see no such statement neither in Latin nor English about “Bodily Immortality”. Does that mean that the priest responding to a question about the truths we are “required” to believe was wrong? (Please see the following link: ewtn.com/vexperts/showmessage_print.asp?number=574255&language=en)::slight_smile:

Answer by Fr. John Echert on 05-05-2009:
That is nonsense. Here are defined truths (dogmatic) that the Catholic Church requires us to accept as absolute and are not subject to negotiation:

God was moved by His Goodness to create the world. (De Fide)

The world was created for the Glorification of God. (De Fide)

The Three Divine Persons are one single, common Principle of the Creation. (De Fide)

God created the world free from exterior compulsion and inner necessity. (De Fide)

God has created a good world. (De Fide)

The world had a beginning in time. (De Fide)

God alone created the world. (De Fide)

God keeps all created things in existence. (De Fide) God, through His Providence, protects and guides all that He has created. (De Fide)

The first man was created by God. (De Fide)

Man consists of two essential parts – a material body and a spiritual soul. (De Fide)

Every human being possesses an individual soul. (De Fide) Our first parents, before the Fall, were endowed with sanctifying grace. (De Fide)

**The donum immortalitatis, i.e. the divine gift of bodily immortality of our first parents. (De Fide)
**
Our first parents in paradise sinned grievously through transgression of the Divine probationary commandment. (De Fide)

Through the original sin our first parents lost sanctifying grace and provoked the anger and the indignation of God. (De Fide)

Our first parents became subject to death and to the dominion of the Devil. (De Fide)

Thanks, Shelly

Father Echert

Again, I just want to confirm that I am NOT required to believe such.

Also, wouldn’t a mere “spiritual immorality” render the following statement incorrect from, GAUDIUM ET SPES, 1965:

Although the mystery of death utterly beggars the imagination, the Church has been taught by divine revelation and firmly teaches that man has been created by God for a blissful purpose beyond the reach of earthly misery. In addition, **that bodily death from which man would have been immune **had he not sinned(14) will be vanquished, according to the Christian faith, when man who was ruined by his own doing is restored to wholeness by an almighty and merciful Saviour.

(Please see the following source: vatican.va/archive/hist_councils/ii_vatican_council/documents/vat-ii_cons_19651207_gaudium-et-spes_en.html)

Is the Pope, according to your view, wrong here and am I required to believe this?

Thanks for your help and have a great day,

AL

Answer by Fr. John Echert on 05-05-2009:
That is nonsense. Here are defined truths (dogmatic) that the Catholic Church requires us to accept as absolute and are not subject to negotiation:

God was moved by His Goodness to create the world. (De Fide)

The world was created for the Glorification of God. (De Fide)

The Three Divine Persons are one single, common Principle of the Creation. (De Fide)

God created the world free from exterior compulsion and inner necessity. (De Fide)

God has created a good world. (De Fide)

The world had a beginning in time. (De Fide)

God alone created the world. (De Fide)

God keeps all created things in existence. (De Fide) God, through His Providence, protects and guides all that He has created. (De Fide)

The first man was created by God. (De Fide)

Man consists of two essential parts – a material body and a spiritual soul. (De Fide)

Every human being possesses an individual soul. (De Fide) Our first parents, before the Fall, were endowed with sanctifying grace. (De Fide)

The donum immortalitatis, i.e. the divine gift of bodily immortality of our first parents. (De Fide)

Our first parents in paradise sinned grievously through transgression of the Divine probationary commandment. (De Fide)

Through the original sin our first parents lost sanctifying grace and provoked the anger and the indignation of God. (De Fide)

Our first parents became subject to death and to the dominion of the Devil. (De Fide)

Thanks, Shelly

Father Echert

Again, I just want to confirm that I am NOT required to believe such.

If I saw this list for the first time, I would be overwhelmed. If that is your feeling, it is understandable.

One way to tackle this list is to start with the answer to this question. Does God exist?

The existence of God is a must Catholic doctrine. Now go back to the list and checkmark every statement which applies to God. Next, study the first statement which you checkmarked. If that statement sounds reasonable about God and you do believe it, mark that statement o.k. because it is a Catholic doctrine which is to be believed. Please keep doing this for every checkmarked statement.

The next step is to look at the statements that are not o.k. Post those. When I can, I will get back to you and together we will study these statements. From my granny perspective, there are a couple of statements which could be worded better. If you will be patient with me, I will find a better way of saying the same thing, the same doctrine.

Note: You can use a similar process on statements which do not have a checkmark. Let’s wait until you get to that point and we can discuss options. For now, it is important to get God straightened out.

In this case, it might be helpful to see a little more explanation of the teaching. From Ott’s Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma:

b) The donum immortalitatis, i.e., bodily immortality.
(De fide.)

The Council of Trent teaches that Adam fell under the sentence of death as a
punishment for sin: Si quis non confitetur, primum hominem Adam . . .
incurrisse per offensam praevaricationis huiusmodi iram et indignationem Dei
atque mortem, quam antea illi comminatus fuerat Deus, … A.S. D 788 ;
Cf. D 101, 175, 1078, 2123.
Holy Writ records that God threatened and imposed death as punishment
for the transgression of His probationary commandment. Gn. 2, 17; 3, 19.
Cf. Wis. 1, 13 : “For God made not death.” Wis. 2, 24: “But by the envy
of the devil death came into the world.” Rom. 5, 12.: “By one man sin
entered into the world and by sin death.”
The gift of immortality is, as St. Augustine teaches (De Gen. ad Litt. VI 25, 36),
to be conceived as posse non mori (= the possibility of not dying) not as non
posse mori (== impossibility of dying). The Fathers regarded bodily immortality as being transmitted through the tree of life (Gn. 2, 9; 3, 22).

Perhaps you too will find St Augustine’s and the Fathers’ distinctions helpful?

tee

Grannymh, thank you so much for that kindly-worded, genuine response. It really does mean a lot to me. In fact, I don’t have such much of a doubt about God (as I believe everything else on that list), I simply wanted to know about the specific teaching of “Donum Immortalitatis.”

tee_eff_em, I also thank you for your answer. According to what you pasted,

**the Council of Trent teaches that Adam fell under the sentence of death as a
punishment for sin. **

Isn’t this teaching, then, incorrect? Adam would have died, scientifically speaking, regardless of whether he sinned or not. After all, evolution, which only works because people die and pass along modified genes, was occurring long before Adam (and will take place long after him.) How does the Church reconcile this dogmatic teaching, which clearly seeks to explain the natural world, with known proven scientific fact?

Thanks again… to everyone!

AL

We all look at things differently. My question would be the converse. How does science reconcile its theories with the Truth revealed by God?

You see something is not exactly proven when you ignore those factors that would otherwise prove the theory wrong.

If you really want to get to the bottom of this, you have a lot of work (prayer, study, participation in the mass and the sacraments, and loving action) ahead of you. This is not a purely intellectual exercise; it can’t be spoon-fed to you. Faith requires a total commitment to God. With the grace of the Holy Spirit you will grow in understanding, knowledge and wisdom.

Miracles are always seemingly impossible in view of modern science, but the God who made the scientific laws can just as well set them aside. The reason miracles like immortality are not incompatible with modern science is because scientific laws do not bind the hand of God.

Perhaps using a time line will help.

Point 1. is the creation of Adam, whose living human nature is an unique unification of a rational spiritual soul and decomposing anatomy.

Since we are his descendants, we can say that our nature is basically the same as Adam’s and/or Adam’s basic human nature is the same as ours. We know that Adam started out with a material anatomy because he had to eat. And you are correct, scientifically speaking, Adam would eventually die.

One difference between Adam post-Fall and ourselves is that Adam was created in the state of Original Holiness aka state of Sanctifying Grace. If Adam had not scorned our Creator, we would have been born in the state of Sanctifying Grace.

Point 2. God freely gives Adam the special the gift of bodily immortality. This does not change Adam’s natural need for material nourishment. It simply means that while the natural biological processes continue, there is the possibility that Adam’s material anatomy does not suffer death.

Points one and two would have taken place at the same time. We separate them in order to understand the difference between the natural anatomy which would eventually die and the generous gift of bodily immortality. The catch is that Adam had to remain in the divine intimacy of sharing in God’s life.

Point 3. Adam disobeys God’s direct command. This very serious sin breaks Adam’s relationship, divine intimacy, with his Creator and consequently, he loses the gift of bodily immortality.

Point 4. Adam is now back to square one with his material decomposing anatomy subject to death. Because the Council of Trent refers to the “sentence of death” as something which will occur at some point, we know that Adam will die eventually like the rest of living organisms.

Regarding Original Sin. The Catechism of the Catholic Church, Second Edition, paragraphs 396-409 is a good source of information. Basic human nature information begins with paragraph 355. Also recommended are paragraphs 1730-1732.

If you have questions …….

Links to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, Second Edition

[FONT=Calibri]usccb.org/beliefs-and-teachings/what-we-believe/catechism/catechism-of-the-catholic-church/[/FONT]

[FONT=Calibri]scborromeo.org/ccc.htm[/FONT]

Doesn’t evolution only require that the genes are passed on, i.e., that each generation has children thereby passing on their own genetics? It doesn’t require that the previous generation dies off. Therefore, if Adam had never sinned, he would still be alive today, but so would all of us, and all generations between Adam and Eve and our current generation. Otherwise, nothing would have changed besides that.

Technically, even if the non-human generations before Adam all died, it is possible that God intervened and gave Adam genetics that would not corrupt over time. However, when he sinned, he gave up that gift.

Small clarification.

If Adam had never sinned, he would now be enjoying the Beatific Vision in heaven.

Only God knows the process which would have taken Adam’s physical body into heaven. Today, we “look forward to the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come.” (Creed professed at the Sunday Holy Sacrifice of the Mass)

Do we know this for sure? If God created the earth as a paradise, and death did not exist, then why would He take Adam and Eve, and their successive generations from the earth? I see nothing in the Bible that would suggest that they would not have kept living here on earth. If Adam lived 900+ years, and that was with original sin and the fall, how long might have he lived had he not sinned?

The difficulty is in the word paradise and the meaning of the Beatific Vision. The interpreter of what is paradise and what is the Beatific Vision is the Catholic Church. Nonetheless, I would like to understand your interpretations. Please share them.

In addition, there are clues that the Garden of Eden is in the material world and not in the spiritual paradise of heaven. For example, Adam had to eat. Since Catholicism teaches that the Beatific Vision is our ultimate goal, there would be no logical reason for the living Adam to remain on earth when those pearly gates to that heavenly place were wide open. Would God really confine Adam to a restricted, night and day, material environment when Adam had the ticket (obedience) to unrestricted peace in the light of the Beatific Vision.
Catechism of the Catholic Church, Second Edition, Glossary, Beatific Vision, page 867

i know that paradise was on earth. I am saying that had Adam never sinned, he would have never died, and therefore never gone to heaven. For Romans 5:12 says:

[bibledrb]Romans 5:12[/bibledrb]

In other words, before original sin, there was no death of any kind. But after, death was introduced.

Aquinas answers this question in the Summa, Ia.XCVII.I.

I think this also answers the OP’s question, as question XCVII also states:

For man’s body was indissoluble not by reason of any intrinsic vigor of immortality, but by reason of a supernatural force given by God to the soul, whereby it was enabled to preserve the body from all corruption so long as it remained itself subject to God. This entirely agrees with reason; for since the rational soul surpasses the capacity of corporeal matter, as above explained (Q[76], A[1]), it was most properly endowed at the beginning with the power of preserving the body in a manner surpassing the capacity of corporeal matter.

In other words, there was nothing special about the body itself that kept it immortal, but it was due to a power of the soul, which disappeared once Adam sinned and thus death was introduced.

I don’t know whether they would have had the beatific vision. We know they did not at the time, or they could not have sinned. It was my understanding that our access to Heaven was granted after Jesus’ death and resurrection — that He opened the way to Heaven for us. Otherwise we would have lived in a natural paradise on Earth as our first parents did for a time.

Mar 10, '14, 8:58 pm
Isn’t this teaching, then, incorrect? Adam would have died, scientifically speaking, regardless of whether he sinned or not. After all, evolution, which only works because people die and pass along modified genes, was occurring long before Adam (and will take place long after him.) How does the Church reconcile this dogmatic teaching, which clearly seeks to explain the natural world, with known proven scientific fact?

Let me see if I am correct in outlining the steps leading up to the problem you are seeking to resolve.

(1) We know from direct observation of the natural world around us that living things including man die.

(2) We know from direct observation of fossil evidence that species prior to the emergence of man died out, became extinct.

(3) We know from the fossil evidence instances of both micro- and macroevolution in the living world.

(4) For one holding theistic evolution, natural science using the scientific method finds that the body of man (or its immediate precursor) was produced by the established evolutionary mechanism of mutation, variation, natural selection.

(4)(a) Evolution works because non-human and pre-human animal life dies and . . . er . . . passes along modified genes and then dies. We have no evidence yet of macroevolution of homo sapiens into something else having happened. Be that as it may, it is not really relevant to the issue at hand since we do die now anyway.

(5) We know from history and science that man is the only known living thing that possesses a grammatical linguistic system of communication handed on culturally and possesses rational (including conscious and deliberate) arts and sciences.

(6) We know from divine revelation that when God created man, homo sapiens, He gave the body of man (or its immediate precursor) a immortal human rational soul.
[This obviously is not perceptible to the scientific method which can’t really even pronounce on the subject since a soul is not empirically observable. It need not pose a problem for science either since science can go on with its investigation of observable and measureable physical reality.]

(7) Man, alone of all living things, as initially created by God was in a state of holiness and justice, referred to in theology as original justice, which included bodily immortality.
This means that had man not sinned he would have not suffered death, i.e., the break up the breakup of the composite of immortal human soul and matter. He would instead have left this world and accordingly entered eternity whole and entire at the end of the course of his earthly life. By “this world” I mean physical reality bound by space and time as we know it through sense perception.

(8) With original sin this unique gift was lost and man is now subject to death.

(9) Pius XII was seeking to explain man in his unique human characteristics and circumstances, not the natural world in toto.

Now as far as I can tell (1)-(9) are true either by reason or faith or both.

Where does the problem enter in?

Hello everyone,

Please let me thank you all vehemently for taking the time to help me reconcile these apparent to contradictions between faith and science. Having read through all the threads, I must say that upon reading seeker of God’s comments, I had an incredible “Ooooh” moment. I was nearly brought to tears.

In addition to your original comment simply and beautifully stating that God could simply “intervened” (which, for reasons beyond me, never even entered my mind as a remote possibility), the quote you posted from St. Thomas summed it up perfectly:

For man’s body was indissoluble not by reason of any intrinsic vigor of immortality, but by reason of a supernatural force given by God to the soul, whereby it was enabled to preserve the body from all corruption so long as it remained itself subject to God. This entirely agrees with reason; for since the rational soul surpasses the capacity of corporeal matter, as above explained (Q[76], A[1]), it was most properly endowed at the beginning with the power of preserving the body in a manner surpassing the capacity of corporeal matter.

This text along side your short, yet powerful interpretation really resonated with me:

In other words, there was nothing special about the body itself that kept it immortal, but it was due to a power of the soul, which disappeared once Adam sinned and thus death was introduced.

I insist upon thanking everyone again for their extremely helpful suggesting. Each of you really did help put things in perspective for me and ultimately cleared up any major doubts I was beginning to have.

I thank you all once and wish you all a great week,

In Christ,

André L.

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