The position of the Catholic Church is necessarily consistent with the position espoused by the pope, which position can also be described as having evolved since the middle of the twentieth century as:
- Pope Pius XII stated in his encyclical Humani Generis (1950) that
there was no opposition between evolution and the doctrine of the
faith and that he considered the doctrine of "evolutionism" a serious
hypothesis, worthy of investigation and in-depth study equal to that
of the opposing hypothesis;
- Pope John Paul II, in an address to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences (1996), said that new knowledge has led to the recognition of the theory of evolution as "more than a hypothesis";
- Pope Benedict spoke of "theistic evolution" which considers that God created
life through evolution with no clash between religion and science.
- In 2014, Pope Francis told an audience from the Pontifical Academy of Sciences in Vatican City, "When we read in Genesis the account of Creation, we risk imagining that God was a magician, with such a magic wand as to be able to do everything. However, it was not like that. He created beings and left them to develop according to the internal laws that He gave each one, so that they would develop, and reach their fullness."
This is the position as stated by Catholic Answers:
Concerning human evolution, the Church has a more definite teaching. It allows for the possibility that man’s body developed from previous biological forms, under God’s guidance, but it insists on the special creation of his soul. Pope Pius XII declared that "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 . . . 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—[but] the Catholic faith obliges us to hold that souls are immediately created by God" (Pius XII, Humani Generis 36). So whether the human body was specially created or developed, we are required to hold as a matter of Catholic faith that the human soul is specially created; it did not evolve, and it is not inherited from our parents, as our bodies are.
While the Church permits belief in either special creation or developmental creation on certain questions, it in no circumstances permits belief in atheistic evolution.
As we can see, the Church holds that the soul is not part of physical evolution, not having been inherited from our parents. The first parents to have souls were Adam and Eve, whether they were the first of creation or evolved from previous soul-less hominids. Only Adam and Eve, and their successors can look forward to salvation, because only we have a soul.
The Catechism of the Church takes a carefully ambiguous position, neither supporting nor refuting evolution, thereby allowing catechumens to hold either beliefs:
283: The question about the origins of the world and of man has been the object of many scientific studies which have splendidly enriched our knowledge of the age and dimensions of the cosmos, the development of life-forms and the appearance of man. These discoveries invite us to even greater admiration for the greatness of the Creator, prompting us to give him thanks for all his works and for the understanding and wisdom he gives to scholars and researchers. With Solomon they can say: "It is he who gave me unerring knowledge of what exists, to know the structure of the world and the activity of the elements. . . for wisdom, the fashioner of all things, taught me."