In 1996, Pope John Paul II gave a speech in a plenary assembly at the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, documented here. It seems he embraced a version of Theistic Evolution (sometimes called Guided Evolution).

I have two questions:

  1. Does the Roman Catholic Church endorse Theistic Evolution (Guided Evolution)?

  2. And more important: if that's the case: where is the division between the last "pre-human" and the first human with access to salvation by means of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ?

  • You're asking far too much for one question, and your questions are based on your opinion.
    – Geremia
    Feb 11, 2017 at 20:15
  • Thank you. I have a honest question there where I would love to have an answer from a Roman Catholic perspective. What do you advice for the question? Can you help me editing it? I will appreciate it.
    – nbloqs
    Feb 11, 2017 at 20:17
  • @Geremia, thanks for editing. But given that the Pope's statement was clear (specially with the paragraph that I have included in the original question), how can I get an answer about the RCC's solution for the problem of salvation with pre-homo sapiens? That's my real question, not this one, as there is plenty of material out there, both from Catholic and from Protestant sources about the embracement of theistic evolution by the RCC. Don't get me wrong, my problem is that the core of my question is lost now on this version, although I appreciate a lot your editing work. How can I ask that?
    – nbloqs
    Feb 11, 2017 at 20:28
  • I edited it to add my original question in a conditional way (only to be answered if the first question's answer is "yes").
    – nbloqs
    Feb 11, 2017 at 20:32
  • Could you take a look at the following related questions and see if any of them answer your question or allow you to further refine it: christianity.stackexchange.com/questions/46720 christianity.stackexchange.com/questions/32608 Feb 11, 2017 at 20:53

2 Answers 2


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."

  • Thank you, I think that this answers 80 to 90% of the question. Other thoughts arise (like Adan and Even's direct "biological" parents not having access to salvation as they lack soul / moral mind) but that's at best for a different question (one that I will not do I think, since I have the catholic perspective here, which is what I was looking for). Blessings.
    – nbloqs
    Feb 11, 2017 at 22:42
  • I downvoted because of your first sentence "The position of the Catholic Church is necessarily consistent with the position espoused by the pope". This isn't true. It's possible for the pope's position to just be a personal opinion, and not consistent with the position of the church (happy to reverse the -1 if you clarify what you mean?). Otherwise nice answer! Feb 13, 2017 at 0:35
  • @TheIronKnuckle I carefully used the verb 'espoused' because that does not describe a mere opinion. If I espouse something, I champion it. If the pope champions or espouses a position, this is the Church's position, given that there is no higher authority in the modern Catholic Church. Nevertheless, it's your decision as to whether this explanation is sufficient to reverse your DV. Feb 13, 2017 at 5:42
  • I'd still disagree, because the Pope is only espousing the Church's position if he does so Ex Cathedra. Otherwise he's just espousing his own opinion Feb 13, 2017 at 5:49
  • @TheIronKnuckle There have only been 2 instances in which the pope has spoken ex cathedra, both of which involved the Virgin Mary, so let's look at another random example. Pope Pius XII espoused prohibition of artificial contraception in Casti connubii. He did not speak ex cathedra but his statement immediately became the position of the Church. Feb 13, 2017 at 5:57

"Theistic Evolution" imply that Adam was conceived in the womb of an ape, which is against Catholic teaching, because one must believe that

The first three Chapters of Genesis contain narratives that correspond to objectively real and historically true events (rerum vere gestarum narrationes quae scilicet obiectivae realitati et historicae veritati respondeant), no myths, no mere allegories or symbols of religious truths, no legends.
1909 Pontifical Biblical Commission (Latin original)

And Genesis 2:7 says that God "formed man of the slime of the earth," not in the womb of an ape.

See the sermon "Errors of Theistic Evolution" by Fr. Chad Ripperger.

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