Excerpts from

The Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma

by Dr. Ludwig Ott

  1. Book 2: God the Creator
    1. Section 2: The Divine Work of Creation
      1. Chapter 1: Revealed Doctrine concerning Material Things, i.e., Christian Cosmology
        1. The Biblical Hexahemeron (The Six Days of Creation)
          1. General Principles
            1. In order to solve the difficulties deriving from the apparent contradiction between the results of natural science and the Biblical narrative of the Creation the following general principles are to be observed:
            2. Even though all Holy Writ is inspired and is the Word of God, still, following St. Thomas a distinction must be made between that which is inspired per se, and that which is inspired per accidens. As the truths of Revelation laid down in Holy Writ are designed to serve the end of religious and moral teaching, inspiration per se extends only to the religious and moral truths.
            3. The profane facts of natural science and history contained in Holy Writ are not inspired per se, but only per accidens, that is, by virtue of their relation to the religious-moral truths. The data inspired per accidens is also the Word of God, and consequently without error.
            4. The Church gives no positive decisions in regard to purely scientific questions, but limits itself to rejecting errors which endanger faith. Further, in these scientific matters there is no value in a consensus of the Fathers since they are not here acting as witnesses of the Faith, but merely as private scientists.
            5. Since the findings of reason and the supernatural knowledge of Faith go back to the same source, namely to God, there can never be a real contradiction between the certain discoveries of the profane sciences and the Word of God properly understood.
          2. Decisions of the Bible Commission
            1. The first three Chapters of Genesis contain narratives of real events, no myths, no mere allegories or symbols of religious truths, no legends.
            2. In regard to those facts, which touch the foundations of the Christian religion, the literal historical sense is to be adhered to. Such facts are, the creation of all things by God in the beginning of time, and the special creation of humanity.
            3. It is not necessary to understand all individual words and sentences in the literal sense. Passages which are variously interpreted by the Fathers and by theologians, may be interpreted according to one’s own judgment with the reservation, however, that one submits one’s judgment to the decision of the Church, and to the dictates of the Faith.
            4. As the Sacred Writer had not the intention of representing with scientific accuracy the intrinsic constitution of things, and the sequence of the works of creation but of communicating knowledge in a popular way suitable to the idiom and to the pre-scientific development of his time, the account is not to be regarded or measured as if it were couched in language which is strictly scientific.
            5. The word “day” need not be taken in the literal sense of a natural day of 24 hours, but can also be understood in the improper sense of a longer space of time.
          3. Explanation of the Work of the Six Days
            1. The Biblical account of the duration and order of Creation is merely a literary clothing of the religious truth that the whole world was called into existence by the creative word of God. The Sacred Writer utilised for this purpose the pre-scientific picture of the world existing at the time.
            2. The numeral six of the days of the Creation is to be understood in schematic form by the picture of a human working week, the termination of the work by the picture of the Sabbath rest. The purpose of this literary device is to manifest Divine approval of the working week and the Sabbath rest. (Cf. Ex. 20:8 et seq).
            3. The many theories which have been evolved to explain the Biblical Hexahemeron (the six days of Creation), fall into two groups:
              1. Regarding giving a historical account of the duration and sequence of the works of creation (realistic theories). Those who hold [this view] explain the six days of reation as six periods of creation.
              2. The second group sacrifices the historicity of the narrative concerning the duration and sequence of the works of the Creation, and in order to avoid conflict with natural science, assumes that the division of the six working days derives from the imagination of the Sacred Writers.
        2. The Doctrine of Evolution in the Light of the Revelation
          1. The materialist doctrine of evolution which assumes the eternal existence of uncreated material, and which explains the emergence of all living creatures, of plants and animals and also of men, both body and soul, through purely mechanical evolution out of this material, is contrary to Revelation, which teaches the creation of the material and its formation by God in time.
          2. The doctrine of evolution based on the theistic conception of the world, which traces matter and life to God’s causality and assumes that organic being, developed from originally created seed-powers (St. Augustine) or from stemforms (doctrine of descent), according to God’s plan, is not incompatible with the doctrine of Revelation. However, as regards MAN, a special creation by God is demanded, which must extend at least to the spiritual soul.
          3. Those Fathers and Schoolmen who accepted a development, conceived a development of the individual species of living things each from a particular primitive form created by God; but modern theories of evolution conceives the development as from one species to another.
          4. According as these give priority to evolution from a plurality of original forms or from one single stem-form (primitive form) one speaks of a many-stemmed (polyphyletic) or single-stemmed ( monophyletic ) development. From the standpoint of the doctrine of evolution, either form is possible.
          5. From the standpoint of natural science, F. Birkner says: “A single-stemmed monophyletic development of living beings is to be rejected, as the transitions from one group to the other are missing. Everything seems to favour a many-stemmed, polyphyletic development. Unfortunately, up to the present it has not been possible to determine how many primitive forms or basic organisations of living beings existed.”