Given the evidence for evolution, are Catholics required to believe Adam and Eve existed?


Full Question

In light of all the evidence proving evolution, to be a faithful Catholic does one have to believe that there was an original couple called Adam and Eve?

Answer

It is prohibited to believe that there were multiple first parents, many sets of Adams and Eves. This position is called polygenism. It is a teaching of the Catholic Church that there was one set of parents, and it was they who committed an offense against God, and that offense has had lasting effects for mankind. This is the doctrine of original sin, the sin that occurred at the origin of the human race. C. S. Lewis argued that the existence of original sin is perhaps one of the most obvious facts of human life, even to non-believers.

Those who hold that there were multiple sets of first parents go against the teaching of the magisterium on the doctrine of original sin. In fact, there are even logical difficulties in accounting for original sin if that calamitous falling can't be traced to a single man, Adam.

In an encyclical issued in 1950 Pope Pius XII stated,

When there is a question of another conjectural opinion, namely, of polygenism so-called, then the sons of the Church in no way enjoy such freedom. For the faithful in Christ cannot accept this view, which holds either that after Adam there existed men on this earth who did not receive their origin by natural generation from him, the first parent of all, or that Adam signifies some kind of multiple first parents; for it is by no means apparent how such an opinion can be reconciled with what the sources of revealed truth and the acts of the magisterium of the Church teaches about original sin, which proceeds from a sin truly committed by one Adam, and which is transmitted to all by generation, and exists in each one as his own. (Humani Generis 37)

Concerning your presupposition about "all the evidence proving evolution," understand that the theory of evolution is not only not proven, but many scholars are abandoning it as at odds with scientific findings. To learn about problems with the theory of evolution, you might read Darwin on Trial by Philip E. Johnson and Evolution: A Theory in Crisis by Michael Denton.

 


Catholic Answers Staff