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Fr. Thomas Weinandy, OFM, Cap., Ph.D.
Secretariat for Doctrine
US Conference of Catholic Bishops
The Catholic Church supports the scientific study of human origins. Catholics believe that all knowledge enhances our dignity as human beings and contributes to the wellbeing of all. Thus, the Catholic Church supports the teaching of both cosmological and biological evolution as the best available account of how nature works, including the evolution of the human species. The Catholic Church would not endorse, however, a philosophical evolutionary materialism that would deny the existence of God and his role as the ultimate Creator.
The Catholic Church, following the book of Genesis, also teaches that human beings are created in the image and likeness of God. Being in God’s likeness, human beings are singularly intelligent, rational and self-conscious, and so differ in nature from the animals. Moreover, human beings, created in the image of God, are free. Thus, unlike the animals, human beings can freely choose and so make rational moral choices. This freedom distinctively empowers human beings, for example, to be courageous, forgiving, kind and loving. Because rational intelligence and freedom exceed material scientific laws, and thus the laws of material evolution, Catholics hold that God must be instrumental in the course of human origins. Catholic theology affirms, then, that the evolutionary emergence of the first members of the human species (whether as individuals or in populations) is an event that ultimately surpasses a purely natural explanation and which can only be attributed to the intervention of God.