The starting point of the Vatican’s theistic evolution worldview can be traced back to Aristotle’s god that was incorporated into Roman Catholic theology in medieval times. Thomas Aquinas in the thirteenth century accepted Aristotle’s premise of a “first mover.” Aquinas wrote, “Therefore it is necessary to arrive at a first mover, put in motion by no other; and this everyone understands to be God.”21 Aristotle’s proof of the existence of God was incorporated into Roman Catholic dogma. This thirteenth century theological shift has provided, to use Cardinal Levada’s words, the “wide spectrum of room” for the twentieth century papal shift into theistic evolutionism. With the “first mover” premise came the blight of an impersonal “first mover” being accepted in place of the absolutely dependable biblical description that the Sovereign Triune God of the Bible has made known of Himself through His written Word.
In modern times the first explicit mention of the concept of theistic evolutionism was in the official 1950 encyclical of Pope Pius XII. He wrote,
“…the Teaching Authority of the Church does not forbid…research and discussions, on the part of men experienced in both fields, [to] 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 - for the Catholic faith obliges us to hold that souls are immediately created by God.”22
Since that time the Catholic Church in various ways has advocated evolutionism, once God is mentioned. For example, the Catholic Study Bible (1990) taught that the biblical account of the creation of man used a number of mythical sources from Mesopotamia. Thus commenting on Genesis 2, 4b-3, 24, itstates,
“This is an independent account of the creation which is older than Genesis 1 and uses a number of mythic story themes known from Mesopotamia, although the biblical version is unique as a whole and far more sophisticated in its vision than anything else we have found in the ancient world....The major differences between the biblical accounts and the stories of other religions center on the clear connection in the Bible between a single God’s loving care for humanity, the moral refusal of people to obey God, and the rightful sentence of mortality that now burdens us, together with a change in our relation to the land that now requires backbreaking labor to make it a blessing.23
Here the Catholic Study Bible has made room for evolutionary theory regarding creation. In their commentary, the biblical account of creation is not authoritative and true; rather their primary authority is the ever changing piecemeal collection of literature from mythical sources of Mesopotamia. In contrast, regarding the creation account and all statements in the Bible, the Lord Jesus Christ states unequivocally, “thy word is truth.”24 However, the Catholic Study Bible must fall in line with the Vatican dictate that revealed truth is based on Scripture and Catholic tradition.25 It follows, then, for the Catholic that human authority is taken as absolute rather than the truth of Scripture. In 1996 Pope John Paul II showed that he held to the philosophy of theistic evolutionism. He stated,
“The magisterium of the Church takes a direct interest in the question of evolution, because it touches on the conception of man, whom Revelation tells us is created in the image and likeness of God...Pius XII underlined the essential point: if the origin of the human body comes through living matter which existed previously, the spiritual soul is created directly by God.”26
Thus the Pope in 1996, like the Pope Pius XII in 1950, held for the creation of man from matter that “previously existed.” This is a distinct difference from what the Scripture states. In the biblical account God created the body of man out of “the dust of the ground.” He then breathed the soul into man, “and the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.”27 The Popes’ belief in “living matter which existed previously” serves as an entry point for evolutionism. Thus Roman Catholic theistic evolutionism can now hold that God used “living matter” to form the human body; yet the Lord God states in His Word that He used“the dust of the ground.” As usual, Rome has attempted to marginalize the Scripture. To accommodate its own ends, the Vatican needs to be able to support or encourage any side of any issue.