Humani Generis

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Humani Generis (“Of Mankind”), the encyclical published by Pope Pius XII in 1950, is a response to opinions that threaten Catholic doctrine, specifically, new thoughts in the realms of theology, philosophy, and science.



  • The teaching on papal infallability is made in ¶20. In Encyclical letters, “the Popes do not exercise [supreme] Teaching Authority [but only] ordinary teaching authority [regarding things that] already for other reasons appertains to Catholic doctrine.” [Luke 10:16] “But [when they] purposely pass judgment on a matter up to that time under dispute…that matter…cannot be any longer considered a question open to discussion among theologians.”
  • That evolution is (generally speaking) not contradictory to the faith is explained in ¶36; however, there is no distinction made between the different theories, such as Darwinism (now considered incompatible with the faith) and other competing theories of the day.


  1. Sadly, the Christian culture is under attack.
  2. Reason and natural law can lead to knowledge of God, but reason is often obstructed by many things. (e.g. senses, imagination, evil passions, etc.)
  3. Therefore, divine revelation is morally necessary in the modern age.
  4. Man can refuse/resist rational evidence for the faith as well as actual grace to to prejudice or other reasons.
  5. Though unproven, men accept and promote the theory of continual evolution for gain. (e.g. Communism and dialectical materialism)
  6. Evolution, etc. denies the absolute essence of things, giving rise to the existentialism philosophy.
  7. This allows man to selfishly reject law, Christian or otherwise.
  8. While some people use Scripture to learn and preach truth, they go too far, diminishing human reason and rejecting the need for a living teaching authority (i.e. the Church).
  9. Defenders of truth must understand these errors in thought. Even the erroneous opinions may contain some elements of truth.
  10. Fearful of appearing ignorant, though, Catholic philosophers can and sometimes do depart from the Church’s teaching authority.
  11. Some even advocate that the Church should renounce its teaching authority to gain souls for the faith. (Ecumenism)
  12. Such tactics may indeed bring unity, but also destruction.
  13. Such theories begin small or with good intention, only to grow bold and uncontrollable as they are disseminated.
  14. By eliminating dogma, they hope to assimilate it anew based on primal Church teachings.
  15. They claim that true dogma is masked by old ideas and expressions that should be replaced with ones that appeal to the senses of modern man.
  16. The teachings of the Church are not based on weak foundations, however, and it would be wrong to simply dismiss them.
  17. To reject refined truth in the hope of gaining accuracy by establishing a new and unproven philosophy is highly imprudent.
  18. They often appeal to writings (i.e. opinions) of the Early Church Fathers under the notion that more modern Church teachings must necessarily be precedented on them.
  19. However, some things once open for debate need not be debated any longer.
  20. Encyclicals usually speak to matters already expounded upon in doctrine; however, should the Pope pass supreme judgment on a disputed matter, it should be considered closed for discussion.
  21. Divine revelation was given by God as guidance for the Church to exercise her living teaching authority, not for private deterministic interpretation.
  22. Some dispute the divine authorship of Scripture in part or in whole and interpret it on the basis of exegesis, looking for hidden meanings, instead of on the Church’s teachings.
  23. They claim that a new exegesis of the Old Testament would replace literal difficulties with symbolic/spiritual truth.
  24. Their claims oppose the norms of interpretation explained in previous encyclicals.
  25. Doubt regarding revealed truths is a result of this way of thinking. (e.g. Creation out of love, God’s eternal foreknowledge of men’s free choices, etc.)
  26. Angels, essence, the supernatural order, original sin, sin in general, the efficacy of Christ’s sarifice, and the Real Presence or all debated.
  27. The necessity and value of the Church and the faith itself is questioned.
  28. These errors are being pointed out herein because Catholic thinkers are commiting them.
  29. The Church relies on reason to understand the faith, God’s law, the mysteries, and even the existence of God. Reason comes with training and leads to truth.
  30. Teaching Authority only covers matters of faith and morals. “New” truth cannot overturn established truth, but it can correct errors.
  31. Priests must learn philosophy and Aquinas’ method is tried and true.
  32. Opponents claim that the traditional philosophy used by the Church is adequate for basic instruction but not for practical application, and that all other philosophies, albeit evolving, are ultimately compatible with Catholicism.
  33. They claim that the Church’s philosophy appeeals to intellect and ignores the will and emotions; however, this is clearly and historically false, for the Church teaches that the will can see truth beyond what the intellect can deduce on its own.
  34. Theodicy and ethics (philisophical sciences) are threatened by these new opinions. Not only are they themselves debased, but so is the protection provided by the Church’s Teaching Authority.
  35. Discussion of theories not yet proven scientifically but merely hypothesized must follow. Theories can only be considered if they do not oppose Church teaching.
  36. Human evolution (origin of man from pre-existent and living matter) is up for discussion, but cannot contradict that God is the immediate creator of souls.
  37. Polygenism (origin from two or more distinct ancestors) is irreconcilable with the doctrine of original sin.
  38. The first eleven chapters of Genesis may not fit the modern concept of history, but any inclusion of folklore was done under divine inspiration.
  39. Thus, these are not imaginative myths but expressions of truth. Ancient sacred authors were clearly superior to secular (“profane”) authors of the same period.
  40. Most Catholic doctors (teachers) do not hold these erroneous opinions (at the time of writing), but the errors do appeal to incautious thinkers.
  41. Bishops and heads of religious orders are charged with preventing the spread of such erroneous opinions.
  42. Teachers cannot, in good conscience, teach that which diverts students (and themselves) away from the Church’s teachings.
  43. They must teach, research, and discover within the limits established for the protection of the faith.
  44. Apostolic Benediction.