Ed Feser has a very good account of what contemporary Catholic orthodoxy requires in the special creation of man. He clearly has many authorities behind him, and his thesis – that Mike Flynn’s hypothesis about special creation is not necessarily contradicted by an argument by Dennis Bonnette – is very minimal and difficult to argue with.
Since I was a partial inspiration for Flynn’s thesis, I’ve got an excuse to return to my thinking on monogenism and the nature of Adam’s (failed and abandoned) vocation toward creation. Now I’m convinced that it is impossible to have a Catholic theology that is not committed to monogenism, or one that reads the Adam account as mythical in the sense of not requiring some real, original first human ancestor. But I’ve also never seen any reason to back away from my friend Fr. Bolin’s distinction between positive and negative monogenism: positive monogenism says that all human beings descend from some one set of ancestors, negative monogenism is the more complicated thesis that all human beings descend from one set of ancestors and this set was the only human beings on earth. Now if genetic theory suffices to identify true human beings (which is something Feser would deny) then modern genetics gives a very good refutation of negative monogenism* but it gives a much stronger set of confirmations of positive monogenism. Not only has positive monogenism happened, it’s happened more than once under circumstances that are much more exotic than are required of Adam. So for someone who is looking for a synthesis of Catholic theology and scientific consensus, positive monogenism might provide a way forward.
True, on positive monogenism there was, at least to some point in history, human beings that were not descended from Adam, and we don’t know what role such persons play in salvation history. Someone who holds to positive monogenism doesn’t need to give any account of what would have happened to such persons: Perhaps they would have all been killed off, perhaps they would have been offered some sort of incorporation into Adam’s life, perhaps they simply were not at all called to share in Adam’s life, or perhaps, more likely, Adam was called to extend some sort of divine life to them. Positive monogenism simply doesn’t know: Adam fell too quickly for us to get a sense of what the plan for him was. His children wandered off and coupled with the persons in the rest of the world, with everyone now under “original sin” because of his fault, i.e. everyone lacked the original justice that – in one way or another – was supposed to come to all persons through Adam. It seems likely that, after Adam, all persons would have received original justice just by being generated, but, as it stands, we don’t receive this and so the same act of generation ends up “transmitting” original sin – not because original sin is some malice added to the will but because it is simply a absence of a positive quality that human beings require to live a life pleasing to God.
A positive monogenist would probably add to mere positive monogenism the idea that Adam was specially created and had no ancestor.He might even want to add more to this and say that this act of special creation was meant to establish Adam as the first member of salvation history, not the first being with a rational soul. The idea would be that Adam was not special by being the first being with a rational soul but by being the first person called to participate in a life that was higher than reason. True, man’s soul is made by an act of special creation, but man’s having a soul is not something that of itself makes him rise above the natural order. One advantage of the account I’m giving here, therefore, is that it locates Adam on a properly supernatural level, which we fail to do when we see the distinctive mark of Adam as being his rational soul.
*Bonnette denies this and says the evidence doesn’t point one way or another. Science is more a matter of following the consensus, and Bonnette seems to be an outlier from it. At any rate, I have independent reasons for wanting to reconsider some facts about Adam, some of which I’ve touched on here.