Question: I am a transportation driver of an adult day care center. My schedule is Monday to Friday. Do I have to work on Sunday if my supervisor asked me because they lack drivers or somebody called in sick?
— Ferdi Pac, via email
Answer: Ideally, and to the degree that we are able, we ought to avoid working on Sunday. However, “Caritas suprema lex” (love is the highest law), and there will be times that charity may require us to assist others even on Sunday. This is especially the case in the situation you describe, wherein you seem to be caring for the sick and/or disabled. In the observation of keeping the Lord’s Day holy, exceptions are made for workers in critical jobs such as emergency care (fire and police), medical workers and others who care for critical infrastructure and necessary tasks that need to go on even on Sunday. Hence, as what your supervisor asks of you is not necessarily sinful, and if his request is reasonable, you ought to fulfill it.
However, if the problem becomes a recurring pattern, it is not wrong for you to ask for other solutions to be sought so that your own religious sensibilities and requirements can also be met.
Question: Did people 10,000 years ago have a soul, or did it start with Adam and Eve?
— Francis Phielx, Pine City, New York
Answer: The wording of your question presents a couple of difficulties. First of all, we’re not sure exactly when Adam and Eve lived — it may have been a good bit longer than 10,000 years ago. The shorter time frames for human history often emerge from a very literal reading of biblical dates, which is not necessarily required of a Catholic.
Nevertheless, whenever Adam and Eve lived, your question still stands. Here there is need for distinction. We would not speak of the hominids that existed before Adam and Eve as “people” or persons. According to widely accepted Catholic and philosophical tradition, a person is an individual substance of a rational nature. Hence, human beings who have a rational soul are persons; so are angels, and so are the three members of the Blessed Trinity. Animals however, including primates, are not persons, for they have no rational soul.
Thus, if it is true that we in some way physically emerged from prehistoric primates (a widely held scientific theory), we could not speak of them as having a rational soul until God created Adam and Eve, infusing them with a rational soul. Even if our animal or physical nature may be said to have evolved, the human soul is directly created by God, and we are now dealing with a new reality: no mere advanced primate, but the creation of the human person.
With these distinctions in mind, the answer to your question is “no,” the primates who existed prior to Adam and Eve had no rational soul. However they may, like all living things, be said to have had a nonrational soul. This is because, philosophically, the soul is the animating principle of a living thing. What makes humans different is having a rational soul, sometimes referred to as the spirit. It is the spiritual aspect of our soul that gives us the ability to think and grasp metaphysical concepts like justice, beauty and truth, and makes us capable of relating to God.
Msgr. Charles Pope is the pastor of Holy Comforter-St. Cyprian in Washington, D.C., and writes for the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C., blog at blog.adw.org. Send questions to Pastoral Answers, Our Sunday Visitor, 200 Noll Plaza, Huntington, IN 46750 or to firstname.lastname@example.org. Letters must be signed, but anonymity may be requested.