In Apostolatum Eldari

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In Apostolatum Eldari was an encyclical letter to the Catholic faithful by Pope Sixtus VI of the Holy Vatican See on the topic of sentient non-humans (especially elves) and their status in and relationship to the Church. The issue of sentient non-humans is a controversial one in the NS Catholic Church, with some churches in some nations treating non-humans as equal to humans in every way, extending the sacraments to them (in Menelmacar, Benedictines have even ordained elvish priests), and others refusing some or all sacraments to non-humans (most infamously Iesus Christi, which has unsurprisingly lobbied hard against any recognition of non-human sentients as anything more than animals, in a spiritual sense). The encyclical In Apostolatum Eldari was an extremely important first step by the Vatican to develop a position on the status of non-humans, and was the product of the First Non-Human Council. The HVS Conference on Non-Human Sentience was subsequently formed to provide the Vatican with assistance in forming an Apostolic Constitution on the matter.









1. The apostolic potential of eldar races has raised great questions within the Church. The nature of sentience is a most serious issue, reflecting upon the Church’s role in understanding and interpreting the will and actions of God the Creator. This role requires deliberation and discernment, as well as openness to the reality of Divine inspiration and attention to the manifold and mysterious ways in which the communion of Creation and Creator have shaped the Church’s authoritative magisterium through the ages since Christ left upon Peter the duty of Supreme Shepherd to His flock (Matt. 16:18).

The fulfillment of this duty has always posed great challenges to the Successors of Peter, but the recent course of human society and the concomitant changes upon the revelation of the existence of non-human beings whose nature reflects the abilities of sentience have provoked new questions. The Church cannot ignore these questions, for they concern matters intimately connected with salvific mission of the Church.

In applying the term “sentience” to the qualities exhibited among the eldar races, it must be clear that the Church, and the Council convened by the Holy Father, retain for the term “sentience” the larger meaning which has come to include the more precise term of sapience, that is, beings with the ability both to feel and perceive, and to apply reason, higher knowledge, and apperception.


2. The revelation of the existence of non-human sentient peoples has implications that are of considerable importance and varied in nature. In the first place there is the sudden awareness of a greatly larger world population, which has made many fear that world population is going to grow faster than available resources, with the consequence that many peoples and national states would be faced with greater hardships. This can easily induce public authorities to be tempted to take harsh measures to avert this danger. There is also the fact that not only working and housing conditions but the greater demands made both in the economic and educational field pose a living situation in which it is frequently difficult these days to provide properly for a large population.

Also noteworthy is a new understanding of the differing nature of lifespan and biological capabilities, which leads many to question the primacy of humanity in God’s plan.

The revelation of non-human sentient peoples possessed of physical and biological capabilities different than man’s also calls into question man's stupendous progress in the domination and rational organization of the forces of nature to the point that he is endeavoring to extend this control over every aspect of his own life—over his body, over his mind and emotions, over his social life, and even over the laws that regulate the transmission of life. The apparent differences in understanding of moral norms and values among newly-revealed peoples, in like fashion calls into question man’s understanding of God’s Plan.

New Questions

3. This new state of things gives rise to new questions. Granted the conditions of life today and taking into account the relevance of mankind in the Divine Plan, would it not be right to review the moral norms in force till now, especially when it is felt that these can be observed only with the gravest difficulty, sometimes only by heroic effort?

Moreover, if one were to apply here the so called principle of primacy, could it not be accepted that the intention to maintain mankind’s place in God’s Plan might transform an action apparently destructive of sentience created by God into a licit and provident control of the resources given by God for humanity’s benefit? Could it not be admitted, in other words, that the revelation of the existence of eldar races is a challenge designed by God to test the will of His people to maintain the purity of his moral norms, and their fidelity to His Plan for them as we understand it?

Interpreting the Moral Law

4. This kind of question requires from the teaching authority of the Church a new and deeper reflection on the principles of the moral teaching on life—a teaching based on the natural law as illuminated and enriched by divine Revelation.

No member of the faithful could possibly deny that the Church is competent in her magisterium to interpret the natural moral law. It is in fact indisputable, as Our predecessors have many times declared, (l) that Jesus Christ, when He communicated His divine power to Peter and the other Apostles and sent them to teach all nations His commandments, (2) constituted them as the authentic guardians and interpreters of the whole moral law, not only, that is, of the law of the Gospel but also of the natural law. For the natural law, too, declares the will of God, and its faithful observance is necessary for men's eternal salvation. (3)

In carrying out this mandate, the Church has always issued appropriate documents on the nature of life, the dignity of the human position in God’s Creation, and the obligations among mankind to observe the natural rights of God’s creatures in the creation and development of social and political institutions. These documents have been more copious in recent times.(4)

Special Studies

5. The consciousness of the same responsibility induced Us to create the commission set up in November (date). This commission included Catholics living among the eldar races, as well as many experts in the various fields pertinent to these questions. Its task was to examine views and opinions concerning sentient life, and especially on the correct relations between human and eldar races; and it was also to provide the teaching authority of the Church with such evidence as would enable it to give an apt reply in this matter, which not only the faithful but also the rest of the world were waiting for. (5)

When the evidence of the experts had been received, as well as the opinions and advice of a considerable number of Our brethren in the episcopate—some of whom sent their views spontaneously, while others were requested by Us to do so—We were in a position to weigh with more precision all the aspects of this complex subject. Hence We are deeply grateful to all those concerned.

The Magisterium's Reply

6. However, the conclusions arrived at by the commission could not be considered by Us as definitive and absolutely certain, dispensing Us from the duty of examining personally these serious questions. This was all the more necessary because, within the commission itself, there was not complete agreement concerning the moral norms to be proposed, and especially because certain approaches and criteria for a solution to this question had emerged which were at variance with the moral doctrine on the unique nature of human primacy constantly taught by the magisterium of the Church.

Consequently, now that We have sifted carefully the evidence sent to Us and intently studied the whole matter, as well as prayed constantly to God, We, by virtue of the mandate entrusted to Us by Christ, intend to give Our reply to this series of grave questions.


7. The question of non-human sentience, like every other question which touches human life, involves more than the limited aspects specific to such disciplines as biology, psychology, demography or sociology. It is the whole of mankind and the whole mission to which he is called that must be considered: both its natural, earthly aspects and its supernatural, eternal aspects. And since in the attempt to reconcile the existence of non-human sentience with the special role of mankind in God’s plan many appeal to the demands of human primacy and the lack of authoritative magisterium specific to the issue of non-human sentience, these two important realities of human life must be accurately defined and analyzed. This is what We mean to do, with special reference to what the Second Vatican Council taught with the highest authority in its Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the World of Today.

God's Loving Design

8. Sentience in the totality of meaning, that is, the ability to feel, to perceive, and to suffer, as well as the ability (potential or actual) to apply reason, to understand the concepts of higher apperception, and to recognize a state of self-awareness, must be considered the unique product of Divine Creation. Satan cannot make, he can only mar and distort and imitate. The power of Creation is God’s alone, through Jesus Christ, “without whom was made nothing that was made” (6).

The quality of sentience must not, however, be regarded as indistinguishable from the existence of the soul. (7) The nature of the soul depends neither on the ability to perceive through physical senses, nor the use of reason. A person could be paralyzed, numb, afflicted with a disability that leaves him unable to reason or think, and still be possessed of that soul imbued by Divine mercy, which makes him a unique and precious child of God, delivered by the sin of Adam into the misery of separation from God, and redeemed by the Divine Sacrifice of Christ into the inheritance of the kingdom of heaven.

No physical quality, not shape of body, gender, intelligence, life expectancy, ability to perceive, strength or weakness, nor any innate variation of size, color, feature, health or illness, defines the nature of beings endowed by God with the divine image of Himself. Our understanding of the nature of this gift, even before human awareness of the existence of eldar races, rested upon the will of God and His reasons for Creation. (8)

The revelation of the existence of eldar races does not change the essential truth that God created all things through the power of wisdom and love, for His glory. (9)

We know that through the authoritative Scripture and Tradition of the Church, God has provided us with sufficient revelations and tools to understand all that it is necessary for us to understand. Most of all, God gives us an enduring witness to Himself in created realities (10). It rests now upon the Church to examine these sources and place this new knowledge in the proper context to guide us in understanding this previously unrevealed portion of God’s Creation.

The Relationship Between Creator and Creation

9. In examining the traditions of the eldar races in relation to God, we find common goals with those mankind understands in relation to God. From ancient times down to the present, there is found among various peoples a certain perception of that hidden power which hovers over the course of things and over the events of human history; at times some indeed have come to the recognition of a Supreme Being, or even of a Father. This perception and recognition penetrates their lives with a profound religious sense. (11)

The eldar identify this Supreme Being as “Eru Iluvatar,” the One. In seeking to know and to understand God, eldar races have identified spiritual values, and linked them to the will of the Supreme Being. These spiritual values, cherishing life, expressing love, living according to moral precepts, are not unfamiliar to humans.

The desire for God is written in the human heart. (12) In inspiring the definition of man as a religious being, God has written already one truth that can be applied to the investigation of the nature of non-human sentience. “Although man can forget God or reject him, He never ceases to call every man to seek him, so as to find life and happiness.” Cat. I:1:1:1:30 Whom God calls to seek Him, then, must partake of the nature of God.

Observing the Natural Law

10. Natural law hinges upon the desire for God and submission to him. This law is called "natural," not in reference to the nature of irrational beings, but because reason which decrees it properly belongs to human nature: “Where then are these rules written, if not in the book of that light we call the truth? In it is written every just law; from it the law passes into the heart of the man who does justice, not that it migrates into it, but that it places its imprint on it, like a seal on a ring that passes onto wax, without leaving the ring. (13) The natural law is nothing other than the light of understanding placed in us by God; through it we know what we must do and what we must avoid. God has given this light or law at the creation. (14)”

As creatures of law, eldar races have created societies with laws, laws that value justice; its orders summon to duty, its prohibitions turn away from offense. It establishes the dignity of the person and determines the basis for his fundamental rights and duties. Here again, we see the clear image of God’s interaction with His Creation, through the solid foundation upon which has been built a structure of moral rules to guide individual choices, to build community, and to provide the necessary basis for the civil law with which it is connected, whether by a reflection that draws conclusions from its principles, or by additions of a positive and juridical nature. (15)

Freedom and Responsibility

11. In examining the essential nature of eldar races, all the evidences of Divine intent, as revealed in the nature of eldarin sentience and in the historical and cultural artifacts of eldar civilization, accord fully with what the Church understands of the nature of God’s relationship with mankind. It is also clear from the variation among individuals within the eldar races, that they are possessed of free will, the choice to commit moral or immoral acts, measured by either eldar or human juridical and moral codes.

And just as God created man a rational being, conferring on him the dignity of a person who can initiate and control his own actions (16), God willed that man should be ‘left in the hand of his own counsel,’ so that he might of his own accord seek his Creator and freely attain his full and blessed perfection by cleaving to him. (17) Man is rational and therefore like God; he is created with free will and is master over his acts. (18) As long as freedom has not bound itself definitively to its ultimate good which is God, there is the possibility of choosing between good and evil, and thus of growing in perfection or of failing and sinning. This freedom characterizes properly human acts. It is the basis of praise or blame, merit or reproach. (19)

In recognizing the freedom to choose between good and evil as characteristic of properly human acts, the Church must consider the nature of “humanity,” as the attribute of free will Divinely endowed, to embrace those individuals capable of such choice. Such an attribute can only be endowed through Divine Creation. The variety of motives and actions shown by eldar in their exercise of freedom and responsibility is similar to that variety in human individuals.

Concern of the Church

12. It is to be anticipated that perhaps not everyone will easily accept this particular teaching. There is too much clamorous outcry against the voice of the Church, and this is intensified by modern means of communication. But it comes as no surprise to the Church that she, no less than her divine Founder, is destined to be a “sign of contradiction.” (22) She does not, because of this, evade the duty imposed on her of proclaiming humbly but firmly the entire moral law, both natural and evangelical.

Since the Church did not make either of these laws, she cannot be their arbiter—only their guardian and interpreter. It could never be right for her to declare true what is in fact false, or false what is in fact true since these, by their very nature, are always opposed to the true good of God’s people.


13. We cannot truly call on God, the Father of all, if we refuse to treat in a brotherly way any being, created with Divinely endowed sentience. Man's relation to God the Father and his relation to his brothers are so linked together that Scripture says: “He who does not love does not know God.” (21)

Our words would not be an adequate expression of the thought and solicitude of the Church, Mother and Teacher of all peoples, if, after having recalled men to the observance and respect of the divine intent regarding the creation of sentience, they did not also support mankind in the honest struggle to meet the challenges posed by the revelation of non-human sentience amid the difficult conditions which today afflict peoples and nations. The Church, in fact, cannot act differently toward men than did the Redeemer. She knows their weaknesses, she has compassion on the multitude, she welcomes sinners. But at the same time she cannot do otherwise than teach the truth. For it is in fact the law of human life restored to its native truth and guided by the Spirit of God. (22)

The commands of natural and evangelical law, then, with respect to the treatment of humans of one another, must in recognition of Divine intent to create sentience in the image of God, be applied also to the eldar races. What it is not lawful, by moral or natural law, to do to fellow humans, it is not lawful to do to eldar. What is required of Christian man in relation to other men under evangelical law and the message of Christ—charity, love, and brotherhood—is required of Christian men in relation to eldar.

Observing the Divine Law

14. The teaching of the Church regarding the relations among humans and eldar is a promulgation of the law of God Himself. And yet there is no doubt that to many it will appear not merely difficult but even impossible to observe. Now it is true that like all good things which are outstanding for their nobility and for the benefits which they confer on men, so this law demands from individual men and women, from families and from human society, a resolute purpose and great endurance. Indeed it cannot be observed unless God comes to their help with the grace by which the goodwill of men is sustained and strengthened. But to those who consider this matter diligently it will indeed be evident that this endurance enhances man's dignity and confers benefits on human society.

Appeal to Public Authorities

15. And now We wish to speak to rulers of nations. To you most of all is committed the responsibility of safeguarding the common good. You can contribute so much to the preservation of morals. We beg of you, never allow the morals of your peoples to be undermined. The assurance of divinely-bestowed rights to life and dignity is the primary duty of the state; do not tolerate any legislation which would introduce into the public comity those practices which are opposed to the natural law of God. For there are other ways by which a government can and should solve the problems of relations between peoples of differing beliefs, races, and cultures—that is to say by enacting laws which will assist communities and by educating the people wisely so that the moral law and the freedom of the citizens are both safeguarded.

Seeking True Solutions

16. We are fully aware of the difficulties confronting the public authorities in this matter, especially in countries where resources are scarce and fear of change is great. But now We join Our voice to that of Our predecessor John XXIII of venerable memory, and We make Our own his words: “No statement of the problem and no solution to it is acceptable which does violence to man's essential dignity; those who propose such solutions base them on an utterly materialistic conception of man himself and his life. The only possible solution to this question is one which envisages the social and economic progress both of individuals and of the whole of human society, and which respects and promotes true human values.” (23)

No one can, without being grossly unfair, make divine Providence responsible for what clearly seems to be the result of misguided governmental policies, of an insufficient sense of social justice, of a selfish accumulation of material goods, and finally of a culpable failure to undertake those initiatives and responsibilities which would raise the standard of living of peoples. (24) If only all governments which were able would do what some are already doing so nobly, and bestir themselves to renew their efforts and their undertakings! There must be no relaxation in the programs of mutual aid between all the branches of the great human family. Here We believe an almost limitless field lies open for the activities of the great international institutions.

Christian Compassion

17. Now it is an outstanding manifestation of charity toward souls to omit nothing from the saving doctrine of Christ; but this must always be joined with tolerance and charity, as Christ Himself showed in His conversations and dealings with men. For when He came, not to judge, but to save the world, (25) was He not bitterly severe toward sin, but patient and abounding in mercy toward sinners?

Christians must therefore, when deeply distressed by reason of the difficulties of adjusting to the presence of eldar sharing God’s creation, must find stamped in the heart and voice of their priest the likeness of the voice and the love of our Redeemer.

So speak with full confidence, beloved sons, convinced that while the Holy Spirit of God is present to the magisterium proclaiming sound doctrine, He also illumines from within the hearts of the faithful and invites their assent. Teach the Faithful of God the necessary way of prayer and prepare them to approach more often with great faith the Sacraments of the Eucharist and of Penance. Let them never lose heart because of their weakness.

To Bishops

18. And now as We come to the end of this encyclical letter, We turn Our mind to you, reverently and lovingly, beloved and venerable brothers in the episcopate, with whom We share more closely the care of the spiritual good of the People of God. For We invite all of you, We implore you, to give a lead to your priests who assist you in the sacred ministry, and to the faithful of your dioceses, and to devote yourselves with all zeal and without delay to promoting the peaceful and brotherly relations between peoples, in order to guide Christian life to the full perfection intended by the Redeemer. Consider this mission as one of your most urgent responsibilities at the present time. As you well know, it calls for concerted pastoral action in every field of human diligence, economic, cultural and social. If simultaneous progress is made in this endeavor, then the life of the human community will be rendered not only more tolerable, but easier and more joyful. And life together in human society will be enriched with fraternal charity and made more stable with true peace when God's design which He conceived for the world is faithfully followed.

A Great Work

19. Venerable brothers, beloved sons, all men of good will, great indeed is the work of education, of progress and of charity to which We now summon all of you. And this We do relying on the unshakable teaching of the Church, which teaching Peter's successor together with his brothers in the Catholic episcopate faithfully guards and interprets. And We are convinced that this truly great work will bring blessings both on the world and on the Church. For man cannot attain that true happiness for which he yearns with all the strength of his spirit, unless he keeps the laws which the Most High God has engraved in his very nature. These laws must be wisely and lovingly observed. On this great work, We implore from the God of all holiness and pity an abundance of heavenly grace as a pledge of which We gladly bestow Our apostolic blessing.

Given at St. Peters, Rome, on the 14th day of September, the feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, in the 4th year of Our Pontificate.


(1) See Pius IX, encyc. letter Oui pluribus: Pii IX P.M. Acta, 1, pp. 9-10; St. Pius X encyc. letter Singulari quadam: AAS 4 (1912), 658; Pius XI, encyc.letter Casti connubii: AAS 22 (1930), 579-581; Pius XII, address Magnificate Dominum to the episcopate of the Catholic World: AAS 46 (1954), 671-672; John XXIII, encyc. letter Mater et Magistra: AAS 53 (1961), 457.

(2) See Mt 28. 18-19.

(3) See Mt 7. 21.

(4) See Dignitatis Humanae, Catechism, Part III, Section 1,ch. 2, Article 2:II:1907; Paul VI, pastoral constitution Gaudium et Spes Chapter II:26; Leo XIII Rerum Novarum; John XXIIIMater et Magistra

(5) See Sixtus VI, Address to Sacred College of Cardinals AAS 92 (date), to International Commission on Non-Human Relations AAS 396 (date)

(6) SeeJohn 1:3

(7) See Paul VI Gaudium et Spes 14:2; Catechism, Part III, Section 1, ch. 1, Article 1:1703

(8) See Catechism, Part I, Section 2, ch. 2, Article 1:III 293-294

(9) See Dei Filius, I: DS 3002; cf. Lateran Council IV (1215): DS 800

(10) See Romans 1:19-20

(11) See Nostra Aetate, Vatican II, 1965

(12) See Catechism, Part I, Section 1, ch. 1, Article 1:27-28

(13) See St. Augustine, De Trin. 14,15,21:PL 42,1052

(14) St. Thomas Aquinas, Dec. præc. I

(15) See Catechism, Part III, Section 1, ch. 1, Article 1:I:1959

(16) See Catechism, Part III, Section 1, ch. 1, Article 3:1730

(17) See Gaudium et Spes 17; Sirach 15:14

(18) See St. Irenaeus, Adv. haeres. 4,4,3:PG 7/1,983

(19) See Catechism, Part III, Section 1, ch. 1, Article 3:I: 1732

(20) See Luke 2:34

(21) See I John 4:8

(22) See Romans 8

(23) See John XXIII Encyc. letter Mater et Magistra: AAS 53 (1961), 447 [TPS VII, 331]

(24) See Paul VI encyc. letter Populorum progression, nos. 48-55: AAS 59 (1967), 281-284 [TPS XII, 160-162]

(25) See Jn 3:7