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Old Nov 17, '05, 9:54 am
threej_lc threej_lc is offline
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Default Does every human life have a soul?

A priest told me that the church doesn't necessarily teach that life begins at conception, but rather that because we don't know when life begins, we must act as if it did begin at conception "in case". He cites identical twins as an argument for this (does the original embryo have two souls before it splits, or can reproduction take place outside of the sexual act in this sense?)

In attempting to refute this argument, I found the "Declaration on Procured Abortoins" released by the CDF. (available at

In footnote #19, it states:

This declaration expressly leaves aside the question of the moment when the spiritual soul is infused. There is not a unanimous tradition on this point and authors are as yet in disagreement. ...
supposing a later animation, there is still nothing less than a human life, preparing for and calling for a soul in which the nature received from parents is completed;
Does that mean that the embryo may not have a soul at the moment of conception, but it is still considered Human Life, without a soul, regardless?

Old Nov 17, '05, 11:01 am
Fr. Vincent Serpa Fr. Vincent Serpa is offline
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Default Re: Does every human life have a soul?

Dear Josh,

With the “Declaration on Procured Abortions” you are on the right track.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church states in #2323, “Because it should be treated as a person from conception, the embryo must be defended in its integrity, cared for, and healed like every other human being.”

The Church actually teaches as De Fide that the soul is the “form of the body.” In so doing, it is saying that the soul is the principle of the life of the person. (The Council of Venice, held from 1311to 1312: Denzinger 491, cf. 738, 1658)

So only when there is life is there a human soul. Death is the departure of the soul from the body. This means that at no time can one have a living body without a soul.

So the Church DOES INDEED teach that human life begins at conception. What it does not explain is HOW this happens. In the case of twins, it could be that the first embryo has a soul and is a person. Then another embryo develops from it. Thus we have another person with another soul. Or it could be that the first embryo splits into two other embryos with the first embryo dying at the conception of two new persons. At this point, we don’t have enough information to explain what exactly has happened.

Fr. Vincent Serpa, O.P.
Old Nov 17, '05, 1:36 pm
Jim Blackburn Jim Blackburn is offline
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Join Date: May 3, 2004
Posts: 640
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Default Re: Does every human life have a soul?

See also When do identical twins get their souls?

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