Abortion, sex and church fathers

As I’ve studied more on Early Church Fathers, I have to say I’m a little surprised, confused and discouraged to learn that some early fathers, particularly Augustine and Jerome, believed and taught that abortion early in pregnancy was not sin, however their views on sex within marriage and women are so strongly negative. I have a hard time accepting their teachings that woman is the root of evil, women provide no good to man except bearing children, and that all sex is unclean (even in marriage) and marital sex for any pleasure is adultry.

This is obviously very different from current teachings and beliefs that all abortion is sinfull, that women have dignity in Christ and that sex within marriage is sacred and unifying. I certainly believe and understand that not everything a saint says is correct, however these two individuals had such a huge influence over the development of the church due to their skill and power at a time when Christianity flurished throughout society and was no longer persecuted. While I think both extremes can be bad, on the surface it does seem like being closer to embracing a gnostic attitude of ascetism as apposed to the hebrew culture our faith was built on.

I’m not sure I’ll ever understand completely, but I just feel so strongly against abortion that it’s hard for me to comprehend that for a long time the Church viewed penance for certain sexual sins within marriage as hundred of times more severe than abortion, which sometimes wasn’t even sin (if the fetus wasn’t fully formed with limbs, etc.).

Where did you read all this? I know some early fathers had a negative view of marriage, but I’ve not heard it to this extreme. Could you link me to wherever you found this information, or quote some of it?

I will say that most of it comes from websites that don’t fully support Catholic Theology that I was lead to in research, so I’ll provide some links, and also point out that google can get you to most. I hope some of it is out of context and maybe that’s why I’m confused, and understand you are going to non-Catholic christian sites. The more I look, I think they accurately reflect their opinions on sex, however they are probably not giving the complete story on women.

on abortion


This is mostly refuting a 75 page letter jerome wrote, which you can read at the end


One “Christian” site that tries to refute sex within marriage is sinful.


There are certainly things on these sites I don’t agree with, but some of it I do, like sex within marriage can be spiritual, unifying and not sin.

Please consider adding Catholic instruction to your reading list:


From the article:

Summary of Rebuttal.

The falsehoods shown in Figure 43-1 have been bandied about by devious pro-abortionists for the last century, and the time has come to lay them to rest once and for all.

Most importantly, the Catholic Church has never “approved of” or “condoned” abortion in any part of its history. It has never taught that the time of ‘ensoulment’ of the unborn child depended on its sex, as stated above; this was merely the speculation of two theologians (who, by the way, both condemned abortion at all times).

And the Catholic Church has never accepted the theory of delayed animation. The only time that the Church has ever addressed this question is when Pope Innocent XI officially condemned the theory that animation took place at birth.

The teachings of the Catholic Church have been uniformly against abortion in any form, and have been stated and restated consistently through the centuries.

Those who believe otherwise are hereby challenged to produce a statement by any Pope, cardinal or bishop supporting abortion from any period in history (declarations by Modernist priests with suspended teaching authority don’t count).

Early Teachings of the Church.

Figure 43-2 lists some quotes from the early history of the Church delineating its true teachings regarding abortion. This figure depicts passages from only a few of the many early Church documents that explicitly condemned abortion.

Other early Church theologians examined the methods, motives, morality and metaphysics of abortion. They all described abortion as a heinous sin, and their writings are listed in the second half of Figure 43-2.



St. Augustine on abortion


St. Jerome on aboriton


I certainly never exclude Church sources. I am very pro-life and would be even if 1,000 Saints didn’t share the current view as strongly as the Church does today. I certainly understand they weren’t saying abortion was virtuous. Upon further reading, they just said it wasn’t murder, not necessarily that it’s not sin.

I think my struggle is more the hierarchy of sins established and view that marital sex that can’t lead to childbirth (say when one spouse was pregnant), demanded higher penance than early term abortion. I’m actually sorry I posted this, as I think I’ll just follow the current Church teachings and move on.

You have to remember that they didn’t really understand what was going on with the woman’s body. We know a lot more and we know that a human life is present at the beginning of conception. Science has shown us this.

Abortion has always been considered a grave sin. See the extract below from the Didache which was written while at least some of the Apostles were still alive.

The Didache (Written around 70AD to 100AD)

Chapter 2. The Second Commandment: Grave Sin Forbidden. And the second commandment of the Teaching; You shall not commit murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not commit pederasty, you shall not commit fornication, you shall not steal, you shall not practice magic, you shall not practice witchcraft,** you shall not murder a child by abortion** nor kill that which is born. You shall not covet the things of your neighbor, you shall not swear, you shall not bear false witness, you shall not speak evil, you shall bear no grudge. You shall not be double-minded nor double-tongued, for to be double-tongued is a snare of death. Your speech shall not be false, nor empty, but fulfilled by deed. You shall not be covetous, nor rapacious, nor a hypocrite, nor evil disposed, nor haughty. You shall not take evil counsel against your neighbor. You shall not hate any man; but some you shall reprove, and concerning some you shall pray, and some you shall love more than your own life.

I curious as to how any ECF’s or anyone else in their time could know if “the fetus wasn’t fully formed with limbs, etc.”

Just curious.

I’m curious as to how any ECF’s or anyone else in their time could know if “the fetus wasn’t fully formed with limbs, etc.”


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