Church pronouncements on science

When the Church says that human life starts when the sperm penetrates the egg, and not when the pronuclei have fused, is that a Church pronouncement on science? Does it require religious submission of will and intellect, or more? Of course, I am absolutely going to side with whatever the Church says, but with what authority does it say the above?

So my next question is, if this is a pronouncement on science, then how does this differ from our obligation with regard to what the Pope has said on climate change?

Has the Church said that? Source?

Well, I thought so.
Here’s a statement from the Pontifical Academy for Life (translated from Spanish):

The moment that marks the beginning of the existence of a new “human being” is constituted by the penetration of sperm into the oocyte. Fertilization promotes a series of linked events and transforms the egg cell “zygote”.

Although I’m not sure what authority that Academy has, if any. But if the Church hasn’t said anything, it makes statements by Cardinal Martini (with some of his statements it helps to keep in mind St. Ignatius’ presupposition), as well as a response he elicited from a fellow bishop who said, “And fertilization is the beginning of a continual vital process in which it is difficult to identify substantial qualitative leaps. So in case of doubt, one must play it safe and avoid utilizing or manipulating the new being.” I suppose there’s no need to mention cases of doubt or “playing it safe” if the Church had said it was a human being.

Well, I thought so.
Here’s a statement from the Pontifical Academy for Life (translated from Spanish):

The moment that marks the beginning of the existence of a new “human being” is constituted by the penetration of sperm into the oocyte. Fertilization promotes a series of linked events and transforms the egg cell “zygote”.

Although I’m not sure what authority that Academy has, if any. But if the Church hasn’t said anything, it makes statements by Cardinal Martini (with some of his statements it helps to keep in mind St. Ignatius’ presupposition), as well as a response he elicited from a fellow bishop who said, “And fertilization is the beginning of a continual vital process in which it is difficult to identify substantial qualitative leaps. So in case of doubt, one must play it safe and avoid utilizing or manipulating the new being.” I suppose there’s no need to mention cases of doubt or “playing it safe” if the Church had said it was a human being.

Some of the best scientists in the world work for the Vatican. They are certainly credible.
They employ many to refute miracles and such, to investigate the causes for Saints, etc.
Also the best astronomers.
Are you thinking that matters of science should have nothing to do with our faith?
I find it reassuring that the Church has no issue with scientific discoveries and research. :shrug:

Uh, no! Sorry if I made it seem otherwise!

CrossofChrist;13402188
When the Church says that human life starts when the sperm penetrates the egg, and not when the pronuclei have fused, is that a Church pronouncement on science?

I’m not aware of any Church document that uses the biological terminology in the bolded portion above. What the Church does say is that life begins “at the moment of conception”. This is the terminology used in the Catechism of the Catholic Church and in other Church documents. Also in regard to Mary’s Immaculate Conception.

Does it require religious submission of will and intellect, or more?

I’m pretty sure that one must give submission of will and intellect to the teaching that human life begins at the moment of conception . But it would be best to check with a priest to be certain.
It does require “more” in the sense that it is a matter of grave sin to procure an abortion at any time after the moment of conception.

So my next question is, if this is a pronouncement on science

It’s not the Church making a pronouncement on science. Science actually shows that the Church teaching is accurate. It can now be seen that the fertilized ovum is living. The Church teaching has to do with the properties (not sure if that’s the correct word) of a human soul, and when a human soul is infused. The Church teaches that the human soul is infused by God at the moment of conception. Biological science doesn’t deal with “souls”.

Neither the Church nor scientists always knew just what took place in the womb. St. Thomas Aquinas accepted the current thinking at his time (a progression of souls in the womb: first a vegetative soul, then an animal soul, and finally a human soul). But even with man’s incomplete and inaccurate knowledge, the Church from the very beginning, and St. Thomas Aquinas also, forbade abortion.

then how does this differ from our obligation with regard to what the Pope has said on climate change?

I have not read the encyclical yet, so I’ll leave this to someone else. I’ll only say that it’s pretty obvious to most that a climate change is taking place.

The Church can and does make pronouncements about science, and its teaching authority does extend beyond faith and morals. I hope the following helps:

usccb.org/issues-and-action/human-life-and-dignity/

Ed

True. What I’m asking is when conception occurs and if the Church has made a statement on that. :slight_smile:

You’ll find the words “zygote” and “gametes” used in Donum Vitae (an Instruction by the Congregation For The Doctrine Of Faith) :
This teaching remains valid and is further confirmed, if confirmation were needed, by recent findings of human biological science which recognize that in the zygote* resulting from fertilization the biological identity of a new human individual is already constituted. …

Thus the fruit of human generation, from the first moment of its existence, that is to say from the moment the zygote has formed, demands the unconditional respect that is morally due to the human being in his bodily and spiritual totality.

A later Instruction from the CDF - Dignitatis Personae - cites Donum Vitae. “Gametes” again appears in the footnotes
vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/cfaith/documents/rc_con_cfaith_doc_20081208_dignitas-personae_en.html

So, conception would be when the nuclei of the sperm (gamete) has fused with the nuclei of the ovum (gamete).

Looks like I was wrong on my previous post when I thought the Church didn’t use such technical language. :o:)

Just an added note: Both of the above documents were reviewed by the Pope at the time, approved and ordered printed by him. (John Paul II for Donum Vitae and Pope Benedict XVI for Dignitatis Personae)

Thank you

I think Nita’s answers have been excellent and informative. I would also add that what Catholics are obligated to believe are that life begins at conception. It is really a directly observable phenomenon with a beginning and a continuation until death. It’s not like climate change which is a non-specific thing, and neither is a “cause/effect” of how “much” human influence is involved in it, and neither is how “bad” that influence might be.

I think the church is looking for the moment the sperm and the egg become one, new being. I wouldn’t consider it a pronouncement on science, but more of a determination of what science currently says about when this happens. The language used seems to imply that unless we can definitively say otherwise, we should “play it safe” and go with the earliest moment this seems to happen. I think we are certainly bound by the church in this moral matter.

CCC 2274 Since it must be treated from conception as a person, the embryo must be defended in its integrity, cared for, and healed, as far as possible, like any other human being.

CCC 2319 Every human life, from the moment of conception until death, is sacred because the human person has been willed for its own sake in the image and likeness of the living and holy God.

Excellent resources have already been provided by previous posts.

This one is just added in case anyone wants to delve into the cell biology details of fertilization, including fusion of nuclei:

stthomas.edu/media/schooloflaw/pdf/jlpp/volume8no1/CondicArticle.pdf

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