Ensoulment at conception


#1

I am looking for any sources for what the teaching of ensoulment at conception is derived from. If anyone can point to some good references or information it would be much appreciated.
Thanks

In Christ - J.M.J.
Mapleoak


#2

Blocked from editing for clarity, so adding the following information:

I am looking for any sources for where the teaching of ensoulment at conception is derived from. Not looking for what the Catholic teaching is. If anyone can point to some information such as historical documents, counsels, Bible quotes, etc., it would be most appreciated. I need good solid Catholic references to use for our right to life newsletter on the history of this teaching.
Thanks

In Christ - J.M.J.
Mapleoak


#3

My recall is the church teaching is life is sacred from conception, which implies ensoulment has occurred. I think this contradicts Thomas Aquinas.

PPIV "In fact, just as man does not have unlimited dominion over his body in general, so also, with particular reason, he has no such dominion over his generative faculties as such, because of their intrinsic ordination towards raising up life, of which God is the principle. “Human life is sacred,”- Humanae Vitae 1968

“Human life is sacred from its very inception it reveals the creating hand of God.” Cf. John XXIII, Encycl. Mater et Magistra, AAS 53 (1961), p. 447 (C.T.S. translation, n.194).


#4

In Donum Vitae (1987), there’s a line that suggests that they don’t mean to rule out the theory of Aquinas (that ensoulment occurs some time after fertilization is also taught in the Roman Catechism (around the time of the Council of Trent) – I don’t know if you want to mention that in your “history” or not, mapleoak). Aquinas didn’t say life was not sacred before ensoulment took place. Note the bolded text:

(Donum Vitae 1987)
*This Congregation [for the Doctrine of the Faith] is aware of the current debates concerning the beginning of human life, concerning the individuality of the human being and concerning the identity of the human person. The Congregation recalls the teachings found in the Declaration on Procured Abortion: “From the time that the ovum is fertilized, a new life is begun which is neither that of the father nor of the mother; it is rather the life of a new human being with his own growth. It would never be made human if it were not human already. To this perpetual evidence…modern genetic science brings valuable confirmation. It has demonstrated that, from the first instant, the program is fixed as to what this living being will be: a man, this individual-man with his characteristic aspects already well determined. Right from fertilization is begun the adventure of a human life, and each of its great capacities requires time…to find its place and to be in a position to act.” (25) 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.

Certainly no experimental datum can be in itself sufficient to bring us to the recognition of a spiritual soul; nevertheless, the conclusions of science regarding the human embryo provide a valuable indication for discerning by the use of reason a personal presence at the moment of this first appearance of a human life: how could a human individual not be a human person? The Magisterium has not expressly committed itself to an affirmation of a philosophical nature, but it constantly reaffirms the moral condemnation of any kind of procured abortion. This teaching has not been changed and is unchangeable. (26)

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. The human being is to be respected and treated as a person from the moment of conception; and therefore from that same moment his rights as a person must be recognized, among which in the first place is the inviolable right of every innocent human being to life.*

priestsforlife.org/magisterium/donumvitae.htm

It seems to be the widely-held belief that ensoulment is at conception but according to Donum Vitae, the “Magisterium has not expressly committed itself to an affirmation of a philosophical nature” regarding the matter, even while it affirms, apparently independently of how that question is resolved, abortion’s immorality. Cardinal Martini has opined that an “oocyte at the stage of two pronuclei” is not yet a new human embryo and individual (apparently it doesn’t have its own set of DNA yet at that stage).

I don’t know too much about the history of the magisterium’s teaching between the Roman Catechism and Donum Vitae, but I can give you an argument that some individual Catholics use to support the belief that ensoulment occurs at conception. Some argue that at conception the newly formed human embryo has its own set of DNA and is thus a new human body. They argue further that God doesn’t create human bodies without corresponding human souls (if he did that he would be creating a kind of human corpse, they say) and that therefore this new human body must have a human soul.

And the above text quoted in Donum Vitae, while not making an express philosophical commitment, gives an argument for the human embryo from conception being a human individual and asks rhetorically how a human individual can not be a human person.


#5

In Tractatus Canonico-Moralis de Sacramentis, which is from the nineteenth century, the theory of ensoulment at conception is referred to as what “has long been the more common and probable theory.”

You can read more at: blog.ipsissima-verba.org/?p=221


#6

Thanks, this is very helpful. I forgot about Tractatus Canonico-Moralis de Sacramentis. :thumbsup:

In Christ - J.M.J.
Mapleoak


#7

I always go to Luke 1:38-43

Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.”

Then the angel departed from her.

During those days Mary set out and traveled to the hill country in haste to a town of Judah, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the infant leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth, filled with the holy Spirit, cried out in a loud voice and said, "Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.
And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?

Scholars believe it would take 3-5 days to travel to the house of Zechariah. Mary, being young, and “in all haste”, I would suspect the shorter time. Since the incarnation occured before the greeting, the ensoulment must have been accomplished.

Although this is not conception, it is within the first few days.


#8

[quote="mapleoak, post:2, topic:74063"]
I am looking for any sources for where the teaching of ensoulment at conception is derived from. Not looking for what the Catholic teaching is. If anyone can point to some information such as historical documents, counsels, Bible quotes, etc., it would be most appreciated. I need good solid Catholic references to use for our right to life newsletter on the history of this teaching.

[/quote]

See this:
Brian Clowes, PhD. "Chapter 9: Catholic Church Teachings on Abortion: Early Teachings of the Church". Facts of Life. Human Life International.


#9

[quote="cor, post:4, topic:74063"]
In Donum Vitae (1987), there's a line that suggests that they don't mean to rule out the theory of Aquinas (that ensoulment occurs some time after fertilization is also taught in the Roman Catechism (around the time of the Council of Trent) -- I don't know if you want to mention that in your "history" or not, mapleoak). Aquinas didn't say life was not sacred before ensoulment took place. Note the bolded text:
....................

[/quote]

Could you please give me the reference for the Roman Catechism where it teaches ensoulment occurs some time after fertilization? I am unable to find anything about it in my Roman Catechism.

There is a footnote reference in the Roman Catechism to Aquinas' Summa - 1a 65-74, but in scanning, I was unable to find anything in those questions about the timing of ensoulment. If there is discussion in the Summa concerning the time of ensoulment, I would appreciate it if you - or anyone else - could provide me with the particular reference.

(My understanding is that the source of Aquinas' 40 day (boy) and 80/90 day (girl) ensoulment is from his Commentary on the Book of Sentences,)

Thanks in advance for any help.


#10

Gaudium et Spes, n. 51

For God, the Lord of life, has conferred on men the surpassing ministry of safeguarding life in a manner which is worthy of man. Therefore from the moment of its conception life must be guarded with the greatest care while abortion and infanticide are unspeakable crimes.

vatican.va/archive/hist_councils/ii_vatican_council/documents/vat-ii_const_19651207_gaudium-et-spes_en.html

CONGREGATION FOR THE DOCTRINE OF THE FAITH

INSTRUCTION ON RESPECT FOR HUMAN LIFE IN ITS ORIGIN
AND ON THE DIGNITY OF PROCREATION
REPLIES TO CERTAIN QUESTIONS OF THE DAY

The inviolability of the innocent human being's right to life "from the moment of conception until death" (14) is a sign and requirement of the very inviolability of the person to whom the Creator has given the gift of life.

From the moment of conception, the life of every human being is to be respected in an absolute way because man is the only creature on earth that God has "wished for himself " (16) and the spiritual soul of each man is "immediately created" by God; (17) his whole being bears the image of the Creator.

[The life of each human being must be protected from conception because from conception each person has a soul created immediately by God. The soul is not created at a later time during human development.]

At the Second Vatican Council, the Church for her part presented once again to modern man her constant and certain doctrine according to which: "Life once conceived, must be protected with the utmost care; abortion and infanticide are abominable crimes". (23) More recently, the Charter of the Rights of the Family, published by the Holy See, confirmed that "Human life must be absolutely respected and protected from the moment of conception".(24)

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.

vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/cfaith/documents/rc_con_cfaith_doc_19870222_respect-for-human-life_en.html

When Babies Get Their Souls
By Jimmy Akin

When viewed without the lens of Aristotelian science, the biblical view of ensoulment becomes clear. In the Old Testament, the psalmist assumes the humanity of the unborn child at conception when he says, "Indeed, I was born guilty, a sinner when my mother conceived me" (Ps. 51:5, NRSV). This indicates that the unborn child possesses a sinful, fallen nature at the time of conception (though it does not manifest in actual, personal sins until later; cf. Romans 9:11). Since sin is a spiritual phenomenon, the presence of a sinful nature indicates a spiritual nature and thus a soul, making the child a complete human being from conception.

The humanity of the unborn at all stages of development is also indicated by the biblical terminology used to refer to unborn children. The Hebrew term yeled, which means "child, son, boy, offspring, youth," is used to refer to the unborn child, regardless of the stage of development. (Cf. Ex. 21:22, where the Hebrew says literally "her children come out" instead of "she has a miscarriage," as in some translations.) The same is true of the term ben, which means "son, child, youth" (cf. Gen. 25:22).

From the biblical perspective, all children are children, whether born or not. The Jews neither had nor needed a specialized term for the unborn, whose humanity they saw clearly. Thus the Hebrew Scripture regularly refers to individuals existing in the womb ("I knew you in the womb," Jer. 1:5; cf. Job. 10:8–12, Ps. 139:13–16, Is. 44:2).

The Didache, one of the earliest Christian writings outside the New Testament (c. A.D. 70) states, "You shall not procure an abortion, nor destroy a newborn child" (2:1). The Letter of Barnabas (c. A.D. 74) states, "You shall not murder a child by procuring abortion; nor, again, shall you destroy it after it is born" (19). Numerous other references in the early Christian writers condemn abortion as murder.

The possession of the soul at all stages of development is also indicated by natural reason, once one understands what a soul is. From an ultimate perspective, a human is comprised of a human soul serving as the substantial form of a human body (cf. Summa Theologiae I:75:4), as indicated in Genesis 2:7. The fact that a soul is needed to turn a human body into a human has sufficiently penetrated the popular consciousness that people recognize the presence of a soul is tied to the right to life.

catholic.com/thisrock/2002/0203bt.asp


#11

[quote="Nita, post:9, topic:74063"]
Could you please give me the reference for the Roman Catechism where it teaches ensoulment occurs some time after fertilization? I am unable to find anything about it in my Roman Catechism.

[/quote]

I don't think the Catechism teaches that Nita, rather it teaches ensoulment occurs at the moment of conception:

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.

vatican.va/archive/ccc_css/archive/catechism/p3s2c2a5.htm


#12

Please excuse my ignorance, but is there a difference between when ensoulment occurs and when life occurs? Would it be technically possible to have a human life at any point that does not have a soul?

I have heard a priest say that the Church has not technically defined when ensoulment occurs, only when life occurs. IF that is correct (and again, I have no idea) then the above posts would only be demonstrating how the Church shows that LIFE begins at conception, but not ENSOULMENT.

Can someone point to something that specifically deals with ensoulment? Thank you!


#13

[quote="smichhertz, post:12, topic:74063"]
Please excuse my ignorance, but is there a difference between when ensoulment occurs and when life occurs? Would it be technically possible to have a human life at any point that does not have a soul?

[/quote]

Life begins when sperm fertilizes an egg and begins dividing. Life begins that way for animals and humans. Ensoulment is when a soul enters into that mix. According to the Catholic Church it is not posible to have a human life without a soul. If it doesn't have a "soul" it is not human.

[quote="smichhertz, post:12, topic:74063"]

I have heard a priest say that the Church has not technically defined when ensoulment occurs, only when life occurs. IF that is correct (and again, I have no idea) then the above posts would only be demonstrating how the Church shows that LIFE begins at conception, but not ENSOULMENT.

[/quote]

This is what I have heard all my life too. Of course "life" begins at conception. But the early church, though they were always opposed to abortion, was not in agreement over when "ensoulment" happened. Some said at the moment of quickening (when the mother could feel the baby in her womb, it's first movement), some said after implantation.

Medically speaking, one is not pregnant until implantation, which is detected when Hcg levels rise in a woman. Until that happens, there is no way to confirm whether or not someone is pregnant...though those practicing fertilitily awareness or NFP are probably quite aware ;) Also consider that over 50% of conceptions end up as spontaneous abortions...not really sure God would create all those souls only to have them lost before implantation, but hey, He's the Boss. He can do what He likes.

One thing the Church is adamant though, and in agreement with is, that one should protect human life all the way back to the moment of conception and treat the zygote as a human being with a soul all the way back to the moment of conception. That isn't the same thing as declaring when ensoulment happens, and the Church can be really specific, can't it? I really haven't found any documentation that the Church teaches that "ensoulment" specifically happens at conception or any other time, but by following the teaching of treating the zygote as if it has a soul from the moment of conception you'd be erring on the side of caution.

[quote="smichhertz, post:12, topic:74063"]

Can someone point to something that specifically deals with ensoulment? Thank you!

[/quote]

I can't, but that doesn't mean that this documentation doesn't exist. Maybe one of the good researchers here at CAF can find something :)


#14

Originally Posted by smichhertz

Please excuse my ignorance, but is there a difference between when ensoulment occurs and when life occurs? Would it be technically possible to have a human life at any point that does not have a soul?

Personally, I like the way Genesis explains it. ----- Genesis 2:7 then the LORD God formed man of dust from the ground, and *breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being. *

In CCC #362 this "breath of life" is equated to the soul part of man.
**II. "Body and Soul but Truly One
362. **The human person, created in the image of God, is a being at once corporeal and spiritual. The biblical account expresses this reality in symbolic language when it affirms that "then the LORD God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being. ... It seems to me that this paragraph in essence says that life begins when the soul is infused.


#15

[quote="Nita, post:14, topic:74063"]
Personally, I like the way Genesis explains it. ----- Genesis 2:7 then the LORD God formed man of dust from the ground, and *breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being. *

In CCC #362 this "breath of life" is equated to the soul part of man.
**II. "Body and Soul but Truly One
362. **The human person, created in the image of God, is a being at once corporeal and spiritual. The biblical account expresses this reality in symbolic language when it affirms that "then the LORD God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being. ... It seems to me that this paragraph in essence says that life begins when the soul is infused.

[/quote]

I see what you're saying, and I'm certainly not trying to contradict you, everyone has to work their way through learning all this. But the way all that reads is that there is a soul when the body begins breathing.... 1) in the case of Adam, there was no prenatal period, he was formed from the dust from the ground, God breathed Adan's nostrils the breath of life and he became a living being, or was given his soul. and 2) If we were to take the quote you gave literally, since the first breath is taken at birth, then there wouldn't be a soul until birth. And remember the CCC says that the biblical account is expressed in symbolic language. So I personally don't think that explains when exactly ensoulment occurs.


#16

[quote="Rence, post:15, topic:74063"]
I see what you're saying, and I'm certainly not trying to contradict you, everyone has to work their way through learning all this. But the way all that reads is that there is a soul when the body begins breathing.... 1) in the case of Adam, there was no prenatal period, he was formed from the dust from the ground, God breathed Adan's nostrils the breath of life and he became a living being, or was given his soul. and 2) If we were to take the quote you gave literally, since the first breath is taken at birth, then there wouldn't be a soul until birth. And remember the CCC says that the biblical account is expressed in symbolic language. So I personally don't think that explains when exactly ensoulment occurs.

[/quote]

My understanding is that the "breath of life" does not refer to Adam's breath, but to something that came from God and which God breathed into what He had "formed from the ground". This breath of life that He breathed into Adam cause Adam to become a living being. It sounds as tho God breathed this soul into Adam at the time he was formed from the dust (stuff of the earth) -- which is also what our bodies are formed of. We really don't know for sure the age/size etc. of Adam at the time God "formed" him.


#17

Here is Tertullian's input on the subject, from about the beginning of the 3rd century.

CHAPTER 27

SOUL AND BODY CONCEIVED, FORMED AND
PERFECTED IN ELEMENT SIMULTANEOUSLY

How, then, is a living being conceived? Is the substance of both body and
soul formed together at one and the same time? Or does one of them
precede the other in natural formation? We indeed maintain that both are
conceived, and formed, and perfectly simultaneously, as well as born
together; and that not a moment’s interval occurs in their conception, so
that, a prior place can be assigned to either. Judge, in fact, of the incidents
of man’s earliest existence by those which occur to him at the very last.
As death is defined to be nothing else than the separation of body and
soul, life, which is the opposite of death, is susceptible of no other
definition than the conjunction of body and soul. If the severance happens
at one and the same time to both substances by means of death, so the law
of their combination ought to assure us that it occurs simultaneously to
the two substances by means of life. Now we allow that life begins with
conception, because we contend that the soul also begins from conception;
life taking its commencement at the same moment and place that the soul
does. Thus, then, the processes which act together to produce separation
by death, also combine in a simultaneous action to produce life. If we
assign priority to (the formation of) one of the natures, and a subsequent
time to the other, we shall have further to determine the precise times of
the semination, according to the condition and rank of each. And that being
so, what time shall we give to the seed of the body, and what to the seed
of the soul? Besides, if different periods are to be assigned to the
seminations then arising out of this difference in time, we shall also have
different substances. For although we shall allow that there are two kinds
of seed — that of the body and that of the soul — we still declare that
they are inseparable, and therefore contemporaneous and simultaneous in
origin. Now let no one take offense or feel ashamed at an interpretation of
the processes of nature which is rendered necessary (by the defense of the
truth). Nature should be to us an object of reverence, not of blushes. It is
lust, not natural usage, which has brought shame on the intercourse of the
sexes. It is the excess, not the normal state, which is immodest and
unchaste: the normal condition has received a blessing from God, and is
blest by Him: “Be fruitful, and multiply, (and replenish the earth.)”
Excess, however, has He cursed, in adulteries, and wantonness, and
chambering. Well, now, in this usual function of the sexes which brings
together the male and the female in their common intercourse, we know
that both the soul and the flesh discharge a duty together: the soul
supplies desire, the flesh contributes the gratification of it; the soul
furnishes the instigation, the flesh affords the realization. The entire man
being excited by the one effort of both natures, his seminal substance is
discharged, deriving its fluidity from the body, and its warmth from the
soul. Now if the soul in Greek is a word which is synonymous with cold,
how does it come to pass that the body grows cold after the soul has
quitted it? Indeed (if I run the risk of offending modesty even, in my desire
to prove the truth), I cannot help asking, whether we do not, in that very
heat of extreme gratification when the generative fluid is ejected, feel that
somewhat of our soul has gone from us? And do we not experience a
faintness and prostration along with a dimness of sight? This, then, must
be the soul-producing seed, which arises at once from the out-drip of the
soul, just as that fluid is the body-producing seed which proceeds from the
drainage of the flesh. Most true are the examples of the first creation.
Adam’s flesh was formed of clay. Now what is clay but an excellent
moisture, whence should spring the generating fluid? From the breath of
God first came the soul. But what else is the breath of God than the vapor
of the spirit, whence should spring that which we breathe out through the
generative fluid? Forasmuch, therefore, as these two different and separate
substances, the clay and the breath, combined at the first creation in
forming the individual man, they then both amalgamated and mixed their
proper seminal rudiments in one, and ever afterwards communicated to the
human race the normal mode of its propagation, so that even now the two
substances, although diverse from each other, flow forth simultaneously in
a united channel; and finding their way together into their appointed
seed-plot, they fertilize with their combined vigor the human fruit out of
their respective natures. And inherent in this human product is his own
seed, according to the process which has been ordained for every creature
endowed with the functions of generation. Accordingly from the one
(primeval) man comes the entire outflow and redundance of men’s souls
— nature proving herself true to the commandment of God, “Be fruitful,
and multiply.” For in the very preamble of this one production, “Let us
make man,” man’s whole posterity was declared and described in a plural
phrase, “Let them have dominion over the fish of the sea,” etc. And no
wonder: in the seed lies the promise and earnest of the crop.


#18

This is an interesting treatment of the controversy surrounding St. Thomas Aquinas's description of when ensoulment happens. Some say he supports "delayed hominization" while others, generally those more in-line with the Magisterium on other issues, too, say his opinion is based on the relative lack of medieval empirical knowledge of embryology.

Haldane, John; Lee, Patrick (2003). "Aquinas on Human Ensoulment, Abortion and the Value of Life". Philosophy 78: 255-278.

John Haldane is a contemporary secular philosopher influenced by St. Thomas; he is one of the founders of the "Analytical Thomism" movement which tries to reconcile St. Thomas's philosophy with analytical philosophy.


#19

It seems there is no clear teaching of this issue in detail. Let’s look at the steps:

Step 1: Male life (sperm) is contacted to female life (egg)
Step 2: Sperm enters egg
Step 3: Sperm and egg lose original identity forming a mixed entity ( most Catholics recognize as person)
Step 4: entity replicates, the first growth of the new being
Step 5: entity moves
Step 6: entity implants ( Legally recognized as pregnancy)
Step x: ( 40, 60, or 80 days) St. Thomas Aquinas's recognizes ensoulment
Step x (26 weeks): Legally recognized as person

So life transfers however souls have to be infused during that process. My understanding is Catholics are to protect all stages as equal in life while lacking knowledge of when infusion occurs.


#20

[quote="Texas_Roofer, post:19, topic:74063"]
It seems there is no clear teaching of this issue in detail. Let’s look at the steps:

Step 1: Male life (sperm) is contacted to female life (egg)
Step 2: Sperm enters egg
Step 3: Sperm and egg lose original identity forming a mixed entity ( most Catholics recognize as person)
Step 4: entity replicates, the first growth of the new being
Step 5: entity moves
Step 6: entity implants ( Legally recognized as pregnancy)
Step x: ( 40, 60, or 80 days) St. Thomas Aquinas's recognizes ensoulment
Step x (26 weeks): Legally recognized as person

So life transfers however souls have to be infused during that process. My understanding is Catholics are to protect all stages as equal in life while lacking knowledge of when infusion occurs.

[/quote]

Seems like a good analysis. Except Step 8 (second step x) is Birth: Legally recognized as a person.


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