St. Augustine's opinion on Abortion and its infuence on Canon law

I have been having a long standing debate on politics with my grandmother which has recently wandered into canon law on
abortion. I am fluent in German and found it much easier to find
information on the web in German than in English. This poses a
problem with our debate though because my grandmother only speaks English. So can someone point me to some credible references on this topic?

  1. To confirm that the early stage abortions (less than 40 days
    after conception) were not considered murder by the church in the period between St. Augustine (354-430 CE) and 1869
    besides the short period between 1588 and 1591?

I understand that abortion was always considered a sin and that the current Canon 1398 penalizes it with automatic excommunication, however several German sources claim that the church has not claimed infallibility on whether or not early abortions are considered murder. Can someone confirm this?

Thanks in advance,
Odin

St. Augustine did **not ** have close to as much medical as is availible today. Bishop Vasa wrote a great artical a few weeks ago about this subject. Modern Look at Abortion Not the Same as St. Augustine’s

In Augustine’s time, a woman couldn’t be certain she was pregnant until the baby in womb moved. The ‘quickening’ as it was known, was beleived to occur when the soul entered the body. It wasn’t a bad standard, given science of the time, and considering that genetics hadn’t been discovered yet.

Now we know that infants in the womb move and show independent action long before the mother is able to preceive the it. Their genetic code is unique and distinctly personal from that point on.

We ought not denigrate one of the great minds of all human history, but Augustine’s yardstick is broken, and must be replaced with a more scientific understanding of embryology.

Thank you for your answers. I agree that science has given us a more detailed view of whats going on, however from a scientific standpoint up untill 13 days or more after conception the zygote is still an organzied bunch of cells for which there is, in my analytic opinion, little evidence for or against the presence of a soul. The zygote could, for example, still become twins which, one would argue, each have a distinct soul. Acording to a reputable German source the debate on when the soul is received is still going on.

So basically what I’m looking for is an online source when I can find older version of Canon law and similar, all I seem to find are a lot of opinions and little hard facts.

Although we all know which politician the article is referring to I think this article is a bit beside the point.

First of all the church has not trditionally relied on science to guide its teachings. Also the point at wich the soul is received is of importance, science says nothing about that. Also more important than St. Augustin’s views is the fact that pope Gregor XIV restated that the soul entered the body at a later stage and implemented it into Canon law.

Because we don’t know the Exact moment the soul enters the body, best always to error on the side of caution and assume its at conception.

Yes of course your are right as far as a personal decision! no doubt about that, however when it comes to a law we believe that everyone is innocent until proven guilty. So until we can prove beyond a doubt that an abortion very shortly after conception is in fact destroying a soul we cannot prove that they are guilty of it.

My point is as soon as you are making the decision for someone else (by making a law or similar) you must be certain that you are correct and in accordance with God’s teachings. We must keep in mind that the teachings of the American archbishops and the teachings of the Vatican have differed in the past.

I’m not sure that I am informed enough to publicly back either side of the Roe v. Wade debate (although personally I denounce abortion). I just don’t understand why the most important aspect of the debate, - when the human soul is created -, is missing in America and instead we talk abut genetics and obviously faked photos of gut wrenching cruelty. And, sorry to the forum rules forbidding us from talking about politics, I’m not sure if I like the politicians we end up voting for on the basis of this, in my mind, imperfect debate.

I invite everyone to pray with us and to join the 40 days for life. Please help end abortion in America. Join us in pray and fasting Sept 24 thru Nov 2.

There is not a sin called “destroying a soul”. Souls are immortal and cannot be destroyed. The sin is in destroying a Life. People who are guilty of abortion are guilty of taking a life.

I once served on a jury for a man accused of attempted murder. The state was not required to prove the intended victim had a soul. They only had to prove he was a human being.

Even the smallest embryo has being(it exists). Any DNA test would prove that it was a human being, and that it was the son or daughter of two identifiable individuals. The fact is we don’t know the exact instant when God creates our souls. Would he create an immortal soul for a creature he knows for sure will never develop beyond 8 or 16 cells? I would not presume to deny God the freedom to do what He chooses.

The whole question of when the soul is infused is a red herring as far as abortion is concerned. Every abortion ends the life of a human being. That is not the conclusion of philosophy or theology, it is a fact of medical science. Philosophy and moral theology teach that we are never right to directly take an innocent human life.

Long before that medical knowledge was discovered the Church taught that we were not allowed to destroy even a potential life. It is true that penitential practice varied over the centuries. The Church always taught that abortion was gravely wrong, but not that it was the same as murder. Now we know–it is murder.

Great reply trader. This brings us to my delema, I am sure throughout the roughly 1700 years of church history where early abortions were not considered “taking a life” (at least by canon law) they did understand that they were stopping a child from being born. Yet they handled it differently and the church viewed it differently than we do today.

Laws don’t consider whether or not a person has a soul.

So until we can prove beyond a doubt that an abortion very shortly after conception is in fact destroying a soul we cannot prove that they are guilty of it.

This is something we cannot prove because it is false. Once a soul is created it exists for eternity and cannot be destroyed.

My point is as soon as you are making the decision for someone else (by making a law or similar) you must be certain that you are correct and in accordance with God’s teachings.

You actually have it backwards. Unless we are certain that we are correct and in accordance with God’s teachings, we must respect life from the instance of conception, even to guaranteeing protection of the law for the unborn against those who wish to kill them.

We must keep in mind that the teachings of the American archbishops and the teachings of the Vatican have differed in the past.

The way the teachings and understanding of the infallible magisterium of the Church work is they develop over time, becoming fuller and richer. They never contradict themselves. Note that the Church has never said that abortion is not murder. It has always maintained that it is gravely immoral.

I’m not sure that I am informed enough to publicly back either side of the Roe v. Wade debate (although personally I denounce abortion). I just don’t understand why the most important aspect of the debate, - when the human soul is created -, is missing in America and instead we talk abut genetics and obviously faked photos of gut wrenching cruelty.

Because the moment the human soul is created is not the most important aspect of the debate and no, I can assure you, the photos are not faked.

And, sorry to the forum rules forbidding us from talking about politics, I’m not sure if I like the politicians we end up voting for on the basis of this, in my mind, imperfect debate.

This is not a valid excuse to vote for pro-abortion candidates.

Actually, it was considered taking a life even from the pre-Christian days. Science was not what it is today and the whole child was believed to reside in the sperm. Early Church documents refer to abortion as homicide or murder, even in the first few centuries.

This article has lots of great quotes from Early Church docs. Abortion

As you can see, even in 177 AD, abortion called for a Church penalty of 10 years of penance. That’s 10 years of public penance, while not being allowed inside the Church. Public heresy was 12 years to put it into perspective and that was tantamount to treason in the early Church.

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