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Scarcely a week after comments from Archbishop Lori that suggested he had forgotten the distinction between formal and material cooperation with evil, we now have another bishop who appears to need some remedial education in moral theology.In a column published this week (HT: In All Things), Bishop Robert Morlino of Madison, Wisconsin attempts to provide some guidance to Catholics trying to form political judgments:

However, the formation of conscience regarding particular policy issues is different depending on how fundamental to the ecology of human nature or the Catholic faith a particular issue is. Some of the most fundamental issues for the formation of a Catholic conscience are as follows: sacredness of human life from conception to natural death, marriage, religious freedom and freedom of conscience, and a right to private property.

Violations of the above involve intrinsic evil that is, an evil which cannot be justified by any circumstances whatsoever. These evils are examples of direct pollution of the ecology of human nature and can be discerned as such by human reason alone. Thus, all people of good will who wish to follow human reason should deplore any and all violations in the above areas, without exception. The violations would be: abortion, euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide, same-sex marriage, government-coerced secularism, and socialism.

Unfortunately, the bishop conflates things that are, in fact, intrinsic evils with things that are clearly not. An intrinsic evil is something that is evil by the nature of its object, regardless of the intent or circumstances. The taking of innocent human life is evil because of what the act does, regardless of the intent of the actor or the circumstances (although these may mitigate subjective moral culpability).Government coerced secularism and socialism, by contrast (assuming they are not merely epithets) are evaluative terms applied to a complex cluster of social and political institutions. One would have to know a great deal about the intent of the actors and the circumstances to make a judgment about whether a particular law or set of laws was evil.It is true that the U.S. bishops have employed the language of intrinsic evil in the context of the debate over the HHS mandate, but they have used it to condemn a law that requires Catholic institutions to facilitate (through the medium of insurance) acts of contraception, which are considered intrinsically evil. One may ultimately conclude that the law is evil, but it is not evil by nature of its object.Similarly, a law offering legal recognition of same-sex relationships is not intrinsically evil. Because the Church holds that homosexual acts are intrinsically evil (because they are closed to procreation), Church leaders have condemned such laws because they appear to endorse or facilitate evil acts. But if the bishops in a particular state were to conclude, for example, that the only way to prevent the greater evil of same-sex marriage would be to support a civil unions bill, it would not necessarily be sinful for them to support it. It would depend on the circumstances and their intent in supporting the legislation.It seems clear that Bishop Morlinoalong with a number of other U.S. bishopsis confusing the concept of intrinsic with the concept of grave. Many of the things the bishop enumerates are grave evils, but they are not intrinsic evils.What worries me about this is that bishops are, in the Catholic tradition, authoritative teachers of the faith. It is true that bishops, when speaking as individuals, do not possess the charism of infallibility. Nevertheless, they have an obligation to get their facts straight when acting as teachers of the faith. At a time when the credibility of the episcopacy is at a historic low, they need to take this responsibility more seriously than ever.

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Viability outside the mother's womb is a biological condition but it tells us nothing of "ensoulment".So it is purely arbitrary or rather contrived to consider viablity ourside the womb as concurrent with ensoulment.The zygote is biologically alive and a human[it's not a skin cell, nerve cell,muscle etc., but an already genetically separate from the mother entity]. The church is therefore morally compelled to say that biology is sufficent to uphold the sanctity of human life.[conception].Though a zygote is not a person -it is genetically a human and it is alive.And for those who believe we're created by God -then that means human life is sacred at conception when it is created. And of course a fetus-whether viable outside the womb or not-is capable of suffering and on that basis alone our humanity, our compassion and our belief that Jesus Christ whose solidarity is with suffering humanity in general and individuals in particular calls us to acknowledge the reality that the fetus suffers and therefore we can't justify killing it.Abortion is therefore intrinsically evil -a grave evil-and no accomodation with it can ever be made by the church.

Cardinal Ratzinger once wrote an article discussing whether one is cooperating with evil if a Catholic votes for a candidate whose views are in tension with Catholic teachings (e.g., pro-choice, gay marriage). He concluded that a Catholic must use the concept of proportionality because a political candidate is often not characterized by one issue, nor do many Catholics vote for a candidate based on one issue, although some do. You can be pro-life but for same-sex civil unions; against abortion but allow for terminating pregnancy to save the life of the mother when the fetus cannot survive under any circumstances (e.g. the Phoenix case). When it comes to social programs, there are a host of issues ranging from the environment to employment to immigration. As Cardinal Ratzinger asserted, one must use their informed consciences and the rule of proportionality in arriving at voting decisions.As for intrinsic evil and its definition (always morally evil regardless of circumstances and intentions), note the following inconsistencies:> Deportation is claimed to be intrinsically evil (JP II in Veritatis Spendor). Yet who among us would claim that it is intrinsically evil to deport an illegal alien who committed a felony? > Contraception is intrinsically evil, but is taking the pill to avoid conception during an act of marital intercourse not the same object as the deliberate and intentional physical acts of measuring and plotting of temperature and cervical mucus to ensure that marital acts will not be procreative? What about a woman whose life is threatened by another pregnancy? She cannot take the pill or be sterilized to safe-guard her life. She must either practice risky NFP or sexual abstinence. Is it not a violation of the hierarchy of values to subordinate a decision to use the safest and prudent means to safeguard one's life to a decision to ensure that every marital act is open to procreation?

Let me add, though, that I take it that the bishops are well within their rights to argue in the public square against public policies such as those that would legalize same sex marriage and those that have features they find objectionable such as the HHS mandate, Where they exceed these bounds, and seem to run afoul of the positions of Aquinas and Augustine, is when they demand obedience from Catholics and accuse those who disagree with them of moral fault.Exactly so. I agree with your statement. I think the problem in the bishops' presentation is the unstated proposition that human law should enforce every aspect of the natural law. That is the opposite of what Aquinas and Augustine argued.

There is much debate over Aquinas. His teachings must be given both historical context and contemporary exegesis. Two points:1. Natural law was for Aquinas the participation of us in the eternal law, in that humans had a conaturality or natural knowing of good and evil, right and wrong. It was the practical reason participating in the eternal law, in conjunction with the natural inclinations and subjective reason that pointed us to the good and the right...a highly complex theory considering our Fallen-Redeemed nature and the distortions of sin. For Aquinas, the answer was the practice of virtue. Our actions, he taught, point to either a virtue or vice. However, Aquinas did not develop a theory of virtue sufficient enough to be practical and easily applicable to moral dilemmas, conflicts of virtues and values and the many complex cases in everyday life. For example, many of our voluntary human actions point to several virtues and the so-called "means" of these virtues are not the so-called mid-point but can be closer to one end or the other depending on circumstances etc. While some actions may point to one virtue, most actions are complex and several virtues are involved. Some proponents of virtue theory claim that, for example, that "responsible parenthood" is the virtue of chastity-temperance without remainder. Unfortunately, this is a human construction to defend the teaching because there is no evidence in Scripture or revelation that can support this claim as the absolute moral truth.Much of the prohibitions that Aquinas taught us were thought to be natural law, but at that time, for example, the act of coitus interruptus was considered quasi-homicide because of ignorance of reproductive biology. 2. Theologian Bill Murphy in his essay "Forty Years Later: Arguments in Support of Humanae Vitae in Light of Veritatis Spendor" provides some light about Aquinas and natural law when he writes:"Many theologians misunderstand Aquinas whereby they assert that the moral practice of sexual intercourse, for example, required the non-frustration of the procreative end, which was understood to reflect the natural law, which itself was understood, not rarely, as centered in the non-frustration of natural ends. What Aquinas taught was that the proximate good and end intended by the agent indicates the "essence" of the human act whereas the "relation to the natural end," which corresponds to what is physically caused...is accidental. Accident does not mean irrelevant, although it does indicate clearly that Thomas's understanding of natural law is not centered in the non-frustration or normativity of natural ends."In conclusion, the issues involved in voting for a political candidate today is a mixture of sexual and social ethical teachings. What makes this complex is that there is a significant difference in the underlying philosophy and theology, or the moral method, of sexual ethical teachings versus and social ethical teachings of the Catholic Church. Sexual ethics tend to be absolute normative prohibitions, while social ethics tend to be based on guidelines and principles that the agent applies in specific circumstances. In the end (no pun intended), it is our informed consciences and a prudent application of the concept of proportionality that Cardinal Ratzinger, now Benedict XVI, has taught us is the best advice.

rose-ellen --You are defending the teachings of the current bishops. They do NOT entirely reflect the main historical ethical tradition of the Church on t he matter of abortion. That tradition is, of course, that of Aquinas. Aquinas taught that the zygote is not a person until one month later for males and 80 days for females. His metaphysics-ethics force the conclusion that it is murder to kill a male before r0 days and a female after 80. But he does not say that BEFORE those cut-off dates it is murder. HOwever, he does think that the zygote has the right to life, but it is not as strong as that of an ensouled fetus. In other words, when the bishops claim "natural law" asserts that an early abortion is murder, they don't know their Aquinas.My problem with thinking that the early zygote has a right to life is that it assumes a human right to a non-person. I say that is metaphysically impossible. YOu can argue that it is very much like a person, but so is a chimpanzee, even genetically.You should also be aware that the Church has never once pronounced any *moral* issue to be an infallible teaching, and that includes its teachings on abortion, whether medieval or contemporary. Aquinas himself recognized that individual circumstances could change the character of some moral issues. None of this implies that the bishops should not teach what they think is the traditional teachings. But they *ought* to know that their teaching is not exactly the traditional Thomist one. Further, neither has the Thomist one been declared an infallible one. In my opinion, the bishops overstate their case, and it does more harm than good. Better to really learn Aquinas and criticize him where necessary on the basis of better biology and revise the old teaching if necessary. Nevertheless, I agree that the Thomistic metaphysics should continue to stand -- it's still the best on the market. But it does lead to some very foundational issues that the bishops and pope never even get into. So much for their natural law understanding. It persuades neither many Catholics nor many outside the Church. That is a real pity, because, I think, much of Aquinas (not all) still stands even given the new biology.

Bernard --Yes, the bishops must follow their consciences, but unfortunately they don't seem to know enough about what Aquinas says about abortion to speak very persuasively. As to homosexual marriage, yes, they clearly have Scripture on their side if you are prepared to ignore the contexts in which the Scriptural statements were made (when there weren't enough people to guarantee survival and so homosexuality was a threat to the species.) Now I think arguments can be made in its favor. Unfortunately, until yesterday, as a matter of fact, I had never seen a bishop give any empirical evidence or even make a *claim* to empirical evidence that homosexual marriage is a threat to hereosexual marriage. (They said it was a threat, but gave zilch reasons.) But yesterday I read something from the NCCB that says gay marriage is a threat because it weakens the concept of hetero-marriage. But all that boils down to is that the words "marriage" in "homosexual marriage" and "heterosexual marriage" have somewhat different meanings -- the hetero ones include their own kids generally. But that is only a semantic issue, not a moral one. It doesn't say why adoptive hetero parents are better than adoptive gay ones. In fact, the loyalty of gay couples might give good example to the oft-married hetero ones who try to solve their problems via divorce. But I'll grant you, we really don't know yet how stable gay marriages are going to end up being. I suspect there won't be much if any difference in divorce rates between theirs and the heteroes. People are people are people . . .

Great points Ann,I would add that a zygote does not have a brain, functioning organs or hormones. It does not have a conscience, nor does it have feelings. It is not aware of anything because it is not larger than a cell. The mother's body is not aware of that it is pregnant until a period of time after conception.If a human person is a unity of body and soul, then how can a soul be part of something that is not a human body as science today defines it? At the present time, the scientific community defines life at the time of implantation. If there is a body and soul at conception and the zygote is aborted by the mother's body naturally (for any number of natural reasons), where does this human zygote-person go? To heaven or limbo? At the end of the world, how can its spirit-soul be united with its body when there was no body to begin with? Does this spirit-soul get a new body or the old body that never existed? Is there any relationship with the old body and the new body?

"If a human person is a unity of body and soul, then how can a soul be part of something that is not a human body as science today defines it?"Michael B --This is exactly the crucial point that Aquinas and other medievals make. They base it on bad biology, but contemporary biology also supports the conclusion. Anybody who is interested in the actual arguments of Aquinas and others, see these two excellent articles I've recommended here before. First rate scholarship by any standards, and very clear.William Shannon and Allan B. Wolter, ofm on The Moral Status of the Pre-Embryo in Theological Studies, Vol. 52, No. 4, pp. 603-626.Joseph F. Donceel, SJ, Immediate Animation and Delayed Hominization, Theol. Studies, March, 1970, pp. 75-105.I imagine that Theological Studies is available in most Catholic college libraries and in large secular ones as well.

In the 1987 Instruction on Human Life the CDF (+Ratzinger with the approval of JPII) said that the Church does not have a posiion on when ensoulment occurs - but that does not affect the sinfulness of abortion at any time from conception onwards)

This Congregation 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 programme 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. This doctrinal reminder provides the fundamental criterion for the solution of the various problems posed by the development of the biomedical sciences in this field: since the embryo must be treated as a person, it must also be defended in its integrity, tended and cared for, to the extent possible, in the same way as any other human being as far as medical assistance is concerned.http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/cfaith/documents/rc_con_...

I imagine that Theological Studies is available in most Catholic college libraries and in large secular ones as well.Those papers are available here:http://www.ts.mu.edu/content/51/51.4/51.4.2.pdfhttp://www.ts.mu.edu/cont...

John Hayes --Thanks very much :-) Everyone interested in the problem of "ensoulment" should consider the evidence and arguments in these articles.Would you perhaps know which "Philosophy of Science" book it is that includes Wolter's article on substance? He gives the name of the book, but he doesn't give the author/editor. I'd like to get a copy of the article, but I don't know what to look for. Amazon doesn't help, neither does bookfinder.

Ann Olivier, i haven't read it but it may be this one:http://www.worldcat.org/title/philosophy-of-science-the-philosophy-of-sc...

Ann O., John H. -- Many thanks for 2 excellent refs. Have these induced significant rebuke, acclaim, or other follow-on that would seem warranted, given their clarity, strength of argument, and 20th century understanding of post-Thomistic biology?

Have these induced significant rebuke, acclaim, or other follow-on that would seem warranted, given their clarity, strength of argument, and 20th century understanding of post-Thomistic biology?Here's a 2000 book by William May with an imprimatur and a foreword by Bishop Lori:"The attempt by Donceel, Shannon/Wolters and others to rehabilitate the "delayed hominization" theory to justify early abortions fails on several counts..."See more: http://tinyurl.com/9vc7lm3

That chapter starts on page 151 and the quote is from page 162.I hadn't realized that the URL I copied from my browser takes oyu to the book but not a specific page.

Ann O and John H.,Thanks much for those articles. They provide a strong and compelling philosophical, theological and scientific argument in support of a reform of the doctrine on abortion. This does not minimize the fact that any abortion is a premoral evil and is a serious matter. Nevertheless, the arguments presented in these essays give substantial weight that an individual and ontological person does not occur at conception, but rather after implantation, after restriction or gastrulation is completed.

"But Ill grant you, we really dont know yet how stable gay marriages are going to end up being. I suspect there wont be much if any difference in divorce rates between theirs and the heteroes. People are people are people . . ."Get to know some of us; you might be surprised.I know a good Catholic couple who did all the right things in raising their 3 children (they really did). All 3 married. Only one is still married after 5 years. It appears that the benefit of a good Catholic education, an excellent early home life and church-sanctioned matrimony is no more successful that my experience of good Catholic education, an excellent early home life and no church-sanctioned matrimony. And my partner and I celebrated #40 this past May.It's a matter of effort, willingness and sheer tenacity to make a relationship work, as I am sure those of you who have successfully married already know. I doubt seriously that a church-sanctioned ceremony has contributed significantly to your relationship's success or failure.

We had this bishop - for two and a half years --- then on to a bigger diocese. I heard his homily when he visited the parish and heard doors closing on VII. Heard his homily for Confirmation and hear doors closing on VII.So his bonfides were - toe the marks that JPII set.

Every time I hear or read "...until natural death" from a member of the clergy, I wonder why John Paul II, Frank Pavone, and assorted other priests and bishops opposed the removal of Terri Schiavo's feeding tube. A person with an irreversible brain injury who can eat or drink only through a tube is living an UN-natural LIFE which is merely postponing natural death.

Jim McCrea --I do know some of you and that's why I wonder if the results will generally be different. Some gay unions last till death, some don't. Same as the heteros.

Thanks, Mr. Nixon. This is (part of) what comes from Rome appointing bishops who all have degrees in canon law instead of theology, many of whom have little or no pastoral experience but have been groomed by "the system" nearly since they entered the seminary. (North American College and all that.)It also comes from deleterious changes to the selection process for bishops, which occurred some years back. We seem now to be at the mercy of Cardinal Burke and whomever HE thinks should be our next bishops. Wider consultation, and the constructive role of the Apostolic Delegate (now the papal Nuncio) as in the days of Jean Jadot. Compare the current level of theology coming from our bishops with those of the not-so-distant past. The contrast can be appalling. Compare Lori, or Vasa to people like Bernardin or John Cummins.

Ann Olivier:My understanding of Aquinas' argument for the right to life of the zygote has to do with the fact of its "potency" to become a human being. That is, it may live or die; but if it lives, it will ONLY become a human being, never a cat or an alligator. Thomas was a remarkable intellect. It's just important to remember that he wasn't a "Thomist", but a real seeker after truth; and for his time, a type of empiricist. As you point out, a lot of his thinking still stands up to scrutiny. Now what we could use is a similar intellect able to grasp and incorporate modern science into theology in a way analogous to his incorporation of Aristotle -- IMHO. Maybe she's out there somewhere?

Michael C. --Yes, that's my understanding of what he says about the zygotes. But I think that the CDF misrepresents his view about killing a zygote. He didn't think it is not a mortal sin, as Rome claims. (And I think that point needs careful review by Rome.)I agree with you about Aquinas' continuing value, though I'm not a Thomist.. Just as the whole culture continues to be nourished by Plato, Aristotle, Leibniz, and Kant in spite of their short-comings, the culture would be much, much the poorer without Thomas' great insights. As Aristotle preserved much of the thinking of the pre-Socratics, so Thomas preserves much of the intellectual heritage of the West by his explanations of what went before. Just the mass of distinctions applicable in all sorts of disciplines which are found all over his works makes him a treasure trove of ideas, even though he was not the first to make all of the distinctions. As a lexicon of philosophical definitions his work is unparalleled, I think. To me it is tragic that because of the serious problems with some of Thomas' ignorant and small-minded followers many contemporary Catholic thinkers have thrown Thomas the baby out with the bath water. It's their loss too.

OOps --- should be: he didn't think killing a zygote was a mortal sin

To avoid anachronim, we shouldn't use the term "zygote" when referring to Aquinas' teaching; he couldn't have known the word. His views were based upon what he knew about the development of the fetus, and one shouldn't pretend to know what he would have thought of the matter if he knew what is known today about it. It's always chancy for others to predict how a great genius would answer a question he never asked.Ann: Does Aquinas really say that killing a zygote is not a mortal sin? Could you give us a reference?

Does Aquinas really say that killing a zygote is not a mortal sin?i don't think he says that but, in answering a question about Exodus 21:22 he introduces the qualification (not in Exodus) that causing the death of an "animated" fetus is homicide. S.T. II, II, Q 64:8. "He that strikes a woman with child does something unlawful: wherefore if there results the death either of the woman or of the animated fetus, he will not be excused from homicide, especially seeing that death is the natural result of such a blow." Other than that it is not homicide, he does not say what the guilt would be if the fetus was not yet "animated" but I believe that up until the time of Leo IX it was frequently held that there was a difference in the degree of guilt depending on the state of development of the fetus.

Further to that, here is a link to a useful excerpt from an article which is, otherwise, only available behind a paywall:http://catholicsensibility.wordpress.com/2008/08/27/moral-theology-and-e...

I believe that up until the time of Leo IXSorry, should have written Pius IX.

" -- have been groomed by the system nearly since they entered the seminary. "That's called identified to be on the fast track to upper management in Holy Mother Church LLC. If it is good enough for General Motors, Duke Energy, Bank of America, ......That's the advantage of emulating the advice of McKinsey & Company. You look sooooooooo corporate.

According to Donceel's article, in 1591 Pope Gregory XIV explained in his Bull, Sedes apostolica, "where no homicide or no animated fetus is involved, not to punish more strictly than the sacred cannons or civil legislation does". In 1713, the Holy Office said "In the case under consideration (the baptism of a an aborted fetus), if there is reasonable foundation for admitting that the fetus is animated by a rational soul, then it may and must be baptized conditionally. If, however, there is no reasonable foundation, it may by not means be baptized". Clearly, over centuries the question of when human life or ontological personhood starts has been both biological and philosophical. Using O'Mahony and Potts remark, the fertilized ovum shows of human vegetative life; it does not possess the higher levels of human life and that is why it possesses no rational, human soul. I agree with Karl Rahner when he said "If 50% of fertilized ovums never reach nidification in the uterus, then does the Church admit that 50% of human beings...real human beings with an "immortal" soul and eternal destiny do not, from the very start, get beyond this first stage of human existence?"

My scepticism about the claim that Aquinas did not think killing the "zygote" was a mortal sin is that he regarded contraceptive deflection of semen as a sin than which only murder was a greater sin against life. Could he have regarded abortion as a venial matter?

His argument is similar to the Humanae Vitae argument about every sexual act being open to procreation - in this case that, unlike any other substance excreted from the human body, God gives man semen for the exclusive purpose of the procreation of children and any other use of it opposes God's intent and is sinful.

S.C.G.. 3:122 Nor yet should it be counted a slight sin for one to procure the emission of the semen irrespective of the due purpose of generation and rearing of issue, on the pretence that it is a slight sin, or no sin at all, to apply any part of one's body to another use than that to which it is naturally ordained, as if, for example, one were to walk on his hands, or do with his feet something that ought to be done with his hands. The answer is that by such inordinate applications as those mentioned the good of man is not greatly injured: but the inordinate emission of the semen is repugnant to the good of nature, which is the conservation of the species.* Hence, after the sin of murder, whereby a human nature already in actual existence is destroyed, this sort of sin seem to hold the second place, whereby the generation of human nature is precluded.http://www2.nd.edu/Departments/Maritain/etext/gc3_122.htm

Of course, he also had an incorrect understanding of the development of the fetus and thought that it was all due to the semen contributed by the man and that the woman contributed only inert material.

JAK --To say that murder is worse than contraception implies nothing about the degree of evil of contraception. It only says that it is less than that of murder and no other act against life is worse than it.No, I don't have a reference saying explicityly that such killing is not murder. I have read that he thought it was so, but maybe that writer was just inferring that conclusion. My problem with thinking that a very early zygote has a right to life is that it would seem to be metaphysically impossible. For it to have a full human right to life there needs be a human soul present -- the human soul is what grounds, gives rise to such a right in the first place. In other words, no human soul, no human right.

My problem with thinking that a very early zygote has a right to life is that it would seem to be metaphysically impossible. For it to have a full human right to life there needs be a human soul present the human soul is what grounds, gives rise to such a right in the first place. In other words, no human soul, no human right.The Church's answer is in JPII's Evangelium Vitae, where he says that even though we don't know when ensoulment occurs, "the mere probability that a human person is involved" requires us to avoid aborting a fetus at any age. He wrote that about five years after the Shannon/Wolfers paper was published.

60. Some people try to justify abortion by claiming that the result of conception, at least up to a certain number of days, cannot yet be considered a personal human life. But in fact, "from the time that the ovum is fertilized, a life is begun which is neither that of the father nor 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. This has always been clear, and ... modern genetic science offers clear confirmation. It has demonstrated that from the first instant there is established the programme of what this living being will be: a person, this individual person with his characteristic aspects already well determined. Right from fertilization the adventure of a human life begins, and each of its capacities requires time-a rather lengthy time-to find its place and to be in a position to act".57 Even if the presence of a spiritual soul cannot be ascertained by empirical data, the results themselves of scientific research on the human embryo provide "a valuable indication for discerning by the use of reason a personal presence at the moment of the first appearance of a human life: how could a human individual not be a human person?". 58Furthermore, what is at stake is so important that, from the standpoint of moral obligation, the mere probability that a human person is involved would suffice to justify an absolutely clear prohibition of any intervention aimed at killing a human embryo. Precisely for this reason, over and above all scientific debates and those philosophical affirmations to which the Magisterium has not expressly committed itself, the Church has always taught and continues to teach that the result of human procreation, from the first moment of its existence, must be guaranteed that unconditional respect which is morally due to the human being in his or her totality and unity as body and spirit: "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".59 61. The texts of Sacred Scripture never address the question of deliberate abortion and so do not directly and specifically condemn it. But they show such great respect for the human being in the mother's womb that they require as a logical consequence that God's commandment "You shall not kill" be extended to the unborn child as well.http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/john_paul_ii/encyclicals/documents/hf_...

I am not certain that abortion and so-called contraception were based on the same Aquinas principle. I believe they are two related but independent issues. Aquinas's condemnation of so-called contraception (this word was not in existence) was based on erroneous biology. The male seed was thought to possess the complete material essence of a potential human person, where the woman's only role was to provide her vessel so that the male seed would develop into a human being. In fact, at that time coitus interrupts and some potencies were the only means of so-called contraception. Aquinas believed that the male seed must be deposited in its proper place for procreation....not to spill the seed on the ground. By the early 1800s, when vulcanized rubber was invented and by 1850 when condoms became available, this teaching was applied...not to spill the seed in a condom. The male seed must be deposited in its proper place, the female vagina, for procreation. Up until the 15th century coitus interruptus was consider by the Church (pope, bishops and theologians) as quasi-homicide. After that time, quasi-homocide only applied to so-called poisons. These facts are clearly articulated by Noonan in his comprehensive book on Contraception.With respect to abortion, did not Aquinas believe in delayed humanization (e.g., after 40 days)?

@John Hayes,JP II did not address the issues raised in the two articles you posted for reflection. Human life may begin at conception, but not a individual person as modern biology proves. It does not possess all material at the moment of conception to become a fully human person. Many things must happen. JP II based many of his theology and philosophy on misinformation. For example, he firmly believed, based on his most trusted and closest advisor Dr. Wanda Poltawska, that women who take the pill develop neurosis; and that women will tend to abort a child when contraception fails, while women who practice periodic continence (PC) will accepted an unplanned pregnancy-child into their families with unconditional love. He also believed that couples who practice contraception, even after having several children and do not want more for good and just reasons, have a false, evil and destructive love. There is no evidence whatsoever that PC couples treat each other as loving subjects, while couples that use artificial birth control have a utilitarian attitude and a diabolical love grounded in concupiscence. Nor is there any evidence accepted by respected scientific organizations that assert that women who practice contraception develop neurosis.

JP II did not address the issues raised in the two articles you posted for reflection. I think he did address them in articles 60 and 61 of Evangelium Vitae, which I quoted above. I think his basic point is that even if the time of ensoulment could be determined, it wouldn't affect the teaching from Tradition that that potential life (ensouled or not) should be protected from the moment of conception. Theologians might argue for an evolution of of our understanding of Tradition in that regard, but I think that is the current teaching of the Magisterium.

"The Churchs answer is in JPIIs Evangelium Vitae, where he says that even though we dont know when ensoulment occurs, the mere probability that a human person is involved requires us to avoid aborting a fetus at any age. He wrote that about five years after the Shannon/Wolfers paper was published."John Hayes --True, if the zygote were *probably* a person it would be wrong to kill it. But it seems that new biological understandings indicate that at least at the very beginning it is definitely not a person. Why say this? Because within the first week of the sperm and egg uniting there is sometimes twinning, and -- and this is the important point -- sometimes those so-called "twins" RECOMBINE into one organism!!! But two people do not turn into one, so the assumption MUST be that at that time there was no person involved at all.Further, I think that the classic Thomist argument still holds -- that there is no reason to think that the organism is a person when it does not have a specifically human body. And modern biology confirms the old belief -- it takes days for even the brain stem to start to develop, much less the frontal cortex which is the specifically human part of the brain. In other words, there is no human body, so there is no human person.In Evangelium Vitae JP II didn't consider, much less rebut the Aquinas-Shannon-Wolter argument, nor, so far as I know, did he consider it anywhere else Frankly, I find that scandalous. Wolter was recognized as one of the great medieval scholars of the time (including not just the Franciscan thinkers but the others a well), and for Rome/JP II to ignore his work is simply wrong. Aquinas himself would have presented the argument and explained where it went wrong. (Yes, JAK, I can say that because that was the modus operandi of the medieval thinkers including Thomas.) Either JP II didn't know of the argument or he ignored it. Considering that he himself had been a philosopher, not a theologian, I find that really really, well, incompetent, though living behind the iron curtain or so long perhaps he didn't know about it. Still, the CDF surely must have known. They do NOT represent the tradition.

I agree about the concept of ensoulment, even though that could be argued. However, when it comes to something that is a human life, in its broadest meaning, at what point does this human life become an individual human person? If we step back from the fertilized ovum for the moment, this theory is also similar the teaching that sexual intercourse must be always open to procreation. If so, how can anyone continue to defend the willful, intended physical acts of temperature and mucus plotting to ensure sexual intercourse is not procreative? Either both PC and artificial birth control violate Humanae Vitae, or they do not.Even if we theorized that ensoulment is present at conception, 50% of fertilized ovum do not reach any further stage of human development, but are aborted by the body. How does anyone understand this? Is it divine providence that half of all fertilized ovum, a real individual human person, theoretically with a soul and an eternal destiny, dies within 3 weeks of conception? If, as JP II asserts, God's procreative plan is manifested in the fertility-infertility nexus, in the grammar and language of the body, then would be unreasonable to say that it is also God's plan that half of fertilized ovum die within 3 weeks? Do these human persons go to heaven or limbo? Without appearing sarcastic, is it possible that they are the lucky ones since they will not suffer the sin and ills of this life? All of this theory is complex and JP II's teaching discounts modern biology and the issues that both articles raise. All abortion is a premoral evil. However, it is a profound misunderstanding that the term "direct abortion" is not a disputed question and cannot be reformed. Consider the Phoenix case. Even the most orthodox of theologians, and defenders of Magisterial teachings, Martin Rhonheimer and Germain Grisez, considered the acts in this case "indirect abortion". Thus, the teaching of abortion (as well as contraception) will continue to benefit from our growing knowledge and scholarship in theology, philosophy, anthropology, the sciences as well as Scripture and Tradition.

"He also believed that couples who practice contraception, even after having several children and do not want more for good and just reasons, have a false, evil and destructive love."Michael G. --Are you sure JP II was this definite? It contradicts Paul VI's Humanae Vitae (yes, that one). In HV Paul maintains that there are times when a couple *ought not* to have more children, and this implies no sex or the rhythm method.Humanae Vitae, except for the contraception sections, has much to recommend it, I think. Pity the contraception ban is included in it.

the teaching of abortion (as well as contraception) will continue to benefit from our growing knowledge and scholarship in theology, philosophy, anthropology, the sciences as well as Scripture and Tradition.Well, it didn't really work that way in the case of contraception and Humanae Vitae. That was decided, in the end, on the basis of Tradition rather than the recommendations of the expert commission. Similarly for abortion. Evangelium Vitae is based on tradition, not new scientific or theological investigations.

The Church's canonical discipline, from the earliest centuries, has inflicted penal sanctions on those guilty of abortion....Given such unanimity in the doctrinal and disciplinary tradition of the Church, Paul VI was able to declare that this tradition is unchanged and unchangeable. 72 Therefore, by the authority which Christ conferred upon Peter and his Successors, in communion with the Bishops-who on various occasions have condemned abortion and who in the aforementioned consultation, albeit dispersed throughout the world, have shown unanimous agreement concerning this doctrine-I declare that direct abortion, that is, abortion willed as an end or as a means, always constitutes a grave moral disorder, since it is the deliberate killing of an innocent human being. This doctrine is based upon the natural law and upon the written Word of God, is transmitted by the Church's Tradition and taught by the ordinary and universal Magisterium.No circumstance, no purpose, no law whatsoever can ever make licit an act which is intrinsically illicit, since it is contrary to the Law of God which is written in every human heart, knowable by reason itself, and proclaimed by the Church.http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/john_paul_ii/encyclicals/documents/hf_...

Convincing non-Catholics of the rightness of positions based upon Tradition and natural law as interpreted by the Catholic Church can be difficult. I think we need to be careful not to impute evil intent to non-Catholics who do not share the Church's views on these matters.

Ann: My computer-line was down for a couple of days and so I couldn't reply earlier. I didn't ask for a text in which Aquinas says, as you asserted, that killing what we call a zygote is not murder, but for one in which he says that it is not a mortal sin. There's a difference. No one has yet adduced a text in which he says that early abortion is a venial matter.

JAK, The except I posted above can be read to say that Aquinas did not consider killing a not-yet-animated fetus to be murder. That would be consistent with his discussion of the Fifth Commandment in which he says: "Therefore, the sense of the Commandment is: You shall not kill men. and "The sense, therefore, of You shall not kill is that one shall not kill by ones own authority." You could deduce from that that he didn't consider a not-yet-animated fetus to be a man [human being].However, I don't know that he ever discusses the nature of the guilt attached to killing a pre-animated child. My sense is that he would have considered it a form of contraception and would have said what he did about spilling semen "after the sin of murder, whereby a human nature already in actual existence is destroyed, this sort of sin seem to hold the second place, whereby the generation of human nature is precluded."

"he guilt attached to killing a pre-animated child."should have been "he guilt attached to killing a not-yet-animated child."

Mr. Hayes: As I said earlier, it is always perilous to try to predict what a great mind would have said about something; the temptation will always be to say that he would have said what I would have said.... The claimwas made that he did not consider early abortion a mortal sin. I asked for a text in which he said that. None has been adduced. Until one can be adduced, I think it unfounded to make that claim about him.

Anne,He also believed that couples who practice contraception, even after having several children and do not want more for good and just reasons, have a false, evil and destructive love. This was taken from Christopher West's "Theology of the Body Explained" as well as Karol Wojtyla's "Love and Responsibility"...among other of Wojyta-JP II's writings. It does not contradict Humanae Vitae because it starts with "couple who practice contraception....". No one is disputing that PC or consented sexual abstinence between couples are not legitimate means of birth control. They can be virtuous. However, even JP II asserted that the intention and motivation of the agents, even when practicing PC, must be based on good and just reasons....as in Pius XII's address to the mid-wives. Couples must have the "right intention and a pro-life attitude". JP II believed that somehow PC couples will accept a child born by accident with unconditional love, while couples who practice contraception (even if they have the same intention as PC couples) will tend to abort the child if contraception fails. This was based on his erroneous belief that couples who practice contraception have an anti-life attitude and will not accept a child born by accident. Even when confronted with data that did not support this belief, JP II believed that his philosophy and theology on marriage and procreation would be proved correct even if it took centuries.John Hayes,I agree that to date the teaching on abortion (as well as contraception) has not benefited from our growing knowledge and scholarship in theology, philosophy, anthropology, the sciences as well as Scripture and Tradition....in that these doctrines have not changed. However, my statement must not be viewed from a short term perspective, but based on the length of time that teachings "not received" have changed in the Church...e.g., some took decades and or even centuries. The problematic about sexual ethics is its direct link to 'salvation' and the fact that these teachings are proclaimed as "moral absolutes". This creates an impasse to any discussion on important matters involved in theological ethics. The major issue is the inseparability principle because it is based on the philosophical anthropology, personalism, and symbolism of JP II when he asserted this principle in HV is "Divine Law". No pope, bishop, or theologian ever proposed or mentioned as a principle that there were two meanings of the marital act that cannot be separated under any circumstances and that this was divine law....except for Karol Wojtyla in 1960 with the publication of his book "Love and Responsibility". Thus, this teaching was not a constant teaching of the Church, as Paul VI proclaimed in HV, but a novum based on symbolic speculation.It goes something like this (Theology of the Body, West): The one-flesh union in Genesis (mystery of creation) refers to the union of Christ and the Church (mystery of redemption). through their bodies, and to their call to one flesh, man and woman in some way participate in the divine exchange of Trinitarian life and love. The love between the Father and Christ, and between Christ and the Church is also a love of total self-giving and self-donation. By analogy, spousal love is a total self-giving love but concupiscence exchanges a self-seeking gratification for the sincere gift of self; it uses the other as an object made for my sake rather than loving the other as subject for his or her own sake. Contraception falsifies creative love. It speaks to the diabolic anti-Word. The issue here is whether it is a "metaphoric leap" that unless there is a total self-giving and openness to procreation under all circumstances, and in every act of coitus, spouses are expressing a false, evil and destructive love

the claim was made that he did not consider early abortion a mortal sin. I asked for a text in which he said that. None has been adduced. Until one can be adduced, I think it unfounded to make that claim about him.i didn't make that claim - so i'm not the person to look to defend it.

John, "My sense is that he would have considered it (killing a non-animated fetus) a form of contraception and would have said what he did about spilling semen after the sin of murder, whereby a human nature already in actual existence is destroyed, this sort of sin seem to hold the second place, whereby the generation of human nature is precluded.For the reasons I explained earlier, I don't think Aquinas would have considered killing a non-animated fetus a form of contraception. The word "contraception" was not used at that time. Coitus interruptus was akin to quasi-homicide because it was thought that the male seed contained all that was necessary for human development. Thus, spilling the male seed on the ground was akin to murder or quasi-homicide. St. Raymond attested to this fact is the 15th century. No one thought about "so-called contraception". If the male seed was deposited into the female vagina, it was thought that this would result in a pregnancy. If not, something went wrong "naturally". If no pregnancy resulted after years of sexual intercourse, the woman was thought to be barren, save for divine intervention.The idea that a human person was not formed until sometime after conception was something Aquinas taught. At least this is what I remember.

"Socialism" evil?? Have any of these "Christians" read St. Paul and The Acts? Or is my brain being invaded by some Kenyan/Kansasan Alien when I read those scriptures at Mass recently. Look it up. If you find that difficult, you are not a very good Christian as I and My Bro Barack are.

"My scepticism about the claim that Aquinas did not think killing the zygote was a mortal sin is that he regarded contraceptive deflection of semen as a sin than which only murder was a greater sin against life. Could he have regarded abortion as a venial matter?"and:"I didnt ask for a text in which Aquinas says, as you asserted, that killing what we call a zygote is not murder, but for one in which he says that it is not a mortal sin. Theres a difference. No one has yet adduced a text in which he says that early abortion is a venial matter."JAK --My more considered answer to your question is:I am assuming 1) Aquinas did not think that all venial sins were trivial, that there could be serious sins that were not mortal ones, and 2) all murder is, of course, the killing of a person and is a mortal sin. So far as I have been able to determine, he thought that the killing of the pre-embryo was *not* the killing of a person (see the Shannon-Wolter article), and it follows that it is not murder. Thomas did explicity write that killing the pre-embryo is a grave sin ("peccatum grave"). See the letter from Rev. William B. Smith in the NYt: "Aquinas did hold a theory of delayed animation (at 40 days, not quickening). But the same saint held that no direct abortion was morally licit, that all abortions were a grave sin (peccatum grave); among evil deeds (inter maleficia), and against nature (contra naturam); see his ''Commentary on Sentences,'' Bk. 4, dist. 1, art. 3, exposition of text."Medieval grades of animation could allow different and increasing grades of penalty (canonical and civil), but the grave immorality of all abortions was the same in every case."http://www.nytimes.com/1984/10/17/opinion/l-aquinas-held-all-abortions-a... that he could have but did not refer to it as "peccatum mortaliter", but only as "peccatum grave" (assuming Rev. Smith is accurate). True, the Commentaries were a very early work, and he might say explicitly it was or was not a mortal sin somewhere else. But since he apparently barely mentions the topic, it looks like the issue did not seem to be a very important one to him, which indicates to me that he really didn't ever think it was a mortal sin/murder.Of course, being a venial sin would not excuse it. But talk of "murder" is not appropriate.

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