The Catholic Abortion Quandary

“then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.” Gen 2: 7

Biblical  based on belief

Genesis 1:26 “Then God said, “Let us make man (adam or mankind) in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”

27 “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. 28 And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” 29 And God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food. 30 And to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the heavens and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” And it was so. 31 And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.

Genesis 2:7 “then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature…”

Does a a fetus become a person at its “first breath”?

God literally breathes life into Adam in what can only be described as omnipotent CPR, or in the words of Isaiah 42:5, where God is referred to as the Creator who “gives breath to [the Earth’s] people,”

The Quandary

For most Christians and Catholics in particular, Jeremiah 1:4-5 is often cited to argue against this definition, as it states that “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you.” But the verse only refers to one person: Jeremiah. And even then, God is only referring to the knowledge that Jeremiah is destined for greatness, not a living and (ahem) breathing person.

In Exodus 21:22-25: A fetus isn’t as alive as its mother. But let’s say for a moment that life begins some undetermined amount of time before the fetus takes its first breath. The Bible still credits the mother with being more-alive than the fetus she is carrying.

If people are fighting and hit a pregnant woman and she gives birth prematurely or has a miscarriage but there is no serious injury, the offender must be fined whatever the woman’s husband demands and the court allows. But if there is serious injury, you are to take life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, bruise for bruise.

Setting aside the suggestion that a beating-induced miscarriage doesn’t constitute “serious injury,” the logic is fairly straightforward: “Life for life” applies to a woman, but not to the fetus she’s carrying. In other words, the fetus is definitively placed in the ranks of not-alive.

In Numbers 5:11-31: Abortion is preferable to bastardization. This quote or “Word of God” outlines the trial by ordeal that women must go through if their husband suspects that the baby she’s carrying may not be his. As the verses outline, if a husband thinks that his wife has been unfaithful he is to take her to the priest, who then performs a ritual. The priest is to take holy water; mix it with dirt from the temple floor and the ink from a curse he has just written down; and make the woman drink the mixture. If she hasn’t committed adultery, nothing will happen; if she cheated, “her abdomen will swell and her womb will miscarry” — the pregnancy will literally be terminated on the spot.

Depending on whether or not you attribute the magic and mysticism behind the trial-by-ordeal to the intrinsic sin behind adultery, or to God’s own intervention, you’re left with one of two conclusions. Either God mandates abortion in cases of adultery or God is performing the abortion him/herself. Whichever is the case, the teaching is clear: It’s better to abort a fetus conceived out of wedlock than to carry that fetus to term.

In Ecclesiastes 6:1-6, content and quality of life matter in conjunction with mere life This is one of the more interesting philosophical questions surrounding whether it is acceptable to prevent potential life from becoming actual life. If bringing a new life into the world will be a net-negative in terms of humanity’s happiness and overall well being, is it acceptable to end the process by which that new life would begin?

 “I have seen another evil under the sun, and it weighs heavily on mankind: God gives some people wealth, possessions and honor, so that they lack nothing their hearts desire, but God does not grant them the ability to enjoy them, and strangers enjoy them instead. This is meaningless, a grievous evil. A man may have a hundred children and live many years; yet no matter how long he lives, if he cannot enjoy his prosperity and does not receive proper burial, I say that a stillborn child is better off than he. It comes without meaning, it departs in darkness, and in darkness its name is shrouded. Though it never saw the sun or knew anything, it has more rest than does that man— even if he lives a thousand years twice over but fails to enjoy his prosperity. Do not all go to the same place?”

An historical, theological conundrum?

St. Antonius archbishop of Florence

“For starters, the great St. Antoninus—proclaimed by Pope Pius II as “a brilliant theologian”defended early abortions when necessary to save the pregnant person life. This was no small category in the medical conditions of his time. His pro-choice position created no stir since there were other notable theologians who held the same view and allowed for a number of other exceptions. Nor did the hierarchy object. Rather, the humble and very gifted Antoninus was appointed Archbishop of Florence in 1446 before being canonized a saint of the then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature Catholic Church in 1523. There are Catholic parishes named for this pro-choice saint in Cincinnati, Ohio, and Newark, New Jersey.” Daniel C. Maguire is a professor of ethics at Marquette University, a Jesuit institution, and past president of The Society of Christian Ethics.

St. Antoninus was not a pro-choice loner in the Roman Catholic tradition. In the sixteenth century, another Antoninus from Corduba declared that abortifacient medicines could potentially be taken even later in the pregnancy because, he said, the woman had a jus prius—a prior right. That is the polar opposite of the modern anti-choice view which denigrates the moral status of the pregnant person while almost divinizing the fetus. (Images have, in fact, appeared of a fetus nailed to a cross.) Nothing better illustrates the poisonous misogynist roots of the anti-choice position. Antoninus de Corduba, Quaestionarium theologicum, q. 38, dub. 3 (Venice, 1604). The Roman Catholic Church and Abortion: An Historical Perspective – Part II by Donald DeMarco, PhD

The pro-choice Catholic tradition continued into modern times. Jesuit theologian John Connery said that in the Bible itself “the fetus did not have the same moral status as the mother.” Father Joseph Donceel, S.J. states “the embryo is certainly not a human person during the early stage of pregnancy and consequently it is not immoral to terminate a pregnancy during this time, provided there are serious reasons for such an intervention.” This clearly isn’t a perfect fit with the contemporary pro-choice position, which is based on bodily autonomy and not solely on “the right” reasons, but it does present a significant challenge to the contemporary anti-choice position. Furthermore, as ninety percent of abortions in the United States are done in the first trimester, a shift toward this standard would effectively cover many cases.

Over the centuries, the Church has not held that women who have abortions should be executed, and this is because the Church has held that they have not committed murder. Aquinas held that the embryo does not even have a soul during the first few weeks of pregnancy (a view later adopted by the Council of Vienne in 1312). By the 15th century, a line of moral reasoning had developed which held that a woman has a “prior right” in decisions relating to abortion. A variant of the argument was the fetus could be considered an “unjust transgressor” toward which a woman should be allowed, when necessary, a defense. (The theologian was Thomas Sanchez, a Jesuit. Ronald Reagan once expressed a version of this theory.) For most of Christian history, the status of “person” was denied an embryo or fetus, so that a fetus could not be baptized, given a Christian burial or interred in consecrated ground.

Summa Theologica delineates St. Thomas Aquinas’s opinion on the moral status of the embryo or fetus and the act of abortion. His discussion of sin, morality, and murder indicates his views on the development of life within the womb. These sections show that Aquinas believed in the progression of life from a “vegetable”-like, inanimate state to an animal life and finally to a human, animated state. Summa Theologica offers no defense of abortion as a permissible act at any stage in the pregnancy, but it does specify that once the fetus has become animated (when he believed ensoulment of the living human being took place), it is homicide to kill it. This measure of ensoulment or delayed hominization (the belief that the embryo or fetus was not a human life with a soul until a particular event after conception) is typically equated with the stage at which quickening took place—defined by Aristotle as forty days for boys and eighty days after conception for girls.

It is the concept of delayed hominization that seemingly pits these comments of St. Thomas Aquinas against the modern Roman Catholic Church; when it comes to ensoulment, the Church now defends the position that an embryo is infused with a human soul upon fertilization, making any intentionally procured abortion a sin of murder (because it kills a living being with a human soul). St. Thomas Aquinas’s opinion on abortion and fetal development receives much attention from people on both sides of the debate over abortion. Typically, pro-choice advocates claim that Aquinas’s position shows an inconsistency in Church belief throughout history on the topic and a defensible option for pro-choice Catholics, while pro-life advocates point out that Aquinas never discusses abortion as an acceptable option and furthermore would most likely not have maintained his delayed hominization theory had he been privy to the marvels of modern science.

The law does not provide that the act abortion pertains to homicide, for there cannot yet be said to be a live soul in a body that lacks sensation…. —Augustine

The intellective soul [true person] is created by God at the completion of man’s coming into being.--Thomas  Aquinas

To admit that the human fetus receives the intellectual soul from the moment of its conception,when matter is in no way ready for it, sounds to me like a philosophical absurdity. It is as absurd as to call a fertilized ovum a baby. —JacquesMaritain

Many people believe that the Roman Catholic Church’s opposition to abortion stems from its conviction that a new human person exists from the first moment of conception…It is clear that this is not now, or has ever been, official church teaching on the matter.–James T. McCartney

Some text is available from Wikipedia under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License 3.0;

It seems that the Roman Catholic Church contradicts its theology and moral teachings and scripture.   (I guess that even the Church believes what they want and yet they seek to IMPOSE their beliefs upon a nation that upholds RELIGIOUS FREEDOM, in other words no one can impose their beliefs upon anyone!! 

Consequently, the SCOTUS (with 4 Catholics) violates the Constitution. American hypocrisy is the biggest scandal to the world.

About Dr. Ernie Sherretta, D. Min.

Retired Director of Religious Education for the Catholic Church since 2014, granted a B.A. in Philosophy from St. Charles Seminary, an M.A. in Religious Studies from St. Charles Seminary, an M.A. in Counseling Psychology from Immaculata University, and a Doctor of Ministry from the Lutheran Theological Seminary. Spiritual Well-Being Counselor
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