Issued by the Sacred
Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith
The problem of procured
abortion and of its possible legal liberalization has become more or
less everywhere the subject of impassioned discussions. These debates
would be less grave were it not a question of human life, a primordial
value, which must be protected and promoted. Everyone understands this,
although many look for reasons, even against all evidence, to promote
the use of abortion. One cannot but be astonished to see a simultaneous
increase of unqualified protests against the death penalty and every
form of war and the vindication of the liberalization of abortion,
either in its entirety or in ever broader indications. The Church is too
conscious of the fact that it belongs to her vocation to defend man
against everything that could disintegrate or lessen his dignity to
remain silent on such a topic. Because the Son of God became man, there
is no man who is not His brother in humanity and who is not called to
become a Christian in order to receive salvation from Him.
In many countries the
public authorities which resist the liberalization of abortion laws are
the object of powerful pressures aimed at leading them to this goal.
This, it is said, would violate no one's conscience, for each individual
would be left free to follow his own opinion, while being prevented from
imposing it on others. Ethical pluralism is claimed to be a normal
consequence of ideological pluralism. There is, however, a great
difference between the one and the other, for action affects the
interests of others more quickly than does mere opinion. Moreover, one
can never claim freedom of opinion as a pretext for attacking the rights
of others, most especially the right to life.
Numerous Christian lay
people, especially doctors, but also parents' associations, statesmen,
or leading figures in posts of responsibility have vigorously reacted
against this propaganda campaign. Above all, many episcopal conferences
and many bishops acting in their own name have judged it opportune to
recall very strongly the traditional doctrine of the Church. With a
striking convergence these documents admirably emphasize an attitude of
respect for life which is at the same time human and Christian.
Nevertheless, it has happened that several of these documents here or
there have encountered reservation or even opposition
Charged with the promotion
and the defense of faith and morals in the universal Church, the
Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith proposes to recall
this teaching in its essential aspects to all the faithful. Thus in
showing the unity of the Church, it will confirm by the authority proper
to the Holy See what the bishops have opportunely undertaken. It hopes
that all the faithful, including those who might have been unsettled by
the controversies and new opinions, will understand that it is not a
question of opposing one opinion to another, but of transmitting to the
faithful a constant teaching of the supreme Magisterium, which teaches
moral norms in the light of faith. It is therefore clear that this
declaration necessarily entails a grave obligation for Christian
consciences. May God deign to enlighten also all men who strive with
their whole heart to "act in truth" (Jn. 3:21).
"Death was not God's doing,
he takes no pleasure in the extinction of the living" (Wis. 1:13).
Certainly God has created beings who have only one lifetime and physical
death cannot be absent from the world of those with a bodily existence.
But what is immediately willed is life, and in the visible universe
everything has been made for man, who is the image of God and the
world's crowning glory (cf. Gen. 1:26-28). On the human level "it was
the devil's envy that brought death into the world" (Wis. 2:24)
Introduced by sin, death remains bound up with it: death is the sign and
fruit of sin. But there is no final triumph for death. Confirming faith
in the Resurrection, the Lord proclaims in the Gospel: "God is God, not
of the dead, but of the living" (Mt. 22:32). And death like sin will be
definitively defeated by resurrection in Christ (cf. 1 Cor. 15:20-27).
Thus we understand that human life, even on this earth, is precious.
Infused by the Creator, life is again taken back by Him (cf. Gen.
2:7, Wis. 15:11). It remains under His protection: man's blood cries out
to Him (cf. Gen. 4:10) and He will demand an account of it, "for in the
image of God man was made" (Gen. 9:5-6). The commandment of God is
formal: "You shall not kill" (Ex. 20:13). Life is at the same time a
gift and responsibility. It is received as a "talent" (cf. Mt.
25:14-30); it must be put to proper use. In order that life may bring
forth fruit, many tasks are offered to man in this world and he must not
shirk them. More important still, the Christian knows that eternal life
depends on what, with the grace of God, he does with his life on earth.
The tradition of the Church
has always held that human life must be protected and favored from the
beginning, just as at the various stages of its development. Opposing
the morals of the Greco-Roman world, the Church of the first centuries
insisted on the difference that exists on this point between those
morals and Christian morals. In the Didache it is clearly said: "You
shall not kill by abortion the fruit of the womb and you shall not
murder the infant already born." Athenagoras emphasizes that
Christians consider as murderers those women who take medicines to
procure an abortion; he condemns the killers of children, including
those still living in their mother's womb, "where they are already the
object of the care of divine Providence."  Tertullian did not always
perhaps use the same language; he nevertheless clearly affirms the
essential principle: "To prevent birth is anticipated murder; it makes
little difference whether one destroys a life already born or does away
with it in its nascent stage. The one who will be a man is already
In the course of history,
the Fathers of the Church, her Pastors and her Doctors have taught the
same doctrine--the various opinions on the infusion of the spiritual
soul did not introduce any doubt about the illicitness of abortion. It
is true that in the Middle Ages, when the opinion was generally held
that the spiritual soul was not present until after the first few weeks,
a distinction was made in the evaluation of the sin and the gravity of
penal sanctions. Excellent authors allowed for this first period more
lenient case solutions which they rejected for following periods. But it
was never denied at that time that procured abortion, even during the
first days, was objectively grave fault. This condemnation was in fact
unanimous. Among the many documents it is sufficient to recall certain
ones. The first Council of Mainz in 847 reconsidered the penalties
against abortion which had been established by preceding Councils. It
decided that the most rigorous penance would be imposed "on women who
procure the elimination of the fruit conceived in their womb." The
Decree of Gratian reported the following words of Pope Stephen V: "That
person is a murderer who causes to perish by abortion what has been
conceived." St. Thomas, the Common Doctor of the Church, teaches
that "abortion is a grave sin against the natural law."  At the time
of the Renaissance Pope Sixtus V condemned abortion with the greatest
severity. A century later, Innocent XI rejected the propositions of
certain lax canonists who sought to excuse an abortion procured before
the moment accepted by some as the moment of the spiritual animation of
the new being. In our days the recent Roman Pontiffs have proclaimed
the same doctrine with the greatest clarity. Pius XI explicitly answered
the most serious objections. Pius XII clearly excluded all direct
abortion, that is, abortion which is either an end or a means. John
XXIII recalled the teaching of the Fathers on the sacred character of
life "which from its beginning demands the action of God the
Creator." Most recently, the Second Vatican Council, presided over
by Paul VI, has most severely condemned abortion: "Life must be
safeguarded with extreme care from conception; abortion and infanticide
are abominable crimes." The same Paul VI, speaking on this subject
on many occasions, has not bee afraid to declare that this teaching of
the Church "has not changed and it is unchangeable." 
Respect for human life is
not just a Christian obligation. Human reason is sufficient to impose it
on the basis of the analysis of what a human person is and should be.
Constituted by a rational nature, man is a personal subject capable of
reflecting on himself and of determining his acts and hence his own
destiny: he is free. He is consequently master of himself; or rather,
because this takes place in the course of time, he has the means of
becoming so: this is his task. Created immediately by God, man's soul is
spiritual and therefore immortal. Hence man is open to God, he finds his
fulfillment only in Him. But man lives in the community of his equals;
he is nourished by interpersonal communication with men in the
indispensable social setting. In the face of society and other men, each
human person possesses himself, he possesses life and different goods,
he has these as a right. It is this that strict justice demands from all
in his regard.
Nevertheless, temporal life
lived in this world is not identified with the person. The person
possesses as his own a level of life that is more profound and that
cannot end. Bodily life is a fundamental good, here below it is the
condition for all other goods. But there are higher values for which it
could be legitimate or even necessary to be willing to expose oneself to
the risk of losing bodily life. In a society of persons the common good
is for each individual an end which he must serve and to which he must
subordinate his particular interest. But it is not his last end and,
from this point of view, it is society which is at the service of the
person, because the person will not fulfill his destiny except in God.
The person can be definitively subordinated only to God. Man can never
be treated simply as a means to be disposed of in order to obtain a
In regard to the mutual
rights and duties of the person and of society, it belongs to moral
teaching to enlighten consciences; it belongs to the law to specify and
organize external behavior. There is precisely a certain number of
rights which society is not in a position to grant since these rights
precede society; but society has the function to preserve and to enforce
them. These are the greater part of those which are today called "human
rights" and which our age boasts of having formulated.
The first right of the
human person is his life. He has other goods and some are more precious,
but this one is fundamental-- the condition of all the others. Hence it
must be protected above all others. It does not belong to society, nor
does it belong to public authority in any form to recognize this right
for some and not for others: all discrimination is evil, whether it be
founded on race, sex, color or religion. It is not recognition by
another that constitutes this right. This right is antecedent to its
recognition; it demands recognition and it is strictly unjust to refuse
Any discrimination based on
the various stages of life is no more justified than any other
discrimination. The right to life remains complete in an old person,
even one greatly weakened; it is not lost by one who is incurably sick.
The right to life is no less to be respected in the small infant just
born than in the mature person. In reality, respect for human life is
called for from the time that the process of generation begins. From the
time that the ovum is fertilized, a 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
To this perpetual
evidence--perfectly independent of the discussions on the moment of
animation --modern genetic science brings valuable confirmation. It
has demonstrated that, from the first instant, there is established the
program of 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
capacities requires time--a rather lengthy time--to find its place and
to be in a position to act. The least that can be said is that present
science, in its most evolved state, does not give any substantial
support to those who defend abortion. Moreover, it is not up to
biological sciences to make a definitive judgment on questions which are
properly philosophical and moral such as the moment when a human person
is constituted or the legitimacy of abortion. From a moral point of view
this is certain: even if a doubt existed concerning whether the fruit of
conception is already a human person, it is objectively a grave sin to
dare to risk murder. "The one who will be a man is already one."
Divine law and natural
reason, therefore, exclude all right to the direct killing of an
innocent man. However, if the reasons given to justify an abortion were
always manifestly evil and valueless the problem would not be so
dramatic. The gravity of the problem comes from the fact that in certain
cases, perhaps in quite a considerable number of cases, by denying
abortion one endangers important values to which it is normal to attach
great value, and which may sometimes even seem to have priority. We do
not deny these very great difficulties. It may be a serious question of
health, sometimes of life or death, for the mother; it may be the burden
represented by an additional child, especially if there are good reasons
to fear that the child will be abnormal or retarded; it may be the
importance attributed in different classes of society to considerations
of honor or dishonor, of loss of social standing, and so forth. We
proclaim only that none of these reasons can ever objectively confer the
right to dispose of another's life, even when that life is only
beginning. With regard to the future unhappiness of the child, no one,
not even the father or mother, can act as its substitute--even if it is
still in the embryonic stage--to choose in the child's name, life or
death. The child itself, when grown up, will never have the right to
choose suicide; no more may his parents choose death for the child while
it is not of an age to decide or itself. Life is too fundamental a value
to be weighed against even very serious disadvantages.
The movement for the
emancipation of women, insofar as it seeks essentially to free them from
all unjust discrimination, is on perfectly sound ground. In the
different forms of cultural background there is a great deal to be done
in this regard. But one cannot change nature. Nor can one exempt women,
any more than men, from what nature demands of them. Furthermore, all
publicly recognized freedom is always limited by the certain rights of
The same must be said of
the claim to sexual freedom. If by this expression one is to understand
the mastery progressively acquired by reason and by authentic love over
instinctive impulse, without diminishing pleasure but keeping it in its
proper place--and in this sphere this is the only authentic
freedom--then there is nothing to object to. But this kind of freedom
will always be careful not to violate justice. If, on the contrary, one
is to understand that men and women are "free" to seek sexual pleasure
to the point of satiety, without taking into account any law or the
essential orientation of sexual life to its fruits of fertility,
then this idea has nothing Christian in it. It is even unworthy of man.
In any case it does not confer any right to dispose of human life--even
if embryonic--or to suppress it on the pretext that it is burdensome.
Scientific progress is
opening to technology--and will open still more--the possibility of
delicate interventions, the consequences of which can be very serious,
for good as well as for evil. These are achievements of the human spirit
which in themselves are admirable. But technology can never be
independent of the criterion of morality, since technology exists for
man and must respect his finality. Just as there is no right to us
nuclear energy for every possible purpose, so there is no right to
manipulate human life in every possible direction. Technology must be at
the service of man, so as better to ensure the functioning of his normal
abilities, to prevent or to cure his illnesses, and to contribute to his
better human development. It is true that the evolution of technology
makes early abortion more and more easy, but the moral evaluation is in
no way modified because of this.
We know what seriousness
the problem of birth control can assume for some families and for some
countries. That is why the last Council and subsequently the encyclical
"Humanae vitae" of July 25, 1968, spoke of "responsible parenthood."
What we wish to say again with emphasis, as was pointed out in the
conciliar constitution "Gaudium et spes," in the encyclical "Populorum
progressio" and in other papal documents, is that never, under any
pretext, may abortion be resorted to, either by a family or by the
political authority, as a legitimate means of regulating births. The
damage to moral values is always a greater evil for the common good than
any disadvantage in the economic or demographic order.
The moral discussion is
being accompanied more or less everywhere by serious juridical debates.
There is no country where legislation does not forbid and punish murder.
Furthermore, many countries had specifically applied this condemnation
and these penalties to the particular case of procured abortion. In
these days a vast body of opinion petitions the liberalization of this
latter prohibition. There already exists a fairly general tendency which
seeks to limit, as far as possible, all restrictive legislation,
especially when it seems to touch upon private life. The argument of
pluralism is also used. Although many citizens, in particular the
Catholic faithful, condemn abortion, many others hold that it is licit,
at least as a lesser evil. Why force them to follow an opinion which is
not theirs, especially in a country where they are in the majority? In
addition it is apparent that, where they still exist, the laws
condemning abortion appear difficult to apply. The crime has become too
common for it to be punished every time, and the public authorities
often find that it is wiser to close their eyes to it. But the
preservation of a law which is not applied is always to the detriment of
authority and of all the other laws. It must be added that clandestine
abortion puts women, who resign themselves to it and have recourse to
it, in the most serious dangers for future pregnancies and also in many
cases for their lives. Even if the legislator continues to regard
abortion as an evil, may he not propose to restrict its damage?
These arguments and others
in addition that are heard from varying quarters are not conclusive. It
is true that civil law cannot expect to cover the whole field of
morality or to punish all faults. No one expects it to do so. It must
often tolerate what is in fact a lesser evil, in order to avoid a
greater one. One must, however, be attentive to what a change in
legislation can represent. Many will take as authorization what is
perhaps only the abstention from punishment. Even more, in the present
case, this very renunciation seems at the very least to admit that the
legislator no longer considers abortion a crime against human life,
since murder is still always severely punished. It is true that it is
not the task of the law to choose between points of view or to impose
one rather than another. But the life of the child takes precedence over
all opinions. One cannot invoke freedom of thought to destroy this life.
The role of law is not to
record what is done, but to help in promoting improvement. It is at all
times the task of the State to preserve each person's rights and to
protect the weakest. In order to do so the State will have to right many
wrongs. The law is not obliged to sanction everything, but it cannot act
contrary to a law which is deeper and more majestic than any human law:
the natural law engraved in men's hearts by the Creator as a norm which
reason clarifies and strives to formulate properly, and which one must
always struggle to understand better, but which it is always wrong to
contradict. Human law can abstain from punishment, but it cannot declare
to be right what would be opposed to the natural law, for this
opposition suffices to give the assurance that a law is not a law at
It must in any case be
clearly understood that whatever may be laid down by civil law in this
matter, man can never obey a law which is in itself immoral, and such is
the case of a law which would admit in principle the liceity of
abortion. Nor can he take part in a propaganda campaign in favor of such
a law, or vote for it. Moreover, he may not collaborate in its
application. It is, for instance, inadmissible that doctors or nurses
should find themselves obliged to cooperate closely in abortions and
have to choose between the law of God and their professional situation.
On the contrary, it is the
task of law to pursue a reform of society and of conditions of life in
all milieux, starting with the most deprived, so that always and
everywhere it may be possible to give every child coming into this world
a welcome worthy of a person. Help for families and for unmarried
mothers, assured grants for children, a statute for illegitimate
children and reasonable arrangements for adoption--a whole positive
policy must be put into force so that there will always be a concrete,
honorable and possible alternative to abortion.
Following one's conscience
in obedience to the law of God is not always the easy way. One must not
fail to recognize the weight of the sacrifices and the burdens which it
can impose. Heroism is sometimes called for in order to remain faithful
to the requirements of the divine law. Therefore, we must emphasize that
the path of true progress of the human person passes through this
constant fidelity to a conscience maintained in uprightness and truth;
and we must exhort all those who are able to do so to lighten the
burdens still crushing so many men and women, families and children, who
are placed in situations to which, in human terms, there is no solution.
A Christian's outlook
cannot be limited to the horizon of life in this world. He knows that
during the present life another one is being prepared, one of such
importance that it is in its light that judgments must be made. From
this viewpoint there is no absolute misfortune here below, not even the
terrible sorrow of bringing up a handicapped child. This is the
contradiction proclaimed by the Lord: "Happy those who mourn: they shall
be comforted" (Mt. 5:5). To measure happiness by the absence of sorrow
and misery in this world is to turn one's back on the Gospel.
But this does not mean that
one can remain indifferent to these sorrows and miseries. Every man and
woman with feeling, and certainly every Christian, must be ready to do
what he can to remedy them. This is the law of charity, of which the
first preoccupation must always be the establishment of justice. One can
never approve of abortion; but it is above all necessary to combat its
causes. This includes political action, which will be in particular the
task of the law. But it is necessary at the same time to influence
morality and to do everything possible to help families, mothers and
children. Considerable progress in the service of life has been
accomplished by medicine. One can hope that such progress will continue,
in accordance with the vocation of doctors, which is not to suppress
life but to care for it and favor it as much as possible. It is equally
desirable that, in suitable institutions, or, in their absence, in the
outpouring of Christian generosity and charity every form of assistance
should be developed.
There will be no effective
action on the level of morality unless at the same time an effort is
made on the level of ideas. A point of view--or even more, perhaps a way
of thinking--which considers fertility as an evil cannot be allowed to
spread without contradiction. It is true that not all forms of culture
are equally in favor of large families. Such families come up against
much greater difficulties in an industrial and urban civilization. Thus
in recent times the Church has insisted on the idea of responsible
parenthood, the exercise of true human and Christian prudence. Such
prudence would not be authentic if it did not include generosity. It
must preserve awareness of the grandeur of the task of cooperating with
the Creator in the transmission of life, which gives new members to
society and new children to the Church. Christ's Church has the
fundamental solicitude of protecting and favoring life. She certainly
thinks before all else of the life which Christ came to bring: "I have
come so that they may have life and have it to the full" (Jn. 10:10).
But life at all its levels comes from God, and bodily life is for man
the indispensable beginning. In this life on earth sin has introduced
multiplied and made harder to bear suffering and death. But in taking
their burden upon Himself, Jesus Christ has transformed them: for
whoever believes in Him, suffering and death itself become instruments
of resurrection. Hence Saint Paul can say: "I think that what we suffer
in this life can never be compared to the glory, as yet unrevealed,
which is waiting for us" (Rom. 8:18). And, if we make this comparison we
shall add with him: "Yes, the troubles which are soon over, though they
weigh little, train us for the carrying of a weight of eternal glory
which is out of all proportion to them" (2 Cor. 4:17).
The Supreme Pontiff Pope Paul
VI, in an audience granted to the undersigned Secretary of the Sacred
Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith on June 28, 1974, has ratified
this Declaration on Procured Abortion and has confirmed it and ordered it to
Given in Rome, at the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, on
November 18, the Commemoration of the Dedication of the Basilicas of Saints
Peter and Paul, in the year 1974.
Franciscus Card. SEPER
+ Hieronymus HAMER
Titular Archbishop of Lorium
1. A certain number of bishops'
documents are to be found in Gr. Caprile, "Non Uccidere, Il Magistero della
Chiesa sull'aborto." Part II, pp. 47-300, Rome, 1973.
2. "Regimini Ecclesiae Universae," III, 1, 29. Cf. ibid., 31 (AAS 59 ,
p. 897). On the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith depend all
the questions which are related to faith and morals or which are bound up
with the faith.
3. "Lumen gentium," 12 (AAS 57 , pp. 16-17). The present Declaration
does not envisage all the questions which can arise in connection with
abortion: it is for theologians to examine and discuss them. Only certain
basic principles are here recalled which must be for the theologians
themselves a guide and a rule, and confirm certain fundamental truths of
Catholic doctrine for all Christians.
4. "Lumen Gentium," 25 (AAS 57 , pp. 29-31).
5. The authors of Scripture do not make any philosophical observations on
when life begins, but they speak of the period of life which precedes birth
as being the object of God's attention: He creates and forms the human
being, like that which is moulded by His hand (cf. Ps. 118:73). It would
seem that this theme finds expression for the first time in Jer. 1:5. It
appears later in many other texts. Cf. Is. 49:1-5; 46:3; Jb. 10:8-12; Ps.
22:10; 71:6; 139:13. In the Gospels we read in Luke 1:44: "For the moment
your greeting reached my ears, the child in my womb l leapt for joy."
6. "Didache Apostolorum," edition Funk, "Patres Apostolici," V, 2. "The
Epistle of Barnabas," IX, 5 uses the same expressions (cf. Funk, l.c.,
7. Athenagoras, "A plea on behalf of Christians," 35 (cf. PG. 6, 970: S.C.
3, pp. 166-167). One may also consult the "Epistle to Diogentus" (V, 6 Funk,
o.c., I 399: S.C. 33), where it says of Christians: "They procreate
children, but they do not reject the foetus."
8. Tertullian, "Apologeticum" (IX. 8 PL. 1, 371-372: Corp. Christ. 1, p.
103, 1, 31-36).
9. Canon 21 (Mansi, 14, p. 909). Cf. Council of Elvira, canon 63 (Mansi, 2,
p. 16) and the Council of Ancyra, canon 21 (ibid., 519). See also the decree
of Gregory III regarding the penance to be imposed upon those who are
culpable of this crime (Mansi 13, 292, c. 17).
10. Gratian, "Concordantia Discordantium Canonum," c. 20, C. 2, q..
During the Middle Ages appeal was often made to the authority of St.
Augustine who wrote as follows in regard to this matter in "De Nuptiis et
Concupiscentiis," c. 15: "Sometimes this sexually indulgent cruelty or this
cruel sexual indulgence goes so far as to procure potions which produce
sterility. If the desired result is not achieved, the mother terminates the
life and expels the foetus which was in her womb in such a way that the
child dies before having lived, or, if the baby was living already in its
mother's womb, it is killed before being born." (PL 44, 423-424: CSEL 33,
619. Cf. the "Decree of Gratian" q. 2, C. 32, c. 7.)
11. "Commentary on the Sentences," book IV, dist. 31, exposition of the
12. Constitution "Effraenatum" in 1588 ("Bullarium Romanum," V, 1, pp.
25-27; "Fontes Iuris Canonici," I, no. 165, pp. 308-311).
13. Dz-Sch. 1184. Cf. also the Constitution "Apostolicae Sedis" of Pius IX
(Acta Pii IX, V, 55-72; AAS 5 , pp. 305-331; "Fontes Iuris Canonici,"
III, no. 552, pp. 24-31).
14. Encyclical "Casti Connubii," AAS 22 (1930), pp. 562-565; Dz- Sch.
15. The statements of Pius XII are express, precise and numerous; they would
require a whole study on their own. We quote only this one from the
Discourse to the Saint Luke Union of Italian Doctors of November 12, 1944,
because it formulates the principle in all its universality: "As long as a
man is not guilty, his life is untouchable, and therefore any act directly
tending to destroy it is illicit, whether such destruction is intended as an
end in itself or only as a means to an end, whether it is a question of life
in the embryonic stage or in a stage of full development or already in its
final stages" (Discourses and Radio-messages, VI, 183ff.).
16. Encyclical "Mater et magistra," AAS 53 (1961), p. 447.
17. "Gaudium et spes," 51. Cf. 27 (AAS 58 , p. 1072; cf. 1047).
18. The speech, "Salutiamo con paterna effusione," December 9, 1972, AAS 64
(1972), p. 737. Among the witnesses of this unchangeable doctrine one will
recall the declaration of the Holy Office, condemning direct abortion (Denzinger
1890, AAS 17 , p. 556; 22 [1888-1890], 748; Dz-Sch 3258).
19. This declaration expressly leaves aside the question of the moment when
the spiritual soul is infused. There is not a unanimous tradition on this
point and authors are as yet in disagreement. For some it dates from the
first instant; for others it could not at least precede nidation. It is not
within the competence of science to decide between these views, because the
existence of an immortal soul is not a question in its field. It is a
philosophical problem from which our moral affirmation remains independent
for two reasons: (1) supposing a belated animation, there is still nothing
less than a human life, preparing for and calling for a soul in which the
nature received from parents is completed, (2) on the other hand, it
suffices that this presence of the soul be probable (and one can never prove
the contrary) in order that the taking of life involve accepting the risk of
killing a man, not only waiting for, but already in possession of his soul.
20. Tertullian, cited in footnote 8.
21. Cardinal Villot, Secretary of State, wrote on October 19, 1973, to
Cardinal Dopfner, regarding the protection of human life: "(Die Kirche) kann
jedoch sur Behebung solcher Notsituationen weder empfangnisverhutende Mittel
noch erst recht nicht die Abtreibung als sittlich erlaubt erkennen"
("L'Osservatore Romano," German edition, October 26, 1973, p. 3). 22.
Encyclical "Pacem in terris." AAS 55 (1963), p. 267. Constitution "Gaudium
et spes," 29. Speech of Paul VI, "Salutiamo," AAS 64 (1972), 779.
23. "Gaudium et spes," 48: "Indole autem sua naturali, ipsum institutum
matrimonii amorque coniugalis ad procreationem et educationem prolis
ordinantur, iisque veluti suo fastigio coronantur." Also paragraph 50: "Matrimonium
et amor coniugalis indole sua ad prolem procreandam et educandam ordinantur."
24. "Gaudium et spes," 50-51. Paul VI, Encyclical "Humanae vitae," 10 (AAS
60, , p. 487).
25. "Gaudium et spes," 87. Paul VI, Encyclical "Populorum progressio," 31:
Address to the United Nations, AAS 57 (1965), p. 883. John XXIII, "Mater et
magistra," AAS 53 (1961), pp. 445-448). Responsible parenthood supposes the
use of only morally licit methods of birth regulation. Cf. "Humanae
vitae," (ibid., p. 490).
26. Cardinal Villot, Secretary of State, wrote to the World Congress of
Catholic Doctors held in Barcelona, May 26, 1974: "Por lo que a la vida
humana se refiere, esta non es ciertamente univoca, mas bien se podria decir
que es un haz de vidas. No se puede reducir, sin mutilarlas gravemente, las
zonas de su ser, que, en su estrecha dependencia e interaccion estan
ordenadas las unas a las otras: zona corporal, zona afectiva, zona mental, y
ese transfondo del alma donde la vida divina, recibida por la gracia, puede
desplegarse mediante los dones del Espiritu Santo" ("L'Osservatore Romano,"
May 29, 1974).
Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
3211 4th Street, N.E., Washington, DC 20017-1194 (202) 541-3070