When does a soul exist?

Regarding the question of when a human soul comes into existence and the distinction between "contraceptives" and "abortifacient birth control" discussed in recent posts, I found the following Roman Catholic support for my contention that the Church (and Scripture) has previously been silent on the question of exactly when a soul is created. Indeed, the Roman Catholic Church appears to favor my argument that we simply do not know how or when a soul comes into existence. Nevertheless, they (and I) affirm that our moral judgment against birth control (abortifacient or otherwise) remains independent of any such answer. Procreation is a process we have no business interfering with.
Statement 7: 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.
...and Statement 13: "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.'"[20]
Endnote 20: Tertullian, "Apologeticum" (IX. 8 PL. 1, 371-372: Corp. Christ. 1, p. 103, 1, 31-36)
...and Endnote 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."
Pope Paul VI, in an audience granted to the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith on June 28, 1974, ratified this Declaration on Procured Abortion and has confirmed it and ordered it to be promulgated.



Anonymous said...

Indeed. And I would say that intentionally seeking to deny the prospect of life and a soul (i.e., through contraception) is nearly as grave, if not just as grave, a sin as murder. That seems to be a point that both John Chrysostom and John Calvin were making in some of their commentaries on the subject.

Erich Heidenreich, DDS said...

I must also add that since the time of the excellent unequivocal statements above, Roman Catholics have adopted the unfortunately equivocal "life begins at conception" slogan, contrary to these careful words of Pope Paul VI. The Pontifical Academy for Life declared: "The moment that marks the beginning of the existence of a new 'human being' is constituted by the penetration of sperm into the oocyte. Fertilization promotes a series of linked events and transforms the egg cell into a 'zygote'." And, the more authoritative Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith also has stated and reaffirmed: "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."