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 How Catholicism Got the Mistaken View of Fertilized Egg=person

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PostSubject: How Catholicism Got the Mistaken View of Fertilized Egg=person   Sun Mar 09, 2008 2:48 pm

How The Catholic Church got the mistaken view of fertilized egg=human being:

The article explains how previous Catholic thought on abortion was very different from the view held today.


Catholic identity and the abortion debate.

Early, first trimester abortion was not considered homicide because the embryo or fetus did not yet have a soul.
Quote :

St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Augustine, did not propound the view that is now standard. They thought there was a marked difference between the early and late stages of fetal life, and the confidence of the contemporary view of the early fetus as "a human person" would surely have struck them as unfounded. Augustine refers to the early fetus in vegetative terms and Aquinas held that "ensoulment" could not occur in the early processes of gestation when a merely vegetative and then animal soul were involved. It required a later divine intervention to provide the developing living matter with a rational human soul., Aquinas places the crucial point at 40 days for a male and 90 days for a female. Making due allowance for equality of the sexes, this would plausibly indicate something like the end of the first trimester.

Abortion was still considered immoral, though, because it was connected to their view of non-procreative sex as immoral.

Quote :

But his most considered judgment on the immorality of early abortion condemns it on the grounds of its connection with sexual license. He does not call it homicide but married adultery. Aquinas likewise considers early abortion in the context of sexual perversity. Their outlook was determinative of the church's standard teaching until the 17th century.

So how does the Church justify or explain the fact that it didn't always consider abortion to be homicide?

How did the view change from a soul not being in a fetus until after the first trimester, and the current view of ensoulment at fertilization?

It was a misunderstanding of modern science.

Preformationism and the Catholic Church

Quote :

The usual response to this intellectual history by the church's moral majority (when they don't ignore it altogether) is to point out that Augustine and Thomas were operating with outdated science. Modern science places, or puts theologians in a position to place, ensoulment at the beginning of fetal life and hence to treat early abortion as a form of homicide.

[T]he church's shift away from the Thomistic/ Augustinian positions began with confusions generated by new scientific developments. As Dombrowski and Deltete point out, the invention of the microscope and some misobservations made with it led scientists in the 17th century to the profoundly mistaken theory of "preformationism" whereby it was supposed that every organism starts off with all its parts already formed. The theories of procreation known as ovism and homunculism gave different spins to this outlook in projecting the idea that tiny humans were somehow wholly present in the female egg or in the male sperm.



The concept of a homunculus (Latin for "little man", plural "homunculi"; the diminutive of homo, "human being") is often used to illustrate the functioning of a system. In the scientific sense of an unknowable prime actor, it can be viewed as an entity or agent.

Preformationism,” a theory of heredity, claimed either the egg or the sperm (exactly which was a contentious issue) contained a complete preformed individual called a homunculus. Development was therefore a matter of enlarging this into a fully formed being. In the days of preformationism, genetic disease was variously interpreted: sometimes as a manifestation of the wrath of God or the mischief of demons and devils; sometimes as evidence of either an excess of or a deficit of the father's “seed”; sometimes as the result of “wicked thoughts” on the part of the mother during pregnancy. On the premise that fetal malformation can result when a pregnant mother's desires are thwarted, Napoleon passed a law permitting expectant mothers to shoplift.
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