The Sanctity of Human Life

“Can. 1398 A person who procures a completed abortion incurs a latae sententiae excommunication.” (1983 Code of Canon Law)

“Therefore from the moment of its conception life must be guarded with the greatest care, while abortion and infanticide are unspeakable crimes.” (Second Vatican Council)

“The woman who destroys voluntarily a fetus incurs the pain of murder.” (St. Basil the Great, Doctor of the Church)”Among all the crimes which can be committed against life, procured abortion has characteristics making it particularly serious and deplorable.” (Pope John Paul II)

“Those who give drugs causing abortions are murderers themselves, as well as those who receive the poison which kills the fetus.” (St. Basil the Great, Doctor of the Church, c. 369 A.D.)

“But no word has the power to change the reality of things: procured abortion is the deliberate and direct killing, by whatever means it is carried out, of a human being in the initial phase of his or her existence, extending from conception to birth.” (Pope John Paul II)

“Some go so far as to take potions, that they may insure barrenness, and thus murder human beings almost before their conception. Some, when they find themselves with child through their sin, use drugs to procure abortion, and when (as often happens) they die with their offspring, they enter the lower world laden with the guilt not only of adultery against Christ but also of suicide and child murder.” (St. Jerome, Doctor of the Church)

“Why sow where the ground makes it its care to destroy the fruit? where there are many efforts at abortion? where there is murder before the birth? for even the harlot thou dost not let continue a mere harlot, but makest her a murderess also. You see how drunkenness leads to whoredom, whoredom to adultery, adultery to murder; or rather to a something even worse than murder. For I have no name to give it, since it does not take off the thing born, but prevent its being born. Why then dost thou abuse the gift of God, and fight with His laws, and follow after what is a curse as if a blessing, and make the chamber of procreation a chamber for murder, and arm the woman that was given for childbearing unto slaughter?” (St. John Chrysostom, Doctor of the Church)

“The moral gravity of procured abortion is apparent in all its truth if we recognize that we are dealing with murder and, in particular, when we consider the specific elements involved. The one eliminated is a human being at the very beginning of life. No one more absolutely innocent could be imagined. In no way could this human being ever be considered an aggressor, much less an unjust aggressor! He or she is weak, defenseless, even to the point of lacking that minimal form of defense consisting in the poignant power of a newborn baby’s cries and tears. The unborn child is totally entrusted to the protection and care of the woman carrying him or her in the womb. And yet sometimes it is precisely the mother herself who makes the decision and asks for the child to be eliminated, and who then goes about having it done.” (Pope John Paul II, 1995)

“The Church’s canonical discipline, from the earliest centuries, has inflicted penal sanctions on those guilty of abortion. This practice, with more or less severe penalties, has been confirmed in various periods of history. The 1917 Code of Canon Law punished abortion with excommunication. The revised canonical legislation continues this tradition when it decrees that ‘a person who actually procures an abortion incurs automatic (latae sententiae) excommunication’. The excommunication affects all those who commit this crime with knowledge of the penalty attached, and thus includes those accomplices without whose help the crime would not have been committed. By this reiterated sanction, the Church makes clear that abortion is a most serious and dangerous crime, thereby encouraging those who commit it to seek without delay the path of conversion.” (Pope John Paul II)

“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.” (Pope John Paul II)

“Christian Tradition – as the Declaration issued by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith points out so well – is clear and unanimous, from the beginning up to our own day, in describing abortion as a particularly grave moral disorder. From its first contacts with the Greco-Roman world, where abortion and infanticide were widely practiced, the first Christian community, by its teaching and practice, radically opposed the customs rampant in that society, as is clearly shown by the Didache…Among the Greek ecclesiastical writers, Athenagoras records that Christians consider as murderesses women who have recourse to abortifacient medicines, because children, even if they are still in their mother’s womb, ‘are already under the protection of Divine Providence’. Among the Latin authors, Tertullian affirms: ‘It is anticipated murder to prevent someone from being born; it makes little difference whether one kills a soul already born or puts it to death at birth. He who will one day be a man is a man already’. Throughout Christianity’s two thousand year history, this same doctrine has been constantly taught by the Fathers of the Church and by her Pastors and Doctors. Even scientific and philosophical discussions about the precise moment of the infusion of the spiritual soul have never given rise to any hesitation about the moral condemnation of abortion.” (Pope John Paul II)

“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’. 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?’. Furthermore, 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’.” (Pope John Paul II, 1995)

“[E]very human being, even the child in the womb, has the right to life directly from God and not from his parents, not from any society or human authority. Therefore, there is no man, no human authority, no science, no ‘indication’ at all – whether it be medical, eugenic, social, economic, or moral – that may offer or give a valid judicial title for a direct deliberate disposal of an innocent human life, that is, a disposal which aims at its destruction, whether as an end in itself or as a means to achieve the end, perhaps in no way at all illicit. Thus, for example, to save the life of the mother is a very noble act; but the direct killing of the child as a means to such an end is illicit. The direct destruction of so-called ‘useless lives,’ already born or still in the womb, practiced extensively a few years ago, can in no wise be justified. Therefore, when this practice was initiated, the Church expressly declared that it was against the natural law and the divine positive law, and consequently that it was unlawful to kill, even by order of the public authorities, those who were innocent, even if on account of some physical or mental defect, they were useless to the State and a burden upon it. The life of an innocent person is sacrosanct, and any direct attempt or aggression against it is a violation of one of the fundamental laws without which secure human society is impossible. We have no need to teach you in detail the meaning and the gravity, in your profession, of this fundamental law. But never forget this: there rises above every human law and above every ‘indication’ the faultless law of God.” (Pope Pius XII, Address to Midwives)

“Another very grave crime is also to be noted, by which the life of the offspring hidden in the mother’s womb is attempted. Moreover, some wish this to be permitted according to the pleasure of the mother or father; others, however, call it illicit unless very grave reasons attend, which they call by the name of medical, social, eugenic ‘indication.’ Since this pertains to the penal laws of the state, according to which the destruction of the offspring begotten but not yet born is prohibited, all of these demand that the ‘indication,’ which they defend individually in one way or another, be recognized even by the public laws, and be declared free of all punishment. Nay rather, there are not lacking those who demand that public magistrates lend a helping hand to these death-dealing operations, something which unfortunately we all know is taking place very frequently in some places. Now as for the medical and therapeutic ‘indication,’ to use their words, We have already said, Venerable Brethren, how sorry We are for the mother, whose health and even life are threatened by grave dangers resulting from nature’s duty; but what reason can ever be strong enough to excuse in any way the direct murder of the innocent? For this is the case in point here. Whether this is brought upon the mother or the offspring, it is contrary to God’s precept and the voice of nature: ‘Thou shalt not kill!’ [Exod. 20:13]. The life of each person is an equally sacred thing, and no one can ever have the power, not even public authority to destroy it. Consequently, it is most unjust to invoke the ‘right of the sword’ against the innocent since this is valid against the guilty alone; nor is there any right in this case of a bloody defense against an unjust aggressor (for who will call an innocent child an unjust aggressor?); nor is there present any ‘right of extreme necessity,’ as it is called, which can extend even to the direct killing of the innocent. Therefore, honorable and experienced physicians praiseworthily endeavor to protect and to save the lives of both the mother and the offspring; on the other hand, most unworthy of the noble name of physician and of commendation would they prove themselves, as many as plan for the death of one or the other under the appearance of practicing medicine or through motives of false pity… [T]o seek to procure the death of the innocent is improper and contrary to the divine precept promulgated by the words of the Apostle: ‘Evil is not to be done that good may come of it’ [Rom. 3:8]. Finally, those who hold high office among nations and pass laws may not forget that it belongs to public authority by appropriate laws and penalties to defend the lives of the innocent, and the more so as those whose lives are endangered and are attacked are less able to defend themselves, among whom surely infants in their mothers’ wombs hold first place. But if public magistrates not only do not protect those little ones, but by their laws and ordinances permit this, and thus give them over to the hands of physicians and others to be killed, let them remember that God is the judge and the avenger of innocent ‘blood which cries from earth to heaven’ [Gen. 4:10].” (Pope Pius XI)

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