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Catholic Essentials
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Abortion (and Contraception)

The expulsion of the fetus from the womb before it is able to lead a separate life; to be distinguished from a premature birth, i.e. expulsion of a fetus which is able to live separately, usually during the eighth and ninth months after conception. Accidental abortion is called miscarriage. Artificial abortion directly sought for is a felony under English law, and is forbidden by the Church as a grave sin under pain of excommunication reserved to the bishop and of irregularity reserved to the Holy See; all who help to procure the abortion share in these penalties.

(Definition from A Catholic Dictionary, 1951)

References in Scripture:

  • "And God blessed them, saying: Increase and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it, and rule over the fishes of the sea, and the fowls of the air, and all living creatures that move upon the earth." Genesis 1:28
  • "If men quarrel, and one strike a woman with child, and she miscarry indeed, but live herself: he shall be answerable for so much damage as the woman's husband shall require, and as arbiters shall award" Exodus 21:22
  • "And it came to pass, that when Elizabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the infant leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost: And she cried out with a loud voice, and said: Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb. And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For behold as soon as the voice of thy salutation sounded in my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy" Luke 1:41-44
  • "And behold one came and said to him: Good master, what good shall I do that I may have life everlasting? Who said to him: Why asketh thou me concerning good? One is good, God. But if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments. He said to him: Which? And Jesus said: Thou shalt do no murder, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness. Honor thy father and thy mother: and, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself" Matt 19:16-19

Church Teaching on Abortion and Contraception:

  • "Pre-natal infanticide: the murder of an infant before birth. This is more properly called foeticide. Among the ancient philosophers and medieval theologians there was considerable discussion as to when the human embryo could be said to possess human life. This is no longer a question among modern biologists. At the very moment of conception a human being comes into existence. At any time after this the deprivation of life in this living matter, if done deliberately, is murder." 1917 Catholic Encyclopedia, Infanticide
  • "Ethics, then, and the Church agree in teaching that no action is lawful which directly destroys fetal life. It is also clear that extracting the living fetus before it is viable, is destroying its life as directly as it would be killing a grown man directly to plunge him into a medium in which he cannot live, and hold him there till he expires" 1917 Catholic Encyclopedia, Abortion
  • "Canon 21. Concerning women who commit fornication, and destroy that which they have conceived, or who are employed in making drugs for abortion, a former decree excluded them until the hour of death, and to this some have assented. Nevertheless, being desirous to use somewhat greater lenity, we have ordained that they fulfil ten years [of penance], according to the prescribed degrees." The Council of Ancyra (A.D. 314)
  • "A second reason for marriage is the desire of family, not so much, however, with a view to leave after us heirs to inherit our property and fortune, as to bring up children in the true faith and in the service of God. That such was the principal object of the holy Patriarchs when they married is clear from Scripture. Hence the Angel, when informing Tobias of the means of repelling the violent assaults of the evil demon, says: I will show thee who they are over whom the devil can prevail; for they who in such manner receive matrimony as to shut out God from themselves and from their mind, and to give themselves to their lust, as the horse and mule which have not understanding, over them the devil hath power. He then adds: Thou shalt take the virgin with the fear of the Lord, moved rather for love of children than for lust, that in the seed of Abraham thou mayest obtain a blessing in children. It was also for this reason that God instituted marriage from the beginning; and therefore married persons who, to prevent conception or procure abortion, have recourse to medicine, are guilty of a most heinous crime ญญ nothing less than wicked conspiracy to commit murder." Catechism of Trent, Sacrament of Matrimony
  • "All of which agrees with the stern words of the Bishop of Hippo in denouncing those wicked parents who seek to remain childless, and failing in this, are not ashamed to put their offspring to death: "Sometimes this lustful cruelty or cruel lust goes so far as to seek to procure a baneful sterility, and if this fails the fetus conceived in the womb is in one way or another smothered or evacuated, in the desire to destroy the offspring before it has life, or if it already lives in the womb, to kill it before it is born. If both man and woman are party to such practices they are not spouses at all; and if from the first they have carried on thus they have come together not for honest wedlock, but for impure gratification" Encyclical On Christian Marriage by Pope Pius XI, 1930
  • "Prostitution, immoral preventives of conception, abortion, and concealment of illegitimate births, all tend to reduce the extent of the evil in the cities disproportionally." 1917 Catholic Encyclopedia, Illegitimacy
  • "Preventives of conception and devices for procuring abortion have been so shamelessly published through the printing press and private agencies of publicity during the last few years that they have come to the attention of the majority of the young people in most of the cities of Europe and America. In all probability it is to the knowledge and practice of these perverse devices, rather than to improved moral conditions, that we must attribute the slight decline in illegitimacy that has taken place in some countries during the last twenty years." 1917 Catholic Encyclopedia, Illegitimacy
  • "Of course, when brought about with criminal intent, abortion is nothing less than murder in the first degree; and if the law of the land does not discover and punish the criminal, the higher law of the God of Nature and of Nature's inexorable reprisals for interference with, or destruction of her beneficent designs, will sooner or later most certainly do so." 1917 Catholic Encyclopedia, Physical Effects of Abortion


It is very clear, God only promotes creation of children in Scripture, never destruction of them. No Catholic can intentionally have an abortion, give others advice toward abortion, or otherwise condone abortion in any way.

Notice here too, that the Church places contraception in the same category as abortion, considering them murder, or at the least, conspiracy to commit murder.




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