The early church on abortion

Charles Pope, a Roman Catholic priest in Washington, D.C., is compiling a list of quotations from the early church on abortion, which is not a modern invention but was extremely common during the Roman Empire.  Some samples:

The Didache (“The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles”) ca 110 AD. Thou shalt not murder a child by abortion. (2:2)…The Way of Death is filled with people who are…murderers of children and abortionists of God’s creatures. (5:1-2)

Letter of Barnabas, circa 125: You shall not kill either the fetus by abortion or the new born

Athenagoras the Athenian (To Marcus Aurelius), ca 150 AD: “We say that those women who use drugs to bring on abortion commit murder, and will have to give an account to God for the abortion…, [For we] regard the very fœtus in the womb as a created being, and therefore an object of God’s care… (# 35).

Clement of Alexandria: (circa 150 – 215 AD) Our whole life can go on in observation of the laws of nature, if we gain dominion over our desires from the beginning and if we do not kill, by various means of a perverse art, the human offspring, born according to the designs of divine providence; for these women who, if order to hide their immorality, use abortive drugs which expel the child completely dead, abort at the same time their own human feelings. Paedagogus, 2

Tertullian circa 160-240 AD: For us, we may not destroy even the fetus in the womb, while as yet the human being derives blood from other parts of the body for its sustenance. To hinder a birth is merely a speedier man-killing; nor does it matter when you take away a life that is born, or destroy one that is coming to birth. That is a man which is going to be one: you have the fruit already in the seed. Apology 9:6 . . . .

Minucius Felix (180 – 225 AD): Some women take medicines to destroy the germ of future life in their own bodies. They commit infanticide before they have given birth to the infant (Octavious (30, 2))

St. Basil the Great (330 – 379 AD): The woman who purposely destroys her unborn child is guilty of murder. With us there is no nice enquiry as to its being formed or unformed. In this case it is not only the being about to be born who is vindicated, but the woman in her attack upon herself; because in most cases women who make such attempts die. The destruction of the embryo is an additional crime, a second murder, at all events if we regard it as done with intent. The punishment, however, of these women should not be for life, but for the term of ten years. And let their treatment depend not on mere lapse of time, but on the character of their repentance. Letter 188:2

St. Ambrose: (339 to 397 AD) The poor expose their children, the rich kill the fruit of their own bodies in the womb, lest their property be divided up, and they destroy their own children in the womb with murderous poisons. and before life has been passed on, it is annihilated. Hexaemeron”, (5, 18, 58)

via Ancient Testimonies Against Abortion | Archdiocese of Washington.

There are more, and the church fathers are in complete agreement about this.

 

UPDATE:  There is a whole book on this subject that I’ve read years ago and can heartily recommend: Abortion and the Early Church: Christian, Jewish and Pagan Attitudes in the Greco-Roman World by Michael Gorman.

HT:  Matthew Cantirino

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • Fr. Gregory Hogg

    As I recall, Dr. Alvin Schmidt compiled such a list years ago…in the early 80′s…

  • Fr. Gregory Hogg

    As I recall, Dr. Alvin Schmidt compiled such a list years ago…in the early 80′s…

  • Michael B.

    “The destruction of the embryo is an additional crime, a second murder, at all events if we regard it as done with intent. The punishment, however, of these women should not be for life, but for the term of ten years”

    So is he saying that abortion should carry a 10-year prison sentence? It’s interesting to know what people think should be the penalty for abortion — because that’s the real question. Do these guys think abortion is wrong in the sense like missing church is wrong? Or do they think it’s wrong in like “murder” wrong? It sounds closer to the later.

  • Michael B.

    “The destruction of the embryo is an additional crime, a second murder, at all events if we regard it as done with intent. The punishment, however, of these women should not be for life, but for the term of ten years”

    So is he saying that abortion should carry a 10-year prison sentence? It’s interesting to know what people think should be the penalty for abortion — because that’s the real question. Do these guys think abortion is wrong in the sense like missing church is wrong? Or do they think it’s wrong in like “murder” wrong? It sounds closer to the later.

  • Dan Kempin

    mb, #2,

    Ummm, it IS murder.

  • Dan Kempin

    mb, #2,

    Ummm, it IS murder.

  • Michael B.

    @Dan Kempin

    Yes, but the Gospel of John says that anyone who hates his brother is a murderer. When they say abortion is murder, do they mean “theological murder”, which requires prayer and repentance, or do they mean actual murder, which requires a stiff sentence from the state? For that one quote, he appears to lean more toward the later, unless I’m interpreting it wrong.

  • Michael B.

    @Dan Kempin

    Yes, but the Gospel of John says that anyone who hates his brother is a murderer. When they say abortion is murder, do they mean “theological murder”, which requires prayer and repentance, or do they mean actual murder, which requires a stiff sentence from the state? For that one quote, he appears to lean more toward the later, unless I’m interpreting it wrong.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “So is he saying that abortion should carry a 10-year prison sentence?”

    Yes, for the doctor.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “So is he saying that abortion should carry a 10-year prison sentence?”

    Yes, for the doctor.

  • Jon

    @2, more importantly, the early church recognizes abortion as a damnable sin. One for which the mother and doctor need to be locked up for ten years or until they repent.

    So what would they conclude about those whose attitude merely favors and encourages abortion?

  • Jon

    @2, more importantly, the early church recognizes abortion as a damnable sin. One for which the mother and doctor need to be locked up for ten years or until they repent.

    So what would they conclude about those whose attitude merely favors and encourages abortion?

  • Cincinnatus

    Jon@6:

    What would they conclude about those whose attitude “merely” favors race-based slavery, human trafficking, hiring assassins, sexual relations with children, polygamy, etc.?

    See how silly your question sounds? You can’t go to prison for holding evil opinions, but your gamble to garner sympathy for those poor innocent people who “merely favor” abortion is rhetorically and logically flawed. If abortion is murder (or a “damnable sin”), there’s nothing “mere” about advocating it, even if it’s not a crime.

    Of course, if you don’t grant that abortion is sinful or murderous, your question is certainly moot. But it’s moot either way: we don’t lock up those who hold odious opinions, but we don’t excuse them as “mere” innocents either.

  • Cincinnatus

    Jon@6:

    What would they conclude about those whose attitude “merely” favors race-based slavery, human trafficking, hiring assassins, sexual relations with children, polygamy, etc.?

    See how silly your question sounds? You can’t go to prison for holding evil opinions, but your gamble to garner sympathy for those poor innocent people who “merely favor” abortion is rhetorically and logically flawed. If abortion is murder (or a “damnable sin”), there’s nothing “mere” about advocating it, even if it’s not a crime.

    Of course, if you don’t grant that abortion is sinful or murderous, your question is certainly moot. But it’s moot either way: we don’t lock up those who hold odious opinions, but we don’t excuse them as “mere” innocents either.

  • Booklover

    Now, if one would compile a list of what the church fathers thought of birth control, one might have a riot on his hands.

  • Booklover

    Now, if one would compile a list of what the church fathers thought of birth control, one might have a riot on his hands.

  • http://www.geneveith.com Gene Veith

    Michael B@2

    St. Basil was talking about church discipline, not civil punishment. Abortion was legal in ancient Rome. as Christianity was not ( for most of these church fathers, though it was by St. Basil’s time, the new religion being legalized in 313).

    Thanks, Father Hogg. Dr. Schmidt has done a lot of fine work in the area of Christianity’s influence on culture. Do you know where we could find his list? Also, there is a whole book on this particular subject, which this reminds me to add to the post!

  • http://www.geneveith.com Gene Veith

    Michael B@2

    St. Basil was talking about church discipline, not civil punishment. Abortion was legal in ancient Rome. as Christianity was not ( for most of these church fathers, though it was by St. Basil’s time, the new religion being legalized in 313).

    Thanks, Father Hogg. Dr. Schmidt has done a lot of fine work in the area of Christianity’s influence on culture. Do you know where we could find his list? Also, there is a whole book on this particular subject, which this reminds me to add to the post!

  • Jon

    @7 Cinn

    Yes, exactly my point. Repent! Be absolved. Go and sin no more.

  • Jon

    @7 Cinn

    Yes, exactly my point. Repent! Be absolved. Go and sin no more.

  • Cincinnatus

    Jon@10: My point was that your question was stupid. Was that really your point too?

  • Cincinnatus

    Jon@10: My point was that your question was stupid. Was that really your point too?

  • Jon

    No. A person who advocates that abortion is OK should repent, lest s/he burn. S/he is in serious error.

  • Jon

    No. A person who advocates that abortion is OK should repent, lest s/he burn. S/he is in serious error.

  • Jonathan

    Does any one know if the Fathers were talking about abortion after the time of quickening, rather than conception? I’d be suprised if any knew the process of a zygote having to implant on the uterus; they might be appalled to know that some now call it an abortion when the egg is prevented from implanting. I suspect also that women didn’t always know they were pregnant (and thus had the option of an abortion) until the fetus was well along.

  • Jonathan

    Does any one know if the Fathers were talking about abortion after the time of quickening, rather than conception? I’d be suprised if any knew the process of a zygote having to implant on the uterus; they might be appalled to know that some now call it an abortion when the egg is prevented from implanting. I suspect also that women didn’t always know they were pregnant (and thus had the option of an abortion) until the fetus was well along.

  • Jon

    The Incarnation of our Lord was made known before the baby-belly-bump appeared on St. Mary, as St. Elizabeth proclaimed “Who am I that the Mother of my Lord should favor me with a visit?” And also as attested to by the in utero St John who recognized that Mary was carrying Abraham’s Seed.

    Based on that, I believe that Fathers would have considered abortion at any stage sinful.

  • Jon

    The Incarnation of our Lord was made known before the baby-belly-bump appeared on St. Mary, as St. Elizabeth proclaimed “Who am I that the Mother of my Lord should favor me with a visit?” And also as attested to by the in utero St John who recognized that Mary was carrying Abraham’s Seed.

    Based on that, I believe that Fathers would have considered abortion at any stage sinful.

  • Jon

    Also, St. David and the Psalter: “You knew me before anyone else did,” “You knitted me together in the womb,” “I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.”

    Quickening, schmickening.

  • Jon

    Also, St. David and the Psalter: “You knew me before anyone else did,” “You knitted me together in the womb,” “I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.”

    Quickening, schmickening.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Jon (@6), “damnable sin”? “Serious error” (@12)?

    It appears to me that you believe there are other kinds of sins and (theological) errors.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Jon (@6), “damnable sin”? “Serious error” (@12)?

    It appears to me that you believe there are other kinds of sins and (theological) errors.

  • SKPeterson

    Jonathan @ 13 – That is a rather convenient time bias. Just assume that everyone past some certain stage in history didn’t have anything like our modern, sophisticated ways of scientific knowledge about a topic. It would be quite easy to get further clarification: the quotes use specific terms like ‘zygote’ and ‘embryo.’ Were those word choices in the original, or added by the compiler? If in the original, are they of equivalent or different meaning, i.e., is there an idea of stages of development? I admit I don’t know, but I’m betting on most of these guys having a pretty clear concept of those stages from insemination to birth

  • SKPeterson

    Jonathan @ 13 – That is a rather convenient time bias. Just assume that everyone past some certain stage in history didn’t have anything like our modern, sophisticated ways of scientific knowledge about a topic. It would be quite easy to get further clarification: the quotes use specific terms like ‘zygote’ and ‘embryo.’ Were those word choices in the original, or added by the compiler? If in the original, are they of equivalent or different meaning, i.e., is there an idea of stages of development? I admit I don’t know, but I’m betting on most of these guys having a pretty clear concept of those stages from insemination to birth

  • Jon

    Todd @16

    All sin is damnable. Just making sure proponents of abortion get that, the seriousness of their error.

    It’s a call to repentence from their error with serious consequences.

    They need to seek forgiveness for being abortion proponents, would you agree?

  • Jon

    Todd @16

    All sin is damnable. Just making sure proponents of abortion get that, the seriousness of their error.

    It’s a call to repentence from their error with serious consequences.

    They need to seek forgiveness for being abortion proponents, would you agree?

  • Marie

    “they might be appalled to know that some now call it an abortion when the egg is prevented from implanting.”

    See Booklover’s comment.

  • Marie

    “they might be appalled to know that some now call it an abortion when the egg is prevented from implanting.”

    See Booklover’s comment.

  • William

    Marie, Keep in mind the limited scientific understanding of the day.

    In the world before modern medical understanding it was thought that a man’s semen was literally like a seed. They did not know that the woman produced an egg and that sperm and egg combined to create a new life. Thus, they had difficulty in figuring out when new life began. Was it the moment of ejaculation? Was it sometime AFTER the man’s ‘seed implanted’ in the woman’s womb?

    Once you place yourself in their scientific mindframe, you read the Fathers differently. What you take to be quotes about abortion apply equally to chemical contraception and IUD-like methods (which, contrary to popular pro-life belief, usually – not always- operate by altering the chemistry in the womb such that sperm die before reaching the egg).

    Some theologians have theorized that it was faulty science that caused the early fathers to believe that all contraceptives operated by killing tiny humans in the man’s seed. Since modern science now knows that sperm is not a tiny human being, then non-abortive contraceptives are not sinful.

  • William

    Marie, Keep in mind the limited scientific understanding of the day.

    In the world before modern medical understanding it was thought that a man’s semen was literally like a seed. They did not know that the woman produced an egg and that sperm and egg combined to create a new life. Thus, they had difficulty in figuring out when new life began. Was it the moment of ejaculation? Was it sometime AFTER the man’s ‘seed implanted’ in the woman’s womb?

    Once you place yourself in their scientific mindframe, you read the Fathers differently. What you take to be quotes about abortion apply equally to chemical contraception and IUD-like methods (which, contrary to popular pro-life belief, usually – not always- operate by altering the chemistry in the womb such that sperm die before reaching the egg).

    Some theologians have theorized that it was faulty science that caused the early fathers to believe that all contraceptives operated by killing tiny humans in the man’s seed. Since modern science now knows that sperm is not a tiny human being, then non-abortive contraceptives are not sinful.

  • Jon

    @20 Wm,

    Are you making a categorical assertion regarding the non-sinfulness of non-abortive contraceptives?

  • Jon

    @20 Wm,

    Are you making a categorical assertion regarding the non-sinfulness of non-abortive contraceptives?

  • fws

    jon @ 21

    are you making a categorical assertion that ALL forms of non “natural” contraception IS sin? Use of condoms is sinful?

    on what basis would one make that assertion?

  • fws

    jon @ 21

    are you making a categorical assertion that ALL forms of non “natural” contraception IS sin? Use of condoms is sinful?

    on what basis would one make that assertion?

  • fws

    Joh @ 21

    I would be willing to suggest that non abortive contraceptives are amoral. sin or not? depends on the heart of who does it.

  • fws

    Joh @ 21

    I would be willing to suggest that non abortive contraceptives are amoral. sin or not? depends on the heart of who does it.

  • Michael B.

    @fws

    It would also be interesting to know the church’s position on contraception. As I understand, prior to about 1930, most Christian churches were united against contraception. That is, the idea that something like condom-use being okay, even among married couples, is a completely new development. I’d be interested to know if anyone else has more information, or believes this to be false.

  • Michael B.

    @fws

    It would also be interesting to know the church’s position on contraception. As I understand, prior to about 1930, most Christian churches were united against contraception. That is, the idea that something like condom-use being okay, even among married couples, is a completely new development. I’d be interested to know if anyone else has more information, or believes this to be false.

  • Cincinnatus

    Michael B.:@24:

    You’re correct: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christian_views_on_contraception

    The Church Fathers weren’t unanimous on much of anything, but there was–and always has been–a broad consensus regarding the impermissibility of all forms of contraception. The Protestant attitude toward contraception is indeed a newcomer. And contrary to FWS’s insinuation, the prohibition on birth control has nothing to do with abortion. To prevent potential life is to thwart the procreative purpose of sex, which is a contravention of the normative natural order God established.

  • Cincinnatus

    Michael B.:@24:

    You’re correct: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christian_views_on_contraception

    The Church Fathers weren’t unanimous on much of anything, but there was–and always has been–a broad consensus regarding the impermissibility of all forms of contraception. The Protestant attitude toward contraception is indeed a newcomer. And contrary to FWS’s insinuation, the prohibition on birth control has nothing to do with abortion. To prevent potential life is to thwart the procreative purpose of sex, which is a contravention of the normative natural order God established.

  • Cincinnatus

    /I’m just sharing, not endorsing by the way. I’m not opposed to contraception.

  • Cincinnatus

    /I’m just sharing, not endorsing by the way. I’m not opposed to contraception.

  • Fws

    Cinn @ 25

    I did not intend to insinuate that birth control equates with Abortion. I amnot seeing where I did that.

    The Roman prohibitions on birth control seems to be based upon arguments from Thomist Natural Law theories. So Cinn, the definition of sin is what is unnatural?

  • Fws

    Cinn @ 25

    I did not intend to insinuate that birth control equates with Abortion. I amnot seeing where I did that.

    The Roman prohibitions on birth control seems to be based upon arguments from Thomist Natural Law theories. So Cinn, the definition of sin is what is unnatural?

  • Fws

    Cinn, not trying to stake out a position here. Someone here mentioned that earlier persons believed that sperm was like seed, so t masturbate was the equivalent of abortion. i have heard this before.

    Is there any basis in fact as to this being the earlier view cinn?

  • Fws

    Cinn, not trying to stake out a position here. Someone here mentioned that earlier persons believed that sperm was like seed, so t masturbate was the equivalent of abortion. i have heard this before.

    Is there any basis in fact as to this being the earlier view cinn?

  • Cincinnatus

    FWS@27:

    You claimed that non-abortive contraception is not immoral/sinful, implying by necessity that any contraception that is sinful is so because it is abortive. I.e., abortion is the sin, not contraception. I’m merely pointing out that this is not the logic Catholics use.

    The Roman prohibitions–and the implicit prohibitions of the Eastern church–predate Thomist natural law by around ten centuries. Modern Catholic opponents of contraception use Thomist language, sure, but John Chrysostom, for example (born 347) wasn’t quoting St. Thomas.

    As for the “definition of sin,” are you asking for my definition or the Roman definition? According to the Catholic catechism, sin is “nothing else than a morally bad act (St. Thomas, De malo, 7:3), an act not in accord with reason informed by the Divine law.” A Venn diagram might be helpful: acts which violate God’s normative natural order (e.g., sodomy) are sins, but not all sins are violations of this “natural law.” Some are violations of the “Divine law,” for example. Thomas claims that there are four types of laws: the eternal (the mind or nature of God), the natural, the divine (Scriptural commandments, etc.), and the human (those positive laws that are in conformity with the aforementioned laws). My point isn’t to parse these kinds of “laws” and their validity, but only to point out that you’re criminally oversimplifying the Thomistic notion of sin if you reduce it merely to violating a natural order. You can violate God himself, too, or Scriptural injunctions that aren’t inscribed in the fabric of the universe.

    As for whether the early Fathers believed that sperm itself was a “seed,” I can’t say. Insisting that they did, however, seems a bit of legalism, as well as hubris: “Well, their notions of sin were premised on ‘outdated’ scientific presuppositions. We know better.” Nah. “Onanism,” for example, is/was regarded as sinful not because millions of sperm die, but because the sexual act itself is understood holistically as a fundamentally procreative act. To intentionally divorce sexual conduct from the end of procreation is and always has been regarded as sinful by the Church; modern Protestant churches are the exception. This is why hyper-orthodox/legalist Catholics even think that “NFP” is sinful: any human attempt to “control” the results of sex in order not to produce offspring is prideful and sinful.

  • Cincinnatus

    FWS@27:

    You claimed that non-abortive contraception is not immoral/sinful, implying by necessity that any contraception that is sinful is so because it is abortive. I.e., abortion is the sin, not contraception. I’m merely pointing out that this is not the logic Catholics use.

    The Roman prohibitions–and the implicit prohibitions of the Eastern church–predate Thomist natural law by around ten centuries. Modern Catholic opponents of contraception use Thomist language, sure, but John Chrysostom, for example (born 347) wasn’t quoting St. Thomas.

    As for the “definition of sin,” are you asking for my definition or the Roman definition? According to the Catholic catechism, sin is “nothing else than a morally bad act (St. Thomas, De malo, 7:3), an act not in accord with reason informed by the Divine law.” A Venn diagram might be helpful: acts which violate God’s normative natural order (e.g., sodomy) are sins, but not all sins are violations of this “natural law.” Some are violations of the “Divine law,” for example. Thomas claims that there are four types of laws: the eternal (the mind or nature of God), the natural, the divine (Scriptural commandments, etc.), and the human (those positive laws that are in conformity with the aforementioned laws). My point isn’t to parse these kinds of “laws” and their validity, but only to point out that you’re criminally oversimplifying the Thomistic notion of sin if you reduce it merely to violating a natural order. You can violate God himself, too, or Scriptural injunctions that aren’t inscribed in the fabric of the universe.

    As for whether the early Fathers believed that sperm itself was a “seed,” I can’t say. Insisting that they did, however, seems a bit of legalism, as well as hubris: “Well, their notions of sin were premised on ‘outdated’ scientific presuppositions. We know better.” Nah. “Onanism,” for example, is/was regarded as sinful not because millions of sperm die, but because the sexual act itself is understood holistically as a fundamentally procreative act. To intentionally divorce sexual conduct from the end of procreation is and always has been regarded as sinful by the Church; modern Protestant churches are the exception. This is why hyper-orthodox/legalist Catholics even think that “NFP” is sinful: any human attempt to “control” the results of sex in order not to produce offspring is prideful and sinful.

  • fws

    cinn @ 29

    I am aware of St Thomas’ parsing of what the Law is.
    I was asking for your opinion not the Roman Catholic one.
    So let me rephrase: Some things are sin , essentially, because they are unnatural? (yes I am aware, for example that the Romans saying that homosexuality is an “objective disorder” is precisely to say that homosexuality is NOT a sin per se, etc etc).

    I am asking you Cinn where you might disagree with the Roman view of sin and the Law. That was the aim of my question.

    To intentionally divorce sexual conduct from the end of procreation is and always has been regarded as sinful by the Church

    You seem to be making a leap here to Thomism Cinn. Where in the early fathers is this particular argument laid out? As to hubris? You read into motive. IF the earlier fathers regarded sperm as literal seed, that would indeed have us understand those early pronouncements in a different way, that is, of course, if we could see our way to avoid anachronistically project Thomist notions onto the earlier fathers. Aren’t you overstating just a bit dear Cinn?

  • fws

    cinn @ 29

    I am aware of St Thomas’ parsing of what the Law is.
    I was asking for your opinion not the Roman Catholic one.
    So let me rephrase: Some things are sin , essentially, because they are unnatural? (yes I am aware, for example that the Romans saying that homosexuality is an “objective disorder” is precisely to say that homosexuality is NOT a sin per se, etc etc).

    I am asking you Cinn where you might disagree with the Roman view of sin and the Law. That was the aim of my question.

    To intentionally divorce sexual conduct from the end of procreation is and always has been regarded as sinful by the Church

    You seem to be making a leap here to Thomism Cinn. Where in the early fathers is this particular argument laid out? As to hubris? You read into motive. IF the earlier fathers regarded sperm as literal seed, that would indeed have us understand those early pronouncements in a different way, that is, of course, if we could see our way to avoid anachronistically project Thomist notions onto the earlier fathers. Aren’t you overstating just a bit dear Cinn?

  • Cincinnatus

    fws@30:

    Michael B. (or whoever it was) is incorrect in the motives he imputes to the Fathers when they opposed masturbation (and/or mechanical contraception). Again, I’m not an expert on the Patristics, but from what I’ve read, opposition to masturbation by the Church has always been rooted in an holistic view of marriage, just as opposition to contraception has always been rooted in an holistic conception of sexuality. For example, John Chrysostom–I reference him only because his writings are widely available, and because he’s a fairly early Patristic–opposed masturbation because the sexual act is only supposed to be experienced and consummated between two married human beings of opposite sex. That is, sex is an integral part of marriage, and marriage is, by divine institution, the joining of two persons, body and soul. Chrysostom: “Their intercourse accomplishes the joining of their bodies.” To circumvent this joining was regarded as sinful–this is still the official position of both the Catholic church and the Orthodox church. It has nothing to do with “murdering” seeds, misunderstood associations with abortion, etc. And of course, the Scriptural basis comes from the example of Onan. Moreover, as in the case of contraception, masturbation servers sexual conduct from its procreative telos. It’s also the result of pure, selfish lust.

    As for contraception, the argument is “laid out” within many of the Patristic writings (as are the arguments against masturbation). Where to begin? This blog post I found is a nice compendium of representative quotes:

    http://catholicpatristics.blogspot.com/2009/03/contraception.html

    Note that contraception is regarded as an offense against nature–nature being regarded as a normatively binding creation of God. The genitalia are designed for procreation, so to thwart their effectiveness is unnatural and thus wicked. The “seed” is not to be “vainly” spilled because, again, this thwarts its purpose. To use contraceptive methods demonstrates that you are engaging in sexual intercourse purely to satisfy your lust, etc. All of these quotes are taken from sources that predate Thomism by centuries–in one case, by 12 entire centuries. Just because one believes in a “natural” order or a teleological structure to action and morality doesn’t mean one is a Thomist. So no, I’m not “overstating” or “projecting.”

    I’m also not endorsing, just reporting. My own views on sin these days are rather inchoate. I’ll just say that I believe in it, and that I am guilty of it. The point of my contributions in this thread haven’t been to share my opinion, but to correct wildly incorrect interpretations of the Patristic writings.

  • Cincinnatus

    fws@30:

    Michael B. (or whoever it was) is incorrect in the motives he imputes to the Fathers when they opposed masturbation (and/or mechanical contraception). Again, I’m not an expert on the Patristics, but from what I’ve read, opposition to masturbation by the Church has always been rooted in an holistic view of marriage, just as opposition to contraception has always been rooted in an holistic conception of sexuality. For example, John Chrysostom–I reference him only because his writings are widely available, and because he’s a fairly early Patristic–opposed masturbation because the sexual act is only supposed to be experienced and consummated between two married human beings of opposite sex. That is, sex is an integral part of marriage, and marriage is, by divine institution, the joining of two persons, body and soul. Chrysostom: “Their intercourse accomplishes the joining of their bodies.” To circumvent this joining was regarded as sinful–this is still the official position of both the Catholic church and the Orthodox church. It has nothing to do with “murdering” seeds, misunderstood associations with abortion, etc. And of course, the Scriptural basis comes from the example of Onan. Moreover, as in the case of contraception, masturbation servers sexual conduct from its procreative telos. It’s also the result of pure, selfish lust.

    As for contraception, the argument is “laid out” within many of the Patristic writings (as are the arguments against masturbation). Where to begin? This blog post I found is a nice compendium of representative quotes:

    http://catholicpatristics.blogspot.com/2009/03/contraception.html

    Note that contraception is regarded as an offense against nature–nature being regarded as a normatively binding creation of God. The genitalia are designed for procreation, so to thwart their effectiveness is unnatural and thus wicked. The “seed” is not to be “vainly” spilled because, again, this thwarts its purpose. To use contraceptive methods demonstrates that you are engaging in sexual intercourse purely to satisfy your lust, etc. All of these quotes are taken from sources that predate Thomism by centuries–in one case, by 12 entire centuries. Just because one believes in a “natural” order or a teleological structure to action and morality doesn’t mean one is a Thomist. So no, I’m not “overstating” or “projecting.”

    I’m also not endorsing, just reporting. My own views on sin these days are rather inchoate. I’ll just say that I believe in it, and that I am guilty of it. The point of my contributions in this thread haven’t been to share my opinion, but to correct wildly incorrect interpretations of the Patristic writings.


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