Big Les

My rhetoric is my rampart!


    December 19th, 2022

    This popped up in my news feed, so I tapped on it. I had to, and I’m sure the author of the headline knew I would. Editors are trained to write alarming things like this to suck people in.

    I was appalled to hear that the Church had allowed for abortions and that She taught terminating a pregnancy was morally acceptable until AD 1873. (I had to throw in that anno domini.)

    But in an effort to be open minded and open to critical feedback (I’m a fairly devout Catholic) I had to watch and/or read. There wasn’t much to read, and the video was brief, yet both proved to be shocking in how boldly and clearly CNN articulated what they certainly know to be untrue. In short, they lied.

    The producers of this video, the writers and everyone involved at CNN, to varying degrees of culpability, have lied to you and me. The Catholic Church has never allowed for abortions, She has never approved of the procedure under any circumstance and only a historian with an ideological bent (and possible axe to grind against the Church) could postulate such a thing.

    There are myriad citations from the early Church and late antiquity, down through the Middle Ages affirming this. The Didache written in the 2nd century says, “You shall not kill an unborn child or murder a newborn infant.” Writings from Barnabus and Tertullian and Clement of Alexandria and Augustine of Hippo and Jerome and Basil the Great all condemn the practice, and this is in the first 400 years of Church history. The condemnation continues into the Middle Ages with clear documentation of the Church’s opposition in Her discipline of the offense and how the faithful were to obtain absolution for the grave sin of abortion. We see this most clearly in the edicts of popes Sixtus V, Innocent XI and Pius IX. It is during the pontificate of Pius IX where some historians get it wrong.

    There were some theologians who held ensoulment did not take place until a certain point in gestation, so it was reasoned that abortion before this “quickening” warranted a milder punishment. Therefore, the Code of Canon Law reflected a distinction between the animated and unanimated fetus in matters of discipline, not doctrine. In 1869 Pope Pius IX removed this distinction from canon law. In so doing, he did not condemn abortion for the first time in Church history, but he uniformalized the penalty for the offense and at the same time affirmed the Church’s position that life begins at conception.

    I’m being kind when I speak of historians because it’s difficult to interpret the past outside the context of culture. History is not merely what happened at various times in certain parts of the world. History is life lived. It’s a story of people living in communities from small tribes to large nation states and empires. The historian cited in this video clearly has an agenda, and it is not one of life.

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