Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith
November 18, 1974
II. In the Light of Faith
III. In the Additional Light of Reason
IV. Reply to Some Objections
V. Morality and Law
1. The problem of procured abortion and of its possible legal liberalization
has become more or less everywhere the subject of impassioned discussions. These
debates would be less grave were it not a question of human life, a primordial
value, which must be protected and promoted. Everyone understands this, although
many look for reasons, even against all evidence, to promote the use of
abortion. One cannot but be astonished to see a simultaneous increase of
unqualified protests against the death penalty and every form of war and the
vindication of the liberalization of abortion, either in its entirety or in ever
broader indications. The Church is too conscious of the fact that it belongs to
her vocation to defend man against everything that could disintegrate or lessen
his dignity to remain silent on such a topic. Because the Son of God became man,
there is no man who is not His brother in humanity and who is not called to
become a Christian in order to receive salvation from Him.
2. In many countries the public authorities which resist the liberalization
of abortion laws are the object of powerful pressures aimed at leading them to
this goal. This, it is said, would violate no one's conscience, for each
individual would be left free to follow his own opinion, while being prevented
from imposing it on others. Ethical pluralism is claimed to be a normal
consequence of ideological pluralism. There is, however, a great difference
between the one and the other, for action affects the interests of others more
quickly than does mere opinion. Moreover, one can never claim freedom of opinion
as a pretext for attacking the rights of others, most especially the right to
3. Numerous Christian lay people, especially doctors, but also parents'
associations, statesmen, or leading figures in posts of responsibility have
vigorously reacted against this propaganda campaign. Above all, many episcopal
conferences and many bishops acting in their own name have judged it opportune
to recall very strongly the traditional doctrine of the Church.(1)
With a striking convergence these documents admirably emphasize an attitude of
respect for life which is at the same time human and Christian. Nevertheless, it
has happened that several of these documents here or there have encountered
reservation or even opposition.
4. Charged with the promotion and the defense of faith and morals in the
universal Church,(2) the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine
of the Faith proposes to recall this teaching in its essential aspects to all
the faithful. Thus in showing the unity of the Church, it will confirm by the
authority proper to the Holy See what the bishops have opportunely undertaken.
It hopes that all the faithful, including those who might have been unsettled by
the controversies and new opinions, will understand that it is not a question of
opposing one opinion to another, but of transmitting to the faithful a constant
teaching of the supreme Magisterium, which teaches moral norms in the light of
faith.(3) It is therefore clear that this declaration
necessarily entails a grave obligation for Christian consciences.(4)
May God deign to enlighten also all men who strive with their whole heart to
"act in truth" (Jn. 3.21).
In the Light of Faith
5. "Death was not God's doing, he takes no pleasure in the extinction of the
living" (Wis. 1.13). Certainly God has created beings who have only one lifetime
and physical death cannot be absent from the world of those with a bodily
existence. But what is immediately willed is life, and in the visible universe
everything has been made for man, who is the image of God and the world's
crowning glory (cf. Gen. 1.26-28). On the human level, "it was the devil's envy
that brought death into the world" (Wis. 2.24). Introduced by sin, death remains
bound up with it: death is the sign and fruit of sin. But there is no final
triumph for death. Confirming faith in the Resurrection, the Lord proclaims in
the Gospel: "God is God, not of the dead, but of the living" (Mt. 22.32). And
death like sin will be definitively defeated by resurrection in Christ (cf. 1
Cor. 15.20-27). Thus we understand that human life, even on this earth, is
precious. Infused by the Creator,(5) life is again taken back
by Him (cf. Gen. 2.7; Wis. 15.11). It remains under His protection: man's blood
cries out to Him (cf. Gen. 4.10) and He will demand an account of it, "for in
the image of God man was made" (Gen. 9.5-6). The commandment of God is formal:
"You shall not kill" (Ex. 20.13). Life is at the same time a gift and a
responsibility. It is received as a "talent" (cf. Mt. 25.14-30); it must be put
to proper use. In order that life may bring forth fruit, many tasks are offered
to man in this world and he must not shirk them. More important still, the
Christian knows that eternal life depends on what, with the grace of God, he
does with his life on earth.
6. The tradition of the Church has always held that human life must be
protected and favored from the beginning, just as at the various stages of its
development. Opposing the morals of the Greco-Roman world, the Church of the
first centuries insisted on the difference that exists on this point between
those morals and Christian morals. In the Didache it is clearly said: "You shall
not kill by abortion the fruit of the womb and you shall not murder the infant
already born."(6) Athenagoras emphasizes that Christians
consider as murderers those women who take medicines to procure an abortion; he
condemns the killers of children, including those still living in their mother's
womb, "where they are already the object of the care of divine Providence."(7)
Tertullian did not always perhaps use the same language; he nevertheless clearly
affirms the essential principle: "To prevent birth is anticipated murder; it
makes little difference whether one destroys a life already born or does away
with it in its nascent stage. The one who will be a man is already one."(8)
7. In the course of history, the Fathers of the Church, her Pastors and her
Doctors have taught the same doctrine -- the various opinions on the infusion of
the spiritual soul did not introduce any doubt about the illicitness of
abortion. It is true that in the Middle Ages, when the opinion was generally
held that the spiritual soul was not present until after the first few weeks, a
distinction was made in the evaluation of the sin and the gravity of penal
sanctions. Excellent authors allowed for this first period more lenient case
solutions which they rejected for following periods. But it was never denied at
that time that procured abortion, even during the first days, was objectively
grave fault. This condemnation was in fact unanimous. Among the many documents
it is sufficient to recall certain ones. The first Council of Mainz in 847
reconsidered the penalties against abortion which had been established by
preceding Councils. It decided that the most rigorous penance would be imposed
"on women who procure the elimination of the fruit conceived in their womb."(9)
The Decree of Gratian reported the following words of Pope Stephen V: "That
person is a murderer who causes to perish by abortion what has been conceived."(10)
St. Thomas, the Common Doctor of the Church, teaches that abortion is a grave
sin against the natural law.(11) At the time of the
Renaissance Pope Sixtus V condemned abortion with the greatest severity.(12)
A century later, Innocent XI rejected the propositions of certain lax canonists
who sought to excuse an abortion procured before the moment accepted by some as
the moment of the spiritual animation of the new being.(13) In
our days the recent Roman Pontiffs have proclaimed the same doctrine with the
greatest clarity. Pius XI explicitly answered the most serious objections.(14)
Pius XII clearly excluded all direct abortion, that is, abortion which is either
an end or a means.(15) John XXIII recalled the teaching of the
Fathers on the sacred character of life "which from its beginning demands the
action of God the Creator."(16) Most recently, the Second
Vatican Council, presided over by Paul VI, has most severely condemned abortion:
"Life must be safeguarded with extreme care from conception; abortion and
infanticide are abominable crimes."(17) The same Paul VI,
speaking on this subject on many occasions, has not been afraid to declare that
this teaching of the Church "has not changed and is unchangeable."(18)
In the Additional Light of Reason
8. Respect for human life is not just a Christian obligation. Human reason is
sufficient to impose it on the basis of the analysis of what human person is and
should be. Constituted by a rational nature, man is a personal subject, capable
of reflecting himself and of determining his acts and hence his own destiny: he
is free. He is consequently master of himself, or rather, because this takes
place in the course of time, he has the means of becoming so: this is his task.
Created immediately by God, man's soul is spiritual and therefore immortal.
Hence man is open to God; he finds his fulfillment only in Him. But man lives in
the community of his equals; he is nourished by interpersonal communication with
men in the indispensable social setting. In the face of society and other men,
each human person possesses himself; he possesses life and different goods; he
has these as a right. It is this that strict justice demands from all in his
9. Nevertheless, temporal life lived in this world is not identified with the
person. The person possesses as his own a level of life that is more profound
and that cannot end. Bodily life is a fundamental good; here below it is the
condition for all other goods. But there are higher values for which it could be
legitimate or even necessary to be willing to expose oneself to the risk of
losing bodily life. In a society of persons the common good is for each
individual an end which he must serve and to which he must subordinate his
particular interest. But it is not his last end and, from this point of view, it
is society which is at the service of the person, because the person will not
fulfill his destiny except in God. The person can be definitively subordinated
only to God. Man can never be treated simply as a means to be disposed of in
order to obtain a higher end.
10. In regard to the mutual rights and duties of the person and of society,
it belongs to moral teaching to enlighten consciences; it belongs to the law to
specify and organize external behavior. There is precisely a certain number of
rights which society is not in a position to grant since these rights precede
society; but society has the function to preserve and to enforce them. These are
the greater part of those which are today called "human rights" and which our
age boasts of having formulated.
11. The first right of the human person is his life. He has other goods and
some are more precious, but this one is fundamental -- the condition of all the
others. Hence it must be protected above all others. It does not belong to
society, nor does it belong to public authority in any form to recognize this
right for some and not for others: all discrimination is evil, whether it be
founded on race, sex, color or religion. It is not recognition by another that
constitutes this right. This right is antecedent to its recognition; it demands
recognition and it is strictly unjust to refuse it.
12. Any discrimination based on the various stages of life is no more
justified than any other discrimination. The right to life remains complete in
an old person, even one greatly weakened; it is not lost by one who is incurably
sick. The right to life is no less to be respected in the small infant just born
than in the mature person. In reality, respect for human life is called for from
the time that the process of gestation begins. From the time that the ovum is
fertilized, a life is begun which is neither that of the father nor of 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.
13. To this perpetual evidence -- perfectly independent of the discussions on
the moment of animation (19) -- modern genetic science brings
valuable confirmation. It has demonstrated that, from the first instant, there
is established the program of what this living being will be: a man, this
individual man with his characteristic aspects already well determined. Right
from fertilization is begun the adventure of a human life, and each of its
capacities requires time -- a rather lengthy time -- to find its place and to be
in a position to act. The least that can be said is that present science, in its
most evolved state, does not give any substantial support to those who defend
abortion. Moreover, it is not up to biological sciences to make a definitive
judgment on questions which are properly philosophical and moral such as the
moment when a human person is constituted or the legitimacy of abortion. From a
moral point of view this is certain: even if a doubt existed concerning whether
the fruit of conception is already a human person, it is objectively a grave sin
to dare to risk murder. "The one who will be a man is already one."
Reply to Some Objections
14. Divine law and natural reason, therefore, exclude all right to the direct
killing of an innocent man. However, if the reasons given to justify an abortion
were always manifestly evil and valueless the problem would not be so dramatic.
The gravity of the problem comes from the fact that in certain cases, perhaps in
quite a considerable number of cases, by denying abortion one endangers
important values to which it is normal to attach great value, and which may
sometimes even seem to have priority. We do not deny these very great
difficulties. It may be a serious question of health, sometimes of life or
death, for the mother; it may be the burden represented by an additional child,
especially if there are good reasons to fear that the child will be abnormal or
retarded; it may be the importance attributed in different classes of society to
considerations of honor or dishonor, of loss of social standing, and so forth.
We proclaim only that none of these reasons can ever objectively confer the
right to dispose of another's life, even when that life is only beginning. With
regard to the future unhappiness of the child, no one, not even the father or
mother, can act as its substitute -- even if it is still in the embryonic stage
-- to choose in the child's name, life or death. The child itself, when grown
up, will never have the right to choose suicide; no more may his parents choose
death for the child while it is not of an age to decide for itself. Life is too
fundamental a value to be weighed against even very serious disadvantages.(21)
15. The movement for the emancipation of women, insofar as it seeks
essentially to free them from all unjust discrimination, is on perfectly sound
In the different forms of cultural background there is a great deal to be done
in this regard. But one cannot change nature. Nor can one exempt women, any more
than men, from what nature demands of them. Furthermore, all publicly recognized
freedom is always limited by the certain rights of others.
16. The same must be said of the claim to sexual freedom. If by this
expression one is to understand the mastery progressively acquired by reason and
by authentic love over instinctive impulse, without diminishing pleasure but
keeping it in its proper place -- and in this sphere this is the only authentic
freedom -- then there is nothing to object to. But this kind of freedom will
always be careful not to violate justice. If, on the contrary, one is to
understand that men and women are "free" to seek sexual pleasure to the point of
satiety, without taking into account any law or the essential orientation of
sexual life to its fruits of fertility,(23) then this idea has
nothing Christian in it. It is even unworthy of man. In any case it does not
confer any right to dispose of human life, even if embryonic, or to suppress it
on the pretext that it is burdensome.
17. Scientific progress is opening to technology, and will open still more,
the possibility of delicate interventions, the consequences of which can be very
serious, for good as well as for evil. These are achievements of the human
spirit which in themselves are admirable. But technology can never be
independent of the criterion of morality, since technology exists for man and
must respect his finality. Just as there is no right to use nuclear energy for
every possible purpose, so there is no right to manipulate human life in every
possible direction. Technology must be at the service of man, so as better to
ensure the functioning of his normal abilities, to prevent or to cure his
illnesses, and to contribute to his better human development. It is true that
the evolution of technology makes early abortion more and more easy, but the
moral evaluation is in no way modified because of this.
18. We know what seriousness the problem of birth control can assume for some
families and for some countries. That is why the last Council and subsequently
the encyclical Humanae vitae of July 25, 1968, spoke of "responsible
What we wish to say again with emphasis, as was pointed out in the conciliar
constitution Gaudium et spes, in the encyclical Populorum progressio
and in other papal documents, is that never, under any pretext, may abortion be
resorted to, either by a family or by the political authority, as a legitimate
means of regulating births.(25)
The damage to moral values is always a greater evil for the common good than any
disadvantage in the economic or demographic order.
Morality and Law
19. The moral discussion is being accompanied more or less everywhere by
serious juridical debates. There is no country where legislation does not forbid
and punish murder. Furthermore, many countries had specifically applied this
condemnation and these penalties to the particular case of procured abortion. In
these days a vast body of opinion petitions the liberalization of this latter
prohibition. There already exists a fairly general tendency which seeks to
limit, as far as possible, all restrictive legislation, especially when it seems
to touch upon private life. The argument of pluralism is also used. Although
many citizens, in particular the Catholic faithful, condemn abortion, many
others hold that it is licit, at least as a lesser evil. Why force them to
follow an opinion which is not theirs, especially in a country where they are in
the majority? In addition it is apparent that, where they still exist, the laws
condemning abortion appear difficult to apply. The crime has become too common
for it to be punished every time, and the public authorities often find that it
is wiser to close their eyes to it. But the preservation of a law which is not
applied is always to the detriment of authority and of all the other laws. It
must be added that clandestine abortion puts women, who resign themselves to it
and have recourse to it, in the most serious dangers for future pregnancies and
also in many cases for their lives. Even if the legislator continues to regard
abortion as an evil, may he not propose to restrict its damage?
20. These arguments and others in addition that are heard from varying
quarters are not conclusive. It is true that civil law cannot expect to cover
the whole field of morality or to punish all faults. No one expects it to do so.
It must often tolerate what is in fact a lesser evil, in order to avoid a
greater one. One must, however, be attentive to what a change in legislation can
represent. Many will take as authorization what is perhaps only the abstention
from punishment. Even more, in the present case, this very renunciation seems at
the very least to admit that the legislator no longer considers abortion a crime
against human life, since murder is still always severely punished. It is true
that it is not the task of the law to choose between points of view or to impose
one rather than another. But the life of the child takes precedence over all
opinions. One cannot invoke freedom of thought to destroy this life.
21. The role of law is not to record what is done, but to help in promoting
improvement. It is at all times the task of the State to preserve each person's
rights and to protect the weakest. In order to do so the State will have to
right many wrongs. The law is not obliged to sanction everything, but it cannot
act contrary to a law which is deeper and more majestic than any human law: the
natural law engraved in men's hearts by the Creator as a norm which reason
clarifies and strives to formulate properly, and which one must always struggle
to understand better, but which it is always wrong to contradict. Human law can
abstain from punishment, but it cannot declare to be right what would be opposed
to the natural law, for this opposition suffices to give the assurance that a
law is not a law at all.
22. It must in any case be clearly understood that whatever may be laid down
by civil law in this matter, man can never obey a law which is in itself
immoral, and such is the case of a law which would admit in principle the
liceity of abortion. Nor can he take part in a propaganda campaign in favor of
such a law, or vote for it. Moreover, he may not collaborate in its application.
It is, for instance, inadmissible that doctors or nurses should find themselves
obliged to cooperate closely in abortions and have to choose between the law of
God and their professional situation.
23. On the contrary, it is the task of law to pursue a reform of society and
of conditions of life in all milieux, starting with the most deprived, so that
always and everywhere it may be possible to give every child coming into this
world a welcome worthy of a person. Help for families and for unmarried mothers,
assured grants for children, a statute for illegitimate children and reasonable
arrangements for adoption -- a whole positive policy must be put into force so
that there will always be a concrete, honorable and possible alternative to
24. Following one's conscience in obedience to the law of God is not always
the easy way. One must not fail to recognize the weight of the sacrifices and
the burdens which it can impose. Heroism is sometimes called for in order to
remain faithful to the requirements of the divine law. Therefore, we must
emphasize that the path of true progress of the human person passes through this
constant fidelity to a conscience maintained in uprightness and truth; and we
must exhort all those who are able to do so to lighten the burdens still
crushing so many men and women, families and children, who are placed in
situations to which, in human terms, there is no solution.
25. A Christian's outlook cannot be limited to the horizon of life in this
world. He knows that during the present life another one is being prepared, one
of such importance that it is in its light that judgments must be made.(26)
From this viewpoint there is no absolute misfortune here below, not even the
terrible sorrow of bringing up a handicapped child. This is the contradiction
proclaimed by the Lord: "Happy those who mourn: they shall be comforted" (Mt.
5.5). To measure happiness by the absence of sorrow and misery in this world is
to turn one's back on the Gospel.
26. But this does not mean that one can remain indifferent to these sorrows
and miseries. Every man and woman with feeling, and certainly every Christian,
must be ready to do what he can to remedy them. This is the law of charity, of
which the first preoccupation must always be the establishment of justice. One
can never approve of abortion; but it is above all necessary to combat its
causes. This includes political action, which will be in particular the task of
the law. But it is necessary at the same time to influence morality and to do
everything possible to help families, mothers and children. Considerable
progress in the service of life has been accomplished by medicine. One can hope
that such progress will continue, in accordance with the vocation of doctors,
which is not to suppress life but to care for it and favor it as much as
possible. It is equally desirable that, in suitable institutions, or, in their
absence, in the outpouring of Christian generosity and charity every form of
assistance should be developed.
27. There will be no effective action on the level of morality unless at the
same time an effort is made on the level of ideas. A point of view -- or even
more, perhaps a way of thinking -- which considers fertility as an evil cannot
be allowed to spread without contradiction. It is true that not all forms of
culture are equally in favor of large families. Such families come up against
much greater difficulties in an industrial and urban civilization. Thus in
recent times the Church has insisted on the idea of responsible parenthood, the
exercise of true human and Christian prudence. Such prudence would not be
authentic if it did not include generosity. It must preserve awareness of the
grandeur of the task of cooperating with the Creator in the transmission of
life, which gives new members to society and new children to the Church.
Christ's Church has the fundamental solicitude of protecting and favoring life.
She certainly thinks before all else of the life which Christ came to bring: "I
have come so that they may have life and have it to the full" (Jn. 10.10). But
life at all its levels comes from God, and bodily life is for man the
indispensable beginning. In this life on earth sin has introduced, multiplied
and made harder to bear suffering and death. But in taking their burden upon
Himself, Jesus Christ has transformed them: for whoever believes in Him,
suffering and death itself become instruments of resurrection. Hence Saint Paul
can say: "I think that what we suffer in this life can never be compared to the
glory, as yet unrevealed, which is waiting for us" (Rom. 8.18). And, if we make
this comparison we shall add with him: "Yes, the troubles which are soon over,
though they weigh little, train us for the carrying of a weight of eternal glory
which is out of all proportion to them" (2 Cor. 4.17).
The Supreme Pontiff Pope Paul VI, in an audience granted to the undersigned
Secretary of the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith on June 28,
1974, has ratified this Declaration on Procured Abortion and has confirmed it
and ordered it to be promulgated.
Given in Rome, at the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, on
November 18, the Commemoration of the Dedication of the Basilicas of Saints
Peter and Paul, in the year 1974.
Franciscus Card. Seper
Titular Archbishop of Lorium
Teachings of the
Magisterium on Abortion
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1. A certain number of bishop's documents are to be found in
Gr. Caprile, Non Uccidere. Il Magistero della Chiesa sull'aborto, par.
11, pp. 47-300, Rome, 1973.
2. Regimini Ecclesiae Univers., III, I. 29. Cf.
ibid., 31 (AAS 59 (1967), p. 897). On the Sacred Congregation for the
Doctrine of the Faith depend all the questions which are related to faith and
morals or which are bound up with the faith.
3. Lumen Gentium, 12 (AAS 57 (1965), pp.
16-17). The present Declaration does not envisage all the questions which can
arise in connection with abortion: it is for theologians to examine and discuss
them. Only certain basic principles are here recalled which must be for the
theologians themselves a guide and a rule, and confirm certain fundamental
truths of Catholic doctrine for all Christians.
4. Lumen Gentium, 25 (AAS 57 (1965), pp.
5. The authors of Scripture do not make any philosophical
observations on when life begins but they speak of the period of life which
precedes birth as being the object of God's attention: he creates and forms the
human being, like that which is molded by his hand (cf. Ps. 118:73). It would
seem that this theme finds expression for the first time in Jr. 1:5. It appears
later in many other texts. Cf. Is. 49:1, 5; 46:3; Jb. 10:8-12; Ps. 22:10,
71:6, 139:13. In the Gospels we read in Luke 1:44: 'For the moment your greeting
reached my ears, the child in my womb leapt for joy.'
6. Didache Apostolorum, edition Funk, Patres
Apostolici, V, 2. The Epistle of Barnabas, XIX, 5, uses
the same expressions (cf. Funk, l.c. 91-93).
7. Athenagoras, A Plea on behalf of Christians, 35
(cf. PG 6,970: S.C. 3, pp. 166-167). One may also consult the Epistle
to Diognetus, V, 6 Funk, o.c., 1,399: S. C. 33), where it says of
Christians: 'They procreate children, but they do not reject the foetus.'
8. Tertullian Apologeticurn, IX, 8 PL 1,371-372:
Corp. Christ. I, p. 103, 1.31-36).
9. Canon 21 (Mansi, 14, p. 909). Cf. Council of
Elvira, canon 63 (Man,i, 2, p. 16) and the Council of Ancyra, canon 21
(ibid, 519). See also the decree of Gregory III regarding the penance to be
imposed upon those who are guilty of this crime (Mansi 13,292, c. 17).
10. Gratian, Concordantia Discordantium Canonum, c.
20, C. 2, q. 2. During the Middle Ages appeal was often made to the authority of
Saint Augustine who wrote as follows in regard to this matter in De Nuptiis
et Concupiscentiis c. 15: 'Sometimes this sexually indulgent cruelty or this
cruel sexual indulgence goes so far as to procure potions which produce
sterility. If the desired result is not achieved, the mother terminates the life
and expels the foetus which was in her womb in such a way that the child dies
before having lived or, if the baby was living already in its mother's womb, it
is killed before being born' (PL 44,423-424: CSEL 33, 619. Cf. the Decree of
Gratian, q. 2, C 32, c. 7).
11. Commentary on the Sentences, book IV, dist. 31,
exposition of the text.
12. Constitutio Effraenatum in 1588 (Bullarium
Romanum, V, 1, pp. 25-27; Fontes Iuris Canonici, 1, no. 165,
13. Dz-Sch 1184. Cf. also the Constitution Apostolicae
Sedis of Pius IX (Acta Pii IX, V, 55-72; ASS 5 (1869), pp. 305-331;
Fontes Iuris Canonici, III, no. 552, pp. 24-31).
14. Encyclical Casti Connubii, AAS 22 (1930), pp.
562-565; Dz-Sch. 3719-21.
15. The statements of Pius XII are express, precise and
numerous; they would require a whole study on their own. We quote only this one
from the Discourse to the Saint Luke Union of Italian Doctors of 12 November
1944, because it formulates the principle in all its universality: 'As long as a
man is not guilty, his life is untouchable, and therefore any act directly
tending to destroy it is illicit, whether such destruction is intended as an end
in itself or only as a means to an end, whether it is a question of life in the
embryonic stage or in a stage of full development or already in its final
stages' (Discourses and Radio-messages, VI, 183 ff.).
16. Encyclical Mater et Magistra, AAS 53 (1961), p.
17. Gaudium et Spes, 51. Cf. 27 (AAS 58
(1966), p. 1072; cf. 1047).
18. The Speech: Salutiamo con paterna effusione, 9
December 1972, AAS 64 (1972), p. 737. Among the witnesses of this
unchangeable doctrine one will recall the declaration of the Holy Office,
condemning direct abortion (Denzinger 1890, ASS 17 (1884), p. 556; 22
(1888-1890), 748; Dz-Sch. 3258).
19. This declaration expressly leaves aside the question of
the moment when the spiritual soul is infused. There is not a unanimous
tradition on this point and authors are as yet in disagreement. For some it
dates from the first instant, for others it could not at least precede nidation.
It is not within the competence of science to decide between these views,
because the existence of an immortal soul is not a question in its field. It is
a philosophical problem from which our moral affirmation remains independent for
two reasons: (i) supposing a later animation, there is still nothing less than a
human life, preparing for and calling for a soul in which the nature
received from parents is completed; (2) on the other hand it suffices that this
presence of the soul be probable (and one can never prove the contrary) in order
that the taking of life involve accepting the risk of killing a man, not only
waiting for, but already in possession of his soul.
20. Tertullian, cited in footnote 8.
21. See Cardinal Villot, Secretary of State, on 10 October
1973 to Cardinal Dopfner, regarding the protection of human life
(L'Osservatore Romano, German edition, 26 October 1973, p. 3).
22. Encyclical Pacem in Terris, AAS 55 (1963), p.
267. Constitution Gaudium et Spes, 29. Speech of Paul VI, Salutiamo,
AAS64 (1972) 779.
23. Gaudium et Spes, 48.
24. Gaudium et Spes, 50-51. Paul 1, Encyclical
Humanae Vitae, 10 (AAS 60 (1968), p. 487).
25. Gaudium et Spes, 87. Paul VI, Encyclical
Popolorum Progressio, 31: Address to the United Nations, AAS 57
(1965), p. 883. John XXIII, Mater et Magistra, AAS 53 (1961), pp.
445-448. Responsible parenthood supposes the use of only morally licit methods
of birth regulation. Cf. Humanae Vitae, 14
(ibid., p. 490).
26. See Cardinal Villot, Secretary of State, to the World
Congress of Catholic Doctors held in Barcelona, 26 May 1974 (L'Osservatore
Romano, 29 May 1974).