The Fetal Development of Jesus

ST III Q6 a3
ST III Q6 a4

Nota Bene

If you pay careful attention to article 4, objection 2, you will note that St. Thomas takes for granted that the first stage of normal fetal development does not involve a human person with a rational soul, but rather material that can develop into the flesh of a human person.

More-recent observations of prenatal life have put this presumption of St. Thomas’ into a different light, to say the least. Our current state of knowledge makes the traditional concept of “quickening”–at some mid-point in pregnancy–meaningless, as far as identifying the presence of a distinct human person.

If you remember Question 4, article 1, you know that St. Thomas holds that it is precisely the rationality and intellectuality of human nature that makes it ‘assumable’ by the Word of God.

Therefore, St. Thomas has to argue that the infinite divine power perfected the nascent physical matter of Christ’s flesh instantaneously, at the moment of conception, by a miracle.

For most of us pro-life Catholics, this is actually the way we think of every pregnancy, given what we now know about pre-natal development.

But it does not help the pro-life cause for us to overstate our case. So, to clarify, when it comes to official Church teaching (which St. Thomas did uphold):

The Church teaches that intentional abortion is wrong. She does not teach the precise metaphysical why.

The victim of the act of violence involved in an intentional abortion may have a rational soul, but we don’t know for sure.

That said, even the mere possibility that the victim of the act of violence has a rational soul; and the certainty that the victim is developing into a rational human being the same way we all did, when we were at that stage–either one is enough to stay the hand that would do violence.

The Church does not have official teaching about when the soul begins to animate the flesh in the womb. But the moral obligation not to do violence remains clear anyway.


The Existence of Fleetwood Mac

Fleetwood Mac Rumours

I knew that the music we were going to bring to the world was going to heal so many people’s hearts and make people so happy. And I thought: you know what? That’s really important. There’s not another band in the world that has two lead women singers, two lead women writers. That was my world’s mission.

–Stevie Nicks, of Fleetwood Mac, in a recent interview

An awful lot of people have experienced an awful lot of happiness, listening to Fleetwood Mac. We had the Rumours LP in our house. To this day, my mind knows every riff, every piano stroke, every lilting word of “Dreams,” “Don’t Stop,” “Go Your Own Way,” “The Chain,” “You Make Loving Fun,” and “I Don’t Wanna Know.”

In fact, the record might very well have been on the turntable, filling my nine-year-old ears, and my brother’s seven-year-old ears, at the very moment when the baby died in 1979.

If I had not had that abortion, I’m pretty sure there would have been no Fleetwood Mac. There’s just no way that I could have had a child then, working as hard as we worked constantly. And there were a lot of drugs, I was doing a lot of drugs … I would have had to walk away.

In the interview, Ms. Nicks frets about the end of Roe v. Wade. “Abortion rights, that was really my generation’s fight.”

We talked here, over two years ago, about the end of Roe v. Wade. We considered the psychological toll it will take on a society long accustomed to abortion on demand. We recognized the path of love that we Catholics must follow, to help expectant mothers.

The moment remains close, we can reasonably hope–the moment when that unscientific–and horrifically destructive–Supreme Court decision will cease to govern this land.

After all, would there have been a Fleetwood Mac if Stevie Nick’s mother had had an abortion? Or her mother before her? Who would have written and sung “Gypsy,” if Barbara Nicks had an abortion in late 1947 or early 1948? Or if Barbara’s mother had had an abortion in 1927?

And of course there’s this even-more-painful question to contemplate: What could the child have done? The one that died in 1979. What songs could he or she have sung? With all due respect, Ms. Nicks, these are questions that we have to ponder. The cruel, premature death of an innocent person affects everyone.

That’s what abortion is. Cruel, premature death. We are all here right now because someone protected us from such violence, at that vulnerable stage of life.

There is always a better way than abortion. Always. When everyone does their duty to help provide it. May God give us the love we need to do our part.

Some Pro-Life Clarity?

Chris Matthews Donald Trump

A confusing afternoon for pro-life news junkies. If I might point out a few things…

A “ban” on abortion?

Everyone finds him- or herself bound by the fundamental moral law, “do good; avoid evil.”

Doctors and other healthcare workers can and do get confused about how this law applies sometimes. Like when a pregnant woman asks for an abortion. But honest moral reflection leads you to recognize that abortion is certainly an evil prohibited by the fundamental moral law, since it involves killing an innocent person.

The first punishment for breaking the moral law is the pangs of conscience. No punishment devised by man could ever really be worse. We can only escape the punishment of a troubled conscience by 1. repenting and seeking truth and reconciliation, or 2. engaging in acts of self-destruction which serve to deaden conscience.

Civil law cannot really “permit” killing an innocent person, since man does not have the power to render the light of conscience null and void.  So, even now, abortion is only “legal” in a limited sense–just like slavery was once “legal,” but never truly so, because no one’s conscience could fully make peace with it.

Criminal punishment for abortion?

Every pregnant woman, just like every human soul, must grapple with her conscience. Some pregnant woman have, by act or omission, precipitated a miscarriage. Conscience will punish such an act or omission, according to the truth of the situation. But of course no civil law could ever touch this realm, since it is altogether private.

“Abortion,” meaning a surgical procedure, however, involves a third party–someone with some kind of technique and expertise.

Again, because it involves killing an innocent person, there actually isn’t any way to make performing an abortion altogether ‘legal.’ It is prohibited by the inner law that governs the conscience of anyone who possesses the technique and expertise to do it.

That performing abortions is ‘legal’ in the Roe v. Wade regime means:  the law of the land contributes to the confusion and distortion of many consciences, especially the consciences of healthcare workers who perform or participate in abortions.

I think it’s fair to say that any true pro-lifer would advocate something like this:

1. A period of five or ten years of some kind of public penance, where government officials help to purify the nation of the lies about abortion by regular ceremonies acknowledging how the Roe v. Wade regime has been a horrible mistake.  We as a nation have the blood of many innocents on our hands.  (May the Lord have mercy on us!)

2. Simultaneously, we work to re-organize the healthcare system, to remove abortion and artificial contraception.

3. Then, after this five or ten year period, once the air has been cleared about what abortion is, allowing everyone to reach a state of tranquil conscience on this matter, then we could re-open the political debate about appropriate criminal penalties for abortionists.  (Which would not involve re-inventing the wheel, since these debates occurred all over the country prior to Roe v. Wade.)

Voters’ Guide!

As we adults prepare to exercise the responsibility of voting, we must keep the following people in mind:

  1. The innocent and defenseless unborn children who have no rights. Abortionists slaughter them with impunity, by the thousands, every day.
  2. All our children, who deserve to grow up in a society where the law preserves the bond of marriage between parents.
  3. The potential victims of the immigration enforcement called for by Messrs. Trump and Cruz.

Re: #3…  We cannot imagine that any genuine justice lies in a specious attempt to distinguish “legal” from “illegal” immigration. From the point-of-view of the immigrant, the “legal” immigration of three, four, five, or six generations ago differs in no way from the “illegal” immigration of the past two generations. What changed was the arbitrary stipulations of American immigration statutes.

voting-boothDid our undocumented neighbors have the option of coming to America legally, but failed to exercise that option, through their own blameworthy fault?  Hardly.

We have to start with the fact that our neighbors are our neighbors.  Can any decent person support the proposal that the government remove some of my neighbors by force, for no good reason? No.

In fact, even now Trump’s and Cruz’s ideas have the effect of terrorizing whole families. If we have any decency and Christian love, we will rush to declare that we ourselves have no share whatsoever in such cruel nonsense.

…Now, we pastors do not have the duty to tell anyone how to vote. But as a shepherd of souls I say to you, dear reader:

We must think of 1. the innocent and defenseless unborn babies, of 2. all children, who have the right to a home with mother and father, and of 3. our undocumented neighbors who have no legal rights.

If we vote without thinking of these brothers and sisters, who have no vote, we will face a rigorous judgment for our negligence, when the Day of the Lord comes.

Hopeless Hubris vs. Humble Reason

(c) The Glynn Vivian Art Gallery; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

Last week, Dr. Gary Gutting published an essay, “Should Pope Francis Re-think Abortion?” To my mind, the professor makes an honest, respectable effort to engage the issue. I have read many counter-arguments, and I don’t think any of them responds charitably and fairly.

Dr. Gutting makes some important points. Spontaneous abortions (i.e. miscarriages) do frequently occur, resulting in loss of unborn life. The Church, in her solemn magisterium, does not (and, in fact, may never be able to) take a position on the metaphysical question of when exactly human life begins. We human beings do not, at this point in time, possess knowledge adequate to offer a definitive statement on that subject, and it hardly seems likely that we ever will. People of good will sympathize with the sacrifices a mother makes in carrying a child, so any argument that asserts a right to life without due attention to the interests of the mother will not convince. To my mind, these are good and important points about abortion that Dr. Gutting’s essay brings rather eloquently to light.

His lack of focus lies in a couple crucial areas. First, Dr. Gutting refers to a “ban” on abortion which does not exist. Neither the Pope, nor Mother Church entire, can “ban” abortion. Women, in fact, have millions of abortions every year. The Church solemnly taught, at Vatican II (!), that procured abortion is an unconscionable crime. Ergo, there ought to be laws against it (as there were, at one time). But the Church does not make civil criminal laws.

Continue reading “Hopeless Hubris vs. Humble Reason”

Good Intention to Pray For, Dear Sons of Ireland

You probably know more than I do about the legislative details. But here is how Bishop Brendan Leahy of Limerick put it:

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if Ireland, instead of introducing an abortion regime, became the place where the Western world’s confusion about the right to life of the unborn could begin its journey to a renewed discovery of the wonder of life?

There have been such strides in ecology in the Western world; wouldn’t it be wonderful if Ireland could be the country that led the way in human ecology?*

What is this human ecology? It is a lifestyle that respects all of our environment, preserving the patrimony of creation and working to make our world safe for human beings. A priority in such a human ecology must be respecting the right to life of the unborn as well as the right of pregnant women to the best of medical treatment and care.

* NB. Our beloved Pope Emeritus coined this phrase, ‘human ecology,’ when he visited Germany. (If memory serves me.)

Back to the ’50’s: the Irony

Glad everyone had a fun weekend. Time to get serious.

Back to 1973?
Back to 1973?

On Friday, President Obama addressed the assembled solons of Planned Parenthood–which, we are now apparently supposed to believe, counts as a diversified women’s-health organization, similar in many ways to Carillion Hospital or the Missionaries of Charity. Forget that Planned Parenthood was founded in order to foster, was named after, and everyone thinks of as associated with: artificial contraception and abortion.

Anyhoo: the President castigated us* for “trying to bring back the 1950’s.”

So many ironies here that I am not sure my free blogging plan offers me enough gigabytes on the WordPress server for me to address them all. (SIDEBAR: When I finally get around to writing my memoirs, the title will be “The Man They Accused of Trying to Bring Back the 1950’s.”)


1. According to the President: reasonable, sober, respectful people recognize that Roe v. Wade settled this whole business a long time ago. Who do we think we are, questioning the Supreme Court of the United States of America? That’s like trying to go back the fifties.

But wait. Wasn’t it in 1963 that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., wrote: a law that contradicts justice is no law at all? Of course, he cited authorities going back to the ’50’s–as in the zero zero fifties: the first Christians.

The incredibly hip Roe v. Wade court (most have since died of old age).
The incredibly hip Roe v. Wade court (most have since died of old age).

2. Now, back in the fifties (whichever fifties we mean), there were no sonograms. And our understanding of DNA was much more rudimentary than it is now. So it might have been possible for a reasonable scientist to try to identify some point in the development of the embryo/fetus/baby as “the moment” when human life began.

In fact, at the time of Roe v. Wade–back before: the internet was invented, cds were invented, or even the Apple II+ was invented; back before many of us were even conceived or born–way back then, some people tried to make the case that we could identify a point in the development of the child when he/she went from “a blob of cells”/”tissue” to “a person.”

But now we know more. We have more advanced techniques. We have deeper knowledge of these matters than anyone had back in the benighted days of the Ford Pinto, when Roe v. Wade was handed down. Today there is no neonatologist on earth who would say: ‘Yes, in my scientific opinion, this is the moment when human life begins (other than at conception).’

obama-prayingIf there were such a moment, things would be a lot more convenient for Planned Parenthood, for the Supreme Court, and for Rachel Maddow & Co. If such a moment existed, it would no doubt be emblazoned on plenty of coffee mugs and t-shirts which you could order from But no such moment exists.

So, who is stuck in the 50’s–or the 70’s? Mr. President, with all due respect for your advanced age, we don’t want to go back to the scientific ignorance of a generation ago! We want today’s knowledge and insights!

3. My impression is this: “Going back the 1950’s” means: going back to the time when a woman had to be ashamed of getting pregnant because of an act of sexual intercourse that she did not want to make–or could not look forward to as–a permanent aspect of her life. The idea is: Abortion on demand has freed women of this painful shame.

But who really deals in shame? Does the Pro-Life movement deal in shame? We are the ones who say: Look, there is nothing shameful about being pregnant. Being pregnant is good; being pregnant involves a beautiful baby! No problem here. Maybe there is something shameful about the way you got pregnant, but that really is between you and God and your pastor. That really is private. What isn’t private is the verifiable scientific fact that you are nourishing a new life in your womb, and God wills that the child have life and have it in abundance. We love you and we’re on your side. Nothing to be ashamed of, as far as having a baby in your womb goes. Together, let’s give this baby a good start in life!

Whereas Planned Parenthood says, for all intents and purposes: Look here, your pregnancy needs to be expunged from the face of the earth! The fact that you have a baby is a damned shame. What you did is so bad that the only answer is the homicide of this shameful child in your womb. We “love” you so much that we will make it all better for you by killing your child, your own flesh and blood. And if you feel bad about it, that’s only because the people who are trying to take the world back the ’50’s are laying a guilt trip on you. If you feel guilty about killing your baby, you really ought to be ashamed of that, too.

Which path offers the hope of liberation from shame? Seems pretty clear which one does.

Mr. President, you know what: You suck. Why don’t you take your blinders off, come out of the Neanderthal cave of falsehood, oppressive moral rigidity, and violence that Planned Parenthood has built (on the back of an original platform of white supremacy), and try to get a grip on reality? Love, Father Mark White
* “us” Catholics, Pro-Lifers, decent human beings who can read a sonogram