What does the Catechism teach about life before birth? by Martina Casey

As Catholics we are familiar with the Church’s vehement opposition to abortion. From first century fathers to modern day saints like St.Mother Teresa of Calcutta, the opposition and the accompanied plethora of writings witness to a timeless Church that opposes the murdering of human beings at all stages of life.

With the birthday of our Savior approaching, let’s look at what the Church teaches specifically on life before birth found in sections 2270-2275 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church (“CCC”).

But before we get into the teachings of the CCC, we should understand why the Church uses the term “from conception” when talking about life and abortion. We need to begin by answering the most basic question: what constitutes a human being? This is not a complicated philosophical question, though, those in favor of abortion would like you to believe it is.

You, me and the approximately 125,000 human beings that were aborted worldwide today in their various stages of development started off as a single celled being called a zygote. Science tells us that when a single sperm enters an egg, conception occurs. This cell is called a zygote.

The zygote contains all of the genetic information (DNA) that makes up a human being. The zygote eventually becomes an embryo who becomes a fetus who becomes a newborn who becomes a baby who becomes a toddler, and so forth. You may wonder why we hear embryo and not zygote? By the time a pregnancy test shows positive, the zygote is an embryo.

And so, the CCC teaches that “human life must be respected and protected absolutely from the moment of conception,” furthermore a “human being must be recognized as having the rights of a person – among which is the inviolable right of every innocent being to life” (CCC2270). The Church has affirmed this teaching since the first century (CCC2271).

The CCC tells us that “God alone is the Lord of life from its beginning until its end: no one can under any circumstance claim for himself the right directly to destroy an innocent human being” (CCC2258).

Here are four important lessons from the CCC about human life in gestation:

  1. Embryos have the same rights as you and me. “Since it must be treated from conception as a person, the embryo must be defended in its integrity, cared for, and healed, as far as possible, like any other human being” (CCC2274).
  2. Embryos are not biological material. “It is immoral to produce human embryos intended for exploitation as disposable biological material” (CCC2275), and in the same way:
  3. It is immoral to influence chromosomal or genetic identifiers that “are aimed at producing human beings selected according to sex or other predetermined qualities” (CCC2275). If you’d like to read more on the Church’s stance on Bioethical standards, the Church published a document in 2008 called The Dignity of a Person: On Certain Bioethical Questions,” it addresses the various “new problems regarding procreation” and “examines new procedures involving the manipulation of embryos and the human genetic patrimony.”
  4. Prenatal diagnosis, other than to treat a condition, is morally illicit (CCC2274). Earlier this year Pope Francis compared prenatal diagnosis (used to detect birth defects to induce abortion) to Nazi eugenics. Eugenics, a science that uses selective breeding to increase desirable genetic compositions or traits, was used by the Nazis in their quest to create a master race. The Pope said “in the last century the whole world was scandalized about what the Nazis did to purify the race. Today we do the same, but now with white gloves.”

Let’s conclude this post in the words of St. Mother Teresa: “Human rights are not a privilege conferred by government. They are every human being’s entitlement by virtue of his humanity. The right to life does not depend, and must not be declared to be contingent, on the pleasure of anyone else, not even a parent or a sovereign.”

St. Mother Teresa, pray for us.

For more information on this years March For Life, click here.


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