Next Discussion: February 11, 2010

February 11, 2010 – St. Augustine: The City of God -

1 comment:

  1. Among Wills' citations of Augustine:

    Nor did the Catholic Church treat abortion as murder in the past. If it had, late-term abortions and miscarriages would have called for treatment of the well-formed fetus as a person—calling for its baptism and Christian burial. That was never the practice. And no wonder. The subject of abortion is not scriptural. For those who make it so central to religion in our time, this seems like an odd omission. Abortion is not treated in the Ten Commandments – or anywhere in Jewish Scripture. It is not treated in the Sermon on the Mount – or anywhere in the New Testament. It is not treated in the early creeds. It is not treated in the early ecumenical councils. If it had been part of Scripture, the creeds, or the councils, Saint Augustine in the fifth century would have been given some guidance, since his knowledge of both Jewish and Christian Scriptures was encyclopedic. Yet he says: “I have not been able to discover in the accepted books of Scripture anything at all certain about the origin of the soul.”
    Lacking scriptural guidance, Saint Thomas Aquinas worked from Aristotle’s view of the different kinds of animation—the nutritive (vegetable) soul, the sensing (animal) soul, and the intellectual soul. Some used Aristotle to say that humans therefore have three souls. Others said that the intellectual soul is created by human semen. [I believe that is what modern anti-abortionists think – i.e., that male humans create souls with semen – an interestingly arrogant perspective.] Thomas denied both positions. He said that a material cause (semen) cannot cause a spiritual product. The intellectual soul (personhood) is directly created by God “at the end of human generation” (in fine generationis humanae). This intellectual soul supplants what had preceded it (nutritive and sensory animation). So he denied that personhood arose at fertilization by the semen. God directly infuses the soul at the completion of human formation.