DEFINITIONS RELIED UPON IN THIS PAPER
Deliberate termination of pregnancy by killing the unborn child. Such direct
abortion, when done either as an end or means, is gravely contrary to the moral
law. The Church attaches the canonical penalty of excommunication to this crime
against human life (CCC 2271-2272.)
A spiritual, personal, and a mortal creature, with
intelligence and free will, who glorifies God without ceasing and who serves
God as a messenger of his saving plan (CCC 329-331.)
MORAL LAW: The
natural law is written and engraved in the soul of each and every man, because
it is human reason ordaining him to do good and forbidding him to sin
. . . But this command of human reason would not have the force of
law if it were not the voice and interpreter of a higher reason to which our
spirit and our freedom must be submitted (CCC 1954.)
HUMAN: The human individual, made in the image of God; not some
thing but some one, a unity of spirit and matter, soul and body, capable of
knowledge, self-possession, and freedom, who can enter into communion with
other persons— and with God (CCC 357, 362; cf.1700.)
The spiritual principle of human beings. The soul is the subject of human
consciousness and freedom; soul and body together form one unique human nature.
Each human soul is individual and immortal, immediately created by God. The
soul does not die with the body, from which it is separated by death, and with
which it will be reunited in the final resurrection (CCC 363, 366 cf. 1703.)
are two basic standards of proof widely accepted and in-use by society today; “Scientific”
and “Legal.” Scientific proof is based upon empirical evidence derived in
accordance with the scientific method. Legal proof is aligned to the principal
of “Beyond a reasonable doubt.”
the history of the world to date there has never been scientific, empirical
proof for the existence of the human soul, and for good reason. Theologically
speaking, the essence of our gift of free will is to walk by faith. Those that
demand proof, before faith, are left unsatisfied. Absolute proof the soul
exists in the scientific sense cancels any need for faith, and therefore, no
such empirical evidence of a soul has been, or will be, granted by God until
after our mortal death. Therefore, to apply the empirical proof-based standard
to this thesis would be an unreasonable criterion and fruitless exercise.
the alternative legal proof standard is not a toothless form, which can best be
realized when we are reminded the legal standard of “Beyond a reasonable doubt”
is sufficient to condemn a fellow human being to death by a jury of their peers.
Any standard of evidence sufficient to take a life, is an equally reasonable standard
to apply in proving the existence of a soul. As such, the standard of “Beyond a
reasonable doubt” is the standard to which this paper aligns.
This thesis statement
cannot be engaged without an understanding of what abortion is, and is not. St.
Jerome is most remembered for creating the Latin edition of the Bible known as
the Vulgate. But writing sometime around 366 AD this scholar-saint also wrote
the following on abortion:
unmarried women prevent conception by the help of potions, murdering human
beings before they are conceived; others, when they find themselves with child
as a result of sin, secure abortions with drugs.” 
forcefully stated do not constitute the truth. Contrary to public perception, the
Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) never uses the term “murder”
in relation to abortion. Likewise, the term “soul” is never mentioned in the
CCC in the section describing abortion (CCC 2270 – 2275.) Abortion is termed “a
crime against human life,” (CCC 2272) and this deliberate expression is used
for good reason: Depending upon how far along the expectant mother is in her
pregnancy, abortion could be the taking of a human life medically proven viable
outside the womb, or the taking of a potential
human life, not yet medically viable outside the womb. Either way, abortion is most
accurately defined as a crime against human life (notwithstanding the additional
confusion heaped on us by California Penal Law, which declares when a pregnant
woman is killed, the killer is charged with homicide for the deaths of both the woman and her autonomous unborn
But this inconsistency in the law is outside of the domain of the Church.)
Therefore, the reason
participation in abortion always raises bioethical issues is not because
abortion is necessarily classified as “murder” according to the penal code of
your state, although as mentioned it could be depending upon the woman’s stage
of pregnancy, but because abortion at any stage always stops the life of a
human being. There is no disputing this fact. We know that when the mother
carries her child to term, the mother of the child will eventually give birth
to a human being, not some other sort of animal.
What inhibits the
pro-life discussion from making inroads with some individuals is misapplying
the term “murder” to an aborted embryo or fetus. To science-minded,
science literate men and woman, this claim makes no biological sense, and in fact,
they are correct. The vocabulary of science and biology lends itself to
clarity, and it should be used whenever available because clarity and precision
matter a great deal to some listeners. If you are wrong about the science, you
have no hope of reaching some people. The clarity of scientifically based
language in the abortion discussion would certainly lessen the number of people
who laugh at the Church. Specifically, the Church objects to abortion because
the embryo or fetus would eventually become a human being, and man’s
interference with this process, while not “murder” in the strict
Penal Code sense, is what constitutes the grave sin of abortion. However, does
the “soul” exist in the unborn child?
order to address this question we must first orient our discussion towards that
which distinguishes us as human beings, and not simply another species of
animal, as atheists claim. Man has been given dominion over all animals (CCC
2415) so when an animal is ethically treated, but nevertheless spayed,
neutered, euthanized, sold, traded, used for scientific research, or otherwise
treated as you would barnyard livestock, there is no outcry from the Catholic
Church. The reason for this is that animals are living beings, but not
spiritual beings (CCC 2415.) Indeed, then Cardinal Ratzinger wrote,
“By virtue of its
substantial union with a spiritual soul, the human body cannot be considered as
a mere complex of tissues, organs and functions, nor can it be evaluated in the
same way as the body of animals; rather it is a constitutive part of the person
who manifests and expresses himself through it.” Congregation for the Doctrine
of the Faith, Instruction Donum vitae, I, 1: AAS 80 (1988)
man were not different in this manner from animals this paper would simply end
here with the conclusion that, “abortion is merely the preferred linguistic
expression society has chosen to distinguish terminating the pregnancy of a
woman over, for example, a cow, and there are no grave bioethical issues
associated with aborting any soulless animal form.”
this distinction that man has a soul and all other animals do not, man becomes
just another animal form, driven by instinct and intellect, but not subject to
any ontological principles. However, stating that animals do not have a soul does not necessarily mean humans do. So,
what is a human soul, and where to begin our search for evidence the soul exists?
We can start to derive evidence the human soul exists through a non-traditional
route: By endorsing the existence of
angels and looking for parallels to man or woman.
Notice in the above list
of principal definitions that although angels possess superior intellect to
humans because of their proximity to God, that is not a distinction which makes
any difference to this discussion on “soul.” We are simply looking for evidence
the soul exists. Setting aside the higher intelligence of angels, as well as
the difference in their purpose in God’s plan, a comparison of the previous definitions
of angels and humans will show humans share the spiritual nature of angels, and
this spiritual nature is the distinguishing characteristic of a human soul.
In support of this
concept fellow Catholic Peter Kreeft, a Boston College Professor of Philosophy,
writes, “Man is the only being that is both angel and animal, both spirit and
body. He is the lowest spirit and the highest body, the stupidest angel and the
smartest animal, the low point of the hierarchy of minds and the high point of
the hierarchy of bodies.” 
According to the Catholic Digest, both angels and humans
are spiritual beings, but angels lack a body, as will all humans upon death of
the body. Further
support for the existence of angels as spiritual beings can be found in Matthew
18:10: “See that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you
that their angels in heaven always look upon the face of my heavenly Father.” Therefore,
if one can demonstrate God (or any creative agency) has revealed to mankind the
existence of angels or “spiritual beings,” one
has simultaneously demonstrated the potential for a human soul, since as
defined ,the angel and soul share some of the same characteristics.
is worth noting that some of our atheist brothers and sisters have no problem,
in theory, accepting the existence of angels so long as their creation or
existence is not attributed to God. However,
regardless of their source of existence, accepting angels as spirit beings
begat by any source is akin to accepting
the existence of a soul. It is a distinction that makes no difference to this
thesis that atheists prefer to hold fast to the belief that science will
someday explain the origin of angels, ghosts, and spirits without the use of
“God” in the explanation. But for the atheist’s concern about source, so long
as this thesis statement reads “granted a soul”, omitting “by God,” even an
atheist could agree abortion, because it separates the soul (irrespective of its
source) from the body and dispatches it to places unseen and unknown, certainly creates some bioethical concerns.
Atheists who accept the notion of angels or spirit beings could conceivably
accept the fact that nobody has the natural right to separate the spirit being-soul
from the body though the act of abortion.
the soul exists, central to determining when killing the unborn child becomes a
crime against actual human life, as opposed to violence perpetrated against a
tissue mass simply representing potential human life, is determining at which
point the soul exists in this potential human being. At whatever instant we can
reason the soul exists, this life form is no longer a potential human being, but in actual human being. We have
already determined that the combination of soul and body constitutes the human
life form that separates man or woman from animal. But does the soul exist at
the moment of conception? Perhaps after a certain stage of embryonic cell development?
Is the soul given at the point of viability outside the mother’s womb?
from above this paper is eschewing any attempt to use the empirical evidence
standard regarding either the existence of the soul, or when the soul is
infused. However, this is not my personal position, but the acknowledged position
of the Church. Pope John Paul II wrote:
the presence of a spiritual soul cannot be ascertained by empirical data, the
results themselves of scientific research on the human embryo provide ‘a
valuable indication for discerning by the use of reason a personal presence at
the moment of the first appearance of a human life: how could a human individual
not be a human person?’” Evangelium Vitae, To
the Bishops Priests and Deacons Men and Women religious lay Faithful and all
People of Good Will on the Value and Inviolability of Human Life, 60 (1995)
Muslim faith tradition holds that the soul is given after 40 days, “[The matter of the Creation of] a human being is put together
in the womb of the mother in forty days . . . Allah sends an angel who is ordered to write four things.
He is ordered to write down his (i.e. the new creature’s) deeds, his
livelihood, his (date of) death, and whether he will be blessed or wretched (in
religion). Then the soul is breathed into him.
While the Muslim view on the soul is not in full accordance with the Catholic
Church, both faiths share the teaching
that a soul is given by God to the unborn child.
have explored the existence of the soul through a comparison of the
similarities between angels and humans, acknowledging if angels exist the human
soul is said to exist. But there is also another method from which we can deduct
the existence of the soul: We can scrutinize the source of human morality in
comparison to all other animals, and explore if human morality is biologically derived,
or from another source. If human
morality can be shown to be based on something other than biology and genetics, it is a fair question to ask where
morality in humans originates from, in what form, and whether or not this potency
for moral behavior is present from the moment of conception. Such a presence
would be further indication of a soul, as no Christian faith entertains the
notion of a soul, a human body, and an independent and third agency known as
“morality” untethered to the soul or body. If morality is not biologically derived
in humans from evolution, it must be derived from elsewhere, but where?
Furthermore, if it can be shown morality is also present at the time of
conception, abortion could be shown in an additional way to be taking a human
life contrary to the agency that granted the “morality” to the unborn.
biology theory informs us that humans are evolved animals, but unlike other
animal species, humans are unique in their ability to exhibit rational moral
judgment and behavior. Distinctively
in the entire animal kingdom, humans alone are not destined to be ruled by reactions
based on instinct. But some would propose human morality is the product of
evolution, and built into our genetics. Every argument in favor of evolution as
the source of human morality cannot be explored in this paper, but the general
theory is that morality evolved in humans because it contributes to social cohesion
and to the success of intergroup competition. Note
when animals such as chimpanzees exhibit what appears to be comprehension of moral
concepts such as “good,” “bad,” or “sorry,” from sign language, they do not
really feel that the behaviors are morally wrong. But
if animals cannot truly feel that behaviors are morally wrong, why is this exception carved out for the human
animal? If morality were based on evolution programming our genetics, morality would evolve to some degree in other
animals; humans would not be the exception to this rule as we are. Therefore, morality in humans is not derived
from evolution but from some agency that is outside of evolution. What
agency outside of biological evolution could infuse morality into human beings?
are two, mutually exclusive, options: Extraterrestrial, or Divine.
extraterrestrial option is codified in the religion (as defined by the IRS) of
Scientology, founded by L. Ron Hubbard. Briefly, Scientologists believe that
time is kept in “AD,” or “After Dianetics,” with AD equal to the year 1950, (e.g.
1965 = AD 15) when L. Ron Hubbard wrote Dianetics:
The Modern Science of Mental Health. Scientology holds that a “theta being”
(roughly the equivalent of a soul) is the agency that controls, guides, and
imbues the human body with ethics, morals, direction, goals, and the ability to
what reads like science-fiction but is in fact what Scientology teaches, the
following are excerpts from a report published in the Los Angeles Times
defining the theology of Scientology:
Seventy-five million years ago a tyrant named
Xenu (pronounced Zee-new) ruled the Galactic Confederation, an alliance of 76
planets, including Earth, then called Teegeeack.
To control overpopulation and solidify his
power, Xenu instructed his loyal officers to capture beings of all shapes and
sizes from the various planets, freeze them in a compound of alcohol and glycol
and fly them by the billions to Earth in planes resembling DC-8s. Some of the
beings were captured after they were duped into showing up for a phony tax
The beings were deposited or chained near 10
volcanoes scattered around the planet. After hydrogen bombs were dropped on
them, their thetans were captured by Xenu’s forces and implanted with sexual
perversion, religion and other notions to obscure their memory of what Xenu had
Soon after, a revolt erupted. Xenu was
imprisoned in a wire cage within a mountain, where he remains today.
Central to Scientology is a belief in an immortal soul, or
“thetan,” that passes from one body to the next through countless
reincarnations spanning trillions of years. Collectively, thetans created the
universe — all the stars and planets, every plant and animal. To function
within their creation, thetans built bodies for themselves of wildly varying
appearances, the human form being just one. Hubbard maintained, for example,
that the concept of a Christian heaven is the product of two implants dating
back more than 43 trillion years. Heaven, he said, is a “false dream”
and a “very painful lie” intended to direct thetans toward a
non-existent goal and convince them they have only one life.
In reality, Hubbard said, there is no heaven and
there was no Christ.
“The (implanted) symbol of a crucified Christ is
very apt indeed,” Hubbard said. “It’s the symbol of a thetan betrayed.”
Perhaps there are other, as yet
undiscovered, extraterrestrial options for imbuing a human soul with morality
besides those outlined by Scientology, but what should become immediately clear
is that Scientology or any even remotely similar belief system is in no way
compatible with the Divine as generally understood, much less Christianity. One
must either believe Scientology (or similar) as the source of morality in human
beings, or look for another source.
The remaining option is a Divine source
for the origin of morality in humans. The characteristics of this Divine source
of morality are beyond the scope of this paper. But if the reader does not
choose to believe morality in humans is derived from evolution or
extraterrestrials, only a Divine source remains. When would this Divine source
infuse morality into the unborn? Are we to believe knowledge of moral behavior
is granted by this Divine source separate from the soul, and only when the
child reaches the age of reason? We can answer these questions by rephrasing
the questions: Since the soul was granted at some point in time, is there any
reason that morality is not intrinsic to the nature of a soul and therefore, not
granted at the same time? Are we to believe all the intellectual
characteristics of the soul are present, absent morality, when placed with the
unborn child in the mother’s womb? No. There is no reason to believe “morality”
is separate and not part of the intellectual nature of the entire soul.
This paper set out to establish beyond
a reasonable doubt if abortion was murder, and if so, by what criteria.
Semantically, abortions performed before the unborn child is viable outside the
mother’s womb are not “murders”, but “crimes against human life.” In order to
prove a crime against human life, the existence of a soul was established.
Support for the existence of a soul was
drawn from two sources; the spiritual parallels between angels and humans, and
an exploration of the origin of human morality, both of which pointed back to
the potential existence of the soul in the unborn child in the womb.
Two major faiths, Catholicism and
Islam, disagree on when a soul is granted by God, but regardless of personal
belief or opinion, Catholics are obliged to accept the teaching of the
Magisterium of the Church, which as indicated above by Pope John Paul II, has
clearly stated the soul is given at conception.
To remain unconvinced abortion
constitutes a crime against human life, if not outright murder in some
instances, one must deny the existence of angels, dispute the fundamental definition
of “soul,” and accept either evolution or extraterrestrials as the source of
human morality over any Divine agency.
 H. W. Crocker III, Triumph: The Power and the Glory of the Catholic Church (New York: Prima Publishing, 2001),
Conference of State Legislatures Contributor, “Fetal Homicide Laws.” at
National Conference of State Legislators, 2013, at
Peter Kreeft. “Angels: The Twelve Most Important Things to Know About Them.” at
PeterKreeft.com, n.d., at
Stephen J. Benz. All About Angels. In
Catholic Digest, January/February
2012, p 44.
Atheists, and Evangelists. By: Wasserburg, Charles, Southern
Review, 00384534, Spring92, Vol. 28, Issue 2
Bukhari. “Beginning of Creation.” at University of Southern California Center for
Jewish-Muslim Engagement, Translation of Sahih Bukhari, Volume 4, Book 54, Number 430, n.d., at
M. Verschuuren. “Morality Is Not a Biological Issue.” at Strange Notions – The
Digital Aeropagus – Reason. Faith. Dialogue, n.d., at
Richard D. Alexander, The Biology of Moral Systems (Hawthorne, New York, 1987)
from the jacket.
L. Krebs and Kalenda K. Denton, “How Did Morality Originate.” at Evolutionary
Psychology, 1 January 2013, at
Church of Scientology Contributor. “What is the significance of the IRS ruling
regarding the churches of Scientology?” at Scientology.org, 2013, at
L. Ron Hubbard, Dianetics and Scientology Technical Dictionary (Los Angeles:
Bridge Publications, 1989) p 9.
Hubbard, ibid. 200
Sappell and Robert W. Welkos. “Defining the Theology: What is Scientology.” at
Los Angeles Times, 24 June 1990, at
Stephen J. Benz. All
About Angels. In Catholic Digest,
January/February 2012, p 44.
Angels, Atheists, and Evangelists. By: Wasserburg, Charles, Southern
Review, 00384534, Spring92, Vol. 28, Issue 2
Richard D. Alexander, The Biology of Moral Systems
(Hawthorne, New York, 1987) from the jacket.
- Ron Hubbard, Dianetics and Scientology Technical
Dictionary (Los Angeles: Bridge Publications, 1989) p 9.