Current Catholic Teaching

In 1987 the Catholic Church provided guidance on reproductive medicine and embryo research in Donum vitae (Respect for human life). Donum vitae poses and then answers a key question: "how could a human individual not be a human person? The Magisterium has not expressly committed itself to an affirmation of a philosophical nature, but it constantly reaffirms the moral condemnation of any kind of procured abortion" (Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, 1987, part I, no. 1). In other words, immediate hominization is not affirmed doctrinally but its implications are fully asserted morally, not just for abortion some weeks into a pregnancy but in regard to the embryo at the earliest moment. Donum vitae insists:

The human being must be respected—as a person—

from the very first instant of his existence____Thus the fruit of human generation, from the first moment of its existence, that is to say from the moment the zygote has formed, demands the unconditional respect that is morally due to the human being in his bodily and spiritual totality. The human being is to be respected and treated as a person from the moment of conception; and therefore from that same moment his rights as a person must be recognized, among which in the first place is the inviolable right of every innocent human being to life. (Congregation for the Doctrine of the

Again asserting moral certainty while avoiding doctrinal conclusiveness, the Catholic Church in 1974 issued its Declaration on Procured Abortion, which states: "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" (Sacred Congregation, p. 13). This statement almost invites debate on dogma while shutting the door to reconsideration of moral teaching.

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