Monsignor Charles Pope has compiled a helpful and intriguing list of early Christian statements on the morality of abortion. Beginning with the Didache and ending in the seventh century, the sources (comprising both well-known individual writers and saints alongside more “grassroots” texts, like communal codes of ethics or documents from bishops’ councils) speak in a unified voice.

From the collection at the Archdiocese of Washington blog:

Clement of Alexandria:  (circa 150 – 215 AD)  Our whole life can go on in observation of the laws of nature, if we gain dominion over our desires from the beginning and if we do not kill, by various means of a perverse art, the human offspring, born according to the designs of divine providence; for these women who, if order to hide their immorality, use abortive drugs which expel the child completely dead, abort at the same time their own human feelings . Paedagogus, 2

Tertullian  circa 160-240 AD:  For us, we may not destroy even the fetus in the womb, while as yet the human being derives blood from other parts of the body for its sustenance. To hinder a birth is merely a speedier man-killing; nor does it matter when you take away a life that is born, or destroy one that is coming to birth. That is a man which is going to be one: you have the fruit already in the seed . Apology 9:6


There are about two dozen more excerpts in Msgr. Pope’s post. As he notes, these are not the only quotes on the topic from the period, though they will surely prove a useful source of reproof the next time a politician attempts to gloss Augustine before the national media.

Articles by Matthew Cantirino

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