The Catechism of the Catholic Church states: “Since the first century the Church has affirmed the moral evil of every procured abortion. This teaching has not changed and remains unchangeable. Direct abortion, that is to say, abortion willed either as an end or a means, is gravely contrary to the moral law” (No. 2271). In response to those who say this teaching has changed or is of recent origin, here are the facts: • From earliest times, Christians sharply distinguished themselves from surrounding pagan cultures by rejecting abortion and infanticide.
The earliest widely used documents of Christian teaching and practice after the New Testament in the 1st and 2nd centuries, the Didache (Teaching of the Twelve Apostles) and Letter of Barnabas, condemned both practices, as did early regional and particular Church councils. • To be sure, knowledge of human embryology was very limited until recent times. Many Christian thinkers accepted the biological theories of their time, based on the writings of Aristotle (4th century BC) and other philosophers. Aristotle assumed a process was needed over time to turn the matter from a woman’s womb into a being that could receive a specifically human form or soul. active formative power for this process was thought to come entirely from the man – the existence of the human ovum (egg), like so much of basic biology, was unknown.
• However, such mistaken biological theories never changed the Church’s common conviction that abortion is gravely wrong at every stage. At the very least, early abortion was seen as attacking a being with a human destiny, being prepared by God to receive an immortal soul (cf. Jeremiah 1:5: “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you”). • In the 5th century AD this rejection of abortion at every stage was affirmed by the great bishop-theologian St. Augustine. He knew of theories about the human soul not being present until some weeks into pregnancy. Because he used the Greek Septuagint translation of the Old Testament, he also thought the ancient Israelites had imposed a more severe penalty for accidentally causing a miscarriage if the Foetus was “fully formed” (Exodus 21: 22-23), language not found in any known Hebrew version of this passage.
But he also held that human knowledge of biology was very limited, and he wisely warned against misusing such theories to risk committing homicide. He added that God has the power to make up all human deficiencies or lack of development in the Resurrection, so we cannot assume that the earliest aborted children will be excluded from enjoying eternal life with God. • In the 13th century, St. Thomas Aquinas made extensive use of Aristotle’s thought, including his theory that the rational human soul is not present in the first few weeks of pregnancy.
But he also rejected abortion as gravely wrong at every stage, observing that it is a sin “against nature” to reject God’s gift of a new life. • During these centuries, theories derived from Aristotle and others influenced the grading of penalties for abortion in Church law. Some canonical penalties were more severe for a direct abortion after the stage when the human soul was thought to be present. However, abortion at all stages continued to be seen as a grave moral evil. • From the 13th to 19th centuries, some theologians speculated about rare and difficult cases where they thought an abortion before “formation” or “ensoulment” might be morally justified.
But these theories were discussed and then always rejected, as the Church refined and reaffirmed its understanding of abortion as an intrinsically evil act that can never be morally right. • In 1827, with the discovery of the human ovum, the mistaken biology of Aristotle was discredited. Scientists increasingly understood that the union of sperm and egg at conception produces a new living being that is distinct from both mother and father. Modern genetics demonstrated that this individual is, at the outset, distinctively human, with the inherent and active potential to mature into a human Foetus, infant, child and adult.
From 1869 onward the obsolete distinction between the “ensouled” and “unensouled” Foetus was permanently removed from canon law on abortion. • Secular laws against abortion were being reformed at the same time and in the same way, based on secular medical experts’ realization that “no other doctrine appears to be consonant with reason or physiology but that which admits the embryo to possess vitality from the very moment of conception” (American Medical Association, Report on Criminal Abortion, 1871). • Thus modern science has not changed the Church’s constant teaching against abortion, but has underscored how important and reasonable it is, by confirming that the life of each individual of the human species begins with the earliest embryo.
• Given the scientific fact that a human life begins at conception, the only moral norm needed to understand the Church’s opposition to abortion is the principle that each and every human life has inherent dignity, and thus must be treated with the respect due to a human person. This is the foundation for the Church’s social doctrine, including its teachings on war, the use of capital punishment, euthanasia, health care, poverty and immigration. Conversely, to claim that some live human beings do not deserve respect or should not be treated as “persons” (based on changeable factors such as age, condition, location, or lack of mental or physical abilities) is to deny the very idea of inherent human rights. Such a claim undermines respect for the lives of many vulnerable people before and after birth.
Remembering the victims: Erection of tombs or cenotaphs A cenotaph is an empty tomb or a monument erected in honour of a person or group of people whose remains are elsewhere. It can also be the initial tomb for a person who has since been reinterred elsewhere. Although the vast majority of cenotaphs honour individuals, many noted cenotaphs are instead dedicated to the memories of groups of individuals, such as the lost soldiers of a country or of an empire. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted . . . Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. —Matthew 5:4,6 The cenotaphs of these victims will eventually be erected across Nigeria – graves of sorrow and graves of indictment on any nation that permits the killing of the innocent.
Why we visit the gravesites/cenotaphs of the aborted unborn. 1. When people become truly aware of the reality of abortion, they can more easily cut through the lies by which some try to justify it, and the natural apathy to which human nature is inclined. Pro-life people are thrust into a higher level of commitment and activism. 2. Touching this reality happens in various ways: hearing a vivid description of the procedure, seeing diagrams of it or images of aborted children, hearing a woman’s personal testimony of regret over her abortion. 3. This impact, whereby abortion no longer remains an abstraction, can be brought to an even more profound level when experienced during an event, such as the funeral for an aborted baby. 4. Tens of thousands of these children have been retrieved and buried at gravesites across some countries.
The stories of how they were killed, how they were found, and how they were buried, along with the pictures and videos that document those events, are powerful tools to awaken the consciences of our fellow citizens. 5. But while a funeral and burial for an aborted baby may be a relatively rare event, the opportunity to visit the burial places and recall how those children got there does not have to be rare—in fact, it shouldn’t be., 6. Pro-lifers should be visiting these gravesites/Cenotaphs —and other memorial sites dedicated to aborted babies—as a regular part of their pro-life witness.
That’s what the Day of Remembrance for Aborted Children is all about. Pro-lifers are also encouraged to carry on the spiritual mission of the Day of Remembrance througout the year by visiting a gravesite of aborted children or other memorial site to offer prayers of mourning for the victims of abortion. 7. Those who are looking for the fruit of the womb should visit the sites and pray. 8. Those who are suffering from miscarriages should visit the sites and pray. 9. Those who have committed abortion should visit the site and pray for their sins.
During your visit, you may wish to pray one of the following prayers prepared for the Remembrance: • Prayer at a Gravesite or Memorial Site • Prayer of Mourning for Victims of Abortion • Prayer for Those who Have Lost a Child to Abortion By participating in the Remembrance, visiting these solemn memorial places at other times of the year, and spreading the word about this prayer campaign, you are helping to humanize our aborted brothers and sisters and deepening your own commitment to ending the injustice of abortion. 10. Plenary indulgences: By decree of the Vatican, a site may be designated a site of holy pilgrimage, and the faithful can receive a plenary indulgence on five occasions throughout the year. To obtain the plenary indulgence, the faithful would devoutly visit the designated Chapel, where they pray for the intentions of the Holy Father including the Our Father and the Creed, in addition to meeting the Usual Conditions: • the interior disposition of complete detachment from sin; • have made a sacramental confession; and • have received the Holy Eucharist.
These must be completed within 7 to 10 days before or after the visit to the designated site. The Knights of St. Mulumba, Nigeria. The Knights of St. Mulumba, Nigeria has been raising alarm over the high rate of abortion and the antecedent suicide rate among Nigerians especially females. They have called for a life of chastity among the youths through a ‘Match for Life,’ held in March every year to create awareness of the right and protection of the unborn child; correct the statement of, ”unwanted pregnancy” used by many to describe some conceptions; and also provide solace for those thinking of abortion due to circumstances. “In the Pro-Life, we believe that to restore respect for human life in Nigeria we must; understand that life begins at conception, and we must stand by the truth that every being uniquely created in the image and likeness of God deserves right to life.
It is necessary that we emphasise the person-hood of the child in the womb has a separate heart, soul and body hence, we must ensure we guard the baby in the womb with our life, understand that there is nothing as unwanted pregnancy, every child comes from God; we must continue to emphasise the dangers and nature of birth control pills, D&C abortion and salt abortion etc. This is as we recognize that D&C abortion is the most common and dangerous to our young girls. Abortion is equal to murder because the child in the womb is a human being. Regrets and frustrations that lead to abortion is brought about by immorality and pre-marital sex.
We do preach against immorality and pre-marital sex. We must understand that God is interested in our mistake and He is ready to accept our past. Religious bodies, parents must recognize the person-hood of the unborn child and the welfare of the mother because if there is life, correction follows. Catholic Church is against abortion and will stop at nothing in creating awareness on the sanctity of human life even in the womb, and stop increasing incidences of abortion. The Family and Human Life Unit of the Catholic Archdiocese of Lagos and Knights of Saint Mulumba, Lagos Metropolitan Council have been holding a pro-life vigil every year for over ten years now at the Archdiocesan Marian Shrine, Maryland, Lagos in reparation for the sins of abortion and to create awareness on the sanctity of human life.
Prayer to end abortions Lord God, we thank you today for the gift of our life, and for the lives of all our brothers and sisters. We know there is nothing that destroys more life than abortion, yet we rejoice that You have conquered death by the Resurrection of Your Son. We are ready to do our part in ending abortion. Today we commit ourselves never to be silent, never to be passive, never to be forgetful of the unborn. We commit ourselves to be active in the pro-life movement, and never to stop defending life until all our brothers and sisters are protected, and our nation once again becomes a nation with liberty and justice not just for some, but for all, through Christ our Lord. Amen! We pray that cenotaphs dedicated to the memories of millions of aborted babies, will serve to bring to the attention of the whole world that abortion is murder and that it should be stopped!
• Fidelis Olusola Dada. KSM, JP, Knight of St. Mulumba, Nigeria