Posted by: Christine Johnson | January 22, 2008

The Early Church on the Sanctity of Human Life

Shamelessly lifted from

Quotations from the early Church Fathers

on the Sanctity of Human Life

The Didache ca 120 AD

  • “Thou shalt not murder a child by abortion.” 2:2
  • “The Way of Death is filled with people who are … murderers of children and abortionists of God’s creatures.” 5:1-2

The Epistle or Barnabas ca 125 AD

  • “Thou shalt love thy neighbor more than thy own life. Thou shalt not murder a child by abortion.” 19:5

The Apocalypse of Peter ca 135

  • “I saw a gorge in which the discharge and excrement of the tortured ran down and became like a lake. There sat women, and the discharge came up to their throats; and opposite them sat many children, who were born prematurely, weeping. And from them went forth rays of fire and smote the women on the eyes. These were those who produced children outside of marriage and who procured abortions.” -26
  • “Those who slew the unborn children will be tortured forever, for God wills it to so.” -2:264

Clement of Alexandria ca 150-180

  • “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

St. Athenagoras ca 765

  • “We say that women who induce abortions are murderers, and will have to give account of it to God. For the same person, would not regard the child in the womb as a living being and therefore an object of God’s care and then kill it…. But we are altogether consistent in our conduct. We obey reason and do not override it.” -Legatio 35

Tertullian ca 160-240

  • “For us [Christians] 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
  • “They [John and Jesus] were both alive while still in the womb. Elizabeth rejoiced as the infant leaped in her womb; Mary glorifies the Lord because Christ within inspired her. Each mother recognizes her child and is known by her child who is alive, being not merely souls but also spirits.” -De A ninta 26:4

Nlititicilis Felix ca 180-225

  • “There are women who swallow drugs to stifle in their own womb the beginnings of a man to be – committing infanticide before they even give birth to the infant.” -Octavius

St. Hippolytus ca 170-236

  • “Reputed believes began to resort to drugs for producing Sterility and to gird themselves round, so as to expel what was conceived on account of their not wanting to have a child either by a slave or by any paltry fellow, for the sake of their family and excessive wealth. Behold, into how great impiety that lawless one has proceeded, by inculcating adultery and murder at the same time.” -Refutation of all Heresies 9:7

Council of Eivira ca 305

  • “If a woman becomes pregnant by committing adultery, While her husband is absent, and after the act she destroys the child, it is proper to keep her from communion until death, because she has doubled her crime.” -Canon 63

St. Basil the Great ca 330-379

  • “She who has deliberately destroyed a fetus has to pay the penalty of murder…. here it is not only the child to be born that is vindicated, but also the woman herself who made an attempt against her own life, because usually the women die in such attempts. Furthermore, added to this is the destruction of the child, another murder.” -Letter 188:2
  • “Moreover, those, too, who give drugs causing abortion are deliberate murderers themselves, as well as those receiving the poison which kills the- fetus.” -Letter 188:2

St. Ambrose of Milan ca 339-397

  • The wealthy, in order that their inheritance may not be divided among several, deny in the very womb their own progeny. By use of’ parricidal mixtures they snuff out the fruit of their wombs in the genital organs themselves. In this way life is taken away before it is born …. Who except man himself has taught us ways of repudiating children?” -Hexameron

St. Jerome ca 342-420

  • “They drink potions to ensure sterility and are guilty of murdering a human being not yet conceived. Some, when they learn that they are with child through sin, practice abortion by the use of drugs. Frequently they die themselves and are brought before the rulers of the lower world guilty of three crimes: suicide, adultery against Christ, and murder of an unborn child.” -Letter 22:13

The Apostolic Constitutions ca 380

  • “Thou shalt not slay the child by causing abortion, nor kill that which is begotten. For everything that is shaped, and his received a soul from God, if slain, it shall be avenged, as being unjustly destroyed.” ,-7:3

St. John Chrysostom ca 340-407

  • “Why sow where the ground makes it its care to destroy the fruit? Where there are many efforts at abortion? Where there is murder before the birth? For you do not even let the harlot remain a mere harlot, but make her a murderer also. You see how drunkenness leads to whoredom, whoredom to adultery, adultery to murder; or rather something even worse than murder. For I have no real name to give it, since it does not destroy the thing born but prevents its being born. Why then do you abuse the gift of God and fight with His laws, and follow after what is a curse as if a blessing, and make the place of procreation a chamber for murder, and arm the woman that was given for childbearing unto slaughter? -Homily 24 on Romans


Abortion rights supporters will try to tell you that the early Church was either silent or approving of abortion. They try to point to the confusion of when the life was there, pointing to “quickening” as the beginning of life, the beginning of a soul. The point they are missing is that in the ancient world, with their limited scientific knowledge, they did not always realize that was not the beginning per se. The Church has always taught that abortion is murder. She always will teach the same.

Thank God for His Church, who has remained steadfast to Christ!

Jesus Christ, yesterday, and today; and the same for ever.

At the same time as she condemns abortion as the taking of an innocent life, the Church will also reach out and offer forgiveness and healing for women who have suffered through an abortion.

What is Rachel’s Vineyard?

Rachel’s Vineyard weekends for healing after abortion are offered throughout the year in locations across the United States and Canada, with additional sites in Portugal, Australia and New Zealand. We also offer a 13-week support group model for Rachel’s Vineyard. Rachel’s Vineyard is a ministry of Priests for Life

The program is an opportunity to examine your abortion experience, identify the ways that the loss has impacted you in the past and present, and helps to acknowledge any unresolved feelings that many individuals struggle with after abortion. Because of the emotional numbness and secrecy that often surrounds an abortion experience, conflicting emotions both during and after the event may remain unresolved. These buried feelings can surface later and may be symptoms of post abortion trauma.

Married couples, mothers, fathers, grandparents and siblings of aborted children, as well as persons who have been involved in the abortion industry have come to Rachel’s Vineyard in search of peace and inner healing. The weekend is a lot of work but yields a fruitful harvest for all who are willing to labor there. To learn more, please read about our weekend retreats. Also, please see comments from people who have attended the weekends, as well as our explanation of the name “Rachel’s Vineyard.”

Stepping out “Go, pick up the pieces lest they be lost.” (Jn 6:12) With these words, John Cardinal O’Connor directed the Sisters of Life to a ministry of reverence for women and men who suffer following the tragedy of abortion. Since 1996, we have, with the help of Theresa Bonopartis, heeded that call through Entering Canaan: A Sacramental Journey to an Inheritance of Mercy for those Suffering Abortion. Post-traumatic suffering is the untold story of abortion. There are literally millions of women and men who, too often silently and alone, suffer some of the most serious psychological and spiritual consequences of contemporary society’s disregard for the sanctity of human life and the sacredness of human sexuality. Taking its name from the Exodus experience of the Jewish people from slavery and debasement into the Promised Land, Entering Canaan accompanies those who have suffered abortion on a Sacramental journey into the true Promised Land of the Heart of Jesus. Fundamental to this mission is the belief that each person, no matter what they have done or how they feel, is to be cherished and loved as a unique reflection of God’s love. Those who join this caravan of faith – hundreds thus far – find hope and confidence in the fact that regardless of how long their healing takes, regardless of the battles fought, won or lost, they have a community of people to whom they can turn in time of need, who will be there for them unconditionally, to help them on the way to true healing with patience and love.

After Abortion…

There is healing for you!

If you are hurting from an abortion, you have a home here. Priests for Life embraces with compassion and forgiveness those who have had abortions. We will lead you to the healing that comes from the Lord, and the care of the Christian Community. We are ready to talk with you and listen to you.

Priests for Life works with ministries worldwide that offer this healing.

The Priests for Life page linked above then goes on to mention several ministries, both Catholic and otherwise, that offer help to men and women who are post-abortive.

Evangelium Vitae (The Gospel of Life), #99

I would now like to say a special word to women who have had an abortion. The Church is aware of the many factors which may have influenced your decision, and she does not doubt that in many cases it was a painful and even shattering decision. The wound in your heart may not yet have healed. Certainly what happened was and remains terribly wrong. But do not give in to discouragement and do not lose hope. Try rather to understand what happened and face it honestly. If you have not already done so, give yourselves over with humility and trust to repentance. The Father of mercies is ready to give you his forgiveness and his peace in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. You will come to understand that nothing is definitively lost and you will also be able to ask forgiveness from your child, who is now living in the Lord. With the friendly and expert help and advice of other people, and as a result of your own painful experience, you can be among the most eloquent defenders of everyone’s right to life. Through your commitment to life, whether by accepting the birth of other children or by welcoming and caring for those most in need of someone to be close to them, you will become promoters of a new way of looking at human life.

(Full text of Evangelium Vitae can be found here.)

Let no one say that the Church shuns women who have had abortions. It is simply not true. The Church, following the example of Christ, offers forgiveness and healing to all sinners. Because every one of us is a sinner.

If you are suffering after an abortion and need someone to talk to, please go to one of the sites I mentioned above, or call 1-877-HOPE-4-ME or 1-800-395-HELP (Rachel’s Vineyard) or 1-800-5-WE-CARE (National Office of Post-Abortion Reconciliation and Healing). Also, if you’d rather not have to talk to a live person on the phone, you can go here and get help via AOL Chat.

Also, if you are considering abortion, you can go to that same site and chat with someone who wants to help. You are not alone, and your local crisis pregnancy center can do much to help you. For example, there is Good Counsel Homes, established by Father Benedict Groeschel. Their stated mission is:

Good Counsel is a private Catholic agency whose primary mission is to help homeless pregnant women by providing a loving family environment in a safe and secure shelter. Begun in 1985 by Fr. Benedict Groeschel and Chris Bell, both leaders in the pro-life movement, Good Counsel has grown to five homes in the New York greater metropolitan area.

Working closely with the Sisters of Life through our Lumina outreach we have developed an outstanding program of support and healing for those suffering from abortion related problems.

They have a 24/7 hotline for young women in trouble. Call them at 800-723-8331 if you need help.

And don’t let anyone think that it’s just about handing out diapers and maternity clothes. This is what Good Counsel Homes does:

Three key programs:

  • Life Skills Program
    This in-house program prepares residents for independent living by covering topics such as Parenting, Spirituality, Health and AIDS Education, Career Development and Financial Management.
  • Exodus
    Through this program, mothers participate in certain programs even after leaving a Good Counsel home so that they still receive transitional support.
  • Technology
    The Internet is an essential tool in today’s world. Good Counsel mothers are taught how to utilize our computer labs and the internet to advance their educational goals, search for employment, post their resumes online and much more.

Remember that you are NOT alone. There is help for you and your child.

And, if you are trying to heal after an abortion, know that we love you and are praying for you.



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