Catholics celebrate the feast of the Immaculate Conception, commemorating the fact that the Blessed Mother was conceived without sin in her mother Anne’s womb. This teaching was declared by Pope Pius IX in 1854 in the Apostolic Constitution, Ineffabilis Deus. It is a teaching binding on all Catholic people. The declaration is substantiated in scripture and in the teachings of the doctors of the Church, and can be proven by the use of reason alone.
When one investigates the use of the word “conception” in Catholic tradition it becomes clear that, because the Church defined Mary’s conception the beginning of her life as immaculate [conceived without sin], it follows that every reference to a human beings beginning, in Church teaching, would be defined by the use of the same word conception. This is understandable and indeed has been consistent.
However, we do not live in consistent times today. Because this is so, there may be a need to clarify the use of the word conception—a word that has been mangled by the enemies of life.
Here’s what I mean. Merriam-Webster defines conception as the process of becoming pregnant involving fertilization or implantation or both. In other words, even though implantation occurs eight days AFTER a preborn child’s life begins sexually, the dictionary suggests that there are a couple of ways to tell when life begins. And that is but the tip of the iceberg.
What about all those preborn babies whose lives do not begin sexually but who begin to exist asexually (without the immediate use of sperm and oocytes)?
In the New Catholic Encyclopedia, under the heading “Human Embryology and Church Teachings,” we learn that indeed a human being can begin asexually. The description is that the process by which a human being begins sexually (joining of sperm and ovum) is reversed because the process can begin with a highly differentiated cell and work backward to “incrementally remove the methylation bars on that DNA to allow it to speak until the DNA in that cell is in the same state of differentiation as the single-cell totipotent zygote resulting in a new, single-cell human organism, a single-cell embryo, or human being.”
Clearly not all human beings begin at fertilization/conception. This is why I have asked Vatican officials on numerous occasions to address this in some way. In May of 2010, American Life League appealed to Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith’s secretary, Archbishop Luis Ladaria, after he made a comment regarding the fact that life begins at conception.
We explained the problematic nature of that word and suggested that perhaps the Vatican could clarify the use of the word by stating that, when conception is used in Church documents, or stated by Church officials, it should be clear that they are saying, “conception [i.e., biological beginning] of the human being.”
No response was forthcoming.
We then provided the suggestion to the entire membership of the Pontifical Academy for Life because this writer is a third-term member of that body. Nothing has been forthcoming.
And then just a couple of days ago it became clear that perhaps the reason no response has been received is quite simply because there are forces within the Vaticans political wing that do not want a clarification to be made!
I am referring to the recent appointment to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences of Dr. Miguel Nicolelis, a Brazilian neuroscientist who teaches at Duke University in North Carolina and is pro-abortion and favors homosexual civil union. Even though abortion and the practice of homosexuality are against Catholic teaching, Nicolelis claims, “I never hid [the fact] that I dont participate in the Catholic Church nor have a religious belief.”
Now we know. There is no desire on the part of some influential Vatican officials, including many of those who advise the Holy Father to clarify that the Church embraces and affirms the right to life of every human being, whether sexually or asexually reproduced. It is not in the best interest of these Vatican politicos to do so! This is scandalous, horrific and disgusting.
Partial-personhood is not what the Catholic Church teaches; the Church clearly defends and has always defended the right to life of every innocent human being prior to birth. The Vatican’s verbal manipulators should stop ignoring the truth, cease the cover-up and abandon their politically motivated agendas.
Below is the contact information for both Archbishop Ladaria and Pope Benedict XVI. Let your voices be heard that the Church needs to speak clearly and without ambiguity when it discusses the sexual or asexual beginning of a human being’s life. The word “conception” should be avoided in any document addressing the human being prior to birth.
Archbishop Luis Ladaria, Secretary
Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith
Piazza del S. Uffizio, 11
00193 Vatican City State, Europe
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Pope Benedict XVI
Find mailing address and other information here: http://www.askacatholic.com/_TheChurch/vatican_mailingaddress.cfm
Or e-mail Pope Benedict at
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