The Early Church Fathers remain a bedrock of the Catholic faith Tradition.
This fact sets the Catholic Church apart from the denominations of Christianity. The latter group largely ignores the writings of the earliest Christians, following the Biblical period.
As a result, the Protestant traditions have lost cohesion with Church history. Among many of the beliefs lost, sadly for some sects, is the prohibition on abortion.
Inexplicably, several Protestant denominations allow for their members to procure abortions. Some even encourage it.
In fact, my wife and I made a discovery beyond the aborted babies in the dumpster behind an abortion mill in Michigan in 2008. We found a coupon from a Protestant Church for a discount on an abortion. It appears some mother received a discounted abortion, thanks to her church!
As I will show, this does not follow Christ’s teachings and is a new phenomenon. The truth is, abortion has been condemned for all of Church history. Such truth can be found as far back as the original apostles’ writings.
Here are some examples of the Early Church Fathers teaching against abortion. They taught this, as it was the faith handed onto them from Christ, through the apostles.
The faith has been transmitted, or passed down, through the centuries to this day. It is preserved in the Catholic Church.
THE DIDACHE (AD 100)
This was a 1st-Century document, likely written by the Apostles themselves. This was likely a synthesis or early catechism containing truths of the faith.
It states in part, “The second commandment of the Teaching: ‘Do not murder; do not commit adultery;’ do not corrupt boys; do not fornicate; ‘do not steal;’ do not practice magic; do not go in for sorcery; do not murder a child by abortion or kill a newborn infant.”
Not sure how more definitive proof you can have that the earliest Christians prohibited abortion.
THE LETTER OF BARNABUS (AD 74).
“The way of light, then, is as follows. If anyone desires to travel to the appointed place, he must be zealous in his works. The knowledge, therefore, which is given to us for the purpose of walking in this way, is the following….Thou shalt not slay the child by procuring abortion; nor, again, shalt thou destroy it after it is born” (19).
THE APOCOLYPSE OF PETER (AD 135)
“Those who slew the unborn children will be tortured forever, for God wills it to so” (2:64).
“It is not permissible for us to destroy the seed by means of illicit manslaughter once it has been conceived in the womb, so long as blood remains in the person” (Apologia, cap 25, line 42).
ATHENAGORAS (d. 177)
“How, then, when we do not even look on, lest we should contract guilt and pollution, can we put people to death? And when we say that those women who use drugs to bring on abortion commit murder, and will have to give an account to God for the abortion, on what principle should we commit murder?
“For it does not belong to the same person to regard the very fetus in the womb as a created being, and therefore an object of God’s care, and when it has passed into life, to kill it; and not to expose an infant, because those who expose them are chargeable with child-murder, and on the other hand, when it has been reared to destroy it. But we are in all things always alike and the same, submitting ourselves to reason, and not ruling over it” (A Plea for the Christians, 35.4).
MINUCIUS (3rd Century AD)
“She who has intentionally destroyed [the fetus] is subject to the penalty corresponding to a homicide.
“For us, there is no scrutinizing between the formed and unformed [fetus]; here truly justice is made not only for the unborn but also with reference to the person who is attentive only to himself/herself since so many women generally die for this very reason” (To Anfilochius, Bishop of Iconia, First Letter, 2).
“You may see many women widows before wedded, who try to conceal their miserable fall by a lying garb. Unless they are betrayed by swelling wombs or by the crying of their infants, they walk abroad with tripping feet and heads in the air.
“Some go so far as to take potions, that they may insure barrenness, and thus murder human beings almost before their conception.
”Some, when they find themselves with child through their sin, use drugs to procure abortion, and when (as often happens) they die with their offspring, they enter the lower world laden with the guilt not only of adultery against Christ but also of suicide and child murder.” (Epistula, 22).
JOHN CHRYSOSTOM (347-407)
“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 even the harlot thou dost not let continue a mere harlot, but makest her a murderer also” (Homily 24 on Romans).
AUGUSTINE OF HIPPO (354-430)
“Therefore brothers, you see how perverse they are and hastening wickedness, who are immature, they seek abortion of the conception before the birth; they are those who tell us, ‘I do not see that which you say must be believed’” (Sermon 126, line 12).
HIPPOLYTUS (c. 228)
“Women who were reputed to be believers began to take drugs to render themselves sterile, and to bind themselves tightly so as to expel what was being conceived, since they would not, on account of relatives and excess wealth, want to have a child by a slave or by any insignificant person. See, then, into what great impiety that lawless one has proceeded, by teaching adultery and murder at the same time!”
“No woman should take drugs for purposes of abortion, nor should she kill her children that have been conceived or are already born” (Excerpt from a Sermon).
THEODORUS PRISCIANUS (c.4th-5th century AD)
GREGORY THE GREAT (540-604)
THE APOSTOLIC CONSTITUTIONS (AD 400)
“Thou shalt not use magic. Thou shalt not use witchcraft; for he says, ‘You shall not suffer a witch to live’ [Ex. 22:18]. Thou shall not slay thy child by causing abortion, nor kill that which is begotten… [I]f it be slain, [it] shall be avenged, as being unjustly destroyed.”
This serves as a comprehensive but surely not an exhaustive list. Several of these Early Church Fathers have several more writings condemning abortion. I chose the quotes which seemed to me the most-clear.
This goes to show that to oppose abortion has always been a teaching of Christianity since its founding. Despite what some Christian denominations may claim, abortion has always been and will always be condemned.
(I want to thanks PriestsforLife.org for providing the above links and quotes in a concise manner.)
What are your thoughts after reading these quotes?
Do you have favorite quotes from the Early Church Fathers on the topic of abortion that I did not include that you would like to share below?
Please leave a comment below!