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"It is through conscience that human beings see and recognize the demands of the divine law. They are bound to follow their conscience faithfully in everything they do."
Religious Liberty, no 2.

Caesarius of Arles

Bishop of Arles in Gaul (470-542)


Fr Columba Ryan OPNo women would take potions for purposes of abortion, because she should not doubt that before the tribunal of Christ she will have to plead as many cases as the number of those she killed when already born or still conceived. Is anyone unable to warn that no woman should accept a potion to prevent conception or to condemn within herself the nature which God wanted to be fruitful? Indeed, she will be held guilty of as many murders as the number of those she might have conceived or borne, and unless suitable penance saves her she will be condemned to eternal death in hell. If a woman does not want to bear children she should enter upon a pious agreement with her husband, for only the abstinence of a Christian woman is chastity (Sermon 1, 12; CC 103, 9).

Therefore, those to whom God is unwilling to give children should not try to have them by means of magical herbs or signs or evil charms. It is becoming proper for Christians especially not to seem to fight against the dispensation of Christ by cruel, wicked boldness. Just as women whom God wants to bear more children should not take medicines to prevent their conception, so those whom God wished to remain sterile should desire and seek this gift from God alone. They should always leave it to divine Providence, asking in their prayers that God in His goodness may deign to grant what is best for them. Those women whom God wants to bear children should take care of all that are conceived, or give them to someone else to rear. As many as they kill after they are already conceived or born, before the tribunal of the eternal Judge they will be held guilty of so many murders. If women attempt to kill the children within them by evil medicines, and themselves die in the act, they become guilty of three crimes on their own: suicide, spiritual adultery, and murder of the unborn child. Therefore, women do wrong when they seek to have children by means of evil drugs. They sin still more grievoulsy when they kill the children who are already conceived or born, and when by taking impious drugs to prevent conception they condemn in themselves the nature which God wanted to be fruitful. Let them not doubt that they have committed as many murders as the number of the children they might have begotten (Sermon 51, 4; CC 103, 229).

Does not the Devil clearly exercise his deceits still further, dearly beloved, when he persuades some women, after they have had two or three cihldren, to kill either any more or those already born, by taking an abortion draught? Apparently, such women fear that if they have more chlren they cannot become rich. For, what else must they think when they do this, except that God will not be able to feed or direct those whom He has commanded to be born? Perhaps some are killed who could serve God better or obey those same parents with a perfect love. Instead, by an impious, murderous practice women take poisonous draughts to transmit incomplete life and premature death to their children through their generative organs. By such an exigency they drink a cup of bereavement with the cruel drug. O sad persuasion! They maintain that the poison which has been transmitted through their drinking is unconnected with them. Moreover, they do not realize that they conceive in sterility the child which they receive in death, because it was conceived in their flesh. However, if there is not yet found a tiny infant that could be killed within the womb of its mother, it is no less true that even the natural power (of generation) within the woman is destroyed. Why unhappy mother—or, rather, not even the step-mother of a new-born son—why did you seek, from outside, remedies that would be harmful for eternity? You possess within you more salutary remedies, if you wish. You do not want to have a child? Settle a pious agreement with your husband; let him agree to an end of childbearing in accord with the virtue of chastity. Only the sterility of a very pious wife is chastity. (Sermon 52, 4; CC 103, 231).

No woman should take drugs for purposes of abortion, nor should she kill her children that have been conceived or are already born. If anyone does this, she should know that before Christ’s tribunal she will have to plead her case in the presence of those she has killed. Moreover, women should not take diabolical draughts with the purpose of not being able to conceive children. A woman who does this ought to realize that she will be guilty of as many murders as the number of children she might have born. I would like to know whether a woman of nobility who takes deadly drugs to prevent conception wants her maids or tenants to do so. Just as every woman wants slaves born for her so that they may serve her, so that they may serve her, so she herself should nurse all the children she conceives, or entrust them to others for rearing. Otherwise, she may refuse to conceive children or, what is more serious, be willing to kill souls which might have been good Christians. Now, with what kind of conscience does she desire slaves to be born of her servants, when she herself refuses to bear children who might become Christians? (Sermon 44, 2; CC 103, 196).