“… and old principles reappear under new forms. It [a great idea] changes with them in order to remain the same. In a higher world it is otherwise, but here below to live is to change, and to be perfect is to have changed often.” So goes the argument of Blessed John Henry Newman‘s Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine. Like any great idea, doctrine must change in order to remain the same. Only dead doctrine cannot change, for “a power of development is a proof of life.”
This power of development is what has led to the Church’s unqualified defense of human life at the moment of conception, a teaching that was not formally decided until the 20th century. Those who refuse Church doctrine’s proof of life, the power of development, may perhaps be scandalized by (rather convincing) arguments in favor of early abortion, based upon the writings of St. Thomas Aquinas. Aquinas argued that “ensoulment,” the soul’s entering into the body, did not happen at conception, but at a later point, while the embryo was developing. Thus, abortion was not murder after conception but before this ensoulment. This view also resulted in Aquinas’ denial of the Immaculate Conception, which was declared dogma in 1854.
But Church doctrine must change…
The rest of this post can be found in my book, “I Desired You: An Intellectual Journal on Faith and Sexuality.” You can order a copy here.