Pius XI 1922-1939

The Killing of the Foetus *

 

[From the same Encyclical, “Casti Connubii,” Dec. 31, 1930]

 

2242 Another very grave crime is also to be noted, by which the life of the offspring hidden in the mother’s womb is attempted. Moreover, some wish this to be permitted according to the pleasure of the mother or father; others, however, call it illicit unless very grave reasons attend, which they call by the name of medical, social, eugenic “indication.” Since this pertains to the penal laws of the state, according to which the destruction of the offspring begotten but not yet born is prohibited, all of these demand that the “indication,” which they defend individually in one way or another, be recognized even by the public laws, and be declared free of all punishment. Nay rather, there are not lacking those who demand that public magistrates lend a helping hand to these death dealing operations, something which unfortunately we all know is taking place very frequently in some places.

 

2243 Now as for the medical and therapeutic “indication,” to use their words, We have already said, Venerable Brethren, how sorry We are for the mother, whose health and even life are threatened by grave dangers resulting from nature’s duty; but what reason can ever be strong enough to excuse in any way the direct murder of the innocent? For this is the case in point here. Whether this is brought upon the mother or the offspring, it is contrary to God’s precept and the voice of nature: “Thou shalt not kill!” [Exod. 20:13]. * The life of each person is an equally sacred thing, and no one can ever have the power, not even public authority to destroy it. Consequently, it is most unjust to invoke the “right of the sword” against the innocent since this is valid against the guilty alone; nor is there any right in this case of a bloody defense against an unjust aggressor (for who will call an innocent child an unjust aggressor?); nor is there present any “right of extreme necessity,” as it is called, which can extend even to the direct killing of the innocent. Therefore, honorable and experienced physicians praiseworthily endeavor to protect and to save the lives of both the mother and the offspring; on the other hand, most unworthy of the noble name of physician and of commendation would they prove themselves, as many as plan for the death of one or the other under the appearance of practicing medicine or through motives of false pity. . . .

 

2244 Now what is put forth in behalf of social and eugenic indication, with licit and honorable means and within due limits, may and ought to be held as a solution for these matters; but because of the necessities upon which these problems rest, to seek to procure the death of the innocent is improper and contrary to the divine precept promulgated by the words of the Apostle: “Evil is not to be done that good may come of it” [Rom. 3:8].

 

Finally, those who hold high office among nations and pass laws may not forget that it belongs to public authority by appropriate laws and penalties to defend the lives of the innocent, and the more so as those whose lives are endangered and are attacked are less able to defend themselves, among whom surely infants in their mothers’ wombs hold first place. But if public magistrates not only do not protect those little ones, but by their laws and ordinances permit this, and thus give them over to the hands of physicians and others to be killed, let them remember that God is the judge and the avenger of innocent “blood which cries from earth to heaven” [Gen. 4:10].

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