ABORTION: Deliberate termination of pregnancy by killing the unborn child. Such direct abortion, when done either as an end or means, is gravely contrary to the moral law. The Church attaches the canonical penalty of excommunication to this crime against human life (CCC 2271-2272.)

ANGEL: A spiritual, personal, and a mortal creature, with intelligence and free will, who glorifies God without ceasing and who serves God as a messenger of his saving plan (CCC 329-331.)

NATURAL MORAL LAW: The natural law is written and engraved in the soul of each and every man, because it is human reason ordaining him to do good and forbidding him to sin . . . But this command of human reason would not have the force of law if it were not the voice and interpreter of a higher reason to which our spirit and our freedom must be submitted (CCC 1954.)

PERSON, HUMAN: The human individual, made in the image of God; not some thing but some one, a unity of spirit and matter, soul and body, capable of knowledge, self-possession, and freedom, who can enter into communion with other persons--- and with God (CCC 357, 362; cf.1700.)

SOUL: The spiritual principle of human beings. The soul is the subject of human consciousness and freedom; soul and body together form one unique human nature. Each human soul is individual and immortal, immediately created by God. The soul does not die with the body, from which it is separated by death, and with which it will be reunited in the final resurrection (CCC 363, 366 cf. 1703.)

There are two basic standards of proof widely accepted and in-use by society today; “Scientific” and “Legal.” Scientific proof is based upon empirical evidence derived in accordance with the scientific method. Legal proof is aligned to the principal of “Beyond a reasonable doubt.”

In the history of the world to date there has never been scientific, empirical proof for the existence of the human soul, and for good reason. Theologically speaking, the essence of our gift of free will is to walk by faith. Those that demand proof, before faith, are left unsatisfied. Absolute proof the soul exists in the scientific sense cancels any need for faith, and therefore, no such empirical evidence of a soul has been, or will be, granted by God until after our mortal death. Therefore, to apply the empirical proof-based standard to this thesis would be an unreasonable criterion and fruitless exercise.

            However, the alternative legal proof standard is not a toothless form, which can best be realized when we are reminded the legal standard of “Beyond a reasonable doubt” is sufficient to condemn a fellow human being to death by a jury of their peers. Any standard of evidence sufficient to take a life, is an equally reasonable standard to apply in proving the existence of a soul. As such, the standard of “Beyond a reasonable doubt” is the standard to which this paper aligns.

What is abortion?

This thesis statement cannot be engaged without an understanding of what abortion is, and is not. St. Jerome is most remembered for creating the Latin edition of the Bible known as the Vulgate. But writing sometime around 366 AD this scholar-saint also wrote the following on abortion:

“Some unmarried women prevent conception by the help of potions, murdering human beings before they are conceived; others, when they find themselves with child as a result of sin, secure abortions with drugs.” [1]

However, inaccuracies forcefully stated do not constitute the truth. Contrary to public perception, the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) never uses the term "murder" in relation to abortion. Likewise, the term “soul” is never mentioned in the CCC in the section describing abortion (CCC 2270 – 2275.) Abortion is termed “a crime against human life,” (CCC 2272) and this deliberate expression is used for good reason: Depending upon how far along the expectant mother is in her pregnancy, abortion could be the taking of a human life medically proven viable outside the womb, or the taking of a potential human life, not yet medically viable outside the womb. Either way, abortion is most accurately defined as a crime against human life (notwithstanding the additional confusion heaped on us by California Penal Law, which declares when a pregnant woman is killed, the killer is charged with homicide for the deaths of both the woman and her autonomous unborn child.[2] But this inconsistency in the law is outside of the domain of the Church.)

Therefore, the reason participation in abortion always raises bioethical issues is not because abortion is necessarily classified as “murder” according to the penal code of your state, although as mentioned it could be depending upon the woman’s stage of pregnancy, but because abortion at any stage always stops the life of a human being. There is no disputing this fact. We know that when the mother carries her child to term, the mother of the child will eventually give birth to a human being, not some other sort of animal.

What inhibits the pro-life discussion from making inroads with some individuals is misapplying the term "murder" to an aborted embryo or fetus. To science-minded, science literate men and woman, this claim makes no biological sense, and in fact, they are correct. The vocabulary of science and biology lends itself to clarity, and it should be used whenever available because clarity and precision matter a great deal to some listeners. If you are wrong about the science, you have no hope of reaching some people. The clarity of scientifically based language in the abortion discussion would certainly lessen the number of people who laugh at the Church. Specifically, the Church objects to abortion because the embryo or fetus would eventually become a human being, and man's interference with this process, while not "murder" in the strict Penal Code sense, is what constitutes the grave sin of abortion. However, does the “soul” exist in the unborn child?

In order to address this question we must first orient our discussion towards that which distinguishes us as human beings, and not simply another species of animal, as atheists claim. Man has been given dominion over all animals (CCC 2415) so when an animal is ethically treated, but nevertheless spayed, neutered, euthanized, sold, traded, used for scientific research, or otherwise treated as you would barnyard livestock, there is no outcry from the Catholic Church. The reason for this is that animals are living beings, but not spiritual beings (CCC 2415.) Indeed, then Cardinal Ratzinger wrote,

“By virtue of its substantial union with a spiritual soul, the human body cannot be considered as a mere complex of tissues, organs and functions, nor can it be evaluated in the same way as the body of animals; rather it is a constitutive part of the person who manifests and expresses himself through it.” Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Instruction Donum vitae, I, 1: AAS 80 (1988)

If man were not different in this manner from animals this paper would simply end here with the conclusion that, “abortion is merely the preferred linguistic expression society has chosen to distinguish terminating the pregnancy of a woman over, for example, a cow, and there are no grave bioethical issues associated with aborting any soulless animal form.”

Without this distinction that man has a soul and all other animals do not, man becomes just another animal form, driven by instinct and intellect, but not subject to any ontological principles. However, stating that animals do not have a soul does not necessarily mean humans do. So, what is a human soul, and where to begin our search for evidence the soul exists? We can start to derive evidence the human soul exists through a non-traditional route: By endorsing the existence of angels and looking for parallels to man or woman.

Notice in the above list of principal definitions that although angels possess superior intellect to humans because of their proximity to God, that is not a distinction which makes any difference to this discussion on “soul.” We are simply looking for evidence the soul exists. Setting aside the higher intelligence of angels, as well as the difference in their purpose in God’s plan, a comparison of the previous definitions of angels and humans will show humans share the spiritual nature of angels, and this spiritual nature is the distinguishing characteristic of a human soul.

In support of this concept fellow Catholic Peter Kreeft, a Boston College Professor of Philosophy, writes, “Man is the only being that is both angel and animal, both spirit and body. He is the lowest spirit and the highest body, the stupidest angel and the smartest animal, the low point of the hierarchy of minds and the high point of the hierarchy of bodies.” [3]

According to the Catholic Digest, both angels and humans are spiritual beings, but angels lack a body, as will all humans upon death of the body.[4] Further support for the existence of angels as spiritual beings can be found in Matthew 18:10: “See that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that their angels in heaven always look upon the face of my heavenly Father.” Therefore, if one can demonstrate God (or any creative agency) has revealed to mankind the existence of angels or “spiritual beings,” one has simultaneously demonstrated the potential for a human soul, since as defined ,the angel and soul share some of the same characteristics.

            It is worth noting that some of our atheist brothers and sisters have no problem, in theory, accepting the existence of angels so long as their creation or existence is not attributed to God.[5] However, regardless of their source of existence, accepting angels as spirit beings begat by any source is akin to accepting the existence of a soul. It is a distinction that makes no difference to this thesis that atheists prefer to hold fast to the belief that science will someday explain the origin of angels, ghosts, and spirits without the use of “God” in the explanation. But for the atheist’s concern about source, so long as this thesis statement reads “granted a soul”, omitting “by God,” even an atheist could agree abortion, because it separates the soul (irrespective of its source) from the body and dispatches it to places unseen and unknown, certainly creates some bioethical concerns. Atheists who accept the notion of angels or spirit beings could conceivably accept the fact that nobody has the natural right to separate the spirit being-soul from the body though the act of abortion.

            If the soul exists, central to determining when killing the unborn child becomes a crime against actual human life, as opposed to violence perpetrated against a tissue mass simply representing potential human life, is determining at which point the soul exists in this potential human being. At whatever instant we can reason the soul exists, this life form is no longer a potential human being, but in actual human being. We have already determined that the combination of soul and body constitutes the human life form that separates man or woman from animal. But does the soul exist at the moment of conception? Perhaps after a certain stage of embryonic cell development? Is the soul given at the point of viability outside the mother’s womb?

            Recall from above this paper is eschewing any attempt to use the empirical evidence standard regarding either the existence of the soul, or when the soul is infused. However, this is not my personal position, but the acknowledged position of the Church. Pope John Paul II wrote:

“Even if the presence of a spiritual soul cannot be ascertained by empirical data, the results themselves of scientific research on the human embryo provide ‘a valuable indication for discerning by the use of reason a personal presence at the moment of the first appearance of a human life: how could a human individual not be a human person?’” Evangelium Vitae, To the Bishops Priests and Deacons Men and Women religious lay Faithful and all People of Good Will on the Value and Inviolability of Human Life, 60 (1995)

            The Muslim faith tradition holds that the soul is given after 40 days, “[The matter of the Creation of] a human being is put together in the womb of the mother in forty days . . . Allah sends an angel who is ordered to write four things. He is ordered to write down his (i.e. the new creature's) deeds, his livelihood, his (date of) death, and whether he will be blessed or wretched (in religion). Then the soul is breathed into him.[6] While the Muslim view on the soul is not in full accordance with the Catholic Church, both faiths share the teaching that a soul is given by God to the unborn child.

            We have explored the existence of the soul through a comparison of the similarities between angels and humans, acknowledging if angels exist the human soul is said to exist. But there is also another method from which we can deduct the existence of the soul: We can scrutinize the source of human morality in comparison to all other animals, and explore if human morality is biologically derived, or from another source. If human morality can be shown to be based on something other than biology and genetics, it is a fair question to ask where morality in humans originates from, in what form, and whether or not this potency for moral behavior is present from the moment of conception. Such a presence would be further indication of a soul, as no Christian faith entertains the notion of a soul, a human body, and an independent and third agency known as “morality” untethered to the soul or body. If morality is not biologically derived in humans from evolution, it must be derived from elsewhere, but where? Furthermore, if it can be shown morality is also present at the time of conception, abortion could be shown in an additional way to be taking a human life contrary to the agency that granted the “morality” to the unborn.

            Modern biology theory informs us that humans are evolved animals, but unlike other animal species, humans are unique in their ability to exhibit rational moral judgment and behavior.[7] Distinctively in the entire animal kingdom, humans alone are not destined to be ruled by reactions based on instinct. But some would propose human morality is the product of evolution, and built into our genetics. Every argument in favor of evolution as the source of human morality cannot be explored in this paper, but the general theory is that morality evolved in humans because it contributes to social cohesion and to the success of intergroup competition.[8] Note when animals such as chimpanzees exhibit what appears to be comprehension of moral concepts such as “good,” “bad,” or “sorry,” from sign language, they do not really feel that the behaviors are morally wrong.[9] But if animals cannot truly feel that behaviors are morally wrong, why is this exception carved out for the human animal? If morality were based on evolution programming our genetics, morality would evolve to some degree in other animals; humans would not be the exception to this rule as we are. Therefore, morality in humans is not derived from evolution but from some agency that is outside of evolution. What agency outside of biological evolution could infuse morality into human beings?

There are two, mutually exclusive, options: Extraterrestrial, or Divine.

            The extraterrestrial option is codified in the religion (as defined by the IRS[10]) of Scientology, founded by L. Ron Hubbard. Briefly, Scientologists believe that time is kept in “AD,” or “After Dianetics,” with AD equal to the year 1950, (e.g. 1965 = AD 15) when L. Ron Hubbard wrote Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health.[11]  Scientology holds that a “theta being” (roughly the equivalent of a soul) is the agency that controls, guides, and imbues the human body with ethics, morals, direction, goals, and the ability to reason.[12]

In what reads like science-fiction but is in fact what Scientology teaches, the following are excerpts from a report published in the Los Angeles Times defining the theology of Scientology:[13]

Seventy-five million years ago a tyrant named Xenu (pronounced Zee-new) ruled the Galactic Confederation, an alliance of 76 planets, including Earth, then called Teegeeack.

To control overpopulation and solidify his power, Xenu instructed his loyal officers to capture beings of all shapes and sizes from the various planets, freeze them in a compound of alcohol and glycol and fly them by the billions to Earth in planes resembling DC-8s. Some of the beings were captured after they were duped into showing up for a phony tax investigation.

The beings were deposited or chained near 10 volcanoes scattered around the planet. After hydrogen bombs were dropped on them, their thetans were captured by Xenu's forces and implanted with sexual perversion, religion and other notions to obscure their memory of what Xenu had done.

Soon after, a revolt erupted. Xenu was imprisoned in a wire cage within a mountain, where he remains today.

Central to Scientology is a belief in an immortal soul, or “thetan,” that passes from one body to the next through countless reincarnations spanning trillions of years. Collectively, thetans created the universe -- all the stars and planets, every plant and animal. To function within their creation, thetans built bodies for themselves of wildly varying appearances, the human form being just one. Hubbard maintained, for example, that the concept of a Christian heaven is the product of two implants dating back more than 43 trillion years. Heaven, he said, is a "false dream" and a "very painful lie" intended to direct thetans toward a non-existent goal and convince them they have only one life.

In reality, Hubbard said, there is no heaven and there was no Christ.

“The (implanted) symbol of a crucified Christ is very apt indeed,” Hubbard said. “It's the symbol of a thetan betrayed.”

            Perhaps there are other, as yet undiscovered, extraterrestrial options for imbuing a human soul with morality besides those outlined by Scientology, but what should become immediately clear is that Scientology or any even remotely similar belief system is in no way compatible with the Divine as generally understood, much less Christianity. One must either believe Scientology (or similar) as the source of morality in human beings, or look for another source.

The remaining option is a Divine source for the origin of morality in humans. The characteristics of this Divine source of morality are beyond the scope of this paper. But if the reader does not choose to believe morality in humans is derived from evolution or extraterrestrials, only a Divine source remains. When would this Divine source infuse morality into the unborn? Are we to believe knowledge of moral behavior is granted by this Divine source separate from the soul, and only when the child reaches the age of reason? We can answer these questions by rephrasing the questions: Since the soul was granted at some point in time, is there any reason that morality is not intrinsic to the nature of a soul and therefore, not granted at the same time? Are we to believe all the intellectual characteristics of the soul are present, absent morality, when placed with the unborn child in the mother’s womb? No. There is no reason to believe “morality” is separate and not part of the intellectual nature of the entire soul.

This paper set out to establish beyond a reasonable doubt if abortion was murder, and if so, by what criteria. Semantically, abortions performed before the unborn child is viable outside the mother’s womb are not “murders”, but “crimes against human life.” In order to prove a crime against human life, the existence of a soul was established.

Support for the existence of a soul was drawn from two sources; the spiritual parallels between angels and humans, and an exploration of the origin of human morality, both of which pointed back to the potential existence of the soul in the unborn child in the womb.

Two major faiths, Catholicism and Islam, disagree on when a soul is granted by God, but regardless of personal belief or opinion, Catholics are obliged to accept the teaching of the Magisterium of the Church, which as indicated above by Pope John Paul II, has clearly stated the soul is given at conception.

To remain unconvinced abortion constitutes a crime against human life, if not outright murder in some instances, one must deny the existence of angels, dispute the fundamental definition of “soul,” and accept either evolution or extraterrestrials as the source of human morality over any Divine agency.

[1] H. W. Crocker III, Triumph: The Power and the Glory of the Catholic Church (New York: Prima Publishing, 2001), 79.

[2] National Conference of State Legislatures Contributor, “Fetal Homicide Laws.” at National Conference of State Legislators, 2013, at

[3] Peter Kreeft. “Angels: The Twelve Most Important Things to Know About Them.” at, n.d., at

[4] Stephen J. Benz. All About Angels. In Catholic Digest, January/February 2012, p 44.

[5] Angels, Atheists, and Evangelists. By: Wasserburg, Charles, Southern Review, 00384534, Spring92, Vol. 28, Issue 2

[6] Sahih Bukhari. “Beginning of Creation.” at University of Southern California Center for Jewish-Muslim Engagement, Translation of Sahih Bukhari, Volume 4, Book 54, Number 430, n.d., at

[7] Gerard M. Verschuuren. “Morality Is Not a Biological Issue.” at Strange Notions – The Digital Aeropagus – Reason. Faith. Dialogue, n.d., at

[8] Richard D. Alexander, The Biology of Moral Systems (Hawthorne, New York, 1987) from the jacket.

[9] Dennis L. Krebs and Kalenda K. Denton, “How Did Morality Originate.” at Evolutionary Psychology, 1 January 2013, at

[10] Church of Scientology Contributor. “What is the significance of the IRS ruling regarding the churches of Scientology?” at, 2013, at

[11] L. Ron Hubbard, Dianetics and Scientology Technical Dictionary (Los Angeles: Bridge Publications, 1989) p 9.

[12] Hubbard, ibid. 200

[13] Joel Sappell and Robert W. Welkos. “Defining the Theology: What is Scientology.” at Los Angeles Times, 24 June 1990, at,0,4570654,full.story


Stephen J. Benz. All About Angels. In Catholic Digest, January/February 2012, p 44.

Angels, Atheists, and Evangelists. By: Wasserburg, Charles, Southern Review, 00384534, Spring92, Vol. 28, Issue 2

Richard D. Alexander, The Biology of Moral Systems (Hawthorne, New York, 1987) from the jacket.

L. Ron Hubbard, Dianetics and Scientology Technical Dictionary (Los Angeles: Bridge Publications, 1989) p 9.