Monday, October 10, 2016

Commentary on Anne Stensvold's History of Pregnancy in Christianity

Madonna del Parto Unknown Master, Italian (late 15th century in Valsesia)

Rather than write a book review, which would require more time than I care to spend on this blogpost, I thought I'd comment on one aspect of the book.

The History of Pregnancy in Christianity is an attempt to discuss the Christian conceptualization of pregnancy throughout the ages, viewed through a doctrinal lense.

Saturday, September 03, 2016

Need Help Researching Paolo Zacchia -- The Father of Forensic Medicine-- Latin Readers Sought

I spent last night and today reading up about Paolo Zacchia, the Father of Forensic Medicine. He was the personal physician to Pope Innocent X and Pope Alexander VII and legal advsior to the Roman Rota-- what you might call the Catholic Church's Supreme Court.

In 1621, he published a book entitled Quaestionaes Medico-L├ęgales, which expounds on medical knowledge as it pertains to Canon and Civil Law. (This is Volume 2).

In a number of publications, he is said to a proponent of the belief that life begins at conception. (For example here, here, and here.

On the other hand, this author says

Even after formation, moreover, the foetus was something less than a full person in civil law. Jurists discussed the haziness of this boundary; the eminent Lombard jurist Giacomo Menochio (d. 1607) and the Roman forensics expert Zacchia both debated whether one should speak of a ‘child’ (Latin, infans) and ‘person’ (homo) from conception, from quickening or only from birth; Zacchia held to the last of the three, even as he noted that ‘some physicians’ call it a child ‘once it is complete in the uterus, with all its members formed’.107
 [UPDATE: A Commenter on my facebook page remarked that "homo" does not translate into "person" but "man" i.e. "human being."]

The problem with Paolo Zacchias according to medical historian Jaclyn Duffin is that he is quite unknown in English speaking historiagraphy. He's referred to in scholarly works, often in a footnote, but practically no one has written anything about him, and there's scant biographical information about him.

His Quaestiones remains untranslated in English.

So if there's anyone out there among my readers who knows Latin well, I would appreciate knowing the exact passage (including Latin passage) in which Zacchia argues that life begins at conception, and, whether he considers an embryo a child, and in what contexts-- i.e. only legally or as regards baptism,etc. The section dealing with fetuses seems to begin around page 685.

Thursday, September 01, 2016

Thomas Fienus and the Decline of Aristotelian Embryology

During the Middle Ages, Aristotle's views on embryology were predominant, and shaped Christendom's approach to abortion. Although abortion was always regarded as a grave sin, regardless of stage of pregnancy, the abortion of inanimate fetuses (i.e. fetuses without souls) was not considered homicide, whereas the death of an ensouled fetus was considered murder.  

The Renaissance, the Reformation and the Scientific Revolution all challenged Aristotelian views in many fields of knowledge, and embryology was no different. Thomas Fienus (1567-1631) was a natural philosopher (I hesitate to call him a scientist) who introduced innovative ideas to the question of the beginnings of human life. Fienus was a Professor of Medicine at Louvain and in 1620 he published De formatrice foetus liber, in which he rejected the delayed hominization in favour of the belief that ensoulment happened three days after insemination, at the latest.

Not exactly "life begins at conception", but pretty close.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Combat Creeping Censorship of Social Conservatism

From CHP leader Rod Taylor:

A couple of recent examples come to mind. In Whitby, Ontario, Liberal MP Celina Caesar-Chavannes is sponsoring an e-petition calling on Parliament to ban images of the victims of abortion. The images, of course, are terrible to look at. They show what abortion really does. This makes Planned Parenthood look bad. Ms. Cesar-Chavannes and other defenders of abortion-on-demand don’t want people thinking about the suffering of the pre-born or the tragedy of their being killed. They want people to think happy thoughts about “choice” and “empowerment.” 
In Ontario and BC, provincial governments have drawn the curtain on statistics relating to abortion procedures. Taxpaying citizens are not permitted access to the numbers of abortions, the statistical causes, the negative health outcomes, or the cost to provincial coffers. It is censorship and that of the worst kind. They do not censor pornography or lewd displays during the so-called “pride” parades. They only censor important health statistics relevant to their favourite cause: abortion-on-demand. 
Another example is the recent action by the City of Hamilton to remove three bus shelter ads sponsored by CHP Hamilton Mountain. These ads show a man entering a door marked “Ladies Showers” and pose the question, “Competing Human Rights—Where’s the Justice?” It appears that some at the City do not want people questioning public policy, which is public information and thus subject to public scrutiny. There is something very wrong when any public policy is sheltered from public scrutiny.

If we're going to ban abortion imagery, then ban all violent imagery. If children shouldn't be subjected to pictures of abortion, then they shouldn't be subjected to any violent imagery. No more public pictures of abused animals, casualties of war, decapitated hostages, drunk driving victims or the like. All of it, banned! For the children.... Let's shield the images of dead children to protect children.

Meanwhile, lewd pictures in the public square are A-OK!

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Science and Logic are Not Enough: What Pro-Lifers Are Up Against

Once upon a time, it was widely believed among pro-lifers (and still is) that if we educate the public about prenatal life, we could convince them that life begins at conception and they would in turn recognize the humanity (and by extension) equality of the unborn child.

Seasoned pro-life activists who have come across educated abortion supporters know that this isn't true. There are many well-educated people in the world who can be persuaded to say that human life begins at conception, but that life does not amount to an equal human being.

I think the pro-life argument is based on air-tight logic. 

But here is what I have learned in debating abortion: There is more to knowledge than facts and logic.