Human Life Education

Chapter Four: Humans Procreate, They Don't Reproduce

By Fr. Anthony Zimmerman

Cloners cannot make a man or woman, and married couples cannot generate souls for their children. If God does not create a soul, they labor in vain who attempt to make people.

Neither did animals evolve into humans by way of progressive biological sequences only. No animal could ever become human unless God, with immeasurable knowledge, with almighty power, and with condescending love, creates the animal into a human by way of infusing an immortal soul. The soul upstages what was before an automat of sense perceptions and instinctual patterns into a soaring free and intelligent person. Animals and plants can produce replications of their living substance; humans can procreate only by looking up to God to invent a new person.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church declares that every human soul is created individually and specially by God:

366 The Church teaches that every spiritual soul is created immediately by God - is not "produced" by the parents - and also that it is immortal: it does not perish when it separates from the body at death, and it will be reunited with the body at the final Resurrection.

Because God is the Divine Partner cooperating in procreation, spouses need to respect His presence during sexual intercourse. Contraception mimics what Adam and Eve once tried to do: to act like a god. John Paul II warned, therefore, that contraception is always so evil that no circumstances can make it good.

At the origin of every human person there is a creative act of God. No man comes into existence by chance; he is always the object of God's creative love.

From this fundamental truth of faith and reason it follows that the procreative capacity, inscribed in human sexuality, is -- in its deepest truth -- a cooperation with God's creative decision. When therefore, through contraception, married couples remove from the exercise of their conjugal sexuality its potential procreative capacity, they claim a power which belongs solely to God; the power to decide in a final analysis the coming into existence of a human person. They assume the qualification not of being cooperators in God's creative power, but the ultimate depositories of the source of human life. In this perspective, contraception is to be judged so profoundly unlawful as never to be, for any reason, justified. To think or to say the contrary is equal to maintaining that in human life situations may arise in which it's lawful not to recognize God as God. (L'Osservatore Romano, October 10, 1983, pg.7).

At a funeral we doff our hats and bow in with respect when a hearse bears away the body of a beloved person. We escort the person back into God's presence with prayer. We ought likewise welcome new human life as coming from the presence of God.

Life: What Is It?

Parent plants pass on plant life to offshoots by a vital connection. Seeds generated in the parent tree sail off to grow another tree; old stumps of some trees shoot up again as new trees; strawberry plants leap-frog stems to anchor roots for another plant; eyes of the potato germinate potato plants in spring; a leaf pinched off a flower buds roots in a glass of enriched water. Plant life is a continuum, the parent replicating itself in a newly sprouted generation of its own kind.

Even so, it is remarkable that no scientist has so far succeeded in concatenating a real live plant out of a concocted soup of chemicals. It appears that plant life is so different from lifeless chemicals that, unless God gives a jump-start, unless God empowers chemical material and transforms it into a living plant, plant life cannot begin from a mere electro-chemical mix. Plant life, I believe, is a created entity other than matter. The gap between minerals and plants is so great that only God can span it with His almighty power. God's power astonishes us, as it awoke the admiration of the prophet Amos:

He formed the mountains, and created the wind,
And declares to man his thoughts;
He made the dawn and the darkness,
And strides upon the heights of the earth;
The Lord, the God of hosts by name (Amos 4:13).

Can plants evolve into animals? I think not. The sense perception and awareness of animals is an entity different from plant life. Only God, I believe, can raise plant life into animal life. Your flowers never greet you in the morning, but your dog may joyfully leap up to lick your face. Again, once God jump-started animal life, animals could then continue to reproduce on their own.

Can animals evolve into human beings by natural processes alone? Never! The late Dr. Jerome Lejeune used to say that he likes to visit two places when traveling to a city, one is the museum, the other is the zoo. In the museum he hears humans argue whether they evolved from monkeys by evolution; but in the zoo he doesn't hear animals discussing whether they should evolve into human beings.

Japanese newspapers heaped praise upon a well-educated chimpanzee at a farm in Inuyama City. This gifted chimpanzee could recognize about 100 words, could count up to nine, could remember the names of various foods, could recognize Chinese ideographs and Roman letters, and could even distinguish colors.

To be noted is that all of these accomplishments can be performed by means of sense perception. The shapes and colors and sounds impact nerve sensitivities which track back into neural structures and patterns of the animal brain. The brain had already been imprinted with images from previous impressions. Neural patterns and substances react with other substances. These sense-bound performances are not spiritual thought which floats above the brain like clouds born aloft over the clods of the earth. The chimpanzee has not the slightest ability to think about right and wrong, about true and false, about the moral imperative of the Ten Commandments. It is concerned about food to be eaten, about bodily comforts, about time for sleep, about pats or slaps from us. The chasm that separates animals from humans is impassible from their side. We cannot train animals to think because they lack equipment to think with.

Humans, on the contrary, luxuriate in the joys of reasoning, of matching causes with effects, of recognizing what is right and what is wrong. We discourse about justice, peace and order, about what is good and beautiful and splendid, about God and eternity and heaven. They eyes of children shine when they learn good from bad, right from wrong, correct from incorrect. Parents speak to children, but not to animals, about angels and God and heaven.

Parents Do Not Beget The Souls of Their Children

In the early days of the Church a lawyer by the name of Tertullian (155-220) claimed that we inherit original sin from Adam because Adam's sinful soul is alive in all his offspring. The theory, which was not accepted by the Church, was called Traducianism. Tertullian was a great linguist who hammered out precise terms for Catholic theology, but in this case he was mistaken. He made other mistakes too, and finally left the Church.

In a sense the theory would make us receive hand-me-down souls already used by our parents, and their parents in turn, all the way through the generations until Adam. If that were true, then if one's father was a swindler, his son would inherit the skills and sinful ways of the parent swindler. But that is a false concept. God creates each soul new, tabula rasa, and gives us chalk to write on it. Come to think of it: how would the soul of the father and the soul of the mother - two distinct souls - meld into one soul for the child? Two persons don't fit into one person.

The truth is quite otherwise. God creates each human soul personally, fashioning every single person with His hands, much as He shaped the body of the first Adam from clay and then blew into him the breath of life. As Lactantius declared long ago, souls cannot reproduce souls like bodies reproduce bodies:

A body may be produced from a body, since something is contributed from both; but a soul cannot be produced from souls, because nothing can depart from a slight and incomprehensible subject. Therefore the manner of the production of souls belongs entirely to God alone...For nothing but what is mortal can be generated from mortals... From this it is evident that souls are not given by parents, but by one and the same God and Father of all, who alone controls the law and method of their birth, since He alone produces them (De opif. 19, 1 ff; see Quasten, Patrology II, 408-9).

St. Ambrose (340-397) repudiated Tertullian's Traducianism; so did St. Jerome (c.342-420) who grumped that this error excluded Tertullian from being a "man of the Church." With such clear opposition from the big powers, Traducianism was excluded from gaining a niche in accepted Church doctrine.

When father and mother present the gametes to build a new body, the soul of the person to be conceived is not yet in the gametes before syngamy occurs. When the 23 unpaired chromosomes provided by the father interact with the 23 donated by the mother, it is at that moment, we believe, that God, if He so wills, creates a new person. Parents plant a material seed, God gives it spiritual life. God does not select a soul out of some storage bin in heaven either. He creates the new soul out of nothing. He says: "BE!" and the person IS. He creates a new soul, on the spot, instantly. As Saint Irenaeus (125-203), Bishop of Lyons, wrote for the instruction of the new Christians of the still Infant Church:

Thus, when God gives life and perpetual duration, souls which had no previous existence begin from that moment to have permanent existence; it is, after all, God who wills them both to be and to continue to be. For God's will must govern and hold sway in all things. Everything else must yield to Him, be submitted to Him, be devoted to His service (Against Heretics II 34,4; trans. John Saward, The Scandal of the Incarnation,95).

Parents work with God in a partnership. They procreate with God, who alone creates. That is why all moral thinking and all sex education must begin with reference to God. It is He who creates human life, it is He who makes us exist in the first place, it is He who makes us creatures who can think and act as children of God. The natural law is part and parcel of our human being, because we are made into God's image. God does not imprint the Ten Commandments on our souls. There is no need for that. He creates us already knowing the Ten Commandments because He creates us in His image. We see light in His light. He knows right from wrong by uncreated wisdom, we know right from wrong by participated wisdom. Then He gives us the freedom to act according to what we are - His image - or to shoot holes into His image with our lies and sins.

Souls Swallow Matter Into Life

When we will rise from the dead, our souls will make our bodies into plastic spiritualized entities. The Risen Christ could sit down at table with the two disciples at Emmaus with the perfect appearance of a mortal body; then He could make Himself invisible by vanishing from their sight (Luke 24). The molecules, atoms, electrons and particles of His formerly mortal body were glorified. He next showed Himself to astonished disciples in Jerusalem, some twenty miles away. Without opening the closed doors He eased Himself through them. "Peace to you," He said with new-found joy. When they didn't dare to believe what they saw, He invited them to look again, even to touch His flesh. Yes, it was flesh. When that was not enough, He ate a piece of broiled fish before them (see Luke 24: 26ff.). He was human, He had a body, but the body was now independent of material laws.

The soul that we are during mortal life will remain identical after death. At present the soul is bonded by reason of the mortal body to the adhesiveness of gravity, to the tug of magnetic forces, and to the bonds of chemical valences; after death the soul will live on but without the encumbrance of the mortal body. God will admit the perfectly just into the sunshine of His presence; others He will send temporarily to the place of final purification; others He will ban out of His sight forever. Then at the time of the resurrection the soul will once more attach to itself particles of matter and align them into our identical human body, now in the state of glory and impassibility. We learn from these considerations that the soul can use random material particles to build our bodies.

Professor Carlo Molari, a prominent theologian at the Pontifical Urban University in Rome, describes the mortal body as compressed before its release: "Our body is condensed energy. It will flower [at the resurrection] in its totality; it will reach an unheard of dimension, like the fetus, which fully flowers at birth" (reported in The National Catholic Register, August 1-7, 1999, p. 4). It is at the resurrection that the soul will upstage the body into its full potential, rendering it into a state of glorified existence.

Body Particles Are Inter-Changeable

The ultimate particles of matter in our bodies are interchangeable. Some flow in, some flow out of our bodies constantly. If all my particles of matter were to migrate into you and your particles into me, neither of us would change. We would remain just as we are now, the soul living in one set of particles just as in any other set. Our souls shape up the particles and make them come to function in the structured form of a living organism. Particles are passive, the soul is active. It aligns the particles into place and organizes them into a living functional unit. It shapes the body along the structural lines of the genetic blue prints. The parents present the gametes that contain the initial building materials and genetic patterns. But it is God who, by almighty power, creates the soul that brings the gametes into life. Once God creates the soul, that person will live forever. The soul is a spiritual substance that is more powerful, enduring and versatile than matter. We cannot see or weigh human souls, nor photograph them, but our ability to think logically and to choose volitionally exhibits their presence and operation. Our spiritual wills can defy the torture of persecutors, can refuse to submit to the seductions of natural dynamics. Our thoughts are free-wheeling entities which escape gravity, but which can calculate the thrust needed to counter the gravitational pull of the moon on a space ship. Souls elude inertia, thermal dynamics and entropy. Souls, don't deteriorate with the years, don't yellow with age as the collagen of our tendons, don't become brittle as bones with osteoporosis.

Because God creates us, we belong to God and to ourselves, but to no man or woman. That is why slavery is so wrong, why creating and killing embryos in laboratories is forbidden, why attempts to clone humans for the use of others are out of bounds.

That is why it is also wrong to commit a direct abortion. No human has the right to kill the body of one whom God selected for life. Once God made us, we are each a unique person, unrepeatable, a "Big Bang" bursting now into its own cosmos. Each person created by God is property of Another, each is an original great pearl, is a diamond mounted on gold filigree. God smiled at us when He created our souls. As we offer reverence to God, so too must we revere the human beings whom He creates.

God, in fact, knew us even before He made us. "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you," said the Lord to the prophet Jeremiah (1:5). Note that God didn't learn to know Jeremiah after He had formed him in the womb, but before. We were all stacked up as gigabit units in His memory before He empowered us into life. He even had plans for the things we ought to do before He made us: "For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them" (Eph 12:10).

If God already prepared our works for us beforehand, He must have matched them to the capabilities that He foresaw in us. We are not children of chance; we are elite and fortunate choices selected by a loving Creator in the eternal workshop of heaven. Reverence for God should generate in us reverence for life. For that life during which we can learn to know God, to love Him, to serve Him, and thereby gain the joys of heaven. We close with this story related by Pope Pius XII to an audience of families on November 26, 1951:

We wish to cite an example ... It goes back to the year 1905. At that time there was a young lady of noble birth and of still nobler sentiments, but who was frail and of delicate constitution... She felt a new life springing in her womb, (but) she soon became aware of a peculiar physical indisposition, which alarmed the two able doctors who were attending her with every care and solicitude. The old apical trouble, the cicatrized lesion had become active again; in their opinion there was no time to lose; if the gentle lady was to be saved, a therapeutic abortion would have to be provoked without the least delay. The husband also realized the gravity of the case and signified his consent to the distressful act.

But when the midwife in attendance duly made known the decision of the doctors and beseeched her to defer to their opinion, she replied with firm voice: "I thank you for your merciful advice; but I cannot suppress the life of my child! I cannot, I cannot! I feel it already throbbing in my womb; it has the right to live; it comes from God and should know God so as to love and enjoy Him."

Her husband also entreated, supplicated and implored her; she remained inflexible and quietly awaited the event. A baby girl was regularly born; but immediately after, the health of the mother began to get worse. The pulmonary lesion spread; the deterioration became progressive. Two months later she was at the limit of her forces; she once again saw her little child who was growing healthily under the care of a robust nurse; her lips broke into a sweet smile and she passed away peacefully.

Many years went by. In a religious institute a young nun might be particularly noticed, totally dedicated to the care and education of abandoned children, bending over sick little ones, with eyes full of maternal love, as if to give them life. It was she, the daughter of the sacrifice, who now with her generous heart was doing so much good among abandoned children. The heroism of her fearless mother had not been in vain! (cf. Andrea Majocci, With Surgical Knives and Scissors, 1940, pp. 21 ff.).

Next Page: Chapter 5: Holy marriage of Adam and Eve
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