I saw a Jesuit priest I once knew recently. He was a good man who taught me much about Catholicism and I’ll always be grateful to him.
Before him, my Catholicism was one of vague notions. He helped me to ground it.
I do remember one conversation I had with him that always made me sad. He once said that while he was vehemently pro-life he was actually pro-choice the first few weeks of pregnancy.
Stunned, I asked him why.
He told me about theories about ensoulment and about when that occurs. And he talked about the fact that ensoulment couldn’t possibly happen before the splitting of twins can occur in the first two weeks of pregnancy.
I asked him if that was a rather limited understanding of the soul? And besides I said it was far from conclusive. Unless one is absolutely sure that ensoulment occurs at or after a certain time (which one cannot be) it seemed to me to be unconscionable to affirm the killing of the baby.
But he insisted his view was based on science. A fetus in the womb cannot have one soul if it about to split into two separate entities, he said. Ergo ensoulment occurs after twinning can occur.
He saw that I was stunned and he added that studies have revealed that anywhere from 10-25% of all pregnancies end in miscarriage. I guess that was supposed to shock me into believing that because God allowed…say…25% of babies to die in the womb then somehow I was supposed to believe they couldn’t possibly be ensouled humans and therefore could be killed?
I said are you saying that because God can do it so can we? But he simply returned back to the ensoulment issue.
I never understood that aspect of his argument. We are all going to die. 100 percent of us. The rate of miscarriages to me makes life even more fragile and worthy of our protection. But he didn’t see it as that. He saw the fragility of life as confirmation of his own thoughts demeaning the worth of early life.
Anyway, I saw that old priest a few days ago and I thought about going up and making small talk with him and maybe asking him if his thoughts had evolved on this in the past fifteen years. But I wimped out as he was speaking with a number of other people. And I had my children with me.
Now I’m regretting that decision.