When Does The Person Begin?

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Can the Relationship between Fact and Moral Norm, as indicated in Humanae Vitae be Further Explained?


The relationship between a moral norm and a fact, as indicated in Humanae Vitae, is explained by reference to the integrally normative fact of the person349, one in body and soul from conception.  The distinction between a biological fact and a moral norm exists within the gift of an integral, bodily-personal nature; indeed Pope Paul VI says: 'biological laws ... involve human personality'350.  Being a person is a giftwhich calls each one of us to realize that the design of God is normative for us: Adam and Eve he made them (Gn 1: 27 - 2: 24); indeed if our vocation to love351 is to be open to the possibility of children, then truth teaches us to recognize this goal in the facts of our nature and the historical path of our lives352.  We develop this foundation of morality to the extent that we intelligently, freely and lovingly will our conformity to what God gives us to be.  In summary there is an action of God which makes human life sacred and directs us to be a 'religious being'353: a being fundamentally ordered to the goal of God354; indeed, it is precisely in the kind of relationship with which God capacitates us355, the relationship of person to person, that we embody the mystery of the divine Persons (Gn 1: 26): Each of Whom is a gift to the Other.  Also, we come into existence in relationship to the incarnation of Christ356; and thus our very being participates in a kind of manifestation of the 'simple-complexity' of the divine being.  Furthermore, in so far as each one of us is a unique realization of the 'idea' modelled on God Himself, then just as the eternal law proceeds from God, so it also proceeds from and through us.

Finally, Scripture signifies the unique act of God which instantiates an integrally personal being, one in body and soul, when the sacred author singles out the creation of each person (Gn 2: 7 and 22; 4: 1).  We see in this part of the literary method by which the author states that God instantiated the truth of His Word in the degree characteristic of each variety of created being (Gn 1: 3, 6, 11, 14, 20, and 24), culminating in the creation of Adam and Eve in His own image and likeness (Gn 1: 26).

Points for further consideration

1.  There could be further investigation of what is constitutive of the beginning of the human person, in particular of the Medieval teaching on substantial change.

2.  What qualifications would allow us to say357 that being able to take food and water is diagnostic of autonomous personal life (cf. footnote 298)?

349 Cf. HV no. 7.    Back
350 HV no. 10.    Back
351 FC no. 11.    Back
352 This principle is indebted to the spirituality of the Neocatechumenal Way and its emphasis on reading the lives of the people of God in Holy Scripture.    Back
353 CCC 28: 'one may well call man a religious being...'.    Back
354 The question of the effect of baptism on being is not irrelevant at this point even if it cannot be pursued here.    Back
355 In contrast to the relationship of man to animal, animal to animal, animal to plant, plant to plant, plant to matter and matter to matter.    Back
356 Gaudium et Spes no. 22.    Back
357 Rephrased with the help of M. Higgins, 23/04/01.    Back

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