The Origin of Soul
The Origin of Soul
archimedes asked this question on 7/19/2000:
If I am correct, according to catholic doctrine, the soul is created by God at conception, the moment a sperm and an egg fuse. The question I have is: What is the origin of this doctrine? It could not have a biblical source or be the opinion or teaching of the early church fathers since sperm and eggs were discovered after about 1680. Antony van Leeuwenhoek (1632-1723), was the first, I believe, to describe sperm. I have read somewhere that early church fathers often speculated when the soul was infused into the fetus, and St.Thomas Aquinas, for example felt it was weeks to months after conception. In any case, what are sources and traditions that support this doctrine and when did it become official church dogma?
I like your question. It makes me look at aspects of teaching I have not considered for years.
First I would like to have you remember that in many instances the Catholic Church has no official coherent doctrine. The reason: she intervenes when there is an error. She corrects the error but lets the investigations and debates intact so that you have different school of thoughts even after the "Roma locuta".
You want sources. Do you know Denziger? He collected the pronouncements of the Church that are relevant concerning Catholic doctrine. You will find the numbers 170, 533, 1910 ff and 2327 focusing on one problem.
This is the answer to your first affirmation that God creates the soul at conception. The documents teach that the human generation does not "produce" or "generate" the soul. Pope Pius XII in "Humanae generis" after expressly accepting the investigations pertaining to evolutionism concerning a living preexistent substratum inserts a phrase in parentheses as a traditional doctrine: "… - our faith ordains us to sustain that the souls are created immediately by God - …" (Dz 2327). There is no explicit dogma if you want to find one. It is a faith traditionally accepted and taught.
In 1312 the Pope Clement V adopting the teaching of the XV ecumenical Council of Vienne (1311-1312) in the Apostolic Constitution "De Summa Trinitate et fide catholica" using the expression of "forma corporis" (Arist.) insists on the original and natural unity of the human being (Dz 481). The consequence: soul and body are NOT two realities that are joined later on. Real is the human being, one reality. He-she is wholly soul, wholly body at the same time. The Scripture has no problem in using one of the elements when it is talking about mankind. They do not exist apart
This means that the Church talked the way the Bible talks. There is no special doctrine concerning the soul, it’s about the integral person. At the beginning there is God who creates man out of two elements, one pre-existent and the other directly from Him. The NT supposes the immortality (Mt 10, 28) and the resurrection. Not even the "peuma" is considered separately because it causes (is) the new nature of God’s children.
There are intents to harmonize science and faith. If you can find the Scripta Theologica of Karl Rainer look at the "Problem of Hominisation". He tries to explain that there is no necessity to consider the creative action of God as something punctual, case after case but is included in the whole process as a immanent transcendent cause inside the process. Sorry, Karl Rahner creates new words as he develops his thoughts.
Concluding: There is neither explicit dogma nor a coherent doctrine concerning the creation of soul at the moment of conception. The whole person is a creation of God directly and indirectly. How so? Speculations are allowed if you sustain that the soul is not a "product of man".
The Genesis story makes an impressive distinction between body and soul. The earth molded by the hands of God receives the inspiration directly from God. So you have even a biblical foundation.
Thank you for causing me to go back to the mysteries of God in normal human life.