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Promoting Intimacy and Other-Centered Sexuality
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Catholic History of Abortion
The Catholic Church view on abortion these days - that life begins at conception - started only in the 1700s. From 1 AD until the 1700s, they followed the theories of the Greek Dioscerites who advised herbs (the Flowers of Venus) to bring on menses if they were missed, up until 3 months. They didn't call it abortion, but "induction of the menses." They thought it was necessary for a woman to menstruate every month to purge the toxins in her body, and grew 135 herbs to induce menstruation. When Charlemagne traveled with his entourage around 800 AD, he sent advance notice to his hosts that they must have an herb garden with cures for indigestion, for sleep, for inducing menses. What do you know? RU486 is one of those herbs mentioned by Dioscerites in his Pharmaceutical Manual before 100 AD.
So for 1700 years the church considered it OK to induce menstruation, and it was not considered abortion. Of course Benedictine quoted Aristotle, who he said was a great embryologist, as asking, "When does a fetus become human?" His answer was "40 days for a male, 80 days for a female." That's why girls are not as intelligent as boys! However, the speaker says it isn't true that sperm are all in a race to see who can get to the egg first. At ejaculation 40% don't know where to go, 40% go off in any direction. Sperm are cheap so they can afford to be dumb! (The speaker's words, not mine!)
Muslims do not allow abortion, but do allow menstrual extraction. In China a fetus does not become human until the baby is three days old and blessed by the patriarch and named. So infanticide before the baby is three days old is not considered wrong.
And as far as virginity at marriage is concerned, the worldview has changed. Bedding before the wedding was accepted for centuries. In Germany the custom was window courting. The girl hangs a red lantern in the window so all the young boys in the village come to see her in the window. She looks them over and if she finds one she likes, she invites him in and they can sleep together for weeks or months. If she becomes pregnant, she tells her father she wants to marry him, and the priest readily does so. This, of course, was to prove that she was fertile and an acceptable bride. But we can also wonder at what point the Church decided that a bride must be a virgin. Even the Puritans in America had the bundling custom of a boy and girl sleeping together, with a board between them to keep them pure!
Northern California Community Journal
May / June 2003
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