Ancient Abortion

Last month I wrote here about the apparent prevalence of abortion in ancient Rome, but I didn't have sources to verify it. Now Mike Aquilina at Way of the Fathers has some answers.

A couple of days ago, Kathimerini, Greece’s “international English-language newspaper, posted The Wines and Herbs in the Land of Pan, a feature story that touches upon the medicinal potions of antiquity. Included in the discussion are contraceptives and abortifacients, which the Fathers consistently condemn (as do their heirs in the Catholic Church today). Rodney Stark studies the documentary and archaeological record in chapter 5 of his book The Rise of Christianity, and even includes a photograph of an abortionist’s surgical tools, unearthed at Pompeii. The Christian notion of chastity — which included opposition to contraception — immediately set the Church’s doctrine apart from all its pagan rivals. Moreover, Christian fertility contributed to the Church’s growth over those early centuries, while pagan sexual practices surely helped to carry out Rome’s slow cultural suicide.

Christians did not waver in this matter until the twentieth century. The Protestant Reformers — Luther, Calvin, and Wesley — univocally opposed birth control and abortion.

There are many good web resources on the subject. See here, here, here, and here.

For a fascinating book-length treatment of the subject, see my friend Pat Riley’s book Civilizing Sex: On Chastity and the Common Good.

I find this fascinating because it so closely parallels the decline of our modern-day empires. Look what happened to Rome. A mighty nation came to rule or strongly influence most of the known world. All this power and wealth created a culture devoted to pagan rituals, material things and sexual pleasure. There was also a general failure to procreate; abortion and contraception were widespread. Then a movement emerged that was organized around strong religious beliefs and had a very high birth rate. Over time, this powerful civilization simply died out and was replaced. Sound familiar?

The same thing is now happening to Western Civilization. We are not replacing ourselves because we find children inconvenient and expensive. Meanwhile the Islamic population is growing rapidly. It is also moving out of the Middle East and into formerly Christian nations. Project this forward another hundred years, as Mark Steyn does in America Alone, and it's not a pretty picture.

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