A Pilgrim's Catechism
The Occasional Thoughts of a 21st-Century Roman Catholic on Journey
Towards the Reign of God
Roger van der Weyden: The Visitation of Mary
When is there a human person?
So far science and the law presumably based on science have not come up with an answer than demands universal assent. Some argue that the beginning of human personhood is only at birth. Others, of course, would push the moment back to viability, the moment when the infant can survive outside the womb. Others, and here we include the Roman Catholic Church, argue for the moment of conception, when the ovum is fertilized by a sperm. But even then the argument is not clear. Is it human life that the Church is considering or a human person?
For the pilgrim, what defines humanity is the presence of God himself through the Word, in the one act that is God’s being, calling the human person into an existence that shares his own divine life and continual growth in that life. This summons is spoken through the Word in God’s unchanging, eternal now. It is heard in created time when the foetus is sufficiently developed physically to support consciousness. Even at that moment, the foetus, even though self-conscious, is still without language and therefore logic which are supplied in the power of the Holy Spirit. The eternal call from God through the Word is heard as always in the power of the Holy Spirit and in the power of the Spirit an affirmative answer marks the beginning of the human person.
From that moment on, in each successive instant, God is always there revealing himself through the Word and summoning the person to further growth in divine life in the Holy Spirit.