Father Ralph’s Corner 11-23-2018



DIDACHE (100 AD) - The Teaching of the 12 Apostles

It was from about 100 AD that the text of the Didache (The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles) was written.  Perhaps this is the earliest extant text that explicitly forbids Abortion and Infanticide to Christians.  A translation of the relevant part of the ‘Teaching’ reads as follows:
Chapter 2. The Second Commandment: Grave Sin Forbidden. ‘And the second commandment of the Teaching; You shall not commit murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not commit pederasty, you shall not commit fornication, you shall not steal, you shall not practice magic, you shall not practice witchcraft, you shall not murder a child by abortion nor kill that which is born.’

That this was already a human being in its mother’s womb was not questioned.  The fact that a Christian believed that this was a brother or sister of Jesus, the Son of God, only made its killing in the womb, or immediately after it was born (infanticide), more profoundly wrong.  This was how human beings began in the womb of their mothers and to eliminate them by an intervention of whatever kind was unacceptable.  It was even referred to, sometimes, as murder— thus underlining the fact that the child in the womb was believed to be ‘already’ human.  Later the stage of development became the criterion for the ‘degree of wrongness’ that the procedure involved.  Quickening, the moment when the mother could feel her baby moving in her womb became the moment after which the procedure was totally forbidden.

As more and more was gradually discovered about the development of the fetus, the stage of development became the criterion as to whether for serious reasons (e.g. for protecting the life of the mother) the pregnancy could be terminated legally.  With the huge development of the sciences over the last couple of centuries a whole new plateau of understanding has been reached.  We now know not only that human life begins at conception.  This would be defined as the process by which the sperm in penetrating and uniting with the ovum becomes a single organism.  At that time this organism receives the genetic code, the DNA, that will determine its future growth and development as a human being even to including the unique capacities (potential) of its unique brain.  Previously it was assumed that many of these gifts or capacities were environmentally derived.  Now DNA has shown us that, although environment is a very important ingredient, the genetic (DNA) component of each unique individual is the primary determining factor. What this human being is and, because of its unique genetic “makeup”, what he/she will become IS already there.  To call it a ‘lump of tissue’, or the ‘product of conception, as those who justify the ‘termination’ often do, is seen to be profoundly deceptive.  The word ‘sophistry’ may be used here to describe the ‘fallacious reasoning’ that is involved.  In this case the deception or delusion consists in the  suggestion  by the phrases used— ‘lump of tissue’ or ‘product of conception'—that this is not in fact a human being and therefore the act of terminating the pregnancy is ethically acceptable.  But in fact because it IS already a human being it demands respect and nurture both from its mother and from the ‘culture’ that surrounds it.  For these reasons, besides others, the termination of pregnancies should become “unthinkable” and society (culture) should develop and promote an increasing number of “alternatives” to abortion.



Hubble tells me
that my blink of an eye
on this tiny
part of the cosmos
is of almost
no significance

Jesus tells me
that he loves me
died for me
and invites me
to share
the life
of the Trinity

with his Father
creates — in love—
all things
out of nothing

Thank You
for the joy
of letting me know
these things

Thank You
for giving me
the freedom
to welcome
and say Yes
to all
Your love
Thank You!


(Poetry and the Prose above by Ralph Wright O.S.B.)




My past lies
in the merciful hands of God.
My future
in His wise love.
The present moment
in which I live
is of no duration.
How then may fear win
mastery over my joy.


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Father Ralph (pronounced "Rafe") Wright, OSB is a Benedictine monk - born and educated in England - who has lived at the St. Louis Abbey, located in the St. Louis, Missouri metro area, since 1970.   Among many duties at Priory High School over many years, he has taught theology, creative writing and coached tennis.






Aidan McDermott