by Mike Aquilina –
We’ve come a long way, baby. And we’ve ended up back where we started before the rise of Christianity. In the Church’s infancy, the age of the Fathers, abortion and infanticide were commonplace events, requiring little deliberation. Archeology has yielded us a rare glimpse at the inner life of ordinary people in this time. We have a letter from a pagan businessman in which he wrote home to his pregnant wife, amid the usual endearments: “If you are delivered of a child [before I come home], if it is a boy, keep it, if a girl discard it.”
Indeed, most pagan cultures considered it a duty to place “defective” newborns on the dunghills at the edge of town, where birds of prey could pick them apart. Most families interpreted the word “defective” broadly, to include female children as well as those with disabilities or disfigurement. Plato and Aristotle commended the practice, and the Roman historian Tacitus said it was “sinister and revolting” for Jews to forbid infanticide.
Yet these practices created a crisis for pagans. Abortion and infanticide led to low fertility rates, high maternal mortality, a shortage of marriageable women, and an absence of familial care for the elderly. [Read more…]