Ask a Franciscan

Beginnings of Human Life

Q: The Catholic Church teaches that we have a body and a soul. When do we receive our souls? Is it at the moment of conception?

A: Yes, it is at the moment of conception. Section 363 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that the soul is the innermost aspect of a person, what makes him or her created in God’s image. “The human body shares in the dignity of ‘the image of God’: it is a human body precisely because it is animated by a spiritual soul, and it is the whole human person that is intended to become, in the body of Christ, a temple of the Spirit” (364).

“The unity of soul and body is so profound that one has to consider the soul to be the ‘form’ of the body: i.e., it is because of its spiritual soul that the body made of matter becomes a living, human body; spirit and matter, in [a human being], are not two natures united, but rather their union forms a single nature” (365). Sections 366–67 also teach about the soul.

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