Widely known as a key contributor to the Roman Catholic Church's body of doctrine, St. Thomas Aquinas also published an opinion on the moral status of embryos and fetuses that seems contradictory to the Catholic Church's current standpoint on the matter. Born in Naples, Italy, around 1225 (scholars debate the exact year of many of his life events) to wealthy nobility, Thomas Aquinas quickly proved himself a pious and astute scholar with an insatiable desire for logic and understanding. After receiving his formative education in Montecassino and Naples, Italy, Aquinas joined the order of the Dominicans. His desire for the holy life shocked and upset his family, who lamented his choice of a poor lifestyle devoted to service. To prevent Aquinas from following through with his plan, his family held him captive in the San Giovanni fortress in Rocca Secca, Italy, for nearly two years. After his mother and siblings noted his devotion to the Church evidenced by his daily studies and constant writing (not to mention his dismissal of concubines), they relented and allowed him to take his vows with the Dominicans around 1245. It is also estimated that he officially received his Master's in the Arts from the University of Naples around this time.
The principal work of St. Thomas Aquinas, the Summa Theologica is divided into three parts and is designed to instruct both beginners and experts in all matters of Christian Truth. It discusses topics central to Christian morality, ethics, law, and the life of Christ, providing philosophical and theological solutions to common arguments and questions surrounding the Christian faith. The views presented in this body of writing are currently upheld in large part by the modern doctrines of the Roman Catholic Church. Interesting references to and insights on ensoulment and embryology, as well as other topics discussed in Summa Theologica, indicate a strong Aristotelian and Augustinian influence.