On IVF: "I believe there is an ethical path a couple can take…"

A father, and committed Catholic, states his case for the Church revising its teaching on in vitro fertilization (IVF).  His story began with a medical mixup, and turned into a moral and ethical quagmire.

From CNN:

On September 24, 2009, the day Carolyn gave birth to a very loved baby boy, who was immediately turned over to his genetic parents, the Catholic Diocese of Toledo released a statement to The Toledo Blade condemning IVF as “morally unacceptable.”

Because we were the focus of the news, we felt as though the diocese was really condemning us.

The statement hurt Carolyn and me tremendously. We had hoped for the church’s support and prayer on one of the hardest days we’ve ever faced.

Carolyn and I have always believed in our stewardship responsibilities to the church. I’d given thousands of hours over the years to coaching youth through my local parish, have raised funds for Catholic churches and schools and have given charitably to church causes. Carolyn had dedicated her career to teaching and working as a principal in Catholic schools.

Instead of support, the church branded us in a very public way with the apparently shameful letters IVF. Why couldn’t the church recognize our journey for what it was – an affirmation of the sanctity of life? Their negative response motivated me to look closer at the issue.

I believe there is an ethical path a couple can take when pursuing IVF and I ask the Roman Catholic Church to consider adopting a new doctrine that provides moral guidance for Catholic couples on how to do so.

Read the rest. It includes details on Church teaching on the subject, which many faithful people continue to have a hard time understanding and accepting.

Comments

  1. I’m not really sure what’s to be gained from Savage’s perspective. He quite clearly fails to delineate between the role of “proper perfections” in the greater (i.e., metaphysical) sense, and the simple goodness of being a human person.

  2. pagansister says:

    What is wrong with turing to IVF for the conception of a child (children) when 2 people want to be parents? There are many reasons (1 mentioned in the article) that prevent this the “old fashioned” way. Good for Mr. Savage and his wife–they have 3 beautiful children. Sometimes the church needs to keep it’s nose out of people’s private lives. How is it wrong to want to be parents?

  3. Paul Stokell says:

    There is an ethical path for Catholics considering IVF. It’s called adoption.

    Which is more important to childless parents, for a child to be alive and well and in need of a loving home – or to look like them?

  4. I couldn’t disagree more with this story.

    As a parent of my two children, who just happen to be adopted, (they were my children from the foundation of the world, as God has this in mind all along) i find his appraisal of adoption as “if it’s right for them” as mis-guided at best.

    I believe the Church has it right on this one. He needs an understanding of the theology of the Body.
    Just because something is possible doesn’t mean it is good or allowable. St. Paul was pretty clear about that.

  5. Dev Thakur says:

    They are way off in their understanding, probably blinded by their own experience.

    The main errors are (1) downplaying the immorality of IVF by focusing on the side issues like destruction of embryos. IVF is instrinsically wrong.

    (2) The other error is opposing the Church’s teachign that a child conceived by IVF is less perfect. The Church teaches no such thing. Even a child conceived by rape is made in the image and likeness of God, and should be loved and cared for — this does not justify rape.

  6. ron chandonia says:

    Catholic teaching on sexuality is a “hard sell” not only because it is difficult for many people to live up to, but also because it is packed in scholastic jargon that invites misconstruction. I can just hear the angry father’s voice here: ARE YOU TELLING ME MY LITTLE GIRL IS LESS THAN ‘PERFECT’??? And if this is true of the teaching on IVF, it is even more true of the teaching on contraception. (“What do you mean, my wife and I just did something ‘unnatural’???”)

    It might be more convincing to ask this guy what lesson he thinks he is teaching his sons (and now his very “perfect” daughter) about Christian family values. What makes adoption so unthinkable to this couple, especially to dad? Are they perhaps afraid that a child who came into their lives that way might be less than “perfect”? And what then if they later detect some sign of imperfection among the brood formed from their own genetic material?

  7. How sad that this couple has placed themselves outside the Church by their actions.

    The reason IVF is intrinsically evil is that IVF always, always objectifies the child. Instead of being the natural result of the parents’ conjugal embrace, and thus a gift from God sought but never commanded, the IVF child is merely a consumer product, manufactured to the clients’ specifications. That the clients are Catholic and wish for many children is not enough to mitigate the evil that is inherent in the manufacturing of children.

    One would think that this couple of all couples, having endured the heartache of receiving the wrong “product” (e.g., human child in his embryonic stage) during an implantation process, would recognize the horrific evil this method really is at heart. However, our capacity to blind ourselves to the evil of things we really want for ourselves is always greater than we think it will be.

  8. Dev Thakur says:

    Erin: great points.

    We are not holy by having lots of children or not having lots of children.

    Having lots of children is only holy if we do it by accepting God’s will and the children he gives us.

    If a couple cannot have children, holiness consists in hoping and trusting in God but accepting His will at the same time. Maybe He wills they adopt?

    It’s never about our will.

  9. Let me preface this by saying that I can not ever know the pain that must come with not being able to conceive your own child. The maternal instinct that rests within the majority of women, myself included, is an incredibly strong force – it’s a very natural desire to want to have kids, and to bear those children. I have two very healthy, easily conceived children.

    However, if we are to live in the example that Christ gave us, ie surrendering ourselves utterly and completely to His Father’s will – then we contravene that directly by claiming that control over the creation of life via IVF.

    While the Church may not be great at explaining this position – I wholeheartedly support it.

  10. Sounds like he read the documents towards a conclusion he already had in his mind, and not read the documents with a heart open to Church teaching. There are so many errors in this article, it’s like shooting fish in a barrel.

  11. Mr Flapatap says:

    How many embryos die as a result of IVF? Many do not implant properly, many are frozen, perhaps to have their stem cells harvested.

    We are made in the image of God who is Love. As such, we should come to be through an act of love.

  12. Barbara Peters says:

    How do we know that God does not will that a loving devoted couple have a child through IVF? How do we know that IVF is not God answering the prayers of couples? God creates life – however the fertilization process happens. No life comes into the world without God. I think it is wrong to call the creation of life an “instrinsic evil” when God is the source of all life. I have had friends who have had beautiful wonderful children through this process – and I have witnessed the enormous sacrifice that couples go through and the devotion and love they have to each other and to their children. It is wrong to say a child conceived with the help of IVF is not conceived within the loving embrace of the parents and God. I have seen the frutis of IVF and I have witnessed the joy and love that the children bring to to the parents. Yes there are issues and decisions that a couple must face. But God is right there with them.

  13. Barbara Peters says:

    Respectfully Mr. Flapatap, it is an enormous act of love to have a child through IVF.

  14. Irish Spectre says:

    The irony of this fella’ challenging the Church’s wisdom in its teaching on IVF after what he and his wife have been through is stunning.

    Bearing children is not, never was, nor ever will be a right; it is a gift, and one that God in His infinite wisdom chooses not to bestow on everyone.

    Life was soooo much simpler when, more often than not, people’s faith and humility outweighed their hubris, rather than the other way around.

  15. Going through infertility was among the most difficult time in our marriage and certainly the longest – about 3 years, all told. Since my husband is adopted and had never known any biological relatives, I felt a great need to bear his child. We went through all kinds of tests – all embarrassing – only to be told over and over again that we had ‘unexplained infertility’.

    Not being Catholics, we had no moral guidance at all. Our evangelical pastor wished us luck with “whatever” and said he was praying for us.

    I researched *everything*. I couldn’t help it, so strong was this need to have my husband’s baby. I’d adopt others, but my prayer was, “Just one, Lord, just one ‘bone of his bones and flesh of his flesh.’”

    When it came to IVF, my research was sobering. A “good” clinic boasted a 25% success rate, but that success rate meant “pregnant mother” not “living baby.” When I started calculating the odds of a baby surviving the IVF process, the success rate dropped down to below 9%.

    God, by His grace, had equipped me to see things from the baby’s point-of-view, not mine. My immediate thought was, “What kind of parent would put their child through anything that gave them less than 10% chance of living through it?”

    IVF was crossed off our list. Even if it meant my husband never knowing a biological relative of his own. Even if it meant never having a child. Even if it meant our marriage failing.

    I know this couple loves their children, and I appreciate how hard it was for them to do the right thing in handing over the baby boy to his genetic parents, but I must wonder how many embryos they had conceived, and how many died in the course of their pursuit of their own goals at any cost?

  16. naturgesetz says:

    Barbara Peters — We know “that God does not will that a loving devoted couple have a child through IVF” from sacred scripture, so ably explained by Blessed John Paul II in his Theology of the Body. He explains that it is in sexual intercourse that the husband and wife are physically the image and likeness of God because their act images the total, irrevocable, creative, and self-giving love of the divine persons for one another. The “loving embrace” within which children are to be conceived is not figurative; it is sexual intercourse. To introduce other people into the act is to destroy it. In fact, IVF is not even an act of the spouses. It is not a loving embrace, it is a mechanical process.

    Just as a child conceived in fornication or adultery can be a joy to the parents, so a child conceived through the mechanical procedure of IVF can be a joy to the parents — and of course God is there because he is always there. But the beauty of the child or the joy of the parents does not mitigate the sinfulness of the unnatural mode of conception.

    When we let feelings — instead of faith illuminated by reason — become the touchstone of morality, we easily go astray.

  17. Barbara Peters says:

    Dear Naturgestez, If you have ever witnessed the loving devotion and commitment between a couple as they go through the process of IVF together you would not help but see the image of God’s love in them. I think you limit God’s love to say it can only be present during sex. The loving embrace with which a couple holds each other through IVF is not figurative – it is very real and by no means is it a mechanical process. If you had any experience with it you would know how a couple going through the process images the total, irrevocable, creative, and self-giving love of the divine persons for one another.God is present there. If you have never witnessed it or experienced it how can you say otherwise? Perhaps you are letting your feelings get in the way of faith? Perhaps you should read up on the experiences of couples that go through the in vitro process before you judge them as intrinsically evil and judge their act of love for each other as inferior to sex? By the way, sex between a loving married couple can be a beautiful thing, but with the stresses of daily life – sometimes it can also be a “mechanical process” but is it less holy if it is?

  18. naturgesetz says:

    Barbara —
    The very term, in vitro fertilization, tells us that it is something other than simply the sexual intercourse of husband and wife. It really seems to me that you are letting sentimentality blind you to cold, hard reality. I believe you that there are powerful emotions if the husband and wife are present when the other person in their threesome does his or her job. But it does not change the fact that they have introduced a third person (or more) into their marriage at its most sacred point.

    I have no doubt that many couples, poorly catechized in the meaning of procreation, mistakenly think of IVF as a wonderful way to have the children they want. Their joy in having their children is real. They may well incur no guilt because “they know not what they do.” But that very real joy does not mean that IVF is good, only that it is excusable in their case, and that the Church needs a better catechesis on procreation as cooperation with God rather than getting what one wants.

    And I never said that the couple are intrinsically evil. So for you to say that I have made that judgment is a misrepresentation of my words. In other words, it is a falsehood.

  19. My wife and I went through fertility treatments including artificial insemination (succe$sful), IVF (un$uce$$ful), and adoption (suce$$ful), and then after a conversion experience (which so often happens AFTER having children) finding out that our actions were sinful (though of course mitigated by a lack of knowledge).

    Surely we cannot guess God’s will, nor do we need do. The forgiveness of sin is not mostly about what we’ve done, but our future walking in Christ’s footsteps. To dwell on what we’ve done is to focus all too much on ourselves.

  20. Barbara Peters says:

    Naturgesetz – You are right and I apologize – other commentators have said that the act of IVF is an intrinsic evil – not the couple. I typed the sentence quickly and did not write it correctly. In any event, it appears you and I will never agree on this issue.

  21. Mr Flapatap says:

    Barbara,

    There is a difference between the direct result of an act of Love, and loving the product of a “manufacturig process” like IVF. The mention of Love in my post refers to the procreative action between two people who give themselves completely to the other that results in a new human being. This is completely separate to the love that any child (or adult) deserves from us because they are created in God’s image, a love that is denied to the other human beings who are produced and then discarded as part of the IVF process.

  22. Erin,

    Your statement, repeated below, about your view of the nature of an IVF child was striking in many ways:

    “The reason IVF is intrinsically evil is that IVF always, always objectifies the child. Instead of being the natural result of the parents’ conjugal embrace, and thus a gift from God sought but never commanded, the IVF child is merely a consumer product, manufactured to the clients’ specifications. That the clients are Catholic and wish for many children is not enough to mitigate the evil that is inherent in the manufacturing of children.”

    Contrary to what you say, an IVF child in most decidely not a “consumer product, manufactured to the clients’ specifications”. An IVF child is, quite simply, a child, and a child of God to boot. Would you forgoe a cardiac catherization to address a heart problem that you had because resprt to that medical procedure would mean that you are not “accepting the will of God”? I doubt it, but you could of course exercise the free will that God gave all of us to make that decision.

    The Catholic Church’s theology of sexuality has long been, to put it mildly, tortured. My own view is that this stems from the fact that the primary formulators of that theology are celibate, and all too often have an immature and stunted understanding of human sexuality, one that idealizes what they cannot fully understand. The Church’s teaching about IVF is a prime example of this problem.

    While IVF could be used for immoral purposes, such as to create children with only certain characteristics, the fact is that most couples that resort to IVF are doing so solely to have children, their biological children. It is an act of conjugal love, expressed through a process that carries with it no guarantee of success and a great deal of emotional and often physical pain. An IVF child is not “commanded” by the parents. Indeed, there is a low success rate, and when a child is born after an IVF procedure, that child is a true gift from God.

  23. Peter, you haven’t made much of a case for yourself.

    The FACT of the matter is, the IVF process forces the manufacture of embryos in a clinical laboratory. Natural conception, as you very well know, is entirely different than injecting a woman with artificial levels of hormones so that she “super ovulates” and produces a bunch of eggs instead of her usual number, then harvesting those eggs, then harvesting sperm from the husband (which might be a little more fun for him than the process the wife goes through), then having some (nameless?) technician combine them, observe them, discard any that don’t seem terribly viable, prepare some for injecting into the woman via syringe and freeze the rest for later thawing, reviewing, and discarding or injecting.

    There might be a loving and romantic end to the process of IVF (a baby or two or three or more, if all goes well), but the process itself is entirely clinical, and a manufacturing analogy is very appropriate.

    Parents who use IVF do NOT look upon these embryos as their children. If they did, they’d never choose IVF because the odds of the embryos surviving are so very low. And then there is that whole freezing process. What kind of parent freezes their spare offspring for later — you know, just in case they decide to thaw them out and go for another round?

    The whole nature of IVF and similar technologies is to treat embryos as property that can be artificially manufactured, manipulated, examined for defects and discarded if not up to snuff, stored in a freezer, and so on.

    Yes, parents love the kids who survive the IVF process, the same as any parent who conceives a child the usual way or who adopts a child. But I ask again, what LOVING parents would put their helpless children through this process to begin with?

  24. Barbara Peters says:

    Mr. Flapatap,
    In response to your comment to me, I respectfully refer you to Peter’s comment.
    Unfortunately it seems that many people have hardened their hearts to the unlimited scope and power of Trinitarian Love in a marriage. Couples are not separating themselves from this Love when they go through the IVF process – rather they are joining with that Love to create life. Thus, there is no separation from God and no sin.

  25. Oh, and Peter, your argument that the problem with this theology is that the writers of it are celibate is also weak. One would assume that celibate people would approve a non-sexual means of conceiving children. But instead, we’re hearing the opposite. Apparently, the Church values the sexual relationship between a husband and wife more than IVF proponents. (Think about how much money the drs. and clinics are making from those desperate people…money they wouldn’t make if they promoted conception through intercourse instead of their $$$$$$ clinical processes.)

  26. Barbara, I assure you, having been through infertility myself, that the treatments all separate a husband and wife through the process. Sure, a guy can hold his wife’s hand as she’s going through the pain of clomid-induced multi-ovulation and the subsequent “harvesting” of her eggs, but that’s not the same thing as being conjoined in the act, as it is with intercourse.

    Infertility treatments are invariably difficult, painful and embarrassing for women, and only occasionally so for men. Think about it. There is no equality in any of the processes, the way there is with regular sex.

  27. There’s nothing new under the sun. Abraham and Sarah were so desperate for a child that they went to a “surrogate mother”, in the form of Sarah’s slave maid Hagar. There were plenty of women in Israel so desperate to have children that they would pray to Baal and Asherah and perform ritual acts.

    Sarah and Abraham thought they had thought it out carefully and were doing the right thing and were totally okay with it, and I’m sure the pagan priests and priestesses were very nice and supportive. I’m also sure that Ishmael was a beautiful baby, and that messing around with pagan gods and crazy herbs didn’t normally make babies any less intrinsically lovable than the usual. (Though I’m sure the rituals and the crazy herbs often accidentally killed the baby instead.) But it meant totally turning your back on the way God meant things to be.

    The end, however lovable, doesn’t justify the means. If it did, every childless person in the world who wanted a kid would be just go steal babies announced in the newspaper, and we wouldn’t have laws and procedures and paperwork as bulwarks against naked human need.

    Obviously, it’s good that the Savages didn’t make bad enough worse. I applaud them for drawing back from naked need at that point. But what they were doing in the first place was wrong. Adopt, or accept disappointment like adults; or at least have the grace to come right out and say, “Yeah, we repudiate Catholicism, since we believe that God did a bad job creating male and female, and we’re totally okay with lab techs taking the place of the birds and the bees in our relationship. Providence is supposed to submit to us, not the other way around.”

  28. Barbara Peters says:

    Sparki
    I am sorry for your difficulty and pain. I hope you have found God’s Comfort and Healing. While I agree that the IVF process is an enormous act of selflessness on the part of the mother I know of many situations where the couples are united in their love, the husband is a true participant and the process acually strengthens their union. It can be an incredibly spiritual experience. There are some marriages where “regular sex” is not equal and some marriages where husbands and wives are emotionally separated from and in their sexual act. I think you actually make my point – Trinitarian Love is a relational Love – and that Love is present in the relationship of marriage between a man and a woman – it is the relationship that should be the focus – not the physical way fertilization comes about. I do not think it is right to lock our Trinitarian God in a bedroom.

  29. There is something to the objectification or commodification of the child in this process. The child is an end, something wanted by the parents regardless of the means undertaken to achieve that end.

    I have no doubt about the sacrifices– financial and emotional– necessary for a couple pursuing IVF. And parenthood itself will bring on more of the same.

    People are quick to compare IVF with heart surgery or diabetes medication. But those comparisons fail when you factor in another human life, and the dignity and beauty that are inherent in co-creating with God.

    A more apt comparison might be cloning. If I have a strong paternal or maternal instinct to raise my own genetic offspring, what would be wrong with cloning?

    Or for that matter, how about recent developments (successful in mice thus far, from what I understand) that enable offspring to be generated from two same-sex parents, or even from three distinct parents?

    The Church is right to question the practice of all of these technologies, and to help form our individual and collective consciences on them. IVF is fundamentally different from lots of other medical advances.

  30. Sparki,

    This comment you made struck me:

    “Parents who use IVF do NOT look upon these embryos as their children. If they did, they’d never choose IVF because the odds of the embryos surviving are so very low.”

    Surely you must know that conception and embryo development in natural intercourse are hardly a sure thing. Do those would be parents also lack love for their would be children?

  31. Mr Flapatap says:

    Barbara,

    I guess I am still not clear enough: sexual intercourse, open to new life, between a married couple is an act of love that carries two fruits: the well being of the spouses and the procreation of new life.

    Mixing cells in a petri dish to make human embryos and implanting some of them hoping that one of them will not die in the process and destroying the others is NOT an act of love. It doesn’t matter how much the spouses may love each other, it doesn’t matter how much the child (if lucky enough to survive) is loved. The act that produced the child is not the act of love described above.

    I don’t know what you mean by “Trinitarian Love” in this context.

  32. Barbara Peters says:

    Trinitarian Love – the relational love among and between the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. As Naturegestez pointed out “Blessed John Paul II in his Theology of the Body explains that it is in sexual intercourse that the husband and wife are physically the image and likeness of God because their act images the total, irrevocable, creative, and self-giving love of the divine persons for one another.” I think that relational love that images Trinitarian Love is present whenever a married couple engages in acts to create life out of their union whether that act is the physcial sexual act (which presumabley they are still engaged in with an openness to creating life) or whether that act involves the acts of going through the IVF process which includes many self giving acts. Some of the commentators here seem to suggest the same kind of relational love that a married couple brings to the sexual act is missing in the IVF process. From my experience as a witness to people who have gone through the process I have sensed a strong relational love between them and a strong sense of God with them.

  33. I’m certainly against the discarding of embryos, but if no embryo is destroyed, then what difference does it make how conception took place? It seems to me that the creative act of the Holy Spirit takes place when sperm and egg meet. Are children concieved by IVF not children of God like any other child?

  34. As a Catholic I accept our Church’s teaching on IVF though I have to admit I don’t understand it when I compare it to other scientific procedures such major organ transplantation and NFP which the Church does accept and even promotes.

    Although we are not taking about the creation of a new life, many of the arguments against IVF can be used to make a case against transplants. Talk about unnatural, talk about using (objectifying) another person’s body, talk about a utilitarian science, talk about not accepting God’s will for us when an vital organ fails. There are even more parallels than these.

    IMHO I think the Church needs to do a much better job of explaining why IVF and surrogacy and contraception, etc. are wrong. Perhaps as someone else stated previously it would do well to speak plainly and simply and leave out the jargon.

    I think the Church finds itself in a similar situation with NFP too and is not able to really explain without a lot of jargon why NFP is different morally than contraception. Both exist simply for the purpose of allowing the couple to decide if/when conception will occur (NFP’ers even brag about NFP being more reliable than ABC) without the sacrifice of abstinance.

  35. pagansister says:

    Barbara Peters: I’m with you all the way.

    I ask again—how is it wrong to want to carry a child to term? Adoption is wonderful—my mother was an adopted child. She, however, wanted biological children, and almost died having 2 of her 3 children. I find it hard to believe that THE church thinks that going through all the IVF encompasses can say that it puts a 3rd party into the couples lives. Yes, the doctor that helps them get pregnant. There are usually doctors at birth, plus others. That is rather intrusive. Guess I can’t understand the thinking, no matter how explained, against a couple enduring this process to have a biological child. There is something to be said for genetics in life.

  36. “Guess I can’t understand the thinking, no matter how explained, against a couple enduring this process to have a biological child.”

    If you can’t understand it then why are you against it?
    I think the Church has explained it in terms that are quite easily understood. IVF separates the transmission of human life from the act of intercourse between a husband and wife and places the “creation” of life ina petri dish. It also involves the destruction of human life when fertiilized eggs are thrown away. It could not be any clearer to me.
    It is the exact same reason why the church forbids artificial birth control. Whether it is sex without a baby or a baby without sex it’s wrong. Geez.

  37. RomCath, You hit on some of the issues I raised in a previous post and I would like to see how you would address mine more specifically because I really would like to understand and not just accept Church teaching.

    For instance, God created the process of sexual intercourse as the way in which married couples would cooperate with Him in bringing new life into the world. I get that IVF goes against the natural process God instituted and that is what make it wrong, until…

    I think about organ transplantation and how God created each human body as unique and containing certain integral, non-regenerating parts that make up the whole. I cannot for the life of me see how bypassing our Creator’s design and replacing one unique body’s parts with those taken from another unique body have anything to do with respecting God’s creative design. Don’t transplants and IVF boil down to the same argument; just because we can do something, and we can do it through our God given intellect for science, doesn’t necessarily make it right to do so.

    Honestly, I struggle with this and would welcome any help understanding.

  38. ormom,

    I’m not a moral theologian, but I think there is a great difference between organ transplant and IVF.

    Central to this question is the dignity of the human person, and how our actions show respect or lack of respect for that dignity.

    An organ is not a person. Neither is a person simply the sum total of his or her organs. Should an organ fail, there are no moral prohibitions to replacing that organ with a working organ from another person (or even a non-person, in some cases). Why? Because the organ does not make the person. Just so in the case of a gangrenous extremity. The extremity is not the person, so if the extremity is diseased or necrotic and, thereby, presents a threat to the person, it may be amputated. This doesn’t, of course, mean that we can do whatever we want with our bodies, because they are part of what defines us as persons. But it does mean that we are not obliged to sacrifice the whole person to preserve the part. After all, should the whole person be sacrificed, so would the part suffer.

    An embryo, however, is a whole person, body and soul, from the moment of conception. That embryoes are sacrfiiced as a necessary part of IVF alone makes it unacceptable, even if the Church didn’t teach that the process is contrary to God’s will for procreative love. IVF also very much challenges the dignity of the human person for his or her own sake, and not as the end or goal or product of a process inspired by the desire for a couple to have a child of their own genetic make-up.

  39. pagansister says:

    RomCath: Let me restate—for a religion that promotes life, and has the statement in it’s weddings “accept all children that God gives you (or words to that effect) complain when a couple, who can’t get conception through intercourse for medical reasons, has conception on the outside to be implanted back into the potential mother? Who knows what God would think? NO ONE. I think my lack of understanding is towards the attitude—also the rules on how 2 people concieve children. As for the “destroyed” embryos—I won’t go into that. I have opinions there too.

  40. pagansister says:

    BTW, RomCath: How do the powers that be in the RCC KNOW what God would say about anything? Where did all the rules come from on how a couple should concieve a child? The church is man made—-Just askin’

  41. Jack B. Nimble says:

    Roman Catholics, as with any denomination in our pluralistic culture, have the right to set out dogmas for their own flock concerning reproduction. What you do not have the right to do is the imposition of such dogmas, through the legislative process (state or federal), on the rest of us.

    As IVF involves the destruction of embryos it falls within the concern of the pro-life movement. Similarly, many forms of contraception also concern these activists. I have no doubt that if Roe v. Wade and its progeny went away tomorrow, the activists would not roll up their banners and declare victory. No, they would move on to forbidding non-RC couples their inherent right as free citizens to choose family planning and/or fertility treatments of their choice. When it comes to intrusive big government I suppose it depends on whose ox is being gored.

  42. Patrick, you’re missing the cold, hard facts of the numbers. The NORMAL outcome of conception that occurs naturally is a living baby. The odds are vastly in the couple’s favor that the child conceived will make it all the way through pregnancy. By contrast, the NORMAL outcome for a human conceived via IVF is death. By my calculations, when I was going through infertility and desperate to conceive a child, the odds of survival were less than 10%.

    Are you a parent? Suppose your child had the choice of going to two different summer camps. One camp had a reputation for all the kids returning home safely, although there were fairly frequent cases of sunburn, mosquito bites and so on, plus the occasional broken limb. On very rare occasions, a child was lost or killed in an accident, but this was an unpredictable fluke and most of the time, the kids were just fine. The second camp was in the shadow of a nuclear power plant that had melted down. 90% of the kids who attended that camp came home with radiation poisoning and died soon afterward.

    That’s what IVF is. The numbers are inarguable – 90% of the human embryos conceived in IVF don’t live through the process. And just like no loving parent would send their kid to a camp that had a reputation of killing off 90% of the kids, no loving parent ought to subject their own children to IVF, where there is a 90% chance of death.

  43. naturgesetz says:

    pagansister — As Catholics, we do not agree with you that the Church is man made. We believe that it was established by God: “On this rock I will build my Church,” (Matthew 16:18), with the mission of evangelizing the world (Matthew 28:19-20), and that for this mission of faithfully presenting divine revelation God gives the Church the Holy Spirit to guide the official teachers of the Church and keep them from error (John 14:26).

    So when the Pope and bishops prayerfully reflect on scripture and the tradition of the Church and reason about its meaning for the world today, they and we rely on that promised Holy Spirit to let them know the mind of God.

  44. Sparki,

    By your logic no one should have sexual intercourse, because a fertilized embryo may result, and may not survive. That is often the case, as you should know. Miscarriage rates for known pregnancies through sexual intercourse have been reported at 25% in some studies, and that does not account for early miscarriages suffered by women who did not know they where pregnant.

  45. Barbara Peters, I have NOT made your point. A Christian marriage isn’t supposed to have that emotional separation during sex. Any sort of separation during sex is indicative of sin (this is one of the reasons the Church teaches that artificial birth control is sinful, because it is a form of rejection between the couple, and with something like a condom, there is actually a physical separation). This not a normal, healthy state and should not be held up as the standard so that you can win your argument.

    A woman conceiving via IVF is impregnated by her RE (dr.), not her husband. The best the husband can do is hold her hand. Last time I checked, hand-holding doesn’t cause pregnancy. Infertility testing and treatments are commonly physically brutal for women — but they hardly ever are for men.

    And don’t ignore the fact that babies conceived via IVF have a very poor survival rate.

    No doubt, these couples WANT kids and intend to love kids, but they are not going about it in an acceptable way for Christian people.

  46. Peter, check your facts. The 25% includes the assumption of pregnancies that women “lose before knowing they are pregnant”.

    Think of all the women in your life. Does the 25% hold up? Not even close for me, and I belonged to more than one web group of infertile women! Even known all the women struggling to conceive the way I do, my personal experience has been the number is more like 5%.

    Regardless, if you think a 90% chance of the child dying is the same thing as a 25% chance of dying, you need a basic course in mathematics and another one in logic.

  47. BobRN, Thank you for your well reasoned answer. I agree with most of it. My continued lack of understanding lies with the Church and not your response.

    ‘Dignity of the human person’ is one of the phrases that for me, when used as a rationale, approaches a level of jargon since it is so subjective. Phrases like that just don’t help my understanding, i.e., I see nothing dignified for either person in the process of harvesting and transplanting organs. Certainly nothing more dignified than bringing an egg and sperm together in a petri dish.

    Sometimes I just think that the ethics involved in our medical advances are so complicated and happen so quickly that it is hard for theologians to accept or reject them, definitively and without error, according to our moral theology. Sometimes I think we let the camel push it’s nose under the tent and then when it becomes a problem later we can’t go back and correct the mistake so we invent rationales that don’t hold up in their most basic argument.

    As a person in the medical profession it is very hard for me to just be content with obedience to the teaching without understanding I can apply and so I struggle.

  48. Ormom, would it help to think about the WHOLE person? Organ donation involves one small part of a person being transplanted to save the life of another. In Christian terms, this is nearly equal to Christ’s definition of love: laying down one’s life for others.

    But in IVF, we’re not talking about taking one part of a person – we’re talking about the ENTIRE human being. That’s where it gets dicey. It’s not transferring my kidney into your diabetic body to increase your chance of living many times over. It’s manipulating tiny, helpless human beings and putting them into a process where they only have a 10% chance of surviving.

    Organ transplants promote life. When it fails, there are still other recourse to take to keep the beneficiary alive, at least for a while. When IVF fails, people really DIE. IVF only promotes life about 10% of the time, by my calculations and the whole IVF industry defines the beneficiaries of the process to be the parents, not the children. The children are in a very real way expendable. We’ll just throw out these that don’t look so great. We’ll freeze the leftovers in case we need or want to try again later. If most of them die, at least the mom is still pregnant, so it doesn’t matter at all. We won’t honor them with a funeral or grieve for them, because we don’t consider them people.

    It’s hardly the same attitude at all.

  49. Sparki, thanks for responding. I’m completely there with you when it comes to the danger to embryonic life that IVF entails and how that aspect alone makes it unacceptable.

    However, I don’t think that is the basic objection of the Church. I think even if doctors could remove all the risks the Church would still object because it bypasses the sexual act. And why is that unacceptable? Because it goes against God’s creative plan.

    I also think organ transplants go against God’s creative plan in the most basic sense, e.g., He didn’t create us to be spare parts for one another. We were created whole, one unique body and one unique soul, joined together until death and to be re-joined together again in a glorified state on the last day.

    I hope I have been clear that I am not arguing for or against either therapy, only to understand what I see as inconsistencies in the moral rationale.

  50. pagansister says:

    ormon #49, if your life depended on say—a kidney transplant, would you refuse it because you think it goes against God’s plan? My best friend of 33 years has lived a longer life due to 2 kidney transplants— 2nd one that was donated by her cousin, the first that failed but kept her alive for 3 years, by an organ donor. Just wondered.

    naturgesetz: Somewhere I remember that you, as Catholics believe that the Church was established by God. :o)

  51. pagansister, as I stated in #49, I am not arguing for or against either therapy. What I would do on a personal level if I needed a kidney (if anyone can even know that ahead of time) isn’t relevant to the question I’m asking.

    I also previously stated that I am obedient to Church teaching even when I don’t understand it as well as I would like to and therefore raise the questions that trouble me.

  52. ormom,

    A couple of thoughts:

    First, as Catholics, we believe that the Church is the instrument of God’s revelation, “the pillar and foundation of truth”, as St. Paul says. I’m glad to hear, then, that you are obedient to Church teaching even when you don’t understand it. There are any number of teachings we may not understand. There are a lot of things about medicine that I don’t understand. I work with my doctor on these matters but, when there is a concept I don’t quite understand, I defer to his superior knowledge and skill on the matter. The Church is God’s gift to us for guidance on matters of faith and morals, and not just one more voice in the fray.

    It’s in that context that I share the fact that, simply put, what you believe about organ transplants going against God’s plan is not shared by the Church or taught by the Church. It seems to me that one could take your logic, for instance, and use it to oppose removing a wart, or oppose getting braces to align mis-aligned teeth. The Church hardly regards donating organs, particularly from the dead, as reducing us to spare part lots. Rather, the Church regards such donation as an act of supreme charity. Why? Because, rather than degrading our human dignity, it exalts it because it is a response in imitation of Christ, who gave his very self for the sake of others.

    It’s not clear to me what’s so subjective about the dignity of the human person. It is nothing other than the respect we owe to each other and ourselves as persons made in the image and likeness of God. Certainly that respect includes not killing the innocent. It also includes not turning other people into objects or means to an end, even of a good end, but in respecting persons as ends in and of themselves. A child doesn’t possess human dignity or merit my respect and love because he or she represents a means toward the end of my achieving an offspring of my own genetic make-up, or the means toward the end of my feeling fulfilled as a parent. Even if, as you suggest, doctors could remove all the risks of killing embryoes, IVF would still fail the test of respecting persons as ends in themselves and not means toward an end, essentially reducing persons to objects. It isn’t all about bypassing the sex act, though that is part of it. The entire process of IVF reduces sex from one of total, selfless giving of oneself to the other to one of calculated contingencies that doesn’t even require that the other by physically present. Brrrr!

  53. pagansister says:

    ormom: It is obvious that you are questioning/struggling with some of the churche’s teachings. IMO, it is never wrong to question. I’ve spent some of my life questioning Christianity in general—thus my posting name. Wish you the best in your adventure.

    BobRN: Well written and informative post. (#52)

  54. Reading these posts has made me very sad as those who have no problem with infertility can never really understand how a woman feels when she is unable to concieve. As Catholics we were very upset when my husband was told that a sperm test he had was sinful..”spilling seed on the ground” was the actual pronouncement! As a result, we were quite shocked and had no other tests done..this was in 1950s. We fostered a child over school holidays and eventually adopted him after we raised him for more than 10 years! The fear of having him removed was always with us and did not help any of us, as for all those saying ADOPT, this is not very easy to do now as single mothers don’t give up their children! To adopt a child from another country is not easy unless you have the right contacts and are rich. I am now an old woman and still feel that we were cheated in having our family due to that low sperm count which could have been corrected. This was not a case of IVF, just a sperm count! Maybe the Church would allow that test now and we would have the large family we always wanted.

  55. Learned today of a boy who was told he was an IVF baby and he is not dealing well with this information. He believes the Church’s stance and finds his parents desire “at any cost” even sin to have a baby as wrong.

    So what is said to get him to accept his newly learned reality?

  56. naturgesetz says:

    Tota Tua —

    I think the boy needs to understand that, “That was then; this is now.”

    In other words, whatever the rightness or wrongness of how he was conceived, he is a human being deeply loved by God, and he is called to a holy life no differently than if his conception were natural.

    It may be useful for him to consider them many children who are born outside wedlock. They too are God’s beloved children.

    Whatever sin may be in his parents’ past is not his concern. It is between his parents and God. They may have acted in ignorance, thinking that what they were doing was okay. But regardless, it is not, objectively speaking, a problem for him.

    Most people find out at some point that their parents have “feet of clay.” I hope this boy can learn to accept that even if his parents are not perfect, they are still his parents who love him very much and who are entitled to his love.

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