A pastor’s letter on IVF

This merits attention not only for the subject matter, but the way in which a pastor has used this opportunity for a teachable moment. (H/T to Matt Abbott at Renew America.)

Below is the letter from Fr. Thomas Milota, of Saints Peter and Paul Parish in Naperville, IL, asking parishioners to oppose the construction of a fertility clinic a few blocks from the church:

Dear Parishioner of SS. Peter and Paul,

You have likely heard about the issue of the construction of a fertility clinic on the corner of Benton and Washington Streets and our opposition to this construction.

At first glance, this opposition may be confusing for people, because the clinic’s stated purpose is assisting well meaning couples in having a child and the Church certainly supports a parent’s desire to have a family. Indeed, there are many couples who have quite innocently conceived and brought into the world a child through the means of in vitro fertilization, which is the principal service that will be provided at this clinic.

Further, the Catholic Church reverences every human life as sacred and a gift from God no matter how they are conceived. Further, we are certainly empathetic to those couples who are struggling to conceive and we invite them to come to the presentation on Thursday evening to learn what other options may be possible for them. Certainly, the good intentions of our couples and their desire to have a child are not the reasons for our opposition to the clinic.

There are a great many practices associated with IVF which are contrary to the dignity of the human person and which many couples do not realize.

The first issue is that although IVF may produce life in particular circumstances, it also results in the destruction of human life. Typically, more than one embryo is produced from the process. If these embryos are determined to be genetically defective, they are discarded, frozen indefinitely or given over to research through which they are destroyed. Remember that every major physiology text books states that human life begins at conception.

Another issue is the commodification of human life which results from the practice of IVF. If you log onto Dr. Morris webpage, you will find the photos of a number of girls who have donated their ova for the process. You can choose which one you like the best, the most intelligent and best looking and choose to use her ova for your new child. Dr. Morris emphatically stated at the last City Council meeting that he will continue the practice of gender selection by which patients will choose whether they have a boy or a girl.

This leads into another issue. Dr. Morris on his webpage encourages couples who are looking to use or need to use someone else’s ova to solicit such donations from young women attending small local colleges. North Central College would clearly be fertile ground for this and there are no comprehensive studies determining the long term effects of this practice on young women. There are some smaller studies, however, that indicate that there is an increased risk of cancer associated with the IVF process.

Another issue is that thousands of unimplanted embryos will be stored at this facility. Some will be implanted. Some will be donated to science. Some will be discarded. Others will simply be kept frozen indefinitely…never being allowed to come to term. Most estimate that, at present, there are more than 2,000,000 embryos contained in freezing chambers around the United States. Most of these embryos will never be implanted or brought to term. If this clinic is built, we will be contributing to these numbers in a significant way.

Finally, all this will be within a block and a half of our parish and parish school. I hope this is a concern for you in that our children will be walking in front of this center on a daily basis. We will begin having to figure out a way to explain its purpose and that this is the place where the frozen embryos are kept in freezing chambers. If you would like to find out more regarding IVF and its dangers, please feel free to attend Dr. Caruso’s presentation on Thursday evening at 7:30 p.m. in the Holy Family Chapel. Dr. Caruso was involved in the IVF field for 15 years at the University of Chicago but has stopped doing IVF because of its dangers.

Pleas also consider writing a letter to our Mayor and City Council members encouraging them to oppose the placement of this center on the corner of Benton and Washington. I have included their names and emails addresses below.

Please also consider attending the City Council Meeting on April 3rd at 7:00 p.m. at the Naperville Municipal Center.

Please remember that we are Catholics and Christians and so all correspondence and discussions should be conducted with Christian Charity and respect for those struggling with infertility, but I hope you now understand why this issue is so important.

May Almighty God bless you and keep you.

In Christ,
Fr. Thomas A. Milota


  1. I think there’s an incredible challenge in how to present this to those who have used IVF to have kids. In one Chicago paper, the columnist wrote that he had his kids with the aid of IVF, then labeled those who opposed the clinic as “hateful.” So in that regard, I think we have an uphill climb. But this pastor’s taken a very good step in explaining why the Church opposes IVF, and he should be applauded.

    Here’s that Chicago paper column: http://www.suntimes.com/news/brown/11561123-452/a-personal-right-to-life-story-for-naperville-fertility-clinic-protesters.html

  2. Mary Russell says:

    That’s a great homily. Good for him.
    Setting aside pro-life objections to IVF care, there is also significant public health problems with the way these clinics operate. Even though there’s only a slightly better chance of a successful pregnancy by implanting 2 embryos instead of one, many desperate couples agree to the risk of multiple gestation. If twin or triplet pregnancies result, it is not only risky for the mother but often leads to sick preemies who rack up hundreds of thousands of dollars of NICU care.

  3. pagansister says:

    Respecting the Churche’s disagreement with IVF, I can’t understand how that should impact the building of a clinic that will be used for that purpose. Yes, they are entitled to their opinion and can most certainly raise concerns, but it is a medical facility that will have nothing to do with the Church. Whether Catholic couples use it or not will naturally be the concern of those couples, but couples of other faiths or no faith at all shouldn’t have a facility not be built because of the Church’s feeling towards IVF. Having said all that, I would hope that any couple would get all information regarding IVF—it’s good points and it’s bad points and then make an informed decision. I was fortunate that my desire for the 2 children I had happened without assistance, but I can understand the strong need a couple can have for children. If after researching the pros and cons of this procedure, and it works for them, why not. Many will say that adoption is an option, but there are many who don’t find that an acceptable option. As for women selling their eggs? Men donate sperm—so?

  4. “As for women selling their eggs? Men donate sperm—so?”

    My mother taught me two wrongs don’t make a right. One does not justify the other. Since both practices are disgusting and revolting reducing eggs and sperm to commodities, both are beneath the dignity of any human being.

  5. Deacon Steve says:

    When you commoditize the human body, you are rejecting the inherent dignity of the human person. Buying and selling eggs and sperm to circumvate the natural process by which children are intended to be created is morally unacceptable to the Church. In part this is because it separates the conception of the child from the sexual act between a husband and wife. The Church also opposes IVF because of the inherent destruction of human life that accompanies it. The process involves the creation of many embryos, most of which are not implanted and allowed to develop to their full potential. Many others are delibrately destroyed either becausethey are the wrong sex, or because they don’t think they will develop. Once implanted there is the morally reprehensable process of embryo culling. This is where healthy embryos that were implanted are aborted selectively in utero to limit the number of children that go to term. The priest was very right in pointing out the issues with this clinic and urging his parishioners to fight against the immoral actions that will be carried out in the name of “progress” and helping people. Lets not forget the increase in cancer risk to the woman who undergoes IVF, and the rising numbers of CF cases linked to IVF. I say good job to Fr. for adressing the issue.

  6. More than “two wrongs don’t make a right”, egg donors can over stimulate resulting in Ovarian Hyperstimulation syndrome. Although it’s rare, if it occurs, it can destroy a women’s; ovaries quite a price to pay for a few quick bucks.

    I’m not aware of any such physical risk with sperm donors, (save for post psychological factors for both egg and sperm donors), especially later in life when in more maturty, the donors may have deep regrets for obvious reasons.

  7. I wonder what it feels like to have been conceived by anonymous eggs or sperm. I think it’s probably a sad feeling but I don’t know.

  8. I could not agree more. If you want to enrage a Catholic who has had AI babies, mention this teaching. A brilliant diabolical tactic to separate some Catholics, who in their own eyes are trying to give life to human beings, from the Church. St. Michael’s assistance is needed I think. This is more than a slippery slope I fear.

  9. Kevin:
    Why would you want to enrage a Catholic who has had AI babies? How would that approach contribute to changing hearts and minds?

  10. Catherine says:

    “Many will say that adoption is an option, but there are many who don’t find that an acceptable option.” That’s a pretty weak argument for the industrial production of human embryos. I’m adopted, and so are my children, so perhaps I am biased. I married late, got pregnant once, and miscarried. It was heartbreaking, but not enough to get me to go the IVF route. In fact, I remember what one woman who did go that route said to me when we were in the process of adopting — “Why do that? Just plunk down your $10,000, and you’ll have a baby!” Her words sent chills down my spine.

  11. pagansister says:

    As I said above, Deacon Steve, I understand that the Church disagrees with this process for all the reasons stated by you and the article. However if the “old fashioned way” doesn’t work and a couple can concieve with the help of IVF, using their own eggs and sperm, then to me that would be acceptable. As for the frozen embryos etc. The question of when life begins raises it head here. The Church has answered it for themselves. To others? Everyone has a different opinion. Men have been selling sperm for a very long time, many just for the money and not worrying about the children that might result, they were merely the sperm donor, not the father. (a father is the one who loves and helps raise the child). It is most certainly easier for a man to donate than a woman. However the end is the same—helping a woman to concieve—with help. Again each person has to make up their own mind about that process too—using whatever rules they live by.

  12. pagansister says:

    Catherine, my mother was adopted also—and it would have been an alternative for my husband and me had I not been able to have children. My mother miscarried also, but after many tries had my 2 little sisters, even though she amost died having my first younger sister. No IVF was available then so I don’t know what she would have done. She may or may not have tried it since she did have me. However there are some people who apparently want the experience of giving birth or whatever or want the baby to be their biological child and will try IVF. I’m not promoting IVF, I’m just saying that for whatever reason, some folks do not wish to adopt. As for the frozen embryo situation—I answered Deacon Steve’s post if you want to read what I said.

  13. pagansister says:

    Joanc57: I know of 2 children who were concieved with the mother’s eggs and an anonymous sperm donor–because their father had been sterilized many years before while in a previous marriage that took place when he was 18. After the birth of his one child he chose to father no more. But he remarried and his wife wanted children thus the sperm donor. Those 2 children are beautiful and well adjusted children. I expect how it feels depends on how they are told etc. I have heard that there are adopted children who wonder who their mother/father are also.

  14. pagansister says:

    Wise woman, RomCath.

  15. Unfortunately, the Church knows all too well how to always throw the monkey wrench on most things of science or medicine. We do not live in a perfect world, yet the Church always demands perfection of human beings. I applaud the couples who go through this process and are welcoming children into their marriage and into our world. Infertility is a major issue today for couples for a great many reasons. I am glad that there are some solutions for many people. I think that it is arrogant for this pastor to be trying to dictate
    a legal use of this property that will serve many, and probably be assisting in the births of many of the future kids of his parish. I am sure that his intentions are likely well meaning, but at the same time inappropriate for the broader, diverse community that is not 100% Catholic, and which is certainly entitled to pursue this option. Catholics all too often imagine themselves the only religion and the only moral opinion out there. This is not the case.

  16. naturgesetz says:

    I applaud Fr. Milota for having the courage to address the issue. It’s so much more than most priests dare to do.

    That said, I think he would have done even better if he had been even clearer on the fact that it involves the destruction of human beings. Those of us who are famiiliar with the issue are aware of the implications of disposing of unwanted embryos, but for the unaware, it needs to be made explicit that we are talking of human beings (“embryos” may not be clear enough) whose lives are being terminated just as much as if they were aborted in the womb.

    Also, he could have explained more thoroughly how contrary the mechanics of IVF are to the marital embrace by which husband and wife become the one-flesh image and likeness of God in the very act of procreation.

    So it’s great that he did this, but too bad he didn’t do even better.

  17. naturgesetz says:

    “I applaud the couples who go through this process and are welcoming children into their marriage and into our world.”

    Of course, when there is a donor other than the husband or wife, it is mechanized adultery. In the cases where the sperm and ova come from the couple themselves, it is just a denatured process replacing what God gave us as his image — along with the almost certain death of numerous children whom the couple selfishly bring into being and then abandon.

  18. Infertility is a gut wrenching ordeal for anyone to go through. As the one who was infertile, with very low sperm count, my wife and I decided after much prayer and visits with a priest to use IVF.
    She had to use hormone shots to increase the number of ova. In the end only 4 actually “rippened”. My sperm were used to fertilize the ova. Only one of the fertilized eggs developed, so it was implanted into my wife’s uterus. We were very, very disappointed when the HCG testing showed no “pregnancy”.
    After that whole experience, we decided no more to IVF, and ended up adopting–couldn’t be happier.
    But, I still believe the Catholic Church needs to work with infertile married couples on this issue. The use of a sperm donor was never considered, and we were fully open to a twins, triplets or quadruplets, if all the fertilized eggs had survived.
    I still sometimes question the morality of our use of IVF, but our priest gave us good advice at the time we most needed it.
    We, as Catholics, should be open to life. And the Catholic Church should think long and hard before it says abolutely no the IVF when it is done in accordance with our Catholic faith.

  19. Regina Faighes says:

    Thank you for sharing, Catherine. It is not my place to judge couples who go the IVF route; however I wonder why people who desperately want to become parents do not choose to become parents to children who are already here, and who are longing to be welcomed into a loving family. Having no children of my own (either biological or adopted), and having been raised by my biological parents, I cannot speak from personal experiences. But I think that an adopted child must feel pretty darn special to know that out of all the millions of children in the world, his or her Mom and Dad chose him or her.

  20. It was rhetorical hyperbole HMS, I assume you can see that on reflection. I’ve had the personal experience of a woman who has AI babies lashing out at me simply because she knows me to be a “fan” of the Church. it comes out at you, I didn’t provoke it.

  21. Deacon Steve says:

    Steve there are many reasons why the Church says no to IVF. First it is putting a person’s desire ahead of the will of God. Remember in the wedding vows that the couple agrees to accept children willingly and lovingly as a gift from God. This means that we also have to be open to not receiving children. People selfishly put their desire to have children ahead of honoring this aspect of their marriage vow. Another major reason that the Church does not accept IVF is that it removes the conjugal sex act betweent eh couple from the process. Sex in a marriage has 2 purposes, procreative and unitive. IVF removes the unitive, just as artificial contraception removes the procreative. The next major reason is the high rate of embryo destruction in the process. Multiple embryos are created and either selectively or through a failure inthe process fail to develop. The Church believes that each of those embryos is a human person with the fullness of human dignity and should be treated as such. When we matter of factly accept the high failure rate we are condoning the casual destruction of human lives.
    IVF is never done according to the Catholic faith as you claim.

  22. pagansister says:

    So Deacon Steve, that if a couple doesn’t get pregnant the old fashioned way that God is not going to “give” them children? Is that the message? I find that hard to swallow. The desire to have children for many couples is very strong.

  23. pagansister says:

    Correction of my post for Deacon Steve reply above: “———that God is saying He is not going to”give them children?”

  24. “Catholics all too often imagine themselves the only religion and the only moral opinion out there. This is not the case.”

    Catholics believe that the fullness of truth exists in the Catholic Church. The moral teachings, not opinions, bind Catholics but are placed before all. The pastor is only objecting to it being built near his Church–isn’t there any other property to put it?
    Because something is scientifically possible does not mean it is morally right.What’s next– creating genetically perfect people, clones etc etc.??