The moment the egg and sperm meet is the beginning of a person’s life. It is a foundational moment. Just as the foundation of the person’s physical body begins, so at that moment (because the person is a body, mind, spirit unity) we must affirm that the foundation of the person’s mind, spirit and emotions are also established. If that moment of meeting was between two physically healthy people we hope that the physical aspect of the child is healthy. We would continue to hope that the emotional, spiritual and mental circumstances of the moment of conception were also healthy.
So, for example, if a child is conceived in a moment of drunken rage the foundation of his or her personality might be tainted with addiction and rage. If the child is conceived in a moment or irresponsible lust he or she may have irresponsible lust as a foundation element of their personality. If the child is conceived in rape and terror he or she may have rape, violence and terror at the root of their personality. Likewise, if the child is conceived in a moment of total, self giving, joy and ecstasy within the supernatural blessings of a sacramental marriage he or she will have joy, confidence, faith and love at the root of his or her personality.
When the church teaches that a child has the right to be conceived in “the marital embrace” therefore she is affirming much more than a sentimental attachment to marriage. Instead it is affirming a deep wisdom about the very best origin of the human person.
If this theory is correct, and I believe it is, then how do we judge all those parents who use IVF and the children who are not conceived and carried in these ideal circumstances?
It is possible to point out the problems with IVF and the dangers without condemning every person who resorts to it. The church can judge the morality of the actions. God judges the person.
Concerning the “test tube babies”: it is vital to affirm the goodness and eternal worth of every child–no matter how they are conceived and carried. We do not consider children conceived and carried in un-natural ways to be intrinsically inferior or less human. They might have flaws because of their unusual genesis, but that doesn’t make them less worthy. We all have flaws.
Furthermore, a child who may have flaws because of being conceived through IVF or carried by a surrogate, might be born into a more loving, accepting and healthy family environment than a child conceived and carried naturally who is brought up in a horrible, broken home.
If there are deficiencies that occur through IVF or surrogacy, we acknowledge that good parenting of any sort can make up for the problems that might occur within a less than ideal conception and gestation. It is possible for a child conceived by IVF or carried by a surrogate mother to reach maturity as well as any other child. They may have psychological or emotional problems as a result–but then children conceived and carried in the natural way might also suffer ill effects from problems in conception, gestation or nurturing. Likewise, a child naturally conceived and carried but given for adoption may have significant problems. With love, care and hard work problems can be overcome.
We support all attempts to bring good out of evil and every attempt to heal what was wrong, complete what was lacking and forgive what was twisted or ill conceived.
At the same time we affirm what is most natural, best and wholesome for the good of our children, the good of our families, the good of our communities and the good of our race.
And that is why we can acknowledge some benefits to reproductive technology, we decline to endorse artificial insemination, in vitro fertilization and surrogate motherhood.