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In Vitro Fertilization And The Catholic Church

The story of Nadya Suleman and her octuplets has dominated the news over the past few weeks. In case anyone is unaware, Ms. Suleman recently delivered octuplets after undergoing in-vitro fertilization. To make this story even more compelling, she already has 6 children and is currently on welfare. She reportedly has received death threats, primarily because taxpayers are angry about supporting an unmarried mother with 14 children who intentionally set out to have a large family.

Where do I start with this one? Let’s first examine the teaching of the Catholic Church on in-vitro fertilization. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC):

Techniques that entail the dissociation of husband and wife, by the intrusion of a person other than the couple (donation of sperm or ovum, surrogate uterus), are gravely immoral. These techniques (heterologous artificial insemination and fertilization) infringe the child’s right to be born of a father and mother known to him and bound to each other by marriage. They betray the spouses’ “right to become a father and a mother only through each other.” (CCC 2376)

Techniques involving only the married couple (homologous artificial insemination and fertilization) are perhaps less reprehensible, yet remain morally unacceptable. They dissociate the sexual act from the procreative act. The act which brings the child into existence is no longer an act by which two persons give themselves to one another, but one that “entrusts the life and identity of the embryo into the power of doctors and biologists and establishes the domination of technology over the origin and destiny of the human person. Such a relationship of domination is in itself contrary to the dignity and equality that must be common to parents and children (CCC 2377)


But what about the fact that this woman wanted to have lots of children … isn’t that a good thing? According to the Catechism:
A child is not something owed to one, but is a gift. The “supreme gift of marriage” is a human person. A child may not be considered a piece of property, an idea to which an alleged “right to a child” would lead. (CCC 2378)
The problem of “manufacturing children” in a laboratory is made clear in this extreme case. What I find maddening are the ethics and medical “experts” who are criticizing this woman and the doctor who implanted 8 embryos in her womb. What exactly would have been the ethical amount of embryos to implant? 2,3,5…who decides? What is the ethical thing to do with the “extra” embryos (which the Church acknowledges as human beings)? Also, what happens to the procreative aspect of sexual intercourse? Once the creation of new life is relegated to the laboratory, the main purpose of marital relations is lost. There are so many moral problems inherent with artificial fertilization techniques that it is plain to see why the process is condemned by the Church.
The other thing that upsets me about this story is the reason for the public outrage. People are angry that the state will have to support these kids, not that they were conceived artificially. Where does this end? Should prospective parents have to have to produce financial records before being allowed to have children? Should the government impose forced abortions on welfare recipients? Once we start to feel that children are goods that can be manufactured, their survival becomes a matter of public opinion. No longer is God the author of life, but we have taken over. We can dispose of them as needed.
Unfortunately, the Catholic Church gets a lot of criticism for its position on matters dealing with artificial fertilization techniques. As with all Church teachings, studying them in greater depth makes it apparent that the one, true Church founded by Jesus Christ really does know best!

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