November 07, 2010

In Vitro Fertilization and the Catholic Church

At the end of my November 5 entry, Nobel Prize For Medicine Went To Robert G. Edwards For IVF, I said I would talk about the Church's teachings regarding In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) in a future entry.  This is that entry.

Basically, IVF goes against the Church's beliefs and teachings about life, marriage, the conjugal act and the procreation of children.  Here are some excerpts from the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

1652 "By its very nature the institution of marriage and married love is ordered to the procreation and education of the offspring and it is in them that it finds its crowning glory."

Children are the supreme gift of marriage and contribute greatly to the good of the parents themselves. God himself said: "It is not good that man should be alone," and "from the beginning [he] made them male and female"; wishing to associate them in a special way in his own creative work, God blessed man and woman with the words: "Be fruitful and multiply." Hence, true married love and the whole structure of family life which results from it, without diminishment of the other ends of marriage, are directed to disposing the spouses to cooperate valiantly with the love of the Creator and Savior, who through them will increase and enrich his family from day to day.

The Church is clearly pro-children, but it is not pro-anything-goes when it comes to conceiving them.  See the next excerpt.

2377 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." "Under the moral aspect procreation is deprived of its proper perfection when it is not willed as the fruit of the conjugal act, that is to say, of the specific act of the spouses' union . . . . Only respect for the link between the meanings of the conjugal act and respect for the unity of the human being make possible procreation in conformity with the dignity of the person."

Because the Church believes what She believes about life, marriage, the conjugal act and the procreation of children, it makes sense that She would be opposed to IVF, which is a process that also includes letting some embryos die or killing them directly.
Many people, including many many Catholics, are not aware of these teachings.  Unfortunately, it is a topic that is hardly preached about on Sundays and I have never seen literature about the Church's stance on this readily available.  Adult catechesis programs would help, but they are non-existent in this area, at least that I know of.
Of course, in the secular world, this is another example of the Catholic Church being behind the times, but I think of it as another example of the Catholic Church being wise beyond her years.  This somewhat long and technical document reflects that - DONUM VITAE

For more general information, see these informative articles:

1) The moral status of in vitro fertilization (IVF) Biology and method by John B. Shea, MD FRCP, 2003, Catholic Insight.  The information is still current.

2) IVF and the Catholic Couple by Sheila Diamond

3) IVF and Catholic Teaching by Rev. Fr Clement Mary, C.SS.R.

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