Mattie, a reader, started an avalanche of thought for me last week. Ever since, I've kinda been on the hunt for answers to the many questions that've come from her simple, "Can ya just go get IVF?"
The short answer is No - for a variety of reasons.
IVF is considered immoral by the Church. Every child deserves the right to begin life at conception through the loving embrace of both parents who are in a stable, dignified and ordered marriage. In fact, a beautiful quote from the Church in Her DONUM VITAE states as much:
The child has the right to be conceived... to be the fruit of the specific act of the conjugal love of his parents; and he also has the right to be respected as a person from the moment of his conception.
That, my friends, is true respect. That is dignity. To acknowledge the right exists, even before this tiny person comes into existence, for a loving, sacred and nurturing place of refuge proves the respect and care Catholics take in our role as stewards of life.
This is why the Church so staunchly defends marriage and sexuality. These two unalienable gifts from God are the building blocks of healthy procreation. It is through the ordered marriage relationship that true sexuality reaches fulfillment - that fulfillment being the union of husband and wife and thus the creation of the physical, living sign of their love - children.
These children, having been created in the ordered and sacred manner in which God decreed, will be blessed to grow up in an ordered, loving household in which their own development can best be discovered, ordered and reach fulfillment.
This is not to say, however, that children from single-parent households, children of rape, children of adoption, etc cannot grow up to reach their full, ordered potential. Through the grace of God, anything is possible, and He certainly loves these cherished souls as much as those co-created in the marriage embrace. However, He desired that we order ourselves in the aforementioned manner because it is through this ordering that we afford our children the best chance for emotional, psychological and spiritual stability.
Thus, IVF (specifically the act of joining a sperm and an egg in a laboratory setting) is considered immoral because it removes this dignity and order from the person(s) created.
Credit: Glassanos - Click image for info
However, this leaves a really big question wide open, and the Church has yet to get entrenched in the details.
After answering the above question for Mattie, my mind traveled down the rabbit hole a bit farther. Since IVF has already been utilized countless times by infertile couples looking to have children, what happens to all the embryos created that are simply frozen in time?
There's no easy answer for this - and I've looked!
I've taken several key folks to task over this. Priests, two professional theologians, an incredibly smart and spiritually sound couple, and a smattering of ordinary lay-Catholics who have been touched by issues of infertility, adoption and even eugenics. None were able to provide a concrete answer because as of yet, there simply isn't one.
The married couple, however, provided the best resource I've yet seen on this! My special thanks to them for their incomparable knowledge and willingness to share that knowledge with others. I link it here for your own illumination.
In it, you will find two heavy-weight Catholic ethicists duke the issue out at a bioethics conference late last year.
Though I take issue with the attempt of Father Pacholczyk to denigrate the discussion into one of spousal rights (since this isn't so much about fertilization so much as adoption of a life that's already been created), what he says about causing us to tumble down a slippery slope is certainly a concern I agree with.
However, most of what Dr. Smith relays (comparing this to adoption / breastfeeding) falls right in line with my own views.
As a person who believes that God opens a window every time we close the door on ourselves through sin, I can't help but wonder if embryo adoption is God's way of answering the problem we created through the sin of IVF.
This is a question that, as of yet, has no real answers. As one of the women I talked to put it, though, I'd be hard-pressed to condemn a married couple who bore a child in this manner. Granted, I'd be hard-pressed to condemn anyone for anything, but I digress.
I can't help but wonder if God allowed infertile married couples to exist specifically so they could answer the call of these poor children stuck in a frozen limbo.
Just because I wanted to have some happy on here...
Vincent and I were playing with the camera the other day. Here are some goodies!
There is a woman on Facebook who has taken my Darkest Secret entry into over-the-top territory. I just found her posting the below questions on yet ANOTHER wall. Granted, she's driving traffic to my site, but I'm really wondering at what cost.
The insinuations she's making and the threads they then spawn (based on how she words her questions) have ended up turning this discussion very ugly. These are the threads in which people end up accusing John of being the spawn of satan or me being an inept child stuck in slavery caused by my blind zeal for religion.
She did end up asking a really great question at the end, though.
Anyway, a priest ended up answering one of her pointed comments. I felt the need to redirect a bit of that conversation (so that others didn't fall into erroneous thinking), so I responded. I'm going to post that here because apparently answering them in the commentary repeated times did absolutely nothing to satiate her curiosity.
I'll bold her commentary and leave as normal my responses. For the love of all that's fluffy and golden in the world, if you still have questions, direct them to me.
Please answer this as no one else seems to give a satisfactory answer.
The Catholic woman in the blog below is being forced to remain childless because her non-Catholic husband refuses to have more kids. A bunch of women have written in to comment and many - MANY - of them are struggling with a similar situation (myself included). I think you should do a segment that deals with how to answer this question from a Catholic standpoint.
1 - Is she committing a mortal sin by allowing him to do use birth control?
I'm NOT in the state of mortal sin. I'm not in the state of sin at all by being forced into a contraceptive union. My illustration is thus: Mike hits Jane. While Jane feels the pain incurred by Mike's slap, Jane is not at fault for his sin. Jane is blameless. So while I feel the emotional pain caused by John's decision to do this, I will not be held accountable in God's eyes because I'm not the one contracepting.
2 - Should she refrain from having sex if he's going to continue to use bc against her will?
To refrain from sex in order to "punish" my husband or guilt him into children is akin to breaking my wedding vows, so dear Father, I must disagree with you on this.
Sex is not just for procreation and it is not just for pleasure. It is also an important renewal of my wedding vows which serve to strengthen our relationship as husband and wife. He is already using one barrier to our union through his choice to use contraception. I will not be a party to creating another barrier through refusing to unite myself more closely to him through the act of sex.
That would be akin to Christ refusing me in the Sacrament of Holy Communion because I consistently fail adhering to His Will as we're called to do. I still lie, I still struggle with pride, and I don't accept the crosses He gives me with charity. I'm failing to uphold my end of the Catholic deal, right? Would Jesus ever refuse me (barring mortal sins) in the Eucharist? No. Thus, how can I place myself above His example and react to my husband in such a way?
No - it is better to leave this in God's Hands and continue to be the best wife I can be to him. Maybe through my example of love, he will come to know something of God's Love.
3 - Is she a candidate for an annulment since he's breaking one of his marriage vows?
I'm NOT a candidate for annulment as John changed his mind after marriage. Also, we're not LOOKING to separate as we still love one another and wish to remain a family. As Father stated, if John had lied during our vows and never had any intention of creating children, that'd be different. The fact remains that his mind changed and regardless, we still love one another.
4 - Since her husband is refusing, if he remains obstinate, would she be allowed to go to an IVF facility and "adopt" an embryo without facing a moral dilemma?
I'm actually on the fence with IVF. That's actually a REALLY interesting point that I never thought of.
Father is correct - IVF itself is morally objectionable due to the fact that science is not how God decreed life to initiate, but if an infertile married couple chose to "adopt" a life that was already made through the sin of another, wouldn't this be kinda like adopting the child of a rape victim? Or adopting a forgotten / abandoned child from an orphanage?
Since these embryos remain in a state of frozen suspension, a loving, infertile couple who are open to life but simply unable to conceive may have been created infertile by God specifically so they could be the Hand of Divine Providence for those forgotten lives.
I honestly have no idea about that one, but it's definitely something to think about. Anyone else have opinions on this one, 'cause it's actually a really interesting point.
So growing up in N. Philly has it's advantages:
Rita's Water Ice, soft pretzels, Tastykakes and cheese steaks galore. If you don't know what those things are, you are missing out!
However, Philly also has a bit of a drawback. We are listed by Forbes and the FBI as being one of the top 25 most dangerous cities in the nation. Growing up in Philly, I saw the change creep in as neighbors flew to the suburbs.
Luckily for us kids, our mother did an amazing job of ensuring we were always on the straight and narrow. We didn't touch drugs, none of us cared about drinking, and we knew who we could play with and when we needed to be home. Looking back, I now realize that many other children weren't so lucky.
Anyway, we had our share of violence. There's simply no way to shelter yourself entirely from it in Philadelphia.
Our home was broken into several times (once with the jerks even slipping a sleeping pill to our dog!). My brother was held up at gun-point, I was jumped, I think my older sister was jumped, and God only knows how many times we've had our cars broken into.
There were always reports of murders, arsons and gang violence on the news. A couple times they had to put our school on lock-down because of criminals shooting up someplace a block or two away.
However, none of that really registered for me. I honestly grew up thinking that sorta stuff was normal. They were minor irritations that acted as speed bumps in an otherwise blissful existence of aforementioned water ice, butterscotch krimpets and pretzels.
That all changed some 15 years ago (give or take).
My mother, myself and my two sisters were driving our priest-friend home after a nice dinner out. At the time, he was stationed at a beautiful parish that was smack in the center of a particularly thorny part of Philadelphia.
It wasn't super late, but everything was pitch black due to the season. We were sitting at a red light when we saw what looked to be firecrackers going off ahead of us. The "pop, pop, pop" sounds actually made me ask, "Are they playing with Poppers?"
At first, my mom and Father (who were sitting in the front seat), thought the same thing. However, as we saw one of them slump over as he went for the entrance of the corner store, we realized what it was we were witnessing. The light turned green, and I remember my mom asking (freaked out) "Do I keep going or what???"
Father actually said, "Let me out" but my mom shot him her best "That's not even funny, shut up and get the craziness out of your mind" look as she floored it through the street. I remember looking back as a woman ran off the porch towards one of the young men. She was screaming, "Call the cops, they shot him! They shot him!"
As we neared the end of the next corner, my mom was shaking. My two younger sisters were scared, and Father was doing his best to keep everyone calm. I felt like I had just witnessed a clip of a movie. I didn't think one way or the other about the actual shootings... I was focused on the woman who was running to tend to the young man I saw slumped against the brick wall.
By the time we reached the next block, Father and my mom were in a heated exchange. Father was trying to figure out how he could quickly get back there. My mom was trying to talk him out of it.
You see, Father's first reaction (aside from shock) seems to have been "I need to perform Last Rites. I'm a priest, and those two young men need me!"
He obviously didn't want to put us in harm's way again (which is why he suggested dropping him off a block or two off so he could walk by himself the rest of the way), but my mom (who was driving) wouldn't let him. The last two or three minutes to the rectory were spent in this worried exchange. I think the compromise was "I'll drop you off at the rectory and you can get another priest-friend to go with you because it's not safe to go alone."
After we dropped him off, my mom was in tears the rest of the night. We spent some time at the police station (where we learned that both men had died), and for weeks afterwards, both of my younger sisters had nightmares. I know my mom was upset about it for a while afterwards, but I never got past that woman in the street. I guess my mind simply ignores the murders and focuses on the pain it left behind for that frantic woman.
More powerful than that, however, is the deep respect and awe I had (and still have) for Father. Without thought he wanted to jump into the middle of a gun-fight so that he could prepare those two souls for their final judgement. By no stretch of the imagination is this priest the quintessential superman, either. He's not imposing, he's extremely gentle, and probably the most overly-cautious people I know (oh the tricks I'd play exploiting that aspect of his personality!). So the fact that he'd immediately throw all that out the window so that he'd be there for these two strangers (God only knows if they were spiritually inclined or not), speaks volumes about his character and his dedication to his vocation.
It was as if in that moment, the Holy Spirit enveloped him and nothing could be said to sway him from his mission. He became Superman, and I have little doubt that had my mother not refused to let him out of the car, he'd've been by their sides delivering whatever emergency baptisms, words of comfort or blessings he could possibly bestow.
Such is the heart of a priest.
Vince and I - he was about 8 months!
Katherine over at Having Left the Altar has tagged me with a list of questions - and you very well might be next!
I remember doing these on MySpace at one point, so forgive me if I cheat and use that for my 11. *Grin*
Post these rules.
Post a photo of yourself, then write 11 things about your life.
Answer the questions for you set in the original post.
Create 11 new questions and tag people to answer them.
Go to their blog/twitter and tell them you have tagged them.
11 Surprising Things about Gina
1. I was kidnapped and spent 2 hours in the trunk of my own car, completely calm due to the fact that hyperventilation would have smothered me. This happened about... eight years ago. Wow - time flies!
2. My favorite prayer is a toss up between the Memorare and the Purgatory Prayer of St. Gertrude the Great.
3. I'm extremely ommatophobic (eyes) and extremely carpophobic (wrists). I even get irked when I hear that latter word. I honestly think it has something to do with the stories of Christ's crucifixion as a kid... some theories of Him being nailed through... well... you know. Ugh.
4. I used to pretend I was Amy Jo Johnson (Kimberly, the Pink Ranger from the Original Power Ranger series) and instead of falling for the Green / White Ranger, I fell completely in love with Austin St. John (Jason, original Red Ranger).
5. I used to collect crack vials with Mary as a kid (5th grade) because I thought they were the capsules for those "Put your Name on a Grain of Rice" necklaces that were so popular way back when. Our D.A.R.E. Officer's reaction was priceless. Ha!
6. I once tried to save the life of a mouse that was stuck to a glue-trap. I was unsuccessful (mainly because my Dad stopped me and disposed of the poor little critter himself), but when a bird became trapped on one a year later, I reigned victorious.
7. I was never one of the "popular" kids, but everyone always knew who I was, regardless of my societal place value.
8. I was voted Most Theatrical back in HS due to the fact that I was a lead role in every play from Freshman Year to Senior Year. Everyone thought I'd end up on-stage someday... kinda gave it up after the Footloose Fiasco in college, though. Ha ha ha.
9. I "borrowed indefinitely" There's a Boy in the Girl's Bathroom (Louis Sachar) from my older sister's library collection in 4th grade because the title sounded funny. It was the first book I ever actually read and it opened the world of reading up to me.
10. I (along with my mother, two younger sisters, and a priest) were witnesses to a double homicide. The priest's response to the shootings shaped my awe-filled respect for the priesthood. I think I'll be blogging about him later.
11. I still cry while watching Mufasa's death scene in The Lion King. Wanna fight about it?
My Answers to Katherine's Questions:
1. Favorite movie genre? I'm a nerd - documentary.
2. Ideal date? Dinner at my favorite place and then home to snuggle with a show on the couch.
3. Favorite painting? This one. As an ex-dancer, I can't help but find myself drawn to the passion that this dance solicits. The colors are electrifying, the shoes make me want to pry them off her feet, and this painting is actually a "sequel" to another McDowell painting called "The Last Tango."
4. If you had/have a garden, what would you plant? I'm horrible with growing things. I've tried everything and nothing has stayed alive. Weeds die on my watch. I'd love to grow veggies or a fruit tree, though!
5. Mountain person or beach person? Beach, but I spent every summer in the Pocono Mountains as a kid.
6. Favorite type of restaurant? My favorite is Bonefish, but Olive Garden is a close second.
7. Do you play video games and if so, what is your favorite? Streets of Rage II. As I kid, I used to take all my frustrations out on that game. I purchased it as an adult and I can say that it still works like a charm. I'm able to defeat the game (on the hardest setting) with plenty of lives to spare. Plus, it's one of the rare games from my childhood that included a female protagonist.
8. You won the lottery. What's the first thing you'd do with your winnings? Bills. Technically I guess I'm supposed to tithe it, but I'd totally be paying down bills. Mine, John's, my family's, etc.
9. Ideal vacation? For John and I, I want to go back to the Caribbean. For the family, weekends at the beach are always perfect.
10. Beverage of choice? Dr. Pepper (unless Mr. Pibb or Dr. Thunder are somehow available). LoL
11. Favorite childhood toy? Glo-worm. I took him everywhere with me straight through college until some jerk kidnapped him while he was hitching a ride in my souvenir bag on a trip back from Disney. I cried the whole way home.
My Questions for Catherine, Shalimar and Michelle. Actually, I'd love it if anyone who stumbled onto this page would answer these. I love finding out about people!!!
What is a book that you read (whether for school, work, etc) that you thought you'd hate but ended up enjoying?
If someone were to write a story about your life, what would the title be?
If you chose your own saint for Confirmation, who did you choose and why?
What is your favorite image of the Blessed Mother?
What is your favorite go-to prayer?
Do you wear perfume on a regular basis?
If space and money abounded, how many pairs of shoes do you think you'd have?
Favorite farm animal?
Best advice for a child who wants something he or she cannot have?
Most embarrassing parenting moment?
Proudest parenting moment?
Now I'm gonna break from the rules a little bit. If you don't want to repost your own entry to answer these, feel free to comment or message me. Also, feel free to tell me you refuse to answer because you gave this sorta stuff up when MySpace got swallowed up by Facebook. Ha ha!
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