Infertility and the Church
"What's the Church's stance on infertility?"
This is a common question I get. Funny thing, though, is that half the people asking are genuinely curious and looking for an answer that might guide them through some very difficult choices. The other half are simply trying to convince me that the Church is a backwards, patriarchal mess hell-bent on ensuring no one is happy - EVER.
Truth be told, for the first half of folks this is a really, REALLY tough question with even tougher answers. For the second set, however, nothing seems to satisfy them and my answers only serve to frustrate them more (since my answers only reconfirm my staunch support of and faith in the Church).
Anyway, I am gearing this response to the first group. Men and women dealing with infertility have my deepest heart-hugs. I understand what it means to desperately want a child and grapple with the threat of miscarriage. I understand the feelings of inadequecy, the self-loathing and the anger at God, the world, biology, genetics. I really do.
However, Church teaching, tradition and examples have made this much clearer for me, and through my own threatened miscarriage, it is what gave me peace.
The Church teaches that children are a blessing from God established through the union of a married man and woman engaging in sex the way it was intended. That is the only way children are ever supposed to be brought into the world as ordained by God. However, because humans take part in the creative process, we've got children born out of wedlock, we've got teen moms, abortions, child trafficking, etc.
What recourse does a couple have when they want children, but are biologically unable to produce those children?
The answer, in the Church's mind, is adoption and patience. I, for one, truly believe infertility is God's way to answer the problem of unwanted children. The Church also teaches patience on this through the examples of Sts. Joachim and Anne. They, too, were childless and infertile for MANY years. They trusted in God's Will and remained patient and prayed. As a result, they were blessed with the most perfect child (barring Jesus) in creation - the Blessed Mother.
IVF, "test tube babies" and surrogates are all contrary to Church teaching. Many people find that arrogant / heartless. How can an institution deny the basic desire to procreate with your own genes, especially when science has evolved to help us with that? The answer is simple - Science does not account for the Will of God, and those who chose the IVF route may very well derail the Will of God. Instead of granting that couple a child a month or two down the line (or even a year or two down the line) so he or she is the proper age to marry the person He created for her, or to have the teacher that would inspire him or her to become a religious, president, or doctor who cures cancer, they place their own desires above the desires of God through science. Slippery slope there.
We are asked to trust in God's Providence. We aren't asked to understand, just trust. In the end, God always rewards those who trust in His Will with countless blessings.
Also, I'd like to direct you to this article. Infertility is sometimes a gift given specifically so God can glorify His Blessed Mother through miraculous healings. We never can fully understand the Mind of God, so we do best to simply accept His Will with the trust that He will provide exactly what we need when we need it, both for our good, and the greater good of all people (children and future children alike).
All lives (past, present and future) are hand-made threads sewn into a tapestry that only God can see. When we attempt removing threads (through abortion), cutting threads short (euthanasia / murder), or pushing an extra thread through the needle before the time is right (IVF, surrogates, etc), the tapestry becomes sullied. God blessed us with the unique ability to take part in the creation process with Him, however, we have the responsibility to trust in His Design. Doing things contrary to His Will is a lack of trust in His Design, and I honestly feel that sin against Him must hurt most of all.
After all, God loves us so much and knows exactly what each of us wants / needs to reach salvation. He laid out the path for us to follow, but time and again we turn from that path for our own selfish reasons. Though a heartbreaking trial, infertility could very well mean salvation for not just the couple dealing with it, but the children they would have adopted had they not chosen IVF. Or the children THOSE children would have impacted positively having felt the loving embrace of adoptive parents.
We cannot see how the threads are to be intertwined. We don't know our parts to play until all is said and done. The best we can do is trust that God has our best interests at heart.
Infertility, at its root, is an opportunity to trust the Will of God and take part in Divine Providence.
My prayers are with all men and women dealing with this issue. It truly is a difficult cross to bear. May the angels surround you and guard you in your decisions, and may the Holy Spirit be kind and kiss you with extra wisdom, that you may see His Plans for you and your family.
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