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.
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