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On "In Vitro Fertilization"


As science and technology advances, man must always discern if the advancement is for the better of mankind. As children of God, we are given an intellect and will to make decisions throughout our lives and a Church to guide these decisions. Reproductive technology is an example in which Mother Church teaches her faithful the truth, based on the teaching of Jesus Christ.

To understand why certain reproductive technology is morally licit or illicit, one must first comprehend the sacrament of marriage and the dignity of each human being. The child, in the womb, (which sad to say, is one of the most dangerous places to be these days), is a gift from God, and is to be valued and protected as such. This new life is the fruit of the love between a married couple, in the conjugal act, exhibiting unity and procreation.

In vitro fertilization or IVF, is a reproductive technique with the intention to procreate. The ova from the woman, along with the sperm from the man, are retrieved and the two are placed in a lab dish. Fertilization soon follows and the embryo is placed in the woman’s uterus. The intention to procreate is a good end, but the means to that end is contrary to moral, natural law. It puts the child at the hands of technology, and completely disrespects the sanctity of human life. In IVF, conception not only takes place outside the mother’s body, but also outside the conjugal act itself. The man and woman no longer come together as one, in body and spirit, in the unitive way. The mixing of sperm and ova result in the creation of embryos, or human beings. The ‘extra embryos’, those not used for the couple, are either frozen for later use, or destroyed. This discarding, or murder, and freezing of embryo’s, does a grave injustice and disrespect to a human life. The new child also is deprived of conception in his mother’s womb. This means to procreate, is intrinsically evil, and contrary to the natural moral law.

IVF is separated into heterologous and homologous. Heterologous IVF involves a man’s sperm or a woman’s ova, outside the marriage. Homologous IVF, is strictly the husband’s sperm and his wife’s ovum. In Homologous, as well as in heterologous, fertilization takes place outside the uterus, usually in a lab dish. They both take place outside the conjugal act, separating the unitive and procreative aspects. Heterologous IVF, hurts the unity of marriage, as well as the dignity of the spouses, and the child conceived. The child, being the fruit of a marriage, has the right to be conceived in his mother’s womb, as well as, carried to full term. Surrogate motherhood involves in vitro fertilization or artificial insemination within another woman. This does great danger to the unity of the marriage and to the dignity of the child. The child has the right to be carried by his own mother and brought up by his own two parents. The surrogate mother, who may see this as heroic and as a good end, is involved in an evil means. She, as Donum Vitae states, "represents an objective failure to meet the obligations of maternal love, of conjugal fidelity, and of responsible motherhood." In surrogate motherhood and IVF, heterologous and homologous, man attempts to play the role of the Creator. As a result, children are seen as objects, to be frozen, or even discarded, rather than gifts from God. Since the unitive and procreative aspects are separated, and the conjugal act is absent, these reproductive technologies are contrary to the natural, moral law.

There are two methods that, to date, are left unanswered by the Church. TOTS and GIFT are fairly new techniques, in which the physical union of man and woman, in the conjugal act, takes place. In TOTS, the man’s sperm is collected in a perforated sheath and manipulated in ways to make conception easier. The ovum and sperm are both put in a sheath, with a bubble between the two, allowing conception within the fallopian tube. GIFT, if the sperm is obtained within a perforated sheath, is similar to TOTS. If the sperm is obtained by masturbation, as in IVF and artificial insemination, then GIFT is gravely immoral and intrinsically evil. Masturbation is evil, for the fact that it takes place apart from the conjugal act, and uses the male sex organ for a means contrary to its purpose, the conjugal act. The big question with both GIFT and TOTS is whether the technology replaces the conjugal act, or assists it to achieve conception. Personally, I feel technology goes beyond its limits here. I question whether it is a total self giving, since a perforated sheath, which is somewhat of a barrier, is involved. It seems that the conjugal act, in this case, does not allow all the sperm to carry out its natural route. Some of the sperm are taken out and manipulated and then put with the ovum, separated by a bubble, in a sheath. There appears to be to much manipulation and technology involved. One final, theological point, is that of God’s will. Does God will that all married couples procreate, or are some, for unknown reasons, infertile? We appear to be going too far with technology, and not putting enough trust in God. Infertility is hard to deal with, but by the grace of God it is possible for married couples to carry the cross of Christ.

We have seen, through IVF, surrogate motherhood, and GIFT and TOTS, that not all technology is used to better mankind. IVF, whether heterologous or homologous, along with surrogate motherhood are evil means to procreate. They do great injustice to marriage, the couples themselves, the child, and God’s natural moral law. GIFT and TOTS are questionable and the Church has basically left it up to the people’s and their doctor’s consciences, until a decision is made. When that time comes, all the faithful will have to adjust their consciences according to the teaching of the Church, which is based on the natural, moral law as revealed by God himself.

John Sistare, Seminarian of Diocese of Providence

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