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« Non-Catholic Brother Planning New Marriage | Main | Weeeeelllllllll. . . . Isn't That "Special" »

July 24, 2006

Comments

Mike

I have very mixed feelings on this issue. While I, on the one hand, agree that each frozen embryo is every bit as human as you or me, do the ends justify the means?

Once again, we are faced with an area where we attempt to reap the benefits of a grave medical evil (similar to ESCR or fetal tissue research.) Just as the immoral forms of research could theoretically save lives, the implantation of the leftover embryos of in-vitro fertilization into a womb saves the lives of these embryos.

It is a grave tragedy that these embryos exist in the first place, obviously through no fault of their own. The sheer number of leftover embryos indicates that their "adoption" will do little or nothing to remedy this crisis.

Does the motivation for adopting an embryo count for anything? If a couple's motivation to adopt one is based upon their desire for a child and one or both of them is unable to conceive naturally, it seems problematic in that they are "taking advantage" of the immorality of unnatural conception.

If, on the other hand, a couple's desire is to "rescue" an embryo from death, well, the motivation is noble, but I would be wary of wading into that area, when the morality is still in question.

My inclination is to wait until the Vatican offers its judgement.

Anselm

Mike asks:
"do the ends justify the means?"

This question only applies if the means is evil, which is the issue in dispute. So before you ask this question you first have to determine what makes the implantation evil.

Kevin Jones

Does impregnation have any valuable integrity, as conception and coitus do?

If a woman is impregnated by a person not her husband, doesn't that adulterate their relationship, bringing several other persons into the reproductive act? If the lab tech is a woman, isn't the mother being surgically impregnated by another woman?

It seems to me that embryonic implantation separates reproduction from spousal unity, just as contraception severs reproduction from sex.

francis 03

Jimmy, could you address another question that's been bugging me? If it's determined that embryo adoption is immoral, then what do we do with the "leftover" embryos? Leave them frozen forever? Let them die? But if we are to let them die, then would it be wrong to do research on their bodies, up to and including embryonic stem-cell research?

A.M.

As I understand it, this issue is not about creating embryos in petri dishes, but adopting embryos who are already here, and who would otherwise either die in the freezer or die from being thrown away. The lives of at least some of these embryos might be saved by being implanted into someone's womb.

My gut feeling about this is it's like somebody hanging over the edge of a cliff. We wouldn't just leave such a person to his fate, but do what we could to pull him back from the abyss.

Similarly, these tiny human beings are hovering on the brink of death. Whatever the evils of in vitro fertilization, it seems we should do what we can to pull them back from the abyss.

francis 03

Oh, and Kevin-- I agree that impregnation has valuable integrity, but I think that its integrity is sort of subsidiary to the integrity of coitus and conception. That is to say, a child has a right to be carried only by his mother, but this right derives from the child's other rights (namely, the right to have children be the result only of their physical self-giving to each other). Unfortunately, in our messed-up world these rights get violated sometimes, and the right to be borne by one's own mother consequently is violated.

Whether a woman has a right to be impregnated only by her husband (and whether a husband has a reciprocal right) is a trickier question. I would say yes, but I would also say that unlike a spouse's right to faithfulness or a child's right to be conceived naturally, a woman can waive this right and consent to other forms of impregnation. Ergo, it's a sin to commit adultery, and it's a sin to conceive a child by IVF, but once you've done those things it's not an additional sin to become pregnant as a result. (But note that it IS a greater sin to commit adultery with the intent to become pregnant or father a child thereby, or the knowledge that such a result is more likely than usual.)

This statement of the theory may be a little rough, but I think it captures the gist of what I have in mind.

francis 03

Addendum to paragraph one in my last post:

"the right to be borne by one's own mother consequently is violated-- most of the 'snowflake children' we are talking about here will either die without ever being borne by anyone or will be borne by a woman who is not their mother.

CaeliDS

Still haven't heard anyone address the concern that in a high-tech (and expensive) implantation situation, the inclination for the "industry" that will arise from this is to implant several embryos to ensure that at least one will "take". Then we're right back to the situation with IVF, multiple embryos, "selective reduction," and the like.

Also, a greenlight on embryo adoption means that some kids will get "adopted," but many more will simply die through research or whatever. I am afraid that it will lend tacit approval to create more embryos, since Christians who adopt will appear (to secular society) to be generating demand for this new "method" of adoption (i.e. "Whoopee! Now there are more babies for couples to pull from, what a customer service triumph this is!") This to me seems like rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic. I hope that the Vatican will categorically forbid it. I don't want to appear insensitive, but there seems to be more potential for abuses than for genuine "rescue efforts".

Mike

CaeliDS addresses my concerns much more eloquently than I. If Jimmy's moral assumptions are correct, then I would contend that we have a moral responsibility to rescue these embryos. Or, at the very least, those with the means (and a uterus) should rescue as many of these children as possible. Otherwise, the great majority of them will die when we had the means to save them.

Most supporters would dismiss this assumption, but when adopting smoflafe children without the primary intention to rescue the embryos I feel that there is some implicit cooperation in the evil of In Vitro fertilization.

Obviously, the Vatican has a number of issues to study, and I don't expect a ruling on this anytime soon. These embryos should not be here in the first place, but now that we have them, what should be done?

Karen

It's an interesting debate. I try to be as objective about it as possible, while being sad, of course, about the lives lost or indefinitely suspended through IVF. I used to be against adopting embryos and now I'm undecided. One question I come up with is this:

When does it cease to be a right which is in one's authority to give up, and start becoming a transgression to the natural way God intended things to be? Sometimes we have rights to things but it's always because of God that we have rights, and it's not always the case that we have the "right" to relinquish our rights.

I could give up my rights to my husband and let him run off with other women. The reason that's wrong is, it is not God's plan, and He told us so. God designed wombs to hold a pregnancy procured from a loving act, and natural law tells us so. Are we to play "God" to that, even if our intentions are good?

Karen

BTW, I don't see breasts as sexual which is why I have a hard time seeing the wet nurse analogy.

Sonetka

CaeliDS, you raise some interesting points which I'd like to address.

Also, a greenlight on embryo adoption means that some kids will get "adopted," but many more will simply die through research or whatever.

I'm not sure where you're getting this from. Where would a red light on embryo adoption get us? It's not like the number of embryos would decrease. Also, it bears pointing out that the embryos currently frozen are not "abandoned" per se. Their parents, or somebody, are paying annual rent to keep them frozen while they decide what to do with them (transfer in hopes of a pregnancy, research, thawing/death, or adoption). It's not as if a green light would suddenly release all frozen embryos (they're not free to be released by anyone except their parents) and consign them to being thawed or given to research if no adopting couple were found in time.

If this relates to your following concern about embryos being specifically created, I don't think it holds up - if embryos are specifically created for adoption, they will be used for adoption. Not every embryo - in fact, most embryos - create in vitro (or in vivo, for that matter) will survive even long enough to be frozen or transferred to someone's uterus - it's not that they're deliberately killed, they just stop growing despite efforts to give them the best environment possible. Research cannot use these dead embryos, and to be cynical I imagine that adopting families would be willing to fork over a good bit more in payment than any research lab. To create a potentially rather valuable, viable embryo and then give it to research would make no economic sense, so I doubt it would happen. (Granted, it wouldn't exactly be for the noblest of motives, but still).

I am afraid that it will lend tacit approval to create more embryos, since Christians who adopt will appear (to secular society) to be generating demand for this new "method" of adoption (i.e. "Whoopee! Now there are more babies for couples to pull from, what a customer service triumph this is!")

There's a chance - it's true that right now there are more people who want to adopt than those who are willing to give embryos up, but we're talking about couples who have created embryos together and are concerned for them (don't let anyone tell you that IVFers don't care about their embryos - they do, even if it's not quite enough in a moral sense). These couples are often very reluctant at the prospect of a possible surviving genetic child of theirs being raised by others, and since the embryos are in stasis while frozen, it's an easy decision to delay.

Now, if it were a question of donors, I could potentially see that happening. Creating embryos from paid donor gametes and then selling - well, maybe it could happen, you'll always find someone willing to do something if you look hard enough. Finding male donors would probably not be a challenge; there are plenty out there already who contribute to banks of frozen sperm. But eggs are another matter - they cannot be frozen, and most donor cycles are done "live" - the egg donor's cycle is coordinated with that of the intended recipient, and then the donor's eggs are mixed with the husband's sperm and the resulting embryos are transferred to the wife. As a rule (though I'm sure there are exceptions) women tend to be a bit more emotionally invested in the process - not necessarily in the fate of their eventual children, but in the fate of the infertile couple whom they're helping, although they may never meet. A lot of female donors (as well as surrogates) give as a reason the fact that they want to help someone realize their dream of children. The fact that they also get paid doesn't necessarily mean they're insincere about this, though I'm sure numbers would drop if they weren't paid - it's an uncomfortable process, after all.

Now, whether women would want to donate eggs specifically so that the resulting egg could be fertilized by someone random person's sperm and later transferred, at an indeterminate date, to a couple who are using this process specifically to get around doing IVF themselves because they consider it immoral (the donor would likely worry - what would the child's future parents tell them about HER?) ... that might be a harder sell. There's also the question of who would pay - right now the couple pays, but if this were to happen the clinic would have to pay at least something up front, for embryos which might never be picked by anyone for transfer. Also, I can't see a lot of Christians going for babies whom they knew were *specifically* created for people who wanted to get around IVF restrictions. They'd feel like they were being used, and they'd be right. Obviously embryos created in such a way would have as much right to be transferred, and given a chance to live, as IVF embryos created by an infertile couple. But I don't see any sort of program like that catching on - clinics would have to lay out too much cash, egg donors would probably not be sold on the idea of providing eggs for couples who would probably dismiss them as sinful women, and couples would not like the fact that they were being manipulated.

Kevin Jones

One caution: Rights language is a blunt instrument. I suggest using a different kind of ethical reasoning, perhaps focused on the virtues or natural law. Further, since marriage is a sacrament, it has a theological significance as well, one which cannot be fully captured in the language of morals. How does "husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the Church" apply to embryo adoption?

I myself wonder if artifical wombs would just create even more problems, should artificial impregnation be acknowledged as illicit.

Puzzled

How absurd. Don't people know where babies come from? The baby is a person at fertilization. Not at implantation. Adopting a snowflake is no different than adopting any other baby so young that you nurse it. That isn't adultry, or immoral -in the least-. Forbidding it would be gravely immoral, engaging in intentional complicity with the grave evil of abortion.

Karen

Puzzled, nobody's saying an embryo isn't a person at fertilization.

Karen

Kevin, was that to me? I acknowledge my rights only insofar as they're something God gave to me because He wants us to have them. They're undeserved and are entirely subject to His will.

Mike

I myself wonder if artifical wombs would just create even more problems, should artificial impregnation be acknowledged as illicit.

The best parallel hypothesis, to me, that could indicate that adopting snowflake babies would be moral is the theoretical idea of the artificial womb. If science could one day advance to a point whereby an unborn child could be moved into an artificial womb to save the life of the child (perhaps if the mother died or would likely miscarry for some reason) - I don't see how the Church could oppose it on those grounds.

On the other hand, the Church does allow (perhaps recommends) the removal of the fallopian tube during a tubal pregnancy, which always results in the death of the child. Despite the tragedy of the situation, the Church simply accepts that the child will die.

Another scenario is in the case of conjoined twins. The Church (as far as I know) does not recommend the separation of twins when such surgery will result in the causation of the death of one twin. Rather than commit such an act that would give one twin a chance to live, the Church believes that natural law dictates that sadly, the surgery cannot be performed resulting in the deaths of both twins.

There is a significant possibility that the implantation of embryos is simply contrary to the Church's understanding of Natural Law. If this is the case, then the sad truth is that these embryos must tragically lose their lives. Hopefully, this is not the case. But I recommend that in the meantime Catholics exercise caution with regards to this issue.

Karen

Not to change the subject--well, okay, I am...

Does anyone else get the sense that we will hit our limit in the next couple of centuries, as to just how much we can figure from revealed Truth, before God comes down to save us from these messes we get ourselves into?

It's something that occurs to me every now and then as I read things like these. Brilliant minds saying brilliant things, and then there are brilliant objections--all with pious intentions, and nobody gets anywhere very fast. It's like we're getting closer and closer to needing God to reveal more, and He's going to deliver in a big way.

I hope so, anyway :)

ATP

Karen, I feel the same way sometimes.

I do think that the acceptance of embryo adoption will make it easier for couples on the fence about IVF to rationalize their decision - it makes it appear less morally questionable to create a bunch of embryos they won't be implanting if they can tell themselves someone else will adopt them.

I don't know much about the technology involved with IVF, but I am under the impression it's not more burdensome on the couple to undergo the procedure and create 15 embryos versus 4, or whatever. So I don't think you can draw a clear analogy with regular old adoption - after all, if a woman decides that adoption will be her "backup plan," she still will have to carry the child for nine months. An IVF couple just has to pay for cold storage - which they would probably do anyway.

Rod Dreher linked to a truly chilling article on the problem of surplus embryos - I believe there are around 500,000 in this country alone.

http://www.motherjones.com/news/feature/2006/07/souls_on_ice.html?welcome=true

Personally, I think that IVF should be illegal and couples who would wish to undergo this procedure should be given the option of "snowflake adoption" until all of the frozen embryos are implanted in mommies. And then we should quit mucking around with this stuff.

Sailorette

Question for y'all that say that adopting an embryo might encourage folks to do the evil of making a ton of kids in the first place, I've got two quetions:
What do you think about adopting kids born out of wedlock?
What do you think about support programs that help single mothers? (especially those with more than one kid)

In both examples, we do something that could possibly let folks do wrong things so that we can protect or aid the innocent.

And for whoever suggested that wanting to have a snowflake kid was sinful if you wanted a child as well as wanted to save a child-- what, exactly, is the moral differance between a born child being adopted and an unborn child being adopted? Since it looks like the morality is based on the natural law philo. of the kid's right to be raised by his blood parents.

Sonetka

ATP, as things stand, if the couple can't use all their embryos, somebody WILL adopt them - right now, there are a lot more people who want to adopt than people who are willing to surrender. It's also worth remembering that comparatively few couples get to the point where they have "extras" - they could easily go through 15 embryos trying to get two live births, not because they're throwing any of them away but because the embryos simply fail to implant after being transferred to the uterus.

Mike - I think there's a difference in that in the case of an ectopic pregnancy, the mother's life is being seriously threatened. Similarly with conjoined twins who have, for example, a shared heart - separation means that one of them at least is guaranteed to die. If there were a way to transfer the ectopic baby into the uterus, I don't think the church would object to that even though it involved some medical interference. (Obviously someone can correct me on this). In this case, nobody's life is at stake except for that of the frozen embryo; its presence is threatening nobody.

Just a note - technically, embryos are transferred, not implanted; no IVF doctor knows how to make an embryo actually implant and grow - that's something they have to do on their own.

Kevin Jones

"Kevin, was that to me? I acknowledge my rights only insofar as they're something God gave to me because He wants us to have them. They're undeserved and are entirely subject to His will."

It was a general caution. I actually question whether God gave us rights at all. "Law" and "virtue" are the concepts used in the pre-modern Christian tradition.

"Rights" are in my view somewhat awkward conceptual grafts upon classical ethics. They're moral claims upon others, but they have a habit of edging out the moral duties regarding not others but self.

For instance, let's take somebody engaging in self-mutilation. Whose "rights" are being violated, except possibly God's? The mutilator's body itself is violated, but there's a loss of the idea of the inherent good of the body and the virtues of bodily care. I don't know how this can be expressed clearly in rights-talk.

Inocencio

I may be wrong but it is my understanding that ET must take place during a wife's fertile period.

My question is how is it morally licit for a wife to become pregnant outside of the conjugal union of her husband?

The end does not justify the means.

It seems to me that the entire process of ET is morally problematic at best and gravely immoral at worst.

DONUM VITAE

Take care and God bless,
Inocencio
J+M+J

Mike

what, exactly, is the moral differance between a born child being adopted and an unborn child being adopted?

The moral difference is in Natural Law. It's not as simple as "adoption" in the traditional sense, because an invasive medical procedure must first take place and then the child must spend the gestational period inside someone other than his/her natural mother.

I will concede that none of my arguments are airtight, but soething about the whole idea seems wrong to me. 99% of people today (at least if you watch any TV) seem to think IVF is a wonderful thing. A vast majority support ESCR. This needs to be fixed. I don't know whether Snowflake children are part of the solution.

To me, until the facts become more clear, this is playing with fire.

Sarah

A question: Since the Vatican hasn't made a moral pronouncement on this issue yet, would it be morally licit for someone to adopt one of these embryos at the current point in time? I personally think the best thing to do is to wait and see what the Vatican says first. If a couple was having trouble conceiving and said "we'd better adopt one of those frozen embryos now because the Vatican might say it's wrong later" - that would strike me as just trying to get around the rules and not really seeking to do God’s will. On the other hand, since Catholics are currently permitted to take either view, does that mean that right now it wouldn't be wrong, even though it might be wrong later? I realize that if something is intrinsically wrong it's always wrong, but I guess the moral culpability would be lessened if people didn't know it was wrong at the time they did it. What do you all think?

Inocencio

Mike,

Your thoughts echo the warning given in the introduction of DV.

Thanks to the progress of the biological and medical sciences, man has at his disposal ever more effective therapeutic resources; but he can also acquire new powers, with unforeseeable consequences, over human life at its very beginning and in its first stages. Various procedures now make it possible to intervene not only in order to assist but also to dominate the processes of procreation. These techniques can enable man to "take in hand his own destiny," but they also expose him "to the temptation to go beyond the limits of a reasonable dominion over nature."

Take care and God bless,
Inocencio
J+M+J

francis 03

Mike,

I think everyone can agree that there's something very wrong here. After all, even if embryo adoption is not immoral, it's still only a proposed response to an intrinsically immoral procedure! My thought goes something like this: if a mad scientist started abducting people and doing horrible experiments on them in his lab than ended with them dying and their body parts and fluids being strewn all over the place, then once he was finally apprehended and his "research" stopped you'd have to hire somebody to go in and clean up the lab and give the human remains a decent burial. Yes, there would be something 'wrong' with having to do that, because the remains shouldn't be there in the first place. But that doesn't make the cleaning and burying immoral. This is so even if we know for certain that there are other mad scientists doing the same thing in other labs just down the street. I submit that the loving response to evil (cleaning up the lab/ caring for frozen embryos) is difficult and often overwhelming, but is not contaminated by the evil itself.

Inocencio

francis 03,

Do you think it is morally licit for a wife to become pregnant outside of the conjugal union of her husband?

Take care and God bless,
Inocencio
J+M+J

Mike

Do you think it is morally licit for a wife to become pregnant outside of the conjugal union of her husband?

Inocencio, good point. Is it possible that this could be a sin against chastity, as well as a grave violation of natural law?

Sarah wrote:

Since the Vatican hasn't made a moral pronouncement on this issue yet, would it be morally licit for someone to adopt one of these embryos at the current point in time?

Another good point. During the period of 1965-1968, while the Vatican was studying the morality of the birth control pill, many a faithful priest advised women that the pill would be allowed in a few years, and to go ahead and use it. On the surface, the pill was different than previous forms of birth control: it doesn't alter the physical aspect of the marital embrace like a barrier method, and it (theoretically) does not cause an abortion to occur.

Even though those who followed the priests' advice in good conscience at the time were not culpable for the sin, a sin was indeed committed.

Since Humanae Vitae, we have received a great wealth of philosophical and theological insight about marital love that had not before been developed or taught.

Why should we dabble in this when there is a possibility that doing so would constitute grave sin? There is such an active and elective element to doing this. Why can't we wait until the Church's theology on these matters becomes clear?

Inocencio

Mike,

I agree that the analogous situation of Birth Control and Humana Vitae and the lessons we learned should make us very worried about proceeding without clear guidance.

Take care and God bless,
Inocencio
J+M+J

Matt McDonald

Contraception was not permitted before Humanae Vitae and the Church always taught that natural forms of family planning (NFP and it's precursor methods) was the only acceptable way to regulate conception. Period. The fact that the pill specifically had not been addressed in a definitive manner doesn't change that fact. Priests who allowed it are culpable for their sin, the faithful who were duped are culpable more or less depending on their level of ignorance.

This situation is different. In Vitro Fertilization is intrinsically evil and is never permitted. Embryo adoption is not IVF, it's a separate medical procedure which allows the saving of a human life while the circumstances around it's implantation are not normally permitted they are not identified as "intrinsically" evil at this point.

Chastity as I understand it is related to sexual relations, not the actual implantation of the embryo which is a subsequent function.

Wanting to have a child is considered an unselfish act by the Church, even though many have deepseated desire to do so.

Matt McDonald,

I ask my question again.

Do you think it is morally licit for a wife to become pregnant outside of the conjugal union of her husband?

And are you basing your opinion on your understanding of DV?

Take care and God bless,
Inocencio
J+M+J

Inocencio

Matt McDonald,

Food for thought from the CCC.
2376 Techniques that entail the dissociation of husband and wife, by the intrusion of a person other than the couple (donation of sperm or ovum, surrogate uterus), are gravely immoral. These techniques (heterologous artificial insemination and fertilization) infringe the child's right to be born of a father and mother known to him and bound to each other by marriage. They betray the spouses' "right to become a father and a mother only through each other."167

The footnotes quote DV.

Take care and God bless,
Inocencio
J+M+J

JJ

I notice that a lot of the commenters are comparing embryo adoption to adoption of children born out of wedlock, saving someone falling off a cliff, giving someone a decent burial, etc. The problem with these arguments is that they are begging the question. All the above examples are morally good things to do, in some cases even religious obligations (the implications of which in this case should give people pause). But precisely what we are trying to determine here is if embryo adoption is a morally good thing or something equivalent to the evil of surrogate motherhood. The question is not "What is my opinion of what embryo adoption is like?" but "Does embryo adoption violate established Church teachings on reproduction, morality, and natural law?"

Bear in mind that during the original stem cell kerfluffle the question had come up of whether stem cells from babies aborted in clinics could be used, since the babies were already dead and would have been killed anyway, regardless of the research. The Vatican replied via Bishop Sgreccia that this could not be done, as it would entail cooperation and encouragment of abortion, and promote scandal and confusion amongst the faithful. It seems to me analogous to this discussion; the IVF clinics would profit, the already weak understanding of the evils of IVF would be weakened, and the world would believe that embryo adoption is just "Catholic IVF."

I hope the Vatican decides this issue soon. Many good people have strong positions on this, much like the contraception issue in the 60's; if they wait too long and people are too entrenched in their beliefs, problems will result no matter what the Vatican decides, just as with HV.

Inocencio

JJ,

Bishop Elio Sgreccia as vice president of the Pontifical Academy for Life has also given his thoughts on EA.

"The idea of a systematic organization of prenatal adoption of frozen embryos would, in fact, end up by legitimizing the practice which is substantially at the root of the whole problem" The London Tablet August 10, 1996

Take care and God bless,
Inocencio
J+M+J

CaeliDS

JJ and Inocencio,

Yeah. Thanks for articulating what I was trying to get across.

Leigh

To my mind, the closest parallel is a child conceived when a woman is raped. The act that brought it about is a grave moral and criminal violation, but the resultant child is considered to have the same right to life as that of a child conceived in the loving embrace of husband and wife. Thus the woman who has been impregnated by a rapist has the same moral obligation in pregnancy as the wife, not merely to do no harm, but to actively see to the child's well-being, even at the price of her own life.

If the child conceived of rape has a right to life that can even require the sacrifice of the woman who was raped (since there is no way to substitute the life of the real culprit, the rapist), it seems to me that the circumstances of any child's conception reflects only upon the moral status of those who transgressed in the conception, not the moral status of the child.

So the clearest analogy I could offer for embryo adoption would be if there were some technological way for a woman who's going to adopt a child of rape to carry the child to term for the woman who was raped, rather than the woman who was raped having to endure nine months of pregnancy until the child is born naturally and then giving it to the woman who's going to adopt it. The adoptive mother would thus become pregnant with a child that is not that of herself and her husband, but it would be an act of loving self-sacrifice to spare an innocent woman who was raped further unasked-for misery rather than a selfish act of indulgence. (Unlike Immanuel Kant, I don't believe that benefits incidental to an act of self-sacrifice invalidate the self-sacrificial nature of the act).

And as to whether embryo adoption would encourage IVF, one could also argue that every child of rape allowed to come to term and survive into adulthood "encourages" rapists to keep raping on the chance that they might hit the genetic jackpot and have their genes go into a future generation without any work or self-sacrifice on their part. To my mind, the good of saving a human life outweighs the possibility that rotten people might take it as license to continue their misbehaviors that brought that life into existence.

francis 03

Inocencio, et. al,

I feel like the immorality of becoming pregnant outside the conjugal union lies not in the impregnation per se, but in the conception of a child outside that union. Since in the normal course of things the one follows the other as night follows day, it's a correct moral intuition to sense something 'wrong' about impregnation with an adopted embryo. While this is in fact contrary to the natural order of things, IMO the immorality of it inheres in the IVF conception, not in the later impregnation. I agree, however, that direction from the Vatican is important on this one. I also feel, as I've noted a couple of times, that if we decide that the only moral course of action is to let frozen embryos die, then I don't see what's wrong with allowing their parents to donate the bodies for stem-cell research.

But let me ask you guys a question: if we invented artificial wombs, would their use be morally licit? I realize that based on the special status you're according to impregnation this doesn't map perfectly onto adoption of embryos by a living woman, but I think it's still an interesting question.

Leigh

I would think that the morality of an artificial womb would probably lie in the purpose for which it was used. If it's used when pregnancy goes wrong, then I'm *very* hard-pressed to see how it could be immoral, any more than than the incubators we already routinely use for premies. And a good case could be made for allowing a woman who's been impregnated by a rapist to use an artificial womb to adopt the resultant child out immediately instead of having to trudge through nine months of having her body expropated by the rapist. It's when women are "too posh to push" and want to use them as a *substitute* for a normal pregnancy it it becomes a moral issue.

I just hope that the earliest use of artificial woms are clearly humanitarian, perhaps saving tubal pregnancies that are currently doomed, and thus gain popular acceptance before some nitwit celebrity decides she's just too posh to endure the inconvenience of nine months of pregnancy, so that the response will be to punish illicit use of the technology rather than banning the technology altogether, even for humanitarian uses like tubal or toxemic pregnancies.

Tim

As the father of a daughter who we adopted as an embryo, this isn't just theoretical for my wife and I. Its hard for me to comprehend how someone could view the transfer of an embryo into the womb of another woman as a violation of the conjugal union. The simple fact is, the process is giving those that are ALREADY alive (albeit very small) the chance to continue living. That's a moral good. No infidelity occurs, and fertilization has already occurred. Its simply a medical procedure akin to putting a roof over the head of an orphan. Both the adoptive parents agree to the procedure, and the conscience of neither takes offense that their marriage bond is violated. Amazing that some can take such a wonderful and inately good thing, and call it into question. If you want to know if its a moral good or not, I'll send you a picture of my daughter Erin.
The desire to provide the unborn the opportunity to live can and does coexist with the desire for children. Been there, done that. Its appalling that some seem to insinuate that the desire for children is a selfish one. Final point - I see that many here are calling them "snowflake children". Snowflakes is an organization that provides such services, at the cost of going through all the hoops (read cost) of a traditional adoption agency. There are other clinics that also provide the service without the hoops & at much lower cost. Snowflakes just markets themselves well. The process is clinically known by the term "embryo donation".

Regards,

Tim

Angainor

I agree with Mr. Akin's position.

Frankly, I am astonished that it is even an issue. Thinking that it is wrong to implant the frozen embryos is wrong for some reason should be a clear case of

Angainor

letting the letter of the law get in the way of doing what is right. (see Mark 3:4)

Angainor.

P.S. and FYI I'm Lutheran

Matt McDonald

Inocencio,

those citations do not speak to this question. The child is already concieved and is living. The implantation is not related.

"Do you think it is morally licit for a wife to become pregnant outside of the conjugal union of her husband?"

It is illicit for a woman to deliberately concieve a child with a man who is not her husband, carrying a child concieved in an illicit manner is another issue. The use of the word "impregnation" in any document prior to In Vitro fertilization is dated, as it assumes impregnation to occur under available techniques, all of which made it impossible to separate the implantation from the moment of conception.

I have to say that Bishop Sgreccia's statement is to be carefully considered. I would agree with it, but make the careful distinction that he is condemning "a systematic organization" rather than an ad-hoc rescue. The problem occurs if you develop a "secondary market" for unused embryo's then you increase demand and ultimately more IVF will occur. The ideal solution would be a ban on IVF followed by adoption (if found to be licit) of the remaining babies.

Tim,

God bless you for what you have done. It's very emotional and personal for you, but it's still not appropriate to introduce Erin's existence as an appeal in favor of adoption. The same appeal to emotion can be made to favor IVF itself, as well as many other evil's that have been occurring. It is never licit to do evil that good may come, so the beautiful result only muddies the waters.

There is no question that her conception was a gravely immoral act, foisted on an innocent victim, fortunately you and your wife were able to rescue her from death. Unless the Church rules definitively that such an act is immoral, it is not intrinsicly, provided there is sufficient information of conscience and prayerful discernment.

Inocencio

francis 03,

"I feel like the immorality of becoming pregnant outside the conjugal union lies not in the impregnation per se, but in the conception of a child outside that union."

We all agree that conception through IVF is immoral. My question to you is it morally licit for a wife to use her fertility to become pregnant outside of the conjugal union of her husband?

A wife enters a clinic during her fertile period and has an donated embryo inseminated that is neither from her or her husband. If the living person implants she has become pregnant outside of the conjugal union of her husband.

How the use of this technique can be reconciled with the moral order or even CCC 2376 is not clear to me as it seems to be to you.

CCC 2376 Techniques that entail the dissociation of husband and wife, by the intrusion of a person other than the couple(donation of sperm or ovum, surrogate uterus), are gravely immoral. These techniques (heterologous artificial insemination and fertilization) infringe the child's right to be born of a father and mother known to him and bound to each other by marriage. They betray the spouses' "right to become a father and a mother only through each other."167

DV 2:5 states "The process of IVF and ET must be judged in itself...". The footnote points to HV 14 which states "it is never lawful, even for the gravest reasons, to do evil that good may come of it (18)—in other words, to intend directly something which of its very nature contradicts the moral order, and which must therefore be judged unworthy of man, even though the intention is to protect or promote the welfare of an individual, of a family or of society in general."

When DV was written (1987 the first IVF took place in 1978), then Cardinal Ratzinger, was very aware of Embryo Transfer techniques such as used in "Surrogate" Motherhood and still stated in DV that there is no "safe means of survival which can be licitly pursued" for these persons trapped in an "absurd fate."

The end does not justify the means. Nothing I have read here so far has convinced me otherwise.

Take care and God bless,
Inocencio
J+M+J

Inocencio

Matt McDonald,

"The use of the word "impregnation" in any document prior to In Vitro fertilization is dated, as it assumes impregnation to occur under available techniques, all of which made it impossible to separate the implantation from the moment of conception.

IVF first took place in 1978. The document DV was issued in 1987 and the CCC in 1992. I have tried to make it clear that I am questioning the morality of the technique and/or process used.

DV 1:5 first declares that embryos created by IVF or ET cannot be used for expermintation of any kind. Then states in conclusion of that section that these embryos are left to an absurd fate with no morally licit means of survival.

"In consequence of the fact that they have been produced in vitro, those embryos which are not transferred into the body of the mother and are called "spare" are exposed to an absurd fate, with no possibility of their being offered safe means of survival which can be licitly pursued."

You seem postive the technique is morally licit. I am not convinced.

I would hope rather than telling me the Church documents are dated you could make your case from them.

Take care and God bless,
Inocencio
J+M+J


Inocencio

Tim,

As DV states:

"Although the manner in which human conception is achieved with IVF and ET cannot be approved, every child which comes into the world must in any case be accepted as a living gift of the divine Goodness and must be brought up with love.

I very confident that you and your wife will bring up Erin with love.

Take care and God bless,
Inocencio
J+M+J

J.R. Stoodley

I do not have the time to read through all of the combox, but I agree totally with Jimmy. This seems like a wonderful way of saving lives. I would be very suprised if the Vatican ever came out with anything against it. Implantation and what follows in the womb is not reproductive but nurturing a new life.

I do tend to be nervous to say the least about this kind of technology, and there seems some potential for scandal, and there is the fact that some reputable Catholic theologians do seem to take issue with it, but it seems to me that the good derived from this generous act outweigh these concerns.

In any case, let individuals follow their consciences until such time as Rome gives guidance.

J.R. Stoodley

p.s. Someone above mentioned the issue of what to do with embryos if they can not be "adopted." I don't know if this was clarified above, but one thing we certainly not do is directly terminate their lives, for instance by tearing them abart for stem cells. I would not like to be the one to have to deside whether to leave them frozen indefinately or take them out and let them die "naturally."

Inocencio

J.R. Stoodley,

If you haven't already read DONUM VITAE
Instruction on Respect for Human Life in Its Origin and on the Dignity of Procreation
Replies to Certain Questions of the Day
February 22, 1987

I understand if your too busy but I would be interested in your thoughts.

Take care and God bless,
Inocencio
J+M+J

Hi Kevin,

That's just it--a self-mutilating person is doing something to herself that God does not want her to do. It is God who gives the person this dignity--it doesn't come from the person herself. You could say she has a right to an unmutilated body, but it's only because of God's will that this is a transgression to God and herself. God is what makes inherent rights and principles, inherent.

It's a great way to probe an agnostic or atheist, by the way: Ask them where their rights come from. They can't say rights come from the whim of government since the gov't can take rights away. That nullifies the idea of rights as inherent. And there's the same problem when "rights" are merely matters of opinion. They have to come from a higher authority to be "rights" at all.

I do believe in rights as general principles which do exist and which are derived from God's will/Truth. Because they come directly from God, the Church doesn't have a problem with using "rights" terminology. To acknowledge them is merely following God's will. To transgress them is to transgress God.

The Church uses "rights" in expressing a child's right to be conceived naturally, for one example. It's also taught that wives and husbands have certain rights with one another, and that everyone, born and unborn, have rights which forbid murder, euthanasia, abortion, adultery, rape, having things stolen, etc.

Rights talk does not make me uncomfortable, nor does it the Church. Rights are to be considered no less than the Way of Love and Truth.

I know there's a temptation to be turned off from rights terminology precisely because there are people who claim rights they don't have, and use this to justify abortion. It's equally wrong, though, to dismiss men's and women's rights altogether simply because sometimes people claim false rights, and transgress God in doing so. We cannot let this throw "rights" we know we do have out the window, though, because by God, legitimate ones do exist, both for the unborn AND the born.

I give the theoretical example of relinquishing my right to my husband and letting others have him--I simply don't have the authority to do this, and there is no grounds for me to call that generous, merciful or altruistic behavior. God says that's not His will, no matter what my intentions might be. So I am pondering the question of: Is there a concrete principle we've developed (or can develop) so we have a rule of thumb to follow when deciding whether we have the right to relinquish a right (and rights are God's will), without incurring culpability for transgressing God's will?

Karen

Sorry, that last comment was mine. Got a second computer, and forgot to fill in my name.

Matt McDonald

Inocencio,

You are mischaracterizing my position, which is pretty clear. I hope that it is licit, I await guidance from the Vatican. In the meantime, there is no clear position from the Church's teaching and so Catholics are permitted to prayerfully discern and make a prudential decision in this matter.

Do you recognize that there is a distinction between adopting an embryo and creating one using IVF? It seems to me that you don't. All of your citations include this as part of the condemned practice. If DV had envisioned the idea of embryo adoption and condemn the practice, it would have said so.

We should leave this difficult question to the Magisterium or the individual's informed conscience.

Inocencio

Matt McDonald,

"Do you recognize that there is a distinction between adopting an embryo and creating one using IVF?"

I recognize and also made that distinction in my answer to francis 03:

"We all agree that conception through IVF is immoral. My question to you is it morally licit for a wife to use her fertility to become pregnant outside of the conjugal union of her husband?"

"If DV had envisioned the idea of embryo adoption and condemn the practice, it would have said so.

DV 1:5 states that there is no morally licit means of survival that can be pursued.

"In consequence of the fact that they have been produced in vitro, those embryos which are not transferred into the body of the mother and are called "spare" are exposed to an absurd fate, with no possibility of their being offered safe means of survival which can be licitly pursued."

And at the time the document was written the technique did exist to transfer an embryo into another woman.

I ask you is it morally licit for a single woman to use her fertility to adopt an embryo? Do you hope so?

"We should leave this difficult question to the Magisterium or the individual's informed conscience."

DV tells us we should avoid the "to the temptation to go beyond the limits of a reasonable dominion over nature."

And.

But what is technically possible is not for that very reason morally admissible. Rational reflection on the fundamental values of life and of human procreation is, therefore, indispensable for formulating a moral evaluation of such technological interventions on a human being from the first stages of his development.

Everytime I go back and read DV I get the sense that Mike's questions (from Jul 25, 2006 9:46:54 AM) are very important.

"Why should we dabble in this when there is a possibility that doing so would constitute grave sin? There is such an active and elective element to doing this. Why can't we wait until the Church's theology on these matters becomes clear?

Take care and God bless,
Inocencio
J+M+J


Inocencio

Karen,

Your question goes to the heart of my concern.

Is there a concrete principle we've developed (or can develop) so we have a rule of thumb to follow when deciding whether we have the right to relinquish a right (and rights are God's will), without incurring culpability for transgressing God's will?

I haven't been able to reconcile using a wife's fertility to become pregnant outside of the conjugal union of her husband.

For the wife does not rule over her own body, but the husband does; likewise the husband does not rule over his own body, but the wife does. 1 Cor 7:4

Take care and God bless,
Inocencio
J+M+J

Mike

A few thoughts and questions:

1. Are we all in agreement that the ideal situation regarding embryo donation is one where such a practice is impossible, due to an end to IVF altogether?

2. Someone above mentioned how embryo donation could soon be known as "Catholic IVF," and I am thinking that this is similar to how widespread marriage annulments are seen as "Catholic Divorce." Are those of you who support embryo donation worried about potential abuses?

I was getting to this in a roundabout way up above, when I questioned the moral licitness of embryo adoption when motivated primarily by infertility, rather than to "rescue" a child. If potential embryo adopters select embryos based upon race, sex, health, and other factors, is this a moral problem?

3. Orphans in India, China, and Eastern Europe are available for adoption, and the costs and waiting lists are possibly (don't know all the facts) similar to embryonic donation, is it more morally prudent to adopt these orphans with immediate needs or to bring embryos out of their current states?

francis 03

Inocencio,

You make a strong case, and you've certainly convinced me that this isn't the open-and-closed issue I once thought it was. I'm sorry I don't keep up with the posts here as well as some.

If you feel I haven't responded directly to your question about whether it's morally licit to become pregnant outside union with one's husband, it might be because I don't know even technical terminology to give the proper response. My feelings are that (1) IVF is obviously illicit, and so (2) impregnation outside the marital union would not occur in a properly-ordered moral universe. But (3) in a disordered moral universe, where there are embryos that will die if not adopted, and where the desire for impregnation does not cause the IVF to take place, I would not consider it to be subjectively sinful to adopt an embryo. I hope that makes sense; it's what I've been trying to enunciate all along.

However, your immediately previous post has me reconsidering. My position had been significantly informed by the Church's opposition to embryonic stem-cell research; as I've said before, if the embryos have no licit means of survival, then why not allow them to die and donate their bodies to research? Someone suggested earlier that stem-cell research REQUIRES the direct killing of embryos. I had not understood that to be the case-- can anyone corroborate that?

Either way, it seems inevitable that someday someone will figure out how to do research on cells from dead embryos. If that's the case (now or in the future), then as far as I can tell the Church will logically have to accept the liceity of either (1) thawing embryos, letting them die, and doing research on them (if they have no licit means of survival), or (2) adopting them, thus precluding allowing their deaths for research purposes.

Any thoughts? And I'm still interested in what you all think about artificial wombs.

Inocencio

francis 03,

"Someone suggested earlier that stem-cell research REQUIRES the direct killing of embryos.

Embryoninc stem-cell research does require the direct killing of the embryo. The removal of the embryoblast or inner cell mass (ICM) causes the destruction of the embryo.

Adult stem-cell research is not only moral it has been succesful for years as in the case of bone marrow transplants.

"And I'm still interested in what you all think about artificial wombs."

I would hope such technology is never succesful and am saddened that it will be one more "use" for these tiny human beings to be subjected to while they try to develop an artificial womb. And if they were to "use" every frozen embryo would they stop the research or just march forward for the "good" of mankind?

What are your thoughts on using an animal uterus for embryo donation if it were possible?

It starts to seems as if we accept the rule that anything that is possible should be done.

Or that the ends does justify the means.

Take care and God bless,
Inocencio
J+M+J

Francis03,

It seems to me that the Church doesn't HAVE to declare either of those positions, logically or otherwise. It seems that the Church has already moved in the direction of declaring these embryos as being "out of bounds" of any morally legitimate options.

As far as artificial wombs are concerned, despite the sci-fi appeal they have, and despite the good they may do for some in extreme situations, once again there seems to be something wrong in the idea of saying that a woman's pregnancy is not somehow intrinsically bound up within the rights of the child, as mentioned above. Also as a mother I feel that the pregnancy is inseparable from the entire process of conception, implantation and eventually birth. In other words, I am not just an incubator.

The Blessed Mother might give us some insight here. Seeing as how the Holy Family is our ideal model, and that many graces accrued to Mary because of her role as Mother of God, I cannot see the Vatican giving their blessing to the idea that after the Holy Spirit conceived within her that her pregnancy served just some utilitarian function, which could have been replaced at will.

CaeliDS

Sorry forgot to sign off.

Inocencio

To Whom it may concern,

Please understand I am trying to convince myself of what God has intended, allows and has communicated through His Bride the Church regarding these tiny human beings.

I am looking for an objectively moral approach to what should be done now that they have been immorally conceived.

I am open to any argument that shows how God's moral order and natural laws are respected. If my Mother, the Church, does decide that embryo adoption is morally licit I will welcome the decsion and the explanation of why it is moral so I can see where my understanding was incorrect.

I think this issue does need to be discussed at great length and I am very glad Jimmy has blogged about it.

Take care and God bless,
Inocencio
J+M+J

Matt McDonald

"It starts to seems as if we accept the rule that anything that is possible should be done."

That's blatantly obvious, but who here is saying that anything possible should be done?

If the Church had envisioned adoption and rejected it in DV, then it would be a simple matter of pointing that out. Since the magisterium has not done so, it seems to me that they don't consider it a settled matter.

There is much today that is not explicitly evil, but due to a combination of factors makes the use of them under most circumstances to be immoral. A great example would be vaccines derived from aborted babies. The Church has said that their development was gravely evil, that their use should be avoided if possible, but if the parents prayerfully discern that the cost of avoiding their use is too great they may be allowed.

Abuse of annulment has nothing to do with this discussion, why introduce it?

francis 03

Inocencio,

I feel like this has been a very good exchange, and I appreciate having seen the stuff you've brought to light here. I'm not completely convinced by your last link, since it was to essentially an advertisement, and even the ad only said that embryonic stem-cell research INVOLVES killing; not that it REQUIRES it.

Perhaps this is a kind of closing question for those of you who feel embryo adoption is immoral: is the Church just saying here basically that doing anything (or even doing nothing) with these embryos is immoral? A big part of my hesitant acceptance of adoption is that it seems less morally repugnant to me than the only other options-- thawing/death or freezing indefinitely. So for those of you who are convinced that adoption is illicit (which I agree makes some intuitive sense), which of those alternatives do you prefer? Or do you feeling that all are sinful? But is that possible, that those responsible for frozen embryos are almost literally in a "damned if you; damned if you don't" situation?

francis 03

I meant "damned if you DO; damned if you don't"

Inocencio

Matt McDonald,

"If the Church had envisioned adoption and rejected it in DV, then it would be a simple matter of pointing that out."

What does "with no possibility of their being offered safe means of survival which can be licitly pursued" mean to you? Does it mean that because the term embryo adoption is not used it is ok, even though the technique that would be used is known?

Again, I would like to understand your argument from Church teaching. I would be very interested if you could show me from Donum Vitae, Humanae Vitae, Casti Connubii or the CCC where I have gone wrong in my understanding fertility only be used for the conjugal union of husband and wife.

It does not seem to matter to you that this technique might be outside of the moral order and natural law.

Take care and God bless,
Inocencio
J+M+J

Inocencio

francis 03,

Did you read the pdf flyer that is linked to on the USCCB page?

Why is the Church opposed to stem cell research using the embryo?
Because harvesting these stem cells kills the living human embryo. The Church opposes the direct destruction of innocent human life for any purpose, including research.

"Stem Cell Research and Human Cloning: Questions and Answers"

Take care and God bless,
Inocencio
J+M+J

Inocencio

Sorry the link did not work. But you can read the flyer from the first link.

Take care and God bless,
Inocencio
J+M+J

Inocencio

francis 03,

So for those of you who are convinced that adoption is illicit (which I agree makes some intuitive sense), which of those alternatives do you prefer?

I still think that at this time, without further guidance, there aren't any morally licit ways to offer these tiny human beings a safe means of survival.

Take care and God bless,
Inocencio
J+M+J

francis 03

So do you think it's better to thaw them or keep them frozen? Is either of those options morally licit in your book?

francis 03

[Sorry about all the double-posting.]

I read the flyer now. I'm afraid, though, that I'm still not clear on whether you necessarily must kill an embryo to establish a stem-cell line. I see that that's the way scientists are doing it now, and that's terrible. I don't see that that's the only way to do it.

I guess part of the problem here is a lack of scientific (and perhaps spiritual) knowledge: when does an embryo die? We know that a more fully-developed human can die even though many or most of the cells in his or her body are still processing biological functions; i.e. are "alive." Is this true of an embryo as well, given that the embryo doesn't have more than, what, a few to several dozen cells?

Mike

So for those of you who are convinced that adoption is illicit (which I agree makes some intuitive sense), which of those alternatives do you prefer?

As I listed above, there is precedent in the Catholic Church's teaching that sometimes we have no choice but to indirectly let an innocent die. I don't know that the Church has or will have a happy solution. But it's not like the Church created the problem.

In one of my favorite books, The Ratzinger Report, then-Cardinal Ratzinger lamented society's separation of sex and motherhood, which according to the principles of natural law are intriniscally connected. This is manifested fully and purely in the sacramental union of matrimony.

Is violation of Natural Law always sinful? For example, rape, adultery, and fornication are grave violations of natural law, and great sins as well. If pregnancy results from any of these, it would be another violation of natural law and an even graver sin for the mother to abort the child.

Going forward from the initial moment of conception, the mother and father are still obligated to follow natural law. In these cases, the correct course of action would be to carry the child to term.

In the case of embryonic adoption, once the moment of conception has occured, are we still obligated to follow natural law? Any mother who becomes pregnant, in whatever way (IVF, natural, embryo adoption) is obligated to then attempt to carry the child to term. This is not the question. To me, the artificial insertion of an embryo represents another violation against the natural law. Is it therefore sinful?

Furthermore, to equate this to already born adoption, then shouldn't this mean that anyone who can adopt a born child can also adopt an embryo? Does this mean that the kindhearted single lady at my parish who adopted two Russian orphans can licitly become pregnant by this method?

What about the woman who cannot carry a child to term? Can her 62-year-old mother carry an adopted embryo as a surrogate? If embryo donation is licit because it's "the same as adoption," then is there anything wrong with the above two scenarios?

Sailorette

Mike-- sorry for the delay, work-- but your reply is the moral dif between IVF and adopting another's child.

The wrong has already happened. The kid is alive and his parents are either unwilling or unable to nurture him-- even the most basic level, by the woman being pregnant.

What is the moral difference between adopting a born kid and adopting an unborn kid? (Born kids can come about by all sorts of horrible sins too, you'll note.)

Inocencio

francis 03,

"So do you think it's better to thaw them or keep them frozen? Is either of those options morally licit in your book?"

Since DV 1:6 states it is wrong to freeze these tiny human beings even to preserve their life and that freezing them places them in a situation where further offenses and manipulation are possible:

"The freezing of embryos, even when carried out in order to preserve the life of an embryo - cryopreservation - constitutes an offence against the respect due to human beings by exposing them to grave risks of death or harm to their physical integrity and depriving them, at least temporarily, of maternal shelter and gestation, thus placing them in a situation in which further offences and manipulation are possible."

I would say, hard as it is and harsh as it may sound, they should be thawed so they may die naturally since there is no morally licit means of survival for them. I wish I had a better answer, I don't.

Take care and God bless,
Inocencio
J+M+J

francis 03

As I noted above, none of the answers here are real palatable.

James Stroud

Where to begin on such a topic. I browsed through alot of the responses but I think I want to tackle just the last one by Inocencio. You suggested that these frozen embryos "should be thawed so they may die naturally...." The only way I know of in which a embryo may die naturally is in the womb through some form of miscarriage or spontaneous abortion. I don't see how you can suggest to let these frozen embryos die a natural death. You provide a harsh suggestion indeed, and even a mortally sinful action. You would suggest the deliberate killing of innocent lives of frozen embryos? Talk about a continuation of the murder of the innocent. How is this murder? Well the process of thawing is the direct and primary cause of death. There would be no naturalness to the death.

Forgive my harshness on the subject, but I do not see how murdering them would be helpful. Talk about sending a message to the world that the Catholic Church does not care for these lives and that we support a culture of death.

Let's review Donum Vitae on this subject: DV I.1 - "Thus the fruit of human generation, from the first moment of its existence, that is to say from the moment the zygote has formed, demands the unconditional respect that is morally due to the human being in his bodily and spiritual reality. The human being is to be respected and treated as a person from the moment of conception; and therefore from that same moment his rights as a person must be recognized, among which in the first place is the inviolable right of every innocent human being to life."

So, my question to Inocencio is: How does your proposal to let these frozen embryos thaw and die respect the "inviolable right of every innocent human being to life"? I don't see how it does. Maybe my logic is faulty this late in the day, but I think this sufficiently raises a substantial alarm concerning your proposal of murder. We must respect these human lives and their right to life. So how best can we accomplish this?

I am open to a certain case-scenario in which I would allow frozen embryos to be rescued. First, I would want an infertile married couple who cannot conceive a child naturally. Second, I would want that married couple to take serious deliberations concerning the nature of rescuing and adopting this new life and what it would mean. Third, I believe such an effort should be made anonymously as best as possible with no media coverage and attention.

Even in my case-scenario, which, granted, is a scenario I find compelling and under a certain moral description quite moving, I have one main objection: trying to conceive a child through IVF requires the use of several embryos in the womb to raise the successfully the implantation rate. Would it be possible to implant one embryo successfully without the use of other embryos? Will the couple be open to multiple children, if that be the case? Would are the implications of the deaths of these embryos in which none of them are successfully implanted?

Questions...Questions...Questions..... While I hesitate to condone such actions to rescue/adopt these frozen human lives, I am open to possibilities within certain restrictions. We tread on fragile ground when dealing with these innocent human lives and we should try to come up with a solution which respects their dignity and promotes a culture of life through good actions.

Inocencio

James Stroud,

I welcome your input to the discussion. When you have a chance please read the thread. If I have misquoted or misunderstood any of the documents that I linked to please point it out. Or if I have been inconsistent in my reasoning please show me where, so I can go back and reconsider what I have written.

My main questions is how is it morally licit for a wife to use her fertility to become pregnant outside of the conjugal union of her husband?

I have to leave now but will try to check back later tonight or tomorrow morning.

Take care and God bless,
Inocencio
J+M+J

francis 03

Inocencio,

That's one of the really thorny things about this issue-- you can look at any proposed way of dealing with it, and find plenty of Church documents that make it seem very problematic. Thawing the embryos is awfully close to killing them-- and one real danger is that if the Church says that thawing the embryos is the only moral option, then lots of couples will think that it's okay if they actually INTEND that their frozen IVF babies die-- which amounts to murder! Of course, that doesn't bear on the rightness or wrongness of your moral stand here, it just means that as a policy matter its articulation by the Church would be dreadfully tricky.

francis 03

Hey Inocencio, one more thing before I quit for the night too. I just want to be clear about the contours of what you're saying here. In your reading of things, does a couple who goes through the IVF process actually commit three sins: (1) (possibly husband only) providing the gametes, (2) conceiving the child, and (3) impregnating the wife? If so, does this mean that between steps (2) and (3) the only morally licit route is to allow their children to die rather than implanting them?

Well, yeah, if you take three wrong turns, there may not be a way back after the second wrong turn. You'll lose your way because the first turn was wrong.

A lot of Church teaching that seems harsh on these questions is simply the logic of first principles pursued to their inevitable conclusion. Contraception is wrong because it leads to such ills as divorce, pre-marital sex, extramarital sex, and so on and so forth. So you can't say to the divorced woman whose husband cheated on her because they used contraception and had pre-marital sex that the Church sympathizes with her and here, let's just put a band-aid on that and come right back to the Church. It's still wrong. So at the risk of seeming unsympathetic to the woman concerned, we must still proclaim truth as we know it and as the Church teaches it.

James Stroud,

Inocencio is not advocating murder. Please take the time to read the thread, it's very involved and lots of angles. But I largely agree, although I haven't read the resources.

J.R. Stoodley

Inocencio,

I am short on time and can not read any of the documents you provide links to or this whole combox, but I have read some of your comments and it's begining to look to me like implantation is not within the options envisioned by the Church. Whether it is because those resposible for the documents did not think of this option or whether they deemed it immoral I don't know. Certainly you seem to have settled the matter of whether to leave the embryos frozen or not.

However, since the Church still seems not to have made any definitive judgement on this embryonic adoption I would not condemn those whose conscience and generosity compel them to save lives in this way. Of course all the good in the world can not justify doing any evil, so if someone believes that there is some intrinsic evil in this or if the Church determines that there is, then it can not be done no matter how many lives it saves.

Matt McDonald

"It does not seem to matter to you that this technique might be outside of the moral order and natural law."

You make a good argument, why do you have to lower yourself to such a misleading and arguably "ad hominem" assertion?

Your problem on the understanding of teaching on fertility, is that implantation is post-fertilization, a woman may not be fertile to carry an embryo to term. If I'm wrong, please prove it.

"with no possibility of their being offered safe means of survival which can be licitly pursued"

Once again, I don't know the details of why the Church has not clarified that this would or would not apply to embyro adoption. The fact that they have not implies that they are still studying the issue.

Your arguments have caused me to lean in the direction of illicit, and would discourage a couple from pursuing this, however, you are not the magisterium, nor am I. As you suggest it "might" be outside the moral order, until Rome speaks, we can only speculate, and prayerfully discern.

Inocencio

Matt McDonald,

You make a good argument, why do you have to lower yourself to such a misleading and arguably "ad hominem" assertion?

I meant no "ad hominem" assertion, I just wanted clarification. If I went about that in the wrong way I apologize it was not my intent.
I specifically put the word "seem" in bold. You imply you are considering moral order and natural law and I was wrong.

As you suggest it "might" be outside the moral order, until Rome speaks, we can only speculate, and prayerfully discern.

I agree completely. I am just trying to put forth my argument based on my lowly understanding of Church teaching and documents.

As I stated before;

"If my Mother, the Church, does decide that embryo adoption is morally licit I will welcome the decsion and the explanation of why it is moral so I can see where my understanding was incorrect."

Your problem on the understanding of teaching on fertility, is that implantation is post-fertilization, a woman may not be fertile to carry an embryo to term.

As I stated early in the discussion (Jul 24, 2006 10:15:32 PM):

I may be wrong but it is my understanding that ET must take place during a wife's fertile period.

I will go back over the information I read and double check what I read.

Take care and God bless,
Inocencio
J+M+J


Matt

Inocencio,

there is an instance of a 62 year old woman who was successfully implanted, and obviously many of the women who are using IVF/ET are not fertile.


pax vobiscum

Karen

The only way I know of in which a embryo may die naturally is in the womb through some form of miscarriage or spontaneous abortion.

That might be analogous to saying "The only way to let adults die naturally is by removing extraordinary means of life support". The problem is, it's okay to do this!

Karen

Does anyone else think that the CCC teaching is meant to be taken in the context of fertilization--and it just happens to mention surrogate wombs, because being an accomplice in the evil of IVF in this way is just that? Back in the day, we always heard about women offering to be surrogates, not adopting frozen embryos. Context is important. And do you get the sense that the teaching was directed at a specific audience--the ones who'd desire unnatural means of conceiving-- and not potential embryo-adopters? As far as the CCC quote goes, it does seem that way to me.

For that matter, is DV binding or is that just an admonition to be careful, with no binding teaching meant to be taken from it?

Does anyone else think that language is getting in the way once more? Just because Lutherans call themselves Catholics doesn't make them so, for example. In another threads, I pointed out that "cannibalism" was defined before there was any concept of a God-Man asking us to receive him--a totally transcendent concept. Today we've got a clearer definition of usury so that playing the stock market and loaning at reasonable interest rates is an acceptable thing to do. And in another thread, I pointed out the difficulties in equating sexual differences that women have to men, with reproductive parts. Just because women's breasts are different to men's doesn't make them "sexual" (reproductive) parts. There's a tendency across cultures to some extent to make women cover up that which is different to men, where we never inversely call men's differences "sexual" and demanding they be covered. I submit: doesn't it solve the whole thing if you admit that breasts are not actually reproductive parts and that the fact that differences between the sexes is not reason enough for one sex to cover their parts? (If it were true in principle, men need to cover their breasts because they're different to women's).

Breasts and wombs are strictly, not reproductive. They house and nourish like bricks and milk bottles do. We don't hear of a spouse's right to house only children conceived through the conjugal act, because that would preclude the licitness of adopting post-born children.

I read Innocencio's comments on Benedict's comments about separating conception from motherhood in general. I also read the comment about learning from our Blessed Mother. Perhaps Benedict was thought-meandering--though I respect him profoundly--and he didn't have these issues to consider at the time he wrote. If what he wrote wasn't binding then it's just that, though I acknowledge his genius. If he said that motherhood and gestation are inseperable, he could have been speaking of the whole of the female condition but not specific pregnancies. And, perhaps we can learn from our Blessed Mother who allowed herself to be impregnated by other means besides Joseph, by whom she ordinarily had the right to be impregnated by. Mary could be the example, but in the inverse. There is a right to conceive with your spouse. But Mary shows us that it's a right that can be relinquished. Just on what grounds needs to be figured out, from where I see it. "Because it would do more harm not to" isn't a valid argument because Catholicism is against "ends justifies the means" or "lesser evil" justifications.

One objection is, that of treating women's bodies like a commodity. In the case of offering yourself to be a surrogate to someone wanting to perform IVF, that's true. You're not a commodity though, when you adopt, don't agree with IVF, and only want to save a child. And you're not unfairly treating women's wombs as incubators. Women's wombs actually are already incubators even when they conceive their own children. God's plan has it such that women give a whole lot of their bodies and suffering through their bodies as Christ did--that's the dignity in pregnancy. What we want to avoid is seeing women as subhuman baby incubators because of the function of their wombs and believe me I understand that.

Reading here has made half a dozen more strains of thought bounce around through my head so I wanted to present them briefly to you kind and smart folks. I believe that everyone has good, God-seeking intentions.

I have reservations about what could be playing with fire and I know what Innocencio is saying when Innocencio says: I am open to any argument that shows how God's moral order and natural laws are respected. Amen!

francis 03

Great comment Karen. I think that whichever way the Church ends up ruling on this it's going to have to engage in some explaining of the type you were engaged in.

Karen

If he said that motherhood and gestation are inseperable, he could have been speaking of the whole of the female condition but not specific pregnancies.

"In one of my favorite books, The Ratzinger Report, then-Cardinal Ratzinger lamented society's separation of sex and motherhood, which according to the principles of natural law are intriniscally connected. This is manifested fully and purely in the sacramental union of matrimony."

See, you can only take it so far because of the example of Mary, who conceived (and was impregnated) not through Joseph but in another way.

I feel stuck. You have a right to be impregnated in a licit way. Rape isn't one of them. In Mary's case, God made it licit. Somehow. She was special and I'm just not sure anymore that we can learn from this example in the way of deriving a normal principle from it when she was extra-ordinary. I mean if you want to take it that far, then you can advocate adultery and having kids outside of marriage for us normal folks. The example of Mary only goes so far sometimes, unfortunately.

Inocencio

Karen,

I just want to point out the reference to The Ratzinger Report was a comment by mike.

Take care and God bless,
Inocencio
J+M+J

Mike

Also, keep in mind that in the book, it was not motherhood and gestation or conception that were linked, but rather motherhood and sexuality.

I believe that the interview from which that quote was taken took place in 1985. Basically, he was lamenting the notions of having sex without openness to children (contraception) and the idea of artificial procreation, without sex.

If embryo adoption is deemed immoral by the Church, it may be primarily on these grounds. To a lesser extent it would be about whether it violates chastity, as Inocencio alluded to above.

Additionally, but not entirely relevant to this forum, Ratzinger discussed the notion that a married mother with children is perceived by society as asexual or (to put it crudely,) unsexy, while a single unmarried woman is perceived as a sexual object.

Inocencio

I cannot seem to find the article I read concerning the wife's fertile period and embryo adoption. And as Matt pointed out a 62 year-old woman had an embryo successfully implant in her. I asked to be corrected if my understanding was wrong.

My questions remain the same.

Is it morally licit for a wife to become pregnant outside of the conjugal union of her husband? Though the end is good, the child is already conceived BUT the wife is made pregnant by the intrusion of others in her womb.

Is it morally licit for an unmarried woman to become pregnant outside of marriage?

Since DV was aware of ET techniques as used in "surrogate" motherhood how do we understand the document when it states "with no possibility of their being offered safe means of survival which can be licitly pursued"?

Though the end is good and the child is already conceived BUT the wife is made pregnant by the intrusion of others in her womb.

For the wife does not rule over her own body, but the husband does; likewise the husband does not rule over his own body, but the wife does. 1 Cor 7:4

As we all have I hope and pray for guidance.

Take care and God bless,
Inocencio
J+M+J

Inocencio

francis 03,

But let me ask you guys a question: if we invented artificial wombs, would their use be morally licit?

I wanted to point out that DV 1:6 does specifically address artificial uteruses:

"Techniques of fertilization in vitro can open the way to other forms of biological and genetic manipulation of human embryos, such as attempts or plans for fertilization between human and animal gametes and the gestation of human embryos in the uterus of animals, or the hypothesis or project of constructing artificial uteruses for the human embryo. These procedures are contrary to the human dignity proper to the embryo, and at the same time they are contrary to the right of every person to be conceived and to be born within marriage and from marriage."

Take care and God bless,
Inocencio
J+M+J

J.R. Stoodley

Inocencio,

An artificial uterus is contrary to the dignity of the human embryo, but then so is dieing in a Petri dish. Nothing in these documents you have quoted seems to actually condemn embryo adoption. It seems more like the possibility was not thought of by the authors, and thus the documents do not apply to it. Remember, these are not divinely inspired texts. They should be taken seriously, but they need not be considered perfect, so deriving conclusions from statements like "with no possibility of their being offered safe means of survival which can be licitly pursued"? that the authors did not intend would not make sense, even if those conclusions did follow from a literal interpretation of the words. Is this making sense? You have to consider what the Church is actually trying to teach in a document, and there seems to be no evidence that they were trying to teach anything on embryo adoption.

When speaking of artificial uteruses they may have been thinking of the idea of creating babies specifically to be reared in artificial uteruses, which it contrary to human dignity, not saving babies already created by IVF as a sort of rescue mission.

On the other hand, if freezing fetuses is intrinsically evil then the "extra" embryos would have to be put into the artificial uterus essentially immediately, which suggests their becoming an established part of the IVF process, and that would be bad.

Hopefully the Vatican will clarify these issues soon.

Inocencio

J.R. Stoodley,

I am basing most of my thoughts on what the Church has taught about the unitive and procreative nature of the conjugal union of husband and wife.

I thought embryo adoption was allowed until I read DV. You read it and got exactly the opposite perspective.

I do appreciate you taking the time to read it and commenting even if I disagree with your conclusion.

If you think it is morally licit for a wife to become pregnant outside of the conjugal union of her husband to attempt to save an embryo do you base that on DV or some other document?

Take care and God bless,
Inocencio
J+M+J

J.R. Stoodley

Inocencio,

To be quite honest I have not read the actual document, only what you have quoted from it, which I presume to be the most relevent parts for this discussion. I would read the whole document but I am commenting on this blog as short breaks between working on a big project.

I'm afraid I am not basing my comments on any specific text, just my own reason and conscience and my impression (largely from reading) about what Church teachings are and are not (authoritative and in some cases infallable but not inspired). If you have any authoritative texts that actually condemn this practice then I shall willingly accept them, but it seems from what Jimmy wrote that there is no such thing (yet).

If you want to only base what you write here on Church documents that's fine. You are much less likely to make mistakes then me with that method, but I still choose to express my own private speculations here at times.

Leigh

But if artificial wombs are immoral, yet Isolettes and other incubator technology for saving premies is moral, might there come a point where we literally cannot tell the difference between one and the other on a purely technological basis?

Already our efforts to save ultra-premies is having weird effects on US infant mortality statistics, because our NICU's routinely make an effort to save babies born so early that other countries would consider them to be miscarriages. (I've even heard that the statistical anomality caused by ultra-premie deaths is already more significant to our infant-mortality stats looking bad in relation to other countries than deaths of born-at-term babies that are low birth weight due to maternal poverty).

Every year we further push back the boundaries at which we can not only save ultra-premies, but also save them without physical or mental impairments. One of the techniques that's showing the most promise for major breakthroughs in saving ultra-premies is the use of a special oxygenation fluid for them to breathe until their lungs develop sufficiently for them to breathe air. It's been done for several years on an experimental basis, long enough that one little girl who was given little hope of survival, and that as a massively mentally and physically disabled ruin, has entered kindergarten in the *gifted* program.

There are also efforts to figure out ways to delay certain key changes in the heart and lungs that occur during birth so even younger ultra-premies can be saved, by effectively replicating the uterine environment and continuing to deliver nutrition and oxygen through the umbilical cord. This will enable NICU's to save premies so tiny their lungs haven't developed enough to survive even with fluid breathing, and those whose digestive systems haven't developed enough to allow them to take oral nourishment.

So within the next decade or two NICU technology could advance to the point that we can save any ultra-premie from the time the woman first realizes she's pregnant. If major nanotech breakthroughs occur, that point could even be pushed back to moments after *conception*. Could there be a point at which we would be morally obligated to *stop* doing our best to save ultra-premies, and instead just wring our hands as we watch them die?

Or might the moral line lie not in the technology itself, but the motivation for its use? That is, whether it's used to save a baby that otherwise would die, as opposed to letting some "too posh to push" celebrity to have a baby without having to go through nine months of pregnancy with it, simply because she has the money to pay for it out of pocket as an elective, rather than it being medically necessary to save the baby?

Inocencio

Leigh,

"So within the next decade or two NICU technology could advance to the point that we can save any ultra-premie from the time the woman first realizes she's pregnant."

I don't have the same optimism as you about the advances we think medical science has made or will make. This article is food for thought.

THE HIDDEN DANGERS OF IN VITRO FERTILIZATION By Bradley Mattes, MBS

Take care and God bless,
Inocencio
J+M+J


Matt McDonald

Inocencio,

"If you think it is morally licit for a wife to become pregnant outside of the conjugal union of her husband to attempt to save an embryo do you base that on DV or some other document"

You return to this one point repeatedly, as if it is somehow a complete and irrefutable argument against embryo adoption. It is morally licit for the woman to become pregnant by rape even though steps could be taken to prevent it, it is immoral for the rapist.

Is is moral to take an action which will guarantee your own death? of course not...

unless, under certain circumstances where you are permitted, and scripturally encouraged, to lay down your life for your friends. So circumstances can change the moral licitness of similar actions.

Becoming pregnant by voluntary adultery/fornication, or voluntary IVF/ET is of course immoral. Becoming pregnant by ET in order to save a babies life may be immoral, but we're still waiting for a definitive answer.

Inocencio

Matt McDonald,

"You return to this one point repeatedly, as if it is somehow a complete and irrefutable argument against embryo adoption."

As I pointed out "My questions remain the same."

Since I was incorrect in my understanding of the ET process needing the woman's fertility I simply wanted to clarify my concerns/questions. Especially, after James Stroud accused me of condoning murder and mortal sin. I apologize if it somehow offended your sensibilities.

Take care and God bless,
Inocencio
J+M+J

Karen

It is morally licit for the woman to become pregnant by rape even though steps could be taken to prevent it, it is immoral for the rapist.

Woah. WOAH. A little discernment here. Rape wrongs a woman whether she conceives or not.

Impregnation as a result of rape is but one VERY GOOD proof of many, why rape is wrong.

Impregnation as a result of rape can be an unfortunate consequence of rape that can follow when nature takes its course in an unfortunate fertile woman, but it's one of the very things that makes rape as ugly as it is. It's never a morally licit thing that pregnancy should result after a crime. It's only a proof among many proofs that shows rape for the evil that it is.

That's like saying it's morally licit for me to have my teeth naturally fall out after I've just been punched in the face.


Matt McDonald

"Rape wrongs a woman whether she conceives or not. "

That's a remarkably obvious statement, I hope you don't suggest I said something to the contrary.

"It's never a morally licit thing that pregnancy should result"

Then we should give rape victims plan B? There are plenty of reasons rape is immoral, pregnancy (the gift from God of a child) is not one of them. Pregnancy in and of itself is neither moral nor immoral.

The distinction I'm making here is that it may be that a pregnancy resulting from an immoral act, doesn't necessarily result in the actual impregnation being immoral. In the case of rape it is the rape that's immoral, in the case of embryo adoption, it's the IVF that's immoral, not necessarily the ET.

J.R. Stoodley

Getting pregnant from being raped is not immoral because the woman had no choice in the matter. The issue here is whether a woman may licitly be impregnated by any means other than natural copulation. I don't see why not, since the "impregnation" we are talking about is not reproduction but just sheltering and nurishing a baby.

Inocencio on the other hand seems to hold that implantation and nurturing the embryo is so bound up with reproduction that it also is not allowed to happen outside married love.

Perhaps it is just unnatural and wrong for a woman to carry within her a child not her own or her husband's. I might lean that way if it were not for the great good that could come from embryo adoption, which may indicate that I am letting the ends obscure my judgement of the means.

I'm glad the Vatican is working on this. I hope B16 decides to teach on this himself not just some Currial office so we can have a more unquestionable answer.

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