As I prepared to write this paper I was continuously reminded that my wife and I have been graced with three gifts from God. All our children have reached majority and I had the distinct privilege last weekend of standing with my middle child and oldest daughter as we prepared to walk together for the last moments prior to her covenant of fidelity to the light of her life. Of course as we walked the last thought was that Kate and Matt would struggle with fertility, in fact the opposite is the case as the celebrant prayed over them, blessing them and praying that God would allow them to witness their children’s children. But time will reveal the future of this holy union and our prayers for them will continue. The focus of my discussion is In Vitro Fertilization [IVF], its use by married couples, and the Church’s instruction on these issues in light of scripture, revealed truth and current documents on the subject from Humane Vitae forward including Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith [CDF] instructional documents Donum Vitae and Dignitas Personae. The main theme may be segmented into two inseparable segments best stated directly from the second part of Dignitas Personae. The CDF instruction here focuses specifically on the problems concerning procreation with specific reference to IVF: 1.
“The origin of human life has its authentic context in marriage and in the family, where it is generated through an act which expresses the reciprocal love between a man and a woman. Procreation which is truly responsible vis-à-vis the child to be born must be the fruit of marriage”
“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” My entire exposure to the IVF issue occurred in the last few weeks, but during that time I began to make a connection between the demand for IVF as an insatiable drive by some couples toward this “any and all” means possible for conception and the general belief that all people of good will strive to improve their lives and the lives of their children as a basic human desire. It has become clear that this inordinate desire for a child in this way is an extreme and self-serving at its root, but rationally built upon the right reasoning and central purpose of marriage they were taught. We often are faced with evaluating performance as success or failure, one rewarded and the other often rejected or stigmatized in the mainstream of our society. A failure label, typically applied to the ability to achieve a goal, is clearly misapplied when discussing fertility as it lies outside the control of the couple’s range of options, but a childless couple is labeled so anyway. To be free of defect and to be or “appear to be” successful in as many of the normal aspects of life that can be permitted for the individual and couple is a growing minimum threshold principle in our world of excess wealth and resource. It is evident that we as [first world] children, inside and outside the Church, have been nurtured in this standard by our parents, teachers and others in authority and that we have furthered nurtured this with our children. The reinforcement occurs in the everyday lives of these children growing up in stable homes with two parents that offer their child a model for their own future life. The successful vocation of marriage and family with children are at the heart of the Catholic community life and, within the Church, the family unit or the “domestic church” is viewed as the expected destination for young married couples as reflected in the catechism. “ “From the wedlock of Christians there comes the family, in which new citizens of human society are born, who by the grace of the Holy Spirit received in baptism are made children of God, thus perpetuating the people of God through...
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