Friday, September 25, 2009

The Catholic Church's Teaching on Reproductive Technologies (David W. Emery)

This is a guest post from my fellow moderator over at CHNI, David W. Emery:

Just as contraception is a negation of the fecundity of marriage, so also is IVF [In Vitro Fertilization]. It assumes that God did not mean what he said in Genesis: “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them” (1:27), “Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and cleaves to his wife, and they become one flesh” (2:24) and “Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain, saying, “I have gotten a man with the help of the LORD” (4:1).

The Vatican document Dignitas Personae (DP), issued in 2008, gives us the meaning of these passages: “The body of a human being, from the very first stages of its existence, can never be reduced merely to a group of cells.… ‘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 totality. 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’…” (DP 4).

If human life begins at conception, and that life is the image of God, it stands to reason that human marriage, spoken of in Genesis as the fountain of human life, has the specific role of producing, honoring and nurturing that life (DP 6). Why is this so? “It is the Church’s conviction that what is human is not only received and respected by faith, but is also purified, elevated and perfected. God, after having created man in his image and likeness (cf. Gen 1:26), described his creature as “very good” (Gen 1:31), so as to be assumed later in the Son (cf. Jn 1:14). In the mystery of the Incarnation, the Son of God confirmed the dignity of the body and soul which constitute the human being. Christ did not disdain human bodiliness, but instead fully disclosed its meaning and value: ‘In reality, it is only in the mystery of the incarnate Word that the mystery of man truly becomes clear’” (DP 7). If we then relegate the matter of human conception to a laboratory dish, is this not reducing human existence to “a group of cells” and disregarding its divine destiny?

Another consequence of In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) technology (to enlarge on what David S. states above) is the erosion of marriage. Instead of being a divine sacrament, it becomes merely a vehicle of selfishness and lust — divisive instead of unitive. It becomes therefore self-defeating in the same way that it does through contraception. Divorce statistics are only part of the story. We need to view the ultimate rejection of marriage in the phenomena of cohabitation and casual sex as the more obvious consequence.

Sections 14 through 16 of Dignitas Personae treat specifically of what is wrong with IVF. The following sections 17 through 23 give a summary of bioethical problems which are the direct consequence of IVF, such as the freezing of embryos. The remainder of the document touches on other techniques which are the direct outgrowth of IVF: gene therapy, cloning, stem cell harvesting, hybridization, etc. The document is worth reading in its entirety.

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Related reading:

Resources Explaining the Catholic Church's Moral Opposition to In-Vitro Fertilization and Artificial Insemination

1 comment:

the need for a father? said...

Dear Friends,

We are very happy to submit to you the contents of the link, UNICEF approved, below, which is a look at reproductive technologies from the true ivf-sufferers point of view, that is the ivf-made themselves. We are only too happy if you feel that you would like to quote it at anytime. Here is the link >