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The difficulty when one faces
infertility is that its treatment (medical evaluation, protocols, procedures,
etc.) must respect God's design for married love. "In an age of advances in reproductive medicine ... some solutions
offer real hope for restoring a couple's natural, healthy ability to have
children ... [while] others pose serious moral problems by failing to respect the
dignity of the couple's marital relationship, of their sexuality, or of the
child." (Life Giving Love in an Age of
The Church, with sincere compassion and empathy for couples struggling with infertility, offers guidance and hope through her teachings on how to understand and approach infertility in a way that reverences and protects the dignity of the human person and respects God's divine plan for married love. As the U.S. bishops affirm, "the male and female bodies are made to be able to procreate together. When infertility is apparent, the challenge is to diagnose and address problems so these bodies can function as they should—and there is no moral problem in doing this, any more than there is in other medical treatments to restore health." (Life Giving Love in an Age of Technology)
Today, there are a variety of
moral approaches to treating suspected infertility. For example, learning how to pinpoint the
fertile window to maximize the chance of conception with NFP use is very
effective for some problems. "Hormonal treatment and other medications,
conventional or laser surgery to repair damaged or blocked fallopian tubes,
means for alleviating male infertility factors and other restorative treatments
are [also] available . . . these and other methods do not substitute for the married
couple's act of loving union; rather, they assist this act in reaching its
potential to conceive a new human life." (Life
Giving Love in an Age of Technology)
Below are several resources in
which the Church provides theological and pastoral directives on how to
approach the challenge of infertility in accord with the dignity of the human
person and with reverence for God as the author and creator of life.
personae (On Certain Bioethical Questions) 2008, Congregation for the Doctrine of the
Released by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, this document grapples with a number of bioethical questions raised in response to modern technological advancements in the field of human fertility and infertility. Using the principles of Catholic moral teaching, the document brings clarity and truth to the debates surrounding both procreation and genetic manipulation.
vitae (Instruction on Respect for Human Life) 1987, Congregation for the Doctrine of the
Published by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, this text is the predecessor to the above document, Dignitas personae. Written in the midst of significant medical innovation on assisted reproductive technology, this document defends the gift and dignity of human life (particularly in its earliest stages), against the onset of intrusive and immoral scientific innovation.
Directives for Catholic Hospitals (Fifth Edition) 2009, U.S. Conference of
Now in its fifth edition, this document provides instruction for health care professionals regarding the mission and scope of their work. Addressing both pastoral and moral issues alike, the bishops provide guidance on the standards expected of those in Christian health care. The Directives include instruction on specific moral dilemmas encountered in the health care field including those that pertain to human fertility and life.
Articles and Publications:
Not Made": Further Reflections on the Laboratory Generation of Human Life
William E. May
Dr. May writes about the morality of in vitro fertilization and the necessity of the marital act to be procreative rather than reproductive.
The Vocation of Marriage: An Approach to the Vatican Instruction on Bioethics
Janet E. Smith
This article attempts to further explain the churches teaching on In Vitro Fertilization. It expands upon the fact that IVF is neither in keeping with the dignity of the spouses nor the dignity appropriate for the transmission of human life.
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