June 1, 2018
In their desire for a
child, couples who struggle with infertility sometimes turn to in vitro fertilization (IVF). The
rapidly growing industry that provides IVF offers fulfillment of a couple's dream
of becoming parents. For some, the dream turns into a nightmare after multiple IVF
attempts fail to produce a child. Torn between cycles of hope and heartbreak, these
couples suffer from the effects of what Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas
City recently called a "God crisis," which he described as "the most serious
crisis" facing our country. As Archbishop Naumann highlighted, when we sever
our relationship with God and reject His plan, we view people as things.
How is in vitro fertilization a rejection of
God's plan? Consider the process: the mother's eggs are collected from her
ovaries, fertilized by the father's sperm in a lab, and the new life is implanted
in the uterus. In the words of Robert Edwards, one of the scientists who
created the first "test-tube" baby 40 years ago, "I wanted to find out exactly
who was in charge, whether it was God Himself or whether it was scientists in
the laboratory." His answer: "It was us."
It is admirable when
couples seek to overcome infertility, but not all acts are morally acceptable. Many
couples are unaware of the Church's teaching that IVF is wrong. The creation of
the child in the laboratory eliminates sex as the means of procreation. It is
in a loving, sexual union that God desires to gift a husband and wife with biological
children. This is essential for respecting both the fullness of the love the
couple is called to, as well as the right of the child to be conceived from the
physically-expressed union of loving parents. With IVF, couples "take charge"
and view the child as a thing that achieves their goal of having a family,
rather than as a gift bestowed according to God's will.
Contrary to Edwards'
words, God is in charge. It is truly
God who lovingly created the world and all of humanity and, in every moment,
holds us all in existence. Our attempts at controlling life and death are as
old as Adam and Eve, who freely chose to act as if they were God.
Sold a bill of goods by fertility
clinics, women have increasingly begun to tell heartbreaking stories of
mourning their children who were conceived but later destroyed or permanently
frozen from IVF. Recent stories detail the sadness and anger of parents whose
frozen embryos and eggs were lost after a power loss caused the unexpected
thawing of freezing tanks. Some are turning to the Church for help after they
discover the realities of IVF.
How do we remain faithful
to the truth but merciful toward those who mourn children lost to IVF? We
respond by acknowledging their loss and expressing our sympathy. We always affirm
the goodness of children conceived through IVF. Consider that it may be more
appropriate in educational settings to make the crucial distinction that IVF is
Those struggling with the
unfulfilled desire to bear a child might find solace and guidance in the
prayers of the Church and Scripture. In the Nicene Creed we profess faith in
the Holy Spirit, "the Lord, the giver of life…" In Galatians, we see the
Spirit creating physical life, but also bestowing grace and spiritual life (Gal
5:5). St. Paul speaks of hope, of waiting with endurance, and of the
"groanings" of mankind as we wait for our ultimate fulfillment—union with God (Rom
Let us pray for all
who mourn their children, for those struggling to conceive, and for God's plan
for creating life to be accepted in our hearts, our families, and our culture.
Mary McClusky is Assistant Director for Project Rachel
Ministry Development at the Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities, U.S. Conference
of Catholic Bishops. For confidential help after abortion, visit www.hopeafterabortion.org