A renowned neuroscientist and Catholic priest told a bioethics news conference in New York that there is widespread ignorance about the moral implications of in vitro fertilization (IVF), even among Catholics.
Speaking at a conference sponsored by the diocese of Rockville Center, New York, the Rev. Dr. Tadeusz Pacholczyk said “a constellation of ethical issues” is emerging from the now common procedure that reflects a cheapening of respect for human life and human sexuality.
According to a report by the Catholic News Service, Father Pacholczyk pointed out that as of today, an estimated half-million “spare” human embryos have been sitting in cold storage for years. There is also the very common practice of implanting multiple embryos into women and then, if too many begin to thrive, of employing “selective pregnancy reduction” techniques to abort one or more of the babies. This is in addition to the millions of embryos that are routinely discarded prior to implantation because a clinic worker believes they appear to be less than perfect.
“This is no longer a matter of ‘a slippery slope,’” Father Pacholczyk continued. “This is downhill skiing.”
IVF is causing the growth of a eugenic mentality toward developing human life and is causing a diminishment of the marital relationship by undermining the natural sexual relationship between a husband and wife.
“It violates the exclusivity of marriage,” Fr. Pacholczyk said. A medical technician and a Petri dish replace the love of husband and wife in the creation of life.
Conceived by such means, the child is more likely to be regarded as “a product,” especially in cases where a surrogate is employed to donate sperm or eggs or to have the embryo implanted in her to carry the child to term for someone else, Fr. Pacholczyk said.
At first glance, many couples believe nothing could possibly be wrong with IVF because it helps to bring life in to the world; however, when one looks closer, they will see the immense loss of human life that commonly occurs in the process.
“This is not simply life-giving technology,” Fr. Pacholczyk said. “This is a double-edged sword.”
We are living in a time “when technology is outrunning our ethics,” he said, adding that society must ask if, “just because something can be done, should it be done?”
He recommended that Catholics seek guidance on this subject from a 1987 document published by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith entitled “Donum Vitae” (The Gift of Life).
In “Donum Vitae,” the child is seen as a gift rather than a right, Fr. Pacholczyk said. “The parents do not own the child,” who is the fruit of love between a husband and wife and the love of God.
For those couples who are suffering from infertility and want to conceive, Fr. Pacholczyk discussed a growing area of natural medical techniques that, in some cases, have higher success rates than IVF.
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1. Scripture has much to say about how men and women should respond to infertility. Name some of the famous infertile couples in the Bible (See Genesis 18; Genesis 20; Genesis 30; 1 Samuel 1) How were these couples were healed of their infertility?
2. How can the sorrowful situation of infertility become a way to grow and mature as a Christian? (See Heb. 12:11 and James 1:2)
3. Under what conditions does the Church condone research aimed at reducing human sterility? (See Catechism No. 2375)
4. Why does the Church teach about reproductive technologies such as artificial insemination, IVF, and surrogate parenting? (See Catechism No. 2376)
5. Techniques that involve just a married couple and not an anonymous sperm or egg donor are considered less reprehensible, but are still morally unacceptable. Why? (See Catechism No. 2377)
6. Even though IVF is touted as a moral good because it aids infertile couples in bringing new life into the world, the normal process involves the killing or freezing of more embryos than are ever brought to life. How does this happen? (Read the 2nd paragraph of Donum Vitae, Part 2, available here: http://www.usccb.org/prolife/tdocs/part2.shtml )