GENERAL POLICY ON ASSISTED REPRODUCTIVE
Explanation of Terms and Procedures
The term assisted reproductive technology
is used of a medical
technique which promotes or achieves fertilization.
procreation must always take place within marriage.
sperm or ova from a person outside the marriage to conceive a child is never
conception of a child must be brought about as the result of an act of sexual
intercourse between spouses. The
unitive and procreative aspects of the conjugal act should not be separated.
Fertilization should not occur as the direct result of a technical
process which substitutes for the personal act of sexual intercourse between
The use by spouses of technological methods in reproduction is not
entirely precluded, but such methods must meet the following condition to be
permissible: the method must facilitate
the natural act of sexual intercourse or assist
that act to achieve its objective of conceiving a child once it has been
Techniques of assisted reproduction may not be used which involve the
deliberate destruction or wastage of human embryos.
Sources of Policy
The first four principles have been set forth in the Instruction
on Respect for Human Life in its Origin and On the Dignity of Procreation (Donum
Vitae), a 1987 document from the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of
the Faith (1):
the moral point of view a truly responsible procreation vis-a-vis the unborn
child must be the fruit of marriage. …The tradition of the Church and
anthropological reflection recognize in marriage and in its indissoluble unity
the only setting worthy of truly responsible procreation. (2)
reasons lead to a negative moral judgment concerning heterologous artificial
fertilization: consequently fertilization of a married woman with the sperm of
a donor different from her
husband and fertilization with the husband’s sperm of an ovum not coming
from his wife are morally illicit.(3)
The Church’s teaching on marriage and human procreation affirms the
‘inseparable connection, willed by God and unable to be broken by man on his
own initiative, between the two meanings of the conjugal act: the unitive
meaning and the procreative meaning. Indeed,
by its intimate structure, the conjugal act, while most closely uniting
husband and wife, capacitates them for the generation of new lives, according
to laws inscribed in the very being of man and woman.’
This principle, which is based upon the nature of marriage and the
intimate connection of the goods of marriage, has well-known consequences on
the level of responsible fatherhood and motherhood…
Thus, fertilization is licitly sought when it is the result of a ‘conjugal
act which is per se suitable for the generation of children to which marriage
is ordered by its nature and by which the spouses become one flesh.’
But from the moral point of view procreation is deprived of its proper
perfection when it is not desired as the fruit of the conjugal act, that is to
say of the specific act of the spouses’ union…
The moral relevance of the link
between the meanings of the conjugal act and between the goods of marriage, as
well as the unity of the human being and the dignity of his origin, demand
that the procreation of a human person be brought about as the fruit of the
conjugal act specific to the love between spouses. (4)
Thus moral conscience ‘does not necessarily proscribe the use of
certain artificial means destined solely either to the facilitating of the
natural act or to ensuring that the natural act normally performed achieves
its proper end.’ If the technical means facilitates the conjugal act or helps
it to reach its natural objectives, it can be morally acceptable.
If, on the other hand, the procedure were to replace the conjugal act,
it is morally illicit. (5)
The second, third, and fourth principles are explicitly reiterated in
the 1994 revision of the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services
from the National Conference of Catholic Bishops (6):
fertilization (that is, any technique used to achieve conception by the use of
gametes coming from at least one donor other than the spouses) is prohibited
because it is contrary to the covenant of marriage, the unity of the spouses,
and the dignity proper to parents and the child. (no. 40)
artificial fertilization (that is, any technique used to achieve conception
using the gametes of the two spouses joined in marriage) is prohibited when it
separates procreation from the marital act in its unitive significance (e.g.,
any technique used to achieve extra-corporeal conception).
the marital act of sexual intercourse is not able to attain its procreative
purpose, assistance that does not separate the unitive and procreative ends of
the act, and does not substitute for the marital act itself, may be used to
help married couples conceive. (no. 38)
The fifth principle is likewise presented in the Ethical
and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Servicesof 1994:
techniques of assisted conception that respect the unitive and procreative
meanings of sexual intercourse and do not involve the destruction of human
embryos, or their deliberate generation
in such numbers that it is clearly envisaged that all cannot implant and some
are simply being used to maximize the chances of others implanting, may be
used as therapies for infertility.
1. Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Instruction
on Respect for Human Life in its Origin and On the Dignity of Procreation (Donum
Vitae) (Washington, DC: United States Catholic Conference, 1987).
2. Ibid., I.A.1.
3. Ibid., II.A.2.
4. Ibid., II.B.4.
5. Ibid., II.B.6.
The quote is from Pius XII, Discourse
to those taking part in the 4th International Congress of Catholic Doctors,
September 29, 1949. The same
principle was articulated by Pius XII in the address Christian
Norms of Morality (September 29, 1949) and Fertility
and Sterility (May 19, 1956).
6. National Conference of Catholic Bishops, Ethical
and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services, Nov. 1994
(Washington, DC: United States Catholic Conference, 1995).
GENERAL POLICY ON ASSISTED REPRODUCTIVE
Section (I) of this commentary will present the rationale for the
Church’s position on the use of assisted reproductive technologies.
Section (II) will offer
information relevant to counseling infertile couples who may be considering the
use of assisted reproductive technologies.
I. RATIONALE FOR
THE CHURCH’S POSITION ON THE USE OF ASSISTED
1) Human procreation must always take place within marriage.
First, this principle has to do with the very meaning of marriage.
A child is meant to be the sign of the mutual self-giving of the spouses.
He or she is meant to be the ‘living image’ of the love of the
spouses for each other and of their fidelity to each other. (1)
Second, a child needs a certain type of environment in which to develop
and flourish. Ideally, this is
provided by the marital setting. (2) Morever,
it can be argued that family life based on marriage makes a positive
contribution to the welfare of society. (3)
2) Using sperm
from a person outside
to conceive a child is never
First of all, the use of donor sperm or ova violates the unity
of the marriage. (4) When a man
and a woman marry, they give themselves exclusively to each other.
The selves they give are sexual and procreative beings.
A husband and wife violate their marital commitment if they give
themselves to another in sexual union. Similarly,
they dishonor their marital covenant if they choose to exercise their
procreative powers with someone other than their spouse. (5)
Second, the use of donor sperm or ova can seriously disrupt
and confuse family relationships for
the child.(6) For example, the sister or sister-in-law of the wife could
donate ova, with that woman subsequently
being both the mother of the child from a biological point of view and the aunt
of the child in terms of social relationships.
Or again, it is possible for a daughter to donate ova to her own mother
so that her mother may have another child later in life. In this case, the daughter would be the child’s
mother biologically and the child’s sister in terms of social relationships.
The mother would be the child’s grandmother from a biological point of
view and the child’s mother in terms of
Similarly, sperm might be donated by a brother or brother-in-law of the
husband, with that man subsequently
being the child’s father from a biological point of view and the child’s
uncle in terms of social relationships. Further,
it is not inconceivable that a father donate sperm to his biological son, so
that he would be both the child’s father biologically and his/her grandfather
in terms of social relationships. Indeed,
since sperm can be successfully frozen, a child could be conceived using sperm
taken from a man who has already died.
These examples illustrate the rupture between biological parenthood and
responsibility for upbringing that current reproductive technologies have made a
possibility with the use of donor sperm or ova.
Such a confusion of relationships
is not fair to the child because it can adversely affect the child’s personal
identity and relationships within the family.
3) The conception of a child must be brought about as the
result of an act of sexual intercourse between
spouses. The unitive and
procreative aspects of the conjugal act should not be separated.
Fertilization should not occur as the direct result of a technical
process which substitutes for the personal act of sexual intercourse between
The inseparability principle,
namely, that the unitive and procreative aspects of the act of sexual
intercourse may not be separated, was articulated by Paul VI in Humanae
Vitae. (7) From the case of
contraception, it was analogously applied to assisted reproduction in the Instruction on Respect for Human Life in its Origin and On the Dignity
deliberately deprives the conjugal act of its openness to procreation and in
this way brings about a voluntary dissociation of the ends of marriage.
Homologous artificial fertilization, in seeking a procreation which is
not the fruit of a specific act of conjugal union, objectively effects an
analogous separation between the goods and the meanings of marriage.
The rationale for the inseparability principle is found in natural law
this point, the Instruction presupposes a certain understanding of natural law
that has played an important role
in Catholic moral analysis for centuries. According
to this view, the natural, biological functions of the human organism have
definite purposes, which can be recognized
as such and which place moral parameters on human activity.
Traditionally, the sexual function was seen within this framework as
having only one primary purpose, namely, the procreation of children.
However, in this century, Catholic theologians, and eventually, the
magisterium itself, have acknowledged that the sexual act has two primary
purposes, the unitive (that is, it serves to express and strengthen the personal
relationship between the partners) and the procreative.
In distinction from the earlier view, these purposes are seen as equally
fundamental, but at the same time, they are also held to be inseparable. That is, any exercise
of the sexual function that is deliberately closed to either of these goods is
morally prohibited, because such an action would directly contravene one of the
purposes built into the structure of the act of sexual intercourse.
Such an action would not only be a violation of human nature, it would
also be a transgression of the law of God, who is the author of human
According to natural law theory, moral rightness and wrongness is
grounded in our human nature. The
two purposes of sexual intercourse, the unitive and the procreative, are
naturally found in the same act. Methods
of bringing about the conception of children apart from a personal act of sexual
intercourse violate our God-given human nature. For this reason, such methods are to be judged morally
Some theologians have maintained that the inseparability of the unitive
and procreative aspects of sexual intercourse applies to
the marriage as a whole. In
other words, each marriage must be a loving union which is open to procreation,
which may well be true even if the inseparability is not present in each
individual act of intercourse. However,
the magisterium has consistently interpreted the inseparability principle as
applying to individual acts of sexual intercourse as well as to the marriage as
a whole. (10)
In an address at the University of Chicago, the late Joseph Cardinal
Bernardin noted that human sexual activity, unlike the sexual activity of animals, is
part of human intimacy.
In other words, human sexual activity is part of our ability and our
desire to enter into relationships with other people. (11 ) This dimension of human
sexuality is taken away when purely technological procedures
are used to have a child. Consider
the comments of one couple who used a reproductive technology to have a child:
I believe, would have qualms about the sort of artificial insemination that Lisa
and I have undertaken and yet perhaps the most difficult part of AIH for us has
been the struggle to maintain a degree of intimacy in the process of
reproduction in the midst of a clinical environment designed to achieve results.
…the ideology of technology that fuels this commodification…is a way of
thinking of ourselves and our world in ‘mechanical, industrial terms,’ terms
that are incompatible with intimacy. Interestingly,
the Roman Catholic Church has rejected AIH precisely because it separates procreation
from sexual intercourse and the expression of love manifest in the conjugal act.
…there is an insight here that should not be overlooked.
Once procreation is separated from sexual intercourse, it is difficult
not to treat the process of
procreation as the production of an object to which one has a right as a
producer. It is also difficult
under these circumstances not to place the end above the means; effectiveness in
accomplishing one’s goal can easily become the sole criterion by which
decisions are made.
anyway, has been my experience. Although
Lisa and I tried for a time to maintain a degree of intimacy during the process
of AIH by remaining together during all phases of the procedure as well as after
the insemination, we quickly abandoned this as a charade.
The system neither encourages nor facilitates intimacy. …A conception,
if it takes place, will not be the result of an act of bodily lovemaking, but a
result of technology. We have come
to accept this. Yet, such
acceptance comes at a price, for our experience of reproduction is
discontinuous. A child conceived by this method is lovingly willed into
existence, but it is not conceived through a loving, bodily act. (12)
Regarding the Catholic Church’s rejection of certain reproductive
technologies, Cardinal Bernardin pointed out that the Church ‘speaks against
these procedures not because it is opposed
to the generation of life or to scientific knowledge and application, but
because it seeks to protect what it sees as an essential connection between the
creation of life and faithful, committed marital
Two more arguments are offered in the Vatican Instruction
in support of the position that the conception of a child should be brought
about as the result of a personal act of sexual intercourse between spouses
rather than by a technological process which replaces that act.
The first is ‘rooted in the ‘theology of the body’ set forth by
Pope John Paul II.’ (14) It is
that purely technological means of reproduction apart from the act of sexual intercourse between spouses ‘fails to respect
the ‘language of the body’, ‘ that is, ‘the deep human significance of
the personal gift, bodily and spiritual in nature, of husband and wife to one
another in the marital act.’ (15)
The second line of argument is that purely technological means of
reproduction are offensive to the dignity of the child in reducing him or her to
an ‘object’ or ‘product.’ (16) This was noted by the aforementioned couple who used
artificial insemination: ‘Once procreation is separated from sexual
intercourse, it is difficult not to treat the process of procreation as the
production of an object to which one has a right as a producer.’ (17)
In the opinion of theologian William May, the fact that ‘bringing new
human life into being in the laboratory is a form of production and
depersonalizes human life by
treating it as if it were a product’ is ‘the most straightforward argument
against resorting to the laboratory generation of human life.’ (18)
4) The use by spouses of technological methods in
reproduction is not entirely precluded, but such methods must meet the following
condition to be permissible: the method must facilitate the natural
act of sexual intercourse or assist that
act to achieve its objective of conceiving a child once it has been
A method of assisting reproduction which meets this condition would
respect the natural connection between
an act of sexual intercourse and the conception of children.
It would also respect the personal
nature of the conjugal act and of human procreation. (19)
5) Techniques of assisted reproduction may not be used which
involve the deliberate
destruction or wastage of human embryos.
The Catholic tradition regards human life as beginning at the time of
conception. This view is based on
biological evidence. At the time of conception, the genetic instructions for a new
individual are put together. These instructions determine that the new being who
is developing is a human
being and underlie at least some of the individual
characteristics this person will have. The fact that the identity of a new
human individual is established at conception is taken as evidence that we have
a complete human being—body and soul—present from the time of conception.
Hence the new human being must be respected as a person from conception,
and his or her life must be protected:
the fruit of human generation, from the first moment of its existence, that is
to say from the moment the zygote is 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.
doctrinal reminder provides the fundamental criterion for the solution of the
various problems posed by the development of the biomedical sciences in this
field; since the embryo must be
treated as a person, it must also be defended in its integrity, tended and cared
for, to the extent possible, in the same way as any other human being as far as
medical assistance is concerned. (21)
Destroying a zygote or embryo is not morally permissible because it is
killing a human being. It is the
equivalent of abortion. (22) Similarly, it is not morally permissible to create
a number of embryos to try to maximize the chances of achieving a pregnancy when
it is unlikely that all of the embryos
will implant in the woman’s uterus and develop.
When someone knows in advance that some embryos will be wasted in the
procedure, he or she knowingly engages in an action bringing about the death of
II. COUNSELING INFERTILE COUPLES
Infertility is defined as the inability to conceive after at least one
year of trying to do so. (23)
is not an uncommon problem. In the
United States, about one in twelve couples is affected by infertility. (24)
In counseling infertile couples it is essential to recognize that
experiencing infertility is emotionally stressful, for both women and men.
Persons faced with a diagnosis of infertility often ‘experience the same deep
sense of loss that they would feel with the death of a loved one’ (25), and
they may go through stages similar to what is felt by persons dealing with a
terminal illness. (26) Their shock and disbelief when learning of a diagnosis of infertility may
be followed by denial of having a
problem, finding excuses to rationalize why attempts to have a child have been
unsuccessful. They may go through a
stage of isolation in which they
withdraw from family and friends who have children. The partner who has a physical problem causing infertility
may feel guilty about depriving his or
her spouse of children. A couple
may feel a sense of unfairness about their infertility, and react with anger.
(27) In fact, ‘just looking at another pregnant woman, seeing a woman
breast-feeding a baby, watching a baby pushed in a stroller, or running into a
person buying disposable diapers in the market can create resentment.’ (28)
The following anecdotal accounts illustrate the emotional trauma of
married persons experiencing infertility:
remember going to a first birthday party for my best friend’s son. My husband and I had been trying to conceive, but had met
with no success. I knew it was
going to be uncomfortable at times, but I thought I could handle it.
After all I had been in worse situations. Or so I thought. As
other one-year-old children filled her backyard, I found myself creeping toward
the corner. When the cake
was brought out, I looked into my friend’s eyes.
They were filled with joy. It
was one of the happiest moments of her life, and unfairly, one of my saddest.
After quickly sneaking out, I sat in my car and cried my eyes out, I’d
never realized the intensity of my pain. I
hadn’t allowed myself to feel it, until it exploded out of me.
remember driving home from work on the freeway a couple of days after I learned
that my wife’s IVF procedure was
not successful. A news broadcast
came on the radio. Another baby
was found in a dumpster in New York.
I lost it. I started
screaming at the radio like a lunatic. ‘Are
you…kidding, you threw it away!’ It
was incredible to me. Here I was
doing everything I could in life to
get my wife pregnant, and some sick person threw away their baby.
Their own flesh and blood. How
could it be that they could have it and discard it like a piece of trash,
something we wanted more than anything in the whole world?
Preoccupied with the broadcast, I got too close to the car in front of
me. Fortunately, I still had a
split second to slam on my brakes. Otherwise,
that little broadcast could have put me over the top.
—Matthew, age 40 (30)
Such feelings may push infertile couples toward the use of assisted
reproductive technologies. In their desperation to have a child, some couples suffering
from infertility may find it difficult to accept limitations on the methods of
assisting reproduction which they can legitimately use.
Here one must be cautious about individuals falling into the mentality of
saying that spouses have a ‘right’ to a child by any means whatsoever:
is a married couple, in which one or both partners are infertile, justified in
acquiring a child by any biological means?
Is the unremitting desire for a child a longing for personal fulfillment
and marital wholeness, or is it an example of an inordinate desire?
what rational ground is it urged that while sexual desires ought not to be
indulged at will, parental desires
may be?…If we persuade ourselves that because we want a thing so much it must
be right for us to have it, do we not thereby reject in principle…the very
idea of limitation, acceptance, or a given natural order and social frame…the
creatureliness of man?’ (31)
the Instruction reminds us that a
child should be viewed ‘not as an object to which one has a right’ but as
‘a gift, the ‘supreme gift’ and the most gratuitous gift of marriage.’
(32) Concomitantly, as one theologian has pointed out, ‘each spouse should
understand that the marriage covenant, ‘for better or for worse,’
encompasses also the unfortunate possibility that infertility may characterize
their union.’ (33)
Further, infertile couples need to recognize that, from a purely
practical point of view, the use of assisted reproductive technologies will not
guarantee them a child. The
failures, disappointments, and costs which
accompany the use of assisted reproductive technologies was described in a
feature article in Newsweek
Peterson, 36, still can’t believe it has come to this.
After eight months of failing to conceive right after her 1991 marriage,
she found herself in the maw of the infertility machine.
She and her husband, who live in suburban Maryland, endured a year of
tests, from semen analysis to injection of a dye to see if her fallopian tubes
were blocked. Their clean bill of
health was, in the mirror world of infertility, perhaps the worst news they
could have received: it meant the doctor had no idea why Peterson wasn’t
conceiving. So she went through
months of daily infertility drugs. She put up with nine intrauterine inseminations (IUIs), in
which sperm are shuttled by catheter directly to the uterus.
Her bills had topped $40,000, and insurance covered nothing.
Then her doctor discovered that Peterson’s tubes, contrary to what she
had been told, were hopelessly blocked: she had undergone a year of treatments
that can work only with healthy tubes. So
Peterson tried in vitro fertilization (IVF), in which eggs are retrieved with an
ultrathin needle, fertilized in the lab and inserted into the uterus, bypassing
the tubes. That resulted in a
potentially fatal ectopic pregnancy. She
has now had three more IVFs.
‘Do I have second thoughts?’ Peterson asks.
‘You bet — every time I write out a $2,500 check for fertility drugs.
Now I accept the fact that we’re not going to have biological children.
I’ve grieved enough. I
have to move on.’
they live by the unbending rule of the calendar, keeping their doctor-ordered
appointments for conjugal relations on the prescribed three days of every
month…even though it now brings them all the joy of taking out the trash.
Then they become human pincushions, their rear ends sore from twice-a-day
hormone shots that sometimes make their ovaries inflate
to the size of baseballs. They
spend at least $10,000, and as much as $100,000, on diagnostic
tests and fertility drugs and the crapshoot known as
assisted-reproductive techniques — a.k.a. test-tube babies.
They cringe when friends counsel them to ‘give it time’ when time is
their relentless foe. They fume at insurers who regard infertility treatments as
experimental, or even as a frivolity on a par with a nose job.
They are childless. And more
and more of them are mad — fighting, suing, e-mail flaming mad — at an
infertility industry that offers a lot of hype, a lot of hope and not enough
babies. After 20 years of scientific advances, nearly three out of
four couples seeking assisted reproduction still go home to an empty crib. (34)
While experiencing infertility is psychologically stressful, so is the
use of assisted reproductive technologies. Couples report feelings of
being on an ’emotional roller coaster’ because of the hopes held out
to them and the disappointments which occur. (35) Couples can also experience
grief over the loss of embryos. This
reaction is noted in the aforementioned Newsweek
article: ‘Carolyn and Craig May tried IVF in May.
When it failed, says Craig, ‘it was like losing a child you never
really had.” (36) As noted by Jodi Peterson in the same article, couples
may eventually have to accept failure, which may also involve a grieving
process: ‘Now I accept the fact that we’re not going to have biological
children. I’ve grieved enough.
I have to move on.’ (37)
Counselors might well explore with infertile
couples the possibility that their unfortunate situation provides ‘the
occasion for other important services to the life of the human person.’ (38)
Here is a story from a priest in Wisconsin which illustrates this:
know such a couple who very much longed for children of their own.
After years of trying to conceive and unsuccessful attempts at corrective
surgeries, they adopted two boys with severe disabilities.
It seems that the Lord has endowed them with the special gifts that they
need to care for these boys. Few
people could care for them as they do. Because
they were unable to conceive, they discovered their unique vocation to share
God’s life and love in a manner that few could.
Those unable to conceive have not been forgotten by God, rather they have
a unique vocation that only they can fulfill.
May they listen to God’s voice as He calls them to share his life and
1. Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Instruction
on Respect for Human Life in it Origin and On the Dignity of Procreation(Donum Vitae) (Washington, DC: United States Catholic Conference,
human procreation has specific characteristics by virtue of the personal dignity
of the parents and of the children: the procreation of a new person, whereby the
man and the woman collaborate with the power of the Creator, must be the fruit
and the sign of the mutual self-giving of the spouses, of their love and of
parents find in their child a confirmation and completion of their reciprocal
self-giving: the child is the living image of their love, the permanent sign of
their conjugal union, the living and indissoluble concrete expression of their
paternity and maternity. (II.A.1)
2. Ibid.: ‘The child has the
right to be conceived, carried in the womb, brought into the world and brought
up within marriage: it is through the secure and recognized relationship to his
own parents that the child can discover his own identity and achieve his own
proper human development.’ (II.A.1) Pastoral
sensitivity is needed in applying this statement.
First, the number of single parent families has
increased since the Instruction
was written in 1987. Given the
challenges already faced by single parents, one must be careful not to imply
that they are intrinsically inferior parents or that their children are
hopelessly disadvantaged. Second,
the strong claim that a child has the right
to be brought up within marriage should not be misinterpreted to mean that
aborting a child is preferable to him or her being born to a single parent.
3. Ibid., ‘By reason of the
vocation and social responsibilities of the person, the good of the children and
of the parents contributes to the good of civil society; the vitality and
stability of society require that children come into the world within a family
and that the family be firmly based on marriage.’ (II.A.1)
The fidelity of the spouses in the unity of marriage
involves reciprocal respect of their right to become a father and a mother only
through each other. (II.A.1)
for the unity of marriage and for conjugal fidelity demands that the child be
conceived in marriage; the bond existing between husband and wife accords the
spouses, in an objective and inalienable manner, the exclusive rights to become
father and mother solely through each other.
Recourse to the gametes of a third person, in order to have sperm or ovum
available, constitutes a violation of the reciprocal commitment of the spouses
and a grave lack in regard to that essential property of marriage which is its
5. William E. May, ‘Donum Vitae: Catholic Teaching Concerning Homologous In
Vitro Fertilization’ in Kevin William Wildes, S.J. (ed.), Infertility:
A Crossroad of Faith, Medicine, and Technology (Boston: Kluwer, 1997), p.
6. Congregation for the Doctrine of
the Faith, Instruction:
‘Heterologous artificial fertilization violates the rights of the child; it
deprives him of his filial relationship with his parental origins and can hinder
the maturing of his personal
identity. Furthermore, it offends
the common vocation of the spouses who are called to fatherhood and motherhood:
it objectively deprives conjugal fruitfulness of its unity and integrity; it
brings about and manifests a rupture between genetic parenthood, gestational
parenthood and responsibility for upbringing.
Such damage to the personal relationships within the family has
repercussions on civil society: what threatens the unity and stability of the
family is a source of dissension, disorder and injustice in the whole of social
7. Paul VI, On the Regulation of Birth (Humanae Vitae), 12 (Washington, DC:
United States Catholic Conference, 1968). Cited
in Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Instruction
8. Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Instruction
II.B.4. A brief reference to the
inseparability principle in the context of assisted reproductive technologies is
given in John Paul II’s Evangelium Vitae
9. Jean Porter, ‘Human Need and Natural Law’ in Wildes (ed.), Infertility:
A Crossroad of Faith, Medicine, and Technology, pp. 96-7.
10. Carol Tauer, ‘Donum Vitae: Dissenting Opinions on the ‘Simple Case’ of In
VitroFertilization’ in Wildes (ed.), Infertility:
A Crossroad of Faith, Medicine, and Technology, p. 136.
11. Joseph Cardinal Bernardin, ‘Science and the Creation of Human
Life,’ Origins 17/2 (May 28, 1987):
21, 23-6 at 24.
12. Paul Lauritzen, ‘What Price Parenthood?’ Hastings
Center Report 20/2 (March/April 1990): 38-46 at 43.
13. Bernardin, ‘Science and the Creation of Human Life,’ p. 24.
14. May, ‘Donum Vitae: Catholic Teaching Concerning Homologous In
Vitro Fertilization,’ p. 77.
The Instruction states: ‘The
moral value of the intimate link between the goods of marriage and between the
meanings of the conjugal act is based on the unity of the human being, a unity
involving body and spiritual soul. Spouses mutually express their personal love in the
‘language of the body,’ which clearly involves both ‘sponsal meanings’
and parental ones. The conjugal act
by which the couple mutually express their
self-gift at the same time expresses openness to the gift of life.
It is an act that is inseparably corporal and spiritual.
It is in their bodies and through their bodies that the spouses
consummate their marriage and are able to become father and mother.
In order to respect the language of their bodies and their natural
generosity, the conjugal union must take place with respect to its openness to
procreation; and the procreation of a
person must be the fruit and the result of married love.
The origin of the human being thus follows from a procreation that is
‘linked to the union, not only biological but also spiritual, of the parents,
made one by the bond of marriage. Fertilization
achieved outside the bodies of the couple remains by this very fact deprived of
the meanings and the values which are expressed in the language of the body and
in the union of human persons.’ (II.B.4)
16. Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Instruction:
‘Only respect for the link between the meanings
of the conjugal act and respect for the unity of the human being make
possible procreation in conformity with the
dignity of the person. In his
unique and irrepeatable origin, the child must be respected and recognized
as equal in personal dignity to those who give him life. …He cannot be
desired or conceived as the product of
an intervention of medical or biological techniques; that would be equivalent to
reducing him to an object of scientific technology.
No one may subject the coming of a child into the world to conditions of
technical efficiency which are to
be evaluated according to standards of control and dominion.’ (II.B.4)
17. Lauritzen, ‘What Price Parenthood?,’ p. 43.
18. May, ‘Donum Vitae: Catholic Teaching Concerning Homologous In
Vitro Fertilization,’ p. 77.
19. Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Instruction:
‘This teaching…is based on the Church’s doctrine concerning the connection
between the conjugal union and procreation and on a consideration of the
personal nature of the conjugal act and of human procreation.
‘In its natural structure, the conjugal act is a personal action, a
simultaneous and immediate cooperation on the part of the husband and wife,
which by the very nature of the agents and the proper nature of the act is the
expression of the mutual gift which, according to the words of Scripture, brings
about union ‘in one flesh’.’ Thus
moral conscience ‘does not necessarily proscribe the use of certain artificial
means destined solely either to the facilitating of the natural act or to
ensuring that the natural act normally performed achieves its proper end.’ (II.B.6)
20. Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Instruction
1.1. The development of monozygotic
(identical) twins from a single fertilized ovum and the biological phenomenon of
natural wastage (wherein a significant number of fertilized ova never implant
and are simply discharged from the woman’s body) are offered as objections to
the contention that ensoulment takes place at the time of conception.
For discussion of these objections and attempts to answer them, see John
Mahoney, Bioethics and Belief (London:
Sheed & Ward, 1984), pp. 61-69; Benedict Ashley, O.P. and Albert S.
Moraczewski, O.P., ‘Is the Biological Subject of Human Rights Present from
Conception?’ in Peter J. Cataldo and Albert S. Moraczewski, O.P. (Eds.), The
Fetal Tissue Issue (Braintree, MA: Pope John Center, 1994), pp. 52-3.
21. Congregation for the
Doctrine of the Faith, Instruction 1.1
22. Ibid., II.5.
23. Mayo Clinic Health Oasis, Treating
25. Richard Marrs, M.D.,
Lisa Friedman Block, and Kathy Kirtland Silverman,
Fertility Book (New
York: Dell, 1998), p. 378.
27. Ibid., pp. 378-86.
28. Ibid., p. 384.
29. Ibid., p. 376.
30. Ibid., p. 385.
31. D. Gareth Jones, Brave New People (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1985), p. 127.
32. Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Instruction
33. Paul T. Jersild, ‘On
Having Children: A Theological and Moral Analysis of In Vitro Fertilization’
in Edward D. Schneider (ed.), Questions about the Beginning of Life (Minneapolis: Augsburg, 1985),
34. Sharon Begley, ‘The Baby,’ Newsweek
(Sept. 4, 1995): 38-41, 43-7 at 38-40.
Babies CBS 48 Hours (Sept. 1989).
36. Begley, ‘The Baby,’ p. 40.
37. Ibid., pp. 39-40.
38. Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Instruction
39. Rev. John Doerfler
(Diocese of Green Bay, Wisconsin), ‘In
Vitro Fertilization and the Person.’ Ethics
and Medics 25/5 (May 2000): 3-4 at 4.