Marital Sexuality and Procreation

My youngest sister sent me a link to a post in the religion blog at CNN ( ) It is written by a Catholic man about his understanding of the Church’s opposition to in-vitro fertilization (IVF).He expresses his opinion regarding it.

Since CNN posted this, more than one Catholic blogger has weighed in on its significance.

I hesitate to wade into these waters for fear of being unclear and misunderstood. As with so many of these moral teachings of the Church, we tend to let our emotions direct and cloud our thinking about such important issues of such a personal nature. (I am using the word “personal” not in the sense of  “private” but in the sense of “having to do with the nature of the human person.”)

Many embryos are aborted in  IVF. We all know as Catholics we cannot participate in any way in the act of abortion. Those embryos not destroyed are frozen and stored. Embryos are human beings, and to be stored/frozen with an unknown future, is a deprivation of  basic rights of those unborn humans.  Of course if one rejects the biological reality that embryos are human beings, then one will reject this explanation.

All children have a natural right to be conceived through the committed love between a man and a woman. A human being’s conception is to a graced moment in which a husband gives himself  completely to his wife, and a wife gives herself completely to her husband. It is a personal gift of self to another. The fruit of this gift will on occasion be the generation of new life.  A married couple needs to be open and receptive to this gift of life. The newly conceived child has the right to life.

There are tragic and frequent realities faced by many women. Sexual abuse, marital infidelity, rape, loveless marriages — all situations in which pregnancies occur. The Church always condems such abuses. Married couples whose love for each other has vanished must seek out ways to renew their love and their ability to give to each other the totality of who they are.

The Church does not insist that a person remain in the company of a spouse who is abusing them.

Pregnancies result from rape, incest or infidelity. The attack on the person of the mother in these situations is real and grave.  Women who are  in such situations deserve our greatest attention, concern and understanding. Each of us must be willing to sacrifice whatever it takes to assist them. Unfortunately, many women in these situations do not receive the attention and care they deserve and need. The unborn children conceived in these situations retain their natural right to life and love. They are no less perfect than a child conceived in a loving embrace of husband and wife. They too deserve our every effort to protect and love into life.

What of the loving married couple who seem unable to conceive through sexual intercourse, but could conceive with IVF? Why not use this medical procedure to conceive,  love and nuture a child?

The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) teaches us: “Couples who discover that they are sterile suffer greatly. ‘What will you give me,’ asks Abraham of God, ‘for I continue childless?’ (Gen. 15:2) And Rachel cries out to her husband Jacob, ‘Give me children, or I shall die.’ (Gen. 30:1)

Research aimed at reducing human sterility is to be encouraged, on condition that it is placed, ‘at the service of the human person, of his inalienable rights, and his true and integral good according to the design and will of God.

Techniques the entail the dissociation of husband and wife, by the intrusion of a person other than the couple (donation of sperm or ovum, surrogate uterus), are gravely immoral. These techniques (heterologous artificial insemination and fertilization) infringe the child’s right to be born of a father and mother know to him and bound to each other by marriage. They betray the spouses’ right to become a father and a mother only through each other…..the act which brings the child into existence is no longer an act by which two persons give themselves to one another, but one that ‘entrusts the life and identity of the embryo into the power of doctors and biologists and establishes the domination of technology over the origin and destiny of the human person. Such a relationship of domination is in itself contrary to the dignity and equality that must be common to parents and children…..” (CCC 2374-2377)

The Church encourages medical interventions to enhance fertility if such interventions remove obstacles to the natural end of marital sexual union. More generally, the Church objects to that which places obstacles in the way, or interrupts the total personal giving of a husband to wife, and wife to husband. That is why the Church warns against assaults to the sanctity of marriage including infidelity, masturbation, artificial birth control, pornography, selfishness within marriage, sexual abuse, or direct sterilization.

These are difficult teachings. For all who may be struggling to accept them, I would strongly encourage you to go to your local Catholic bookstore and read Blessed Pope John Paul II’s writings on the Theology of the Body. It will open your eyes to the wisdom and truth of the Church’s teaching in this area.

It will radically change your love for your husband or wife.

About Deacon Bob

Moderator: Deacon Bob Yerhot of the Diocese of Winona-Rochester, Minnesota.
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