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Ruffling Some Feathers

If you know me in real life, you know that there are many things that I’m passionate about. There are also many things that I take a “you’re entitled to your own opinion, and we’ll have to agree to disagree” stance about. Then there are other things that I just get flat out fired up and “preachy” about. I guess in that regard I’m not that different from anyone else.

I felt called to write this post because lately I’ve been having one conversation with people more & more, and I finally decided that the Holy Spirit was calling me to write about this very topic. Before I begin, let me set the stage. I’ve shared with you my Infertility history, and the fact that my husband and I are currently living childless. We’ve been in the starting gate for adoption several times over the past year and something always seems to happen to derail our efforts and we’re currently discerning whether or not we’ll adopt at all, but that’s not what this post is about.

Lately I find myself engaged in the conversation about Assistive Reproductive Technology more & more. I wrote about In-Vitro Fertilization during Respect Life month last October, so I won’t recreate that post. I have several friends who have used IVF and have beautiful miracles as a result. Some of them I have encouraged them to think the process through a little more, but often I have taken the stance that they are allowed to make their own determinations about whether their decision is moral and just. I don’t like to interfere in my friends’ lives. I just don’t. If they come to me and ask for advice I will give it to them, but I don’t give it in an unsolicited manner.

But I digress….

What people will often say to me (or other people who say that they don’t agree with the morality behind IVF) is “but what about ____” and then they proceed to tell a story designed to tug at the heart strings and to try to get me to tell them “well, in that case, IVF is perfectly reasonable.”

But the thing is that the Catholic Church teaches us that it’s not.

There is no situation where IVF is considered to be a moral treatment for infertility.

Period.

“But what about someone who’s born with a condition in which she has ovaries and no uterus? Isn’t it moral for she & her husband to do IVF and use a gestational surrogate so that they can have their own child?”

Nope.

Let me tell you that this next part was exceptionally hard for me to wrap my head around, and this is the part that’s going to ruffle some feathers. I first read this part of the Catechism four years ago and I was angry when I read it. Ironically I was sitting at church, waiting for a meeting to start, and I was so angered by the “arrogant, pompous and condemning words” behind the statement (my opinion at the time) that I almost got up and walked out using an excuse that I was about to be sick. (Hey, if I can’t be honest here about my faith journey where can I be honest?)

Every child is a gift, not a piece of property. He/she is not owed to anyone. No one has “a right to a child.” Only the child has genuine rights. The child must be “the fruit of a specific act of the conjugal love of his parents” and to “be respected as a person from the first moment of conception” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2378)

The last four years I’ve reflected on the statement many times, and last year I finally came to understand what it meant. (What can I say? I’m a slow learner.)

Children are not a right. Children are a gift from God above, entrusted to families to raise and help grow in faith until He calls them home.

People will tell you “but it’s not fair that a couple can’t have biological children.”

You’re right. It’s not fair. It’s painful, and it hurts worse than just about any pain I would ever wish on anyone. But (as I said a year ago) God never promised us that our life would be easy. God never promised that life would be fair. He never promised that our road wouldn’t be filled with rocks and detours when other people seemingly get a smooth highway where they can coast and not worry.

My mom said it back when I was four, “Life isn’t fair. Get used to it.”

The fact of the matter is that some couples cannot have biological children, and that’s an awful realization to wrap your head around, but there are two moral choices for those couples: adoption or to live life as a childless couple and assist the children who are around them (nieces, nephews, god children, neighbors, friends) at growing in faith.

I’m not going to sit here and say that the decision to live childless (for now) has been an easy one for my husband and me. I cry at every baptism at church, and I still endure the sideways glances from people who wonder why we don’t have children. I pray every day for God to reveal our path to us. I’ll be turning 40 this fall, and if God is going to give us biological children I’d like it to be soon. If He’s calling us to adoption I’d like it to be soon. If he’s calling us to live the rest of our lives childless I’d like Him to remove the ache from my heart.

But you see? That’s just it. It’s not about my wants and likes and needs. It’s about God’s plan for my life. God is bigger than infertility. He is bigger than any problem, any challenge placed before Him. God has worked miracles and there’s nothing that says that He can’t again. If God is calling me to motherhood He will guide me towards that opportunity (biological or adoption).

A friend at my former parish once told me “God never tells us no. He tells us yes, not right now, or I’ve got a better idea.”

There have been days that I’ve clung to that notion with everything that I’ve had.

For you see, accepting the path that God has chosen for me has not been easy. I don’t know why God has chosen me to have seven angels in heaven and none on earth. But I do know that my life has taken twists & turns that I never could have imagined it would when we started this journey. My life is not lacking in gifts because I don’t have children. I have a very rich and fulfilling life. I just happen to have an empty bedroom in my house.

But through the Divine Mercy of Christ I have learned to say “Jesus, I trust in you.”

34 replies on “Ruffling Some Feathers”

This is a hard one and certainly one that many go back and forth on. As the MIL of a beautiful young woman who has no hope of ever having a child, I have to admit that I was very dishearted when I saw Planned Parenthood’s recent report on their services for 2010 – yes, their own statistics.

Abortions – over 329,445
Adoption Referrals – 841
Pre-Natal Services – 39,098

Pregnancy without marriage isn’t a sigma in our society anymore. It makes no sense to me that we pay for the death service of abortion but haven’t consider that paying these same women for life services and adoption would be a better way to go.

Marie,
I can sympathize with you on so many levels. I will try to comment here without writing a novel. I am a “cradle” Catholic. I, like you would read over and over the church’s teachings on IVF and other things. And of course the part of the Catechism that you quoted here. And I DO believe that children are a gift from God. But couldn’t get over the fact that it is a man made church teaching, not one from God. Along with a few (probably many!) other church teachings. A big one that comes to mind is a priest conducting pre-cana classes. I couldn’t understand how someone who has never been married was going to teach me about it. Especially when, I didn’t believe that priests being celibate was Biblical. Throughout Biblical history, priests, bishops and so on were all married with children. While there are many things I DID agree with, there were too many I didn’t. I finally found home in the Lutheran Church which is extremely close to Catholicism. Turns out Martin Luther felt the same way I did! 😉
I also went through infertility. I had to have my fallopian tubes removed due to a burst appendix at 27yrs old. We decided to go through IVF and we have 3 beautiful children. I do believe that once you commit to IVF you must use all the embryos you make.
I remember feeling just like you, crying at every baptism and shower. And wondering why the 15 yr old girl swearing and hitting her baby in the isle at Walmart received the gift of a baby for having pre-marital sex. But I could not and should not because someone at the Vatican said so. There are many kinds of medical intervention that man does without God. Organ transplants and etc. And why didn’t they feel so strongly about those?
I pray that you and your husband are blessed with a baby, no matter which way it arrives to you. Blessings!
Kristi

I went back and read your October post. And this stuck out at me….

“No matter how wonderful our science is (please let’s not turn this post in to a debate about whether or not IVF is “wonderful science”) it is essential for Infertile couples to realize that

Doctors don’t create life. God creates life.

And your right! God decides whether you get pregnant with IVF or not as well. And there is life at conception I’m sure many many times when the embryo doesn’t implant with no intervention at all. Not every egg fertilizes, that is a statistic with IVF as well. So in the grand scheme of things God is in total control of any method.
I didn’t read your first post (going to do that now!) but from reading this one, I understand you have had many miscarriages and I’m so sorry to hear this. And I’m sure you know this already, but having your Uterine lining checked (and taking progesterone) can make it thicker. Also, I know that if you are O negative and your husband is O positive you need a Rhogam shot, and without it can result in multiple miscarriages. I’m sorry if I’m repeating information you already know, but it’s the “fixer” in me. 🙂
Kristi

Great post, Marie! For other couples struggling with infertility, be sure to check out NaProTECHNOLOGY. It is a natural, Church-approved technology that works to heal abnormalities in the woman (and sometimes man!) so they are able to conceive naturally. I wish I could shout it from the rooftops because even aside from the morality of IVF, NaPro is more effective and low-cost.

http://www.fertilitycare.org/infertility-ivf-alternative/

Kristi~

Thank you for your comments. I have taken a bit of time to reflect on them before I responded.

I’m sure that you know that Catholics believe that the Catechism is written by man, but guided by the Holy Spirit. So I don’t view the line from the catechism as being “man made policy.”

And thank you for your concern, but yes, I have had my uterine lining checked. I am not O-. I supplement my progesterone. I am working on controlling my weight and managing my Insulin Resistance.

I encourage you to continue to pray and I pray that God will guide you towards an understanding of the catechism and why the church teaches what it does.

God bless you.

Kristi, you said:

“And your right! God decides whether you get pregnant with IVF or not as well.”

I would like to follow this logic for a moment. This sentence implies that the means through which you get pregnant doesn’t matter because God is still in control of the life created. But this is like saying that rape is okay because God created a life out of it. Or that premarital sex is okay because God created a life out of it. Or that killing another person is okay because even though someone else does it, God is still the one who decides who lives and who dies. See how it doesn’t follow? Babies can be conceived through sin, too, and it still doesn’t make the sin okay.

To use IVF is to separate the unitive and procreative purposes of sex. This is why it is wrong. Procreation becomes the only end, just like union becomes the only end when a couple uses contraception. They are both wrong for the same reason.

Hi Ladies, thank you all for your thoughtful replies and I do plan to reply to each one. I am sneaking on here while my children are finishing up math (we homeschool), so I have to be quick! 🙂

I wanted to comment on this quickly…

Misty said: He recognized, in other words, that Christianity becomes a bloated, ego-centered mess when individuals are allowed to decide for themselves what is true and what’s not.

Luther isn’t the only one to come this this assumption, the Catholic church has changed stances on many things throughout the years. 🙂

be back later!
Kristi

**Luther isn’t the only one to come this this assumption, the Catholic church has changed stances on many things throughout the years.**

Not on Dogma and Doctrine…this is the point that Misty is making. The stances you refer to are not dogmatic.

Martina wrote: Not on Dogma and Doctrine…this is the point that Misty is making. The stances you refer to are not dogmatic.

The changes of the Second Vatican Council were Dogmatic and Doctrinal. Many, many Catholics were upset by those changes and some do not even acknowledge the changes and still go by the Church before that time.

Honestly, I’m not here to change any persons religion. I enjoy reading this blog. And I do share many of your beliefs, opinions and ideas. Catholicism and Lutheranism (ironically Martin Luther never wanted his own religion, let alone named after him!)are so very close in belief (believe it or not, lol) My (very) Catholic mother was astounded when she came to our church for our boys’ Holy Communion. She couldn’t believe how much the same it was. I digress, I just wanted Marie to know that I do hope (very much) she has a baby, whether it be biologicial, adopted or fostered.
Kristi

Lily said: To use IVF is to separate the unitive and procreative purposes of sex. This is why it is wrong. Procreation becomes the only end, just like union becomes the only end when a couple uses contraception. They are both wrong for the same reason.

Does this mean that a couple who knows they are infertile should not have sex because it is the only end?

Kristi, the changes of Vatican II were not dogmatic or doctrinal. If you read the actual documents of Vatican II you will see that. If you differ on this, please cite actual doctrines that you believe changed and we can talk about them individually.

I’m afraid Holy Communion in the Catholic and Lutheran churches is completely different, even if the externals look the same. In the Catholic Church, priests have God-given authority to invoke the Holy Spirit so that the bread and wine become the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus. In the Lutheran Church, no one has such authority, so what you receive is purely bread and wine, unfortunately. Lutheranism and Catholicism may be close, but this is exactly the division that Christ prayed against, and which the first apostles warned against.

“Does this mean that a couple who knows they are infertile should not have sex because it is the only end?”

No, because they do not actively do anything to hinder fertility.

Kristi, the changes of Vatican II were not dogmatic or doctrinal. If you read the actual documents of Vatican II you will see that. If you differ on this, please cite actual doctrines that you believe changed and we can talk about them individually.

I’m afraid Holy Communion in the Catholic and Lutheran churches is completely different, even if the externals look the same. In the Catholic Church, priests have God-given authority to invoke the Holy Spirit so that the bread and wine become the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus. In the Lutheran Church, no one has such authority, so what you receive is purely bread and wine, unfortunately. Lutheranism and Catholicism may be close, but this is exactly the division that Christ prayed against, and which the first apostles warned against.

I’m going to quote Marie here “we can agree to disagree” 🙂

“Does this mean that a couple who knows they are infertile should not have sex because it is the only end?”

No, because they do not actively do anything to hinder fertility.

But earlier: To use IVF is to separate the unitive and procreative purposes of sex. This is why it is wrong. Procreation becomes the only end, just like union becomes the only end when a couple uses contraception. They are both wrong for the same reason.

The union becomes the only end when someone is born without a uterus, fallopian tubes or husband has zero sperm count. And they are aware.

“I’m going to quote Marie here “we can agree to disagree””

Sure, but I think we should talk about the actual doctrines of Vatican II you say changed before any more use of the “Vatican II changed doctrine” argument. To go on believing that there were, in fact, doctrines that changed, would be to remain ignorant about a significant portion of history in the Catholic Church.

Also, I encourage you to think about under what authority the Lutheran “Holy Communion” becomes so.

“The union becomes the only end when someone is born without a uterus, fallopian tubes or husband has zero sperm count. And they are aware.”

There is a big difference between actively doing something to separate the unitive and procreative aspects of sex (IVF, contraception) and simply acting in accordance with nature. Pregnant women, infertile couples, menopausal women all would fall under “acting in accordance with nature.” To *separate* the unitive and procreative aspects of sex is to *do* something to cause it. Someone who doesn’t do anything but follow the designs of her body does not cause the separation.

Kristi, we hope you’ll stick around, but as evidenced by your many posts, you show a very large chasm in lack of knowledge of the Faith, starting by saying VII was a dogmatic or doctrinal council.

Not to throw a wrench in this but if you are no longer a practicing Catholic {btw, you will always be a Catholic by virtue of your baptism – it is an indelible mark on your soul that no man made religion can remove}, I fail to see how it’s possible that you can “school” me or the others here who strive to live our Catholic Faith each and every day. You are basically saying “no, I know better because I left the Church.”

Really and truly, your catechesis is nominal at best. I urge you to revisit what the Church teaches in the hopes that you will one day not only submit to the Church, but Christ as well. There is a reason why Christ refers to the Church as His bride. One day I pray you will see the Faith for what it is instead of what you perceive it to be.

Kristi~

I apologize for disappearing as I’ve been in the middle of 2 extremely busy days at work.

Again, I thank you for taking the time to visit our blog & comment & attempt to learn (at least I hope this is an attempt to learn through this debate) I would urge you, if you are truly interested in learning more, to really reflect & pray.

As you saw in my October post, I considered leaving the Catholic church over my desire to pursue further infertility treatments, but even in my deep pain I knew that leaving would not make it right. I knew that as a human my OPINION didn’t supersede church teaching. There’s a Bible verse that says “I have more to tell you but you cannot bear it now” & I reflected on that verse often over the years & believe that someday this struggle will all make sense.

I am truly sorry for the struggled you’ve gone through. It’s not fair you lost your Fallopian tubes & I’m thrilled that you have three beautiful children. I pray that they always grow to feel a connection to Christ & that some day they will be able to experience the true fullness of the Eucharist.

Please find a copy of the Catechism of the Catholic church. I believe if you read it with an open mind you will see that it’s actually very consistent. And you will see that really not THAT much has changed over the years. The teachings of the Church always have been motivated by love & respect for the rights of the individual, made in the image of God.

God bless you Kristi, please stick around & tell your friends about us! 🙂

My husband and I also dealt with infertility for the first four years of our marriage. It was a terrible cross to bear and I pray that the women who experience it will find a conduit to motherhood be it through adoption, conception or spiritual motherhood.

When we did treatments with Pope Paul VI’s center in Omaha, we used a preforated condom to collect a semen sample for testing. I trusted this was within Church teaching since the institute is faithful to the magisterium.

But this brings up an interesting question for me: what if semen were collected in that manner and then used for IVF? The act that brought about the semen was unitive and procreative, in that case. Thoughts?

To respond to your question L, I think it boils down to two things 1)the fact that the egg cannot be obtained in a similar matter and as such the unitive and procreative aspects are separated no matter how the semen is procured and 2)the fact that even if the egg could be procured in a similar fashion, the egg would still be removed from the woman and the actual fertilization would take place elsewhere thus separating the unitive and procreative aspects of the marital embrace.

Thank you, Hannah, for your response! I appreciate that you took the time.

You are right; the egg cannot be harvested in the same way because the egg is released in a woman independantly from the marital embrace. Sex is not required in order for an egg to be released.

So can someone use the marital embrace to produce semen and then use it for infertility treatments?

I don’t believe so L. As soon as the semen collected is used outside the marital embrace (there is some debate about IUI on this issue if the semen is collected in the manner you specified previously) you are separating the unitive and procreative aspects of the marital embrace.

Basically, it is possible to licitly collect semen samples for testing purposes using a perforated condom but it would never be licit to use that semen to fertilize an egg outside of the woman’s body.

Lily and Erika, thank you for your replies and answers. I’m exhausted at the moment. Father Girzone is a friend of my father and our family. I think this latest post of his sums up what I think a lot of the time.

http://joshuamountain.org/postings/

I noticed you have Conversion Diary listed in your sites below, wonderful blog! I have been reading Jen’s blog for years, her story is amazing. She really has a heart for people. I clicked on the link here at Catholic Sista’s and it leads to an old post from last year with the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist and also Martina in it. If you re-link it after you go to her home page, it will be the most recent posting for others who want to stay current. 🙂
Kristi

I once had a friend tell me that we have a choice when we are talking to our “seperated bretheren”, as Vatican 2 calls our brothers and sisters in Protestant faiths. We can be invitational or confrontational. We must ask the Holy Spirit to guide us in the approach we take with them, but 90% of the time, being invitational is what keeps the conversation going. It is what makes the other feel loved. Our sister Kristi mentioned that she was feeling attacked by some of the comments here. Perhaps an invitational approach would be the best option in talking with her. I do not mean to say that one should not defend our beautiful faith resolutely, but the tone and language one uses can make all the difference in the world.

There is a woman I know who loves her Catholic faith so much. She had a quiet, loving manner about her. She spoke so lovingly about the Eucharist. I think of her every time I go to communion. I also had an uncle who would holler and yell about those who broke the Church’s laws. Guess which one cultivated a love of the faith in me?

Lily- I didn’t really mean anything by it, other than I agree with what he was saying in his post. When he says “our” religion and “The Church” he is referring to his religion, Catholicism. He is a retired priest and author. I went searching for something to read last night after posting how I felt and my story. And I found that.

L- you are exactly right. I experienced one special, VERY lovely Cathechism teacher. I think I was in 5th or 6th grade. She made me want to be a better Catholic (and person). She really peaked my interest in learning more. And I think I did learn more that year than any other. It was her loving and caring personality that made me think, wow, this person is reflecting the true love of Christ! She wasn’t married and had no children either, so maybe there is something to that teaching, lol! 🙂
Anyway, I digress, again I do love to read here and will continue doing so. 🙂
Kristi

Ok, gotcha! Yeah, and I agree, because what brought me deeper into my faith was a sudden deepening of my relationship with Jesus through the sacraments, which made me just fall head over heels in love with Him. But the thing is, once I started studying doctrine, it made it possible to begin to understand in a much, much deeper way the unfathomable love of God. When I read Humanae Vitae, which talks about the church’s teaching on contraception and I think might also mentions IVF, my heart nearly exploded at the idea that such a deep, self-giving love is not only possible for us to experience in this life, but is also what the love of God is like. As I read it, I kept thinking, “I want that!!! Someone please tell me what I need to do to love like that!!!”
Then, when I really got into the doctrine of the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist and how His sacrifice is made present before our very eyes, I was filled with awe and wonder at the kind of love God has for us that He would give Himself to us in that way and that He would let us–and not only let us, but DESIRE to–be so intimately close with Him–so close that our very tongues could touch His flesh!!! So yeah, just teaching doctrine for the sake of teaching doctrine isn’t going to do much good… but if we teach doctrine with the purpose of inflaming hearts with the infinite love of God, now that’s a different thing. Whenever I teach religion to my children, I always try to bring it all home and say that all of this is why God is so great and His love is so amazing, and when we see His greatness made known to us through doctrine, it should give us pause and make us resolute to love Him more and do His will in all things. Still, though, I try (try, at least!) to be patient with those who don’t do things as I think they should be done, because none of us is perfect. We all make mistakes and all sin, whether we are stay at home moms or leaders of the Church Jesus established.
Thanks for sharing, Kristi!

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