Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Reproductive technology

1) DC ‘Hood v. St John Neumann parish– Fri, May 18, 7 pm, Watkins Mill HS, Gaithersburg. Go 'Hood!

2) RCIA “Inquiry” meeting – next Tues., May 22, 8:15 pm, rectory. This is an opportunity for those who are interested in joining the Catholic Church to get information about RCIA and to meet other people. Spread the word!
Anon wrote: “With all the advancements in the treatment of women's fertility, the church's views on fertilization would be an interesting topic. There are many Catholic couples who employ means of achieving fertilization that the church doesn't condone. They simply do not know that there are licit options available to them.”

The following are excerpts from a website from the US Catholic Bishops which outline the Church’s teachings on reproductive technology. To view the full text, please click on the title of this post.

Technologies Compatible with Catholic Teachings: (4 of 7)

1) Observation of the naturally occuring sign(s) of fertility (Natural Family Planning). Time intercourse on the days of presumed (potential) fertility for at least six months before proceeding to medical interventions.

2) General medical evaluation of both spouses for infertility…

6) Appropriate medical treatment of ovulatory dysfunction.

7) Appropriate (usually surgical) correction of mechanical blocks to tubal patency (the state of being open)...

Reproductive Technologies under Discussion (neither "approved" nor "disapproved"):

Gamete intra-fallopian transfer (GIFT). (The Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has not yet pronounced on the subject.)

Intrauterine insemination (IUI) of "licitly obtained" (normal intercourse) but technologically prepared semen sample (washed, etc.).

Reproductive Technologies in Disagreement with Catholic Teachings:
1) Obtaining a sample of seminal fluid by masturbation.
2) Artificial insemination by a non-spouse (AID), or even by the husband (AIH) if the sample is obtained and handled by non-licit means (masturbated specimen).
3) In vitro fertilization (IVF), zygote intra-fallopian transfer (ZIFT), and intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI), ovum donation, "surrogate" uterus.

"How do I know when a reproductive technology is morally right?"

The rule of thumb is:

- Any procedure which assists marital intercourse in reaching its procreative potential is moral
- Procedures which add a "third party" into the act of conception, or which substitute a laboratory procedure for intercourse, are not acceptable.

- The guidelines are drawn from the document Donum Vitae.

Definitions (2 of 6)
1) IVF (In Vitro Fertilization): Conception occurs outside the body--"in a glass."

...Prior to implantation in the woman's uterus, embryos are examined in order to select the "best."

…Usually at least two embryos are implanted; in some centers, as many as four are implanted with the hope of getting at least one live baby. At times, three or four embryos thrive. Some clinics then offer the mother "embryo reduction" (selective abortion) to allow only one or two fetuses to develop further.

Because the endometrium is considerably changed by the stimulation of ovaries to produce eggs, it is the practice in some centers to freeze the embryos and to implant them in a subsequent natural cycle. Overall success rates in terms of having a living child range from 16-20%. The disposition of frozen embryos varies with the wishes of the parents. "Spare embryos" may either be preserved, donated to other women or to researchers, or destroyed…

2) AIH (Artificial insemination with husband's sperm): Sperm can be placed into a cup which is placed over the cervix. This technique is also used in AID - artificial insemination by donor.


At 10:40 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I posed the initial topic b/c a friend of mine was had trouble getting pregnant and finally conceived through artificial insemination. Her husband is Catholic, but my friend was having a hard time with the idea batizing her baby in the Catholic faith. When I asked her why (she's a close friend), she pointed to what she and her husband thought were the church's views regarding her fertility treatment. My friend thought, how could she baptize a baby in a church that considered her child's method of conception illicit? She and her husband didn't know that there were licit means of getting the same result via the same medical method. It became a rather graphic talk (not my forte), but one worth having. Doctors are so quick to assist with the latest, greatest medical technology, but many doctors, even Catholic doctors, often don't know what options to offer their Catholic families first.

At 2:34 PM, Anonymous Kat said...

Off Topic but:

What are rogation days?

At 4:56 PM, Blogger John K said...

Since there are so few doctors who know anything or very much about natural family planning, whether for avoiding or for seeking pregnancy, you may find it helpful to refer your parishioners to our website and in particular to our on-line NFP How-to manual.

John F. Kippley
"Sex and the Marriage Covenant: A Basis for Morality" (Ignatius, 2005, and reviewed in the March-April, 2007 issue of CUF's Lay Witness)
"Natural Family Planning: The Question-Answer Book" a short, free, downloadable manual available at

At 1:26 PM, Blogger Christine said...

In high school a doctor who works at an IVF facility came to talk to my genetics class about it. He talked about the scientific aspect of the procedure and the moral aspect, both of which were upsetting. He said he thought it was okay, because he was Catholic and he claimed his pastor said it was okay when he asked him about it.

I remember he talked about this one dilemma he had when a woman who was Catholic came to him not sure if she wanted to do IVF or not, and though he convinced her to do it, she regretted it afterwards. I just thought it was kind of sick the way they prey upon the goodness of a person wanting to have a child so badly, just so they can get money.

Then he talked about the process. Throughout the talk he distinguished between "normal embryos" and "abnormal embryos". I asked him what he meant by "abnormal", and he said "potential babies with disabilities". That really upset me because he was deciding who was "normal" and who was not. Working with people with mental disabilities for years has taught me how very similar they are to me, and personally, I think they are superior in some aspects to people without disability. They have an easier capacity to love, a great memory, and more loyalty. But what makes us all the same is that we are all children of God together.

When I asked him about it, the man said, "oh, but we keep the Down Syndrome embryos, people want them". That made me really upset because I know if people didn't want them for their natural sweetness and love, the IVF professionals would get rid of them too. I doubt that many of those "embryos" get used anyway because when given a choice, not many people will choose a child with Down Syndrome. When I asked him what happens to the embryos they don't use on the shelf, he said, "you really backed me into a corner there, hahaha" without answering the question.

The experience really opened my eyes to the real world of IVF and what they do. It really upset me to hear him trying to convince the class it was okay, in a Catholic school too! It was definitely an experience I will never forget.


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