Friday, November 14, 2008

"Frozen Embryos: Children on Hold"

Eucharistic Adoration, tonight, 7-8 pm, SAA Church. Please join us!

DC ‘Hood vs. St Andrew's and St. John the Baptist next Friday, November 21st at 7:30 pm at Wheaton High School. Go ‘Hood!
Anon wrote the following: “The subject of IVF was brought up among a group friends, and a moral question on bioethics emerged. What does the Church say we should do with all the frozen embryos already in existence?”

Here is an article written in 2001 by Boston Archbishop Sean O’Malley, OFM Cap. As the Archbishop points out, the Church had not made an authoritative statement about the issue of frozen embryos as of ’01; as far as I know, that is still the case. If any bloggers have seen such a statement, please let me know. To view the Archbishop’s letter in full, please click on today’s title.

FROZEN EMBRYOS: Children on Hold

During the already cited congressional hearings concerning stem-cell research, John Borden stood before the panel with both his sons in his arms and asked, “Which one of my children would you kill?” John and his wife, Lucinda, unable to have children of their own adopted frozen embryos that were “left over” from in vitro fertilization. Their striking testimony demonstrated that embryos are human beings in an early stage of development and therefore should not be sacrificed for embryonic stem-cell research.

The action of this couple and many others raises the question, “What should be done with the frozen embryos?” Dr. Edward Furton of the National Catholic Bioethics Center published a fine article recently: “On the Disposition of Frozen Embryos.” The Church has not taken an official stand on what should be done. It is clear that in vitro fertilization is not an ethical practice. Nevertheless, the children born of this process are human beings, with the full rights and dignity of all members of the human family, and the frozen embryos produced are human and need to be respected as such.

The most acceptable solution for the disposition of these embryos is that they be implanted in their mother’s womb and brought to term. This is the best option in a highly ambiguous situation since the embryos should not have been created in the first place.

If the parents of the embryos are unable or unwilling to implant the embryo in the mother’s womb, what can be done with the frozen embryos? Moralists are beginning to debate this question. Theologians of the status of Dr. William May and Dr. Germain Grisey and Dr. John Furton, editor of Ethics & Medics of the National Catholic Bioethics Center, are of the opinion that it is preferable to place the frozen embryos up for adoption rather than to let them perish in a frozen gulag. Other moralists hesitate to countenance this approach because of the problem of surrogate motherhood. Nevertheless, we agonize over the predicament of these embryos. It is similar to the Church’s pastoral response to children born out of wedlock. While the Church cannot approve the circumstance of their birth since the children have already come into being, the Church must be concerned about their spiritual and material welfare.

No one wants to encourage in vitro fertilization in any way; yet, there is a desire to rescue these innocent human beings that are in the words of Donum Vitae: “exposed to an absurd fate, with no possibility of their being offered safe means of survival that can be licitly pursued” (D.V. I.5). We are hopeful that in the near future the Holy See will offer some authoritative pronouncements on this very complicated issue…

The Church’s teaching on in vitro fertilization is very clear and quite consistent with the Church’s teachings on marriage, on the dignity of the human person, and on the life ethic. A lack of knowledge about the ethical implications of this procedure has resulted in many couples having recourse to in vitro fertilization and has given further impetus to public support for embryonic stem-cell research.

St. Paul once commented that people will not respond to an uncertain trumpet blast. I assure you there is nothing uncertain about the Church’s teaching on in vitro fertilization. We have only to turn up the volume of the trumpet.


At 11:30 AM, Anonymous Tom said...

In a comment on the previous post, someone characterized the suggestion that parents offer their unwanted children up for medical research as an "interesting solution."

Why not just call it the "final solution"?

It's hard to keep track of how many things are appalling about this. A partial list: the suggestion to consign children to medical research; the justification for the suggestion (that they were going to be killed anyway); that it comes from an "ethics advisory board" chairman; that he sees the existence of unwanted children as chiefly a political problem that conservatives might exploit; that his suggestion was just one of many op-ed pieces run that day in the Washington Post; that such a monstrous suggestion has appeared in print without a vocal, public response.

(The op-ed piece, by Ronald M. Green, ran on November 12; you can search for it on the Post's website.)

At 6:19 PM, Blogger CynthiaBC said...

There won't BE a vocal, public response. The public is too busy listening to ads for infertility clinics that guarantee a baby or money back.

Our society thinks that people are entitled to have children, no matter one's age or health status. Unused embryos are merely collateral damage in the pursuit to Have A Baby.

At 8:38 PM, Blogger fran said...

I think we would all agree that an embryo is a developing baby. I wonder if the article, "Stem Cell Solution," would read any differently, to it's author, if the word "embryo" was replaced with those two words.

At 10:49 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If a husband and wife are fully aware of the church's stance on IVF; i.e., it is morally unacceptable, and proceed to conceive a child through IVF anyway, will the church accept and baptize the child in the Catholic Church?

At 7:01 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

To the anon of 10:49-

From the main post-

"While the Church cannot approve the circumstance of their birth since the children have already come into being, the Church must be concerned about their spiritual and material welfare."

To add, Donum Vitae:
"Although the manner in which human conception is achieved with IVF or ET cannot be approved, every child which comes into the world must in any case be accepted as a living gift of the divine Goodness and must be brought up with love."

At 7:48 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Obviously, most would agree that human experimentation is wrong. Out of that group, a percentage would agree that a frozen embryo is a human person. Of that group who “respect life,” there are people who still believe that IVF is okay.

I posed the question regarding IVF as the result of a conversation that began in the summer and has continued until even recently. I have a friend who is in the process of IVF and the group of our friends and I have been at odds over it. I am told my views regarding IVF are extreme. Most of these friends have no issues w/IVF at all and one friend thinks IVF is okay as long as a couple agrees to use all their embryos. Of the six women of whom I am speaking, all are pro-life, and four are Catholic.

This is what I don’t understand for the pro-lifers who are “okay” with IVF- if one believes an embryo is a human person, how is subjecting that human person to the grave dangers that the process of IVF (freezing and thawing) impose “okay?” Do we know how many “developing people” die in the process of freezing or thawing? Do we know how many are discarded when they are sorted for implantation? If that’s not enough- wouldn’t the issue of the extra embryos be the deal breaker? I get exasperated with people when my extreme seems so logical.

At 1:22 PM, Blogger fran said...

Anon 7:48 a.m.,

I can empathize with you.
I do not recall where I read this phrase, recently, but it may describe your group, and others, who share their way of thinking/ rationalizing: moral ambivalence.

At 11:49 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

AM anon,

Thanks for the info.I understand that the church must be concerned and accepting of any child, regardless of its' method of creation; they are the innocent bystanders of their parents decision (stupidity perhaps, depending on one's opinion) and thus should not pay the ultimate price of not being cleansed of original sin and not being welcomed into the Catholic Church. Perhaps my question does not concern the stance the Catholic Church takes on baptizing infants conceived through IVF, but rather, is a question of where the parents stand in the baptism of their child conceived through IVF?

For an infant to be baptized in the Catholic Church, do the parents have to be in a state of Grace? I can't recall this being part of the requirement for my children's baptism, but it has been a long time since my youngest was baptized and, I didn't feel like taking the time researching my question on the internet.

The answer I'm inclined to lean towards is that the parents have to be in a state of Grace when they request baptism of their child and when their child is baptized, for, how can parents agree to raise a child according to the Catholic faith but not be living it? Or, is the thinking that the child is a unique human being, a child of God that is capable of developing an understanding of the Catholic faith on its' own, regardless of the environment it is raised in? Essentially, it's ok for us as a family to welcome this gift into the world, but the parents have no responsibility in its religious formation?

At 5:19 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think moral ambivalence is definitely an active force. In some things, I have been guilty of it too. But on some issues, and especially in this last election cycle, I see willful ignorance. People aren’t interested in hearing about certain serious matters (especially the ones that don’t affect their perceived and immediate security and maintenance of lifestyle). They don’t question the facts that are only partially presented to them. If any discuss the true details regarding those matters, they’re labeled.

I got into a semi-heated discussion regarding some of the homilies that were given last month. Several were in agreement that the church shouldn’t discuss certain "election" issues. Some even thought the church wasn’t permitted to speak on issues relating to the election. First off, the government does permit pastors to preach on initiatives, moral issues and overview candidates’ positions w/o risking their church’s tax exempt status, but beyond that- doesn’t the church have an absolute obligation to speak about issues that go against its beliefs? But people didn’t want to hear certain truths, going so far as to label them “inappropriate,” so they can do what they want to do (rather than what is right) with a clear conscience. Deliberately turning a deaf ear gives no one a clear conscience, in my opinion.

From the pulpit, I want a prophet not a pragmatist. From my friends, I don’t want them to coddle me in my pursuit of something that is wrong, and I try to offer the same in return. I will continue to, cordially (hopefully), engage them in the repentance of their beliefs which support evil and encourage them in actions which promote good. That’s how this Sunday’s Gospel reading spoke to me.


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