My Take: Catholic Church should reverse opposition to in vitro fertilization
Carolyn and Sean Savage with their kids.
May 10th, 2011
09:28 AM ET

My Take: Catholic Church should reverse opposition to in vitro fertilization

Editor's note: Sean Savage is coauthor of "Inconceivable: A Medical Mistake, the Baby We Couldn't Keep, and Our Choice to Deliver the Ultimate Gift" and a cradle Catholic who lives in Sylvania, Ohio, with his wife and three children.

By Sean Savage, Special to CNN

According to the Roman Catholic Church, the only moral route to conceiving a child is through sexual intercourse. As a Catholic, I find the church's position to be discriminatory against couples who have medical conditions that prevent them from conceiving in that manner.

I never intended to challenge the church when my wife and I pursued in vitro fertilization in an effort to expand our family after a decade of unsuccessful infertility treatments. We loved our two boys and we'd always wanted a big family. After a successful IVF procedure in 2007 brought us our daughter in 2008, we tried again so that we could fulfill our commitment to give every embryo we created a chance at life.

When a fertility center made a critical error by transferring another couple's embryos to my wife, we were thrust into an unusual pregnancy and eventually found ourselves at the center of an intense media storm. On September 24, 2009, the day Carolyn gave birth to a very loved baby boy, who was immediately turned over to his genetic parents, the Catholic Diocese of Toledo released a statement to The Toledo Blade condemning IVF as "morally unacceptable."

Because we were the focus of the news, we felt as though the diocese was really condemning us.

The statement hurt Carolyn and me tremendously. We had hoped for the church's support and prayer on one of the hardest days we've ever faced.

Carolyn and I have always believed in our stewardship responsibilities to the church. I'd given thousands of hours over the years to coaching youth through my local parish, have raised funds for Catholic churches and schools and have given charitably to church causes. Carolyn had dedicated her career to teaching and working as a principal in Catholic schools.

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Instead of support, the church branded us in a very public way with the apparently shameful letters IVF. Why couldn't the church recognize our journey for what it was - an affirmation of the sanctity of life? Their negative response motivated me to look closer at the issue.

I believe there is an ethical path a couple can take when pursuing IVF and I ask the Roman Catholic Church to consider adopting a new doctrine that provides moral guidance for Catholic couples on how to do so.

While I share many concerns with the Catholic Church about abuses within the science of IVF, I disagree with a number of points the church makes on the issue. The church spelled out its stance in Donum Vitae, a 1987 doctrine on biomedical issues released by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith - an office then led by Cardinal Joseph Ratziner, who is now Pope Benedict XVI - and in 2008's Dignitas Personae, another influential church document.

The original doctrine states that "even if it (IVF) is considered in the context of 'de facto' existing sexual relations, the generation of the human person is deprived of its proper perfection; namely, that of being the result and fruit of a conjugal act." Dignitas Personae echoes this position by stating "human procreation is a personal act of a husband and wife, which is not capable of substitution."

I am personally opposed to the intentional destruction and discarding of unwanted embryos and understand why this is condemned by the church. But to state that a child born of IVF is less perfect than a child created through sexual intercourse is absurd. Is the church truly claiming that our beautiful and innocent daughter, conceived through an IVF procedure, is somehow "less" because of how her physical life began? In her, Carolyn and I see God's precious creation.

Of course, the creation of a child through a conjugal act is the preferred method because it is the most natural, least expensive and least stressful. But that shouldn't mean it should be the only acceptable route to conception.

What about Catholic men and women who have legitimate medical conditions, like endometriosis, which Carolyn has and which caused infertility despite efforts at surgical intervention?

Carolyn and I would have been happy to save thousands of dollars and a decade of emotional ups and downs by conceiving the "old-fashioned way," but that wasn't possible. We turn to medicine for a litany of medical maladies and impairments, but infertile Catholics are supposed to avoid treating a medical condition which prevents them from building or expanding their family?

Yes, adoption is a wonderful option for the couples who decide it's right for them, but adoption should never be forced on anyone.

The Donum Vitae doctrine also states that "in vitro fertilization is in itself illicit and in opposition to the dignity of procreation and of the conjugal union even when everything is done to avoid the death of the human embryo."

The term "illicit" has such a grave connotation and to use it in this context seems quite out of place. Should a couple that seeks a child through IVF, and that does so with a commitment to allow every embryo a chance at life, be considered to be participating in an illicit activity?

The most perplexing and pejorative language from Donum Vitae is that "marriage does not confer upon the spouses the right to have a child... the child has the right, as already mentioned to be the fruit of the specific act of the conjugal love of his parents and has the right to be respected as a person from the moment of conception."

Babies born of IVF are here because their parents loved, respected and longed for these children well before conception. These children could not get here through the conjugal love of their parents and it took a very deep love, respect, and commitment to pursue the medical treatment needed to conceive through IVF. There is no doubt in my mind that God is working through loving parents and ethical doctors to allow these children to come into this world.

Now for the ironic in Donum Vitae: "Scientists are to be encouraged to continue their research with the aim of preventing causes of sterility and of being able to remedy them so that sterile couples will be able to procreate in full respect for their own personal dignity and that of the child to be born."

So although there are solutions for sterile couples today, those should not be sought because they are outside of the conjugal act? If Carolyn and I were to wait until the scientific advances described in this statement before pursuing additional children, we would not have our daughter - or the opportunity to welcome two more children into this world this August.

If science can advance to the point that all procreation can happen within the confines of the conjugal act, that would be incredible. But what do couples do while waiting the years and probable decades before these advances come to fruition?

The challenge for the church is to see the beauty in the science and that there is a path within IVF that is worthy of God's grace and approval.

The church's presence in this field could help limit abuses and disregard for human life through advocacy, education, and support. Perhaps it could provide counselors as couples pursue IVF and face many technical and nuanced decisions. And maybe the church could help couples navigate even more complex situations, like embryo adoption.

Carolyn and I were victims of the worst IVF mistake on record. But we remain proponents of the science and understand the good that is done by God through ethical physicians in this industry. We value and support the sanctity of life, even if it's created with the help of IVF.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Sean Savage.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Catholic Church • Opinion • Pope Benedict XVI • Sexuality • Technology

soundoff (1,281 Responses)
  1. Patti

    I'm still trying to figure why the Catholic church thinks they even have the right to interfere in a couple's right to procreate? If the Catholic church is wondering why so many of it's churches are empty, all they have to do is look at their archaic laws and mandates. I have faith and belief in God as a higher power, but absolutely no faith or belief in the church whose tenets I was raised with. I believe in a woman's right to choose, divorce – especially if there is abuse of any sort – and in IVF if it means that a couple can have a long wished for and deeply loved child. The Catholic church has no right to deny me any of these options if I require them – if I'm going to burn in hell, it won't be for these things. It will be because I am a murderer, rapist, etc.

    May 10, 2011 at 11:28 am |
    • SteveM

      Patti, what do you think the Church is doing to "interfere in a couple's right to procreate". The Church's mission is to spread the Good News and to shine a light on those dark corners of your soul. You will not be penalized by the Church in any way by hiding from that light.

      May 10, 2011 at 4:01 pm |
    • Joe R

      hhmmm...I'm Catholic and not once afraid if the churches are empty...everybody has free will to choose where and how to worships or practice his/her belief.. they can go to Pentecost/Baptist/Buddhism/Hinduism/Judaism/even Islam.

      May 10, 2011 at 4:15 pm |
  2. Robert

    Notice how he didn't say that no embryos were discarded during their IVF process? Hmmm...

    Also, do you think a method that allows for another person to have your baby, like the parents of the child his wife gave birth to, should be deemed morally licit by the Church? I doubt it.

    Speaking as a Catholic, I'm personally sick and tired of "Catholics" who have positions of secular authority thinking they somehow have the influence to sway Church teaching on serious moral matters. Only God can do that, and yes, as a Catholic YOU believe that. If you're Catholic, you believe the Church safeguards the Truth of God because Christ promised this to the Church. And now, all of the sudden, when it doesn't exactly lineup to your personal vision on Earth, you think "Gee, I think I can start a movement to change this." You can't. All you do is lead people away from the Truth, and that has grave consequences.

    May 10, 2011 at 11:28 am |
    • mkjp

      ummm yea, go back and re read that article. see if you can spot where he says they are trying to use all of the embryos they created. because he did. nice try though.

      May 10, 2011 at 11:35 am |
  3. cute

    YOU get that creating children in this way is playing God, right? and that if all those embryos were brought to term, that we'd be knee deep in babies. The world has enough people, and there are millions of children already here that need love and attention.IMHO, you should use the Church to learn to cope with your family's inability to conceive, be gracious for what you have, and stop overpopulating my planet.

    Oh, and when the Catholic church can police itself, it can begin to tell others how to live.

    May 10, 2011 at 11:27 am |
    • Clint

      You're right. The world is knee deep in babies. Therefore, no person at all (whether infertile or not) should try to get pregnant until all the unwanted babies are properly cared for. That is what you believe, right?

      May 10, 2011 at 11:49 am |
    • Kris

      So, I guess you will be adopting one of those needy children that are on "YOUR" planet.

      May 10, 2011 at 12:58 pm |
    • TK

      I think your beef with how the world is overpopulated shouldn't be directed at those who choose to have children via IVF but the lack of education given to inner city children who trustingly have intercourse and get pregnant or to the countries of the world that are so poor but do not practice abstinence, thus creating multiple children in one family, children they can't afford to feed – India is a great example of this. Better yet, complain about the drug addicted mothers who became pregnant because they sold their bodies to fulfill their addiction only to either mistreat the child or give it up because the child has now a burden to their getting high.

      Don't hate on this couple who can afford to utilize IVF and give the child a good life without burdening our economy and turn your negative energy into mentoring an inner city kid who desperately needs a positive role model in their life and push them to get an education instead of having three kids by the time they are 17 and draining our economy and overpopulting "your planet".

      May 10, 2011 at 1:04 pm |
  4. Steve

    It is moraly unacceptable to do evil (which I.V.F. certainly is) so that a "good" may come of it. Assuming these two people understood this basic moral law, they should never of have participated in I.V.F. so that they could procreate another child.

    As all informed Christians and Jews understand, every human being (including the unborn) is made in the likeness and image of God. Each human being (including the unborn) has an eternal soul. No person has a right to kill an innocent person. But invariably most children conceived in test tubes, and many who are artificially implanted die as a result of the I.V.F. procedure.

    Although many who read this post will not agree, believe it or not...there are moral absolutes that need to be defended. This current culture of moral relativism is leading western civilization to it's demise. Thank God that the Catholic Church defends the right to life, otherwise the relativist will be coming to kill the rest of us.

    God did not create us on this earth to be happy, he put us on this earth to know, love and serve him. He promises that by living a life of Faith, Hope, and Charity(self sacraficing love) that he will give us a gift of eternal happiness.

    Temporal happiness is a gift, not a human right.

    My recommendation to this husband and wife is that they reconsider their actions and of the scandal they have created, repent and reconcile themselves with God and his Church. Not bad advice for anyone...including myself.


    May 10, 2011 at 11:26 am |
    • Clint

      Do you realize that roughly 50% of all pregnancies spontaneously abort? That means that over human history, literally billions upon billions of embryos have died (and not because of any actions of the parents). Do you honestly believe that these billions upon billions of embryos that never had a chance possess souls? What does that say about your god who would allow these billions upon billions of embryos to die? If IVF is evil because it causes a relatively small number of unimplanted embryos to die, what does that say about your god who destroys billions?

      May 10, 2011 at 11:47 am |
  5. Doug

    Hi Sean,
    I read your article with interest because my wife and I could not bare children the conjugal way. Please bare with me. I understand your determination to have children but I think you are wrong in your thinking. Hey, I read your thoughts. Please read mine. One point, the authority of the church. Sorry, but right or wrong, the church has authority in these matters. Like it or not. We can wish the laws of God, but in this case, decided by the God given authority of the church, it doesn't meet your desires. They didn't meet mine either. Remember foremost that time here is really really short in comparison to eternity. Don't focus very much on your needs in this life. Think about the future. Yes, God loves your children as much as any child and I don't believe the church thinks otherwise no matter how they may word something. Also, IVF is not a medical treatment of an affliction. It is a way around an affliction. Just because it leads to a great outcome, children, doesn't make it right. Ends do not justify the means. Similarly, embryonic stems cell use, evn if they provide great cures, do not justify their use. Think about also that children in this method are conceived outside the womb and several fertilized eggs are implanted in the process. Am I wrong here? Isn't odds of the survival for all lowered? By the way I noticed you have two on the way. I assume they implanted many more than two fertilized eggs. Am I wrong? In hopes of one or more 'taking'? Bottom line I think I can make is that life is never fair. That's the way it is. I have no children. I am 52. Oh well. Life isn't about me. It's about serving God. I think maybe you have missed this point. I wanted children but not so much I was willing to disobey the churches understanding of the wishes of God. I am not an expert of theology. That's okay because I truly believe Jesus left an authority when he left us for heaven. Since you're Catholic, you understand where I am coming from. Try and reflect on what I've said and stop rolling your eyes thinking I'm another nut trying to tell you you're wrong. I think you know you were wrong regardless of how much you love your children and how special they are which I'm sure both are true. I think I am right in what I've said. I'm human and can be wrong. You're human and can be wrong also. I trust the church more than myself. Thanks for taking the time to read this.

    May 10, 2011 at 11:23 am |
    • BRC

      You say that the church dissaproves, but who in the leadership of the church has been spoken to by God since this procedure became available (or abortion for that matter)? When you say the church, you're still just talking about people; and you're right they can make mistakes. Who can actually say, and prove, that the people that represent "the church" got this one right?

      May 10, 2011 at 5:14 pm |
  6. MT

    Think of how many children would not be in the foster care system or orphaned if people who could not have children would take the selfless step of adopting a child. There are reasons the Catholic Church takes this stand and all of it's precepts and traditions.

    May 10, 2011 at 11:19 am |
    • Todd

      Then the catholic church should forbid all couples from having children for a year, and just adopt! Think how many adoptions there would be!

      May 10, 2011 at 11:25 am |
    • UpursBibleBeaters

      what does having a child on your own have anything to do with adoption? How many adopted or foster kids do you have?

      May 10, 2011 at 11:27 am |
    • mkjp

      Think of how many children would not be in the foster care system or orphaned if people who COULD have children would take the selfless step of adopting a child. Why should I have to adopt but you don't have to? We should ALL be adopting instead of having out own children to solve this problem.

      May 10, 2011 at 11:33 am |
    • Clint

      Think of how many children would not be in the foster care system or orphaned if people who COULD have children would take the selfless step of adopting a child. Geez, it may or may not be better to adopt from an orphanage than to have your own kids, but if adopting is really the right thing to do, why is it only the responsibility of infertile couples to adopt? Nobody should be getting pregnant themselves if that's the case.

      May 10, 2011 at 11:41 am |
    • Kris

      It is so easy to judge when you are not in the same position. I hope all those critical of the process never go through the heartbreak of infertilty. It is painful, and believe me it is not an easy choice to make. My husband and I did plenty of soul searching before deciding to go through this process. We do not need others to do that for us. We are perfectly capable of coming to a thoughtfull decision on our own. It is a private decision, and everyone should just mind their own business. If IVF isn't for you, great. You don't have to pursue it. You also don't have the right to force your religious beliefs on those who don't share your particular doctrine.

      My advice, do as your heart tells you. No need to involve the Catholic Church or any other faith. The eggs you were born with belong to you and are yours to do with as you see fit. No other human has the right to tell you otherwise. There are people walking this earth that have done far worse than wanting to be parents.

      And, by the way, there are not always embryos left to freeze. I am lucky if 1 embryo is created as as result of fertility treatments. If the treatments do not work, we will pursue adoption. We are using all means possible to have a family. I am glad that we have these choices available. I believe that God has given me these tools to pursue parenthood. I have faith that through one or the other we will be parents.

      May 10, 2011 at 12:01 pm |
    • BRC

      How many fewer children would be in the foster care system or hoping for adoption, if this same church didn't forbid the use of contraceptives?

      May 10, 2011 at 5:10 pm |
  7. UpursBibleBeaters

    How ironic: Mary was a Virgin, not married, and had a non conjugal pregnancy through the IMMACULATE CONCEPTION! The only one EVER recorded in the history of this world.

    So those theorists that have arguments regarding natural selection, and adoption, and all that other BS, and your fearless leader that hung on the cross was not even legitimate according to your own doctrine. HAAA HAAAA

    May 10, 2011 at 11:18 am |
    • cutiefacepolicewife86

      I am amused. Nice.

      May 10, 2011 at 11:21 am |
    • Anonymous

      Please note that the Mary's conception of Jesus is not the "Immaculate conception". The conception of Mary by her parents is the "immaculate conception" as she was conceived and born without original sin- so that she could bring Jesus into this world.

      May 10, 2011 at 11:46 am |
    • My Opinion

      As a person adopting, I harbor no judgement against those who want to go the route of IVF. Sadly, even people who are adopting get asinine questions like: Why are you adopting a needy child from America? Why aren't you adopting a child of your own race?

      As a former Catholic, raised in the Catholic Church and taught in Catholic Schools, I certainly understood Church Doctrine, but certainly never believed it. I found it amazing that when you look at the historical basis for certain practices, they never matched up with The reality is that if you're not willing to practice Catholic doctrine, it would be difficult to call yourself a Catholic in good standing.

      So....with that said, I made a much better Jew and felt my conversion was more fullfilling than any of the Catholic Sacraments that were forced upon me.

      May 10, 2011 at 12:01 pm |
    • UpursBibleBeaters

      hey anonymous. We all know what the holy spirit did with his "powers" and yet Mary is still the only person ever to have received this "power." It still was not conjugal making my other arguments valid.

      Can't you idiots see the writing on the wall. This is all fiction BullShI***

      May 10, 2011 at 12:32 pm |
    • TK

      As a Catholic I must say – Amen to that brother!!

      May 10, 2011 at 12:41 pm |
  8. Cindy

    I think its too bad that you dont trust God enough that HE would know better than you what is right for you, your life, and your family.
    I dont like Catholics that bend the rules to suit them. You already had 2 sons! Not blessed enough?....is that it?

    I am Catholic and I can not have children biological because of medical reasons. I thought about IVF, and then I thought about God. HE doesnt want it, and therefore I didnt do it. And that decision came without ANY children in my family. I am blown away that you already had 2 sons and then still pushed the issue. And you see what happened because of it?

    What happened to faith? What happened to following Gods plan and Gods will, and not your own? Why is it when Catholics come across a Catholic rule/law/regulation that they dont like, they just figure God doesnt really want it that way either and then go about doing what the hell they want. Amazing.

    Why couldnt you trust Him enough to believe he had a plan, a reason, for why your family was capped at 2 kids. But theres nothing in your motives except pure selfishness. And nothing in your faith that says you believe Him. You can say what you want but youve proven otherwise by your actions. In terms you might understand...You've talked the talk but youre not walking the walk.

    'Thine will be done'. Not your will, not her will, not his or theirs or anyone elses....HIS will be done. And you dont have to understand it or agree with it, but you have to trust it, have faith it in, and believe.

    The next time you want to blatantly go against the Church what excuse will you use to justify it? Because 'we wanted', is all I've heard so far. Well, God wanted to. He wanted you to follow His laws, and you didnt. Great job there Mr Catholic.

    May 10, 2011 at 11:18 am |
    • mkjp

      did God himself come down from heaven and whisper in your ear what His laws are? Because you should know, as a thinking person, that the Bible was written by men and not by God. And the rules of the church are made by men, not by God. How do you know the church's teachings are the same rules and regulations that God would have laid down himself? This is my issue with organized religion. I believe there is a God, I believe he does things for a reason. So I believe that he made me unable to have children or to even carry a child for a reason. But if I try IVF and ma successful, then that will be God telling me yes, you were meant to do this and meant to have a child this way. If I try it and it fails, then that is God telling me nope, didn't want you to do that. Those are my beliefs. I am also however not Catholic so do not feel the need to strictly follow that church's teachings. I wonder if I was Catholic would I be tempted to switch to another religion that was more understanding of my personal faith? I'll never know because that isn't my situation.

      May 10, 2011 at 11:31 am |
    • amythegreen

      I'm not even religious and I agree with this. I think it is selfish of people to use IVF. Our world is already over-populated, there are too many children living without families, and lastly perhaps it is nature's way of keeping deadly genetic diseases or other imperfections from continuing on.

      May 10, 2011 at 11:52 am |
    • Shelly

      Cindy, oh Cindy. I think your first order of business it to go to confession. You sat in judgment of the author of this article by calling him selfish, and you said he was mistrustful of God. You even went on to say he "deserved" what happned by pushing it with God. When God came down and "told" you it wasn't in his plans for you to have children, did he also tell you that you could sit in judgement of others? Jesus was not about judging. And having a child is not selfish, far from it. I think you should ask God if he is ok with you condeming the choices of others, right or wrong? Ms. Catholic, your words are not very Catholic at all!

      May 10, 2011 at 11:57 am |
    • terry

      Really Cindy! How do you know what God wants?

      May 10, 2011 at 1:18 pm |
    • jesse

      I was really inspired by your article and i want to thank you for introducing this GOD character into my life! I have opened my haert and realized that, i too can create my own personal God's. So,,,i made a scientific GOD and it was good. I made an intelligent mind for the science GOD and saw that it was good also. I decided to create evil GODs too! They happen to be all the F#@k!n gods that have ever been create by woman and men for the past few thousand years. Since i founded them evil, i sentenced them to the rubbish bin for etenity! (including this jesus christed sacko num nuts!

      May 10, 2011 at 11:48 pm |
  9. Dave

    Agree with the writer of this article.........wonder how many of the above posters also agree that the church's discrimination against the LGBT community is ALSO unacceptable.

    May 10, 2011 at 11:16 am |
    • Todd

      It's unbelievably disgusting is what it is. They discriminate against people based on their genetic background. That's one of (many reasons) I am agnostic.

      May 10, 2011 at 11:18 am |
    • Marni

      Let's not brand all Catholic as ultra conservative. I am Catholic AND the mother of a lesbian. I believe the Church is changed from WITHIN and stand up for my views at every opportunity. (smile)

      May 10, 2011 at 11:36 am |
  10. Lila

    IVF is a choice that I'll never understand. All this "my child was a gift from God to me" me me me. How about being a gift from God to an unloved child who is rotting away in an orphanage or in foster care? Yeah they will be more of a challenge, so what. Your patience and love is saving another and making a real difference in the world. If I wanted to be a parent bad enough, that's the route I would go.

    May 10, 2011 at 11:15 am |
    • Clint

      So, I assume you'll never try to get pregnant yourself and will instead choose to adopt an overseas child? If not, you're a hypocrite.

      May 10, 2011 at 11:34 am |
    • Lila

      100% correct I would prefer to adopt over having my own. However your logic is flawed. Someone who can have a child naturally is not being a hypocrite.

      May 10, 2011 at 11:50 am |
    • Alison

      Then go adopt a crack addicted baby, and let us know how that goes. It's not a matter of things being a little more challenging for a little while. It is a lifetime of issues, both medical and emotional. Certain people have the capacity to take care of those children. Most people do not.

      May 10, 2011 at 11:53 am |
    • Alison

      And what if despite all your patience and love, the child you tried to save from their past ends up living a life on the streets? These children aren't like puppies at the pound who just need love. There are serious issues. Just as someone who can naturally have children has the right to adopt, why should someone who cannot naturally have children have the right to use medical intervention? Why should you have a choice, and I should be forced into adopting? I didn't choose to be infertile.

      May 10, 2011 at 11:56 am |
    • Jim

      "who can have a child naturally" – which I infer to mean that you are fertile. Please do not judge those suffering from IVF and the treatment they choose when you do not have to face the same hardships....

      May 10, 2011 at 11:57 am |
    • Lila

      Your own children can have a lifetime of medical and emotional problems, it's always a risk. Why be a parent at all if you are not will to accept them? And Church law is not a legal law so no one is trying to take away anyone's choice to have IVF.

      May 10, 2011 at 12:01 pm |
    • Lila

      Also I have never tried to have children, I have no desire to have one of my own. If I wanted to be a parent that bad I would look into adoption or fostering kids.

      May 10, 2011 at 12:06 pm |
    • Steven

      Good for you. But you haven't done either yet have you? It's always nice to judge when you have no personal experience.

      May 10, 2011 at 12:11 pm |
    • Lila

      I am not judging, I am stating my opinion. There are many children in the world IVF seems like the biggest waste. Love is love, doesn't matter if I give birth to the child or not.

      May 10, 2011 at 12:22 pm |
  11. iminim

    Since learning of your journey through infertility and your loss of the child you and your wife carried, I have been amazed at the courage both of you have. Your selflessness in carrying that child shows your commitment to your faith. I am disappointed that the Catholic church condenmed your actions even after you chose to follow their recommendation and chose not to abort the child of another couple. Not being Catholic, I was unaware of your church's actions until now. I am so very glad that you will soon be having a child (now children) that you have been seeking.

    May 10, 2011 at 11:14 am |
  12. Treva

    The comment section on this article is so incredibly sad. And you wonder why Christianity is failing. I tell you what, judge me all you want on the fact that we had our only child through IVF. Judging is all some of these people are good at, I guess. My son spent 2 years in a freezer, and someday when we talk about how his life began, I'm sure he'll be thrilled with the fact that we fought a 5 year battle to get him here, spent thousands, and walked an incredibly hard path. I'm just happy that I've moved past needing a "church" to tell me whether or not I made the right decision. I know I made the right decision when I see my son everyday. I'll take your ignorant and stupid comments as a consequence of having a child any day of the week.

    May 10, 2011 at 11:13 am |
    • Jim

      Christianity is not failing – there are Christian religions out there who either support IVF or accept that it is a topic which the religion should not have an opinion (i.e. there are strong moral arguements both for and against it, and ultimately it is up to the couple to decide). I belong to the ELCA which is one of these organizations.

      Christianity will survive and thrive, while the closeminded judemental sects within it will go extinct (similar to what will happen to muslim extremists).

      May 10, 2011 at 11:54 am |
    • TK

      Treva – You should NEVER have to explain to the world why you made the choice of IVF. You wanted a child of your own to love and if science could help you, why not? Maybe some of those who judge should seek no medical treatment at all because God made us to live then die and perhaps they are taking medication to prolong their life – that's science too, is it not? God bless your decision and I hope your son gets a big kick out of the stories you'll tell him!

      May 10, 2011 at 11:59 am |
  13. Catholic Father

    It's upsetting as a Catholic to see that the principals of our schools cannot even follow the Church's teaching on these matters. Because the Church's stance will NOT change on this issue, don't you think your wife should find another job like maybe the principal of a public school – NOT a Catholic school where she is a terrible example of following Church teaching on such an important matter?

    May 10, 2011 at 11:11 am |
    • Todd

      Good idea; teach at a school which actually teaches useful subjects and science, rather than "intelligent" design and other such rubish.

      May 10, 2011 at 11:31 am |
    • Jimmy

      Amen, my daughter attends a Catholic school and the principal supports the church 100%.

      May 10, 2011 at 11:45 am |
    • TK

      I will attend mass this Sunday and pray for your horrible statements in this post. As a Catholic it is a sin to judge another: judge not lest ye be judged. For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you. Matthew 7:2 In other words, if you are going to say that what someone else is doing is wrong then you better be prepared to be judged by the same standard. If you don’t want your life to be scrutinized, then don’t judge others. And yes, I am Catholic.

      May 10, 2011 at 11:56 am |
    • ted

      will there be faith on earth when the Son of God returns?

      May 10, 2011 at 5:36 pm |
  14. Squeezebox

    As a Catholic, I sympathize with infertile couples, but there are 2 reasons to oppose IVF. The primary one is what to do with the excess fertilized eggs. If you don't implant every last one of them, that's abortion! Second, there are too many existing orphans around the world as it is. Why can't you adopt one of them? Genetic vanity?

    May 10, 2011 at 11:11 am |
    • Todd

      Because we want our OWN children. Adoption is not for everyone.
      I get a thrill every morning I see my baby sitting across the table from me. She is truly a little version of me, with all my quirks and features.

      May 10, 2011 at 11:15 am |
    • Ms.W

      "Genetic vanity"... excellent phrase! I know one woman who wouldnt adopt because she really wanted to experience being pregnant like all of her friends. Sigh.

      May 10, 2011 at 11:15 am |
    • mkjp

      I said this to someone else and I'll say it to you: I assume you are fertile and can have a child naturally, and likely already did at least once. GENETIC VANITY ON YOU. How DARE you tell me I cannot have a child who is genetically my own but everyone else can? YOU are the irresponsible one for being able to choose to have your own child naturally and doing that rather than adopting. Stop judging me before you look in the mirror!

      May 10, 2011 at 11:24 am |
    • Jay

      I'm an adopted child and my heart aches for the babies and children without loving parents and my stomach turns at some of the horror stories of children abused in foster care situations. Just because we can create children via IVF doesn't mean we should. Let's truly respect life by improving the quality of it for the people already here!

      May 10, 2011 at 11:36 am |
    • Jay

      "Genetic vanity"–love it! I know a couple that was against adoption because they didn't want a baby that might have defects or psychological problems later on in life. Pretty arrogant to think that their genes were so superior.

      May 10, 2011 at 11:40 am |
    • Alison

      If you have not experienced the loss, frustration, depression, and feelings of guilt that come with infertility, you cannot possibly understand why someone would choose IVF. I experienced multiple miscarriages, and 3 tubal pregnancies (which almost killed me) in my attempt to conceive a child with my husband. Adoption is not for everyone. Financially, and emotionally, some people just cannot do it. Do you have any idea of the cost to adopt a healthy infant? 5-40k domestically, and 8-30k internationally (not counting travel and lodging costs). There are not just free babies sitting around in orphanages like there were in the old days. The majority of children that are at the "cheaper" end of the adoption cost spectrum are often the product of mothers with drug and/or alcohol additions throughout their pregnancies, mothers who received little to no prenatal care and have a variety of medical issues, and older toddlers, children and family groups.

      Some people can be great parents to these children. Some people have the emotional and financial resources to deal with these problems. For a lot of people, including myself and my husband, this is not the case. It is not a matter of "genetic vanity". It is the need to experience creating life, carrying it in my body, and giving birth and knowing that the child is the result of the love between me and my husband, even if a laboratory had to connect point A and point B. Why should I be reviled for wanting something that comes so easily for most people?

      The pain I have felt for being unable to provide my husband with a child has been unbearable at times. It has taken years to get over the loss of something that was never meant to be, and it almost ruined our marriage. Until you have felt that pain, please do not judge.

      May 10, 2011 at 11:45 am |
    • TK

      Genetic vanity, are you kidding me? It costs thousands of dollars to adopt a child and a bunch of red-tape to receive a child through adoption and the child may already be 2-3 years old by the time the couple takes him home. Why should Catholics not spend that same money to produce a child that is of their own from day one? IVF/intercourse, however a couple decides to have a child should be left to them not the head of the Catholic Church. This is not 1950 and if medical science can help a desperate couple than let it be. Dont' forget it was God who planted the seed of knowledge of IVF into the heads doctors. Oh, btw, I am Catholic so I have the right to give my opinion on the matter.

      May 10, 2011 at 11:48 am |
    • Alison

      And yes, I realize that any child, even my own, has the possibility to be born with a whole host of medical issues. Most problems that severely effect these children however, have nothing to do with genetics, and everything to do with not having care in early pregnancy. Take a look at the children up for adoption in your state. The majority are drug and alcohol affected babies.

      May 10, 2011 at 11:49 am |
    • Gigi

      Hmmm...Todd....so is my adopted child not my OWN child?! I have loved her and cared for her since two days after her birth, for 11 years now. I get a thrill every morning I see my child sit across the table from me too. She has quirks and features I can marvel at too, without them being a genetic copy of my own.... I have a biological child and an adopted child. They are both my OWN. The desire to procreate is the most natural desire on earth; however, PARENTHOOD is the true thrill and the lasting gift. The method of becoming a parent is inconsequential to the lifetime of love and nurturing you commit to as a parent. You become a parent the moment you assume loving responsibility for a child. You don't become a parent through mere procreation.

      May 10, 2011 at 11:58 am |
    • ClaytonR

      THANK YOU GIGI!!!!! I couldn't have said it better!

      May 10, 2011 at 12:21 pm |
    • Ms.W

      @mkjp - I have no fertility issues and have adopted 2 children from the foster care system. One was 9 months old, the other was 8 yrs old. They are BOTH the light of my life.. I do not believe it is just infertile persons who need to step up on behalf of our orphans... I believe that MORE of us need to!

      @ Alison... you sound like a very hateful person and for the children's sake, I am glad that you have chosen not to adopt.

      May 10, 2011 at 1:02 pm |
  15. bes

    I am a practicing Catholic who after years of infertility have decided to go to a local IVF clinic. I am thrilled with the prospect of becoming pregnant. I have worked all my life, paid my taxes, got my M.S.W. and have dedicated my life to helping others. I feel that I should have the opportunity (like everyone else) to have a child. I have chosed IVF as a last resort. I thank God everyday that this is available to me. Whether the Catholic Church agrees with me or not, I am continuing my quest for a child. I don't much care what the Church says, when they start paying my bills...then they can tell me what to do. Period.

    May 10, 2011 at 11:10 am |
    • Andrew

      Right there with you

      May 10, 2011 at 11:13 am |
  16. Todd

    This demonstrates one of the many disgusting facets of religion. A whole bunch of people choose to live their lives according to a collection of stories written thousands of years ago, and then interpret them to lead to making everyone around them miserable.

    May 10, 2011 at 11:10 am |
  17. Thank You

    Thank you for your article. After having suffered multiple ectopic pregnancies and eventually losing both of my tubes, my husband and I are finally expecting twins. I think we lost more embryos trying the "old fashioned way" than we did using IVF, which was successful in our first attempt. I hope and pray that someone with authority in the church will see your article and will seriously consider the church's stance.

    May 10, 2011 at 11:10 am |
  18. Tova

    I am a woman conceived by IVF. My parents are Catholic - I left the Church as a teenager, almost entirely because of this issue (though have since found MANY reasons why I am happy I left and converted to Judaism).

    I am here because I meant to be here. It is not that my parents 'were not meant to have children' (though that's what my priest cousin told them, and that they should repent when they became pregnant with me).

    May 10, 2011 at 11:08 am |
  19. Jill

    All children are blessing from Our Lord, even those born through IVF. And while the author recognizes the horrible practice of destructing the "left-over" embryos, this is not a small matter. These embryos are life and are typically destroyed at the end of the IVF treatment for a couple. I personally know a couple who have triplets through IVF, and have "left-over" embryos that they can not afford to keep frozen forever. These embryos (5) will be destroyed, due to the couple's decision to start the IVF process. This is one of the "dirty little" secrets that the IVF industry does not want to you to talk about. There can be no rationalization for the desctruction of life.

    May 10, 2011 at 11:07 am |
    • Todd

      They can be donated to other couples who cannot generate their own embryos

      May 10, 2011 at 11:17 am |
    • mkjp

      Or they could be used for stem cell research. I understand that this is not the ideal solution as it does not result in that embryo becoming a child who grows up etc. But understand that we are not all Catholic, and even some who are choose to attempt IVF despite the church's stance, so there will forever be leftover embryos. May as well put them to some use that will help other people, either by donating them to another couple or donating them to science. Destruction is definitely a waste on so many levels.

      May 10, 2011 at 11:21 am |
    • Jim

      While I understand the Church's desire to be consistent in its policy toward life (one with which I do not agree), I think that the author and Jill's hesitation at discarding leftover embryos falls into a logical pitfall which the Church avoids. If, as I assume the author holds, life begins at conception (and therefore we should not discard embryos), then why is it permissible to freeze them in liquid nitrogen (without their permission)? If embryos have a right to life just like anyone else, then if I cannot freeze an adult or a child, then I cannot freeze an embryo. One could argue (and should) that conception is not the right starting point –perhaps implantation is better. Then one could make a distinction between an embryo that has all the necessary conditions to develop and ones that do not

      May 10, 2011 at 11:42 am |
    • lis

      what your friends aren't telling you is that they had the decision about what to do with their embryos in the chance that they could not afford to continue to store them. there are three choices...donate to a waiting family, donate to science, and destroy. your friends have to have chosen option #3 if this is what's happening to their leftover embryos as the parents delegate this at the start of the ivf cycle.

      May 10, 2011 at 12:26 pm |
    • lis

      and please refrain from saying what "typically" happens during and after an ivf cycle if you have never been through one. thank you.

      May 10, 2011 at 12:27 pm |
    • Kaka

      This assumes that an embryo is considered "life". Can that embryo be fed intravenously? Can it eat on it's own? Can it breathe? Does it have a heartbeat? At the point of being an embryo in a freezer, it's nothing more than a wish of having a child, as much as if it wasn't fertilized and was just an egg and a sperm.

      I think there would be many couples who cannot produce their own embryos that would want to take advantage of "leftover" embryos. But to say that discarding unused embryos is destroying life is about as far fetched as saying using a condom is destroying life.

      May 10, 2011 at 1:08 pm |
  20. mkjp

    This is a real sticking point for me personally in organized religion. I myself am not Catholic, but I feel I would have a very hard time were that my religious background. I cannot carry a child myself due to being born with a condition known as mulerian agenesis, absence of a uterus. Should my husband and I choose to have a child or children who would be gentically our offspring, I would have to seek both IVF and another woman to carry that child for me. And the thought that the religion I practice would condemn my decision to pursue my family in the way that I personally choose would be extremely upsetting. I believe that it is our right under God to have children any way we choose. For people who can conceive a child naturally, that is spectacular and you are very lucky. But for the rest of us, is the Catholic church saying too bad, you can't have children who are genetically your own so deal with it? That seems very harsh.

    I understand that a main concern is the potential for loss of what the church views as life, in the event that embryos be discarded when they are not used. But the couple in this article are taking responsibility for every embryo created and are doing what they can to make sure each embryo has a shot at being carried to term and producing a child who will be loved and cherished. I don't see why that is so wrong.

    May 10, 2011 at 11:06 am |
    • Chris

      What I don't understand is why people even follow religions. Their all created by man(hence the updates over the years) and are wrong. Without the various holy books there would be no belief OR religion. So why not just live life like a good person and state you dont know what happens. Why do people even get upset about what some religious nutters are doing?

      May 10, 2011 at 11:28 am |
    • mkjp

      yea, I also have a problem with organized religion in general. But the reason I get upset over what these people are saying is because they are claiming that the God in which I believe will send me straight to hell for daring to use the science that (in my opinion) He fostered (I believe that God has a hand in all things, and when scientists figure out IVF it was because God wanted them to). It would be fine if they kept their judgements to those within their own faith (although that is also not ideal) but Catholics are telling me that I, as a non Catholic, still should live my life by their rules. And that makes me angry. I really should not let it get to me though.

      May 10, 2011 at 11:38 am |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.