Monday, October 11, 2010

One more IVF post (blame Fr. Tad, the brainiac!)

The blogs saw a flurry of emotional IVF posts and debates recently. Then, the inventor of IVF won the Nobel Prize last week. Then yesterday, my parish bulletin carried this article, by Fr. Tad Pacholczyk, Ph.D (who earned a doctorate in neuroscience from Yale University, did post-doctoral work at Harvard, has four undergraduate degrees -- in molecular and cellular biology, chemistry, biochemistry and philosophy -- and has two degrees in advanced theology from the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome. I note that so that no one jumps in to claim that he or the Church is anti-science.)

I think he says it all. Have a read:
Babies In Test Tubes

When I give talks about in vitro fertilization (IVF), I usually ask my audience the following question: "How many of you know a baby born by IVF, or know a couple who has tried to get pregnant this way?" Usually about half the hands in the room go up. Then I ask them to raise their hands if the couple was Catholic. Virtually all the same hands go up a second time. I have the sense that Catholics are making use of IVF at about the same rate as non-Catholics, and that most of them are only vaguely aware of the Church's position on making test tube babies.
When asked why IVF might be immoral, people will usually mention the extra embryos that are frozen or discarded. Such embryos are certainly a serious concern, but they are not the primary reason the Church insists the procedure is immoral. Even if IVF were done without making any extra embryos at all, this way of making babies would still be morally objectionable, because the procedure strikes at the very core and meaning of marital sexuality. It substitutes an act of laboratory manipulation for an act of bodily union between spouses. It turns procreation into production. IVF is really the flip-side of contraception: rather than trying to have sex without babies, we try to have babies without sex. Because many Americans have come to view sex largely in terms of recreation, ignoring its procreative orientation, they have lost touch with the grave violations that occur both in contraceptive sex and in making babies in test tubes.
Clearly, the moral violations that occur in IVF do not reflect upon the child, who is innocent. It is not the baby's fault in any way. The child has no control over how he or she got here. Regardless of how a baby comes into the world, whether by IVF, whether by adultery, by pre-marital sex, or even by cloning, that baby is always a gift and a blessing. The problem with IVF is not with the child, but with a decision made by the parents concerning how to pursue the satisfaction of their own desire for a child. In other words, babies, even when very much desired, should not be brought into the world by making use of disordered means such as adultery, pre-marital sex, IVF, or cloning. They should be brought into the world only within that intimate love-giving moment of the marital embrace. Children are entitled to come into being as the fruit of a singular parental love that is uniquely manifested in the spousal moment of bodily surrender to each other. Through the incredibly rich language of the parents' bodies, through their body to body contact, the new body of their child is engendered. In their one-flesh union, they enflesh new life. That intimate bodily embrace is a sacred action that only spouses may share, and it represents the unique and privileged locus, by God's design, in which human love is translated into new life. IVF violates this design by replacing that love-giving act with an act of production, whereby we manufacture our own children in petri dishes and test tubes, as if they were products or objects to be manhandled at will. In this way, IVF incidentalizes and adulterates sex, reducing it to another arena for manipulation according to our own desires. When we take this immoral step, others quickly follow, including the freezing or even the discarding of our own children, as if they were a form of medical waste. By making test tube babies, we first violate the sacred human act by which we hand on life. It is then but a short step to go further and violate the very life itself that we produce in the laboratory.
Is it not reasonable and right to insist, as the Church does, that new human life should be the fruit of married love, carried out through bodily self-giving between spouses, this act which allows each partner to enrich the other with the total gift of himself or herself? The marital act embodies spousal love directly, exclusively and authentically. Can we say the same for IVF, where the woman upsets her delicate hormonal cycles and subjects herself to repetitive injections with powerful drugs to make her body produce unnaturally large numbers of eggs, and where the man may be expected to go into a back room with salacious magazines and videos to "provide a sample"? Can we really say that IVF embodies spousal love in an authentic and exclusive way when a lab technician ends up being the causal agent of the pregnancy, instead of the spouses themselves through a sacred act proper to their married love? By any stretch, can we honestly believe that IVF is faithful to God's design for marriage?
We sometimes tend to brush the ungainly and unsightly parts of the procedure under the rug and instead try to focus on the result, the baby, so as to mitigate the disturbing reality of what we are really engaging in. Some couples also may rest their approval for IVF on a perfunctory assumption, namely: "We have a right to a child when we get married, so any means, even IVF, should be okay." But the deeper truth is that we never have a right to a baby. A child is not our property or our possession. Rather, a child is a gift, one we hope God will send us, one we stand ready and eager to receive, but certainly not an entitlement or a right for us. When we marry, we properly have a right to those beautiful, life-giving acts we call marital acts, which open us up to the mysterious divine spark at the heart of human love. Those remarkable marital acts are the only human acts appropriately ordered to engendering the incredible gift of new human life.

Catholics, we need to know this. And if you want to see a list of Fr. Tad's articles on every conceivable bioethics issue out there, click this icon and bookmark it. You won't be disappointed.


  1. Great article!

    Father Tad is actually a classmate (and good friend) of the priest we live with. They studied in Rome together. Cool, huh?

  2. I was looking for that link frantically the other day when giving the info on embryonic stem cell research to Paul! Thanks for finding it!

    I LOVE Fr Tad! Had the pleasure of hearing him speak about both IVF and stem cell research (all types) at the AAFCP Annual Meeting 2009. Also had the pleasure of hearing his homily at St Gianna's shrine on her feast day, while sitting next to AYWH and her hubby :) That was an awesome day!

  3. Sigh. I just find it hard to believe that anyone (I don't care about the degrees they have) can tell me that I am less in love with my spouse because we didn't make our children by way of having intercourse. I'm pretty sure that we've had more intercourse than most couples all for the sake of trying to have a child. It's not a decision we came to easily, IVF, that is, and there is NO love lost between my husband or my children.

    I also believe that if this is the case, that since my son, adopted, wasn't brought into my home through intercourse with my husband, then he too is a disappointment to the Catholic Church. By the way, all three of my beautiful, and very much so loved children have been baptized in the Catholic Church, and I'm pretty sure my pastor and priest know exactly how our children got here.

  4. Resplendent, I have to believe that you didn't read the article, or if you did, you ignored the part which went into great detail about the fact that every child is cherished and worthy, no manner the mode of conception. Please, if you are going to comment on the article, give a quote from it and demonstrate how it is incorrect.

    No one is saying that you don't love your husband or that the Church doesn't love your children. I think you either misunderstood the article completely, or you don't care to represent the Church's position correctly.

    If you have a specific objection, please quote the article and state your case. I encourage it, as your opinion is welcome! I just need you to put it in the context of the article presented. Thanks!

  5. Let me try to explain it this way:

    An unmarried couple may love each other very deeply. They might have sex and produce a baby. They may have real love for each other, but the manner in which they brought the baby in to being "violated the sacred human act by which we hand on life." It was simply not right. But the manner of conception says nothing about the value of the child, who is precious and who can certainly receive the sacraments of the Church.

    The Church isn't here to make everyone feel good about their decisions. The Church is here to love everyone enough to speak the truth, in season and out of season.

  6. TCIE - That's right we did! What a blessing!

    Leila - Okay.. I have some thoughts, kind of playing devil's advocate. I have been struggling lately with how to best explain this to the other side of this debate, and I keep coming back to a couple things - 1) from what I've seem, much like the gay marriage debate, it doesn't matter how lovingly and convincingly you explain it, what you are saying offends them to the core (if they've tried it, are currently pregnant by it, or have children from it) and, 2) while you might be able to convince some who are already pro-life about the immorality of the destruction of embryos, they don't seem to buy into the unitive act stuff, especially a non-Catholic.

    So my question is.. how do you frame the argument when they don't see why the marital act must not be circumvented? While Fr. Ted explains it here as best as I've seen, when I try to see it from the perspective of those in favor of IVF, I still don't think it's convincing enough, at least not to someone who's not already is on board with Church teaching.

    Not to mention, the unitive act argument is very "Catholic". For instance, my husband (who came into the Church not too long ago) always says we Catholics have "Catholic-speak".. all these terms and phrases that we rattle off like everyone else knows what we're saying yet it is a foreign language to non-Catholics (and, possibly, un-catechised Catholics as well). I feel like this argument is full of "Catholic-speak."

    Any thoughts on how to relate this argument to them? I just think it's so easily shrugged off because they say the baby *was* conceived in love, which I'm sure it was.

  7. Resplendent, I hate to harp on this, but here is the part that you must have skipped over: "Clearly, the moral violations that occur in IVF do not reflect upon the child, who is innocent. It is not the baby's fault in any way. The child has no control over how he or she got here. Regardless of how a baby comes into the world, whether by IVF, whether by adultery, by pre-marital sex, or even by cloning, that baby is always a gift and a blessing."

    How could you then say that the Church would see your child as a "disappointment"? Sorry, that just doesn't make sense to me. Help me out.

  8. AYWH, you are so right, it's difficult for non-Catholics to understand. We have so embraced the contraceptive mentality in this culture that most simply can't see why sex and babies are connected in God's design.

    This particular post was more for practicing Catholics to be able to understand the issue clearly. But you are right, there is not a "silver bullet" to make others see it.

    Here is something that proves how difficult it can be. The same pro-life evangelicals who actively protest embryonic stem cell research seem to have no problem with IVF which comes from the same technology and destroys embryos routinely, just as embryo research! Read this Boston Globe article, about one woman who is trying to explain to evangelicals that there is no essential difference:

    It is an eye-opener! More thoughts in a bit....

  9. Thanks for sharing...planning to link. I had an NFP post ready for tomorrow and while it's not about IVF at all...this might be a good "oh by the way...check this out" sort of thing.

    Thanks for the post!

  10. I read both articles and love them.... Especially the one in your last comment. Very thought provoking on a subject people really hate to fully dissect and think about. It's hard to explain the subject to others without getting attacked. I agree with AYWH... This comes so natural to us, but the minute I mention the theology of the body or anything else, eyes start rolling and I've lost them. I feel I need a cliff notes version to have in my pocket when I'm out in the real world. I think the second article really is a great way to get a conversation going about this with others who have complete different views on the subject.

  11. This is a great article and I so wish more Priests were willing to make issues like this a part of their Sunday homilies. It's so hard for practicing Catholics to stand up and defend the faith when so many people say that ..."yeah but my Priest never said [insert hot topic issue here] was wrong..." I am so glad you posted this Leila!

  12. I agree completely with AYWH... and I think even the Catholics who DO know the Church teaching, but have tried IVF are willing to fight tooth to nail to defend their decision, with very few exceptions. And I must say, I would do exactly the same if I were in their shoes. It is a tough, tough situation- to be infertile and to know you have or could have children with IVF, and then to hear people proclaiming that if you do/did IVF it is wrong... hard pill to swallow. My gut reaction, despite ALL of the assurances that the CHILD is no less respected, loved, etc (AND NOR IS THE COUPLE, BY THE WAY!!) due to how they came into the world - would be to think that basically these people are saying that a) I should remain infertile forever, or b) my children that resulted from IVF SHOULD NOT EXIST. And that wouldn't sit well with me at all. (Let's be honest, would it sit well with anyone?) So, as much as we may try to frame the argument in easier-to-understand terms, I just don't think it's a battle we can ever win with those who have already done IVF, particularly those who have children that resulted from it.

    What I think MAY be helpful is to point out that our efforts in educating people about the harms of IVF are meant to do just that. EDUCATE them, BEFORE they make their decision to do IVF, or do it again. It really is a moot point to argue about the wrongs of IVF to someone who did it years ago, unless they are honestly questioning it and wanting to understand the Church's position better. Because otherwise it comes across as judgement. Which of course is not the goal at all.

    I think we need to continue educating couples about the harms of IVF, and NOT JUST THE MORAL ONES! We need to help them to realize what this procedure can do to their physical bodies and the physical bodies of their babies. And hopefully, more couples will discover that there are alternatives which are healthier in more ways than one.


    It's begun. I just saw this headline. The first patient is getting "treated" with embryonic stem cells with an embryo left over from IVF treatment. How is this not a form of cannibalism? Go to great lengths to make babies in a lab, but then when the "excess" are not "needed" hand them over to science to be used and experimented on, becoming raw material for others to use? Sorry, there are ethical lines that should never be crossed.

    Jenny, you are right. The second article, about why those against embryonic stem cell research are turning a blind eye to IVF, is very important. This latest article shows that it's all a part of the same slippery slope. Same thing. How can someone be pro-life and pro-IVF? Does not compute.

  14. I did read the article in its entirety. I guess I didn't phrase things correctly. I know that my children are loved, and a blessing, and the Catholic Church feels so as well. However I guess like I have trouble with other teachings of the Catholic Church, I find it hard to believe that there is such a hard line on issues.

    I think until someone lives in another's shoes it is very difficult to judge. I read your blog, because I find it interesting to see another side, even though it is something that i generally don't agree with often. I guess it's the same as how I cannot fathom those who follow scientology, or religions where they refuse medical treatment, especially for their children.

    I get irritated when someone says that my children were conceived immorally.

  15. Resplendent, I truly understand that, I do. I no doubt would be irritated to. It's like what TCIE just said. It will feel like a judgement no matter what, and when you look at your beautiful children, you can't see how the way they came could be wrong. But again, it's not the end (the babies) that are wrong, it's the means. I haven't been in your shoes. I know a lot of the Catholic ladies here have, but I haven't. I can't know the pain of IF or the joy of holding your babies after so long a struggle.

    I am happy you are reading, and I love your input. As you know, the purpose of my blog is primarily to teach the faith, even the "hard sayings," because I believe the Church to be Christ's Church. I don't mean for any of it to be a personal indictment of anyone. But I blog about ideas and truths. The Church proposes, not imposes. However, when human life comes into play, the stakes go way up. And the fact that leftover IVF embryos are being used now as "treatment" for other humans is a sign that the Church is correct in her consistent ethic on the life issues, human sexuality and matrimony.

    I hope you won't mind if I ask you another question. You mention that you have trouble with other Church teachings as well as this one. I understand that (for years I was contraception, not attending mass, and several other big sins). I think from what you have written, you still are a Catholic. Can you tell me how you reconcile being a Catholic but not believing in what your Church teaches? I mean that in full sincerity. I want you to be and stay a Catholic. But the salient difference between a Catholic and a Protestant is obedience to the Holy Father and the teachings of the Church. How do you work out this dilemma internally?

    Thanks, and I appreciate the spirit and tone of your comments. You add much to the discussion and I hope you keep commenting. :)

  16. * I was contracepting not "contraception"! Ha! Sorry!

  17. Just wanted to echo that I, too, really appreciate the tone of your comments, Resplendent. It is really difficult to feel so judged by others, and yet respond with class and grace. I see that you are doing that, when many others before you have resorted to personal attacks.
    God bless.

  18. Leila – From a non Catholic perspective, I think this was well written and respectful from the Catholic perspective. It is hard to hear that people disagree with my choice but in the end that is what it is, my choice. I can take it or leave it.

    I still feel sometimes that IVF is misunderstood and that people who have never gone through it see it as an “easy” option, it's not. Anything to do with infertility is constantly swirling in ones mind. I know people say they understand but they don't. It is like saying a priest understands marriage completely, but he doesn't, how could he? He has not gone through it.

    I know that just because something is very emotional does not make it right. I get that, but in dealing with “hard” issues in this life I think we look right over the individual. I feel that in the name of religion we tell people that the want they feel should not be there, they do not have enough faith, all suffering leads to happiness. This just isn't the case. Sometimes we forget the basics and look at people like hard object that are not effected by anything but in reality we are living, feeling and emotional beings. The church would say there teaching is a protection but in some ways it feels like punishment.

    Making a moral decision is hard, it breaks a person and sometimes nothing feels right and it never will. Either way this goes for us I am not sure I will ever have complete peace with God. This has been tough and our journey is not nearly over. I battle with the question “why” everyday.

    I find it hard to believe in a God who allows us to struggle and suffer. I read your posts earlier about suffering but I just don't get it. God gave me the desire to want to be a mother, but he is also choosing for me to suffer. Just as you said how do the two go together?

    Children are a gift and not a right, it breaks my heart that I was not chosen to receive that gift the way the church states it. I would love to make love to my husband and BAM two weeks later I have great news. I have no idea why the prostitute on Dr. Phil today was given the gift of a child and I wasn't. I just don't get it, no matter how hard I try or pray.

    With all that being said I think this article clarified for me in a non confrontational way about how the Catholic church views IVF and for that I commend Fr.Tad Pacholczyk.

  19. That article about the embryonic stem cells really upset me in so many ways! We are on a downward spiral it seems.

    I must say "ditto" to TCIE, too, Resplendent. I'm glad you're here and I thank you for your gentleness and tact - and for not leaving without answering, too! :)

  20. Beckie your post must've come up as I was writing mine and I wanted to respond- welcome back!!! Good to see you here! I am praying for you and your husband! I know how painful it can be to have a doctor tell you you may never conceive. I really do!... and I know how much the desire to carry a baby can take over, too. I wish you the best and hope that your suffering can become something that gives you strength, hope, faith, etc somehow, someday (soon:)). If you don't read TCIE's blog, I'd definitely recommend it - she has done some amazing, positive things with her suffering! :)

  21. OK I promise -last comment and then I'm going to bed :) I always tend to think of a parent and a child situation when we're talking about the Church and the "rules" it sets...when I was little I always felt like my parents were being SO MEAN and "punishing" (as you mentioned) when they wouldn't let me do something that I thought would make me SO HAPPY....but now I realize that it was all for the best, in so many ways. I also think about the times later in life when I wish someone would have told me the route I was taking to "freedom and happiness" was absolutely wrong and would eventually cause me pain and I had to learn the hard way...
    The "rules" are for our protection! They help us be free from the traps our society sets sometimes, too. Traps that can hold us for life (some things that I've done may forever hold me if I don't give them to God!)...Know what I mean?
    Blessings and hugs!

  22. Beckie! I am so glad you are here! I truly appreciate the comment, and I am so grateful that you found the article respectful.

    I cannot imagine the depths of the pain of infertility. I won't pretend to. As Catholics say, "We all have our crosses to bear" and IF is not mine. However, maybe some of the Catholic IF ladies here can speak to that pain. Please know, if it were my choice, you would never, ever have to experience this suffering.

    We all have our strengths and our weaknesses. My strength is in teaching (logically and without a lot of emotion) the doctrinal truths of the Catholic Faith. I do that pretty well, but this blog cannot do what I leave it to others to do... which is really minister or speak to any one individual, especially an individual in pain. I hate that sometimes my writings or posts seem cold or unfeeling, or mechanical. Trust me, I am not that way in real life, and I have a deep compassion for any suffering. I hate it when anyone suffers, and that is why I love the concept of redemptive suffering.

    Jesus makes all things new. He redeems all of us, all our sins, and the whole world. Without this, all the doctrine and faith and truth would mean nothing,. Love is a Person. Truth is a Person. Justice is a Person. Mercy is a Person. First and foremost, we fall down before that Person, Jesus, and we beg his mercy. He knows our weaknesses and our suffering and He loves us anyway. After that, it becomes easier to carry our own crosses. Our crosses are not punishments. They are for our sanctification and purification.

    God never asks us to suffer more than Jesus himself suffered. We have a God who knows suffering. He understands. He underwent suffering and death -- a horrible death -- in order to overcome death. He won! So, we win, too. It really is Good News!

    I will leave it at this: I have friend who lost a baby girl to SIDS. She found comfort in knowing this about God: "What I took from you was never for your harm, but so that you might seek in in My arms."

  23. "On every conceivable bioethics topic..." LOL. I've been working on something for Jamie's blog about Fr. Tad. He's a favorite and part of my conversion.

  24. Leila - I just wanted to say that I do not feel like you are cold or uncaring. For me it was helpful when you defined what your blog is.

    With the IVF debate you were the one who reached out to me. I just wanted to let you know that I do not feel this way at all.

    I now know that when I come here I am being shown yours and the Catholic churches perspective, and not to make attacks on people.

    I am thankful that you allow everyone to comment within their situation.

  25. I'm really tired so I'm sorry in advance if this is not too clear!

    I think like TCIE said that it's a difference of knowing the truth about IVF BEFORE having used it as a means to conceive. My husband and I knew that it was not an option that we, as Catholics, ought to use during our 7 years of secondary IF. It was brought up time and again, by doctors and fellow Catholics, as the only option for us to conceive again. As desperately as we wanted another child, we knew the truth about IVF and could resist it. Actually, we couldn't NOT resist it. But again, we knew the truth for years beforehand. Had we not and been in the throws of our IF, we probably would have had a harder time resisting it.

    Also, we do know a Catholic couple who conceived using IVF and regret it. They have publicly spoken of their regret. I don't think this is uncommon, once couples learn the truth of IVF. They have denounced the procedure, all the while loving their son to pieces! We all love him too! Just not the means of getting him here.

    I hope this makes sense. I'm off to try to sleep :)

  26. I know this sound simplistic, and it probably is but here goes... Hubs and I have developed a formula so to speak. When we feel an overwhelming desire for children, and can not conceive within moral confines, we see it as a call to adopt. Period. I know there are complications for others here, but this IS WHAT WE DO. And so far, it has been an amazing and wonderful experience. I do not have a shred of regret, I do not struggle with my past choices (not doing IVF), I am so completely happy with the path God has chosen for us I could just fall to pieces.

  27. Praise God that this conversation is so much more respectful than the last! On BOTH sides!

    Let's keep it that way :)

  28. Love this article....

    Beckie, I emailed you to which I never got a response....

  29. Beckie- I am a Becky too. I have PCOS like you, am 40, have been married almost 5 years. Two miscarriages later I am doing everything I can to make my body a good place for a baby to live in should I be blessed to conceive again. I am pursuing Reproductive Immunology treatment- I have blood clotting issues and an overactive immune system that attacks any child conceived.

    I have to agree with Second Chances that knowing what my Church teaches about IVF makes it not an option for my husband and me so we have never had that hard struggle of battling with this issue. It is hard every month when my cycle starts all over again (sigh) and the suffering never goes away but the most important thing in my life is to follow God's will (which is following the Truth) for my marriage.
    I have learned that a child is not an end in itself and that my life can be full should I never have my own. I think you are younger than I am and maybe I have an advantage in that I have fewer years in dealing with this IF burden- it will end at some point, not too soon I hope:)

    I always ask God to help me not be obsessed with having a baby. I struggle with this all the time. I have tried to throw myself into becoming a more healthful person- exercise, diet, all the things I love to do to keep myself into things so I don't dwell. I know maybe this sounds trite but it helps me deal. I am happy most of the time though I am too sensitive to how others ignore this suffering of mine. I think every person has to find the answer to why God allows certain events and sufferings in her life. I pray you find your answers and can have peace and comfort in your suffering.

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  32. "if my wife and I decided after a time to use IVF, the issue would be too personal for me to debate. I would ignore all posts on the issue, and wouldn't torment myself reading these sorts of views."

    Paul, I completely agree with this sentence....

  33. Fr Tad came to our church to speak a few years ago and he was amazing!!! I love how he uses his ministry to educated us, Catholics and non Catholics on bioethic issues!

  34. I haven't had a chance to read all the comments (really want to, but it's been crazy lately). But 1) I like this article a lot. 2)I see how it is more for a Catholic audience. 3) I think that although this may be full of Catholic-speak, sometimes the beauty of Catholic teachings hit people at the core. I am one of those people that although I occasionaly cringed at Catholic-speak before Confirmation, I was also struck with the beauty and consistency of Catholic teachings anyway so perhaps it could still be of help to some like me. 4) Although I do not personally know anyone who used IVF and then turned around to say, "Gee I wish I hadn't done that," I do know of many who felt this way about sperm donation. From time to time, mainstream media publishes stories of women who deeply regret this choice and recent studies revealed children conceived in this manner often struggle with the fact that they were conceived "artificially" as they get older and begin to grasp the concepts.

    I personally think Americans have been way to quick to embrace IVF and are too anxious to brush aside the complexities of it (regardless of faith). From my basic understanding, many modern, western, even "liberal" countries were far more slow and hesitant to "go there" with this technology than those of us in the US of A.

  35. What wonderful comments!!! When I opened up the comment threat and scanned the first few, I thought... Better go get a cup of coffee first! :)

    Resplendent, I hope you come back. I'd love to hear your thoughts on Leila's question. You'll find that we Bubblers get fired up about the Church's teaching, but only b/c we believe they lead to such freedom and peace and want to share that with the world!

    Becky- what a joyful surprise to see you're back and WOW such beautiful comments!!! I'm SO glad you've come to that conclusion about this blog. I love the Little Catholic Bubble!

    Great post, Leila!

  36. Wow, I have so much to say on this! As a Catholic I loved this article and the discussion is great. I did want to say that its no surprise to me that most people (even Catholics) don't understand the teaching on IVF since most people (even Catholics) unfortunately don't understand the Church teaching on contraception and they're just two sides to the same coin. Furthermore, to expect a woman who is in the throws of the emotions/anxiety/depression that sub-fertility and barrenness brings to realize that IVF is immoral, when everyday over 90% of assumed 'healthy' couples can't grasp the connection is, well, a lot to ask. While I do believe everything the Church teaches is the truth, thought in love, and is best for everyone, I do believe there is a lot of room for debating culpability of women who go through these procedures, which I think is topic that was missing from the previous IVF discussion.

    I also wish that there were more articles and homilies like this on contraception since to me, this problem of being OK with controlling our fertility through IVF by separating the functions of the martial act is rooted in contraception. To finally start this discussion when we're referring to women who can't have children easily/at all is well, not the cause of the problem but rather, to me, a sign/symptom of the problem.

    I wrote more about that here where I talked about the connection between contraception and infertility and how, unfortunately, the ones who can't have kids take the brunt of the pain.

    Ok, my final point is that this is one reason I've taken a little stand against jumping to the "I'm infertile" claim (and why I support the word "sub-fertility" instead). The label of "infertility" is dangerous because it allows you to lose hope that should be very real, even if you have severely reduced chances of fertility. How many blogs have been named something to do with infertility, only to have that person eventually become pregnant? My point is not that infertility doesn't exist (it does) but having the mentality that "I can never get pregnant" is hurtful in so many ways, one of them being that it leads people to justify immoral procedures because "this is the ONLY way they'll be able to get pregnant" which is just. not. true. No matter what the doctors say.

  37. I just wanted to clarify that while "its a lot to ask" of us, we're still being asked it and that doesn't make it any less true. I just meant that comment in regards to how hard it makes it to respond when pretty much everything in our culture says the opposite, and maybe how much better it is when we do.

  38. Matchingmoonheads...brilliant! Subfertile instead of infertile. I love it! That's me! We tend to panic when we see finalities, but they may not be finalities at all...

  39. This is one of those situations where I think the problem isn't a sin against God, the problem is the church placing itself on the same level as God and saying, "This is our belief, and going against it is a sin." As the article says all children are blessings. My sister was not infertal, but her body would kill every fetus she had. I don't know the technical term for it, but it was impossible for her body to accept a fertilized egg and have it attached. A friend of theirs volunteered to carry a baby for them, and now they are blessed with an awesome son. I don't believe this is a sin against God; I believe it's a testament of faith. They share their love intimately but are unable to reap the benefits of having a child, and you're calling them sinners because the church -- not God -- is saying IVF is a sin. Is it a sin to put an airbag in a car and save a life just because science and engineering were used to save that life? Preventing life . . . that's a sin, but saving or creating it? Shame on you.

    This is where I have to distance myself from the Catholic church and call myself a Christian before I call myself a Catholic. How can we keep a protestant from the flesh and blood just because they don't believe it literally becomes the flesh and blood of Christ when we don't know what it means to that individual to be prohibited from "doing this in remembrance of me? It's ridiculous. So many things about the church I embrace, but when the church says they have the authority to say one thing or another is a sin I have to say no.

  40. Let me also say this. We know that Christ never sinned, and that God is flawless. I mean . . . if God is flawless and Jesus was sinless, how was he born outside of what Father Ted considers the only moral way to have a child?

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  42. Chew Spam, welcome!

    You bring up a very good point: authority. What authority does the Catholic Church have to say what is right and what is wrong? Catholics would say that it's because Christ Himself founded the Catholic Church and gave the Church the authority to teach in His name, protected by the Holy Spirit. The Church has claimed to be the one, true Church for over 2,000 years. Just as everyone must decide for himself if he believes that Christ was truly God or only a mere man, the same is true for the Catholic Church. Either she is the one, true Church, or she is not.

    Here's the bare bones of it:

    As for the Incarnation....God is not bound by the laws of nature, as he created the laws of nature. But we are bound by the moral law, given to men for our good. If you want to know about the Incarnation, and the union between Mary and the Holy Spirit (Jesus was not created in a petri dish by a technician, He was created when the Holy Spirit came upon her), there is a lot of information on that. Including this post from a while back:

  43. Paul, not at all morally disordered if you consider that marital union (sex) is a mere foreshadowing of the union we will have one day with God. That is why the Bible is chock full of marital imagery (Jesus the Bridegroom, Church the Bride, the People of God seen as an unfaithful Bride, the Wedding Feast of the Lamb, i.e., Heaven). Mary went right to the union with God, so in fact, far from being disordered, union with God is highly ordered. In her perfection, she was able to be the vessel that brought Christ to us in the flesh.

  44. Paul. I would tend to agree with it that except all miracles follow a natural order according C.S. Lewis. All I'm saying is that the church is wrong in thinking that we can sin against HER. We can only sin against GOD, and I can find nothing wrong with using the natural law which is God-created to provide someone with the chance raise a child.

  45. Chew Spam, if the Church is the Body of Christ and He is the Head of the Church, then to sin against what the Church says is to sin against God. God sets the moral law, not the Church. But the Church proclaims the truth. The issue of authority, and "what is the Church" is a post for another day. But as a Baptist friend of mine just mentioned to me, he can see no "democratic" model of the Church in the New Testament. Nor, I might add, in the writings of the Early Church Fathers.

    And a quick clarification: You are misusing the term "natural law". IVF is not actually using "natural law" but contradicting it. It is possible to do IVF scientifically, of course, but it doesn't correspond to "natural law". Here is more information on what it actually means:

  46. Leila, you've got a great site here. I agree with a good bit on it, and it is very informative.

    Do you know what they say about two people who agree on everything though? One of them isn't needed. We can agree on the tenants of faith, but I can't serve two masters. Either I serve God or I serve the church. I am not serving God by serving the church. I am serving God by being a part of it, and in being a part of the church -- just like the body -- we can't all be an eye or a leg or an arm. Some of us have to think, and some of us have to feel. It's up to all of us to serve God first, and if I believe the church is wrong, then I will say it in service to the other members of the church to decide if they should be another church member who agrees 100% with the church.

    That said, the church is riddled with flaws. Look at the move to Vatican 2. They recognized it and made a change, but I can tell you that all problems aren't fixed by a single fix.

    Again, I do like the information on your site, but I just differ in beliefs on this one.

  47. PS: C.S. Lewis is right, Chew Spam. All grace builds on nature. All miracles do follow a natural order (becoming supernatural). So, I am not disputing C.S. Lewis in any way. I am a huge fan of Lewis. :)

  48. Chew Spam, I am glad you like the site. :) You have a misunderstanding of what the Church is (especially you are misinformed on Vatican II -- not a single doctrine was changed).

    I am sure you would agree that once Jesus died, the People of God were bound to listen to and obey the Apostles' teaching. Jesus delegated His authority to the leaders of the Church He founded. I obey the Church because I obey Christ.

    I think a good analogy is the story of Korah, in the Old Testament. He made the same case that you did (I don't have to obey Moses! He is just a man and I only serve God!). God was very clear in his answer to Korah.

    God always delegates His authority through men. The entire Bible speaks to it.

  49. Chew Spam, but stay tuned... you have given me great topics for future posts. :)

    Glad to have you on board!

  50. Amazing post! this was so well written I am going to pass this on! :)

  51. I don't see a lot of discussion about one of the other drawbacks to IVF, and that is that the advent of IVF has caused research into ethical areas of helping or curing "subfertility" ;) to dwindle.

    For example, Dr. Thomas Hilgers at the Pope Paul VI institute has developed an ovarian drilling/re-sectioning procedure for women with PCOS (I think that's the correct terminology; forgive me if I'm off) that boasts an 85% success rate (as opposed to IVF's 75% success rate, and doesn't carry the same risk rate of miscarriage that IVF does). Yet he's one of the few doctors in the nation to perform this procedure, because it's not widely taught or even advertised -- and why would it, when couples can just use IVF or IUI to bypass the problem completely?

    At least, that seems to be the mindset. It must be so frustrating for Catholics who want ethical alternatives for subfertility treatment but can't pursue them logistically and/or financially.

  52. An addenda to my comment above -- it's also a shame that the focus in the scientific community has turned from trying to find a cure for the underlying causes of subfertility to just finding new ways of bypassing the problem completely (via procedures like IVF and IUI). Sure, it may get the woman pregnant but she still has the physical problems that caused her to seek treatment in the first place.

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  54. Wonderful post, Leila!
    Julie, I was trying to remember if it was Fr. Tad that spoke at Spaghetti and Spirituality! He was so awesome!

  55. I'll add to those stats... I just read them and heard them on tv when Dr. Hilgers was on The World Over on EWTN -- I've attached a link. The rates of success with NaPro is huge over IVF! Wow!

    Condition and successful pregnancy rates:
    Blocked Tubes: NaPro success rate: 40%... IVF success rate: 30%
    Endo: NaPro success rate: approx. 60 - 70%; IVF success rate: 30%
    PCOS (that's me!): NaPro: almost 80%, IVF: 25%

    Obviously... the rates aren't exact - since the conditions are generalized here, but still, there is a huge statistical significant difference between the two treatments. Those aren't even all the conditions either!

    Wow! Isn't that amazing!?!

  56. Leila, can you link on your sidebar to Dr Hilgers new "layperson" NaPro medical book, available on Amazon? I think many of your readers could benefit from it, it is AWESOME!:

    I fear we've once again veered way off topic, but such is the nature of the Bubble ;) I love how respectful everyone has been thus far, though!

    matching, you know I had to respond to your infertility vs subfertility point, call it a knee-jerk reaction of mine ;) You're absolutely right that so often people will call themselves "infertile" and then turn around and they're pg the next day. I won't argue that the term is somewhat overused. BUT, I think that medically speaking we have to make a distinction not only between BARREN/STERILE and INFERTILE (the two are NOT synonmyous), but also a distinction between INFERTILE and SUBFERTILE. Subfertility is what I call those who can achieve pregnancy and cannot sustain it. If you now call those previously diagnosed with infertility "subfertile," they are in the same camp as the miscarriage women, and medically these two are recognized to be very different categories.
    I still hold on to my "infertility" title proudly :) Because to me, the prefix "in" means not. (Oooh, I just sounded like a liberal there, didn't I? "To ME it means..." hahaa! MY TRUTH!) Anyway, I am clearly NOT fertile, and I think those who conceive their first child after 3 yrs can also say that they are not "fertile." If I said I have the inability to ride a bike, that doesn't mean that I will never learn to ride one ;)

  57. TCIE, yeah, I've gathered that you really don't agree with me regarding the terminology...but maybe you agree with my bigger point about the "control" issue? I guess that was the main connection I was trying to make with my comment.

    With regards to the terminology, I think you bring up a good point about needing to differentiate between barren, those who have difficulty conceiving, and those that can conceive but not carry a child to term. But I haven't come across that definition of "subfertility" that you brought up. Maybe you can help me with where you saw that definition?

    I do want to say that for me personally, knowing my husband and I are now outside of the realm of "normal" fertility and that we will likely have a hard time achieving pregnancy has brought us some peace of mind, so its not that I'm not denying it (or that I am not proud?). It really has helped in at least explaining to people that "Hey, now that we've reached this medical definition of 'difficulty' conceiving, can you please stop telling me to just be patient?" I definitely think that we have a place and purpose in this world still! I just think that its extremely interesting that as a women increases in age, REs define fertility with decreasing timelines, instead of increasing as would likely make sense (1 year vs. 6 months if you're over 35). From a treatment perspective, that makes sense in order to have the best chance of conception eventually before time runs out, but that label "infertility" doesn't reflect anything more, does it? Again, I'm not here to try to define anyone's specific diagnosis, I'm just speaking in general.
    Also, if the definition of 'fertility' is the ability to produce life, I guess I feel weird saying that someone doesn't have the ability to produce life unless I know they don't have the specific body parts/components necessary. Maybe its a personality thing and I don't like to speak in absolutes if I can't prove it? I don't know. Clearly the medical community disagrees with me so I really get that I'm in the minority here.

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  59. Paul, I believe that it's gauged by rate of achieved pregnancy, but I will defer to those who know better than I.

  60. Paul, I was wrong...It's based on live births. Here is an article that you might find interesting. The bare stats are at the end:

    (If it were based on embryos created, IVF would win hands down, because one IVF cycle can result in dozens of embryos.)

  61. Here's some additional info, Paul:

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  63. Paul, this is from This Cross I Embrace (she told me I could cut and paste):

    NaPro is up to 80% effective in achieving pregnancy in couples with infertility (1 1/2 to 3 xs more effective than IVF).
    And on average, if a couple is going to conceive with NaPro after having FOUND and FIXED ALL of the underlying issues, they should conceive within 12-18 effective cycles. (Couples of normal fertility can conceive within 6 effective cycles.) Effective cycles means cycles in which the mucus was good, post-Peak phase was good, and days of fertility were used for intercourse.

    It can't be given a blanket statistic like IVF, because unlike IVF, conceiving naturally is not "contrived" in any way. So saying "after how many attempts" is kinda like asking to see stats on how many times a couple using IVF had intercourse in the cycle in which they did IVF, and if that had any bearing on if they got pg with IVF or not. The two can't really be equated "per attempt." Also unlike IVF, couples can "attempt" to conceive on average 12-13 times (cycles) per year, but would never be able to attempt that many IVF cycles in a year!!

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  65. Paul, maybe this medical research will impress you: (and to be MORE practical, many people come to NaPro as a LAST RESORT after having failed at least one IVF attempt, so it's actually more the other way around. Not to many people go from NaPro to IVF - this research shows how many of the subjects had already failed multiple IVFs before getting pg with NaPro):

    Also important to note is that the NaPro clinic that did this research did not have surgical NaPro - so this was WITHOUT laparoscopies, hysteroscopies, laparotomies, selective HSGs, etc. (Those would have further boosted the statistics.)

    And yes Leila I'm eating in front of my computer. Darn you and your bubble being so captivating!!

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  67. Here's another sad side-effect of IVF, Paul:

    Until 1978, most of the effort in medicine in evaluating and treating women with infertility was placed in trying to identify and treat the underlying causes. In 1978, in vitro fertilization produced a paradigm shift. It led to a “skipping over” the causes, and this continues up to the present time to be the foundational management approach. In essence, this is a symptomatic or Band-Aid approach to treatment, not one that gets to the root causes.

    By the way, for those couples who cannot conceive after their health problems are addressed by NaPro, adoption is a viable and wonderful way to build their families.

  68. Also,

    Infertility is a symptom of underlying disease. The diseases that cause infertility have a “two-pronged” effect. They not only hinder the functioning of fertility, but they also cause both short and long-term health problems. The persistent unwillingness to address infertility problems from this point of view or perspective is one of the major flaws in the current approach to the treatment of infertility.

    Thanks, JoAnna for the link!

  69. I wish there were a statistic (or research done) for couples who, after having done everything NaPro has to offer, have tried an IVF cycle, because my bet is that their chances of the IVF working would be slim to none. When IVF doesn't work, it's because there was some organic health issue preventing implantation or the successful implantation of the embryos. If couples have "fixed" these issues with NaPro and still cannot conceive, their chances are almost nil that any other method would work.
    Another interesting thing about that research I posted is the average age of the women involved in the study. Check it out ;)

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  71. Thanks for the good dialogue, Paul. I didn't start the discussion with only you in mind, so I'm not (ever) done talking about it. However, I totally understand why you, personally, are done with the subject of IVF.

    For the record, IVF is not a religious issue, any more than abortion is. And that's fodder for yet another post.


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