SAN FRANCISCO, December 29, 2014 -- The suffering and privation experienced by donor conceived people must be acknowledge by the Church, so argues Christopher White of the Center for Bioethics and Culture Network. One of the flaws of the Synod on marriage and the family was that children and their right to know and be known by their own mother and father was omitted from the discussion.
Method of Conception Does Not Affect Dignity
There’s a need for the Catholic Church to welcome children conceived via third-party reproduction. From OSV Newsweekly:
by Christopher White
The much discussed — and, at times, hotly debated — extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the Family that took place this past October in Rome rightly dedicated much of its time on how the Church might best respond to marriages and families in nontraditional arrangements.
Much of the summary document rightly focused on the pastoral needs of divorced families and those in cohabiting relationships. Lost in the conversation, however, is another population that merits attention: the children conceived via third-party reproduction arrangements, such as sperm and egg donation, or contract surrogate pregnancies.
Since the birth of the world’s first “test-tube baby” in 1978, the use of reproductive technologies has been rapidly growing. In the United States alone, more than 2,000 children are born each year from surrogacy, where a woman agrees to carry another couple’s child, and an even higher number of children born through anonymous gamete donation, where a child is born of no biological relation to one or both parents. And if this weren’t enough, scientists in the United Kingdom and United States are pushing to allow for the creation of three-parent embryos in order to create superior DNA.
The children born as a result of these arrangements are brought into the world via methods that intentionally sever them from their biological parents. Unlike adoption, which the Church accepts and promotes as it aims to provide a home for children who already lack parents, conception through assisted reproductive technology is rejected by the Church for the ill effects that it has on both the couple aiming to conceive and the children created from these techniques.
Why might the Catholic Church, known throughout the world as a robustly pro-life institution, oppose the creation of new life in these circumstances?
For starters, assisted reproductive technology allows for children to be created outside of the normal confines of sex between a husband and a wife. What is supposed to be an act of self-giving love between the two spouses is reduced to a technical procedure in the laboratory. In addition, many of the children born from anonymous sperm or egg donation grow up longing to know their biological mother or father, and this asymmetry very often leads to genealogical bewilderment that can result in family friction and undue, preventable distress. Moreover, the entire process puts a price tag on the value of human life and reduces conception to a mere contractual procedure.
In light of the recent synod — and with the growing rise of reproductive technologies spurred by infertile heterosexual couples and same-sex couples that seek to have children — it seems like a fitting time to consider how the Church might accept the children conceived through these arrangements into a place of undeniable welcome, while at the same time promoting a positive witness of family life and conception that rejects these technologies.