IVF versus Catholics

Saturday, February 20, 2010

I have been really frustrated lately by the posts about how Catholics who follow the church teachings are bearing such a heavy cross. As if people who don't follow the church teachings aren't bearing a heavy infertility cross.

I feel like I want to provide support to Catholic women who are considering ART (IUI/IVF). Not saying they have to do ART, but just that there's someone else out there who's thinking what they are. And I feel pretty confident in my take on things, so I'm not planning on engaging any super-Catholic debates about this. When I was searching for support about taking this path, I couldn't really find anything to support what I felt in my heart. And that was to try IUI and/or IVF.

Maybe some people would say that I shouldn't even refer to myself as Catholic because I don't follow or believe in 100% of the doctrine and teachings. To them I would say that I don't believe in everything Am.erica is doing or stands for right now either, and I still call myself Ameri.can. (And, to be honest, I haven't identified myself as such on this blog because I don't want people to assume what I believe. I have my own interpretations of things, and while they are 100% Christian, they do not line up exactly with Catholic doctrine, and I'm totally comfortable with that.)

The biggest issue that is raised is that ART does not allow the baby to be conceived from mutual self giving of the spouses with collaboration from God. As if going through the entire IVF process doesn't require mutual self giving of the spouses. In some ways, I think it brings out the ultimate in mutual self giving, with all the patience and sensitivity and care that come with all the shots and procedures!! And on the contrary, I think it could be argued that, in the case of timed intercourse, many times it is the wife who knows she's about to ovulate and is demanding the hubby hop in the sack without concern of whether or not he'd like to- that is not exactly mutual self giving, nor is that kind of "act" the most loving or romantic display, either!! (I realize that the church is only talking about s-ex when they say "mutual self giving", but that can be construed pretty broadly.) Also, it's not like a married couple who is going through IVF isn't going through it without amazing (mutual) love for each other and hope for a future child.

And I also think it's important to note that although the docs in the lab can even go so far as to fertilize the eggs, GOD is still the creator of life- even science cannot make an embryo or, possibly more importantly, sustain it. That is all collaboration from God, right there.

The other thing that gets thrown around is that we do not have a right to a child. And technically, I agree. But just because you don't have a right to something doesn't mean you can't try to have it anyway. I didn't have a right to a college education, but I certainly tried and persevered to get one. I don't have a right to a big savings account, but I will do everything I can to have one. And similarly to ART, the things I tried while getting my degree or adding to the savings account don't guarantee that I'll achieve my goal. Nothing is every guaranteed, except that God's will will prevail.

I feel like I should point out that we are against disposing of embryo's and really don't like the idea of freezing them, either. And I think that is one of the things that gets muddled into the debate- from what I have experienced, people who strictly follow church teaching seem to think that if you are willing to try some sort of ART, you are excitedly looking forward to creating 30 embryo's and carelessly disposing of half of them. I believe that there are very discernable ways that a Christian can go through IVF with the utmost respect for human life and for God as our creator.

I think it is really sad that the church is so flamboyant about the glory of motherhood and yet provides no support to couples who feel compelled to seek available treatment in the form of IUI or IVF for their infertility. God is still in charge of creating and sustaining life. The life is still borne out of incredible self-sacrificing love (emotional and physical) between a married couple. The church has its own version of treating infertility, but what if the couple isn't feeling led to try that method? Would the church rather alienate it's young adult population than embrace what are God-honoring decisions on the path to parenthood?

If the answer to that question could be measured in the amount of young adults in our church, it would be the former. There are very very few young adults in our parish, and I suspect that part of the reason is because of the exclusive nature of many of the teachings. And what are some of responses to this? That the church has survived because it has held fast to its teachings. That the church cannot be willy nilly endorsing all kinds of new technology or new ideas. And I agree that you have to have some boundaries and standards, but these should be re-evaluated and possibly fine-tuned so you can best support your members!!

When I was talking to my aunt about this, she felt that it was important for me to consider that my conscience, guided by the Holy Spirit, is going to be my guide here. She reminded me that there was a time when the church teachings included that it was "right" to return a sla.ve to his owner. My, how things have changed. Here's hoping that the future will bring a changed teaching about ART, too.

So anyway, if you are reading this as a Catholic who is considering ART, know that you're not alone. My hubby and I prayed a ton about which direction to take, and I think you have to go with your gut on this one. And, I don't think you should feel bad about breaking with this teaching. I have talked to so many people who did ART and then felt like they couldn't be Catholic anymore. Come on. Your decisions are between you and God, and if you feel like God is calling you to try ART, go for it. Although I would say that it's a good idea to set your boundaries to be respectful of life, but this is very doable.

And I hope that if you're a super-Catholic who disagrees with everything I said, that you'd take a moment and realize that I'm not attacking you personally. This is just my viewpoint on this issue. To be honest, I am floored that there are so many who adhere unquestioningly to the church's teachings on this. I'm sure there are alot of things that we do agree on, number one that we agree to disagree on this point. But there are, like me, some people who don't agree with everything the church teaches. And how you respond to them can either encourage them to stay or cause them to leave. And I'm pretty sure you'd want to them to stay, right?

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