In vitro fides
Father! May I have a second?”
The priest read the profound uneasiness in her voice.
“My daughter just gave birth to a healthy baby girl,” the woman panted between words.
“Congratulations, Eunice! You must be so proud to be a grandmother,” he said.
“Yes, but on my way to the hospital, I learned from my other daughter that the baby was the result of in vitro fertilization!”
Father Jim sighed.
“Father, is this still an answer to my prayers?”
“Well, for the safe delivery and the healthy baby, we can say yes. As for the IVF, I guess that is a more complicated matter,” Father Jim replied.
* * *
We are not in a position to judge a couples’ intention for having recourse — given a noble desire to have children than to abort them — to technological means that make the naturally impossible medically possible.
Undoubtedly, having children is one of marriage’s indescribable joys. It gives a fuller sense to being a father and a mother, extending their love in and through a child. But parents must understand, despite their loving and generous intentions, that having a child is not an absolute right that they can demand of their marriage.
This is because marriage is a union between one man, one woman and God. God isn’t just a “soul generator” with whom husband and wife procreate with. His presence extends to a mission imbedded in the entire covenant of love between husband and wife.
One of the purposes of marriage is having children and rearing them to be good children of God, their parents and society. God, however, may have other plans for the couple: for example, not to have children and in this condition, bear witness with their faithful union (therefore, they are not unfruitful) to God’s love and their service to other families.
Couples who are unaware about and not open to God’s mysterious but enriching mission may become frustrated. They resort to in vitro fides, that is, “bottling their faith” to obtain the results they want instead of abandoning themselves (full of faith) to what God planned for them.
A bottled faith of their unanswered prayers is then replaced by medical technology. But despite having a child, couples will continue to have a lingering bothersome awareness that the means to obtain children like commodities were carried out in an extraordinarily unnatural way — alien to the fruit of their loving conjugal union.
Moreover, they may be ignorant of the other morally questionable matters that arise from IVF. As William May enumerates the following:
“Standard practice today also includes fertilization of many ova, mixing them in the petri dish with sperm (usually collected by masturbation). (…) Thus several new human zygotes (human beings at the earliest stage of development) are produced and allowed to grow to the early embryo stage. It is now customary to transfer two to four of these early embryos to the womb to increase probability of implantation and subsequent gestation until birth and to freeze and store the others so that they can be used for implantation later if the first attempts are unsuccessful. These ‘spare’ frozen embryos can also be ‘donated’ for research purposes. Eventually, if not claimed by the persons responsible for their manufacture or used in research, the frozen embryos will be destroyed” (Catholic Bioethics and the Gift of Human Life).
It is not only the morally inconsistent methods of science that are in question here. It is also the type of faith that develops as technology bottles it up and attempts to remove God from the covenant of marriage.
For as long as the mysterious realities of life and death accompany us, the necessity for faith is indispensable. But what if someday, science finally claims to have overcome death itself, then what will prevent man from employing it even to claim loved ones back from the grave?
Where will faith be then?
Where will God be then?
Hopefully, not in a bottle.
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