WE DO KNOW, deep within us, that humans are not like other animals. There are things that some animals do that we do not, or at least know we should not (such as rape and cannibalism). In the same way, there are some things that we can do to other animals that we cannot do to humans. This is because there is something very different about us, something that sets us apart from other animals – we are made in the image and likeness of God!
As embodied persons, we express the spiritual reality of God’s image, of his love, in and through our physical bodies. When a married couple engages in the marital act, they make visible in a special way the eternal exchange of life-giving love that is found in the communion of the Holy Trinity.
There are two important points we can gather here:
When a married couple engage in sexual intercourse, they proclaim to each other God’s love, in and through their bodies – a love that is free, total, faithful and fruitful. Take away any of these components and it fails to properly
reflect God’s love. For example, when a couple chooses to use contraception to actively prevent a pregnancy from resulting from their sexual union, they fail to express God’s love as they should.
Since God is life-giving love, the "one-flesh" union of the bodies of the married couple has the capacity to make visible that reality in the new life (a "new flesh", so to speak) that may arise from that union, a baby, if God so wills. Therein lies the deep beauty and dignity of the human person, of sexual intercourse and of married love as God has deigned.
Thus because a baby is so special, he should only be conceived as a direct result of the love of his parents made visible in and through their bodies, in the marital act. He deserves no less. He is to be "begotten" through the loving union of his parents, not "made" in the laboratory through manipulation by scientists, even though his parents may have provided the "raw material" for his conception in the petri dish. A married couple have the right to engage in the marital act, but no one has the "right" to another person; in this case, a child. Every child should be regarded as a gift, not an object of desire.
Once we lose sight of that dignity of every human person at the beginning of his existence, once we see him as an object of desire rather than as the fruit of married love, other abuses can and have, in fact, set in.
For example, because each batch of egg collection can number many, even up to 20 or more for some women, "surplus" embryos that have been created in the laboratory are put in deep freeze "for future use", either in case they are needed should earlier attempts at conception fail, or for embryo experimentation. In addition, embryos are now almost routinely screened for defects before they are put back into the wombs of their mothers. Does that reflect God’s "unconditional love"? Or does it say something like "I desire to have you, baby, but I want to make sure you are free of defects, as far as I can help it?"
Having discussed the immorality of artificial reproductive techniques such as IVF, we must still address the anguish of couples who want to have babies but are unable to. In actual fact, there are some effective and morally acceptable methods that married couples can use to try to achieve pregnancy, such as the Billings Ovulation Method (developed in Melbourne, Australia. See www.woomb.com) and Naprotechnology (developed in Omaha, USA. See www. naprotechnology.com).
Even if a married couple tries these methods and is unable to conceive for some reason or other, it might be an occasion for them to live out God’s love in other ways, such as adopting children from families unable to care for them, or providing assistance to other families and to poor or handicapped children. God’s love knows no bounds. We just need to have that faith in him, that his plan for us will work to the glory of his name. -
The issue of infertility and other areas related to sexual ethics (such as contraception and pornography), as well as the teaching authority of the church will be presented and discussed at a congress on Oct 27, 2008. Titled "Love,
- By Dr John HuiDr John Hui is the Immediate Past Master of the Catholic Medical Guild.