The Church and in vitro fertilization (IVF)

The pains of unintentional childlessness in marriage is unimaginable, only those who faces it or had gone through it knows the extent. Why so many are thanking God for the technological and medical advancement that seem to have provided a kind of succour through in vitro fertilization (IVF), the Catholic Church frowns at and discourages this medical intervention. The Church’s rigidity in this regard appears to be so absurd, weird and insensitive for so many people; even for some Catholics.

The rigidity of the Church is not out of insensitivity, for the Church truly understands the pains and trauma so many people go through in search for infertility treatment. The Church certainly supports every form of medical intervention that respects the dignity of the human person, and above all, trust in God. In vitro fertilization in the eyes of the Church not only dishonour the human person, but destroys life. It is the process where eggs are manually extracted from a woman and fertilized with a man’s sperm in a laboratory culture dish. Once the fertilization takes place and the embryo formed, it is planted in the uterus, and growth continues until delivery.

At first, nothing seems to be wrong with this form of medical intervention; hence, many who condemns the evil of abortion supports in vitro fertilization which is another form of abortion, if not a worse form.

Again, I must acknowledge the pains and frustrations that comes with infertility, and I pray with those in such situation that God who gives life may come to their aid. However, the Church’s position must be understood to avoid the hasty conclusion about the Church been insensitive.

The Catholic Church believes and teaches that human life begins when the eggs are fertilized, and embryo formed. The embryo is a living being, it’s human. The evil of abortion which is condemned by even those who support in vitro fertilization is the destruction of the embryo in the womb. Where the embryo was destroyed does not matter, the evil is not in the ‘where’ it was destroyed but in the ‘what’ was destroyed. If the destruction of an embryo in the womb is evil, then it is equally evil if the destruction took place in a laboratory dish. That is what happens in the process of in vitro fertilization, embryos are destroyed. Not all the fertilized eggs are planted in the woman, some are destroyed even though some claim they are frozen. So, the Church is not being insensitive nor against medical interventions, she is rather against the destruction of human life which in vitro fertilization promotes. Any other form of medical intervention that respects the human dignity is welcomed, and we continue to pray that God makes way where there seem to be no way.

Explaining the major reason the Church is against in vitro fertilization is vital to exonerate the Church from the so called rigidity and insensitivity she has being labelled with. The Church’s position may be a hard teaching, but the truth must be proclaimed.

The dignity of human life must not be traded for anything, the Church respects it. Those born of in vitro fertilization are as human as every other person. The Church appreciates and thank God for all the medical advancements, but strongly stands against anyone that dishonour the human person.

Rev. Fr. Joel Okojie OSA

Joel Okojie is an ordained Catholic Priest in the Order of St. Augustine. He has been a Priest for over a decade. He served as pastor in two different parishes, he was one time Novice Master and a member of the Provincial Council of the province of St. Augustine of Nigeria, and he is currently on a mission in response to the needs of the Church in Canada.

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