I have been able to stomach a lot of disagreements with the Catholic Church, but I'm so angry about an article I read in the paper where I used to work. This time, it's personal. I don't mean to attack the reporter, as she is a nice person, but the arrogance and condescension of the two men quoted here — "moral theologians" — has hit a nerve so deeply that I have been thinking all weekend about leaving the church. And I'm not the only one who's ticked off. My friend Anne, just home from the hospital after giving birth to a pair of beloved twins — conceived through artificial insemination — was steamed about it, too. Lisa, with whom I discussed it Friday during a fun outing to the Minnesota Zoo with our children, didn't seem very happy with it, either. And Steve rolled his eyes and said, "I just wish the church would stay out of our sex lives and worry about the truly important things, like poverty and the war in Iraq."
The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that reproductive techniques that disassociate sex from reproduction — such as artificial insemination — are morally unacceptable, even if the sperm and eggs are from the husband and wife because it disrespects the gift of sex and the dignity of the child to be conceived.
That is just BS. The sanctity of Steve's and my sex life was never demeaned or called into question by our choice to undergo artificial insemination. I think we of all people would know that. In fact, our desire to have a child and our openness to conception were infused deeply in our sex life the whole time we were trying to conceive. The fact that it wasn't working and that we chose to undergo additional medical measures to help me get pregnant did not lessen that. True, we sometimes felt as if we were on a timer when it came to having sex, but that's true of any couple who is tracking their fertile days in an effort to get pregnant.
And Daniel's dignity? That comment is what really upsets me. You can insult my choices, but don't you dare question the dignity of my son. If anything, Daniel is all the more beloved and valued as a result of the efforts we underwent to bring him into this world. So what if he was not conceived through old-fashioned sex? Many a child was conceived on the back seat of a car, by drunken accident, and you don't hear the church questioning that child's dignity. The idea that Daniel's dignity was demeaned or disrespected comes from a mindset that clearly has never had firsthand experience with infertility.
“Catholic couples who are having infertility problems really need to do their homework,” said (Moral Theologian X). “They really need to find the right fertility doctor and make sure that they’re getting the best information possible on their infertility, its causes and the risks involved in using hyperovulant drugs.
As if Catholic couples aren't really doing their homework. How condescending. Does it occur to him that perhaps we do do our homework and arrive at our decisions out of our own consciences, even if those decisions are counter to what the church would tell us to do?
It’s important to remember that couples do not have a right to a child, said Father (Moral Theologian Y), ... who teaches at Saint Paul Seminary. “Children are gifts,” he said. “Couples that suffer infertility suffer a great cross. That’s no easy reality.”
Regardless of whether that is the church's position, I wonder if this guy realizes how pompous and hurtful that sounds. As a young priest, he has never walked in the shoes of parents who struggle with infertility, even if he may have counseled them. Yes, children are gifts. But that does not mean parents need to just sit back passively and wait for one to be given to them, especially if there are medical options that would help. Medical options that hurt no one if used responsibly. Ugh.
And this same priest goes on to say:
Couples struggling to conceive should learn Natural Family Planning, which teaches couples their bodies’ natural fertility cycles and maximizes the possibility to achieve pregnancy. ... “God has, by design, allowed for a proper way of spacing or planning births,” he said, in that a woman is fertile during only a portion of her natural cycle, while men are always fertile.
Oh ... so that was the problem! If we had just had sex during my fertile times, I would have gotten pregnant right away. Silly me ... I get it now!
Wait, we did do NFP. That's where we started, right after we were married. And that's how I found out about my fertility problem in the first place.
Seriously ... I am not a trained theologian, but I've thought about these issues a lot, and this teaching just feels wrong to me. I don't mean to sound arrogant about it myself, but I believe this whole area is too complex to slap a simple "impermissible" label on it and be done with it. Fertility treatments are fairly new and recent in the spectrum of issues moral theologians have addressed over the centuries. I think they need to spend more time with this one.