Thursday, April 26, 2012

In Vitro Vincit

Understandably, during an election cycle, when it comes to life issues, the Church gets piled in with the GOP. Because we are against abortion. Against gay marriage. And all sorts of things we've been against even before the GOP was formed. But that doesn't keep Chris Matthews happy and sassy!

Doubtless the wags on the television news networks will have the mitre vs the uterus part of the WOMYNWAR blazing by this evening. Knowing I'm gonna be dog cussed over several coffee clatches over this I present:

From the Huffington-Post:
An Indiana teacher who says she was fired from a Roman Catholic school for using in vitro fertilization to try to get pregnant is suing in a case that could set up a legal showdown over reproductive and religious rights.
Emily Herx's lawsuit accuses the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend and St. Vincent de Paul school in Fort Wayne of discrimination for her firing last June. Herx, 31, of Hoagland, Ind., says that the church pastor told her she was a "grave, immoral sinner" and that a scandal would erupt if anyone learned she had undergone in vitro fertilization, or IVF.

I am sure, like the lesbian denied communion story, that this will continue the narrative about the Catholic Church hating women.

As a pastor, I can only explain what I tell couples (not just women) about in vitro:

First, in vitro fertilization is taking the male's sperm and artificially (outside the womb) inseminating the female's egg. After this is done, the fertilized egg is placed, presumably, in the "mother" and carried to birth.
Why is this "grave and immoral" and a "sin"?
The first case is that it divorces the sexual act from procreation. The sexual marital act is life-making and love-making. Just as God loves and makes life, we cooperate in marriage with the Creator.

The second case against it is defined by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) in the statement on "the gift of life":
In vitro fertilization
In the usual practice of in vitro fertilization, not all of the embryos are transferred to the woman's body; some are destroyed. Just as the Church condemns induced abortion, so she also forbids acts against the life of these human beings. It is a duty to condemn the particular gravity of the voluntary destruction of human embryos obtained in vitro for the sole purpose of research, either by means of artificial insemination or by means of "twin fission." By acting in this way the researcher usurps the place of God; and, even though he may be unaware of this, he sets himself up as the master of the destiny of others inasmuch as he arbitrarily chooses whom he will allow to live and whom he will send to death, and kills defenseless human beings.
... In consequence of the fact that they have been produced those embryos which are not transferred into the body of the mother and are called "spare" are exposed to an absurd fate, with no possibility of their being offered safe means of survival which can be licitly pursued.

I add that the procedure is bottom-line market based. It is rare that it be performed without pretty good odds that a child will be conceived. Thus, sometimes "twin fission" is performed (creating twins by splitting the embryo apart) to cover the odds. The prospective parent is also consumer and may choose whether or not one fertilized embryo will survive or be aborted.

I have told couples that they are in grave sin if they do this. And I praise God we have couples who think enough of their faith to ask me. I need to say this, in bold red: I truly appreciate those who are conscientious enough about their religion to not pull the "forgiveness over permission" route but to actually learn and live with the Church's instruction.

Concerning the scandal, when one chooses to act outside of the Church's teachings then it may lead others to doubt the faith or pursue choices outside the Church's prudence. It is heightened when one is a priest or Church leader. I suppose a Catholic school teacher is also one of those elevated as an example.

I don't pretend to know what the inner-workings of this affair are but suspect that there is something more that is not revealed...yet. It is suspect whenever there is a lawsuit.

I am no scholar so there may be some simplicity to my scientific explanations. I do know the Church's teaching on procreation, however. And it's not because I'm a priest.

It's because I learned about it in Catholic school.