From “Dignitatis Personae” (“On the Dignity of Persons”), published by CDF on the 20th anniversary of “Donum Vitae” in order to address certain questions pertaining to reproductive technologies and the dignity of the human person from conception to natural death. Paragraph 13 addresses the parameters of options available to married couples who want to become parents:
“[T]echniques aimed at removing obstacles to natural fertilization, as for example, hormonal treatments for infertility, surgery for endometriosis, unblocking of fallopian tubes or their surgical repair, are licit. All these techniques may be considered authentic treatments because, once the problem causing the infertility has been resolved, the married couple is able to engage in conjugal acts resulting in procreation, without the physician’s action directly interfering in that act itself. None of these treatments replaces the conjugal act, which alone is worthy of truly responsible procreation.
“In order to come to the aid of the many infertile couples who want to have children, adoption should be encouraged, promoted and facilitated by appropriate legislation so that the many children who lack parents may receive a home that will contribute to their human development. In addition, research and investment directed at the prevention of sterility deserve encouragement. ”
And from paragraph 16:
“The Church recognizes the legitimacy of the desire for a child and understands the suffering of couples struggling with problems of fertility. Such a desire, however, should not override the dignity of every human life to the point of absolute supremacy. The desire for a child cannot justify the ‘production’ of offspring, just as the desire not to have a child cannot justify the abandonment or destruction of a child once he or she has been conceived.”
One aspect of artificial reproductive technology of particular interest to those who have considered adopting one or more of the abandoned embryos through the “Snowflakes” program, was also contained in this document:
“The proposal that these embryos could be put at the disposal of infertile couples as a treatment for infertility is not ethically acceptable for the same reasons which make artificial heterologous procreation illicit as well as any form of surrogate motherhood; this practice would also lead to other problems of a medical, psychological and legal nature.
“It has also been proposed, solely in order to allow human beings to be born who are otherwise condemned to destruction, that there could be a form of ‘prenatal adoption.’ This proposal, praiseworthy with regard to the intention of respecting and defending human life, presents however various problems not dissimilar to those mentioned above.”
While this development may be troubling to some, we must be willing to accept the Church’s authority to shine the light of truth on this and other matters pertaining to the seamless garment of family life. When a couple is struggling to find God’s will for their lives, these teachings provide practical, providential boundaries to protect both the marriage and the individuals … as well as their future children.