Skip to main content

Church hasn’t ruled on adoption of frozen embryos

WILMINGTON, Del. (The Dialog) - Theologians and ethicists are split over the morality of embryo adoptions through which embryos left over from in vitro fertilization are implanted into the uterus of a woman other than the biological mother.

The Catholic Church has yet to issue any authoritative teaching on embryo adoptions, said Peter J. Cataldo, an ethical consultant to the Philadelphia-based National Catholic Bioethics Center. At issue is what may morally be done to the excess embryos created through in vitro fertilization and frozen for possible later use. Over the years, many have been discarded while some have been adopted. Delaware’s General Assembly has been considering a bill that would allow their use for embryonic stem-cell research. The church opposes any such research since harvesting the stem cells would destroy the embryos. The church teaches that in vitro fertilization is not morally acceptable because the egg and sperm are joined outside of sexual intercourse between a husband and wife. The 1987 document “On Respect for Human Life” (“Donum Vitae”) from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, noted that through in vitro fertilization, “(T)he generation of the human person is objectively deprived of its proper perfection: namely, that of being the result and fruit of a conjugal act.” Those who believe embryo adoption to be illicit follow a similar argument. “Pregnancy is indiscernibly related to marriage” and “must be the fruit of husband and wife,” said Father Tadeusz Pacholczyk, staff ethicist for the National Catholic Bioethics Center. Since an embryo adoption involves implanting a woman with the fruit of another couple, he said, “my own opinion is that it is not moral to do this.” But, the priest, said, in the absence of any authoritative teaching, Catholics may in good faith consider and undergo embryo adoptions. They should become familiar with views of theologians and ethicists on both sides of the issue, talk about those positions, “bring the matter to prayer and then make a decision whether to go forward,” he said. Tim and Dawn Smith of Holy Cross Parish in Dover, Del., have one child they adopted as an embryo before they became Catholic. Since then, they unsuccessfully tried again to carry another former frozen embryo to birth and soon will try a third time. Since they were aware of different views within the church toward embryo adoption, they prayed for guidance on the moral implications, Tim Smith said. "It would seem, in the absence of no clear teaching about it, that we should err on the side of giving them (frozen embryos) a chance," he said. Cataldo, who supports embryo adoption given specific circumstances, cited two points to back his position. “Even though the church teaches that in vitro fertilization is morally unacceptable, the child who is engendered is fully human and possesses full human dignity, which must be respected. The frozen embryo is indeed a human embryo with human rights, the most basic of which is the right to life.” In an embryo adoption, “it’s not an issue of impregnation,” Cataldo said. “The actions that brought about the engendering of this child have already taken place.” Even then, Cataldo said, “the primary reason (for adoption) should be to save the life of a child. Typically parents who would adopt a frozen embryo are spouses who are infertile.” Asked what should happen to frozen embryos should the church decide their adoption is illicit, Father Pacholczyk said: “Today we put preemies into very sophisticated incubators. It’s conceivable that one could do that for an embryo as well.”

---

This story was made available to Catholic Online by permission of The Dialog (www.cdow.org), the official newspaper of the Diocese of Wilmington, Del.

Keywords:



NEWSLETTERS »

E-mail:       Zip Code: (ex. 90001)
Today's Headlines

Sign up for a roundup of the day's top stories. 5 days / week. See Sample

Rate This Article

Very Helpful Somewhat Helpful Not Helpful at All

Yes, I am Interested No, I am not Interested

Rate Article

1 - 3 of 3 Comments

  1. Jessica
    2 years ago

    I would urge the church to consider cases in which parents carry a gentic condition that can be passed on to their own biological children. Embryo adoption is a very viable option in giving them a family because as the mother in the article states, "life begins at conception."

  2. Karolina
    3 years ago

    Helen, I second this observation. Fr. Pacholczyk, with all due respect, get off your high horse and stop looking at this as an "issue" - Jesus would say to seek His face in every human being, no matter how small.

  3. Helen
    3 years ago

    So it's MORE moral that a child should be born of a test tube than be given the chance to be born of a pregnancy, respecting his or her dignity?

Leave a Comment

Comments submitted must be civil, remain on-topic and not violate any laws including copyright. We reserve the right to delete any comments which are abusive, inappropriate or not constructive to the discussion.

Though we invite robust discussion, we reserve the right to not publish any comment which denigrates the human person, undermines marriage and the family, or advocates for positions which openly oppose the teaching of the Catholic Church.

This is a supervised forum and the Editors of Catholic Online retain the right to direct it.

We also reserve the right to block any commenter for repeated violations. Your email address is required to post, but it will not be published on the site.

We ask that you NOT post your comment more than once. Catholic Online is growing and our ability to review all comments sometimes results in a delay in their publication.

Send me important information from Catholic Online and it's partners. See Sample

Post Comment


Newsletter Sign Up

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Jeremiah 26:1-9
At the beginning of the reign of Jehoiakim son of Josiah, king ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 69:6, 8-10, 14
Those who hope in you must not be made fools of, Yahweh ... Read More

Gospel, Matthew 13:54-58
and, coming to his home town, he taught the people in their ... Read More

Saint of the Day

August 1 Saint of the Day

St. Alphonsus Marie Liguori
August 1: Bishop, Doctor of the Church, and the founder of the ... Read More