Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

By Andrew M. Greenwell, Esq.

7/12/2012 (3 years ago)

Catholic Online (

Modern man has spurned the teachings of the Church, has spurned the natural moral law

Were we to go to such cryopreservation facilities where the frozen human embryos are preserved, we would be confronted with a veritable man-made limbo.  Thousands upon thousands of human embryos--live human souls trapped in their tiny frozen "body"--whose natural development has been suspended.  One count has these poor frozen souls numbered at almost 400,000 in the United States alone.  We confront a moral quandary before these tiny frozen humans: we do not clearly know what we can do with them.


By Andrew M. Greenwell, Esq.

Catholic Online (

7/12/2012 (3 years ago)

Published in U.S.

Keywords: in vitro fertilization, frozen embryos, limbo, IVF, Gospel of life, dignity of life, embryonic persons, Andrew Greenwell

CORPUS CHRISTI, TX (Catholic Online) - St. Thomas Aquinas taught that no innocent person would ever be placed in a position where he has to select between two wrongs so as to be forced to choose between evils.  In other words, the innocent agent would never be perplexed by a moral dilemma.  Any moral dilemmas confronted by an innocent could be shown to be only apparent.  God would not place the innocent in such a situation.
However, this was not St. Thomas's view when it came to a wrongdoer.  St. Thomas believed that a wrongdoer was not necessarily assured that he would not find himself in a moral dilemma.  While in most cases a wrongdoer could escape those moral dilemmas caused by his prior wrongful acts, it was possible that, in a certain case, like a careless painter he could paint himself into a moral corner by his own prior acts. 

If the wrongdoer faced such a moral dilemma, however he acted he would be condemned to sin. He would confront a Hobson's choice where neither option was good.  He would therefore find himself morally perplexed.  If he wanted to do good, he could not act.  But not acting would not resolve the problem.

Modern man has put himself in what may be an irresolvable dilemma, one which even perplexes the Church.

With his technical prowess through his hubris morally unchecked, modern man has sinned against human life and the moral law that governs the procreative process.  Instead of a "great 'yes' to human life," he has expressed a great 'no' to human life.  He has murdered hundreds millions perhaps even a billions of his kind through direct abortion and the "contraceptive" techniques that are in fact abortions

Modern man rejects the notion: "The Lord puts to death and gives life."  (1 Sam. 2:6).  For him it is man who puts to death when and how he wills.  His instruments of killing have gotten small indeed, so that they reach the tiniest humans, violating them or poisoning them or their natural environment.  Our mother's wombs have become killing fields.

Additionally, in engaging in all sorts of artificial conception techniques, specifically, those associated with in vitro fertilization, man has also dabbled in the black technical arts of "illegitimate spawning" to borrow words from Seamus Heaney's poem "Limbo." 

Again, modern man rejects the notion: "The Lord puts to death and gives life."  (1 Sam. 2:6).  For him it is also man who gives life.

It is these latter sins that may have put modern man in an irresolvable moral dilemma.  He may have painted himself into a moral corner.  And in so doing he may have manufactured an artificial limbo where he has condemned hundreds of thousands, perhaps even millions, of his kind.

The ordinary in vitro fertilization techniques require the production of a number of human embryos; many more embryos are produced than will eventually be born.  Some of these embryos are frozen in liquid nitrogen--placed in cryopreservation--for future use in the event those embryos that are used do not successful result in the birth of a child.

The Church addresses the moral problems associated with in vitro fertilization in the instruction Dignitatis personae For a variety of reasons, these techniques are found wanting because they violate the union between procreation and the conjugal act.  Moreover, they offend against the dignity of the embryo.

The Church teaches that the "human embryo has . . . the dignity proper to a person."  DP, 6.  As a consequence, such cryopreservation "is incompatible with the respect owed to human embryos."  DP, 18.  Moreover, it is foreseeable that many of these embryos do not survive the process of initial freezing or the process of thawing once frozen.

Some, however, do survive  the thawing process.  And these are used in the medical procedures which, if effective, lead to the birth of a child.  Once the couple's desires have been satisfied, however, there are often a great number of these embryos that remain in suspended animation while they are in cryopreservation.  Like the fishermen at Ballyshannon in Seamus Heany's poem "Limbo," our moral nets have captured an "illegitimate spawning," small ones "thrown back to the waters," frozen waters to be sure.

The Church observes: "The majority of embryos that are not used remain 'orphans.'  Their parents do not ask for them and at times all trace of the parents is lost.  That is why there are thousands upon thousands of frozen embryos in almost all countries where in vitro fertilization takes place."  DP, 18. 

Like the mother intent on infanticide in Seamus Heany's poem, those scientists and physicians as well as patients who participate in this mockery of procreation stand in moral shallows, ducking the issue.  Their souls, like the wrists of the murderess in Heaney's poem, are "dead as the gravel."  Their consciences have been torn open, rendered raw, as if a "minnow with hooks"--a fishing lure full of hooks--had been forcibly yanked out of  the tender flesh of a woman's birth canal.

Were we to go to such cryopreservation facilities, we would be confronted with a veritable man-made limbo.  Thousands upon thousands of human embryos--live human souls trapped in their tiny frozen "body" in strange-looking vats--whose natural development has been suspended.  One count has these poor frozen souls numbered at 396,526 in the United States alone.  

Modern man is not only acting as though he is the lord of life and death.  Modern man has now claimed the space between life and death.  He has said: "Now limbo will be a cold glitter of souls," packed in liquid nitrogen.

What can be done with the "cold glitter of souls"?  The question presents a moral quandary.

Modern man finds himself in this quandary because he has done this even while "under the sign of the cross."  Modern man has spurned the teachings of the Church, has spurned the natural moral law.  His technological prowess will not be limited by the "inconvenience" of ethics.  And it may be that, as a result of his hubris, modern man has painted himself into a moral corner. 

The Church herself has asked the question: "With regard to the large number of frozen embryos already in existence the question becomes: what to do with them?  Some of those who pose this question do not grasp its ethical nature, motivated as they are by laws in some countries that require cryopreservation centers to empty their storage tanks periodically.  Others, however, are aware that a grave injustice has been perpetrated and wonder how best to respond to the duty of resolving it."  DP, 19.

Due the respect due to persons, these embryos cannot be allowed to die.  They cannot be used for research.  They cannot be used as a treatment for infertility.  These are all clearly immoral options.  Some have suggested a form of "prenatal adoption" as the means out of the moral dilemma.  While this last proposal is "praiseworthy with regard to the intention of respecting and defending human life," it still suffers from moral problems that plague the clearly immoral options, though here, the Church's condemnation seems a little softer perhaps in the hope of arriving at some future answer. DP, 19.

But at this time, the Church is perplexed.  "All things considered, it needs to be recognized that the thousands of abandoned embryos represent a situation of injustice which in fact cannot be resolved."  DP, 19.

The Church cannot give guidance to modern man who has irresponsibly placed himself in a moral quandary.  Her theologians are working on it, but so far no clear solution has been found.

With respect to the thousands and thousands of frozen embryos, the Church seems as yet to have found no way out of modern mankind for its sins.  By its prior sins, modern mankind has put itself in a moral dilemma.  It is wrong to keep these embryos a permanent cryogenic state.  It is appears wrong in any manner to dispose of them. 

We have put some of our own kind in limbo.  A man-made limbo.  And with reckless disregard of the rights and dignity of the embryo, we keep condemning more of our kind in the frozen chambers, frozen chambers like a sort of Dantean hell where--can it be so?--

Even Christ's palms, unhealed,
Smart and cannot fish there.


Andrew M. Greenwell is an attorney licensed to practice law in Texas, practicing in Corpus Christi, Texas.  He is married with three children.  He maintains a blog entirely devoted to the natural law called Lex Christianorum.  You can contact Andrew at


Pope Francis: end world hunger through 'Prayer and Action'

Copywriter 2015 - Distributed by THE NEWS CONSORTIUM

Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for October 2015
That human trafficking, the modern form of slavery, may be eradicated.
Evangelization: That with a missionary spirit the Christian communities of Asia may announce the Gospel to those who are still awaiting it.


More U.S.

'No more baby parts': How will Congress deal with the alarming Planned Parenthood shooting? Watch

Image of


A shooting at a Planned Parenthood facility in Colorado Springs, Colorado that left three people dead last week is only expected to inflame passions of both sides of the political spectrum - as well as giving lawmakers, returning from their holiday break, ... continue reading

EUCHARISTIC MIRACLE IN UTAH? You won't believe what happened to the Body of Christ when it was placed in water (PHOTOS) Watch

Image of


A miraculous bleeding communion wafer has presented itself at a Utah Church. Followers from the St. Francis Xavier Church in Kearns, Salt Lake City have claimed the sacrament bled for three days after it was placed in water following communion. LOS ANGELES, CA ... continue reading

The shocking amount of control El Chapo's drug cartel has across the United States Watch

Image of Mexican drug lord,


Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán leads the Sinaloa drug cartel, which the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) reports has the most influence of all gangs in the United States. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The DEA released an unclassified report that indicates the ... continue reading

MIRACLES DO HAPPEN: Days-old baby girl buried alive pulled to safety in California Watch

Image of Following the child's muffled cries, police eventually found the girl in a crevice along the biking path. Wrapped in a blanket, covered with a layer of rocks and rubble, the girl was cold - but alive.


While much still needs to be learned - authorities here in Compton, California are gratified to learn that miracles still happen. A days-old baby girl, estimated to be only two to three days old, has been pulled to safety from a riverbed after a passerby heard ... continue reading

Who Needs Advent? I do! Watch

Image of The candle is a symbol of Advent because it is a symbol of Jesus Christ, the Light of the world, who is always coming to those with the eyes of living faith.

By Deacon Keith Fournier

Jesus Christ is not just a memory to the Christian with living faith. He is alive in our midst and living His Life in and through His Body, the Church, of which we are members. The redemptive mission of the Lord Jesus continues until He returns. As Christians, we ... continue reading

BIGGER THAN ISIS - There's a hidden power behind ISIS and it's so big and so powerful, you won't believe this MASSIVE SHOCKING fact about it! Watch

Image of Obama is the titular head of the world's most nefarious terrorist organization, a title he may have inherited from his predecessor, and that will be passed to his successor.


If you were asked, what is the greatest hoax ever perpetrated in human history, how would you answer? Global warming? Vaccines? The Moon Landing? Entire religions?  (Not that we agree with these). But what would you say? In a moment, we're going to offer an answer ... continue reading

'Black Friday' leaving bruises as shoppers trample each other for best deals Watch

Image of Sales for pricey items such as electronic devices erupt into violence on


Everyone has had their turkey leftovers from the previous day's Thanksgiving Feast - and now it's out the door to the nearest "big box" store in a mad scavenger hunt called "Black Friday," where shoppers trample each other for the best deals then can get just before ... continue reading

President likens Syrian refugees to pilgrims on Mayflower in Thanksgiving address Watch

Image of The president then went on to say that, all Americans must open their neighborhoods, their homes, and hearts to Syrian refugees.


United States President Barack Obama called on Americans to welcome Syrian refugees this Thanksgiving season, who - like the pilgrims that set sail on the Mayflower, were likewise fleeing persecution in their native land. LOS ANGELES, CA (California Network) - ... continue reading

Happy Thanksgiving Day: Give Thanks with a Grateful Heart Watch

Image of Around tables throughout America, children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren gather with mothers and fathers, Grandpas and Grandmas, extended family, neighbors and friends to thank God and one another. And then, we feast; not only on the food, but even more importantly, on the gift of the love which informs all family relationships and true friendships, the real source of lasting joy, the love of the God who gave us life and liberty.

By Deacon Keith Fournier

Happy Thanksgiving Day. May it be a day for love and gratitude. No matter how difficult the challenges we face as a Nation, we have much to be grateful for. As we give thanks, we will find the strength we need to love even more fully. As we practice regularly ... continue reading

New ISIS video taunts United States to 'bring it on' Watch

Image of While the video is pumping up Islamist State, the fact of the matter is is the group is suffering heavy losses on the ground form allied bombardment, especially since Russia began bombing the group


A new video from the Islamic State is highlighting the high number of U.S. soldiers who commit suicide, in effect to tell the world's last remaining superpower to "bring it on." U.S. President Barack Obama has since dismissed ISIS as "a bunch of killers with ... continue reading

All U.S. News


Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Subscribe to Catholic OnlineYouTube Channel

the FEED
by Catholic Online

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Isaiah 11:1-10
1 A shoot will spring from the stock of Jesse, a new shoot will grow from ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 72:1, 7-8, 12-13, 17
1 [Of Solomon] God, endow the king with your own fair judgement, the son ... Read More

Gospel, Luke 10:21-24
21 Just at this time, filled with joy by the Holy Spirit, he said, 'I ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for December 1st, 2015 Image

St. Eligius
December 1: Eligius (also known as Eloi) was born around 590 ... Read More