A Catholic friend of mine, Sarah was upset. She and her husband, Shawn had been trying to get pregnant for 5 years with no success. I suggested they could look into artificial insemination. It’s affordable enough for most couples, most times costing less than $1,000, sometimes more, depending on how many times the procedure is required before it’s successful. Sarah looked at me and simply said the idea was out of the question. She said the church forbids it because it’s believed to be a sin. She says Shawn will not go against the church under any circumstance, even if it means being childless. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. First of all, not being a Catholic, I didn’t know the church considered artificial insemination a sin. And second of all, I couldn’t believe that any modern thinking person would accept this and forego the chance to become a parent. I had seen the baby room Sarah and Shawn had kept decorated and waiting for their anticipated arrival and I knew it was heartbreaking for Sarah to see it remain empty.
So what’s the church’s reasoning here? I knew the church forbade artificial contraception and only accepted the rhythm method as a permitted method. But why artificial insemination? Isn’t done with the biological father’s sperm and the biological mother’s eggs? We’re not talking nameless, faceless donors here. After some research, I discovered the church’s line of thinking. According to Catholic law, artificial insemination is forbidden “because it lacks the sexual relationship called for by the moral order, namely the relationship that which realizes ‘the full sense of mutual self-giving and human procreation in the context of true love.” Apparently, this is all according to something called the “Donum Vitae or The Respect for Human Life”. I’m not Catholic and by no means understand any of this, nor do I want or need to. But suffice it to say it’s a very long doctrine dictating the church’s views on conception. I wondered if Shawn was just following this blindly without even knowing or understanding why. This, in my opinion, is common among religious people who just take in and spit out whatever their church says instead of thinking for themselves.
I talked to Sarah and asked what she thought about Shawn’s opinion on the church’s stance. Was he so determined not to go against the church that he was okay with never having a child? Sarah said she wanted to have the procedure, but didn’t want to go against Shawn or the church. I thought about telling Sarah she should tell the Catholic church to stay out of her vagina and let her do whatever it took to get pregnant, but her face told me she was resigned to the fact that she most likely would never get pregnant.
Considering the fact that there are over 1 billion Catholics worldwide, that’s an awful lot of people the church is controlling. And taking into account that 1 in every 6 couples in the U.S. is infertile, perhaps it’s about time the Catholic church moved into the 21st centrury. For someone like me, who doesn’t subscribe to any organized religion, it is incredibly difficult to comprehend how a religious institution can make such personal decisions for its religious followers.
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