"Are we prepared to promote conditions in which the living contact with God can be reestablished? For our lives today have become godless to the point of complete vacuity. God is no longer with us in the conscious sense of the word. He is denied, ignored, excluded from every claim to have a part in our daily life." - Alfred Delp, S.J.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

I think some writers online may write too much.

Art: Agnes Boulloche - L'Education

Confusion ensues.

I just read the most astonishing post on why the Church teaches against IVF technologies, or 'test tube' babies.

I don't know, but Church documents are offered in the vernacular these days and are widely available to lay people.  Church teaching couldn't be more clear - I should think.  Of course it is correct for a priest to teach on Catholic teaching and to instruct those who may not understand, or rather, accept Catholic teaching as it is presented.  I'm not sure some of the things I read today make a lot of sense to anyone interested in the subject, and for those who may have been conceived in a petri dish, it might just add to whatever natural uncertainty concerning their existence they may already have.

I may be wrong, but some of the things Fr. L. wrote in the essay seem a bit far-fetched.
What’s wrong with artificial insemination and surrogate motherhood? That the child is deprived of a mother’s love at the most basic level of his existence.
Let’s take it a step further and consider the church’s teaching that conception is best realized within the “marital embrace.” I believe not only are the months of gestation a time for emotional, mental and spiritual influence of the parents to the child, but that the moment of conception is important. 
Here’s why. I once counseled a fifteen year old kid I’ll call Jimmy who suddenly went haywire. He had been a nice, sweet, smart boy–very obedient and loving. Then at fifteen he went Gothic. Dressed in black, became super rebellious and inexplicably began to steal cars. We asked Jimmy why he stole cars. He didn’t know. We said he would go to jail if he kept stealing cars. He knew that. He kept stealing cars as if there was some dark rebellious compulsion to his behavior. So we began to probe a bit further into his background. 
Jimmy didn’t know this, but his mother told me that he was adopted and that he was conceived in the back seat of a car as an act of rebellion when his mother was fifteen years old. 
It was as if fifteen year old rebellion and cars was written into Jimmy’s personality in a weird and disturbing way. Of course there was nothing genetic about it. There was nothing that could be proven scientifically. 
However, we can extrapolate a theory from this experience.

The moment the egg and sperm meet is the beginning of a person’s life. It is a foundational moment. Just as the foundation of the person’s physical body begins, so at that moment (because the person is a body, mind, spirit unity) we must affirm that the foundation of the person’s mind, spirit and emotions are also established. If that moment of meeting was between two physically healthy people we hope that the physical aspect of the child is healthy. We would continue to hope that the emotional, spiritual and mental circumstances of the moment of conception were also healthy.
So, for example, if a child is conceived in a moment of drunken rage the foundation of his or her personality might be tainted with addiction and rage. If the child is conceived in a moment or irresponsible lust he or she may have irresponsible lust as a foundation element of their personality. If the child is conceived in rape and terror he or she may have rape, violence and terror at the root of their personality. Likewise, if the child is conceived in a moment of total, self giving, joy and ecstasy within the supernatural blessings of a sacramental marriage he or she will have joy, confidence, faith and love at the root of his or her personality.
When the church teaches that a child has the right to be conceived in “the marital embrace” therefore she is affirming much more than a sentimental attachment to marriage. Instead it is affirming a deep wisdom about the very best origin of the human person.  Read the full essay here.

Scared straight.

No offense, but the essay reminds me of some of the stuff people say about homosexuality and homosexual acts, as if Catholic moral teaching is indiscernible, or isn't enough, very often scary health stories are told, stats offered for early death rates, accelerated suicide rates and so on, are repeated as a deterrent - to scare people straight - or just encourage chastity. Those folks who reject Catholic teaching on sexual ethics and marriage pretty much ignore such warnings anyway.  Catholic teaching is sufficient in itself.

I know young people who were conceived outside the womb.  They are completely normal, healthy individuals, now adults, married with children and faithful Catholics.  They accept Catholic teaching on marriage and sexual ethics.  [Some have wondered however, if in the eyes of the Church, they "have been steeped in sin since birth" - like the Gospel story of the man born blind.] For every negative anecdotal situation, usually a positive story can be offered to refute it. 

Fr. L. is a good man, a good priest, sometimes I just disagree with him.  He writes a lot.  He also no longer has an open combox, and when people don't leave that opportunity for readers open, I'll often post my comments on my blog.  (Often, when they do leave their combox open, and I comment, they don't publish it anyway.  That's why I have my own blog.)

The stories we could tell instead.

St. John of the Cross mentions something about the extreme desires some have for children.  It might be good for Catholic teachers to use the quote to remind people who wish to go to extremes to have children by artificial means, and or same-sex adoption, that the raising of children involves so much more than fulfilling material needs, doting affection, and great education.  It's about salvation.
"It is also vain to desire children, as some do in upsetting the whole world with their longing for them. For they do not know whether their children will be good and serve God, or whether the expected happiness will instead be sorrow, or the rest and comfort, trial and grief, or the honor, dishonor. And because of the children they might, as many do, offend God more. Christ says of these people, that they circle the earth and the sea in order to enrich their children, and they make them children of perdition twofold more than they themselves are. [Mt. 23:15] - Ascent, Bk. III, Ch. 17:4
I have a couple friends who were high school sweethearts, they married and never had children - no one ever asked why, assumptions were made that they were unable to.  They have been devout Catholics all their married life.  Since they had no children, they were able to care for a younger sister with Downs Syndrome until she died last week in her late 50's.  I think God gave them special graces and great consolation, and their marital love lacked nothing.  God's grace was sufficient for them.

I think I post too much too.

Now what went wrong when this little girl was conceived?


  1. When I turned 34, I started stealing submarines.
    Turns out, around the time I was conceived, my mom and dad would go watch the submarine races on the lakeshore.


  2. I read Fr. L's article and wondered but some did make sense though. With all of the SciFi stories I read about test tube babies...well, it still gives me the willies. ;p

  3. As I grow older, I've noticed that I do many of the same things and behave in the same way, and that I hated then, as did my Dad, and so do my two brothers, also. Bad tempers comes quickly to mind.

  4. Well, if I were placing bets, my money would be on the young man's troubles being due more to the huge family secret about his adoption than to the instant of his conception.
    As a mom myself, I find it very hard to find the balance between trying to create a positive prenatal (well, post-natal too) environment and not being paralyzed with fear that every sub-optimal experience will ruin the poor kid forever. Sure, there's generational stuff; but there must be freedom too, right? But you're right in citing the story of the man born blind: every single person from the beginning of time has been trying to find the reason why "it won't happen to me or my loved ones because *I* do things right."

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  6. What a bunch of twaddle. I know several children who were conceived after their mothers aborted their older siblings – if there was ever a complicated environment to be conceived in I would think that would be it. All of these children are nice kids. My first child was conceived while his father was in the midst of an addiction. My child was always on the honor roll, went to college and is doing well in his career. There are ProLife speakers who were conceived when their mothers were raped. These people are well spoken and lead godly lives. I agree with Anna Dendinger - family secrets cause problems, not the instant of conception. And for anyone that doesn't know me - I believe in everything the Church teaches about NFP, marriage, etc. - but to blame someone's troubles on one single moment in their life they had no hand in - that's baloney.

  7. There are so many ways for those who desire to have children to help them; adopt, foster, teach catechism, volunteer at homeless shelters or with nuns who help children.

  8. I think Fr. L might be watching too many episodes of the Duggars. What?

  9. Fr. L is doing the a priori mistake which haunts much of Catholic writing....ie we know the action is bad so let's feel free to overstate the evil....even in this case, if it slanders the offspring of IVF.
    Angela M's comment perfectly ...perfectly refutes Fr. L....but Fr. L has apparently stopped combox feedback from the get go. Without feedback, the human being grows omniscient in the mirror and probably thinks this song is about him....except with Deacon Kandra who never permitted comments ...because he is reportorial not editorial....so the ego thing is absent with Kandra.

  10. I'm at a loss to even figure out how Fr. L could think such a theory is reasonable, let alone correct and worth saying out loud.

    It seems pagan to me. Whether it's "his blindness is a result of his parents' sin," or "he's stealing cars to be rebellious because he was conceived in a car as an act of rebellion," this line of reasoning resonates with a fatalism, hopelessness, and karma-based understanding of justice that I associate with a the-gods-are-capricious-and-vengeful-type of paganism. (And it's de-theisized offspring, psychoanalysis too.) (I'm not saying Fr. L is a pagan.)

    Fr. L's post is having technical difficulties, so I wasn't able to click through to read the whole thing. Was the "theory" part his writing? The way it's indented in your excerpt makes it seem like an extended quotation.

    I have a good friend who is a fallen-away Catholic who has two kids who were conceived via IVF (actually, 12 were conceived, 2 were born) who persistently rags on me for the Church's teaching regarding IVF (and others things, but the IVF hits home). He asks why the Church hates his kids, why the Church says his kids are intrinsically evil, why the Church says he and his wife were being greedy instead of loving in wanting kids, etc. It's friendly enough banter (it sounds worse than it is--we're old friends who can speak very directly with each other and he's kind of a sarcastic SOB to begin with), but there are real questions there. I smile at his hyperbole and then do my best to present truth in love. He would have a field day with that post. "So when my kids say they want to be chemists, is that just because they were conceived in a lab?" "So if my kids slut it up, it's because they were conceived without the love of the marital embrace?"

    1. The problem, as you know, isn't with the two kids that were allowed to be born but rather with the10 conceived and either aborted , held in limbo or destroyed.

    2. The part about the kids wanting to be chemists made me lol!

    3. It made me laugh too.

    4. Nan - Well, there's still a problem with the two kids. Not the kids themselves, of course. My understanding of the Church's teaching is that IVF would still be wrong even if each conception resulted in a birth. I do agree that the 10 who didn't make it are a "bigger" problem though.

  11. The objections to the conception-as-destiny theory are many.

    Despondent 13 year-old who watches TV all day? Cause: during the perfunctory sex that led to his conception, you stole glances over your husband's shoulder at the TV that was left on.

    20 year-old son is a performer who goes by the name "Claudia Shaver"? Cause: It was 1994 and you spent way too much time thinking about Claudia Schiffer.

    My third son was conceived in a closet. How's that for a set up?


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