Popular bishop agrees with pope on the injustice of surrogacy

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Bishop Robert E. Barron of Winona-Rochester, Minn., founder of the Catholic media apostolate Word on Fire, is seen at St. John the Evangelist Co-Cathedral in Rochester July 29, 2022, during his installation as the ninth bishop of the Diocese of Winona-Rochester. (CNS photo/Clare LoCoco, courtesy Word on Fire Catholic Ministries)

WASHINGTON (OSV News) — Bishop Robert E. Barron of Winona-Rochester, Minnesota, the head of the U.S. bishops’ committee dealing with family life, voiced support Jan. 10 for Pope Francis’ recent remarks condemning gestational surrogacy as “a grave violation of the dignity of the woman and the child” and calling for a worldwide ban.

Surrogacy represents the commodification and instrumentalization of a woman’s body, treating her as a ‘carrier’ rather than a human person. And just as troubling is the fact that the child is reduced to terms of buying and selling as an object of human trafficking,” Bishop Barron said in a statement as chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth.

“The commercialization of women and children in surrogacy is underlined by the belief that there is a right to have a child,” he said. “The child becomes an object for the fulfillment of one’s desires instead of a person to be cherished. In this way, the genuine right of the child to be conceived through the love of his or her parents is overlooked in favor of ‘the right to have a child by any means necessary.’ We must avoid this way of thinking and answer the call to respect human life, beginning with the unborn child.”

Surrogacy is not the answer

Pope Francis mentioned “surrogate motherhood” Jan. 8 in wide-ranging remarks to members of the diplomatic corps assigned to the Holy See.

“I deem deplorable the practice of so-called surrogate motherhood, which represents a grave violation of the dignity of the woman and the child, based on the exploitation of situations of the mother’s material needs. A child is always a gift and never the basis of a commercial contract,” he said. “Consequently, I express my hope for an effort by the international community to prohibit this practice universally.”

In his statement, Bishop Barron addressed the suffering of couples facing infertility or other obstacles to fulfilling their desire for children.

“It might be the case that couples earnestly want to have children without resorting to surrogacy, but painful and even life-threatening medical obstacles make childbirth hazardous or impossible,” he said. “The serious prospect of a life without biological children has been dismissed by some, but we have a responsibility to accompany these couples in their suffering.”

He continued, “The Church teaches that married couples are not obliged to actually have children, but to be open to any life that might be the fruit of their union. The desire to utilize surrogacy might feel like the desire to form a family naturally, but no matter how well-intentioned, surrogacy always does grave injustice to the child, any discarded embryos (who are our fellow human beings), the commodified birth mother, and the loving union of the spouses.”

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