My husband and I are really enjoying our time with the newest members of our extended family: identical twins Lilliana and Francesca. They’re going on 3 years old, and it takes a lot of resolve — since they’re so adorable and so much fun — not to spoil them. We really want to help our nephew and his wife as they work hard to raise them and teach them basic discipline. Their hope is for the twins eventually to understand that they can’t have everything they want, regardless of the typical temper tantrums that toddlers sometimes throw when they hear the word “no.”
Watching the reactions of not only the twins but other children in relationship to their parents often makes me think of what it must be like for God. More often than not, God watches his adult children plead and argue with him, even occasionally throwing our own version of a temper tantrum when we hear that God and his Church are saying “no” to what we want.
Case in point would be another major news story that reflects the truth of God’s teaching and why the Church’s “no” is — as Pope Benedict XVI reminded us — actually a big “yes” to love and to life.
One example of this is in the case of the Church’s teaching on natural conception. A couple from Queens, New York, desperately wanted children, so they turned to an IVF clinic, thinking it would solve their problems and give them the family they so badly desired. The fallout with yet another IVF facility sheds light yet again on why the Church teaches in vitro fertilization is not acceptable. I don’t know about you, but the Church teaching on IVF, as well as contraception, continues to be a major roadblock for Catholics and non-Catholics alike. How many times am I harshly questioned by those who wonder why the Church is so against — or so they say and think — bringing more children into the world and into loving families through IVF? Shouldn’t this be lauded rather than condemned?
The news recently reported that the couple spent at least $100,000 with the Los Angeles CHA clinic and is now suing the facility after delivering two baby boys — who did not share their Asian ethnicity. The couple ended up unknowingly serving as surrogates, and had to give the children up to their respective parents, who were also CHA clients.
Nightmares such as this involving the painful and extremely costly IVF process continue to make headlines. Last year in Cleveland, more than 4,000 embryos and eggs were lost, according to the clinic, through human error. A similar incident happened at the same time at another clinic in San Francisco.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains that IVF is immoral, in part because it separates the sexual act from the procreative act, but also because it results in others having control over life and putting technology ahead of human dignity:
“The act which brings the child into existence is no longer an act by which two persons give themselves to one another, but one that ‘entrusts the life and identity of the embryo into the power of doctors and biologists and establishes the domination of technology over the origin and destiny of the human person. Such a relationship of domination is in itself contrary to the dignity and equality that must be common to parents and children.’ Under the moral aspect procreation is deprived of its proper perfection when it is not willed as the fruit of the conjugal act, that is to say, of the specific act of the spouses’ union. … Only respect for the link between the meanings of the conjugal act and respect for the unity of the human being make possible procreation in conformity with the dignity of the person” (CCC, No. 2377).
Infertility is a real struggle for many couples today, and the heartache and desperation are certainly understandable. But going directly against the Church is never the answer. Thank goodness there are amazing Catholic physicians, such as Dr. Thomas Hilgers at the Pope Paul VI Institute in Omaha, Nebraska, who are able to address infertility while maintaining and promoting Church teaching.
In the end, when we insist on our way, we not only hurt ourselves but support efforts that are hurting others in the process.
God is like that parent who knows better, even if we are like my sweet grand-nieces and don’t realize it at the time. He really does, as it says in Jeremiah 29:11, know the plans he has for us, and they are plans not to harm us but to give us hope and a future.
Teresa Tomeo is the host of “Catholic Connection,” produced by Ave Maria Radio, and the author of “Beyond Sunday: Becoming a 24/7 Catholic” (OSV, $14.95).