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Recently a mother who conceived her child through in vitro fertilization (IVF) wrote to a Washington Post advice column. Her parents objected to the immoral manner of their grandchild’s conception -- so they decided to have nothing to do with the baby, a decision that was both hurtful and troubling.
To be sure, the grandparents were not wrong to object to this technology. Creating and manipulating new life in a laboratory abuses the cherished and sacred nature of sex between husband and wife, causes the deaths of multiple embryos, and treats newly conceived children as objects. A child should be conceived through loving sex open to cooperating with God in creating new life. God allows husband and wife to co-create with Him, resulting in a family that supports the child and builds up a culture of life. So the Church urges couples struggling to conceive to learn about morally acceptable treatments that assist a couple’s sexual union in being able to conceive a baby. It offers support and guidance to couples in bearing the cross of infertility, and in considering the possibility of adoption.
But turning our backs on a child because of the way he or she was conceived is no part of the Christian message. No child is morally responsible for the way he or she came to be – and that child is still a beautiful gift from God.
Consider the tragic situation of a child conceived in rape or incest. Aborting that child only answers violence and injustice with even greater violence and injustice. It cannot erase the rape, and it can magnify the woman’s pain. A mother nurturing this child to birth deserves support and encouragement. She needs support in making the courageous decision whether or not to make an adoption plan. A child is always a great good in the eyes of God, and a source of joy and love to his or her biological or adoptive family.
No matter how a baby was conceived, Catholics are called to witness to the special and unrepeatable gift of every new life. In The Gospel of Life, Blessed John Paul II writes: "Life is always a good. … The life which God gives man is quite different from the life of all other living creatures, inasmuch as man … is a manifestation of God in the world, a sign of his presence, a trace of his glory." Expectant mothers in the most challenging and difficult situations are in special need of others who will accept and love them, be a life-affirming presence, and witness to God’s gift of new life growing within them.
Consider that Our Lord Himself was conceived in the womb of a poor unwed mother, in circumstances that seemed shameful. Yet Joseph remained open to hear and follow God’s guidance. He risked everything to serve and protect Mary as a loving husband, and to adopt Jesus as His earthly father. Joseph is a loving and courageous example of respecting God’s gift of life, even in situations which challenge the earthly and human perspectives of those already born. The example and courage of Joseph should inspire many to provide life-affirming prayers, financial assistance, and emotional support to women and children in need.
Mary McClusky is Special Projects Coordinator at the Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. To learn more about the bishops’ pro-life activities, go to www.usccb.org/prolife.
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