Students at Los Angeles’ Loyola Law School have drawn criticism over writing a legal brief in support of Costa Rica legalizing in vitro fertilization, a practice condemned by the Church.
The Catholic school issued a statement on its decision to submit the brief, saying it is “committed to the academic freedom of faculty members and students to participate in the study of different perspectives.”
But Anthony Lilles, professor of spiritual theology at St. John Vianney Seminary in Denver, countered that a Catholic understanding of academic freedom means that it should be guided by truth, as revealed in Scripture and Tradition, and as taught by the magisterium of the Church.
“Academic freedom means the freedom to pursue the truth, wherever it might take you,” he said in an interview with EWTN News Oct. 1.
Loyola Law School is a branch of Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, which describes itself as a “Catholic institution.”
The legal brief, submitted Sept. 3, concerns a case before the Inter-American Court on Human Rights, in which Costa Rican couples wishing to use in vitro fertilization are suing the country for prohibiting the practice. The brief is called an amicus curiae (“friend of the court”).
The document was prepared by students in the International Human Rights Clinic and supervised by professor Cesare Romano.
Loyola Law School is not representing either side in the case, and by releasing the brief “merely seeks to advise the court on a matter that relates to the litigation,” the school's statement reported.
The brief is written solely on legal grounds and does not address the moral implications of IVF, which almost invariably results in the killing of human embryos.
Students at the Catholic law school encouraged the court to “steer clear of the debate about when life begins and what the legal status of human embryos is.”
Rather than deciding the case based on the rights of embryos, the brief indicated that the decision should be grounded in “the rights of infertile women and men.”
Although the brief said that the issue of when life begins “remains better left to the will of states and their practice,” it overlooked Costa Rica's move not to legalize in vitro when a bill permitting the practice failed in its legislature.
In 1987, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith released Donum Vitae (The Gift of Life), an instruction on the dignity of human procreation. In vitro fertilization was found to be “morally illicit” because it “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,” the congregation said.
Loyola Law School’s statement explaining the brief said that its vision of academic freedom is “in harmony with the law school’s institutional Catholic identity and Ignatian heritage.”
Lilles responded, however, that “Catholic universities need to be instruments of the truth.” He concluded by saying, “Hopefully, the faculty there will continue to work with those students, so they can make better moral judgments.”
Calls to Romano and the student authors of the brief were not responded to in time for publication.