Care for the Conceived
Lori Murphy's letter in the Jan. 11-17 issue (“The Fate of Frozen Embryos”) interpreted that Donum Vitae's statement, “The fidelity of the spouses’ unity of marriage involves the reciprocal respect of their right to become father and mother only through each other” to mean that embryo adoption is not licit. That quote is referring to the teaching of the Church that it is not permissible to utilize invitro methods to conceive a child. Embryo adoption is not a method to conceive a child; the child is already conceived.
The document states that the human being must be respected and protected from the very instant of his existence, stating that it is not in conformity with the moral law to deliberately expose to death human embryos obtained in vitro. Implantation is the only option for a child to have the opportunity to be born/have a life. Without willing parents to provide the environment the child needs to grow, the child will die.
What does the Church give as an option to children conceived and “unwanted”? Adoption. Although the Church has not made a definitive statement on embryo adoption, I seriously doubt the Church would only bless adoption of those already born and discriminate against those who are, because of their young age, termed “embryos.”
Donum Vitae says: “Physical sterility in fact can be for spouses the occasion for other important services in the life of the human person, for example adoption.”
If Lori's thinking were true, that the Church intends to say one cannot become a parent in a marriage except through conceiving through their own conjugal act — how would one then view the Holy Family?
Janet B. Cook
Lori Murphy quotes Donum Vitae in a statement she says “bears on the licitness of embryo adoption (“The Fate of Frozen Embryos,” Letters, Jan. 11-17):
“The fidelity of the spouses in the unity of marriage involves reciprocal respect of their right to become father and mother only through each other.” This right of each spouse to become a parent only through the other cannot be violated.
Really? Then does this passage not also illegitimize conventional adoption, in which spouses by common consent become father and mother not through one another? I find it hard to understand why embryo adoption is any less acceptable than conventional adoption of a born child (given, of course, that in either case the spouses must agree to this form of becoming parents so that disunity between them will not imperil their marriage).
I also find it hard to believe that the Holy Father meant to imply by this passage in Donum Vitae that adoption of a born child, especially in the case where the parents are incapable of becoming parents through one another because of infertility, is morally unacceptable. Am I missing something here?
Motivate the Mediocre
I assumed many would respond regarding George Sim Johnston's clarion call to Catholics in the column “Catholic Institutions and the Sadness of Mediocrity” (Jan. 11-17). Guess my response is due.
Yes, it is a serious problem — this fear of appearing too much a Catholic, be it in our schools, colleges, hospitals, corporate works of mercy … or in our very homes and churches. I know of a parishioner who was stalked after Mass and berated by a priest for being a “fanatic.” She (perhaps foolishly) attempted defense by stating that yes, she is a fanatic, that a fanatic is one who is devoted to the Divinity (root definition of “fanaticus”), that Jesus was a fanatic as he had a single-minded purpose with the Father and that she herself intended to follow Jesus — gloriously fanatic as it may be to do so.
That there is no more unhappy a person than a mediocre Catholic priest is evidenced in the lack of fervor — the lack of “holy fanaticism” — that we suffer in so many clergy. This unhappiness and mediocrity also oozes from men and women religious. And truly, bucketfuls of doleful, lukewarm souls are spewed out over all Catholicdom (sic) in laity who likewise choose to be “balanced” by the scales of the secular world rather than by those scales of Christ and his Church that weigh the convictions and faith of all souls for eternity.
Thankfully, some joyous priests, religious and laity of all ages shine like stars in the universe. They consciously choose to desire, pray for and practice sacrifice, obedience, fidelity and humility. They dare offer themselves as blazing realities of the Catholic faith. They are as ones possessed — possessed with zeal and fervor for souls — and will eagerly follow in the footsteps of Jesus, whose joy is incomparable because he feared not to be “too Catholic.”
It Takes Two
I was dismayed to read Tom and Caroline McDonald's response to the woman who wants another baby but whose husband insists on continuing to use natural family planning to avoid pregnancy (“Sneaky Conceptions?” Family Matters, Jan. 25-31).
The McDonalds fail to mention that the use of natural family planning is only morally licit with the consent of both spouses. Marriage is a contract in which spouses give each other full and exclusive rights over each other's body, including their life-giving faculties. It is gravely sinful to deny one's spouse this right. Although the woman's temptation to trick her husband into impregnating her would not be honest, and demanding one's rights in marriage is not always wise, at least this woman should know her rights and lovingly inform her husband — who may not realize he is sinning gravely against her.
St. Paul sums all this up: “The wife hath not power of her own body but the husband. And in like manner, the husband also hath no power of his own body but the wife. Defraud not one another, except, by consent, for a time, that you may give yourselves to prayer; and return together again” (1 Corinthians 7:4-5).
Today's contraceptive society tends to see all obstacles to having children as insurmountable, so this woman's courage in desiring to rise above such obstacles should be encouraged. That the McDonalds failed to do so should astonish any reader, especially in view of the “Culture of Life” logo printed at the top of the page.
Agnes M. Penny
I just wanted to add to the discussion about big families, “The Family as a Sign of Contradiction” (Commentary & Opinion, Oct. 19-25).
Before I became Catholic, I'd had two children, the second being born a month after my mother died. I went into a spiritual and emotional tailspin and chose to have a tubal ligation when my second child was only 7 months old. I had lots of fears and no faith. I had no idea what kind of horrible thing I'd done. I was only 27 years old.
I subsequently became Catholic within a couple years of this decision and have regretted the “mutilation” to my reproductive organs ever since. Unfortunately, having reversal surgery is not only very expensive, but it is also a risk to my health, and there's a risk of frequent ectopic pregnancies with no guarantee of carrying a baby to term.
I just wanted people to know this who assume that the small family is one decided on out of ignorance or a blatant, active, ongoing contraceptive mentality.
Just know that many of us carry this particular cross daily.
Cinematic Bait and Switch
Regarding “Family Friendly Movies Sell Better than R-Rated Ones” (Nov. 2-8):
Here are two facts: 1) Hollywood has known for a long time that movies with an R rating make, on average, less money than movies with a less-objectionable rating. 2) Since 1985, the number of R-rated movies has decreased from 81% to 42%.
There are two possible interpretations of these facts. The first is that Hollywood, in order to make more money, has simply changed the labeling of its movies so movies that previously would have been rated R are now rated (less objectionably) PG-13. The other is that Hollywood, out of a sense of morality, has changed the content of its movies so that over the years they have become more “family friendly.”
The Register article, without giving evidence, adopts the second interpretation — naïvely so, in my opinion. Parents who have kept an eye on the content of movies will think that the first interpretation is correct. The label PG-13 looks to have been a successful marketing ploy for selling very “family unfriendly” movies to adolescents.
Pray for Priests
May I share what could be a good intention for the new year? I believe we should pray for our unjustly accused priests. They are carrying a cross none of us would want to carry.
Let us also remember their accusers, as Jesus did.
What a difference a decimal makes. In “Bush Addresses Catholic Educators at White House, Pushing Vouchers” (Jan. 25-31), we misquoted President Bush as saying 99% of the “26 million” children in Catholic schools will graduate and go on to college. Head count for Catholic schools is approximately 2.6 million.
Into the Great Wide Open
President Bush's decision to send astronauts to explore the [feasibility of using the] moon as a way station to Mars sheds new light on the alleged “population crisis.” I've always had a problem with the bogus concern about world overpopulation and nonsensical scare tactics, such as people being forced to live in narrow cubicles because space has run out.
The earth has a huge amount of empty space — just drive out of the city. Technology and free-market economics have multiplied food production and created prosperity unprecedented in past ages. The fact that some people have great abundance while others are dying of hunger is a statement about the human moral and spiritual condition rather than population growth.
The late economist Julian Simon pointed out that people aren't just consumers of resources — useless eaters, as some would have it — but also thinkers who can advance human progress. “The most important benefit of population size and growth is the increase it brings to the stock of useful knowledge,” he argues. “Minds matter economically as much as, or more than, hands or mouths.”
It's this ingenuity that has created the real possibility of someday colonizing the moon, Mars and beyond — which opens up a far greater frontier than the old American West. This is something Thomas Malthus, the 19th-century prophet of population doom, would never have conceived of.
Only selfishness and violence can block or delay this bright future.
Rotterdam, New York