Thursday, March 24, 2011

Children: Begotten, Not Made

Over the past week, I have been strongly conflicted while reading the book Inconceivable.  It is about a Catholic couple who struggled with secondary fertility issues since their first child was born and turned to science in order that they may have more children.  Since men are fallible, a medical error resulted in the mother's pregnancy with a child who was not genetically hers.

On one hand, I was deeply saddened while reading what Carolyn and Sean Savage went through.  Their pain from having dreams of a large family dashed could not prepare them for the pain that was yet to come.  Carrying a child and subsequently falling in love with the boy, all while knowing that the child was to go to his genetic parents upon delivery is for most of us unimaginable.  On top of this, Carolyn had health complications and was putting herself at risk by carrying this child and giving him the gift of life.  As Carolyn noted in the book, she could legally kill the child through abortion, yet would have to give the child to his biological parents upon birth if she chose in favor of life.  Though I personally have not and would never  choose to use In Vitro Fertilization to expand my family, I can feel so much pain while reading the words of both Sean and Carolyn.  They desperately longed to do what was right for their family.  Their plans for a large family resulted in two healthy sons and two miscarriages before they decided to choose IVF to offer them hope for a larger family.  They are blessed to have a daughter who was conceived through IVF and in an attempt to further add to their family, once again underwent the implantation of three lives - embryos -which had been preserved frozen at a fertility clinic.  This is where the real nightmare began.

On the other hand, and this is where the conflict rises, they knew what the Church teaches about IVF and decided that the Church was wrong and that they were right.  They perceived a certain 'discrimination' against people who could no physically get pregnant without resorting to IVF procedures.  A look at Sacred Scripture shows that Carolyn and Sean were not alone in their longing for children.  There are perhaps dozens of instances of infertile couples struggling emotionally in the Bible.

In the Old Testament Elkanah says to his wife who was unable to conceive, "Hannah, why do you weep? And why do you not eat? And why is your heart so sad? Am I not more to you than ten sons?" Of course Elkanah's wife loved him, but she wanted to bear their child. Source

I do not wish to hurt the Savages any more than they have been hurt.  It is they who put this story into a book and over the air waves into our living rooms, so I do feel I have some sort of implicit permission to give my own perspective on their deeply personal story.

It is my hope that they will read these comments and take them with the love and concern they are intended:
  • Children are begotten, not made. 
  • Gifts are to be freely given and accepted - but never forced.  
  • You are deeply in love with a boy who is not genetically yours, and could have been as well with an adopted child.  
  • The Church does not discriminate against you because of your infertility; to the contrary her members want to help you carry the burden of the cross.
  • You made an extreme error in judgement just as everyone does.  Begin anew and put aside your anger with Church teaching. Prayerfully discern why the Church says that IVF is morally unacceptable.
  • Isaac was the only son for Abraham and Sarah, yet through his obedience, Abraham was willing to sacrifice his only son for God. 
  • Put yourself at the foot of the cross during this Lenten season and consider Mary, with her only beloved Son, knowing that he was destined to die upon a cross in order that all of humanity may be saved.  She too carried a child knowing heartbreak would be inevitable.
  • Further encouragement of others to seek IVF not only leads yourself to further separation from God through mortal sin, it also brings others to the same destination. 
  • Having children through 'any means necessary' serves yourself and your needs, disregarding God's will
  • Gestational Carrier is a horrid term and one the Savages used when they decided to have their remaining embryos transferred to another woman in further efforts to expand their family.
  • We all sin and sometimes it is with the best of intentions.  If we are off the mark according to Church teaching, it is best to further investigate where we are wrong - not the Church.
  • Catechism of the Catholic Church: 2378 A child is not something owed to one, but is a gift. The "supreme gift of marriage" is a human person. A child may not be considered a piece of property, an idea to which an alleged "right to a child" would lead. In this area, only the child possesses genuine rights: the right "to be the fruit of the specific act of the conjugal love of his parents," and "the right to be respected as a person from the moment of his conception."

EDITED 3-31-11:  A link to this blog entry was posted on the Savage's Facebook page and a storm followed.  I temporarily removed the previous bullet points, but after having read and re-read the comments made by Mrs. Savage and others, have since returned them where they were initially. There is no delicate way to tell someone that they did something wrong and to suggest alternatives.  Certainly that is the case where someone has been through difficult trauma such as Mrs. Savage experienced.  One additional note:  If a priest comments that he does not support the Church's position on IVF, one should not feel justified as many a priest has also supported gay marriage, artificial contraception, fornication, female ordination and numerous other topics against Church teaching.  No one has stated that a child brought into the world via IVF is any less precious than any other child.  It is not the child, but the means that the parents used to become pregnant that is a serious matter.  Does that mean you think a child born out of wedlock is somehow inferior?  Nonsense.  Please read the information contained in the links at the end of the entry as I have added more.
From their Facebook page (not including comments made by other individuals though some are quite interesting): 
 "It is articles like this that leave me shaking in my chair. Off to take a deep breath and say a prayer for guidance. C"
"I just hurts. I feel like the doctrine is so shortsighted and discriminatory. And, I can't count the number of priests who have whispered to us...."I don't really agree w/the church on this issue!", but are so deathly afraid to speak up and urge the hierachy to reconsider. C"
"[facebook fan], So sorry this upset you so! I just keep torchering myself and rereading it. My goodness, to say that we should have say that she would never personally choose IVF...I find it so interesting when people are quick to say what they would or wouldn't do when they have never been in a certain situation. It seems so arrogant."
"I love my church. My next blog post is about my relationship with our parish. A few Sundays ago I sat in my pew and admired all of the families that had gathered for worship. Funny thing about it was...there were many there that have IVF children. They've just never been publicly 'outed' (or chastized). It's really, really hard to reconcile right now. C"
"Interesting thing about the [Catholic Ponderings] author. I think if the church changed it's mind, she'd change her mind. She is a devoted follower. I'm not always a fan of devoted "followers". Instead, I love to read articles, blogs, and published works written by "inspired ponderers". Critical thought, prayerful reflection and the recognition of the dangers of arrogance are probably a more accurate reflection of Jesus' loving approach to mankind. I often wonder what Jesus would say about the Church of our world. My guess is, he'd be shaking his head in disappointment. C"
Inconceivable was, as mentioned, a difficult read.  It was well-crafted, alternating between Sean's perspective and that of Carolyn's, seamlessly taking you through a very painful time in their lives.  I was brought to tears over and over as the waves of painful news mounted against this loving couple who were trying to cope with unimaginable circumstances. A little boy and a family were blessed with life and yet another family was left to cope with incredible emptiness and despair at what they had hoped could have been.  +

*To read more about the Savage family or to order the book, visit their website HERE.  


For further information on Church teaching in regard to infertility treatments and IVF consult the following:

In Vitro Fertilization: Ethical Implications and Alternatives 

Catechism of the Catholic Church

NaPro Technology:  Moral and Better than IVF

In Virto Fertilization and the Hermeneutic of the Gift  by Christopher West

U.K. article: New fertility legislation will make it illegal to use embryos with a known genetic abnormality in IVF treatment

Read THIS powerful story. Yet another situation where a family is changed forever due to an IVF implantation.  This time, the mother was implanted with three fertilized eggs and found herself pregnant with triplets. Read this agonizing tale as told by the father, sharing what it was like to watch his children die in utero on a monitor after his wife insisted on aborting two of the children. 


Anonymous said...

What does God teach about making people feel bad on purpose? You are heartless for saying this, despite what you said that the Savages were "public" figures, it doesn't give you the right to judge them.
Catholics should be good and caring people, like the Savages....they are much more respectful as humans than you are.

Tami said...

You can not say you would or would not use IVF unless you were put innthat position. People nor God should not judge

Kelly said...

Anonymous: Jesus taught that we must be truthful, and sadly sometimes the truth hurts.

There is a big difference between judging another’s actions and judging the eternal state of his or her soul.
Not only Catholics, but all people should be good and caring. Being good also includes obeying the Father who knows best. I do not see where I was disrespectful to the Savages, but they did purposely and with full knowledge go directly against Church teaching. And that is the truth.

Kelly said...


You presume to know my past and present state of fertility and mis-judge my adherence to all Church teachings. If I know something I want to do goes directly against Church teaching, the Church which was founded by Christ our Savior, I look to see where I am wrong - not the Church.

What does Scripture say about judgement?

Mt 7: "With the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get."

Jn 7: "Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment"

Mt 18: Go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.

1 Cor 5: "For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside. Drive out the wicked person from among you"

Lev 19: "You shall do no injustice in judgment; you shall not be partial to the poor or defer to the great, but in righteousness shall you judge your neighbor"

The Bible exhorts us to rightly judge the behavior of others. There is a big difference between judging another’s behavior and judging the eternal state of his soul. We can judge the fruit of another one's actions, but the judgement of the eternal soul is granted from God to his only son, Jesus.

Jn 5: "The Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son, that all may honor the Son, even as they honor the Father."

My intention was not to cause pain to anyone, but as I once learned in the confessional, sometimes the truth can be very painful.

I was sent a copy of the book to read and review and I have done just that. Being a Christian is not easy and being constantly faced with concupiscence, we all fall short and at times, fail miserably. Thankfully, with a contrite heart, Jesus always welcomes us back with open arms. No one on earth is perfect and the Church is here to guide us with the aid of the Holy Spirit. When we stray away, we are not only hurting ourselves, but God.

The Church teaches that IVF is morally wrong. I didn't write the documents, the Church did.

Anonymous said...

Kelly, All the best to you and yours. Do you think there is any possiblity the church could be wrong regarding their doctrine with regards to IVF?

And what is your opinion regarding the thousands of Catholic children that were born into this world through IVF? (And, baptized, confirmed, reconciled, married, goodness...there are probably a few IVF born priests out there.)

Kelly said...

Anonymous 3/26 10:11:

Thank you and all the best to you and yours as well. Will you pray for me? I just prayed for you.

No, I do not think the Church's teachings on IVF are wrong or could be wrong.

My opinion of children born by any means: they are a blessing, to be loved and treated no different than any other child. There is no difference between a child born to an unwed mother, a child born through surrogacy, a child who is about to be aborted or a child who was left in a 'straw' frozen for decades - each needs our love, our protection and the greatest respect.

Anonymous said... if the church changed its stance on the teaching of IVF, would you change yours?

(I think it is likely that a change in doctrine is coming.)

Of course, I'll pray for you.

Kelly said...


If the Church changed its standing on the topic of IVF I would prayerfully discern the supporting documents. Only then would I possibly know. I am not a kool-aid drinker as it has been hinted at. ;)


Kelly said...

I would like to add that dialogue is good. Hot-button issues like gay marriage, female ordination, universal healthcare - can get very heated and cause people to stop listening.

Even if we cannot change a viewpoint, we must hope to help others to have empathy for the opposing view. We all have a lot to learn and may the Lord's will always be done.

Elena said...

Kelly, i just recently opined on the Savages FB page and left a review on the Amazon page. CS does not take well to any constructive criticism on this at all. That said I think you wrote a very thoughtful and thorough posting and even if it does not help the Savage family perhaps other Catholic families will be helped. Good job.

Christopher said...

Kelly, I think that you made a valid point with this article and your explanation.

Unfortunately many Catholics do not understand their faith any more and have been Disneyfied into being "nice" and not standing for "truth".