What’s Wrong with the World

The men signed of the cross of Christ go gaily in the dark.


What’s Wrong with the World is dedicated to the defense of what remains of Christendom, the civilization made by the men of the Cross of Christ. Athwart two hostile Powers we stand: the Jihad and Liberalism...read more

Against third-party reproduction

We recognize that the loss of a parent, by violence or calamity, is an indescribable and permanent agony for children. Our minds understand this fact by instant operation of analogic reason. Our social science shows it beyond all empirical doubt, such that violent or accidental death of a parent is often the standard of trauma for gauging other misfortunes by empirical means. It points, by cogent contrast, to the a normative ideal of the traditional family: married mother and father raising together their biological children.

Now to make, through calculated application of technology, a lesser but still very real condition of loss, bewilderment, privation, absence, to obtain in the life of a child, when one or both of his biological parents is removed from the outset, cannot possibly escape condemnation, should any functional argument from reason reign amongst us.

It’s bad enough when sinful liaisons result in the conception of a child whose mother and father never marry and who is condemned to live and toil under an ineffaceable disability of illegitimacy. Sexual desire being what it is, we cannot hope to be rid of illegitimacy this side of the Eschaton. Thus there are certainly times when a child already conceived needs a stable family which cannot be provided by either or both biological parents. In these cases there can be good reason for the child to be adopted and raised lovingly by those other than his biological parents.

But to deliberately set out, via commercial transaction abetted by technology, to raise a child without a father or a mother — to contract for the permanent absence of the biological parent — crowns selfish pride with inflicted harm on an innocent. To conceive the child as an object, a mere product of technology, who is kept and raised only because he passes quality control tests, whose biological siblings have been heartlessly killed or frozen indefinitely, and for whom even the biological strands of motherhood are sometimes deliberately disassociated from each other, is clearly immoral. It must be criticized. It should be outlawed.

Here two young victims of this folly reflect painfully on its ill-effects, and are moved bravely to criticize it.

“Speaking,” they write, “as two donor-conceived young women — alive because of reproductive technologies — we felt an urgent need” to defend recent public criticism of reproductive technologies. Further, “while it is important to note” that many children born by sperm or egg donation “are too young to protest their own objectification,”

We . . . are now of age and in a position to speak for ourselves . . Those of us conceived non-traditionally are full human beings with equal capacity in every regard . . . It is not our individual, case-by-case worth as humans that is debatable; rather, it is how we value human beings in general that warrants discussion. [. . .]

I am indeed a human being. My liver, heart, hair, and enzymes all work the same. I’ve discovered it is my psychology that is different and not-quite-right, due to my conception. It’s not a matter for doctors to fix; it’s a spiritual problem. My father accepted money, and promised to have nothing to do with me. My mother was wonderful and I have always loved her deeply, as she has loved me. But my journey is a battle against the void left by my father’s absence, and a particular disability in understanding the difference between sacred and commercial, exploitation and cooperation. Those torments for me far outweigh any social stigma or momentarily painful gossip I’ve endured from ignorant people. [. . .]

The lack of my biological father’s presence is a devastating reality, a burden I will likely bare my entire existence. And now, knowing the truth of my conception, when I remember my past I remember everything that was absent from it. [ . . .]

“The baby doesn’t care anything about the money,” says marriage and family therapist Nancy Verrier, regarding the issues surrounding surrogacy. “That’s not what hurts the baby. The baby is hurt by the separation, by the loss of that mother that it knows.” This ever-present realization of loss remains with both mother and child throughout their lives. Nature has ensured that mothers and children attach to one another, as it is a trait necessary to our survival; without motivation to love or instinctively care for her child, why would a mother protect her children from potential danger? She wouldn’t, and that would have heralded the end of our species. With this biological connection so immediate and meaningful, why doesn’t society view maintenance of that connection as more imperative? [ . . .]

Growing up donor-conceived, it has been a great struggle to comply with the commandment “Honor thy mother and thy father,” because in order to obey the desires of one parent we must agree to the obliteration of the other. We plead, we beg: let us honor both our mothers and fathers as essential and irreplaceable.

The wisdom of the Catechism of the Catholic Church rings powerfully in the mind. There the emphasis is not of the supposed right of a couple to have children, but real the right of children to have a mother and a father whose conjugal love conceived them, whose marriage upholds them, and whose concert of mind, mirroring their one-flesh union, undertakes to raise and nurture them.

The gift of a child

2373 Sacred Scripture and the Church's traditional practice see in large families a sign of God’s blessing and the parents' generosity.

2374 Couples who discover that they are sterile suffer greatly. “What will you give me,” asks Abraham of God, “for I continue childless?” And Rachel cries to her husband Jacob, “Give me children, or I shall die!”

2375 Research aimed at reducing human sterility is to be encouraged, on condition that it is placed “at the service of the human person, of his inalienable rights, and his true and integral good according to the design and will of God.”

2376 Techniques that entail the dissociation of husband and wife, by the intrusion of a person other than the couple (donation of sperm or ovum, surrogate uterus), are gravely immoral. These techniques (heterologous artificial insemination and fertilization) infringe the child’s right to be born of a father and mother known to him and bound to each other by marriage. They betray the spouses’ “right to become a father and a mother only through each other.”

2377 Techniques involving only the married couple (homologous artificial insemination and fertilization) are perhaps less reprehensible, yet remain morally unacceptable. They dissociate the sexual act from the procreative act. 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.”

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.”

2379 The Gospel shows that physical sterility is not an absolute evil. Spouses who still suffer from infertility after exhausting legitimate medical procedures should unite themselves with the Lord’s Cross, the source of all spiritual fecundity. They can give expression to their generosity by adopting abandoned children or performing demanding services for others. [citations omitted]

Comments (8)

Paul is correct that treating the creation of human life as an instrumentality is a great crying shame, and creating children with intent to deny them a mother or father is evil, I can’t help wonder as we enter the brave new world, indeed, and engineered embryos, of entertaining a certain ambiguity of feeling.

For example, there is talk of three person embryos now. As a man with an acute and chronic auto-immune disease that is said to be hereditary. My illness is something I would not wish upon anyone, and although I know it violates Catholic doctrine to operate upon an egg cell outside the womb, combine it with sperm cells and implant it in a uterus, I’m not sure I agree with the lottery system of human luck where some people are randomly fortunate in their genetic endowment while others like myself are condemned to inordinate suffering.

Regardless of my qualms, we know that Mankind will do as it pleases, and it will engineer its future as best it can, perhaps until a time where further tinkering is unnecessary.

This is an area of concern where God’s impassivity neither nods nor condemns. We exist in a kind of interregnum of values and Truth, and the chips will fall where they may.


As an aside, Paul, I have emailed you through this website a couple of times over the last few years and never gotten a response. Is there a reason for that or do my emails go into the ether? Just wondering.

I’m not sure I agree with the lottery system of human luck where some people are randomly fortunate in their genetic endowment while others like myself are condemned to inordinate suffering.

Agree or not, that's the way it is. It's true about all manner of things. Reproduction is just one of them.

Let's remember too that in many cases related to artificial reproduction, the alternative to "condemning" someone to suffering is throwing him--yes, that person, at the embryonic stage--into the bioincinerator. In technological reproduction, we're not talking about fixing somebody after he's born or even conceived. We're talking about making sure only the "right" people ever get born in the first place. Rather like "fighting" Down Syndrome by killing Down Syndrome babies in the womb.

Mark, I too am a man with an acute and chronic auto-immune disease. When I married and had children its heritable aspect was still vague. Of my six children, one has it.

Should I have not had children? I am sure my children don't think so - including the one now stricken with an auto-immune disease. Not only is the disease far more treatable now (at least the symptoms) than 30 years ago, but there is credible progress toward an actual cure of sorts.

Nevertheless, there is no one-size-fits-all answer to that question. There are indeed disorders so horrid, and whose likelihood for inheritance is so high, that willingly taking the chance of passing it on to a child is really problematic. The call to responsible parenthood starts well before a person marries and starts having children. It includes being responsible about whether to marry or whether to have children.

God does not give us to solve every evil we see, or can foresee. A poor man knows that his children will have less health care and lesser quality education than a rich man's children - he need not therefore decide he should not have kids at all. A lottery regarding inherited health is not intrinsically worse than a lottery regarding wealth, especially given the advances we have made to halt the effects of so many health problems. (If not for semi-modern medicine, I would have died long before marriage). Nor, for that matter, a lottery on having sensible parents, or empathetic parents, or parents that continue to love each other for their entire life-times - many people lose out on those. Such lottery is simply the human condition, the effect of a world not yet made perfect in the Second Coming.

This is an area of concern where God’s impassivity neither nods nor condemns. We exist in a kind of interregnum of values and Truth, and the chips will fall where they may.

On what basis could you say this? The intentional separation the reproduction of a human from the act of one-flesh conjugal love of married parents, the intentional sorting and discarding of less-than-optimal embryos, the commodity-trading of "better" donor's sperm, all inevitably turn the child so conceived into an object. God is not impassive about such. And it won't stop with producing children free of defects, it will surely run to production of children who are amiable, submissive, and strong but passive. Or monsters who are brilliant but unable to function outside a laboratory sustaining them. The logic of the whole enterprise cannot prevent such things.

The Catholic Church has urged a caution even to the extent of modifying the genetic code of reproductive cells while still in situ in the parent, before any act of a reproductive nature occurs. Even for merely fixing a known and recognizable disorder. Not because she claims that such an act is inherently evil, (as is IVF and all its attached sins), but because of the foreseeable consequences of breaking down this "barrier" to creating monsters. I am not sure that this urge of caution will have even a smidgeon of effect in the world (as Mark hints, scientists will do what they do without listening to words of caution). I can see plausible alternate lines of caution, such as working to create international bodies, with codes of ethics regarding making changes to genetic code, that are based on principles that even atheists could get behind. (Surely the green movements can be a help there.)

Why do you think that a child conceived in vitro is a *mere* product of technology? What a perverse conclusion to draw!

No, the child is a victim. The child has been _treated_ as a product of technology, which is wrong. Just as a chattel slave was a victim. What was wrong with chattel slavery was that it was _treating_ people as property. Saying that technological reproduction treats human beings as mere products is no more insulting the victims of that treatment (the children thus produced) than saying that chattel slavery treats people as mere property is insulting the victims (the slaves).


I have a child, and wish I had had more, and the treatment for my disease has improved a good deal, also (although very expensive). What I mean by interregnum of values is that we are living in a post-Christian West now, and so Christian morality has been chucked out the door.

There may be ways for science to work on correcting genetic abnormalities and defects without violating Catholic doctrine, by inventing methods of re-engineering people’s DNA after their creation, or prior to it by engineering the parents egg and sperm cells in their bodies. That would certainly be the moral way of going about alleviating suffering and misery that is genetic, but that method might be more difficult, and we know people prefer taking shortcuts when they can.

The Chinese apparently believe they can engineer high IQ people and are aiming at doing that (although the higher the IQ, generally the greater independence of mind and spirit, which would make the program boomerang on the State, perhaps).

The fear of creating “monsters” or weak willed and submissive people is somewhat misplaced since humanity and societies already do a formidable job of creating psychopaths, sociopaths, extreme narcissists or masses of submissives (see Chinese again and our own mass of white Christians who have thrown away their birthright of liberty and primacy of faith).

People want to create (and control) heaven on earth. Nothing will stop them from eternally trying; and in failing, they make more misery, enough to go around. The world is a madhouse. I’m looking forward to a better realm.

Absolutely in agreement. Synthetic children is a phenomena that cannot be allowed to go forward. Principally today, it is a tool of sexual generates to get their hands children to molest. Surrogacy should also be outlawed. A recent story told of as woman who was conceiving a child for her homosexual son, making her both his mother and grandmother. This is diabolical, demonic, and anti-Traditional.

A child is NOT a right, it is a gift

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