Friday, August 31, 2007

"Si iniquitates observaveris"

I absolutely love polyphonic chant so when I found this clip I had to post it. They really do an excellent job sight reading the piece. Enjoy!

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

More on Prenatal Testing

Here again the question of a vanishing line has arisen (see previous post on the issue), but now the risk is presented physically rather than solely mentally. Truly how many of the other invasive tests and procedures are necessary when it comes to the well being of our unborn children, in addition, how many of these everyday procedures have had harmful side effects without our knowledge? Just something to continue pondering. Thank you Colleen for bringing this article to my attention. Also below is a preceding and connected article that briefly addresses the subject matter.

160 Healthy Babies Lost for Every 50 Down's Cases Detected with Amniocentesis

Hilary White
LONDON, August 21, 2007

The risks of amniocentesis to the unborn child have long been known but now a new analysis by a British doctor has shown that using the tests in seek-and-destroy missions for Down's syndrome and other genetic
abnormalities results in the deaths of hundreds of healthy babies every year in Britain.

Dr. Hylton Meire, the retired physician and author of texts on ultrasound, calculates that for every 50 children with Down's Syndrome successfully identified and killed by abortion, 160 non-affected babies are lost by miscarriage after the test. His paper, published in the Journal of the British Medical Ultrasound Society, mainly emphasizes that the non-invasive test, called the foetal 'nuchal thickness' measurement, is not as useful as is widely thought because of the high incidents of false positives it gives.

In obstetrics, it is now standard practice to offer pregnant women the non-invasive test that measures the fluid at the back of the child's neck. Combined with the age of the mother, the test results in a number taken to indicate the possibility that the child has Down's. If the number is high enough, the mother is offered an
amniocentesis, a test in which a needle is inserted into the abdomen and a sample of amniotic fluid is drawn off and analyzed.

With about one in every 1000 children conceived having Down’s syndrome, and with amniocentesis carrying a one in 200 risk of miscarriage, Dr. Meire, wrote in the Journal Ultrasound that if all pregnant women took the amniocentesis test as many as 3,200 healthy babies could die by miscarriage every year.

There are about 30,000 amniocentesis tests done every year in the UK.

In North America, earlier this year, both the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) and the Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists of Canada (SOGC) has recommended that all pregnant
women, not just those over 35, should be screened, including with amniocentesis.

All Pregnant Women Should “Screen” for Down’s Syndrome – American and Canadian Ob Gyn Colleges

Hilary White
OTTAWA, January 11, 2007

Canadian group admits screening intended to give women option to abort child with Down’s Syndrome

In the same month, both the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) and the Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada (SOGC) are recommending that all pregnant women, not just those over 35, should be screened, including with invasive procedures such as amniocentesis, to discover whether they have a risk of bearing a child with Down’s Syndrome.

While the ACOG media release does not directly mention abortion as the usual fate of the “screened” babies, a SOGC official readily admits that the Canadian recommendation was specifically intended to give women the option to abort a child with Down’s Syndrome.

“Yes, it's going to lead to more termination, but it's going to be fair to these women who are 24 who say, 'How come I have to raise an infant with Down's syndrome, whereas my cousin who was 35 didn't have to?’” Dr. Andre Lalonde, the executive vice president of the SOGC, told the National Post.

Dr. Lalonde said the only ethical consideration is to ensure that an abortion is “what the woman wants”. “We have to be fair to give women a choice,” he said.

The National Post says that SOGC’s recommendation, to be released in the society's journal on February 1, is that pregnant women under 40 “be given” non-invasive screening and amniocentesis if their risk for Down's syndrome appears high. Pregnant women over the age of 40 should “automatically be given amniocentesis” the Post reports.

On January 2, ACOG’s media release said women should automatically “be offered” the option of “less invasive” screening, such as genetic counseling and ultrasounds, as well as the more dangerous amniocentesis or chorionic villus sampling (CVS) to detect any possible “chromosome abnormality or…inherited condition”.

Canada’s pro-life leaders expressed outrage at the eugenic implications of the recommendations.

Jim Hughes, National President of CLC responded to SOGC saying, “More than 3 million babies have already been killed by abortion. Sex-selection is quickly becoming an option and a threat to the unborn, and now the medical profession, that is supposed to save lives, is proposing to terminate lives based on its medical version of acceptability.”

Joseph Boyle, a professor teaching Christian bioethics at the University of Toronto told the National Post that though having more information is itself a good thing, the ethics depends upon what is done with it.

“Other than having an abortion if the child is discovered to have Down's,” he said, “what good is that information going to be?”

ACOG says the goal is to “offer procedures with “high detection rates and low false positive rates” and admits that the invasive amniocentesis and CVS procedures can result in what they call “pregnancy loss.”

Dr. James Goldberg, a former chairman of ACOG’s committee on genetics, told the New York Times that the recommendation to offer younger women the invasive procedures was worth the risk of miscarriage.

He said that for most couples, “losing a normal pregnancy secondary to the procedure is not as problematic as the birth of a Down syndrome child, so they’re willing to take that risk.”

The ACOG guidelines were published in the January edition of journal Obstetrics and Gynecology.

Friday, August 24, 2007

"Raising 14 Kids"

Raising 14 Kids

Michelle Duggar

Parent Magazine
September 2003

If you think your life is hectic, consider what it's like raising (and home-schooling) this many children! Here, one mom shares the story of her family -- and her faith.

Compared with the average American family, ours is very unusual. My husband, Jim Bob, and I have 14 children. We've been blessed with nine boys and five girls, including two sets of twins. Our oldest son, Joshua, is 15. The youngest, Justin, is 10 months. We are evangelical Christians and decided to let God dictate the size of our family. To us, each child is a joy, a gift from the Lord.

We live in a part of the country where many people share our beliefs -- Springdale, a city of 50,000 in northwest Arkansas. Like many families we know, we home-school our kids. We feel it's the best way to teach our Christian values. Above all, we want to inspire our children to turn their hearts toward God.

Plenty of parents get frazzled with only a couple of children, so people wonder how we can possibly take care of 14. Believe it or not, I don't find it all that difficult. One key is organization. A huge master schedule for all the kids' activities nearly covers a door in our kitchen. I also keep a weekday schedule for each child. Jim Bob doesn't work a typical 9 to 5 job: He's a real-estate investor and is involved in local politics. He served in our state legislature for four years and last year ran unsuccessfully in the U.S. Senate primary. He's busy, but he manages to find time to come home during the day to help out

Our household runs smoothly because everyone pitches in. Each older child acts as a "buddy" to a younger one. In the morning, the older siblings make sure their younger buddies are changed, washed, and dressed. They watch over them at meals, help them with their schoolwork, and even put them down for naps. The older kids have other chores too, like cleaning the garage and helping prepare meals. We view chores as opportunities to serve the family -- and to serve God.

Our mornings are busy: I nurse the baby, get the kids breakfast, and then we come together for morning prayers. After that, the older kids might do schoolwork or practice the violin or piano. I do chores and try to keep the little ones occupied. In the afternoon, I conduct our school. We work on some subjects as a group, and I also give each child projects appropriate for his or her grade level. Our curriculum emphasizes character -- honesty, integrity, initiative, and responsibility. Our motto is "Joy" -- for Jesus first, others second, yourself last.

We usually all eat dinner together at around 5 p.m. The three oldest plan and prepare evening meals. They like to do that because they get to choose the menus! Our day ends with baths and then Bible study with Daddy. The boys sleep in the master bedroom, and the girls sleep in a room with bunk beds. (Jim Bob and I have a small room, but we're in the process of building a bigger house, so soon we'll all have more space.) Once the kids are in bed, Jim Bob and I have a little time alone together. Our schedule is less hectic on the weekends, with Saturdays for rest and Sundays for worship.

Everyday tasks like grocery shopping are more complicated when you're doing them for 16 people. We spend about $1,500 a month on food. The last time we went shopping, we filled five carts! Our dry pantry is stuffed with 50-pound bags of rice and beans. We've also got two deep freezers and an industrial-size fridge. When fruit goes on sale, we might buy seven bags of apples and five bags of oranges at a time. That fruit could be gone in two or three days.

For the laundry, I have a wonderful friend from church who comes by twice a week to help. We've got two washers, three dryers, and one giant closet where we store clothes for the entire family. When we go out to eat, it takes a couple of hours to get everybody ready. The kids sometimes dress in matching outfits to help us keep track of them -- they've got 10 matching sets. We also feel that dressing alike unifies us. As far as cars, we have a bus that seats 24. For smaller trips, we've got a 15-passenger van. And we also have a mobile home for vacations.

I know people wonder how we are able to support such a large family: For one thing, our real-estate investments have been successful. But we also live modestly -- and debt-free. Like the Bible says, "Let no debt remain outstanding except the continuing debt to love one another." Almost everything we buy is secondhand or from estate sales. I sew a lot of our clothing. We're saving for our children's education, but we figure only some will want to go to college. Others might go into the ministry or learn a trade. I really don't worry about money. God provides amazingly for us. If our children turn toward Him, I believe He will do the same for them. People also ask us what the children think about shouldering so much responsibility. I tell them that this is the only life my children have known. I don't think they resent their workload. The older ones like to be needed and looked up to, and the younger children love their buddies. The little ones always have someone to play with. When the kids fight, I usually encourage them to settle their problems on their own. If they can't, I'll take away the toy they're fighting over for a few days. They get a lot of opportunities to practice sharing and taking turns.

I realize our lifestyle isn't for everyone. Last year, I was pregnant, nursing a child, and looking after 12 more. A lot of people wonder, "How do you manage?" But this is my calling; this is what I love.

When Jim Bob and I got married 19 years ago, we didn't expect to have this many children: I'm the youngest of seven; my husband is one of two. But now, we think it's possible that we'll have even more. As far as we're concerned, that would be wonderful. We really desire to receive as many gifts as the Lord wants to give us.

The Duggars!!!

Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar are my new heroes! I find this homeschooling, southern family of now 19, an inspiration! Currently living in Arkansas, the Duggars illustrate the fullness received by always remaining open to life. They proudly display to the world the joy and blessings of having, what some might suggest to be too many, children. I can only pray that Phillip and I would be so blessed.

"Body weight and infertility linked"

Body weight and infertility linked

Penelope Debelle, Adelaide

The Age, Australia
August 24, 2007

RESEARCH has confirmed the empirical link between obesity and infertility by showing the "fat eggs" of obese women do not develop into healthy embryos.

The eggs were damaged by high levels of fat and cholesterol, which made diet a key factor in infertility, according to research by PhD student Cadence Minge from the Adelaide University Research Centre for Reproductive Health. The eggs of female mice, which were fed a high-fat diet that made them insulin-resistant and pre-diabetic, were harvested and grown in vitro but were unable to develop into healthy embryos. "They were much slower to divide and grow," Ms Minge said. "And the way that the cells developed was also disturbed."

Ms Minge said scientists were yet to understand exactly why the "fat eggs" were infertile and how they were damaged. But her research had established that a protein in cells that surrounded and nourished the egg was linked to the induced fertility and its effect could be reversed by using an anti-diabetic drug such as rosiglitazone (marketed as Avandia). The drug activated the protein that helped the egg to mature before its release so that normal embryo development function was restored. However, Ms Minge said the drug had side effects and was not advocated as "a quick fix" for infertile women.

"The rosiglitazone findings are of great significance for scientists researching egg maturation within the ovary. But at this stage, the research findings have only been made in mice," she said. "Also, the drug itself can have possible harmful side effects and more research is needed to find other, safer ways of activating the protein." She said weight loss was by far the most effective way to restore fertility and even shedding five to 10 kilograms was enough to trigger ovulation in obese women who had ceased to ovulate.

Mother Teresa of Calcutta

Mother Teresa was a truly extraordinary woman that was the epitome of a servant after Christ. Below are a few of my favorite quotes from her and an extremely exciting article discussing her possible canonization during this year.

“What I do you cannot do; but what you do, I cannot do. The needs are great, and none of us, including me, ever do great things. But we can all do small things, with great love, and together we can do something wonderful.”

“Spread love everywhere you go: First of all in your own house... let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier. Be the living expression of God's kindness; kindness in your face, kindness in your eyes, kindness in your smile, kindness.”

“We the willing, led by the unknowing, are doing the impossible for the ungrateful. We have done so much, with so little, for so long, we are now qualified to do anything, with nothing.”

"Everybody today seems to be in such a terrible rush, anxious for greater developments and greater riches and so on, so that children have very little time for their parents. Parents have very little time for each other, and in the home begins the disruption of peace of the world."

"How can there be too many babies? That's like saying there are too many flowers."

St. Teresa of Calcutta This Year?

Lay Group Prays for Anticipated Canonization

August 23, 2007

This is the year for the canonization of Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, or so hopes a group of Catholics in Calcutta.

The Catholic Association of Bengal, the largest lay organization of the Archdiocese of Calcutta, has declared 2007 the Year for the Canonization of Mother Teresa, AsiaNews reported.

The organization launched a two-week prayer campaign today, which will lead up to the 10th anniversary of the nun's death, with plans to continue the initial celebration until Sept. 23.

Mother Teresa of Calcutta, who founded the Missionaries of Charity, died Sept. 5, 1997, and was beatified in October 2003.

The organization's chairman, Eugene Gonsalves, told AsiaNews: "More than three years have passed since the title of 'blessed' was conferred on our beloved Mother Teresa.

"During her life, Mother was a living saint to many. There is no doubt that she is already a 'saint' to many more around the world.

"Sainthood for Mother Teresa in a real sense may not be far away as many miracles are happening by her intercession."

Gonsalves said the year will include special prayer services and celebrations of the Eucharist in different churches and institutions, to be announced in the coming months.

"We shall welcome everyone, poor and rich alike, as she did, without distinctions of faith, nationality or caste," Gonsalves said, all as "a sign of harmony, unity and devotion to Mother Teresa."

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Ethical Answers to Infertility 5

The Gift of Infertility, Part 4

Dr. Jameson and Jennifer Taylor

Catholic Exchange
August 19, 2007

Part one of this series discussed natural family planning (NFP) as a means of treating infertility and introduced readers to the basics of artificial reproductive technologies (ART). Parts two and three explained the Church's teaching on human sexuality, with special attention paid to the link between infertility treatments and the contraceptive mentality. A Response to Readers clarified the Church's teaching on the use of Intrauterine Insemination (IUI). Here, we enter into the heart of the mystery of infertility. If, as the Church teaches, children are the "supreme gift" of marriage, how are couples (like us) to understand their infertility as a gift?

Infertility: A Gift?
Tears were streaming down my face and they were not tears of joy. Clutching the freezer door with my left hand, I stood holding a tiny test tube in my right. With each attempt to spit, I struggled to see if my tears or my saliva were filling the vial. At any minute, I was sure I was going to fall beneath the weight of the pain. Only the cold of the door handle between my fingers kept me focused on the task. "They want a stress test as part of my infertility workup," I thought to myself. "Well, they're sure going to get it!" It was the week of my 30th birthday, and I'd never been more miserable.

The first year of our marriage seemed like an extension of our honeymoon. Jameson had a good job, and I was working part-time from home in expectation of soon becoming a mom. When we hadn't conceived after six months, we suspected something was wrong. Yet, we continued to hope that "things just hadn't come together yet" and "it wasn't the right time." Still not pregnant and nearing a year of marriage, I called one of the NFP organizations. "Give it a little more time," they said, "and if, after a year you're still not pregnant, go and see an NFP specialist."

Traditionally, primary infertility is defined as the inability to conceive after 12 months of noncontraceptive, targeted intercourse. We've come to learn, however, that for couples who are charting (or women over 35) the time frame is 6 months. If you have concerns about your ability to conceive, it's never too early to make an appointment with an NFP doctor.

Several months later, we finally met with one of the best NFP doctors in the country. Just like that, we were caught up in a whirlwind of testing — the spit test I mentioned above, as well as semen analyses and blood tests — and a strict schedule of targeted conjugal relations.

By now, we'd been married almost two years, and Jameson had been laid off. Then, I lost my part-time job; a publisher pulled out of a book contract we were counting on; and my parents lost the family farm. In the meantime, we switched doctors and started learning about the Creighton Model System. While we remain among the small percentage of couples who haven't conceived through Creighton's "NaProTechnology," thanks to our Creighton doctor we discovered that I have hyperprolactemia (elevated levels of prolactin). This condition, however, is also associated with brain tumors. Thus in addition to my already scheduled tests and surgeries — hysterosalpingogram, laparoscopy, transvaginal songrams, to name a few — I also had to have an MRI.

"It's no wonder you don't have kids," people would tell us. "Look at the stress you're under." As if having a good job or a book deal would result in having a baby. Sure, stress is a key factor related to infertility, but other people under stress seem to get pregnant easily. Besides, we'd enjoyed a time in our marriage when our stress levels were low. We'd also given up caffeine and alcohol; lost weight; taken Clomid; taken progesterone shots; targeted our intercourse — the list goes on and on. And still no baby.

Do we feel as if we've been handed a gift, or that any of this makes sense? Often, no. Our infertility makes no sense outside of God's plan for our lives — for us as an infertile couple. For all of us as infertile couples.

Part of the pain of being infertile lies in the struggle to understand how God can give us the desire to have children, and then prevent us from realizing this desire. Or, for those of you suffering from secondary infertility, how God can give you a baby only to take it away again. It's no wonder that, as we wrote in part one of our series, "infertile couples report equivalent levels of anxiety and depression as women with cancer, HIV status or heart disease" and that "the majority of infertile women report that infertility is the most upsetting experience of their lives."

The Gift of Faith
As if to add insult to injury, some time later we discovered that my prolactin levels had receded back to a "healthy level." Still, we were not conceiving. Just in case, our doctor ordered another semen analysis. While previous tests had come back as "essentially normal," the new specimens showed a defect with Jameson's sperm. At least three sperm tests are necessary to get an accurate picture of the health of a man's sperm. Even then, men produce new sperm every three months, so trouble can arise at any time. For us, this time came just as my own problems had apparently disappeared.

Soon after, the day came — a little more than a year ago — when our doctor told us he couldn't do anymore for us. "I have no other means of helping you. I've consulted all the experts. I don't know what to tell you," he whispered. The finality of it all was numbing. After a moment, our doctor continued, "I'm praying through this book. It's changed my life. It's called The Gift of Faith, by Father Tadeusz Dajczer. This is not a book you read. It's a book you pray — one you have to go over little by little because it's so tough."

We didn't read the book right away (as if a book could console our pain). For his part, Jameson felt as if God had tricked him. "God's a jokester," he protested. "Before we got married, I saw my children in my prayers. God's message to me was very clear: He told me I was called to the vocation of marriage and that I'd have kids. He duped me!"

What's God Doing to Us?
Once we finally did read The Gift of Faith, we were inspired by what we found. According to Fr. Dajczer, God often "does just the opposite of what we would expect." In our case, we expected God to give us children because we were being faithful. The fact that God wasn't living up to His part of the bargain proved He couldn't be trusted. Our experience of infertility had thus distorted our image of God, which, as Fr. Dajczer explained, had been preventing our abandonment to Him. How could we abandon ourselves to a God who seemed so unfair? Fr. Dajczer helped us see that what we were most afraid of — was not what God was doing to us — but what he was trying to do with us. What we feared, in other words, was that our infertility might actually be part of God's plan for our lives, a gift from God necessary to the working out of our salvation.

Book in hand, Jameson rounded the corner into our office and declared, "Infertility is a gift." "I thought God was a jokester," I responded. "I do feel that way sometimes," he said, "but let's be serious for a moment. We know we're infertile. That's a fact. So, let's talk about what we're going to do about it now that we've been told there's nothing we can do about it."

Our choice was to give up hope or abandon ourselves to God, trusting Him completely. Sadly, many couples reject God's gift of infertility and turn instead to the world of artificial reproductive technologies. Others abandon themselves to their own suffering, becoming enmeshed in their pain. We wanted neither, so we decided to write, with the hope of understanding what God wanted from us. "You need to give God everything," counsels Fr. Dajczer. "You need to know how to give Him, that which is His; that is the program of our conversion." So it was. We had to give God ourselves — and our infertility.

Not long after, we had coffee with Fr. Mitch Pacwa of EWTN. While discussing our infertility, he told us that it seems as if God is asking infertile couples to do penance for the sins against life committed by others. "It's a sort of divine fasting," he said. "Would I fast if God asked me to?" I wondered. "God isn't a God of imposition — He created us with free will — so why didn't He ask me?" Without realizing it, I answered out loud, "He's trusting you." The choice comes in how we respond to God's offer.

The Gift of Infertility
As the mystery of the gift of our infertility has begun to unfold before us, we have come to see that children are not the only gift of marriage. Infertility, too, is a great and mysterious blessing. Just as much as fertility, infertility is a gift husband and wife can give one another. It is an affirmation that: "I still love you. I love all of you. And I refuse to allow anything to come between this love, whether it be fertility or infertility." Infertility is also a gift couples can give to God and to the world. Like Christ's crucifixion, infertility is a sign of contradiction in a culture in which human life has lost its value.

Instead of giving children to God, infertile families can give their suffering to Him, their unfulfilled longing to conceive a baby. God will use this suffering to glorify His name and bring about the salvation of souls (cf. Jn. 9:1-3). Likewise, infertility is the gift God gives couples for the salvation of their own souls, as well as the souls of any children they might eventually adopt. To reject this gift is to reject the specific means by which God wills to lead us to Heaven.

Of course, this is not to say that infertile couples shouldn't use every licit means they can to conceive a child or bring a baby to term. We also do not mean to imply that every infertile couple is called to adopt. Adoption is not a "cure" for infertility because even after you adopt you remain infertile. Each of us, however, is called to "give everything to God," and to serve Him, even in the weakness of infertility.

Given that children are the "supreme gift of marriage," it might seem strange to think of infertility as a blessing. No doubt, infertility contradicts nature's intention. The gift of infertility, however, is one that transcends the natural order. It is a sign of divinity, of God's power to bring life out of a situation where nature is powerless. In this way, infertile spouses are like empty vessels, vessels that can be filled only by the intangible gift of grace. Even more so than those who can have biological children, the infertile couple is called by God to be a channel of spiritual fecundity (CCC 2379). As such, these couples are a sign to the world that the fullness of life is found in the gift of love, rather than mere physical existence.

This is not to demean in any way the generosity of large families. Although their sacrifices generally go unappreciated, these families are nonetheless a tangible manifestation of love. Part of the pain of infertility, however, is that it is an invisible sign. In our culture, most people assume that if you don't have kids you're contracepting. If you're infertile, they suppose you can easily correct the problem through artificial means. The physical and spiritual suffering caused by infertility is usually hidden. To use an analogy, the generosity of the couple who chooses to have a large family is like a brightly burning sun whose beams produce beautiful flowers that everyone can see and admire. While their love might shine just as brightly, the infertile family has no flowers of its own. Yet, as Fulton Sheen perceives: "There is no sign unless something happens contrary to nature. The brightness of the sun is no sign, but an eclipse is."

Like an eclipse, the sign of infertility is incomprehensible without the gift of faith. It is a sign that is usually missed because it is veiled by disappointment and failure. God, however, is the master of bringing success out of failure and life out of death. If we allow God to reveal Himself in the poverty of our infertility, He will give us a harvest of flowers more beautiful than we could sow on our own. Oftentimes these flowers are not meant for us to keep, but to give to others. For the unwed mother, infertile couples impart the gift of hope. For the couple delaying childbirth, infertile families provide motivation. For the orphan, infertile couples present the chance of new life. Recommends the Church: "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" (CCC 2379).

Just as with physical fertility, spiritual fecundity requires the elimination of any barriers of bitterness, resentment and discouragement that might be obstructing your relationship with God. Although it's okay to be angry with God, at some point it's necessary to "forgive" Him. Ultimately this "forgiveness" rests in realizing that God has not committed an offense against us in allowing us to be infertile. The fruit of such forgiveness is trust.

God will forgive you, too, for not trusting Him — whether by using contraception, or in vitro fertilization, or, as is easy to do, letting the desire to have a child become a god in itself.

Forgiveness is the fruit of prayer, which is also a gift of infertility. Without prayer, the heart will never be able to discover, as one anonymous infertile woman puts it, that God is enough to love. Because we can't understand why God doesn't give us what we want, we often go in search of it on our own. By doing so, we risk overlooking the shocking truth that the gift of infertility is God Himself.

Infertility Terms You Need to Know

(Primary) Infertility: The standard medical definition of infertility is the inability to conceive after 12 months of noncontraceptive, targeted intercourse, but for couples who are charting (or women over 35) the time frame is 6 months. The definition should also include mothers unable to carry any pregnancy to term.

Secondary Infertility: The inability to conceive and/or carry a baby to term after doing so at least once before.

Sterility: A permanent condition inhibiting conception.

Zygote: A fertilized egg in the single-cell phase — i.e., an undivided fertilized egg.

Embryo: A fertilized egg that has begun the division process that will result in a fully formed person; used by scientists to refer to a baby until it reaches the fetal stage.

Fetus: Term used by the scientific community to refer to a preborn child 8 weeks or older.

ART (Assisted Reproductive Technologies): Any procedure in which both eggs and semen are extracted from a woman and a man and manipulated with the intention of producing a baby.

IVF (In Vitro Fertilization): From the Latin, "in glass," the fertilization of an egg with a sperm in an artificial environment, namely a petri dish, and the subsequent implantation of the embryo in the uterus.

AIH (Homologous Artificial Insemination): Injection of a husband's processed semen into his wife's genital tract.

AID (Heterologous Artificial Insemination): Injection of a donor's (not the husband) processed semen into a married woman's genital tract.

IUI (Intrauterine Insemination): Technique by which processed sperm are injected into the uterus with a catheter.

Multifetal Pregnancy Reduction: A euphemism used to describe the abortion of one or more children (at 8 to 12 weeks) sharing the same womb. Unlike most abortions, the dead baby's body is resorbed by the mother's body.

Embryo Cryopreservation: The freezing of leftover embryos produced via IVF.

Assisted Hatching: An IVF technique of micromanipulation that uses an acidic solution to dissolve the shell around a 2- to 3-day-old embryo to improve chances of implantation.

ICSI (Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection): A technique by which a single sperm is injected in vitro into an extracted egg; used in cases of acute male infertility.

GIFT (Gamete Intrafallopian Transfer): An ART procedure in which multiple eggs and processed semen are placed into a catheter and then injected into the fallopian tubes so that fertilization may occur.

ZIFT (Zygote Intrafallopian Transfer): An ART procedure in which multiple eggs are actually fertilized in the laboratory with processed semen; the resulting zygotes are then injected into the fallopian tubes. Also known as PROST, pronuclear stage transfer.

TOTS (Tubal Ovum Transfer with Sperm): An ART procedure in which semen is collected from a perforated condom (rather than masturbation) and placed with one or more eggs into a tube where they are kept separate from one another by an air bubble. The semen and eggs are then injected into the fallopian tubes. This technique is rarely performed anymore.

Where to Turn for Help

Natural Family Planning Techniques

The Creighton Model System (NaProTechnology)

Pope Paul VI Institute for the Study of Human Reproduction

Phone: (402) 390-6600



The Couple to Couple League International, Inc. (Sympto-Thermal Method)

Phone: (513) 471-2000 or (800) 745-8252


Billings Ovulation Method Association (BOMA-USA)

Phone: (651) 699-8139



Locate an NFP Center or Teacher Near You

One More Soul

Phone: (800) 307-7685



Further Reading

The Bible and Birth Control, Charles D. Provan

Donum Vitae, Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith

Empty Womb, Aching Heart, Marlo Schalesky (While some couples profiled in this book have used artificial technologies, reading their personal struggles with infertility might prove helpful.)

Fertility Cycles and Nutrition, Marilyn M. Shannon

Full of Grace: Women and the Abundant Life, Johnnette S. Benkovic

Humanae Vitae, Pope Paul VI

Monday, August 13, 2007

Ethical Answers to Infertility 4

The Gift of Infertility Part 3

Dr. Jameson and Jennifer Taylor

Catholic Exchange
August 12, 2007

While natural family planning (NFP) is not always effective for couples (like us) who are trying to conceive naturally (see part one of this series), the Church has good reasons for its teaching on human sexuality (see part two and our "Response to Readers"). Nevertheless, many couples believe they can use intrauterine insemination (IUI) and in vitro fertilization (IVF) without violating their consciences or their faith, because, after all, such techniques create life, not destroy it.

Flirting with Danger

Proponents of artificial reproductive technologies (ART) often argue that IUI and IVF are actually "pro-life." The thinking behind this assertion is that every endeavor aimed at bringing forth new life promotes the dignity of life. Of course, all orthodox Christians, both Catholic and Protestant, agree life begins at conception. For this reason, Dr. Dobson recommends that couples using IVF fertilize and insert only as many eggs as they are willing to keep, and no more than three. "To fertilize and implant more than three," reckons Dobson, "would unacceptably increase the risk of pregnancies of quadruplets or more, pregnancies which carry high risk for both mother and babies."

These dangers are significant. According to the CDC, even twins, who comprise 30 percent of ART births, "are still at substantially greater risk for illness and death than singletons." Dr. Eric Surrey, president of the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology, cautions: "Twin pregnancies are at a three- to five-fold greater risk for pregnancy complications and perinatal mortality compared to carrying one fetus. With triplets, there is at least a seven-fold greater risk." Low-birth weights and neurological diseases, such as cerebral palsy, are also far more common in twins and other multiple-infant births. In addition, women using ART, especially when combined with drugs that cause ovarian hyperstimulation, are putting their "health and lives in jeopardy," warn Drs. Marie Anderson and John Bruchalski. "Since there is no regulatory agency to oversee the industry, women are treated as research subjects, given drugs that pose an unknown risk."

While pro-life Christians who resort to IUI or IVF would never consider having an abortion, they should keep in mind that the reproductive technology industry is institutionally dependent upon the destruction of human life. On average, women 35 and younger are impregnated with three to five embryos per cycle. Most IVF specialists discourage couples from transferring just one embryo, but approximately 66 percent of all ART births are singletons. At the same time, the overall live-birth success rate for ART is 29 percent. Hence, well over 70 percent of all embryos created through ART do not survive. Thousands more children that reach the fetal stage are killed via selective or "multifetal pregnancy" reduction, a euphemism used to refer to a first trimester abortion. Although the CDC does not disclose the exact number of multifetal reductions each year, the number of multifetal pregnancies accounting for miscarriages and induced abortions exceeds the number of multiple births by approximately 10 percent. A 1993 study found that 31 percent of multifetal pregnancies ended with miscarriage while 27 percent ended with selective reduction.

With experts complaining about an "epidemic of multiple births," physicians feel pressure to keep their multibirth rate low. As reported by the San Francisco Chronicle, "The creation and destruction of human embryos is part and parcel of modern infertility treatments, reflecting both the inherent inefficiency of human reproduction and efforts by fertility clinics to keep costs down and success rates as high as possible" (Aug. 20, 2001, A-1).

It is estimated that as many as one million embryos have been destroyed since IVF was introduced in the United States in 1981. Over 500 embryos alone lost their lives to produce the first "test tube baby," Louise Brown, in 1978. Currently, more than 400,000 embryos are frozen.

Even if a couple follows Dr. Dobson's advice and transfers only as many embryos as they are willing to carry to term, they are still unintentionally cooperating with the murder of nascent human life. To begin with, these couples are benefiting from technologies that would not exist without embryonic research, research many of these same couples oppose. Additionally, they are lending financial and social support to a system that dishonors life by encouraging such practices as selective reduction (i.e., abortion), cryopreservation and genetic selection. Finally, couples who use ART tacitly buy into the abortion-driven myth that life begins upon implantation, rather than conception. After all, no one sends out pregnancy announcements when their baby is still "in vitro." Yet the debate over when life begins — at conception or implantation — is one of the great divides that separate the culture of life from the culture of death.

I've Got the Power
Ironically, many of the couples using IUI and IVF in their late twenties and mid-thirties were contracepting earlier in their marriage. This is because IUI and IVF are the logical counterparts of the contraceptive mentality, whose fundamental tenet is that women enjoy total control over their fertility. The following comment from one infertile woman perfectly epitomizes this view: "I'm not a control freak, but it's one area of my life that I thought I'd always have control over. You know, I was on the pill for five years before we started trying to have a baby. ... Five years I thought I was in control of my fertility. When I didn't get pregnant, it came as quite a shock" (Handbook of Families & Health, SAGE Publications, 103).

Predictably, the Catholic Church is criticized from both sides: When it's convenient, couples tell the Church that they should be allowed to contracept; when they change their mind, they tell the Church that she should permit them to use IUI and IVF. Either way, the Church is accused of being archaic and narrow. Rather, it is the view that separates the procreative and unitive aspects of marital intercourse that is truly "narrow." Such a view reduces the sexual act to being either primarily for the sake of unity or primarily for the sake of reproduction. The Church alone, in her wisdom, refuses to divide the two.

The Church refuses to divide what God has joined because she does not have the power to do so (cf. Mt. 19:6). The possession of such power would enable man to become like God (cf. Gn. 3:5). In fact, this premise underlies the scientific revolution, which promises man total control over nature, even human nature and human sexuality. Some might argue that the power science gives man comes from God, but not every thing invented by man is for his own good. This does not mean that technology cannot be used to assist the reproductive process, but that such assistance must never be divorced from the recognition that all life is a gift.

In accepting the gift of life, man agrees to respect the means by which life should be transmitted. A man who gave his wife a diamond ring, for instance, would be horrified if she used it as a drill bit. Likewise, a gift should not be opened before its time; rather the gift-giver chooses when and how to give the gift. As Donum Vitae reminds us: "The child is not an object to which one has a right, nor can he be considered as an object of ownership: rather, a child is a gift, 'the supreme gift' and the most gratuitous gift of marriage" (II, 8).

If children are "the supreme gift of marriage," how are couples to understand their infertility as a gift? The fourth and final part of this series will discuss the heart of the mystery of infertility and provide additional resources for those who want more information.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Saint Dominic on Prayer

Fisheaters has this description of Saint Dominic's nine prayer forms online, the original author, however, was anonymous. I absolutely love the accompanying illustrations and the last state for prayer is my favorite. Perhaps each of us will be able to incorporate one or more of his modes into our daily prayer routines.

Holy teachers like Augustine, Ambrose, Gregory, Hilary, Isidore, John Chrysostom, John Damascene, Bernard, and other saintly Greek and Latin doctors have discoursed on prayer at great length. They have encouraged and described it, pointed out its necessity and value, explained the method, the dispositions which are required, and the impediments which stand in its way. In learned books, the glorious and venerable doctor, Brother Thomas Aquinas, and Albert, of the Order of Preachers, as well as William in his treatise on the virtues, have considered admirably and in a holy, devout, and beautiful manner that form of prayer in which the soul makes use of the members of the body to raise itself more devoutly to God. In this way the soul, in moving the body, is moved by it. At times it becomes rapt in ecstasy as was Saint Paul, or is caught up in a rapture of the spirit like the prophet David. Saint Dominic often prayed in this way, and it is fitting that we say something of his method.

Certainly many saints of both the Old and New Testament are known to have prayed like this at times. Such a method serves to enkindle devotion by the alternate action of soul upon body and body upon soul. Prayer of this kind would cause Saint Dominic to be bathed in tears, and would arouse the fervor of his holy will to such intensity that his bodily members could not be restrained from manifesting his devotion by certain signs. As a result, the spirit of the supplicant was sometimes raised up during its entreaties, petitions, and thanksgivings.

The following, then, are the special modes of prayer, besides those very devout and customary forms, which Saint Dominic used during the celebration of Mass and the praying of the psalmody. In choir or along the road, he was often seen lifted suddenly out of himself and raised up with God and the angels.

The First Way of Prayer

Saint Dominic's first way of prayer was to humble himself before the altar as if Christ, signified by the altar, were truly and personally present and not in symbol alone. He would say with Judith: "O Lord, God, the prayer of the humble and the meek hath always pleased Thee [Judith 9:16]. "It was through humility that the Canaanite woman and the prodigal son obtained what they desired; as for me, "I am not worthy that Thou shouldst come under my roof" [Matthew 8:8] for "I have been humbled before you exceedingly, O Lord [Psalm 118:107]."

In this way our holy father, standing erect, bowed his head and humbly considering Christ, his Head, compared his lowliness with the excellence of Christ. He then gave himself completely in showing his veneration. The brethren were taught to do this whenever they passed before the humiliation of the Crucified One in order that Christ, so greatly humbled for us, might see us humbled before his majesty. And he commanded the friars to humble themselves in this way before the entire Trinity whenever they chanted solemnly: "Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit." In this manner of profoundly inclining his head, as shown in the drawing, Saint Dominic began his prayer.

The Second Way of Prayer

Saint Dominic used to pray by throwing himself outstretched upon the ground, lying on his face. He would feel great remorse in his heart and call to mind those words of the Gospel, saying sometimes in a voice loud enough to be heard: "O God, be merciful to me, a sinner." [Luke 18:13] With devotion and reverence he repeated that verse of David: "I am he that has sinned, I have done wickedly." [II Kings 24:17]. Then he would weep and groan vehemently and say: "I am not worthy to see the heights of heaven because of the greatness of my iniquity, for I have aroused thy anger and done what is evil in thy sight." From the psalm: "Deus auribus nostris audivimus" he said fervently and devoutly: "For our soul is cast down to the dust, our belly is flat on the earth!" [Psalm 43:25]. To this he would add: "My soul is prostrate in the dust; quicken Thou me according to Thy word" [Psalm 118:25].

Wishing to teach the brethren to pray reverently, he would sometimes say to them: When those devout Magi entered the dwelling they found the child with Mary, his mother, and falling down they worshiped him. There is no doubt that we too have found the God-Man with Mary, his handmaid. "Come, let us adore and fall down in prostration before God, and let us weep before God, and let us weep before the Lord that made us" [Psalm 94:61]. He would also exhort the young men, and say to them: If you cannot weep for your own sins because you have none, remember that there are many sinners who can be disposed for mercy and charity. It was for these that the prophets lamented; and when Jesus saw them, he wept bitterly. The holy David also wept as he said: "I beheld the transgressors and began to grieve" [Psalm 118:158].

The Third Way of Prayer

At the end of the prayer which has just been described, Saint Dominic would rise from the ground and give himself the discipline with an iron chain, saying, "Thy discipline has corrected me unto the end" [Psalm 17:36]. This is why the Order decreed, in memory of his example, that all the brethren should receive the discipline with wooden switches upon their shoulders as they were bowing down in worship and reciting the psalm "Miserere" [Psalm 50] or "De Profundis" [Psalm 129] after Compline on ferial days. This is performed for their own faults or for those of others whose alms they receive and rely upon. No matter how sinless he may be, no one is to desist from this holy example which is shown in the drawing.

The Fourth Way of Prayer

After this, Saint Dominic would remain before the altar or in the chapter room with his gaze fixed on the Crucified One, looking upon Him with perfect attention. He genuflected frequently, again and again. He would continue sometimes from after Compline until midnight, now rising, now kneeling again, like the apostle Saint James, or the leper of the gospel who said on bended knee: "Lord, if Thou wilt, thou canst make me clean" [Matthew. 8:2]. He was like Saint Stephen who knelt and called out with a loud cry: "Lord, do not lay this sin against them" [Acts 7:60]. Thus there was formed in our holy father, Saint Dominic, a great confidence in God's mercy towards himself, all sinners, and for the perseverance of the younger brethren whom he sent forth to preach to souls. Sometimes he could not even restrain his voice, and the friars would hear him murmuring: "Unto Thee will I cry, O Lord: O my God, be not Thou silent to me: lest if thou be silent to me, I become like them that go down into the pit" [Psalm 27:1] and comparable phrases from the Sacred Scripture.

At other times, however, he spoke within himself and his voice could not be heard. He would remain in genuflection for a long while, rapt in spirit; on occasion, while in this position, it appeared from his face that his mind had penetrated heaven and soon he reflected an intense joy as he wiped away the flowing tears. He was in a stage of longing and anticipation like a thirsty man who has reached a spring, and like a traveler who is at last approaching his homeland. Then he would become more absorbed and ardent as he moved in an agile manner but with great grace, now arising, now genuflecting. He was so accustomed to bend his knees to God in this way that when he traveled, in the inns after a weary journey, or along the wayside while his companions rested or slept, he would return to these genuflections, his own intimate and personal form of worship. This way of prayer he taught his brethren more by example than by words.

The Fifth Way of Prayer

When he was in the convent, our holy father Dominic would sometimes remain before the altar, standing erect without supporting himself or leaning upon anything. Often his hands would be extended before his breast in the manner of an open book; he would stand with great reverence and devotion as if reading in the very presence of God. Deep in prayer, he appeared to be meditating upon the words of God, and he seemed to repeat them to himself in a sweet voice. He regularly prayed in this way for it was Our Lord's manner as Saint Luke tells us: ". . . according to his custom he entered the synagogue on the Sabbath and began to read" [Luke 4:16]. The psalmist also tells us that "Phinees stood up and prayed, and the slaughter ceased" [Psalm 105:30].

He would sometimes join his hands, clasping them firmly together before eyes filled with tears and restrain himself. At other times he would raise his hands to his shoulders as the priest does at Mass. He appeared then to be listening carefully as if to hear something spoken from the altar. If one had seen his great devotion as he stood erect and prayed, he would certainly have thought that he was observing a prophet, first speaking with an angel or with God himself, then listening, then silently thinking of those things which had been revealed to him.

On a journey he would secretly steal away at the time for prayer and, standing, would immediately raise his mind to heaven. One would then have heard him speaking sweetly and with supreme delight some loving words from his heart and from the riches of Holy Scripture which he seemed to draw from the fountains of the Savior. The friars were very much moved by the sight of their father and master praying in this manner. Thus, having become more fervent, they were instructed in the way of reverent and constant prayer: "Behold as the eyes of servants are on the hands of their masters, as the eyes of the handmaid are on the hands of her mistress . . ." [Psalm 122:2].

The Sixth Way of Prayer

Our holy father, Saint Dominic, was also seen to pray standing erect with his hands and arms outstretched forcefully in the form of a cross. He prayed in this way when God, through his supplications, raised to life the boy Napoleon in the sacristy of the Church of Saint Sixtus in Rome, and when he was raised from the ground at the celebration of Mass, as the good and holy Sister Cecilia, who was present with many other people and saw him, narrates. He was like Elias who stretched himself out and lay upon the widow's son when he raised him to life.

In a similar manner he prayed near Toulouse when he delivered the group of English pilgrims from danger of drowning in the river. Our Lord prayed thus while hanging on the cross, that is, with his hands and arms extended and "with a loud cry and tears ... he was heard because of his reverent submission" [Hebrews 5:7].

Nor did the holy man Dominic resort to this manner of praying unless he was inspired by God to know that something great and marvelous was to come about through the power of his prayer. Although he did not forbid the brethren to pray in this way, neither did he encourage them to do so. We do not know what he said when he stood with his hands and arms extended in the form of a cross and raised the boy to life. Perhaps it was those words of Elias: "O Lord, my God, let the soul of this child, I beseech thee, return into his body" [III Kings 17:21]. He certainly followed the prophet's exterior manner in his prayers on that occasion. The friars and sisters, however, as well as the nobles and cardinals, and all others present were so struck by this most unusual and astonishing way of prayer that they failed to remember the words he spoke. Afterwards, they did not feel free to ask Dominic about these matters because this holy and remarkable man inspired in them a great sense of awe and reverence by reason of the miracle.

In a grave and mature manner, he would slowly pronounce the words in the Psalter which mention this way of prayer. He used to say attentively: "O Lord, the God of my salvation: I have cried in the day and in the night before Thee," as far as that verse "All the day I have cried to Thee, O Lord: I stretched out my hands to Thee" [Psalm 87:2-10]. Then he would add: "Hear, O Lord, my prayer give ear to my supplication in Thy truth . . ." He would continue the prayer to these words: "I stretched forth my hands to Thee . . . Hear me speedily, O Lord" [Psalm 142:1-7].

This example of our father's prayer would help devout souls to appreciate more easily his great zeal and wisdom in praying thus. This is true whether, in doing so, he wished to move God in some wonderful manner through his prayer or whether he felt through some interior inspiration that God was to move him to seek some singular grace for himself or his neighbor. He then shone with the spiritual insight of David, the ardor of Elias, the charity of Christ, and with a profound devotion, as the drawing serves to indicate.

The Seventh Way of Prayer

While praying, he was often seen to reach towards heaven like an arrow which has been shot from a taut bow straight upwards into the sky. He would stand with hands outstretched above his head and joined together, or at times slightly separated as if about to receive something from heaven. One would believe that he was receiving an increase of grace and in this rapture of spirit was asking God for the gifts of the Holy Spirit for the Order he had founded.

He seemed to seek for himself and his brethren something of that transcendent joy which is found in living the beatitudes, praying that each would consider himself truly blessed in extreme poverty, in bitter mourning, in cruel persecutions, in a great hunger and thirst for justice, in anxious mercy towards all. His entreaty was that his children would find their delight in observing the commandments and in the perfect practice of the evangelical counsels. Enraptured, the holy father then appeared to have entered into the Holy of Holies and the Third Heaven. After prayer of this kind he truly seemed to be a prophet, whether in correcting the faulty, in directing others, or in his preaching.

Our holy father did not remain at prayer of this type very long but gradually regained full possession of his faculties. He looked during that time like a person coming from a great distance or like a stranger in this world, as could easily be discerned from his countenance and manner. The brethren would then hear him praying aloud and saying as the prophet: "Hear, O Lord, the voice of my supplication which I pray to Thee, when I lift up my hands to Thy holy temple" [Psalm 27:2].

Through his words and holy example he constantly taught the friars to pray in this way, often repeating those phrases from the psalms: "Behold, now bless ye the Lord, all ye servants of the Lord ... in the nights lift up your hands to the holy places, and bless ye the Lord" [Psalm 133:1-3], "I have cried to Thee, O Lord, hear me; hearken to my voice when I cry to Thee. Let my prayer be directed as incense in Thy sight; the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice" [Psalm 140:1-2]. The drawing shows us this mode of prayer so that we may better understand it.

The Eighth Way of Prayer

Our Father, Saint Dominic, had yet another manner of praying at once beautiful, devout, and pleasing, which he practiced after the canonical hours and the thanksgiving following meals. He was then zealous and filled with the spirit of devotion which he drew from the divine words which had been sung in the choir or refectory. Our father quickly withdrew to some solitary place, to his cell or elsewhere, and recollected himself in the presence of God. He would sit quietly, and after the sign of the cross, begin to read from a book opened before him. His spirit would then be sweetly aroused as if he heard Our Lord speaking, as we are told in the psalms: "I will hear what the Lord God will speak to me. [Psalm 84:9]. As if disputing with a companion he would first appear somewhat impatient in his thought and words. At the next moment he would become a quiet listener, then again seem to discuss and contend. He seemed almost to laugh and weep at the same time, and then, attentively and submissively, would murmur to himself and strike his breast.

Should some curious person have desired to watch our holy father Dominic, he would have appeared to him like Moses who went into the desert, to Horeb, the sacred mountain of God, and there beheld the burning bush and heard the Lord speaking to him as he was bowed down in the divine presence. This holy custom of our father seems, as it were, to resemble the prophetic mountain of the Lord inasmuch as he quickly passed upwards from reading to prayer, from prayer to meditation, and from meditation to contemplation.

When he read alone in this solitary fashion, Dominic used to venerate the book, bow to it, and kiss it. This was especially true if he was reading the Gospels and when he had been reading the very words which had come from the mouth of Christ. At other times he would hide his face and cover it with his cappa, or bury his face in his hands and veil it slightly with the capuce. Then he would weep, all fervent and filled with holy desires. Following this, as if to render thanks to some person of great excellence for benefits received, he would reverently rise and incline his head for a short time. Wholly refreshed and, in great interior peace, he then returned to his book.

The Ninth Way of Prayer

Our Father, Saint Dominic, observed this mode of prayer while traveling from one country to another, especially when he passed through some deserted region. He then delighted in giving himself completely to meditation, disposing for contemplation, and he would say to his companion on the journey: It is written in Osee "I will lead her (my spouse) into the wilderness and I will speak to her ear" [Osee 2:14]. Parting from his companion, he would go on ahead or, more frequently, follow at some distance. Thus withdrawn, he would walk and pray; in his meditation he was inflamed and the fire of charity was enkindled. While he prayed it appeared as if he were brushing dust or bothersome flies from his face when he repeatedly fortified himself with the Sign of the Cross.

The brethren thought that it was while praying in this way that the saint obtained his extensive penetration of Sacred Scripture and profound understanding of the divine words, the power to preach so fervently and courageously, and that intimate acquaintance with the Holy Spirit by which he came to know the hidden things of God.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Ethical Answers to Infertility 3

The Gift of Infertility … A Response to Readers

Dr. Jameson Taylor and Jennifer Taylor

Catholic Exchange
August 5, 2007

Before we turn to part three of our series, we want to respond to readers' questions concerning whether the Church has formally condemned the use of intrauterine insemination (IUI). In addition to asking about the Church's teaching on IUI, several people have wondered how we can possibly refer to infertility as a gift. Part four will discuss this issue in more detail. In the meantime, we speak to this question in the comments sections of part one and part two.

As pointed out by one reader, Dr. Peter Cataldo has claimed that Catholics are permitted to use IUI or GIFT in cases where a perforated condom has been employed to collect semen from a previous act of conjugal intercourse. Cataldo's opinion derives support from a document that appears on the U.S. bishop's (USCCB) website. This document was written, not by the bishops, but by Dr. Hanna Klaus. Klaus asserts that the following two procedures are "neither approved nor disapproved":

1) Gamete intra-fallopian transfer (GIFT). (The Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has not yet pronounced on the subject.)

2) Intrauterine insemination (IUI) of "licitly obtained" (normal intercourse) but technologically prepared semen sample (washed, etc.).

In light of the historical instruction of the Church that artificial insemination is always wrong, it is difficult to make sense of Dr. Cataldo and Dr. Klaus' interpretations of Church doctrine. What, then, does the Church teach? The U.S. bishops address this question in the fourth edition of the USCCB text Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services:

[Directive 38]: When the marital act of sexual intercourse is not able to attain its procreative purpose, assistance that does not separate the unitive and procreative ends of the act, and does not substitute for the marital act itself, may be used to help married couples conceive.

[Directive 41]: Homologous artificial fertilization (that is, any technique used to achieve conception using the gametes of the two spouses joined in marriage) is prohibited when it separates procreation from the marital act in its unitive significance (e.g., any technique used to achieve extra-corporeal conception).

These two directives clearly indicate that — at least under the usual conditions — homologous artificial fertilization is prohibited by the Church. Granted, the directives do not specify what other techniques may be used to assist conception. The bishops, though, provide an indication of what they mean in the footnotes that accompany these passages. The first footnote, which cites Donum Vitae, states:

Homologous artificial insemination within marriage cannot be admitted except for those cases in which the technical means is not a substitute for the conjugal act but serves to facilitate and to help so that the act attains its natural purpose (Donum Vitae, Part II, B, no. 6; cf. also Part I, nos. 1, 6).

Likewise, the footnote to Directive 41 states:

Artificial insemination as a substitute for the conjugal act is prohibited by reason of the voluntarily achieved dissociation of the two meanings of the conjugal act. Masturbation, through which the sperm is normally obtained, is another sign of this dissociation: even when it is done for the purpose of procreation, the act remains deprived of its unitive meaning: "It lacks the sexual relationship called for by the moral order, namely, the relationship which realizes 'the full sense of mutual self-giving and human procreation in the context of true love'" (Donum Vitae, Part II, B, no. 6, emphasis added).

To begin with, let us grant that heterologous artificial insemination (AID) — or artificial insemination by donor, instead of husband — is always wrong. The question, then, remains whether IUI, when practiced as a form of homologous artificial insemination (AIH), "separates procreation from the marital act in its unitive significance." If it does, then it is illicit.

In order to answer this question, we need to clarify what Donum Vitae means when it grants that certain "technical means" that do not substitute for the conjugal act may be used to "facilitate" and "help" the sexual act attain its "natural purpose." Instead of delineating here what technical means are licit, however, we will limit our discussion to the question at hand — whether IUI, and related procedures, is permissible.

While Dr. Klaus is correct to emphasize that semen used in IUI cannot be acquired through masturbation, she obscures the real meaning of the Church's teaching by focusing on whether the semen sample has been "licitly obtained" or not. Donum Vitae, though, does not say that masturbation is the only indicator that artificial insemination causes a dissociation of the natural and personal ends of the conjugal act. Masturbation is only "another sign of this dissociation," which is to suggest that the dissociation is not essentially caused by the manner in which the sperm is collected — e.g., through a perforated condom or through masturbation. Rather, the dissociation of which Donum Vitae speaks is a result of the artificial insemination process itself, which (as explained in parts one and two of our article) disrupts the unitive aspect of the conjugal act.

Thus whether or not IUI, GIFT and TOTS (tubal ovum transfer with sperm) are licit depends, not only on how the sperm is collected, but on whether these techniques disrupt or facilitate the unitive aspect of the conjugal act. As we explain in part four of this series, GIFT is a procedure in which multiple eggs and processed semen are placed into a catheter and then injected into the fallopian tubes so that fertilization may occur. Similarly, TOTS is a procedure in which semen is collected from a perforated condom (rather than masturbation) and placed with one or more eggs into a tube where they are kept separate from one another by an air bubble. The semen and eggs are then injected into the fallopian tubes. Technically speaking, GIFT and TOTS are not the same as IUI. This is because neither GIFT nor TOTS entail intrauterine insemination, but rather, intrafallopian insemination. Our article did not specifically address whether GIFT and TOTS are permissible techniques. That being said, Donum Vitae defines artificial insemination as the "transfer into the woman's genital tracts of previously collected sperm" (DV, Part II). According to this definition, IUI, GIFT and TOTS are all forms of artificial insemination.

Following the release of Donum Vitae, then-cardinal Joseph Ratzinger seemed to leave open the possibility that GIFT and TOTS might be licit. Commented Ratzinger: "When the discussion is still open and there is not yet a decision by the magisterium, the doctor is required to stay informed, according to classic theological principles and concrete circumstances."

Understandably, Ratzinger's response led some ethicists to conclude that GIFT and TOTS — but not other forms of artificial insemination — might be permissible. This conclusion requires one to presume that "classic theological principles" allow some forms of artificial insemination. In fact, they do not.

Here, we should recall that artificial insemination is not a new process, but was being used on humans at least as early as the 1930s. Accordingly, Donum Vitae — precisely in the section quoted above that deals with artificial homologous insemination — cites two documents (notes 51-53) issued by Pope Pius XII that explicitly condemn artificial insemination of any kind. The second of these documents, the 1951 Discourse to the Italian Catholic Union of Midwives, is worth quoting at length:

To reduce the common life of husband and wife and the conjugal act to a mere organic function for the transmission of seed would be but to convert the domestic hearth, the family sanctuary, into a biological laboratory. Therefore, in Our allocution of September 29, 1949, to the International Congress of Catholic Doctors, We expressly excluded artificial insemination in marriage. The conjugal act, in its natural structure, is a personal action, a simultaneous and immediate cooperation of husband and wife, which by the very nature of the agents and the propriety of the act, is the expression of the reciprocal gift, which, according to Holy Writ, effects the union 'in one flesh.'

That is much more than the union of two genes, which can be effected even by artificial means, that is, without the natural action of husband and wife. The conjugal act, ordained and desired by nature, is a personal cooperation, to which husband and wife, when contracting marriage, exchange the right.

Pope Pius XII repeated this prohibition in even more forceful terms in a 1960 address to the Seventh Annual Hematological Congress:

The first case mentioned above envisages, as a solution to the husband's sterility, artificial insemination, which evidently presumes a donor, unknown to the couple. We have already had an opportunity to take a stand against this practice in the address delivered to the Fourth International Congress of Catholic Doctors on September 9, 1949. We absolutely condemned insemination between people who are not married to one another, and even between spouses.

We returned to this question on May 19, 1956, in Our address to the World Congress on Fertility and Sterility; We condemned once again all types of artificial insemination, on the ground that this practice is not included among the rights of married couples and because it is contrary to the natural law and Catholic morals. As for artificial insemination between unmarried persons, We declared in 1949 that this practice violates the principle of the natural law that new life may be procreated only in a valid marriage.

Given Pope Pius XII's clear censure of "all types of artificial insemination," Donum Vitae reminds us that "the teaching of the Magisterium on this point has already been stated" (II, 6). Adds the instruction, "This teaching is not just an expression of particular historical circumstances but is based on the Church's doctrine concerning the connection between the conjugal union and procreation and on a consideration of the personal nature of the conjugal act and of human procreation" (II, 6).

The Church's prohibition of "all types of artificial insemination," in other words, is based on "classic theological principles." As if to reinforce this fact, the Catechism's teaching on artificial insemination, published seven years later, is free of the apparent ambiguities arising from Donum Vitae's reference to techniques that might facilitate the conjugal act. States the Catechism:

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" (2377).

Moreover, several pronouncements by John Paul II explicitly condemn artificial insemination as "morally unacceptable." These include the 1993 encyclical Veritatis splendor and the 2002 address to the bishops of Brazil. Likewise, the Pontifical Council for the Family interprets Donum Vitae as denouncing artificial insemination. Finally, a document written by Dr. Jerôme Lejeune for the Pontifical Academy of Sciences refers to the Church's prohibition of "artificial insemination by syringe."

In light of the Church's past and present statements regarding artificial insemination, it is clear that Donum Vitae does not permit IUI — the most widely practiced form of artificial insemination. Indeed, following the 1987 release of the instruction, numerous ethicists and journalists (and even a cardinal or two) bemoaned the fact that the Church had upheld its condemnation of artificial insemination — even when performed using the husband's sperm.

Thus while it may remain an open question among some Catholic ethicists as to whether procedures like IUI, GIFT and TOTS are morally permissible, the Church's constant teaching on this matter is and has been that all forms of artificial insemination, including IUI, are illicit.

For some couples, the Church's teaching on IUI seems to be insensitive, with the result that it is often said that the Church lacks compassion for infertile couples. As we explain in parts three and four (forthcoming) of this series, however, it is precisely out of Her deep love and respect for the human person — including the infertile couple and the unborn child — that the Church does not permit the use of such techniques.

Friday, August 03, 2007

A Different Kind of Success Story

Whether or not you agree with the methods used when street counseling outside abortion clinics, this letter will warm your heart and hopefully cause you to consider the ways you can help in the fight for life.

A Girl Named Guadalupe

Fr. Frank Pavone

Catholic Exchange
August 2, 2007

I recently received a letter from my young friend, Guadalupe. I first met her only a couple of months after she was conceived. Her mom Helene was in the waiting room of an abortion mill in Orlando, Florida, and Guadalupe was about to become one of the 4000 children who are put to death each day in America by abortion.

This was Helene's third child, and though she did not want an abortion, her boyfriend and her friends told her she could not keep the baby. (This is par for the course for how "freedom of choice" is exercised in regard to abortion.) When she walked into the abortion mill on November 12, 1994, the sidewalk counselors approached her, but she was not persuaded.

She describes, however, what happened while sitting in the waiting room. "Suddenly, I felt like I had to look out the window. I thought about the offer of help that the pro-lifers were making. I saw the priest out there, too, and it made me think. I finally asked myself, 'What am I doing in here? I have to get out!' I came out and went over to the pro-lifers and accepted their offer of help. I felt so sorry for having even gone inside!"

Helene said that once she came out, sidewalk counselor Caroline Routson was like an angel, helping her get the assistance she needed. Helene and I talked and I told her that the main thing to think about now was how to be a good mother.

On August 6, 1995, I baptized baby Guadalupe before a full Sunday Mass congregation. Rev. Ed Martin of Rescue America, who was also present at the abortion mill, said, "It's important to emphasize why Helene came out of the abortion mill. It was because someone was there to help."

Thank God, these "saves" happen continuously. But we usually don't get letters from those who were saved. Guadalupe wrote this one, however, so that she could thank us all.

Dear Fr. Frank and Priests for Life:

I wanted to say thank you for all you have done. Because of Fr. Frank and Priests for Life for coming to Florida, they were able to save my Mom's life and mine. I feel that I'm glad you were there, because if you were not there I probably would have been aborted. Now I'm here in Poinciana living great and I wanted to say thank you! And that's why I wanted to add we need more priests out in every abortion clinic and on Television. Also we need more priests in action, and ready to save babies at an abortion clinic. So if you get up and do something about these women who don't want to do this but thinks she does. There are millions of babies killed by abortions. We should do some thing about abortions!

Guadalupe Aurora Lovera