“Ask a Priest: Wouldn’t In Vitro Fertilization Be OK in Our Case?”

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Q: We have been struggling for with infertility in our marriage for more than 10 years. I have tried several treatments, including NaProTechnology, in the last few years. However, my husband is convinced that in vitro fertilization is the answer, and our marriage is struggling much more than before; to put it mildly, we’re on the verge. Does the Church not compromise in this case? Broken marriage vs. IVF? Is annulment an option? – C.

Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC

A: I’m sorry to learn about your situation. Infertility can be a heavy cross for couples, no doubt. Their desire to share their love with children is admirable and a sign of good intentions.

But in no case can IVF be justified. A basic moral principle holds that we cannot do evil in order to achieve a good end. Otherwise, anything would be justified.

IVF is an intrinsically evil means, for various reasons. It usually involves the husband’s committing an act of self-abuse to produce sperm, and the IVF process is notorious for producing “spare embryos” (tiny human beings) who are later destroyed or left in limbo in a freezer. Statistics in the past indicated that at least five embryos were destroyed or left frozen for every one embryo that led to a birth.

Also, IVF makes a child into a kind of product. Children have a right to be conceived through the marital embrace of their parents, not by the flick of a wrist of a lab technician.

Moreover, children conceived in a lab can face terrible struggles later (see “I Am an IVF Child – Do I Have a Soul?”).

I realize that you are feeling pressure. But the dilemma you propose — either you undergo IVF or your marriage breaks up — is a false one.

The real solution is for you and your husband to face your challenge together in a spirit of faith and with confidence in God’s help.

In practice this means having an intense prayer life and sacramental life, turning only to ethical medical care, and being open to other possibilities such as adoption. It would be good to seek out consultation as a couple with a solid Catholic counselor.

And it is good to remember that children are a gift, not an entitlement. The Catechism in No. 2378 says:

“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.’”

Perhaps you and your husband are called to accept children into the loving embrace of your home in an unexpected way. In any case, infertility, per se, is not grounds for an annulment.

It might help to pray to St. Gianna Beretta Molla, a patroness of those struggling with infertility.

Count on my prayers.


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One Comment
  1. Another thoughtful response Father.

    To the couple: I have heard of many a case where an infertile couple, adopted a child . . . and just after receiving the adopted child . . . SURPRISE! Female finds herself to be pregnant. There was another situation knew of where the young woman, newly married, was finding it hard to become pregnant. She confided to my mom… (who had been blessed with five) . . . my mom suggested to the young woman she give of herself in the good way of teaching Sunday School… she did, and GOD did bless her) Do the good ‘for God’ teaching God’s children and GOD MAY BLESS with a gift of child. (no authentic good goes unnoticed) Mystery of God.

    Father M is correct, don’t complicate matters by splitting with the GIFT God did provide to both of you: yourselves. Pray together, Play together, enjoy nieces and nephews and the children of friends, and maybe teach Sunday School / coach a little league sports team, be a cub scout or brownie leader.

    There are many ways to show THE LOVE the two of you have TOGETHER.

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