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]