News of the octuplets born in California has elicited a strong response from many people. Perhaps it was because the mother was a single mom who wanted to have more children (she already had 6 all from in vitro fertilization); or because her father seemed angry about all the publicity and her mother said she preferred that her daughter would have been a kindergarten teacher if she loved children so much; or because the fertility doctor complied with her wishes, took an undisclosed sperm donor, fertilized her egg, then planted eight tiny embryos in her womb.
Perhaps it was because of all the above reasons that commentators opined that someone should regulate human behavior, human decisions, and should intervene in a person’s moral decisions, which affect the lives of so many. In this case, those affected by her choices were her parents, her other children (one with special needs), her eight new children, the neighborhood where she lives, the hospital that served the premature infants and the sperm donor of the octuplets, who is also the same for the other six children. One person’s choices affect many people.
After thinking of these moral concerns, I became ever more grateful to have the guidance of reason and faith, especially in the form of the recent Catholic document entitled On Human Dignity, which brings important bioethical principles to bear on the subject of in vitro fertilization, the sacred gift of life, the dignity of the unborn child, and what it means to be responsible parents. I would summarize in my own words the document in this way:
Adults do not have a right to have children, they have a responsibility. Children have all the rights. They have the right to come into this world in a natural way, through a loving human sexual embrace of parents who love each other and are committed to each other in marriage. They have the right to life and the right to dignity. They have the right to parents (a man and a woman). They have the right to be raised, educated and introduced to life with respect and love.
This moral principle, which is really just common sense and sensitivity to children, should guide every aspect of life from in vitro fertilization, to the virtue of chastity, to sex outside marriage, to the meaning and definition of marriage, to responsible parenthood.
Children have rights, adults have responsibilities. It is that simple. Therefore, every sexual act, every scientific act, every human act must conform to the truth that children have the right to be loved, wanted and respected for their own sake. Adults are morally obliged to conceive children in love, to bear them with suffering if needed, to accept children into this world on their (the child’s) terms, not on adult terms, and to raise them with the dignity they deserve.
In the case of the single mother of octuplets, it seems clear that her interests came first, not theirs. However, even if not conceived in the way they have the right to be, these children, nonetheless, are deserving of the same love and respect due every child. Children are always and everywhere a gift and it is our duty as adults to appreciate this gift in a way that pleases God. The moral principle is clear: children first, always first. Period.
For more information on the wise teaching of the Church on this matter log on to www.usccb.org/prolife/ivf
Bishop Gregory J. Mansour
(Reprinted with permission.)