Assisted Reproductive Technology always wrong?


In another area of this forum there is a discussion going on about fertility treatments and they are trying their best to not make it into a moral theology discussion so I thought I would make a new thread over here.

What is your understanding of the Church’s teachings about fertility treatments and the line between right and wrong?

It seems there is some debate over exactly what the Church teaches and why and which treatments are approved and which are not.

For more information about what the Church teaches, read the following:
Catechism of the Catholic Church
Donum Vitae
Dignitas Personae


It’s not allowed. It’s the flip side of contraception.

Catholic Catechism:

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.”


When seeking counsel from my priest (pre-vatican 2 church) it was told to me that IUI is acceptable if the collection of sperm was collected in a special cup with holes in it and collected during the marital act. What remains in the cup is what the Dr can work with and inseminate.

It is also encouraged by Drs to do the marital act many times after IUI for it maybe then when you conceive. The Church’s issue is how the specimen is collected.

When asked about IVF - we were told it is acceptable to adopt an embryo which could have the possibility of being destroyed or just left in storage.

What was posted above basically states that adopting a child already born is morally wrong. That confuses me.

IVF however - is unacceptable and one can totally understand why.


What is this? This poll is misrepresenting the Church’s position on several issues with this " I agree/disagree with the Church on…" business.


Hi Chelsea,

The Church is concerned with how the specimen is collected AND that it is delivered naturally and through the conjugal act alone rather than through interference from “doctors and biologists.” Inter-uterine insemination, in all cases, separates the sexual act from the procreative act.

And as for frozen embryo transfer and adoption, although appears to be in the spirit of being pro-life and rescuing frozen embryos from being in perpetual suspension and never brought to the fullness of life, is still wrong as it requires a woman to become pregnant via reproductive technology in which the woman acts as a surrogate, which the Church has always said is wrong. Even if the embryos are her own embryos, the Church does not approve implantation of these embryos as the sexual act has already been separated from the procreative act. Acting as a surrogate of these embryos leads to participation in that separation.

Adoption of born children does not involve reproductive technology and doctor’s interfering with the child’s rights of personhood so therefor is not morally wrong.

To those that voted in the poll and said, “I agree with the Church’s teaching and I believe certain types of IVF is okay,” uhh… what types?
Can everyone produce some hard evidence such as Church documents or articles about your beliefs and not anecdotal such as, “My priest said it was okay.”?


I think the point is some people think they agree with the Church’s teachings on this issue when really they don’t actually understand what the Church teaches.





Well, that would make a bit more sense. :stuck_out_tongue:
This should be interesting to observe, then.


I found this interesting:

" According to Peter J. Cataldo, Ph.D., Director of Research at the Pope John Center (January 1996 Edition of Ethics and Medics) the two forms of reproductive technology the Church’s teachings allow are Intrauterine Insemination (IUI) and Gamete Intrafallopian Tube Transfer (GIFT). (He bases this conclusion on thorough ethical analysis of Pope Pius XXII’s encyclical Donum Vitae.) Both procedures are licit as long as masturbation is not the method for collecting the sperm. He recommends the use of a perforated Silastic sheath to collect sperm during sexual intercourse. The sheath allows for simultaneous deposit and collection of sperm. In this manner, the sperm is released as the result of natural love-making, which is consistent with the Church’s concerns. After the sperm is collected by the sheath, it is then “washed”, thereby eliminating any defective elements contained within. In the IUI procedure, the sperm is then injected into the uterus using a catheter, placing the sperm closer to the place of conception and thereby increasing the likelihood that the egg and the sperm shall meet. (This procedure is also referred to as “artificial insemination”)."


I don’t think you can make such a blanket statement. The question was in regard to “fertility treatments” not specifically IVF.

There is nothing wrong with a doctor trying to treat a man’s or a woman’s fertility issues, as long as it doesn’t get into the areas mentioned by the Catechism that disrupt the dual-aspect nature of sexual expression (unitive and procreative).


As far as I know IUI and GIFT are not allowed so much as under investigation. In other words it might or might not be morally permissible and the jury is still out. Right now they might be best characterized as gray areas because there is some level of 3rd party intervention between coitus and conception.


:bigyikes: My mind is totally blown! I clicked on your link and the first thing I noticed was that the article above the article you linked to denounces frozen embryo adoption as immoral. I read the artificial insemination article and decided to find more corroborating information and went to google. The search pulled up this link from Catholic Answers. It cited Donum Vitae, the document that was included in the OP, and the document that has been made famous for denouncing IVF, and I found where it talks about homologous inter-uterine insemination and I am in total shock. I stand corrected.
I really need to apologize to you, Chelseasands. :gopray2: I hope that you can forgive me because this discussion has been going on for awhile and beyond this thread as well. I appreciate you speaking out (despite what I’ve said earlier on another thread.)
I am still in shock and need to digest all of this.


Hey! Now we are talking. This is getting pretty interesting. I am amazed and discouraged how much the average Catholic really has no idea about these issues and often doesn’t know that they don’t know!

I thought the jury was in and the verdicts were given in Donum Vitae and Dignitas Personae cited in the OP?


More here:


No — you’re missing my point.

An example: suppose a woman has a damaged Fallopian tube (perhaps torn or twisted). Therefore, she has a fertility problem. Now suppose a doctor performs surgery to make the Fallopian tube function properly.

This doctor has “treated her infertility.” Ergo, you can’t make a blanket statement that all fertility treatments are immoral.

The Church teaches that procedures performed to correct a deficiency can be (usually) allowed.


Isn’t it interesting that only 3 out of 18 people agreed with this statement:

“I agree with the Church and believe certain types of IUI is ok.”



I know that is really shocking…

I am really surprised about the first one having so many


I don’t think that is what the OP was talking about. The pole mentions IUI and IVF NaProtechnology and embryo adoption.


I think it is because it used the word “natural” so of course everyone (or most) would vote for that one but it seems like a lot of people have different definitions of what is “natural” and what is “unnatural.”


Both Donum Vitae and Dignitas Personae allow for medical intervention that helps but does not replace the conjugal act as part of its normal function. The question on IUI and GIFT is since the gamete (sperm or ovum) are removed post coitus and then reinserted if this in essence has disassociated the conjugal act from the procreative function. *Donum Vitae *merely states that insemination from samples not obtained from masturbation *may *be morally permissible. The issue arises around the fact that a 3rd party is then involved in what should be a single linked act (coitus leading to conception) so does this in effect replace the conjugal act? Now how one could inseminate without removing the gamete would be the question.

Here is a link to a rundown from Dr. Hanna Klaus writing for the USCCB’s Natural Family Planning Program (Reproductive Technology Guidelines for Catholic Couples).

One other thing that has to be considered is if the IUI and GIFT procedures dissociate the procreative and unitive aspect of the marital act. Often when couples suffer fertility issues they become so hyper focused on conceiving that the goal of conception take priority over the other purpose of the marital embrace. I have a friend where he almost hated making love during her fertile phase because it was on a schedule to “maximize fertility” (‘honey, be home tonight by 6 because I’m ovulating’). He said it became almost a mechanical act focused purely on having a baby. In the same way the marital act used to “collect” the sperm before washing could become a means to an end. It can become something like a morally licit alternative to masturbation if the pure reason for coitus is to collect the sample for insemination (i.e. he would masturbate to collect the sample if is was morally permissible).

That is the potential danger in these procedures; that they can separate conception from a loving act of self giving and turn it into something akin to a selfish act where conception at all costs is the only consideration. That’s not to say it would, but it is the danger when someone wants a child so bad that they don’t stop to consider if they are called to carry that particular cross for a reason.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit