Embryo adoption for Catholics?

There is currently no official Church declaration on the moral acceptability/unacceptability of embryo adoption. I would love to know this forum’s opinions on whether the pro-life stance of life begins at conception or the idea of reproduction only from the marital act as taught in documents such as Humanae Vitae is more applicable in this instance.

Actually, the Church has spoken:


It has also been proposed, solely in order to allow human beings to be born who are otherwise condemned to destruction, that there could be a form of “ prenatal adoption ”. This proposal, praiseworthy with regard to the intention of respecting and defending human life, presents however various problems not dissimilar to those mentioned above. (n. 19).


My opinion, which I believe to be consistent with the rather vague and non-definitive statement from the church above, is that it is acceptable to “adopt” embryos that would otherwise remain frozen indefinitely or destroyed. There would be a lot of moral caveats to consider before going through with that, and I probably can’t even anticipate all the caveats, because ultimately doing this “adoption” would involve cooperation with evil. One caveat might be to make sure the adoptive parents give no sign of approval of IVF and the situation that lead to this in the first place.

It really is a terrible situation that parents who use IVF give their own children all the dignity of a DiGiorno Pizza.


I agree that the Church’s statement is somewhat vague. To me it doesn’t expressly condemn the practice, as it does with contraceptive usage or IVF. It’s a tough situation to wrap my brain around.

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these are human beings trapped in a horrible situation through no fault of their own. It seems to me embryonic adoption is consistent with the church’s respect for life.


This still removes the act of concepetion/implantation from the marital act.

The document above explains the problems well, and it ends with:

All things considered, it needs to be recognized that the thousands of abandoned embryos represent a situation of injustice which in fact cannot be resolved. Therefore John Paul II made an “appeal to the conscience of the world’s scientific authorities and in particular to doctors, that the production of human embryos be halted, taking into account that there seems to be no morally licit solution regarding the human destiny of the thousands and thousands of ‘frozen’ embryos which are and remain the subjects of essential rights and should therefore be protected by law as human persons”.[39]

Yes, it cannot be resolved. the first necessity is to stop the practice of IVF. I doubt that will happen, as people I’ve met seem to see nothing wrong with it.
We should pray.

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It’s a slippery slope that will lead to a black market or legal market of buying & selling embryos (aka buying and selling humans).

  • Want a blond baby: buy this one.
  • Want a baby from two Olympic Gold medal winners: buy this one

As noble as the thought is, it would lead to the creation a corrupt industry with infrastructure.

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Adoptions are already taking place; https://www.nightlight.org/snowflakes-resources/faq/#adopters
It doesn’t appear that anyone is making a fortune out of it, and this group is discouraging future IVF creation of embryos.

The trouble is the ambiguity of the language: it is unclear whether “cannot be resolved” refers to a moral fact or to the limits of today’s technology. For example, the document at no point addresses the subject of artificial wombs, which would allow the embryos to be treated as premies.

And that would have it’s own moral quagmires. Maybe we ought just leave reproduction to the way God designed it.

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it is not.

Absolutely, but that doesn’t solve the problem of what to do about the embryos that are already here. Moralizing about how we got into this mess doesn’t help the humans in frozen limbo.

I agree. We can all agree that the fact that these embryos were created is wrong, just as we can agree that when a child is conceived in an extra-marital sexual act, that particular act was wrong. However, the point of the matter is that regardless of whether we like it or not, they WERE created, and we as Catholics need to know if it is our duty to do something to help them or not.


I don’t think the Church has made a definite final decision. Just that it appears to have no solution.

The theologian. Germain Grizes spoke of a scenario of bringing an orphaned embryo to term.


It’s an interesting read.

I see your point. Life begins at conception, but these babies are alive yet in limbo.

I believe it is illegal to buy or sell embryos. A couple who has done IVF and has frozen embryos that they have decided not to use may donate them to another couple (or single woman, for that matter). The couple receiving the frozen embryos might agree to pay for the storage fees until the transfer, but sale or purchase of embryos is illegal.

Interestingly, embryo adoption is already rather a big thing. Many couples see it as a good alternative to IVF because it is less costly, especially if you do it at certain locations overseas. I belonged to an Embryo Adoption Facebook group for several months to learn more about it, as I understood it to be a gray area in Church teaching, but ultimately decided against it. There are just too many issues with the practice, and I didn’t feel comfortable pursuing it. Also, legally, it is not an adoption but a transfer of property, as the law does not recognize embryos as persons.

Currently, yes.

Right… which is why I fear one day if this embryo adoption thing continues to grow, that sales will either become legal or a black market will grow out of it. Already, the law considers the embryos to be property and not persons. So if they are considered property, it would not be a stretch to see a day when the sale of said “property” would be legal.

Definitely a legitimate fear.

You keep them on ice and don’t exploit them.

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