The Catholic Church and Christian tradition teach that sexual intercourse belongs only within the bond of marriage. Marriage is a covenant between a man and a woman with God. Only within marriage do ideal conditions exist for raising children. Christians respect sexual intercourse and recognize it to contain both a gift of love (union) and a gift of life (procreation).
Through sexual intercourse, married couples become co-creators with God, who has made the gift of love and the gift of life inseparable parts of His wonderful plan for having children. Sex is sacred. Human life is sacred.
The Catholic Church and Christian tradition teach that sexual intercourse is only proper within a marriage that is open to God’s plan. Thus, the gift of love and the gift of life must never be intentionally separated. Only by following God’s plan is the gift of love respected and the gift of life protected. This is the basis for the Catholic Church’s opposition to artificial contraception. This is also the primary reason for the Church’s opposition to cloning, test-tube conception and most types of reproductive technology.
Life joined with love
Since the Catholic Church and Christian tradition teach that the gift of life is essentially joined to the gift of love within marriage, anything that involves conceiving human life without sexual intercourse within marriage is unacceptable.
When conceiving a child is separated from sexual intercourse, then the gift of life is not the result of sexual intercourse within marriage. The child becomes the result of a successful procedure rather than part of a loving sexual union. Instead of the child being the result of the gift of love, the child might be considered a “commodity” or the “right” of the woman or couple. This causes problems. For example, a woman could intentionally choose to have a child without being married or having sexual intercourse. This could deny the child the right of knowing who his/her father and mother is, a right which is upheld by the Catholic Church and Christian tradition. Such techniques also threaten to make women vulnerable to being valued only as child-bearers rather than loving partners. Once devalued, more women may be tempted to rent their wombs, allowing the gift of fertility to become a product which can be bought or sold to the highest bidder.
Most human embryos that are conceived through reproductive techniques never have the opportunity to be born. Most of the human embryos conceived through reproductive techniques are not implanted into a woman because they are not considered healthy enough or because too many of them are conceived. These “spare” human embryos are either frozen for future use, destroyed or used for scientific experimentation.
Furthermore, most of the embryos that are inserted into a woman do not survive to be born. Although several embryos are inserted into a woman with each procedure, very few of them implant. If multiple embryos implant in their mother’s womb, then the lives of all of them are threatened because the mother might not be able to successfully carry all of them in the womb. When “too many” embryos implant, the parents will often choose selective elimination (reduction, i.e., abortion) of some of these children in the womb. Abortion is always wrong because it is the intentional killing of a human being. Very few of the embryos conceived through reproductive technology live to be born.
Even if a perfect reproductive technique were developed that did not result in the destruction of human life, the only morally acceptable reproductive technique would remain one which only assists the couple to conceive successfully, without replacing the love-giving gift of sexual intercourse within marriage.
More problems exist with cloning than with other reproductive technologies that separate the gift of life from sexual intercourse. Cloning creates a human being by merging an ovum which has had its genetic complement removed from a cell. Therefore, there is only one genetic parent.
Since the genetic material comes from only one person, you have a technique that does not involve sexual intercourse. Thus, cloning is independent of the love-giving gift within marriage. The cloned child cannot be the biological offspring of both a mother and a father, a condition that the Catholic Church and Christian tradition recognize to be a right of every child. The child is not created out of the gift of love, a calling, or mutual self-giving, but out of a laboratory procedure.
Many problems arise from the cloning procedure. For instance, people might choose to clone a deceased person or choose to clone an individual based on a socially desirable trait, such as cloning only the most intelligent, or attractive people. Once society selects who should be conceived, it will not longer readily value humans for their diverse human characteristics. People or governments might have motives for cloning, such as replenishing a diminishing stock of healthy body parts or producing a “superior” people. Human life must be connected to the gift of love, in order to protect the gift of life. This is impossible with cloning.
Like other reproductive techniques, cloning techniques are being developed without respecting the embryo. For example, the successful cloning of Dolly the lamb took place after 299 unsuccessful attempts in which the last 22 unsuccessful attempts resulted in malformed embryos. To attempt this procedure with humans, would reduce life to the level of simple “biological material.”
Concern for soul
Some people are concerned with the nature of the soul for persons conceived through the cloning procedure. This is a worthy concern but theologically unfounded. From the very beginning of human life the soul is united to the body. Since cloning results in the person having his/her own body, the person would also have his/her own soul. Just as there is not a question about each individual twin having his/her own soul, there need not be a concern about those conceived through the cloning procedure each having his/her own soul. At issue is not the offspring of this technique, but rather the ethical nature of cloning itself.
The inherent problem with reproductive techniques which separate the love-giving gift of sexual intercourse from the gift of life is that they cannot fulfil God’s loving plan. The Catholic Church and Christian tradition support God’s plan, a plan which combines the love-giving action to the gift of life within a marital relationship. God’s plan has as its purpose that children should be the gift of a committed loving relationship. Only by adhering to God’s plan can we ensure that the gift of love will be respected and the gift of life protected.
(Alex Schadenberg is director of the Diocese of London, Ontario pro-life office. Copies of the pamphlet, “The Womb – God’s Workshop,” can be ordered from the Diocese of London Pro-Life Office, 155 Bruce St., London, Ont., N6C 1H2, telephone 519-673-3535.)