A U.S. Catholic musician has encountered the controversies that can inadvertently ensnare a person when she enters the pro-life sphere of work.
After years of struggling with infertility, and finding there was nothing they could do that was morally permissible, New Orleans, La. native Kitty Cleveland and her husband made an effort to adopt and implant three embryos that were kept in storage after being conceived by another woman in an in-vitro fertilization treatment. Unfortunately, the attempt was not successful as all three died while they were being thawed from the frozen state in which they had been suspended.
Cleveland soon found three of her musical engagements had been cancelled because the organizers were unsure of the moral foundations of her move to adopt and implant the embryos. In fact, the Catholic church has not officially expressed itself on the matter of embryo adoption, and theologians have various views on the subject.
At its roots, the problem lies with the inherently immoral nature of the IVF procedure, which has led to the creation of large numbers of “extra” or “leftover” embryos. Some fear that embryo adoption will further institutionalize the practice of IVF; however, organizations like the California-based Snowflakes Embryo Adoption Program have arisen to help facilitate the process.
“We were heartbroken,” said Cleveland of her unsuccessful adoption attempt. “But the consolation was that the little souls were liberated from their bizarre, suspended state in a fertility clinic … My hopes are that these souls are now in heaven with (their mother), that I will one day meet them and that their brief life and death will not be in vain.”
Cleveland has not discounted another attempt to adopt embryos. “I’ve given God an open heart and am waiting for him to lead the way and show us what He wants us to do next.”
On the musical side of things, Cleveland first discovered she had a talent for singing in Grade 7, when she joined a school choir and partook in talent shows. She developed a dream to go on Broadway, but her plans took a turn in her senior year of high school when she had spiritual encounter with Christ.
She continued with theatre, choir and musical work through college and eventually found herself in law school after graduation. Moving into the field of law, Cleveland allowed her music to suffer, but after a three-year hiatus, got involved in local theatre and the New Orleans, La. opera company. She also met her future husband during that time.
Cleveland went on to enjoy extensive stage experience with groups including the New Orleans opera, the Jefferson Performing Arts Society, and the Tulane Summer Lyric Theatre. She has also sung backup for leading soprano singer Sarah Brightman.
It was on a spiritual retreat that she heard a call to study counselling and write music, and ended up leaving the field of law. It was at the same time that her father Carl, a lawyer, was shockingly arrested on spurious corruption charges (of which he was later exonerated) and sentenced to a 10-year federal term.
“I started a daily holy hour,” said Cleveland. “I started writing songs and very clearly felt a persistent nudge from the Lord to make a CD of music that would give him glory … That’s how the first CD, Surrender, came to be.” The recording wound up capturing a Unity award from the United Catholic Music and Video Association as Sacramental Album of 2001.
Her music career received a further boost when she was invited to perform on the popular Eternal Word Television Network program Life on the Rock. She then went on to record two more CDs, Sacred Arias and the pro-life Miracle of Love Rosary. The latter was produced on the prompting, and with the collaboration of, Father Robert Cavalier, who is active in Priests for Life.
“He called me into his office last year and said he wanted to do more for the pro-life movement,” recalled Cleveland. “As he kept praying about it, I kept coming to mind. He wanted to do something with music, so I suggested we do a Rosary together. I would write some songs and together we would work on some meditations … This (CD) is special because of the meditations on the sanctity of life.”
Cleveland continues in full-time music ministry, but faces another challenge in that her father, who had survived a gruelling court and prison experience, has been diagnosed with a serious form of cancer. Cleveland is asking for prayers on his behalf.
But if the past is any indication, it is likely she will face this latest trial much like she has all her previous ones – with faith and courage.
“True success comes in recognizing our total dependence on the Lord for everything that is good, and that in our weakness, our suffering, our brokenness, the power of God is perfected in us,” she said. “May God grant all of us the great courage and love we need to do his will, responding in complete trust like Mary … ‘Be it done unto me according to thy word.'”
For more information on Cleveland’s music ministry, or to order her CDs, go to her website at www.kittycleveland.com.