A Catholic Approach to Fertility | Catholic Bioethics

Episode 14 December 26, 2023 00:54:58
A Catholic Approach to Fertility | Catholic Bioethics
Catholic Theology Show
A Catholic Approach to Fertility | Catholic Bioethics

Dec 26 2023 | 00:54:58

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Show Notes

What is Catholic bioethics and how should it guide our approach to fertility and infertility? Today, Dr. Michael Dauphinais and Fr. Tadeusz Pacholczyk, a Catholic priest, neuroscientist, and writer, discuss the proper relationship between faith and science. They address themes such as whether the Church should be involved in scientific conversation, while focusing primarily on in vitro fertilization (IVF) and its challenging moral consequences. 

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Episode Transcript

[00:00:00] Speaker A: When it becomes possible to do science in a way that is attentive to ethics, one is able to have the most effective kind of science possible, science that serves humanity in the full sense of that service that respects the dignity of the human being. [00:00:24] Speaker B: Close you welcome to the catholic theology show presented by Ave Maria University. This podcast is sponsored in part by Annunciation Circle, a community that supports the mission of Ave Maria University through their monthly donations of $10 or more. If you'd like to support this podcast and the mission of Ave Maria University, I encourage you to visit avemaria.edu join for more information. I'm your host, Michael Doffaney, and today we are joined by Father Tad Paholzachek. Is that right, Father? [00:01:02] Speaker A: It's close. It's Paholcik. [00:01:05] Speaker B: Paholchek. [00:01:07] Speaker C: Yes. [00:01:07] Speaker A: Chick like a chicken at the end. [00:01:09] Speaker B: Paholcik. Okay, well, doffen a gets mispronounced all the so. But Father Tad, thanks so much for being on the show. Today we're going to talk especially about catholic bioethics and kind of particularly about how catholic bioethics deals with issues of fertility and infertility. But really, we want to dive into just the big question of catholic bioethics. So for listeners who may not be, you know, Father Tad works with the National Catholic Bioethics center, where he serves as a senior. You know, your background is really just so rich. You've given hundreds of presentations on bioethics. You also have undergraduate degrees in, I think, chemistry, biochemistry, molecular biology. You did a PhD from Yale in neuroscience and then did a degree in Rome on ethics and bioethics. So maybe just for listeners and viewers, would you just describe a little bit of your own background and story and how you got interested in catholic bioethics? [00:02:30] Speaker A: Yeah, definitely. I would say that when I was discerning priesthood, it became clear to me that I needed to study science as well. And there were a number of kind of complicated rivulets that contributed to that, if you will, to that realization that I needed to study science, bring it into the priesthood. It wasn't clear where it was going to end up. But now, in retrospect and looking back, it's easy to see that the science part of my formation has been very helpful in terms of the bioethics and the medical ethics. So the science part, as you pointed out, involved a lot of basic sciences and undergrad and then doing some gene cloning work as a graduate student and some protein chemistry work as a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard. And then I went over to Rome and that's when I formally studied some bioethics and also studied dogmatic theology. So it was a kind of long journey to get to the point of first becoming a priest, but then also within that setting to then connect with the National Catholic Bioethics center and work with them, which I've been doing now for, what, since about 2003. So I guess that's 20 years this year, and it's been wonderful to work with them. I worked especially closely with Dr. John Haas, our former president. Now mean, it's been a kind of enlightening thing to be part of the way that a lot of the debates have unfolded. I think I point out to people, when I first started, I focused a lot on embryonic stem cells. That was sort of the issue of the moment, the raging issue of the day, if you will. Now that has more or less receded into the background because funding has become available. And, I mean, at the beginning, it was all about funding battles and whether the government was going to fund research that depended on stem cells derived from destroyed embryos. But now it seems like every period has its own controversies. And I would say now the transgender issue is a huge one, and I'm doing a lot in terms of presenting in that area. And then there are certain ones that I would say remain kind of constant topics. And one of the topics that we're dealing with today, the assisted reproduction, that's become, I would say, a constant in the background or the backdrop, and the same for end of life decision making. And I suppose that's not surprising in the sense that end of life decision making is something that we all have to deal with at one point or another. And some of the fertility issues seem to be cropping up with fairly high degree of regularity in the lives of young people, especially when they seem to be delaying marriage and having families. So that has become another aspect of the work that I do and the work that we do at the bioethics center. [00:06:11] Speaker B: Yeah. So could you say a few words just about what exactly kind of is catholic bioethics? And maybe for people who might kind of see it as why is the church getting in the way of science and doctors? Shouldn't science and doctors be allowed to just do whatever is best for science or doctors be allowed to do whatever they think is best? Why is the church getting involved here? What would you say to that, people who have those questions? [00:06:48] Speaker A: Well, I think that that may be a perception of some people. I think you're right. I remember when I sat on the ethics committee at the catholic hospital in my diocese of Fall River, Massachusetts. I got the clear sense that a lot of the docs were like, oh, whatever you do, don't get the ethics committee people involved, just leave it to us kind of thing. But the reality here is that the best science is always going to be ethical. Science is a tremendously powerful medium. In a sense, it's like its own language. Sometimes people ask me, why did you study science? Well, it's like Greek or Russian. You've got to learn the syntax, the context. You've got to learn the lingo. And I felt it was such an important language in the modern age that I did need to pick up that language. So when it becomes possible to do science in a way that is attentive to ethics, one is able, I'm convinced, to have the most effective kind of science possible. Science that serves humanity in the full sense of that service, that respects the dignity of the human being, science that doesn't end up going part way off the rails and exploiting some for the benefit of others, otherwise taking advantage of some who are maybe more vulnerable, and so on. And that's not the kind of science we want. We want science that really benefits all of humanity, and where that sort of threatening edge of science is taken away, and that's really where the ethics become so key and so critical, and that's where we need to have value systems that are all the time interacting with science. And so it's important for scientists themselves to begin to tune into that message, rather than the message I was starting out with from the physicians back in the day who didn't like the work of the ethics committees. [00:09:05] Speaker B: Yeah, there's one of the great, really probably had a great influence, but wasn't really a great thinker in different ways, was Francis Bacon. And we had a famous quote from him in the early, probably the 17th century and a little bit into the 16th century. But where he would say that he gave the quote, knowledge is power, and scientific knowledge, for him, was power to, which should be for the sake of alleviating the state of man. But this element of knowledge is power, is a particular view of the scientific mode of discovery. And I've heard it said that if knowledge is power, then knowledge can only learn by either doing or by failing to do. And so there's almost this, within that model of scientific understanding, there's this constant drive to kind of attempt to try to do everything. But if we think about knowledge in that way, knowledge is power, well, then knowledge is no longer wonder, right? We're departing from Aristotle's notion of metaphysics, all men by nature desire to know, or this catholic understanding of nature that we're not only called to know and love, but we're called to know and love God and know and love one another. And so in some ways, right, it would be silly if you were to take a bunch of artists and they said that, well, instead of just singing a song this evening up on stage, we're going to end someone's life. You'd be like, well, you can't do that. Just because you're an art doesn't mean you step outside of the ethical, moral domains of human beings. Well, in the same way, just because you're a scientist doesn't mean you get to step outside the being human. So you can't say, oh, to do our scientific research. We want to destroy a life, right? We know this has happened. It happened famously among the nazi doctors, but well before that, the tendencies towards eugenics and other things. And so I think we have to really ask ourselves why we would give scientists the ability to step outside of morality, right? And why we would give doctors the ability to step outside of the normal human demands that we do not kill innocent people. So I don't know if you could maybe, just maybe make a few comments about that, maybe why it's very important to reinsert the scientific endeavor and the medical endeavor within a kind of common moral, human dimension. [00:11:59] Speaker A: Yeah, I think we're sort of in a paradigm at the moment of relativism around a lot of moral questions. And when that's already the backdrop that you're dealing with, then it becomes partly a question of, all right, if there is some relativism here that we can play with some fuzziness at the edges, then a lot of the scientists, I think, are inclined to say, well, this means that when there are potentially sticky issues that arise, we need to set up our own commissions with scientists and others on these types of boards who will then navigate through some of the stickiness of the ethics. And at the end of the day, it oftentimes becomes a sort of rubber stamping mechanism by which one approves things. And there's a danger, I think, of giving the foxes the control of the hen house. But that's very much something that the foxes would like. And so I think here there is a very practical challenge, first, in the face of the relativism, to be able to push back a little and say, well, here we all really are operating out of a set of shared concerns, and we need to do our best to delineate those and the shared concern for human dignity. You're not going to find a scientist who says, well, I think human dignity can be slammed anytime I want it to be or disregarded. Well, of course not. They're never going to say that, but they are going to play with the edges of humanity and say, well, in certain cases, we want to disqualify you from being a member of humanity. And that will give us then the possibility to do some wondrous research or to unburden our already overexpensed medical system in this way or that way, et cetera. So the temptation is there. But I think when the scientists are inclined to go in that direction, we've got to invite them to a more authentic dialogue. I mean, I've seen this in some of these professional societies, scientific societies, medical societies. I remember years ago the Society for Neuroscience, I studied neuroscience as a graduate student at one point. This must have been at least 25 years ago, they were looking at holding their national convention for the Society for Neuroscience, and a proposal was made to do it in New Orleans, Louisiana. But New Orleans had some very strong pro life laws, and there were people in the upper echelons who were upset by this, and they were saying, well, we know, sort of teach them a lesson and not bring our big national meeting to New Orleans. And I think that's flawed on a lot of levels in the sense that. [00:15:28] Speaker C: First, the whole moral perspective is backwards. [00:15:31] Speaker A: There, the real goods. Everything's inverted in that kind of a perspective. And secondly, I think many times it's just a lot cleaner and simpler if when you're doing your neuroscience, you stay with your neuroscience and you don't venture into these kinds of what are on first analysis, political, but second analysis, very real moral and ethical issues as well. You can do the neuroscience fine. It's similar to seeing Apple computer today offering to pay for their employees to go and get abortions in other states. And you say, well, wait a minute, just make some good iPhones, stick to the MacBook pros that you guys are so darn good at, and don't be stepping into these other areas. We as a society certainly do need to be discussing these matters deeply and profoundly, and there will be debates that need to occur. I think that is important that we have the debates, and I think that's another area. I don't want to kind of venture too far to the side here, but maybe I'll just mention briefly when I first started out 20 years ago with the National Catholic Bioethics Center, I was invited quite regularly, I would say, to participate in public debates. These were mostly on embryonic stem cell research. I did one at MIT. I did one at Rutgers University. I did one at Southern Methodist University. A bunch of other schools. And the students in those days manifested a real openness and interest in this kind of debate. And it was fascinating because I was often paired off against just a scientist at MIT. I remember I was debating a professor, a former fellow, whose textbook I myself had used when I studied biochemistry. And so now I think things have changed. We're in a different sort of paradigm. People don't like debates. I'm not asked to participate in debates hardly at all. And I get the sense that students are like, well, we just have to all agree to disagree, and we're going to go our way, you're going to go your way. And the dialogue here is so important to foster and encourage, and we're losing that sense of the value of that. So that's one thing I must say I lament over these 20 years. [00:18:15] Speaker C: What I see is a clear shift. [00:18:18] Speaker A: Towards a kind of more polarized environment and a less open to dialogue environment. [00:18:26] Speaker B: Yeah, that's very well put and well observed. I think often there's a little bit of, like, the cancel culture or the idea of, I don't want to say the wrong thing that might offend people, instead of the idea that these are complex issues. And I would like to help persuade people to consider them more fully because there are a lot of issues that are very complex, and we often have an emotional reaction to a certain situation that is understandable but isn't necessarily, isn't seeing the whole picture. And I think this tendency to reduce kind of ethics to emotional reactions is a big problem in some ways. This goes back to the 17th century, actually. No, sorry, 18th century philosopher Jean Jacques Rousseau, who really tried to recalibrate and reconstitute the moral virtues as emotions and sentiments. And I think today that is so rich when we talk about mercy now, it's mercy killing, because mercy is, well, you feel bad to see another person suffering, and so you want to end their suffering and end your suffering. So it's become merciful to assist someone to die. Right. And I think a lot of the issues around infertility, again, infertility is a great burden, and we want to alleviate that burden, that feeling of mercy, that then we think, oh, it must be good to do it because it feels bad to have people not have a child. So anything that alleviates that pain is somehow permissible. [00:20:30] Speaker C: Fascinating. [00:20:31] Speaker A: And I agree. I think, you know, it's interesting that you link it back to Rousseau, who I'm not all that familiar with. So I wasn't aware that that was kind of one of his points, but point well taken. And I certainly think it's correct that we allow for a certain standing in by emotionalism in the place of an authentic grappling with the core goods that are at stake. And this is something we have to train the younger generation to be aware of and to actually engage, really, the substantive issues. Rather than going always by this, what at times devolves into a kind of knee jerk response of immediate feelings and emotional pity and pseudocompassion and a number of other just kind of whatever moves across the screen suddenly gets precedence. This is where I think the church is so wonderfully helpful, by always giving us a sense that, well, look, a lot of times here, there are some clear principles that are going to illuminate and safeguard underlying goods and infertility. Understanding that there is a tellos, there is an end directedness to our sexuality. Just to make a statement like that is already to be somewhat revolutionary. But the church, of course, makes that and has always made that statement, and so is revolutionary in that sense today in a way that so many people still need to hear. And once you begin to grapple with that and say, yeah, what is sexuality for? And what is marriage about? And where does new life fit in with this? And then where are the obligations in terms of safeguarding the origins of the next generation of humanity? How do we do that? Then you can start to get some traction rather than just, oh, I feel so bad that this person doesn't have a baby and they want a baby so much, and we should all feel. [00:22:41] Speaker C: So bad for them. [00:22:43] Speaker A: It just gets a little bit kind of circular almost, when one gets into that pattern or approach. [00:22:51] Speaker B: Yeah. And I think one element is that when we see the power and force of these emotional mobs, almost, as I put it, like, instead of a mob running around trying to find somebody who's guilty, but this is a dangerous way of doing moral reasoning. When it replaces moral reasoning with basically emotional reactioning or reacting, that there's no guarantee that we're not going to be on the wrong side of the emotional mob at some point, that the emotional mob may turn on us and may turn on the very people that are enacting it today because it has no principles. And so really what we need is we need something that's going to defend us against hospitals or insurance companies or governments that may want to manipulate us in ways that we don't want to be manipulated, that may want to end our life prematurely, that may want to declare us to be unwell when we are, well, just, we believe in, right, God or we believe in Jesus Christ. So I think we have to remember that it's easy to think when you're on the side of the emotional mob that everything's fine. But we have to remember, emotional mobs are not safe. They're not secure, they're not stable. And we need principles of moral reasoning that will actually defend the innocent across time. And so we're going to take a quick break, but when we come back, I'd love to ask you to unpack a little bit more of this vision of kind of catholic life and fertility. What's the kind of freeing character of the vision of catholic teachings on sex and marriage and then going into this question of infertility? So we will return just after the break. [00:25:07] Speaker D: You're listening to the catholic theology show presented by Ave Maria University and sponsored in part by Annunciation Circle. Through their generous donations of $10 or more per month, Annunciation circle members directly support the mission of AMU to be a fountainhead of renewal for the church through our faculty, staff, students, and alumni. To learn more, visit avemaria.edu. [00:25:29] Speaker B: Join. [00:25:30] Speaker D: Thank you for your continued support. And now let's get back to the show. [00:25:37] Speaker B: Welcome back to the catholic theology show. I'm your host, Michael Doffene. And today we are joined by Father Tad Paholzchik. I think I messed that up again. Paholcik, is that right? [00:25:49] Speaker C: Yes, you got it right that time. [00:25:51] Speaker B: Okay, good. And who's a senior ethicist with the National Catholic Bioethics center? Catholic priest also holding advanced doctoral degrees in neuroscience as well as dogmatic theology and bioethics. So again, thank you, Father, for being on the show. [00:26:10] Speaker C: Well, it's a pleasure. Glad we have the chance to somewhat leisurely go through some of these types of topics. Sometimes the time limitations don't allow for a little bit more loose or free discourse on these types of areas. And I think it's neat to make some of the broader connections, even in terms of where the society has taken some wrong turns. [00:26:36] Speaker B: Yeah. So you had organized and held at Avebra University in the fall of 2003, a day long, I guess, seminar conference on assisted reproductive technologies, IVF and other elements and stuff. So maybe could you tell a little bit about why you organized such a conference, what you were hoping to achieve, and some of the bioethical principles that were at stake. [00:27:10] Speaker C: Yes. Well, I think that there's a certain sense in which in vitro fertilization touches on aspects of our understanding of ourselves very, very profoundly. But that it's sort of a topic that doesn't get much press time. I think what's happened is we've sort of slipped into it. It's become commonplace. It's become routine in the face of situations of infertility. And as we were discussing earlier, it's often driven by the motivation of sort of, well, I feel bad for these people who don't seem to be able to have children of their own, and it has resulted unwittingly, I think, in very, very complex moral dilemmas. Now, I mean, the most obvious one and the one that everybody talks about involves the frozen embryos that we have, these huge frozen orphanages with literally millions of human beings. And the number is ticking up every day, every hour of every day in every major city in the United States, and nobody, but nobody talks about it. So these know some of the concerns that were motivating me. I had just seen this over the years, that Catholics had no awareness of this issue and were basically doing it at the rate, at a rate that was comparable to non Catholics, I'm convinced. And so my hope was in setting up a conference, an opportunity like this, to present that it would provide people with a little bit more firm backing to be able themselves to discuss this with family members who might be facing infertility and who might be tempted to say, hey, we should do IVF. Everybody's recommending it, et cetera. And just on a purely practical note, I also set it up in such a way that I wanted to be sure that there would be a reasonably well put together video at the end of the presentations. And the first of those, there were two talks that were given on October 7 at Ave Maria. Both recorded. The second talk, called why is IVF wrong? Is completely finished and is now posted on Vimeo. And it's at vimeo.com slash bioethicsvideos. And so that's available for people to watch the whole presentation. And it includes a little bit of firsthand testimony from a young married woman, Molly Hickey, where she gave her experience, her and her husband's experience of struggling with infertility, and why the church's position made so much sense to her. And she really does a very nice job kind of summarizing that as well. And she's also present in the other video, which is not yet completed, but we hope to finish it in the next month, month and a half again, it's set up where I do a quick overview, a presentation of the key issues. She's kind of nested in the middle, giving the first hand testimony of what it was like to struggle through this. And in that other video that's not yet finished, she describes really a lot of the difficulties, mentally and spiritually that she and her husband had to work through when they realized that they had an issue of infertility and seeing other couples getting pregnant, their friends, and they themselves not able to. And what is God doing here in the face of this? And she gives, again, very, very nice testimony about how this affected them and how they grew through it with the grace of God and the teachings of the church. [00:31:29] Speaker B: Yeah. So maybe just, could you summarize relatively briefly just what is it about IVF that is wrong, and why does the church counsel against it? [00:31:43] Speaker C: Yeah, I think first thing I would say is, it's not just the frozen embryos. I actually wrote a column with that title. It's not just the frozen embryos, because you ask your typical Catholic or your typical person, why does the church believe IVF? Oh, well, because you make extra embryos and that's wrong. And then if you say to them, well, what about if you do IVF and you make exactly two embryos and you implant both of them, and then they'll kind of scratch their head and say, well, gee, I don't know, does the church think that's wrong? And of course, the church does think that's wrong. It's very seriously wrong. Now, it's not to diminish the gravity of the frozen embryos. This is serious collateral damage. But it is collateral damage. It's not the core reason. The core reason here is that as human beings, we are so special, so sacred, that we deserve to enter the world through an act of self giving love between a husband and a wife. We deserve to be loved into being, not manhandled, manipulated, created in glassware, perhaps flash frozen along the way, treated as an object. No, we're meant to be received as subjects of infinite and inestimable value, and received in a way, then out of the hand of God in a fashion that accords with that beautiful nature of ours and means that we have to be very attentive to avoid this temptation to objectify humans, especially in their origins. And one of the things that happens is if we do in vitro fertilization, there is a way in which we are objectifying our own children, and we're immediately opening up all kinds of other directions that we can go. Can we start testing them for this or that characteristic that we would like them to have, whether it's blue eyes or we want them to be particularly athletic? And then can we select from a lineup of our own children which ones we want? And suddenly you realize it's no longer this reception of a gift, but it is my project to take control of the matter at hand and impose my own designs and willfulness over a very, very delicate arena that's at the core of married life. So the church recognizes that there are these tendencies, these temptations to depersonalize human beings and to subjugate them, because really, it is a form of subjugation. If husband and wife give themselves to each other in the marital embrace, they don't know whether a child's going to come. There's a kind of raw openness and waiting. There's a mystery there. And then, hopefully, God willing, the life arises. But it's not like it's demanded or insisted upon or claimed as a right. No, none of those things. Rather, it is received as the gift that it is. Meanwhile, we sort of upset the whole apple cart when we go down the path of in vitro fertilization. And this becomes our project. It becomes something that we determine with a kind of, I would say, pragmatic, american can do mentality. We're going to make this happen. If we have to empty our bank accounts. And he says, I'll donate sperm as many times as needed, she says, I'll be super ovulated as many times as required. We're going to make this happen. [00:35:50] Speaker A: This is our project. [00:35:51] Speaker C: And that already involves a failure to recognize the real gift that the child is meant to be. It's a kind of subjugation, where we become those who preponderate over the origins of our children, rather than those who petition the giver of the gift through the marital embrace. The marital embrace is a very unique and privileged setting in which that gift is sought, in which we petition the Lord for his blessing. [00:36:28] Speaker B: Yeah, I remember hearing a talk, it may have been by Janet Smith, who did a lot of work on catholic bioethics, and especially was one of the more well known kind of defenders of the church's prohibition of artificial means of contraception in the special, like the. But she gave a talk on IVF, and she was just presenting the scientific side of it, which is just that you create a lot of twins, and then a lab tech eliminates some, and then that don't look healthy or don't look like the runts of the litter, so to speak, and then you freeze the other ones, and then you select some of those. And so in a way, once you begin to see that, I think it works when it's hidden, but it's kind of objectionable. But one question I have for you, Father, is that what would you say to people who say, like, hey, we did IVF and we have a baby, and there's no way you're going to tell me that that baby is a bad thing, or my aunt and uncle, my cousin was an IVF, or my niece or nephew came through IVF. And how can you say that that person shouldn't be there? So what would you say to those objections? [00:38:00] Speaker C: Yeah, I think that's one that makes a lot of catholic educators uncomfortable. They think if I'm teaching catholic theology, I don't want to get into this too much, because what if in my classroom of high school students, there is one of the kids, or two or three of the kids who came into the world this way? And I say to them that the church teaches that in vitro fertilization is wrong, then will they take that to mean that my life is wrong and that I'm not meant to be here? Well, I think one has to broaden a little bit of thinking here and look at some parallel cases. So I point out to people, look, there's a lot of ways that human beings can come into the world. You could come into the world through cloning, for example. And if you were born that way, of course, you would be a wonderful person. You could come into the world through incest. Now, if you're born through incest, you're still a wonderful person. You could come into the world through sexual assault. Now, again, all of these things don't say anything about the dignity of the person who is engendered. That dignity is there independent of how any of us arose. But to say that you are wonderful, which we can always say to anybody, is not to say that the way you got here is wonderful. If a sexual assault was involved and you were the result of that, your mom became pregnant through a sexual assault, it's wonderful that you are you, but it is not wonderful that there was a sexual assault. And that's the kind know, clear reasoning we need to be able to do. And so someone who comes into the world, I mean, I remember meeting Rebecca kissling. She kind of goes around on the pro life circuit speaking about rape and abortion and saying that she was born from rape herself. She's a lawyer, and she says just because I was born from rape doesn't mean that my mom should have been able to abort me. She's making a very compelling case for that. But at the same time, to say that Rebecca is wonderful as a lawyer, which she certainly is wonderful person, is not to say that it was good that her mother suffered the sexual assault. So those types of examples, I think, help us unpack the real issue, which is, look, God has plans for how he's going to bring us into the world. And sometimes we get in there and sort of muck it up, if you will, with our own plans, make a mess of things. And God still writes straight on those crooked lines to the best of his ability. But it doesn't mean that we should be making those lines crooked. I think that's the inference a lot of times here that, oh, well, then we have to say cloning is okay and IVF is okay and incest is okay, because we have some people who came into the world that way. Well, no, it is a non sequitur to jump to that kind of conclusion. So the kids who are in the class, they're wonderful. Those high school students who were born that way, they are wonderful. But what their parents did involved objective violations of the meaning of their marital covenant with each other and was not good. What they did. That child is still good and beautiful, but the act that led to that child was not good. So we need to be able to make distinctions of that type. And once we do that, then we can begin to say, all right, then we really do have an order to human sexuality here. It is within marriage exclusively, and it is something that we should treasure and safeguard in our society fully and generously and not allow for any of these shortcuts around the edges. [00:42:20] Speaker B: Yeah. So perhaps in some ways even just take one other, because it's really fascinating to hear you describe that. I think it's really kind of compelling vision. But even almost another common scenario, or at least somewhat common, a couple who gets pregnant before marriage can also welcome that child. And that child, of course, is a gift. The child is a child. The child remains a human being. And at the same time, though, the couple could also come to recognize that, could also go to confession. But you just go to confession for the sin. You don't give away the child. Right. You know what I mean? This element of, I think that distinction between recognizing, wait a second. What actions are going to make me happy over a lifetime and what actions also are going to make human beings in general happy and that deep sense of happiness which is really happiness with God and the happiness to live our lives in this sense of receptivity to gift and a receptivity to suffering. I do think that a lot of the struggles of contemporary society is a strong desire to avoid suffering and to avoid suffering in others. And I think this is very understandable. I think it just turns out not to be very realistic because it turns out that the world is filled with suffering anyways, I think. But that's a really helpful way of understanding it. So what would you say then? You know, what kind of then is the healing vision of perhaps maybe couples who have failed in their obligations of chastity, perhaps failed in their discerning IVF or in other modes? What would you say is the kind of compelling vision of catholic marriage seen through the lens of God's mercy so that we can also preach a message and consider a vision that is healing, recognizing that in a way, I'll fall short of the glory of God? [00:44:47] Speaker C: Yeah, absolutely. And I think that the mercy of the Lord here is so key to always present in tandem with the church's vision around assisted reproductive technologies, because first, in the first place, it is rather complicated. Secondly, I have myself dealt with couples who, I think they made some initial attempt to get this right, and they even went to their priest and said, well, are we allowed to do this? And the priest said, well, just follow your conscience, and off they went. They didn't know what that meant, and he wasn't very helpful in specifying what that meant. The issue of when they come to that point, of realizing that they've taken a step, that they regret that the mercy of the Lord is there waiting for them. And it is an opportunity for real healing. And I've also run into couples who have done IVF who say, boy, now that I see what we did, I wish that I could help others to avoid the mistake that we made. And so sometimes they will seek to do that through testimony, through writing, et cetera. And that's wonderful. Sometimes, sadly, there's a certain element where we'd all like to prevent others from making the mistakes that we make, but sometimes we don't all have ears to hear, even when others tell us about their own mistakes, we have to make the mistakes ourselves, tragically, before we sort of come around to the wiser view. But at any rate, the Lord is always there waiting for us with open arms. And that's so refreshing and hopeful. I think part of the reason it is important to get this right and to spend some time reflecting on it and going a little deeper is because if we do allow our own willfulness here to get the upper edge, even for just a period of time, sometimes there are consequences that are very hard to clean up. And that includes the frozen embryos. When I have couples who come to me and say, we did ivf 15 years ago, we've got seven frozen embryos, and I'm past childbearing age, and we feel awful about this, and we just don't know what to do. That is a reminder that there are always effects of our choices and sometimes no simple avenue through which we can, as it were, clean up the situation. And I think that's what's happened with the frozen embryos. It's a situation where there is no easy answer. And so I encourage people to, just as a sign of their repentance, as a sign of their regret, to continue to pay the fees to the company that's freezing them for at least a few more years, kind of thing. And I say there's theoretically a chance that the church might come up with some sort of an answer, but I don't believe that. I don't think there really is any resolution that will arise around this. And so this is part of why it's so valuable that we talk about these realities and help people to steer clear of poor moral choices before they make them and to help them have a level of understanding and to themselves, step beyond the emotion, because I think the drive to have the child is so deeply seated, especially in women. They oftentimes, in the couples that I've worked with, have been the main motor, if you will, in terms of pushing towards IVF. And the husband will be like, well, if she wants it, I want to support her. And so it becomes very important in the face of that strong emotional drive to provide some more solid points of reference. And thanks be to God, we have the church that assists us in that and our Lord and his wise teaching that he has made clear through his church. [00:49:28] Speaker B: Well, father, thanks so much for being on the show and for this conversation. Before we close, I'd love to ask you three questions. First, what's a book you're reading? [00:49:39] Speaker C: Wow. That is a good question. I'm reading a book currently on the life of St. Maximilian Colby that was written by one of his confrers who lived in Japan with him in Nagasaki. I forget the title of it, but it's know. Reflecting on his encounters with Colby and the encounters of the other monks in his community, in his franciscan community, that's a powerful story. [00:50:08] Speaker B: That's great. Second question. What's a spiritual practice you try to do every day to help you find meaning and purpose and grow closer to God? [00:50:19] Speaker C: Well, I think the rosary is so key. It's such a simple thing that our lady says to us, pray the rosary, and yet I have to acknowledge some days it's a challenge for me to fit it in. The day can be so busy with so many other obligations, and it demands a little bit of planning and time. But I love the rosary. That's what I try to make a regular staple daily of my prayer structure, if you will. [00:50:55] Speaker B: And last question, since this is a podcast on catholic theology, what was a belief that you held about God or the faith that you later discovered was false, and what was the truth you. [00:51:08] Speaker C: Discovered view about God that was false? I'm not sure. I guess I'd have to give that more thought. I can't say I am aware of some view of God that I subscribed to that I would claim was, was clearly false, that I later said, oh, it was more like I just began to understand more deeply what maybe was at an earlier stage, intuitive. But I don't think there's any angle about God that I discovered to be false. [00:51:50] Speaker A: Really. [00:51:51] Speaker B: Well, that's a great way of that. Deepening your understanding of God over time is a beautiful thing. Well, again, Father Tad, thank you so much for being on the catholic theology show. Those who are interested in learning more about catholic bioethics, the National Catholic Bioethics center, and also Father Tad can go to, well, fathertad.com, a great page with a lot of your teachings and a lot of you've written, I think, monthly columns on bioethics for probably a couple of decades. [00:52:30] Speaker C: That's right. About 215 columns or so. [00:52:33] Speaker B: Yes. So I really would encourage people who are interested and maybe people who are maybe upset by certain things that we've discussed or wrestling with these issues to take time to read these elements and to come to a deeper understanding and to be open to learning this holistic vision of marriage and sexuality and really of the human person and really our journey home to God. And then also there's also the National Catholic Bioethics center, which is ncbcenter.org, which has a ton of information as well. So those are two great places to find more information. And especially they also, by the way, the National Catholic Bioethics center also has consultants, ethics consultants, that are available for people that are maybe wrestling with these questions about assisted reproduction, assist maybe struggling with infertility, or also other issues about end of life issues. So the center is not merely a place for study, it's also a place for practical learning, counseling, and resolution to situations. [00:53:54] Speaker C: Yes, well, thank you for that. And maybe one last resource, the Vimeo website that I mentioned, which has actually a number of videos, but including the one on IVF that we were discussing. [00:54:05] Speaker A: That'S. [00:54:10] Speaker C: Bioethics videos and several of them that I think people would find of interest, including one just released on transgender hot topic these days. [00:54:20] Speaker B: Okay, wonderful. Thank you so much, Father, and thank you to our listeners and viewers and for tuning in to another episode of the Catholic Theology show. [00:54:31] Speaker D: Thank you so much for joining us for this podcast. If you like this episode, please rate and review it on your favorite podcast app to help others find the show. And if you want to take the next step, please consider joining our Annunciation circle so we can continue to bring you more free content. We'll see you next time on the catholic theology show.

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