Non-Catholic friends of mine have had a child by IVF and have invited me to the Baptism. I am in two minds whether to go or not.
The 1987 instruction Donum Vitae sets out the ethical problems with IVF. In summary, the procedure normally involves the destruction of “spare” embryos which is the killing of human life. The instruction also points out that the child has the right to be conceived through an act of love of his parents and not as an object of technology. Naturally, even though the means of conception may be morally wrong, “every child brought comes into the world must [...] be accepted as a living gift of the divine Goodness and must be brought up with love.”
These considerations make for a dilemma in the case of the celebration of the Baptism. You rightly want to show a loving respect for the child but do not wish to co-operate with or be seen to approve of IVF. Your decision has to involve an assessment of how your attendance would be perceived. If your friends are aware of Catholic teaching on IVF and actively disagree with it, they might want you to give your stamp of approval. If they have no real knowledge of the moral problems with IVF it might be possible to attend for the sake of praying for, and supporting, the Christian upbringing of the child. It would be important – at the right time, and with sensitivity and charity – to explain why IVF is unethical.
This kind of dilemma is increasingly faced by Catholics today. It is vital to be well informed on the teaching of the Church in matters of bioethics that come up frequently. The CTS does an excellent service by providing short and comprehensible pamphlets on many such issues. In the case of IVF we can offer a compassionate and more effective alternative (which incidentally costs much less) in the use of expert knowledge of natural fertility, and ethical medical means by which the likelihood of conception is greatly increased. NaPro is an organisation that has a proven track record in this area.
Catholic Dilemmas column published in the Catholic Herald
Suggestions for Catholic Dilemmas are always welcome in the combox.