Matt C. Abbott
Priests sound off on octuplet controversy
By Matt C. Abbott
February 12, 2009

I sought comments from several reputable and orthodox Catholic priests on the controversy surrounding the woman who recently gave birth to octuplets.

Father Peter West:

    'The case of Nadya Suleman giving birth to eight children after having already given birth to six children conceived through in vitro fertilization has raised many questions surrounding the whole process. Some ask if so many babies should have been implanted; others wonder if some should have been 'selectively reduced' — a euphemism for the violence of abortion. But few are asking the question, is in-vitro fertilization ethical in the first place? This case provides us with a teachable moment whereby faithful Catholics can instruct others about the sacredness of human life from its very beginning, and God's wonderful plan for marriage, sex and family life.

    'The primary reason the Catholic Church opposes in vitro fertilization is that a child has a right to come into the world as a result of an act of love between his or her father and mother, not as a result of a laboratory process. Thousands of embryos have been frozen and deprived of their mother's care. Many don't survive the freezing and unthawing. Others are discarded or subject to further abuse and experimentation. Often more embryos are implanted than are intended to be brought to term, so they are 'selectively reduced' — a euphemism for killing. But these reasons are secondary to the fact that a child enters the world not as a result of an act of love, but through a third party in a laboratory process.

    'Until the 1930's all Christian churches were united in opposing contraception. The widespread use of contraception led to a utilitarian view of the body, increasing promiscuity and far more, not less, abortion, and now euthanasia. God is the author sex. Sex is something beautiful and good when we respect God's plan for it. God intended for sex to be an expression of total self-giving love and open to the transmission of life in the context of a marriage between a husband and wife who have pledged themselves to each other for life.

    'Contraception and sterilization are immoral because the procreative (life-giving) dimension of the conjugal act is deliberately separated from the unitive (love-giving) dimension of the conjugal act, so that actions by which God may choose to give life are deliberately rendered infertile. In vitro fertilization disassociates the love-giving dimension from the life-giving dimension.

    'In vitro fertilization is the flip side of contraception. Contraception is sex without babies. In vitro fertilization is babies without sex. While the Church is often accused of being anti-sex, we teach that the actions by which a new human being comes into the world are a reflection of Trinitarian love. What we oppose is the degradation of sex. Karl Marx said that sex was no more significant than drinking a glass of wine — a mere satisfaction of a bodily appetite. The Church sees sex as an act of love by which God, if he chooses, can bring forth a new human life made in his image and likeness.

    'But whatever way a child comes into the world, their lives must be respected and protected. Pope John Paul II asks in Evangelium Vitae: 'How can you have a human individual without having a human person?' Science shows us that at the moment of fertilization a new human life has begun. This is not a potential human being, but a human being with great potential. As we grow from that point to adulthood, there is no change of nature or gradation of value. Life must be respected at every stage of development.

    'For couples suffering from fertility problems, there is hope. Thomas W. Hilgers, M.D., is a pro-life obstetrician and gynecologist and director of the Pope Paul VI Institute. Dr. Hilgers has a developed a system called NaProTechnology to help couples manage their fertility while respecting God's moral law. NaProTechnology works with — not contrary to — nature. Dr. Hilgers says that too many doctors today skip over the underlying problems causing infertility and immediately recommend in vitro fertilization.

    'Behind every 'no' is a great 'yes' to the dignity of the human person, respect for innocent human life, the sanctity of marriage and reverence for the love-giving actions by which new human beings enter this world.'

Father Phillip De Vous:

    'This case illustrates the perfect intersection of the perverse incentives offered by the welfare state, taken together with medical technology and medical practitioners unchecked by the guidance offered by sound moral norms, coupled to the personal irresponsibility and immaturity of the mother. To borrow from columnist Diane West, this is the perfect cultural anecdote to illustrate what 'The Death of the Grownup' looks like — culturally, personally and professionally. Every sane citizen of this republic of ours has much to be worried about.'

Father Joe Mack:

    'I think both Pope Paul VI and the future Benedict XVI warned us of this type of behavior when the Church was blessed with Humanae Vitae in 1968 and the Instruction on Respect for Human Life... in 1987. We've come full circle from losing respect for human reproduction as rightfully belonging to marriage, as warned by Pope Paul VI, to Cardinal Ratzinger's admonition that children are not a right/object of ownership, but a gift: the 'supreme gift' of marriage. This very confused young woman is at the very least a marker for the grave state of affairs our contraceptive, free-love society has brought down upon us. God help those children.'

Father Richard Perozich:

    'Pope John Paul II in his 1999 Angelus address on the Feast of the Holy Family said that 'a family is created when a man and a woman give themselves to each other in marriage and are open to the gift of children. The union between the mother and the child conceived and the irreplaceable role of the father require that the child be welcomed into a family which, as far as possible, will guarantee the presence of both parents. The specific contribution made by each one to the family and through it, to society, deserves the highest esteem.'

    'The way of conceiving a child is in humanae modo, that is, normal sexual relations between a man and a woman. Fertility treatments may include in vivo fertilization, but not in vitro fertilization.

    'The gadflies of our society speak of sexual rights and reproductive rights. Holy Church speaks of sexual responsibility and reproductive responsibilities. Single people and those in varying domestic partnerships might be able to care for a child through providing material needs and a degree of affection, but they cannot replace the family of a husband joined by God to his wife with all the divine graces.

    'The medical community's guidelines for implanting embryos for in-vitro fertilization do not reflect a real sexual or reproductive responsibility, but appear to have grown up in a false understanding of rights of adults who do not fully take into account the welfare of the child.

    'This case shows the irresponsibility of citizens, scientists, doctors, and legislators who are trapped in the language of rights and who are awed by science and thus use it without a responsible ethic or morality. Who is irresponsible? A woman who willfully conceives without a husband, a doctor who uses science because he can in order to create new life outside the womb, legislators who promote embryonic research and techniques, and justices who invent rights for adults to play with nature, with life, and with children without considering the nature of marriage, family, and the needs of a child in its biological, psychological, emotional, ethical, moral, social and spiritual development to be responsible to the Creator.

    'May Catholics reject the idea of rights and hold fast to their responsibility to the Creator, to one another, to children, in order to form a culture of life. No society will ever be just as long as it is one of rights without responsibility to God, to self, and to one another.'

Father Tom Euteneuer:

    'Every one of these children is a precious and unique gift of God who deserves life, and they are absolutely not be blamed or destroyed for what seems like some truly awful decision making by their mother. But why should we be surprised by this? The deeply problematic situation into which these beautiful children are born is the logical result of a common mindset that treats the beauty of human fertility as just another thing to be controlled by science for selfish reasons, as in vitro fertilization is designed to do. We are reminded time and time again that the more we try to 'get beyond' the traditional family, the less we are able to make the moral case against severely irresponsible behavior such as this. We must pray for the children and the mother, and that our Lord brings about the best possible resolution to this very troublesome situation for all concerned.'

Father James Farfaglia:

    'Clearly we can see the terrible problem with in vitro fertilization. We must never separate the procreative and the unitive dimensions of the conjugal act. When man tries to play God, the results are disastrous. In vitro fertilization needs to be made illegal. We need to follow God's laws and respect nature.'

© Matt C. Abbott


The views expressed by RenewAmerica columnists are their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of RenewAmerica or its affiliates.
(See RenewAmerica's publishing standards.)

Click to enlarge

Matt C. Abbott

Matt C. Abbott is a Catholic commentator with a Bachelor of Arts degree in communication, media and theatre from Northeastern Illinois University. He also has an Associate in Applied Science degree in business management from Triton College. Abbott has been interviewed on MSNBC, Bill Martinez Live, WOSU Radio in Ohio, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's 'Unsolved' podcast, WLS-TV (ABC) in Chicago, WMTV (NBC) and WISC-TV (CBS) in Madison, Wis., and has been quoted in The New York Times, the Chicago Tribune, and other media outlets. In 2005 and 2006, he was among the first writers to expose former cardinal Theodore McCarrick's abuse of power with and sexual harassment of seminarians. He can be reached at

(Note: I welcome thoughtful feedback and story ideas. If you want our correspondence to remain confidential, please specify as such in your initial email to me. However, I reserve the right to forward and/or publish emails that are accusatory, insulting or threatening in nature, even if they're marked confidential. Also, if you give me permission to publish a quote of yours, please do not contact me at a later time to request that I delete your name. Only in limited circumstances will I quote anonymous sources. Thank you and God bless!)


Receive future articles by Matt C. Abbott: Click here

More by this author