Monday, April 27, 2009

Catholic thoughts on Nadya Suleman (aka Octomom)

Nadya Suleman is the lady who received fertility treatment and gave birth to 8 children. She was not married at the time, didn't have much money and already had 6 children. She now has 14 children. She has been called Octomom (perhaps it is sometimes spelled Octamom). This name makes her sound like some alien species, mutant, or X-Men character. She has become the object of ridicule of many people who say she did the wrong thing. But how would her actions square with Catholic teaching? We know that the world and especially the media are rarely aligned with the Church in their thinking. So what would the church say concerning the Nadya Suleman case? I believe her story has good and bad elements.

First of all the bad. The Catholic Church is firmly against in vitro fertilization, or the creation of embryos outside the womb of the mother. That's because it contradicts the natural design established by God for how babies ought to be conceived and born. Babies are designed by God to come into existence within the marital embrace in the marital act. He did not design babies to be products of a science laboratory with a scientist fusing together sperm and egg. Therefore the use of embryos in this fashion is gravely wrong. Also, this procedure often destroys embryos. More are created than are needed and because of this, the embryos are often left frozen indefinitely or they are disposed of (usually without a funeral or without the destroyer being charged with murder). So we know that Nadya used fertility treatment that may have destroyed embryos. Society at large has no problem using in vitro fertilization. They view it as a means to an end and in a Machiavelian world like our own, any means is acceptable as long as the end seems desirable. Now, what about the rest of her situation?

Once the embryos were implanted in her uterine, eight clung to the uterine lining and survived. Nadya decided to keep them all. In other words, she did not selectively reduce or murder any of the eight. Strangely, this is where a lot of the world seemed upset. They called Nadya irresponsible, not for having fertility treatment or even for having eight or more embryos conceived, but rather they were upset that she wanted to keep them all. Society said it was irresponsible not to murder some of her children. The Church would disagree strongly, of course. She, the Church, would urge Nadya to keep caring and loving the eight babies in her womb, regardless of how they were conceived. The Church views every child equally and as a gift from God, even those born by in vitro fertilization.

Therefore, the Church and society have disagreed on two points. One point the Church may agree with society is whether she should have had more children in the first place. Since she already had 6 children, it was probably not a great idea for a jobless, husbandless woman of little means to seek out more children than the 6 she already had to support. The Church first of all says people ought to be married before they involve themselves in the act of procreation. But even when they're married, they should practice planning when it comes to children. People should not have more children than they can properly afford. This does not mean every child must have a car when they're 16, and go to the top university and have the best life imaginable. It just means that every child must receive basic care and attention. If someone is unable to supply this, they should probably wait a little while to attempt having another child.
It's a really great thing that Nadya decided to keep all eight of her children. Imagine having to tell, for example, the 6 she decided to keep that they were the lucky ones to have survived and that two of their brothers and sisters didn't make it because they were selectively reduced. That would be very sad and would leave the others asking where their other siblings are and why they themselves are alive but their brothers or sisters are not.

Let us pray that the world heads the words of Pope Paul VI in Humanae Vitae, "Of Human Life", where he says in the opening statement:

"The transmission of human life is a most serious role in which married people collaborate freely and responsibly with God the Creator. It has always been a source of great joy to them, even though it sometimes entails many difficulties and hardships."

No comments:

Post a Comment