Friday, May 19, 2006

Miracles and Sin

I have a confession to make. I have no origional ideas to write about today, so I did some "news shopping" looking for something funny. While this article is emphatically not funny, it does illustrate just how bizzare the thought processes of large religious organizations can be. I am going to reprint here an article from a May 11 Milwaukee Journal Sentinel article about a Catholic school that fired a woman because she had children through invitro fertilazation. Read it and weep.

Can the miracle of birth be a sin?
Posted: May 11, 2006

It's a safe bet that Kelly Romenesko won't be getting a Mother's Day card this year from the Catholic Church.

After years of trying to have a baby the usual and enjoyable way, she and her husband, Eric, finally had beautiful twin girls, Alexandria and Allison, with the help of in vitro fertilization.

Great, right? Well, it turns out that helping nature along in this way violates Catholic doctrine. Romenesko was fired from her teaching job at two Catholic schools in Appleton after she admitted to her boss that her eggs and her husband's sperm got together in a test tube followed by injection into her uterus.

Her firing is discrimination and selective enforcement of the contract, Romenesko claims. She has a complaint pending with the state. And she has baptized the girls Lutheran.

As a cafeteria Catholic myself, I've long known that most ways of not having a baby are a violation of church law. It's been said that the church's rule banning artificial birth control is what got a lot of Catholics thinking for themselves.

But what could be more life-affirming than life itself?

It was clear I was going to need some help understanding the church's position on this one. Luckily, the chancellor and vicar general of the Diocese of Green Bay, Father John Doerfler, was willing to talk, although not about the Romenesko case specifically.

Doerfler is doing his dissertation on the ethics of reproductive technology. He's working toward a doctorate in theology from John Paul II Institute for Marriage and Family in Washington, D.C.

Life is supposed to spring from the two-become-one conjugal act of love, he said, and not from what he kept calling the "manufacturing process" of in vitro fertilization. This puts a human embryo under the control of a lab technician, at least in the early going.

"You might think of in vitro fertilization as a technical procedure, a manufacturing process if you will. It's beneath human dignity to come to be in that way," Doerfler said.

But, I interjected, it's better than not coming to be at all, isn't it? I could forgive the lab tech for jostling my dignity in exchange for a shot at life.

No, it's not better, he said. The church does allow for some medical intervention, but only to help along the natural conjugal act. If that doesn't work, perhaps it's not meant to be, he said.

"Maybe God has some other plan for that husband and wife, for them to share their life and their love in a way they may never have thought of if they were able to have children of their own," he said. Adoption, for instance.

"There does need to be a surrender to God and recognize life as a gift and not something that we make, in a way," the priest said.

Perhaps it was God's will that technology advanced to the point where it can help couples have the babies they long for, I suggested. Doerfler was not buying it, especially in situations where some embryos are destroyed in the in vitro process, which the church sees as the taking of human life.

"Having a child is a good thing," Doerfler concluded. In fact, a baby born this way is considered a child of God like any other.

"But we can never do things that are wrong, even for a good reason."

A quick way to attract angry mail is to tell a religion how to run its shop, so I'm not about to. Besides, what good is a church if it says you can do anything you please?

But when you consider Kelly and Eric Romenesko and their long-awaited children, it's hard to imagine how that could be wrong.

To me, this story is so bizzare that I don't even know how to respond. It is not like this couple has been found having wild orgies, seducing classroom children,or selling drugs. They had scientific help having children. God can't cut them some slack for that? What if the couple celebrated the conception of their twins with a "conjugal act of love"? Even better, what if they had the "conjugal act of love" the day of the implantation? How would the church be able to tell the difference? Anyway, I guess kudos to the church for being on top of it (no pun intended) and keeping their eyes on the bedroom antics of that couple! We wouldn't want them corrupting our children with their fancy scientifically sprouted offspring.

I surely can't speak for God, nor would I ever attempt to, but it seems to me this is more of a human judgement call than a "Godly" one.


Blogger Her Bad Mother said...

"This story is so bizarre that I don't even know how to respond."


What is wrong with people?

19 May, 2006 17:01  
Anonymous Susan said...

The really bizarre thing, the way I understand it, at least, is that she was (reluctantly) allowed the time off from work for the procedure and only fired when it worked!

My personal experience shades my reaction to this case. My husband I were born and raised Catholic, we were married in the Catholic church where AS PART OF OUR VOWS we agreed to "accept children lovingly from God" (I don't recall the part of our ceremony that went into the specifics of how God planned to send these children to us, exactly what we had to DO to get/make them, or who else would be involved).

**as an aside, though pertinent to the story--the priest who married us was/is also one of my best friends growing up and has remained close to our family**

After years of infertility, heartbreak, treatments, etc...we have two daughters: one as the result of an IUI, the other from IVF. That priest has never once suggested to us that the Catholic church frowned on this (not that it would have mattered to us, I'm just stating the facts) and he baptized them both.

I called him a couple of nights ago, when I first heard of this story, but he is on retreat. I will be very interested to hear what he has to say--if he knew he was expected to not support us and ignored it? If so, why? Etc...

This is long (again) sorry.

19 May, 2006 17:41  
Blogger Beth said...

I came here from Sherri's blog. I can't see how this is a religious issue. Go forth and multiply, right? Maybe when men wrote the bible they just forgot to add, "by any means necessary."

19 May, 2006 18:12  
Blogger Karen said...

This gave my husband and I a lot to talk about over breakfast.

21 May, 2006 21:27  
Blogger wolfbaby said...

Its sad. Im not sure what to make of it myself.

22 May, 2006 21:48  
Blogger Michele said...

I am a practicing Catholic and have several things I want to say about this case:
First,we had to have invitro to conceive our boys. We were only able to do so through a rather fortuitous change in medical insurance plans by my company. It was our only chance at having children of our own and without this insurance coverage would have been financially impossible. I discussed this final attempt and the moral issues surrounding it with my priest, who was supportive and encouraging. His opinion was that if the change in medical plans was what it took for us to be able to pursue in-vitro, then we needed to accept that as a miracle/sign that it was what God had planned for us and to go for it. So not all priests are of the opinion of the one in the article. Please keep in mind that just as one would go for a second and third opinion from a doctor, one can also do so with a priest. Bottom line is that Priests, like doctors, are human and there is not neccessarily one protocol followed by all. It is what it is.

Second, the teacher in the case signed a contract saying she would uphold the rules/beliefs of the Catholic church, and then she told her supervisors exactly how she violated it. Is it a valid reason to let her go? It s kind if uncomfortable isnt it, to seemingly persecute her for "going forth and multiplying", but didnt she force their hand? In my job now they expect me to not do drugs, drink on the job, or steal. They dont test me for it, or ask for details. But if I threw it in their face, wouldnt I expect repercussions? Of course, that wouldnt make for a very exciting news item though...

I guess as a Catholic I should have a thicker skin but I dont.

23 May, 2006 10:56  
Anonymous Chantal said...

Several women in my parish have had in-vitro and have had twins etc... The priest baptized all of them and I know he knew the details.

As a Catholic, it upsets me when one portion acts so ridiculously and claims it to be on behalf of the entire faith.

23 May, 2006 12:06  
Blogger Michele said...

I apologize fir hijacking your comments. I should have blogged about this myself.

Thank you for continuing to bring up the important stuff.

23 May, 2006 13:42  
Blogger macboudica said...

No need to apologize, Michele. I thought this article demonstrated an abuse of authority on the church's part. The church's abuse of power has led to my religionaphobia. I guess this article shows that it is not just me. The church does step out of line from time to time and needs to take a reality check.

23 May, 2006 13:57  

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