In-Vitro-Fertilization and the Vatican
It didn't matter that the vote was eleven to one, for that one vote had "the right ear of the Pope."
In November 1985, the Pontifical Academy of Sciences convened to examine the question of whether in-vitro-fertlization (IVF) was licit and consistent with the Catholic doctrine. The Portifical Academy was created soon after Galileo's time in order to prevent the duplication of the Vatican's Galileo fiasco. The purpose of the Academy is, from time to time, to convene experts to discuss scientific developments and have these scientific developments interpreted by moral theologians of the Vatican and made available for suitable action by the Pope.
At the meeting held in November 1985, twelve were present--President Carlos Chagas and three gynecologists, Dr. Rene Frydman of Paris and Drs.Howard and Georgeanna Jones, who had brought into the world the first IVF baby in the Americas. The other eight were moral theologians or scientists, half from the Vatican.
At the first organizational meeting, the participants were told that everything that was said would be recorded and each participant would receive a transcript of the recording. The transcript would be published, as were all deliberations of the Academy, and would be made available to the Pope, as well as the other members of the Vatican to incorporate into the doctrine of the church.
The participants had lively intellectual discussions for five days. The discussions revolved around the process of IVF with many questions asked by the theologians.
On the last day, President Chagas asked each one of the moral theologians present whether they thought that IVF should be considered licit or illicit. Each one, except for Monsignor Caffarra, said he thought the procedure was licit. Caffarra thought IVF was illicit because it "was outside the bonds of conjugal love."
A lively discussion was held defining "conjugal love." Caffarra's definition was "conjugal love was sexual intercourse." President Chagas made an intensive effort to persuade Caffarra to change his position. When the President failed, he asked Caffarra to please remain silent, and not vote. Caffarra responded that he would not--and that all should remember that he "had the right ear of the Pope." (the right ear to the Pope, at that time, was Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict.)
Following adjournment, no one ever received a copy of the transcript promised on the first day of the meeting. It is believed that the Pope never received a copy either. Monsignor Caffarra was the only voice heard from that meeting. On February 22, 1987, instruction was issued and referred to as the "Donum Vitae": IVF, donor eggs and sperm and surrogacy were illicit because they were "outside the bonds of conjugal love."
Dr. Georgeanna Jones, incensed by the document, wrote an open letter to the Pope in reply. She challenged Caffarra directly to change his definition of conjugal love. According to the Vatican, "procreating without intercourse is illicit, and intercourse without the possibility of reproduction is illicit."
Dr. Jones writes in her article, "The Vatican should redefine conjugal love between human beings in terms that emphasize all-encompassing love instead of limiting it to sexual intercourse. The Vatican should realize the scientific factualness--naturalness if you will, God's law as I prefer--of the two-fold function in intercourse--reproduction and pleasure--and the changing importance of the two functions in the lives of two individuals joined in conjugal love."
Though her letter was published, the Pope probably never read her letter.
All of this is so important and significant for today. That document, the "Donum Vitae" was put out by the Vatican under the aegis of the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith, the prefect of which was none other than Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI.
On December 12, 2008, the Vatican published the instruction "Dignitas Personae." The prefect was again Pope Benedict. Twenty years after the publication of "Donum Vitae," this particular doctrine states "that the teaching of the 'Donum Vitae' remains completely valid, both with regard to the principles on which it is based and the moral evaluation which it expresses." As long as Ratzinger is Pope, his definition of conjugal love will continue to exist and any scientific advancement, such as stem cell research, will be considered illicit. This is the document the Pope handed President Obama at their meeting in Italy on July 11, 1009.
The author is grateful to Howard W. Jones, Jr., M.D. for providing the facts of the above entry. All facts can be confirmed by other sources.
July 24, 2009; 9:46 AM ET
Faith and Healing
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