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20 August 2005

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Beth Ager

I'm the mother of one of those children whose conception you oppose. It's clear to me that you think us too foolish to appreciate all the ramifications of using a donor gamete, but believe me--we have thought it through.

You on the other hand, seem to prefer to let the Vatican think it all through for you. I'll spare you my precise opinion on that.

I was raised Catholic but wanted no part of a church that would deny me a child like Teddy. Nor people who see church orthodoxy more clearly than they can see into the human heart.

Beth

bearing

Beth:

Given that you want "no part" of me, thank you for taking the time to comment on my blog.

"It's clear to me that you think us too foolish to appreciate all the ramifications of using a donor gamete, but believe me--we have thought it through."

Honestly? Not foolish, just wrong. I sympathize with the intense desire for a child. I have no reason to doubt that you have thought about artificial conception long and hard, and know more about the ramifications---from your personal experience---than I do.

Do I think it's a good idea to bring kids into the world who won't ever know one or more of their biological parents? No, I still don't.

The reason has everything to do with what children need, and, I admit, nothing at all to do with what grown women desire, infertile or no.

"You on the other hand, seem to prefer to let the Vatican think it all through for you. I'll spare you my precise opinion on that. I was raised Catholic but wanted no part of a church that would deny me a child like Teddy."

I am a Christian because I believe Jesus Christ was a historical man, the Son of God, who was crucified, died, and rose again.

I am a Catholic because I believe the Catholic Church is the same church Jesus founded, and no other is in a position, historically, to make that claim. Those are my reasons; they come *before* any consideration about orthodoxy.

Anyway. Your child, like my two children, is a *gift.* Nothing any of us can do will ever make us *deserve* the children we receive. Nor can anything but nature, luck, tragic circumstance, *deny* us children. They are *gifts,* however we obtain them.

Love Teddy, continue to be thankful that you were granted him, and don't listen to people like me regarding his conception unless by some freak chance it helps you love and be thankful for him *more.*

Beth Ager

Erin,

I am curious as to why you and the church take the position that conceiving a child who may not know his biological parent is inherently wrong.

Pragmatically speaking, having a genetic father around to nurture a child is an ideal frequently not achieved, and the cuckoo has visited many a nest without the intervention of cryogenically preserved sperm.

While I can appreciate the thorny ethical issues of throwing human reproduction to the vagaries of the economic market, the Donum Vitae may as well be tilting against windmills as decrying the use of donor gametes.

The truth in our case is that Teddy has a father whom he adores and who adores him, and we expect very little sturm und dreng over his identity as he matures--no more than any child who is adopted.

And you can't tell me that the church looks down its nose at adoption . . .

This screed that would have my little boy never have been born is just one more sad reminder to me of why I was so right to leave the Catholic church. A pity, as there is so much tradition and majesty to love about the Church of Rome. A shame.

Sherry Forsberg

I am the other mother, and I have to say that I take offense at what you had to write. You evidently didn't get the whole story and jumped to your own conclusions. The reason Zach did not list "the man who raised him"s relatives as his own was not because he didn't want to claim them and was confused by the whole thing--it was because of the Asperger's that he has (with those type of kids they will not put down the "untruth"). He has no issue with how he was conceived, in fact he was very happy when I told him about it (there is a one in four chance the schitzophrenia his father who raised him has will be passed down to offspring and he really didn't want to have to deal with that). I believe all kids deserve to know where they come from, adopted or whatever. God did not put me (or you) on this earth to judge who is right and who is wrong when it comes to having kids. I read your earlier post about how you can accept a child who is the product of a rape but cannot accept one who is the product of artificial insemination. Are you saying I should have gone out and gotten raped instead of going the route I did? I don't believe God would want me to do that. Don't judge me until you've been in my shoes. I do not regret having either one of my children, and I am sure the rest of the people who have gone this route would say the same. We had to go through too much to get our kids--at least they are wanted and loved. You must have a problem with adoption, too? That child doesn't know either of his biological parents, but he or she is still a human being. You should thank God that you did not have the fertility problems and were able to have your own kids. I wonder if you would be so close-minded if it had not worked out that way. Judge and you shall be judged likewise. I am so glad I am not a Catholic. I accept people for who they are--how they got here is not important.

bearing

Hi Sherry. Glad you stopped in.

Thanks for clarifying the circumstances surrounding your son's drawing, which I mentioned in the post. I've inserted an update directing folks to read your explanation, so that no one is misled.

Be assured that I do thank God every single day that my husband and I have not had to suffer infertility.

You felt that my argument said that I "can accept a child who is the product of a rape but cannot accept one who is the product of artificial insemination." This is not a correct characterization. First, it should be obvious that the *children* are innocent in both cases. All children must be loved, accepted, welcomed, regardless of the nature of their conceptions. Once they are conceived, that story's over, if you ask me, and all they need, want, deserve is care and love and nourishing and birth.

But more to the point: What I wrote was very nearly the opposite of what you're claiming---I was saying that it's clearly *obvious* to me that the child of a rape has had his right to know his father violated, whereas it seemed less obvious to me that the child of a sperm donor had had his rights violated. Go back and read it over---after you calm down, I know I've offended you by my words. In an effort to understand a particular aspect---the question of whether a child's right can be violated before the child exists---I take two situations, both of which involve a child with absent biological father, and consider how the language of *the child's rights* applies to each one.

Anyway, I don't judge you personally. How can I---I can't see your heart. I still judge the act of artificial conception to be wrong.

Beth asks: Why? I ask: Would it matter to you, personally, if I explained exactly why? I doubt it. It's the same reasoning that leads me to believe contraception is wrong, too. If that seems incomprehensible, then there's little chance we'll reach each other over this gulf. Maybe we'd have a chance if we each went back to some agreeable starting point and were able to show each other how we think, every step of the way. If I had that chance, I'd begin with the 19th chapter of Matthew.

But that would take us a long, long time.

Sherry asked me, if we had had fertility problems, would I believe what I do? I think I would, still, although it would be a belief forged in pain I don't now know. I think I'd be terribly tempted (if I had the money, that is) to resort to AI. I hope I wouldn't do it, because I'd have to deny my faith to do so. I'm thankful I haven't been through that trial.

Thanks for commenting, and feel free to continue writing if you like. Maybe you'll help me clarify my thoughts. The whole reason I wrote about this (starting with the previous post that Sherry alluded to) is because I really do have trouble wrapping my head around this issue. And the whole reason it's difficult is exactly what you are saying: The "products" of artificial conception are wanted and loved children. And they are unambiguously good.

The only possible way to understand the Church's teachings is as a statement that such conceptions somehow violate, or at least fail to respect, the rights of these children. I still have difficulty figuring out how that works, given that the children don't exist until they are conceived.

Beth Ager

Erin,

I agree that there is a gulf between us and that explaining what one believes and why is nearly impossible to do in a truly meaningful way. I can only agree to disagree with you about the appropriateness of the use of donor sperm.

And I do agree with you that our children are gifts.

I especially appreciate your candor in admitting that you might be tempted to use AI--although you would hope not. That's very genuine of you.

As for violating the rights of children, was it Stephen Crane who said that if he had only a square meter of earth to stand on and nothing but mist to look upon, that would still be preferable to death? I side with him in not agonizing over Teddy's misty origins. I daresay that Teddy won't go about wishing that he had never been born, either. Unless, of course, he grows up to be exceedingly preoccupied by theological puzzles--despite my best agnostic efforts.

Sherry Forsberg

I look at it this way: If God did not want me to have kids, He would not have allowed me to get pregnant twice and carry not one, but two children to term. Sometimes we have to use other resources--that does not mean that God is still not in control of the situation. Each person is able to make these decisions for him or herself--they are the ones who have to live with it in the end. If it does not bother that person that is what counts. I don't feel I am in the position to decide on what is right for others, only for myself. I have no problem with this, same as I would have no problem with blood transfusions, doctors, etc. (I know that some people's religions say no to these and people will actually let their children die rather than "go against God's will"). But, like I said before, I am not in the position to judge others for what they feel is right for them. Each person needs to decide in their heart what is right for him or her. And sometimes we need help along the way. You are entitled to your opinion, but you need to understand that when you attack someone as precious as a child you are going to get in trouble with the mother. Compare it to a lioness protecting her cubs. Maybe someday your attitude will change, maybe not. But you are the one who has to live with yourself. I am not here to judge you, only God can do that.

Beth Ager

Sherry,

One of the problems is that, while Erin see children as an "unambiguous good," the position of her church really seems to undercut that. It's a paradox . . . sort of like God's sending bears to tear up kids who mocked Elijah. One wonders if His left hand knows what His right had is doing, sometimes.

Your comment about being God's allowing you to carry Z & Z to term reminds me of something hurtful my very devout Catholic mother once said to me, after Jack's stillbirth. She said it was a sign that I should drop DI and adopt.

I told her that I couldn't believe that God was that petty. That goes double for a God who would proscribe our wonderful kids.

Especially since they were conceived by means which He made possible, not "artificial conception." A sperm's union with an egg is the Real McCoy, even when that sperm has been harvested from a testicle and pushed through the shell with a microscopic pipette. "AI" is a mere assist in the ultimate mystery.

Marty

Good stuff Erin.

A couple of scary things jump out at me, from Beth's posts:

"I was raised Catholic but wanted no part of a church that would deny me a child like Teddy."[created through laboratory adultery]..."I told her that I couldn't believe that God was that petty. That goes double for a God who would proscribe our wonderful kids."

As classic a case of "creating God in your own image" as i've ever seen. Beth can't believe in a God who believes anything Beth that doesn't. That's one way to live a sinless life i suppose -- good thing too -- there's no need for repentance and redemption either.


Beth Ager

Marty,

Actually, your idea of what I believe and why is way off. That is your hobby horse.

FWIW I am a born agnostic, having tried very hard to believe at times, but to no avail. The closest I came was while trying to come to terms with the death of my son--out of grief for him I wanted his death to have some larger meaning.

If the thought of someone unconstrained by church doctrine scares you, then it is good that your religion gives you comfort. Hold it close, cherish it, make it work for you--and try not to worry about my laboratory adultery or my immortal soul.

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