Due to the Catholic Church’s strong stance against the use of in vitro fertilization (IVF), there has been huge confusion as to whether or not they will allow baptizing a baby born of such a procedure. So I’ve put together this article to try to answer this question. But to do that you must first understand the Church’s position regarding IVF and why.
The Catholic Church will baptize IVF babies since every child is considered God’s gift and, thus, is to be welcomed. But since the Church also deems IVF immoral, baptizing an IVF-conceived baby is still subject to certain conditions and will depend on the approval of your local bishop and priest.
While some priests and bishops are willing to baptize an IVF baby, there might be some who may refuse to do so. That said, the decision is ultimately up to the individual church. Now, to understand or at least get an idea of why this is the case, you have to know the position of the Church on IVF.
Catholic Church Stance on IVF
For the Catholic Church, in vitro fertilization or IVF is considered immoral. Now, I understand that this can be difficult to accept, especially since it is the most commonly used Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) technique today. Many, including me, also find this surprising since most couples who take part in the process are often married and are only trying to fulfill their dreams of having a child.
However, the Bible tells us that there are limits to what people can do to achieve pregnancy. Catholics are also taught that human life starts at the moment of conception – when the egg meets the sperm to form an embryo. The Donum Vitae or the “Instruction on Respect for Human Life in Its Origin and on the Dignity of Procreation”, which was created by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, states that it is through a union or the act of marriage that a human person should be brought about.
So it follows that if an ART technique helps or assists in the act of marriage to conceive a child, then it may be considered moral in the eyes of the Church. But if it replaces the act, then it is immoral.
In IVF, a new life is brought about by collecting eggs from a woman and semen from a man, then joined together in a petri dish. Once developed, the embryos will then be transferred to the mother’s womb where hopefully one gets to survive to term. Thus, the act of marriage is eliminated. The Church sees this new life as something brought about by doctors and technicians in a laboratory instead of the union and love of a married couple.
Now, to understand the position of the Catholic Church better regarding IVF, here are the two types of techniques used for such a process as stated in the Donum Vitae:
This is an IVF technique used to obtain a human conception through the meeting in vitro of eggs and sperm taken from at least one donor. The Church has concerns over this because this means that the generic mother or father of the baby is someone outside of the marriage. His/Her identity is also hidden, so there’s no way for the child to know his/her lineage and any possible health problems that he/she could inherit. Not to mention that this could lead to half-siblings marrying each other since they won’t know that they came from the same donor.
In this IVF technique, human conception is achieved through the union in vitro of the eggs and sperm of the spouses in marriage. You’d think that this will be less of an issue, right? Well, according to the Catholic Church, it can still cause serious moral problems.
Several embryos will be brought into existence in the IVF process. However, only those that show promise to reach full-term will be implanted in the woman’s womb. Those that are not selected are either discarded or experimented on. So while a baby may ultimately be born, other lives were taken out – and in the Catholic faith, this is considered a terrible offense.
But even when donor eggs or sperm are not used or no unwanted babies are disregarded, IVF is still wrong in the eyes of the Catholic Church because all the babies produced through the process are subjected to “quality control” and are to be eliminated if found “defective”. This puts the life and death of a human being to another man – a position that belongs only to God.
Can an IVF Baby Be Baptized in the Catholic Church?
Now that you have an idea of the stance of the Church on IVF, let’s go back to the main question: will the Catholic Church baptize an IVF baby? Well, as mentioned above, this depends on the individual church. Some bishops and priests will approve of the sacrament and some will refuse to do so.
In a post on SheKnows, moms share their opposing experiences with the Catholic Church regarding their IVF babies. One mom shared how the Church refused to baptize her child unless she confesses her “sin” of going through the IVF process – to which she didn’t agree to. On the contrary, the other mom says that her family’s priest supported her throughout the whole process and was there for her from when she started doing IVF until her children’s baptism. This just shows how different the experience can be for everyone.
It’s also worth noting that the Church would not condemn a child born out of IVF, according to Father Thoman Nairn in an article on U.S Catholic. He also says that the Church considers the process as a “bad means to a good end”. This doesn’t come as a surprise since the Catholic Church is known for giving special importance to children.
How to Get Your IVF Baby Baptized in the Catholic Church?
If you are planning to get your IVF baby baptized in the Catholic Church, you may be asked to agree to several conditions. For instance, you might be required to agree that you won’t use your child for any purpose other than his/her intended and natural purpose. You will also be required to accept the Church’s teachings and bring up your child according to the teachings and traditions of the Church. In the worst-case scenario, you might be asked to admit to committing a “sin” by going through IVF.