Childless Couples and the Desire for Parenthood
In February 2004 the 1Oth General Assembly of the Pontifical Academy for Life met in Rome and the following extracts are taken from its final Communique.

Bulletin of the Ovulation Method Research
and Reference Centre of Australia
Volume 31 Number 2 June 200
Reproduced with Permission

The dignity of Procreation and its intrinsic meanings

In light of all this, the Pontifical Academy for Life, in conformity with its Institutional purpose, feels the need and at the same time the responsibility to offer the ecclesial community and civil society its contribution of thought on the subject, in order to propose again to every person of good will the very great dignity of human procreation and its intrinsic meanings.

The coming into being of a new human being is always in itself a gift and a blessing: "Lo, sons are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward" (Psalm 126:3). Each person from the first moment of his life is the tangible sign of God's faithful love for humanity; he is the living icon of the "Yes" of the Creator to the history of men, a history of salvation that will be completed in full communion with God in the joy of eternal life.

Each human being, in fact, from his conception is a unity of body and soul, and possesses in himself the vital principle that will lead him to develop his potentialities, which are not only of a biological character but are also anthropological.

For this reason, the dignity (which is the dignity of the human person) of a child, of every child, independently of the practical circumstances in which his life begins, remains an intangible and immutable good which requires recognition and defence, both by individuals and by society as a whole.

The linking of love and life has a meaning all its own

Among all the fundamental rights that every human being possesses from the moment of conception, the right to life is certainly the primary right because it is the pre-condition for the existence of all other such rights. On the basis of this right, every human being, especially if weak or not self-sufficient, must receive adequate social defence against every form of offence or substantial violation of his or her physical and mental integrity.

It is precisely this inalienable dignity of the person, which belongs to every human being from the first moment of his existence, which requires that his origins should be the direct consequence of suitable personal human action; only the reciprocal gift of the married love of a man and a woman, expressed and realized in the conjugal act with respect for the inseparable unity of its unitive and procreative meanings, is a worthy context for the coming forth of a new human life.

This truth, which has always been taught by the Church, is fully met in the heart of every person, as the recent words of John Paul II well emphasize: "What emerges ever more clearly in the procreation of a new creature is its indispensable bond with spousal union, by which the husband becomes a father through the conjugal union with his wife, and the wife becomes a mother through the conjugal union with her husband.

The Creator's plan is engraved in the physical and spiritual nature of the man and of the woman, and as such has universal value" (Address to the Participants in the Plenary Assembly of the Pontifical Academy for Life, 21 February 2004, n. 2).

We thus state again our firm conviction that artificial reproductive techniques, far from being a real treatment for the sterility of a couple, in reality constitute an unworthy method for the coming forth of a new life, whose beginning thus depends in large measure on the technical action of third parties outside the couple and takes place in a context totally separated from conjugal love.

In employing ART (Assisted Reproductive Technology), indeed, the spouses do not in any way take part in the conception of their child through the reciprocal corporeal and spiritual self-giving of their persons by means of the conjugal act.

The Pope also wanted to call attention to this truth when he pronounced the following words: "The act in which the spouses become parents through the reciprocal and total gift of themselves makes them co-operators with the Creator in bringing into the world a new human being called to eternal life. An act so rich that it transcends even the life of the parents cannot be replaced by a mere technological intervention, depleted of human value and at the mercy of the determinism of technological and instrumental procedures" (Ibid., n. 2).