By Kathleen Gilbert

BALTIMORE, Maryland, November 18, 2009 ( – While meeting at their Fall General Assembly Wednesday, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops overwhelmingly approved a new document clearly expressing the Catholic Church's opposition to reproductive technologies such as in-vitro fertilization and human cloning, which they say violates the human dignity of the children produced.

The bishops at the meeting approved the new document, entitled “Life-Giving Love in an Age of Technology,” by a 220-4 margin.  The document is mostly dedicated to parsing the serious moral problems posed by in-vitro fertilization (IVF). 

“Children have a right to be conceived by the act that expresses and embodies their parents' self-giving love; morally responsible medicine can assist this act  but should never substitute for it,” it reads.

In addition to the damage done by the modern contraceptive mentality, say the bishops, the meaning of procreation also suffers when the welcoming of new life is dislocated from its natural context in married sexual love.  Ultimately, the bishops say this does not do justice to the “full human dignity of the child,” and leads to a minefield of moral and spiritual problems.

The document asserts that abuses stemming from IVF are a “natural outgrowth of the original decision to turn the begetting of a child into a manufacturing process.”  “In this situation a new life may be highly valued-as a way of meeting parents' goals for family size, or of achieving other goals such as scientific knowledge-but this human life is not respected as human persons deserve to be respected,” it states. 

Such abuses include the freezing of excess embryonic children, the genetic screening for “desirable” children, and “selective reduction” or targeted abortion of excess implanted embryos – all of which are routine for IVF clinics but considered morally repugnant by the Catholic Church.

Also, the bishops suggest that IVF is inextricably linked to the evil of embryonic stem-cell research, as the overflowing amount of frozen embryos creates a “terrible temptation for researchers to find a 'use' for these human beings no longer wanted by their parents.”

“Broader abuse is in the realm of science fiction at this point, although many scientists say it is possible and even should be welcomed: a 'brave new world' in which human beings are tailored for genetic perfection, developed outside their mothers' bodies, and pre-selected for given roles in society,” the bishops note.  “This would be the ultimate step toward a very efficient society in  which the idea of human dignity may seem obsolete.”

The bishops conclude: “Children are not parents' possessions to manufacture, manipulate, or design; rather, they are fellow persons with full human dignity, and parents  are called to accept, care for, and raise them to be new members of God's family and his Kingdom.”

Pro-Life Committee Chairman Cardinal Justin Rigali introduced the new document as a way of addressing “much confusion” among Catholics regarding the Church's teaching on modern reproductive technology.

“Any method of making babies is sometimes considered to be pro-life,” said Rigali.  “There is a need, therefore, to help Catholics understand specific differences between the Catholic understanding and the secular understanding of human life, and how these distinctions have led to different judgements on technologies that may intervene in human reproduction.”

Click here for more information and the full USCCB document.