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Our readers asked:

Does the Catholic Church support the use of a surrogate mother to have a child?

Charles C. Camosy, PhD Answers:

The Catholic Church is pro-life, and this not only means “not killing” and “actively supporting” life, but it also means being open to new life as well. The Church therefore obviously wants to support the desire of married couples to be parents, but to do so in a way that is in line with God’s intention for how flourishing children come into the world. Thus all technologies which are designed to aid the mechanisms God has given us for procreation are perfectly acceptable, according to the Church. Women and men can take drugs or have surgeries to improve their fertility or their sexual capabilities, for instance.

However, the Church wants to push back against our culture’s understanding that children can be created with technology and distributed via a market. Children are to come as a gift from God via a sexual relationship — instead of being procured as a product or thing. Any reproductive procedure that involves something other than aiding sex and pregnancy within the context of a married couple permanently committed to being the parents of this child together is something the Church insists misses the mark. This includes everything from creating a child in a laboratory to the use of another person as a surrogate to carry the child through pregnancy. The fact that some of us will not be able to be biological parents is a painful one, but the Church claims this is one of the hard truths that we must endure if we believe that children are gifts with their own inherent dignity — rather than things we have the right to purchase on the open market.

The Author : Charles C. Camosy, PhD
Charlie Camosy is assistant professor of Christian ethics at Fordham University where he has been since finishing his Ph.D. in theology at Notre Dame in 2008. His book Too Expensive to Treat? Finitude, Tragedy, and the Neonatal ICU (Eerdmans, 2010) was honored at the 2011 Catholic Media Association awards. Peter Singer and Christian Ethics: Beyond Polarization was released with Cambridge University Press in May of 2012. Charlie is also the founder and co-director of the Catholic Conversation Project and a member of the ethics committee at the Children's Hospital of New York.
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  • Finn W.

    How does Joseph as the husband of Mary come into the discussion if it is conceded that Mary does not fit the usual definition as a surrogate because she gave birth and remained the mother of Jesus? If Joseph was Mary’s husband and any children according the the arguments against surrogacy miss the mark which in this case, it’s obvious granting faith that Joseph was not the father of Jesus but was Mary’s husband, I don’t pretend to be able to unravel this question as I don’t ask questions thinking I know the answer…I truly have no clue how this is worked out, but I ask because there just intuitively seems something inconsistent with placing surrogacy under all conditions as a block when it really can’t be disputed that although Mary raised Jesus as his mother, because she was married to Joseph, if this dynamic played out under Church Doctrine, there is either infidelity, which I know there wasn’t, my point is that maybe you can see it could be interpreted that way, this thing being played out in any other context. Also that Mary was a surrogate as a mother by carrying a child to term that was not her husband’s and Joseph raised Jesus as his son this seems a typical surrogacy setup. I won’t go on. I simply ask how does Joseph fit into the equation if the argument is that Mary in no way acted in some part as surrogate by having a child that was not her husband’s. I think the Church’s reasons behind arguing the best path is the ideal one in which two people married have sex and have a child. But I only wish it would be more flexible in saying okay…this is what we instruct and highly recommend because it is the way it is supposed to be and follow with a list of logical and rational reasons supporting the position, which it does. But then people being dignified humans capable of choice ought perhaps if truly in their conscience feel justified and there is no other way, it would seem that a little leeway could be given that does not necessarily have to evolve into a slippery slope to surrogate chaos. But I don’t know…and that is why I am asking, and any insight I would find helpful nor will I find offense I have been mistaken in anything I have written and it is corrected. My question again is how does Joseph’s role as Mary’s husband with a son not his own escape problematic considerations. Thank you.

    • Eve

      Mary is not an example of surrogacy at all. Jesus was her son and was given to her directly by God. This is nothing like a couple, being unable to have child of their own, “renting” out the womb of another woman and then squandering that woman’s natural bond to the baby she gave birth to by separating the mother and child so they can “experience parenting”. Surrogacy is the unnatural production of a child for PROFIT, while Jesus’ conception was a miracle. There is a HUGE difference in the too. In fact Mary was reverenced because she submitted herself to God’s will while the parents who choose surrogacy are actually refusing to submit to God’s will and taking matters into their own hands via unnatural means. If a person is ill and therefore seeks treatment to heal or improve their fertility that is simply like accepting any medical treatment for any other bodily ailment, but to “use” another woman’s body and to have a child “made to order” in a lab (which is necessary for surrogacy) is contrary to God’s will and attacked the dignity of both the child and the mother.

      • Finn W.

        Thank you for the reply and your answer is compelling. It is clear there is a difference.

  • Michael

    Mary Raised carried Jesus in the womb, gave birth, and raised him. Although Jesus is the son of God, we are all essentially children of God. We do not conceive the baby God does. Just because it is a different ‘type’ of miracle doesn’t mean that God doesn’t perform these same kinds of miracles every day.

  • Steve

    Surrogacy is very different from what happened with Our Lady and Jesus. In a typical surrogacy, embryos are created using sperm and eggs from the parents who will be raising the child. Those embryos are cultivated in a lab; a viable embryo is selected and implanted in the uterus of another woman and the others are either frozen indefinitely or destroyed. The second woman carries the baby to term and then gives the baby to the couple who donated the sperm/eggs.

    Mary was the biological mother of Jesus, who was conceived miraculously by the power of the Holy Spirit. In that sense, Jesus was raised by his biological mother and his adoptive father, Joseph.

    The Incarnation truly is wonderful!

  • Katie

    Actually Mary was a traditional surrogate meaning she is the biological mother

  • Bethany

    I wasn’t adopted, but I was only asking because I would like the opportunity to in the future if I can’t naturally conceive.

  • Conrad

    Stephanie, Mary did not carry and give birth to Jesus for another woman, that would be surrogacy. Jesus was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit, (God) St. Joseph was Jesus’ foster father…If another woman were impregnated by a man and then went on to marry another man, she would be no less the child’s mother, and definitely not a surrogate.

  • Stephanie Duncan

    Even though Mary raised Jesus, she was not impregnated by Joseph, so she was essentially a surrogate.

  • Inge

    Mary wasn’t a surrogate, she was actually Jesus mother and cared for Him. A surrogate mother only gives birth, the child will be raised by other people. This is a major difference.

  • Stephanie Duncan

    I always wondered why the Catholic Church was against surrogacy when Mary was essentially a surrogate for God. I still haven’t received a good answer for this.

    • Silkyslovan Bojkovsky

      Mary was a surrogate to God?? Do you really think they are comparable. Mary was the biological mother of Jesus. He was born by his real mother. She became pregnant in a miraculous way, but it isn’t similar at all to surrogate mothers where a man has to sexualy stimulate himself in a doctors office the concieve a child in a lab then put that embryo I another human who has nothing to do with the situation….. How could u even think they were similar lol

  • Inge

    Behtany, in your case the child is already there. I assume the parents don’t ‘order’ a child so they can adopt. The whole situation is different in that case.

  • Bethany

    What about adoption then? What if the child is born out of wedlock? And should adoptive parents ask if the child was conceived naturally or does it not matter at that point?

    • Silkyslovan Bojkovsky

      So what if the child is born out of wedlock, no christian church especially Catholics teach there is something wrong with a child regardless of how he came into the world. What they teach is wrong is creating children in unnatural ways. The process is wrong. Children are not.

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