How Do I Ask For Forgiveness for Using In Vitro Fertilization?

Q: 24 years ago I had artificial insemination with my husband’s sperm to get pregnant because I had “hostile cervix.” In Catholic teaching this was wrong, but how do I ask for forgiveness for this when the result was my beautiful daughter? What am I asking forgiveness for, the act or the results? I can’t in my mind figure out how to ask God to forgive this because of the result. I suppose couples who have had “in vitro” probably feel the same way. Any thoughts on this would be helpful.

Moral theologians have struggled with this question through the centuries: Can we separate the moral nature of an act from the moral nature of its results? Without a doubt, your daughter is a good and beautiful creation of God who has brought great joy to you and the world. At the same time, the Church teaches that artificial insemination is wrong (even if with the husband’s sperm) because it involves other parties beyond the husband and wife (e.g. doctors and clinicians) in the process of conception. While it seems difficult to separate an act from its results, in fact, we do this all the time. Suppose you are in a traffic accident and as a result you end up with a new car. That doesn’t make the accident good by any means. But neither does it make it wrong for you to enjoy the new car. It is possible to regret how something came about, and to ask forgiveness if need be, while at the same time recognizing that God continues to bless us even in what flows from our moments of error.

Only you can sort through your feelings about your particular situation, in the light of your conscience, where the voice of God speaks in your inmost depths (see Gaudium et Spes, paragraph 16). It might help to talk to a spiritual director who can help you delve more deeply into the ways that God’s grace has been working in you and in your family’s life.

Neela Kale

Neela Kale is a writer and catechetical minister based in the Archdiocese of Portland. She served with the Incarnate Word Missionaries in Mexico and earned a Master of Divinity at the Jesuit School of Theology. Some of her best theological reflection happens on two wheels as she rides her bike around the hills of western Oregon.