an error in the non-infallible Magisterium
This document from the CDF
which falls under the non-infallible Magisterium,
contains an error on a matter of morals.
On the question as to what to do with frozen human embryos:
The proposal that these embryos could be put at the disposal of infertile couples as a treatment for infertility is not ethically acceptable for the same reasons which make artificial heterologous procreation illicit as well as any form of surrogate motherhood; this practice would also lead to other problems of a medical, psychological and legal nature.
The problem here is that surrogate motherhood, while generally illicit as it is most often practiced, is not intrinsically evil. Therefore, there may be some circumstances and intentions by which surrogate motherhood is moral.
Artificial procreation is intrinsically evil, but saving frozen embryos from certain death (after these embryos were illicitly created by other persons) is obviously not intrinsically evil, since it is an exercise of love of neighbor to save an innocent person from certain death.
The problems associated with saving these embryos are substantial, and there are various morally illicit acts that must be avoided (including culling, formal cooperation, and immediate material cooperation).
It has also been proposed, solely in order to allow human beings to be born who are otherwise condemned to destruction, that there could be a form of “prenatal adoption”. This proposal, praiseworthy with regard to the intention of respecting and defending human life, presents however various problems not dissimilar to those mentioned above.
The term adoption is useful because some of the reasons for generally condemning surrogate motherhood are that the prenatal child is not the genetic child of the couple, but no one thinks that adoption of a born child is immoral for that same reason. Therefore, embryo adoption is not intrinsically evil.
Since the CDF states that the intention (first font of morality is good), and since the act itself with its moral object is not intrinsically evil, the morality of the act depends upon the moral weight of the good and bad consequences.
All things considered, it needs to be recognized that the thousands of abandoned embryos represent a situation of injustice which in fact cannot be resolved. Therefore John Paul II made an “appeal to the conscience of the world’s scientific authorities and in particular to doctors, that the production of human embryos be halted, taking into account that there seems to be no morally licit solution regarding the human destiny of the thousands and thousands of ‘frozen’ embryos which are and remain the subjects of essential rights and should therefore be protected by law as human persons”.
Notice that the CDF states that 'there seems to be' rather than a more definitive statement. This leaves open the possibility for faithful dissent from this point.
If frozen embryos can never be morally implanted, there would be no way to save their lives and they would certainly all die. There is a limited length of time during which an frozen embryo can be stored and then successfully thawed and implanted. If left in storage indefinitely, all such embryos will die.
In the third font of morality, the good of saving an innocent human person from certain death is one of the most weighty circumstances possible. Although the difficulties in saving such embryos are substantial, and there are a number of possible negative consequences as stated by the CDF in the two above cited documents, since there is no other way to save the lives of these hundreds of thousands of frozen embryos, the moral weight of the good consequnces outweighs the bad, and so the act is moral.
Frozen embryo adoption is moral, as long as formal cooperation, immediate material cooperation, culling (implanting excess embryos and then killing some to obtain the desired number), scandal, and any other sins are avoided.
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