Vatican Condemns Fertility Help

Chinese paramilitary police close off the roads to a hospital where the injured are kept after riots in Urumqi, western China's Xinjiang province, Monday, July 6, 2009. Police sealed off streets in parts of the provincial capital, Urumqi, after discord between ethnic Muslim Uighur people and China's Han majority erupted into riots. Witnesses reported a new, smaller protest Monday in a second city, Kashgar.
AP Photo/Ng Han Guan
The Vatican issued a broad condemnation Tuesday of fertility treatments such as in-vitro fertilization, calling the destruction of embryos in the process a "massacre of the innocents."

The Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano published the final communiqué from the Vatican's Pontifical Academy for Life following a conference it hosted last month on "The dignity of human procreation and reproductive technologies: anthropological and ethical aspects."

In the communiqué, the academy restated the Vatican position that any treatment that substitutes for sexual intercourse between a husband and wife — such as the creation of an embryo in a laboratory that is later implanted — is considered illicit because the embryo isn't the fruit of the "conjugal union."

However, the academy gave its blessing to therapies that can "facilitate" the natural sex act. It didn't give examples, but church officials have said drugs that help a woman ovulate are considered acceptable by the church since they allow for the possibility of "natural" fertilization.

In the statement, the academy expressed concern that doctors were referring couples more often to in-vitro technologies rather than diagnosing and correcting their underlying sterility.

It condemned the use of embryos for research, and called the destruction or loss of embryos in the in-vitro process "a true massacre of the innocents of our time: no war or catastrophe has ever caused so many victims."

The Vatican holds that embryos are human and thus deserve all the rights and dignity granted to humans.

While acknowledging the suffering of parents who want a child, as well as the church's desire for married couples to bear children, the academy said there were limits.

"It needs to be repeated that an understandable 'desire for a child' can never transform itself into a pretentious 'right to a child' and beyond that, 'at all costs,'" the statement said.

By Nicole Winfield