Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Infertility and the Catholic Church

Q - I've heard that if you are not yet married and are infertile then the church teaches that marrage is not your vocation because your marital union cannot fulfill both the unitive and procreative purposes. Would it be against the churches teaching to get married and then adopt children if you are infertile? What about all the people whose spouses die and they get remarried in the church at an older age with no intent to have children? And this example is a little extreme, but probably happens. A married couple has several young children and from the complications of the final child birth the woman must have a hysterectomy. The husband dies shortly after. Would the church teach that the woman should not get remarried? I also find it interesting that Mary and Joseph were married yet they never had sex.

A -
Thanks for the question! Unfortunately the information you were given was wrong. While it doesn't directly answer your question the Catechism has a short paragraph on infertile couples:
2379 The Gospel shows that physical sterility is not an absolute evil. Spouses who still suffer from infertility after exhausting legitimate medical procedures should unite themselves with the Lord's Cross, the source of all spiritual fecundity. They can give expression to their generosity by adopting abandoned children or performing demanding services for others.
Only those who are intentionally infertile by means of surgery, drugs or device are doing anything wrong. But, even then, the vocation is not determined by this. Even in your example nothing was wrong, because the intent was not to make the woman infertile, but rather to treat an illness.

Not every marriage must will bear children. This does not mean that it isn't a valid or good marriage. Many sterile couples are more free to devote themselves to the works of mercy or other apostolates. Children are a gift from God, but not every couples is blessed with this gift. This is not the fault of the couple that is infertile and therefore has no bearing on their vocation.

I hope this helps.


Mary said...

You are right to point out that often people have a mistaken understanding of the teachings of the Church on issues; especially marriage. Marriage, indeed, has both a procreative and unitive dimension and both must be fulfilled. However, the fact that doctors say that it is impossible to fulfill the procreative functions of marriage does not nullify the marriage. Sarah in her old age (like almost 100 years old) became pregnant; likewise St. Anne, became pregnant also at an older age.

Clearly, there is no requirement to be furtile, and some happy marriages to result in those later years.

That said, the Bible also advices that, for those advanced in age, it may be better to consider a different vocation. Indeed; that would generally be good advice -- but exactly that -- advice; not so much a command.

Daniel said...

So is it okay for a man to use Viagra? And what about sex after menopause?

Marcel said...

Men can use viagra. Menopause question was answered here -