IVF infringes on human dignity - bishops
Any medical methods used to cure infertility should be based upon profound respect for the values of life and the physical integrity of every person; conjugal unity; and human sexuality in marriage, the bishops said.
In a pastoral letter on IVF "Celebrating Human Life", Archbishop Paul Cremona and Gozo bishop Mario Grech stated that:
"Every technical method which replaces the personal conjugal act fails to respect the dignity of the human person and of the unity of marriage and so this is not acceptable.
"On the other hand, such technical methods are acceptable when they aid the personal conjugal act to achieve its aim, that is to conceive human life."
The bishops said in their letter it was positive that there has been in Malta an ongoing debate on how couples can address the difficulty of infertilty.
The Church, the bishops said, favoured life more than any other institution in the world and always insisted that science is to be at the authentic service of humanity.
The IVF method, they said, called for the creation of several embryos for the desired child to be born.
"Even though a number of these embryos are not killed deliberately, but die a natural death shortly after they are conceived, the fact remains that several embryos are being sacrificed and instrumentalised so that a child may be born.
"Both this procedure, as well as the method in which human embryos are being selected in order that a child may be born, confirms that the process, in itself, infringes upon human dignity.
"Everything points to the fact that in vitro fertilisation methods, which at first glance seem to be at the service of life, are in fact, actually a threat to human life."
They said that at times the scientific process involved the freezing of superfluous embryos and the Church made it clear that it did not consider the freezing of embryos to be an acceptable solution.
"The IVF process involves methods which at times considers the person, who is still at the embryonic stage, to be merely a mass of cells which may be used, selected and dispensed with. Many times, a significant number of human embryos are sacrificed for the sake of the birth of the desired child....
"Therefore the above-mentioned practices cannot be morally justified in any way and under no circumstances."
The bishops noted that IVF was widely practiced in Malta with reports that 750 women got pregnant through this method in the past 22 years. They said it was well known that the practice was not regulated by law which should aim to safeguard the values of life and physical integrity of every person, the unity of marriage and human sexuality in marriage.
"A law which does not safe-guard these values is morally wrong. There are different levels of ethical gravity emanating out of a law that does not respect these values. For this reason, men of goodwill who are responsible to draw up legislation are duty-bound in conscience to try and achieve the best possible benefits, or as far as possible, to mitigate dangers."
The bishops said the Church appealed to all people and reminded them of their obligation to form their conscience properly.
"An authentic Christian conscience is formed in the light of the principles of natural law mentioned above and in conformity with the teachings of the Church. Catholics with a morally and correctly formed conscience are called upon to give witness to the Truth of Love, and this love is confirmed by the same truth."
The bishops' letter can be read, in Maltese or English, in the pdf links below.