USCCB: Vatican may rule on embryo adoption

Orlando, Florida

The Vatican is currently considering the issue of “embryo adoption,” according to a member of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, and may release some sort of ruling shortly.

Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City, Kansas, made the comment this morning during floor discussion of a proposed statement from the U.S. bishops on embryonic stem cell research.

In presenting the draft statement, Naumann told the bishops that the Pro-Life Committee is also working on a longer document about in-vitro fertilization, directed in the first place to couples “struggling with infertility.”

Archbishop John Myers of Newark, speaking from the floor, said he is aware of some couples who have legally adopted a frozen embryo abandoned in a clinic by its biological parents, and then implanted that embryo in the woman so that it can be born – thereby, Myers said, “saving its life.”

Would that possibility, Myers asked, be considered as part of the document from the Pro-Life Committee?

“My understanding is that the Holy See is reflecting on the issue of embryo adoption,” Naumann responded. “We’re hopeful that we will have guidance from the Holy See before we issue this document. Certainly we would include that in our document on in-vitro fertilization.”

In Catholic pro-life circles, the issue of embryo adoption has long been controversial. The question pivots on what to do about so-called “surplus embryos” generated during in-vitro fertility procedures, which are generally frozen in storage facilities in clinics and eventually often discarded.

Some Catholic voices believe that people should be permitted, even encouraged, to “adopt” these embryos and bring them to term, in order to save them from destruction. Other figures, however, oppose embryo adoption on the grounds that it involves participation in an objectively immoral procedure, meaning the artificial creation of embryos in a laboratory. Critics also suggest that allowing embryo adoption may encourage the creation of additional embryos.

In brief comments to NCR, Myers said he strongly supports embyro adoption.

"I think it's saving a life, and doing it in a very moral way," Myers said. "It's saving an embryo from death, either by incineration or research."

Myers rejected the suggestion that embryo adoption will actually promote the artificial creation of embyros.

"I think that we have so many extra embryos, that's not an argument," he said.

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops is meeting June 12-14 in Orlando, Florida.

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