Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Catholicism - Part I

A long time ago, Father Mike told me “Catholicism is a religion, not a cult.”

I can’t remember what he was talking about exactly. But, I do remember it being about that the hierarchy of Catholicism states many things as doctrine that we as members of the religion are not required to believe, if we can logically and reasonably come to another conclusion, using our faith as our guide.

Now, this is hard to do. But there are many things that I don’t blindly believe in that the Catholic Church believes in. Because, many of their doctrines, all though created in the name of God, are created by humans, men in particular. And as time goes by many of those decisions have been recanted. Lets not forget human follies completed in the name of the Church such as the Spanish Inquisition or the Crusades. The Catholic hierarchy is not infallible.

There are many other issues that I sometimes believe fall into this category, such as women not being allowed to be ordained ministers (Did you know that in the early Church women were allowed to be deacons? These women were granted powers of Baptism etc.), or how priests are not allowed to marry (Did you know this was allowed in the early Church and banned due to children and property issues?), or that unborn children may be in a continuous purgatory. (How the heck do they know? These children are pure. You can’t get any more pure?)

So, for last few months, I have been struggling with IVF. And I go back and forth – completely undecided on my position. See, I am trying to use my faith, the Holy book, and my knowledge to reason a decision on this complicated topic. Also, please note that I do not hold any judgment on anyone who uses IVF or is successful with IVF. I am just trying to figure things out for myself. I am trying to remain Catholic and while “pushing(ed) myself to the limits” as Baby Blues said.

See that is my struggle. How do I push myself to the limits, while remaining true to my faith? And do I believe in what my faith teaches is correct on this topic? How do I not loose my faith too? Infertility takes so much away as is.

I thought I had the solution with 3 IUIs and a GIFT. But outside groups are FORCING me to reconsider. Our secondary insurance has made it a requirement for us to complete 3 injectible IUIs on top of the Clomid IUI which we already have completed. Then my RE is refusing to pursue GIFT. Her statistics show that IUIs are more successful. So, she has almost flatly refused to pursue GIFT. And she is the only RE for our primary insurance network – meaning they use no other RE for the entire Boston area. Leaving us little choice about switching doctors, but it may be what we need to do in the end anyway.

But, see I am not sure how I feel about IVF. I thought I had it straight in my head. I wasn’t willing. Because the embryos would be children in my mind and that it would be too difficult to go thru all of that and have it be unsuccessful. It would only solidify my feelings of a defective body. Make me hate my own body more. All things that are not good in my opinion. Not to mention, my fear, that I may loose my mind in the process.

However, yesterday, when the nurse called to tell me I would have the choice of IVF or cancellation. I thought maybe I should consider this more closely. But, I quickly said out loud, “IVF is not an option right now for us.” I was thinking, what if it is our only option. What if, I am such a good responder that this will happen continuously? What if, IVF will be our only option? Leaving me with no choice but to truly think this completely. It was no longer something I could examine later if need be. It was a right now question.

So my thought process began:

First, the Church approves of drugs for ovulation and procedures that allow for increasing your odds without fertilization. (Please note I know that this is an over simplification of the doctrine.) So, they are reinforcing their belief that life starts at conception. However, as many of us know, fertilization may happen without implantation ever occurring. So, are they insinuating that there is more mysticism with fertilization, than implantation, or the life itself? Is the thought process that life is started at fertilization and therefore medical science shouldn’t have the same privilege? Is this thought process established to prevent confusion with pro-choice doctrine?

This point, perplexes me to no end. Personally, I do believe that life is created at fertilization. But, I also know that if we are lucky enough to get fertilized embryos, that is no guarantee of implantation. I truly believe, that God’s hand is involved with implantation and maybe that this is actually where life is started. This thought process reinforces my belief that children conceived thru IVF, are gifts from God because implantation is not a guarantee.

Secondly, the Bible states “Go forth and multiply.” That statement in itself leads me to believe that we should have children. But it doesn’t talk about how to do it. Granted at the time of the Bible, there weren’t other ways to get it done. Lets not forget that the wedding mass asks specifically if the couple is willing to accept children into their lives? Which begs the question, if we are to be willing to accept children, wouldn’t it be our responsibility to pursue them?

In the Bible, there are so many stories about women who struggled to get pregnant or who had womanly issues. Such as Sarah, or the woman who was healed by touching Jesus’ robe. In those stories, God helped them succeed in obtaining their child or healed their medical condition. But, if we have medical interventions to help us, wouldn’t it be wise to take it? Especially since the mysticism of conception is still there. It is still very much in God’s hands. Wouldn’t it be negligent not to take this opportunity given to us by medical science to our advantage? Isn’t their knowledge, granted to them by gifts given to them by God? Their intelligence, comprehension and will to want to know how to help. Aren’t those gifts?

Part II to come later….my brain currently hurts. I obviously have more questions than answers here.


Mama Bear said...

I know where you’re coming from. I am really struggling with the whole IVF thing for similar reasons. I think we've come to terms with doing some form of IVF (for lots of the reasons you mention). Our struggle now comes in is how many embryos to attempt to fertilize and the big “and then what” questions.

Anyhow…sorry that this is like the least helpful comment ever. I guess this is my long-winded way of saying, I understand what a big decision it is. But, I know that you’ll come to whatever decision makes the most sense for you. And I’m sorry that circumstances are forcing you to make these tough decisions so much earlier than you were hoping to.

Thinking of you!

LJ said...

I don't have an answer for you, and I can't even begin to imagine the struggle. Mr. Badger is Catholic, but I am not - this just gives me an idea of what may be in his mind. So thank you for bringing this up, I think it is important.

Susan said...

Ahh...being a catholic's such an oxymoron, isn't it?

Ann said...

First of all, I am so sorry you had to cancel your cycle, Dianne. The excitement of anticipation, and now this...

As for IVF, I was firmly against it up until February. (M has always believed strongly in IVF, but I said I would rather adopt.) Then, after a couple of conversations, I did a complete turnaround. My point, however, is not that I changed my mind. It's that I now believe in my heart that IVF will be the right choice for us, should we get to that point. I think that if you are having this many conflicted thoughts--church-related or not--right now, it was definitely the right decision to cancel this cycle. Not to sound like Jiminy Cricket, but your conscience (also known as God) will be your guide. God will fill your heart with the right answer through prayer.

Anonymous said...

Dianne, I'm so sorry that you're in the position of having to wrestle w/ these issues. I will pray that your next IUI w/ injectibles works and that IVF becomes a moot issue for you.

I don't want you to think that I'm pushing you toward IVF, just because that is the path that I've chosen, but if you want to read the thoughts of some Catholic ladies who have chosen to pursue IVF, there is a thread on the General board on (under IVF Topics) for Catholics pursuing IVF. Obviously, this is a thread for those who have concluded that IVF is the right choice for them, so you won't see opposing viewpoints -- but I thought it might help you if you could connect w/ others who have faced this struggle.

Although I am not Catholic, I have to admit that deciding to undergo IVF certainly still involved lots of soul searching for me. The issues are complex.

Whatever you decide, I wish you peace and contentment w/ your choice.

Aurelia said...

Interesting, I had wondered why you were thinking of GIFT, but now I understand.

Interesting thing is, Mr.Cotta is a former Jesuit priest, (he left the priesthood long before I came along, LOL.) When these issues come up, he reminds me that the Church is not God himself, but instead many imperfect human beings who are trying to interpret his will.

God made us, he made Doctors, he inspired the creation of medical technology. How can what he creates be inherently bad? I don't believe it can be.

Just because the Pope and the Church's moral theology haven't caught up with modern technology doesn't mean God doesn't agree with it, it just means the Church needs another 3 dozen years to study it!

(I saw the previous update, btw, I am sorry this happened, but next time, well, maybe you can do a different protocol, and get a better result? Ehhh, wondering what your RE suggests?)

Anonymous said...

I can definitely relate to this post; although we are not practicing Catholics (and D. considers himself agnostic), our families and friends are Catholic and I was raised as such. It took my parents about 2 years to warm up to the idea of IVF. I think that in many cases, it takes time, research, and very deep soul-searching.

I'm really sorry about this cycle.

Baby Blues said...

I am Catholic. Brought up in a devout Catholic family and live in a predominantly Catholic society. I understand very well how conflicting in it.

IVF is not well accepted in our society. I can't even bring myself to talk about it with my family.

I totally respect ones decision to pursue or not to pursue IVF.

I believe "Do your best. And God will do the rest." And IVF for me, is doing my part in trying to give myself the best chance. But after all the medications and needles, the gift of life is still all up to Him. And so I continue to pray and have strong faith in Him.

Kir said...

Baby blues said it the best for me, although I must tell you that I never have the Catholic guilt about doing IVF. My frustration came from my body needing IVF to get Pregnant. It was very hard (and some days still is) to accept the fact that Clomid and IUIs and vacation sex etc weren't going to work. Yet when it came down to it, it was emotional because of the financial and psychological aspects for us. Mr Kir(who is much more devout than I ) has never once said No because of our Faith. He got divorced, he got remarried to me without an annulment and has never regretted it.
I know that sounds like we are nonbelievers, but please let me assure you, we are faithful people. I also harbor no shame about using IVF to get PG. Like Baby blues said, in all of this it's still up to God whether or not I get PG. Pure and simple. Scary as hell, considering what these drugs will do to my body.

I firmly believe that God wants us to be happy, that he wants to overcome challenge and use "good" things at our disposal to get to our dreams. If I thought for one moment He didn't want me to do this, that He wasn't "in" this decision with us, I don't think I could do it. Yet, my heart and God tell me this is OUR PATH, OUR WAY.

Good luck with your decision, I think it's good that you are asking the questions now instead of later. I believe that God will guide you in the YOUR PATH.


Cajun Cutie said...

A friend once told me the following:

A flood came and a man had to climb onto the roof of his house. As the waters rose a neighbor in a rowboat appeared, and told him to get in. "No," replied the man on the roof, "the Lord will save me." Then a firefighter appeared in a speedboat. "Climb in!" shouted the firefighter. "No," replied the man on the roof, "The Lord will save me." A helicopter appeared and the pilot shouted that he would lower a rope to the man on the roof. "No," replied the man on the roof, "the Lord will save me." Eventually the man drowned and went to heaven, where he asked God why he hadn't helped him."I sent a neighbor, a firefighter, and helicopter," said God.

I have used it to relate to other things in my life non IVF related and I thought maybe it would help give you some thought. I think about how the scientists would not have been able to develop IVF if it were not for God's help. I think about how even if you go through IVF you only get pregnant if God makes it happen. I strongly have faith in God and all that he is capable of. Of all the IF treatments IVF scares me the least. I worry more about the treatments that tend to yield high numbers of multiples. I don't question the choices of others, but reduction would not be an option for me. I think that only you and your husband can decide what is right for your family and I think through faith you will come up with the right answer. Hang in there.