Seminary/School of Divinity
Date of Paper/Work
Master of Arts in Theology (M.A.)
Type of Paper/Work
Paul Wojda Ph.D., Mark McInroy Th.D., John Martens Ph.D.
Bio-ethical dilemmas of all sorts have been discussed throughout human history, but modern technological advancements in both fertility treatments and contraception have incited debate about beginning-of-life issues like never before. The Catholic Church has addressed a number of these issues and their ramifications for Catholic Christians in formal written teaching, including Humanae Vitae, Donum Vitae, and Dignitas Personae. These documents and other ecclesial pronouncements have led to lively and complex arguments among bio-ethicists and moral theologians of a number of different creeds (though this paper focuses on the debate among Roman Catholic theologians). One unresolved discussion surrounds the status and fate of cryopreserved embryos created during in vitro fertilization procedures. If Catholic Christians hold that humans have an intrinsic right to life from the moment of conception, from the moment the embryo is an embryo, what ought to be done about these thousands of embryos? One answer is "embryo adoption," in which a woman or couple has one (or more) such embryos implanted with the hope of eventually giving birth. In this paper, I will outline key points of the ecclesial documents above and the scholarly discussion surrounding this conundrum. I also present a rationale for embryo adoption as not only a moral practice for Christians but can even a praiseworthy one (in certain circumstances.) Key to this discussion is a reflection on the core importance of adoption, both in Scripture and in the lived witness of Christians throughout history: examining the status of cryopreserved embryos in the context of adoption deepens and clarifies the conversation surrounding it.
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Anderson, Whitney E., "Justice for the Orphan: the Ethics of "Embryo Adoption"" (2019). School of Divinity Master’s Theses and Projects. 23.