Frozen and Forgotten?

The older I get, the more I dislike cold weather.  These first crisp, cool autumn mornings, though beautiful, whisper to me of freezing winds just around the corner.  These days it seems I’m cold from October until June.  I can understand why the English writer C.S. Lewis depicted the forces of evil in his Narnia books as living in perpetual winter.  Cold seems evil to me, too.  In Dante’s Inferno, he imagines the depths of hell not as a lake of fire, but as a dark and frozen abyss—cold beyond all imagining. So cold that all movement stops, all change halts, all promises fail.  It sounds like hell, doesn’t it?
 
And yet there are more than 400,000 Americans who live in an environment like this day after day, year after year.  In total darkness, the temperature remains a steady -196 degrees Celsius.  The scientific term is “cryopreservation” but it resembles Dante’s hell.  It’s where thousands of people have chosen to place their unwanted embryos.  As a Catholic, I have to call them what they are:  babies.  These babies are created primarily by the process of in vitro fertilization and most of them have been stored for years in plastic vials submerged in tanks of liquid nitrogen.  The vast majority of them will never be allowed to be born.  Their lives, barely begun, are forever frozen and suspended in time.  Their parents couldn’t conceive a child naturally and so medical professionals conceived a handful of children for them in a laboratory.  The “extras” were frozen, probably never to be born.  Yet, there they stay in the cold and dark, a sort of by-product of our technology.
 
Don’t get me wrong.  I don’t mean to underestimate the pain of infertility or the anguish of wanting a child that drove most of these parents to try anything to have a baby.  Their pain is very real and very understandable.  And I’m not some sort of Luddite who is opposed to scientific and medical advances, far from it.  What I oppose, what my Church opposes, is anything that treats human life with disrespect, including the IVF process.  “Human life must be respected and protected absolutely from the moment of conception.  From the first moment of his existence, a human being must be recognized has having the rights of a person” (Catechism of the Catholic Church).  Why do we believe this?  Because we are bodies and souls created in the image of God.  We believe that “every spiritual soul is created immediately by God” (Catechism of the Catholic Church).  What scientists make for parents isn’t a mass of cells or bits of tissue—it’s a baby, uniquely created by the Lord. “I knit you together in your mother’s womb.  You are fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:13-14). 
 
The infertility industry in America has become an embryo mass-production line with almost no legal oversight or national regulation.  Babies are created and stored as commodities, like computers or automobiles.  “Excess inventory” is hidden away in the cold and dark where we don’t have to think about them.  We use words like “snowflakes” to mask the truth of who lives in those tanks.  And the truth is that we’ve allowed the creation of a human being to become just another business.  Our technology has outpaced our morality.  Once again just because we can do something doesn’t mean we should. The Catholic Church remains a strong voice on behalf of these voiceless children who are the innocent and defenseless victims of our ability to manipulate human life.  So what do we do with these 400,000 frozen babies?  I don’t know.  I think a more urgent question is how we go about stopping the relentless manufacturing and freezing of new embryos which occurs every day in every major city in our country.  We used to believe that children were a gift from God.  Now we believe that children are a right we can purchase.  We have forgotten His words:  “I am your Father, and I love you even as I love My son, Jesus” (John 17:23).
 
“For you were made in My image.”  (Genesis 1:27)
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