Pope Francis’s Denunciation of Surrogacy Sparks Media Frenzy
Responding to 4 Common Objections
Pope Francis has recently made headlines for his strong condemnation of surrogacy, calling it a “grave violation of the dignity of the woman and the child, based on the exploitation of situations of the mother’s material needs.”
In his speech to the ambassadors to the Vatican on Jan. 8, 2024, the pope urged a global ban on the practice of “so-called surrogate motherhood,” which he said turns children into “an object of [human] trafficking.”
The pope’s words on this and other controversial topics have sparked a media frenzy, with many critics accusing him of being anti-women, anti-gay, and anti-science, while still others question his authority and legitimacy as the leader of the Catholic Church, calling him “anti-pope” and “blasphemous.”
But what are the real arguments behind the pope’s stance on surrogacy? And how can we, as faithful Catholics, respond to the challenges and objections that we may face from our secular culture? Let’s explore some of the key points that the pope and the Church have made on this issue, learn how to defend and explain the Catholic position on surrogacy.
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What is surrogacy and why is it wrong?
Surrogacy is an arrangement, often supported by a legal agreement, whereby a woman agrees to carry a pregnancy on behalf of another person or couple, who will become the child’s parent(s) after birth. A surrogate may be the mother biologically or merely gestationally, depending on whether the surrogate’s egg or a donor’s egg is used to create the embryo.
Surrogacy is wrong for several reasons. First, it violates the dignity and rights of the woman who acts as a surrogate, treating her as a mere instrument or a commodity. Pope Francis argues that surrogacy is inherently exploitative, representing “a form of violence against women, who are reduced to being suppliers of reproductive material.” The Church teaches that the human body is not a thing that can be bought and sold, but a gift that expresses the person’s identity and vocation.
Second, surrogacy violates the dignity and rights of the child who is conceived and born through this method, treating him or her as a product or a possession, and as Pope Francis stated, “implies the negation of the child’s right to be the fruit of the love of his or her parents.” The Church teaches that every child has the right to be conceived and born within the context of a stable and loving marriage between a man and a woman, who are the natural and primary educators of their offspring.
Third, surrogacy violates the dignity and rights of the intended parents who commission the surrogate, treating them as consumers or owners. Pope Francis argued that surrogacy “involves the manipulation and exploitation of the human desire to have a child.” The Church teaches that parenthood is not a right that can be claimed or demanded, but a gift that can be received and cherished. And as I argue in chapters 9-10 of Reclaiming Motherhood from a Culture Gone Mad (currently on sale for the price of one latte), it also violates the goods of marriage as a form of reproductive infidelity.
What are some of the common objections to the pope’s position on surrogacy?
Many people who support or practice surrogacy may raise some of the following objections to the pope’s position on surrogacy:
Surrogacy is a compassionate and generous act that helps infertile or same-sex couples to have a child of their own.
Surrogacy is a personal and private decision that does not harm anyone and should be respected and protected by the law.
Surrogacy is a scientific and medical advancement that offers new possibilities and solutions for human reproduction.
Surrogacy is none of the pope’s business and he has no authority or credibility to speak on this matter.
How can we respond to these objections in a respectful and rational way?
As Catholics, we are called to be witnesses of the truth and love of Christ in the world, especially on matters that concern human dignity and life. We are also called to be respectful and charitable towards those who disagree with us, and to engage in dialogue and conversation with them. Here are some possible ways to respond to the common objections to the pope’s position on surrogacy:
Surrogacy is not a compassionate and generous act, but a selfish and exploitative one. It does not help infertile or same-sex couples to have a child of their own, but rather deprives them of the true meaning and purpose of parenthood, which is to cooperate with God’s creative plan and to accept his will. It also harms the surrogate and the child, who are treated as means to an end, rather than as ends in themselves.
Surrogacy is not a personal and private decision, but a social and public one. It affects not only the individuals involved, but also the society and the culture at large. It undermines the natural and moral order of human sexuality and procreation, which is based on the complementarity and fidelity of a man and a woman in marriage. It also erodes the respect and protection of human life, which is sacred and inviolable from conception to natural death.
Surrogacy is not a scientific and medical advancement, but a technological and ethical regression. It does not offer new possibilities and solutions for human reproduction, but rather creates new problems and challenges for human dignity and rights. It also abuses and manipulates the power and knowledge of science and medicine, which should be used for the good and the service of humanity, not for its domination and degradation.
Surrogacy is everyone’s business. As the successor of St. Peter and the vicar of Christ, the pope has the mission and the responsibility to teach and guide the Catholic Church and the whole world on matters of faith and morals, especially on those that pertain to human dignity and life. As a human being and a citizen of the world, the pope (and the rest of us along with him) has the right and the duty to express his opinion and to participate in the public debate on issues that affect the common good and the integral development of humanity.
Surrogacy is a grave violation of the dignity and rights of the woman, the child, and the intended parents who are involved in this practice. It is also a serious threat to the natural and moral order of human sexuality and procreation, which is designed by God for the good and the happiness of humanity.
Pope Francis has denounced surrogacy as deplorable and called for a global ban on this practice, in line with the consistent and clear teaching of the Catholic Church. As faithful Catholics, we should support and defend the pope’s position on surrogacy, and explain and share the reasons behind it with our secular culture. We should also pray and work for the conversion and healing of those who support or practice surrogacy, and for the protection and care of those who are affected by it.
How do YOU feel about the Catholic teaching on surrogacy, which states that it is a “grave violation of the dignity of the woman and the child” and a form of “exploitation” and “trafficking”?
Which of these objections/responses do you find most compelling? Why?