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Finding answers for frozen embryos

Concerned: Dr Catherine Althaus-Kaefer.

Concerned: Dr Catherine Althaus-Kaefer.

By Emilie Ng

“CONCERNED Catholic” Dr Catherine Althaus-Kaefer has joined theologians and bioethicists worldwide in raising ideas about the sensitive moral issue of frozen embryos.

The associate professor for the University of Victoria, in British Columba, Canada, visited Brisbane’s Faith on Tap on February 9 to raise her ideas on issues “proposed by the phenomenon of the plight of the frozen embryos”.

While studying in Brisbane in 2003, Dr Althaus-Kaefer received an email from a Catholic doctor posing a question about frozen embryos.

She has spent the last 10 years researching the moral issue of frozen embryos, drawing on work by varying theologians, including St John Paul II.

Dr Althaus-Kaefer said globally, based on numbers from the United States, there were an estimated one million frozen embryos, or “very tiny little people at the beginning of their life journey”.

The Church does not have a “definitive teaching” on how to morally address frozen embryos, Mrs Althaus-Kaefer said.

“There’s no definitive position being put forward by the Church,” Dr Althaus-Kaefer said.

“It’s very sensitive, but various people are putting forward ideas.”

Dr Althaus-Kaefer said the issue has divided many “orthodox Catholic circles” because theologians have proposed varying views on what was morally licit regarding frozen embryos.

Catholic theologian Germain Grisez condones embryo adoption, where a woman can offer her frozen embryos to another woman if she no longer requires them.

However, Dr Althaus-Kaefer said she was against embryo adoption because it meant a woman could achieve pregnancy “outside of the conjugal act”.

“The moral object is to achieve pregnancy outside of the conjugal act, and implantation of this kind is that a woman is becoming pregnant,” she said.

“To go ahead with this you would violate marriage, the marriage covenant.”

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