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A Catholic Physician Rejects IVF and the Culture of Death
By Andrew M. Greenwell, Esq.
August 16th, 2012
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)
The reality is that using these improper fertilization technologies that are rejected by the Church cheapens life. What Dr. Anthony Caruso saw happening was the commodification of life, and this truth was brought home to him through the Church's teaching as presented in Donum Vitae. The Church's teaching opened his eyes and he became aware of "the true commodification of the process," which "became obvious in every discussion I had with couples."CORPUS CHRISTI, TX (Catholic Online) - One of the spiritual works of mercy is to admonish sinners. Another is to instruct the ignorant. These are not always the most agreeable of duties, and they are often thankless tasks. But as the prophet Ezekiel stated, if we do not speak out and warn the wicked man, his sin may be imputed to us. (Ezekiel 3:18)
There is a great mercy in both confronting and in being confronted, in instructing and being instructed. In some instances, the result is positively redemptive. It is good news when someone accepts the good news.
If you doubt it, witness the story of Dr. Anthony James Caruso, a board-certified endocrinologist who in 2010 had a thriving practice offering assisted reproduction technology at the Chicago Area Reproductive Endocrinology Group and who also taught medicine at University of Chicago's Pritzker School of Medicine.
He was at the top of his game. But he gave it all away, because he realized he was doing wrong.
Caruso became involved in vitro fertilization (IVF) when he saw life created in a petri dish. It brought tears to his eyes, he said, and this led to him to devote his life to IVF and other reproductive technologies with great zeal. After completing his residency in Springfield, Illinois, Caruso specialized in reproductive endocrinology at the Rush University Medical Center in Chicago. Eventually Caruso became one of the most successful reproductive endocrinologists, perhaps bringing in more than 1,000 children through his IVF practice.
Though maintaining himself to be Catholic, Caruso had no scruples in rejecting Church teaching as it related to his medical practice. He was much too fascinated by the perceived or apparent good he felt he was accomplishing to be open to the authentic teaching of the Church. When the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith--then headed by Cardinal Ratzinger the future Pope Benedict XVI--came out with its instruction Donum Vitae or "The Gift of Life" in 1987, he thought it unrealistic and overly alarmist.
As Dr. Caruso states in the web page for the St. Anne Center for Reproductive Health, "While I was helping couples conceive by any means possible, I still considered myself a practicing Catholic, with a respectful disagreement about some issues. And I thought that was ok, just like most of my friends."
In one well-publicized instance, however, Dr. Caruso used his skills in impregnating a lesbian couple, and the Chicago Tribune published a story about it in 2002. At the time he was quoted as saying that the lesbian couple "struck me as just as intent and caring as any heterosexual couple that I would see."
When the Chicago Tribune published the article, it crossed the desk of his parish priest at Christ the King Parish in Lombard, Illinois. Caruso happened to be on the pastoral council, but, faced with this article, the parish priest asked Caruso to step down. The priest explained the Catholic Church's teaching that children have a right to be conceived as a result of the conjugal or marital act between husband and wife.
As Caruso put it in a recent article in the Chicago Tribune: "That might have been the first salvo," a salvo which apparently pierced through the false notions of fertility and good that Caruso harbored. "I wasn't angry," he told the Chicago Tribune. "I really took what he had to say to heart."
He took it to heart, but did not act on it.
That "salvo," that admonishment by the parish priest, was just a seed, a seed which had to germinate, to set down its roots, and to grow before it reached full flower.
Gradually, however, some of the more erratic or distasteful side products of reproductive technology--selective reduction through abortions, requests from same-sex couples, pre-implantation genetic diagnosis--began to gnaw on him.
"Things began to change as I started to see things that I thought were not possible, or ignored," Caruso writes. "Multiple combinations of people trying to create a child proved confusing. Embryos were treated with little respect. We started to discard embryos that we used to transfer and create pregnancies. And preimplantation genetics started to stratify embryos (babies) into good, almost good and bad."
After reading the instruction Dignitatis Personae or "The Dignity of the Person" when it was issued in 2008 by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith which clarified the Church's teaching and reiterated it in light of recent advances in biotechnology and techniques of artificial fertilization, Caruso was further propelled to reconsider his activity.
He realized that the Church's opposition to in vitro fertilization is not opposition to the child. "It's really hard when you're talking on that level to be able to explain what might be [morally] concerning about that." Instead, one must focus on the technique used to begin that life. "Donum Vitae comes to life when you look at the process that brought the babies to be."
In short, it is not the end that is wrong (having a child, indeed a great good), but the wrongful means used in attaining that good. The evil is in the means, not the end.
The reality is that using these improper means cheapens life. What Caruso saw happening was the commodification of life, and this truth was brought home through Donum Vitae. The Church's teaching opened his eyes and he became aware of "the true commodification of the process," which "became obvious in every discussion I had with couples."
At some point in time, Caruso and his wife began to attend St. John Cantius Parish in Chicago's Goose Island neighborhood. As the associate pastor of that parish the Rev. Bart Juncer describes the parish: "We preach the beliefs of the Catholic Church from the pulpit. We also recognize people have to internalize that truth, have to embrace that doctrine in their own conscience, in their own hearts."
Finally, eight years after the admonishment of the parish priest at Christ the King, the seed finally bore its full harvest of fruit. In 2010, Caruso resigned his positions at the Chicago Endocrinology Group, resigned from his teaching job, and left his practice.
Following his resignations, Caruso walked into a confessional at St. John Cantius Catholic Church and confessed his sin, and sought to amend his life.
"Drawing on an expression of Pope Benedict XVI, Fr. Juncer called Caruso's slow awakening an instance of "progressive conversion." "As he was going along," Fr. Juncer told the Chicago Tribune, "he recognized what he was doing was incompatible with the Catholic faith."
Caruso's courage is rare, and certainly bucks the trend of complacency among Catholic physicians who practice medicine inconsistent with moral law and Church teaching. As reported on Life Site News, "To say that my colleagues were disappointed or angry would probably be too strong, but they probably really think that I am insane. I fear that I may have lost many friendships that I had over the years."
Caruso now sees what he could not see before. As reported on Life Site News, he now sees that "[o]ne of the basic purposes of marriage is blurred with IVF." "Children as gifts from God have become desires and pawns in the life process. . . . . Every child is a gift from God. However, the process that brought them into existence has led to an attitude towards the embryo that is no different than any other commodity."
Currently practicing at Alexian Brothers Medical Center in Elk Grove Village, Caruso recently announced his intent at opening the St. Anne Center for Reproductive Health. The clinic would be one of only few in the United States that provide fertilization services that are consistent with the Church's teachings--including Dignitatis Personae and the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services issued by the United States Catholic Conference of Bishops.
The proposed clinic will therefore shun immoral fertilization techniques such as IVF, artificial insemination, and the like.
As reported in RenewAmerica, Dr. Caruso explains it this way. "After seeing the damage that these [artificial fertilization] treatments were causing couples and the complete commodification of life, fueled by a deeper understanding of my Roman Catholic faith, I left the field in 2010. I am currently praying for an end to the culture of death, and hoping to one day have the funding to open the St. Anne Center for Reproductive Heath, to provide options for people with challenges to conceive with support and care to follow God's will."
To which I can only say, "Amen."
Andrew M. Greenwell is an attorney licensed to practice law in Texas, practicing in Corpus Christi, Texas. He is married with three children. He maintains a blog entirely devoted to the natural law called Lex Christianorum. You can contact Andrew at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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