Vietnam Catholics choose children over Church

To be pro-life is, first and foremost, about choosing God who is the Source of life.  In vitro fertilization (IVF) is wrong because it separates human procreation from conjugal union. In the process, couples make themselves the masters of human life instead of its stewards.  Also, IVF turns children into commodities. When a couple undergoes IVF , they are saying, “We want a child no matter what,” and the child becomes an object.  A child is a gift. Gifts should not be controlled or manipulated.  Cooperating with God’s plan for human procreation ensures that all children are accepted as gifts.


When John Tran Minh Chien’s wife was not able to get pregnant after seven years of marriage, the couple decided to travel the 250 kms from their home in southwestern-most Kien Giang province to Ho Chi Minh City in a bid to get medical help.  Chien, a tractor driver, was found to suffer from male infertility, he says.

“I could not get my wife pregnant after receiving fertility treatment from the hospital during the past year,” he says. “So this year we decided to get in vitro fertilization [IVF] treatment to have a baby ourselves.”  

As a Catholic, Chien is defying the teachings of his own faith.  In a country where heirs are expected and the family remains central to everyday life, the cost of failing to conceive can be severe.

Couples await treatment at a fertility clinic in Ho Chi Minh City

“We do not want to adopt because adopted children may abandon us when we are old,” says Chien, echoing a common perception here.   In practice, adoption is rarely the preferred choice in Vietnam.  In this country,  where children are traditionally expected to take financial care of their elderly parents once they retire, many couples keep adoptions secret and in some cases even move away to different areas to avoid mistreatment by neighbors.

Of the 10,000 test tube babies who have been born since Vietnam’s first in 1998, few have been Christian, a minority religion here.  But the small, unknown number of Christians who have been conceived through IVF are often born to parents who know little of the pro-life doctrine backed by the Church.
Chien says he is not aware of what is right and wrong – according to Christian practice – when it comes to making babies.  “It is not wrong if IVF uses our sperm and eggs,” he says.  
Father Louis Nguyen Anh Tuan, secretary general of the Episcopal Committee on Family and Life of the Vietnamese bishops conference, admits that elderly priests have not studied bioethics, while young priests also have little grasp of the issue, meaning that little, if any, of this doctrine is taught during marriage preparation courses in Vietnam.  “Bioethics should be a compulsory subject in seminaries and institutes,” he says.


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