The Vatican’s moral objection to the global surrogacy industry

By Kevin Clarke, 18 April 2024
Image: Suhyeon Choi/Unsplash


According to the World Health Organization, more than 17 percent of people in high-income nations now contend with infertility. Researchers blame career- or lifestyle-driven delays in family-making for some of the difficulties people are facing conceiving and bringing pregnancies to term.

For the church, questions about the morality of surrogacy transcend issues of market regulation, citizenship and parental authority claims. On April 8 in its declaration “Dignitas Infinita,” the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith outlined a definitive position on surrogacy, including it among a host of contemporary social and geopolitical concerns that offend the church’s understanding of human dignity.

Taking “a stand against the practice of surrogacy, through which the immensely worthy child becomes a mere object,” the discastery’s prefect, Cardinal Víctor Manuel Fernández, cited a lengthy commentary on surrogacy from Pope Francis:

The path to peace calls for respect for life, for every human life, starting with the life of the unborn child in the mother’s womb, which cannot be suppressed or turned into an object of trafficking. In this regard, I deem deplorable the practice of so-called surrogate motherhood, which represents a grave violation of the dignity of the woman and the child, based on the exploitation of situations of the mother’s material needs. A child is always a gift and never the basis of a commercial contract. Consequently, I express my hope for an effort by the international community to prohibit this practice universally (No. 48).

That is surely a position that will frustrate couples or single people yearning for children who see in surrogacy a path to family. Unfortunately, Cardinal Fernández argues in the declaration, “acknowledging the dignity of the human person…entails recognizing every dimension of the dignity of the conjugal union and of human procreation. Considering this, the legitimate desire to have a child cannot be transformed into a ‘right to a child’ that fails to respect the dignity of that child as the recipient of the gift of life” (No. 49).

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Kevin Clarke is America’s chief correspondent and the author of Óscar Romero: Love Must Win Out (Liturgical Press).

With thanks to America and Kevin Clarke, where this article originally appeared.


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