The Gift of Children

by Fr. Blaise Berg, STD
Spring 2024

One Sunday when I was a parish priest, I was greeting parishioners filing out of the church after Mass. A couple approached me and asked for a blessing for their child “in utero”. They explained to me that they had struggled to conceive and now, through IVF, they were joyfully expecting a new son. I was caught off-guard for a moment as many questions ran through my mind. Do they not know that it is wrong to artificially conceive children? Should I give them the Church’s teaching on IVF at this moment? How could they not know that it was wrong to conceive a child in that way? In the end, I gave the blessing and spared them the lecture. I felt that it was not the right time. In any case, the incident made me do my own examination of conscience and ask myself: When was the last time I had preached on IVF? When was the last time I spoke about NFP and the benefits of NFP especially for couples struggling with infertility? When was the last time I wrote in the bulletin about the amazing responsibility that parents have in collaborating with God in bringing new life into the world?

Collaborating with God to bring children into this world is a gift and a responsibility. Moreover, it is a gift and responsibility not only to co-create children for this world, but also for the world to come. Almost a hundred years ago, in Casti Connubii (1930) Pope Pius XI reminded parents that they have an obligation to bring children into the world so that, ultimately, there may be more saints in heaven. (CC, 13) In his 1981 document On the Christian Family, St. Pope John Paul II emphasized that sexuality be “respected and promoted in its truly and fully human dimension, and is never ‘used’ as an ‘object’ that, by breaking the personal unity of soul and body, strikes at God’s creation itself at the level of the deepest interaction of nature and person.” More recently, in the Dignitas Infinita (Declaration on Human Dignity, Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, 2024) it was clarified once again that child-bearing is a gift and should come about through the conjugal embrace (and not in a laboratory):

“Because of this unalienable dignity, the child has the right to have a fully human (and not artificially induced) origin and to receive the gift of a life that manifests both the dignity of the giver and that of the receiver. Moreover, acknowledging the dignity of the human person also 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.”

All this points back to the gift of children and the importance of the language of gift when couples desire to conceive. A gift is something that is given, received and cherished. Ultimately, the gift of children can only be bestowed by the Creator. One never has a right to a gift, as much as it is good and desirable. When the conception of children is not seen through the prism of “givenness” and the language gift, things go awry. More than a million “frozen” embryos in the U.S. represents just one example. To be sure, NFP is a gift that helps couples conceive and space out the births of their children. God willing (and I’m sure He does), some day soon more and more will know the gift of NFP.

About The Author

Fr. Blaise Berg, STD
Rev. Blaise Berg, STD, President and Treasurer of the CANFP Executive Board, is Assistant Professor of Dogmatics at St. Patrick’s Seminary, Menlo Park, CA. Fr. Berg earned a BA from the University of San Francisco, an MBA from California Polytechnic University, a Baccalaureate degree in Sacred Theology, S.T.B at the Pontifical Gregorian University Rome, a Licentiate Degree in Sacred Theology, S.T.L. from the JPII Institute for Studies on Marriage and the Family, Pontifical Lateran University, Rome. and a Doctoral Degree in Sacred Theology, S.T.D. from Pontifical Lateran University, Rome. He has served on the CANFP Board since 2003.


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