I'm a bit behind here with the news, so please give me some slack. Not that I'm about to give it to others, but never mind.
If you're up to date with Australian news you would have heard about the state of Victoria's Senator Conroy, who - together with his wife (pictured on the left) - had a baby through a surrogate mother. His wife couldn't bring children due to a former (hopefully) case of ovarian cancer; they wouldn't even let them adopt because of her cancer. So the couple used an egg from a friend and had a surrogate mother in New South Wales give birth to a baby conceived through IVF - and that's because Victorian law would not allow for their version of surrogate pregnancy.
The news talked a lot about this senator that turned his back on his home state, but I don't think there's any reason to accuse the guy: people would go through much more than that to achieve something like having a child if that's what they want, so I think some slack should be given. Especially to the wife, who had to suffer much worse than media criticism.
What I did find most amusing about this incident are the comments that came from George Pell, the Catholic Church's Archbishop of Sydney (guess which of the photos is his) - the head of the Catholic Church in Australia, and from his counterpart the Archbishop of Melbourne. They both said things such as expressing their worries about the baby's future, calling surrogate birth "far from ideal", and saying the situation could unravel at the baby's expense. The reason why they bothered having their own say on the matter is because Mr Conroy is a Catholic.
Now, my question is: why did they bother saying those things in the first place? Obviously, Conroy is not really listening to them, otherwise he wouldn't have gone ahead with something that quite contradicts Catholic preaching (which basically says that if you can't have children - tough, because that's god's will). Obviously, Conroy's will to have a child was stronger than his Catholic faith.
Now I will take the liberty of answering the question I myself asked. I think these two arch-villains said what they had to say because they were afraid. And they are afraid because the foundations that hold the Catholic faith are shattering through the technologies that science provides, in this particular case - IVF. [Note, however, that I do agree surrogacy is problematic, but not due to religious reasons.]
Guys who have been through IVF will know that when the time comes for the man to produce his sperm, his instructions are to ejaculate 2 to 4 days before the actual donation. The reason for that is to get rid of old sperm stocks and to ensure that quality young sperm is ejaculated when it counts. This leads me to assume that masturbation, in that case, has to be one of evolution's mechanisms to ensure that the survival of the fittest; only that in this case, it's the wanker that is the fittest: by doing it he ensures quality sperm is there when it counts, thus improving the chances of his genes to go forth and multiply. I guess what I'm trying to say here is that in contrast to what the church is saying against it, masturbation is natural. Take one problem off IVF.
On to my next argument. One of the church's biggest problems with IVF is that the church has a problem explaining where the spirit of god is mixed into the formula when creating a new baby. Things were easy for them at the time when no one knew anything about the mechanics of creating new life and they could say whatever they wanted to, but now that times are tough for them because we know more the church is saying that the "soul" is created by the sexual act between the mother and the father (when and how this happens, exactly, is rather obscure - but that is quite consistent with most religious arguments). The church's new problem is that with IVF we can now create a new person without the sexual act, and so - according to their doctrine - the result has no soul because its making lacked god's intervention. To put it in other words, the result of an IVF treatment may look like a person to you and I, but in the eyes of the Catholic church it is more like an abomination.
For the record, it's not only the church that has a problem there; regular law has similar issues with genetic playing around. What if, for example, we create a clone that looks exactly like - say, George Bush - and then kill it. Have we committed murder or not? Or did we just play with a bunch of chemicals? Society can still take its time to think about this issue, but for the church the time has run out - they have a problem with IVF, a technology that has produced children for something like 16 years now. In fact, according to what I've heard, one in ten couples now resorts to IVF. Which means the Catholic church has a major ideological problem on its hands.
Now, for the record, I have nothing special against the Catholic church. It's clown like dressed archbishops can do whatever they want as long as they stay out of my life. The main problem is that they don't - they tend to get involved in politics from time to time, as in the above case. Personally, I never hid my views: I think all doctrine based religions are, in laymen terms, a bunch of bullshit - and that includes, amongst others, Judaism, Christianity and Islam.
One good thing that came out of Pell's words is that at least now I can tell what has happened to the offspring of those that were in charge of the Spanish Inquisition and those that tortured Galileo around: they became archbishops.
In conclusion I would like to wish the Conroy couple all the best. Their child is bound to be one that will not suffer from a shortage of parental love.