An initiative of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

Children FAQ

The Gift of Children: FAQs


1. What does marriage have to do with children?
2. What’s the difference between a husband and wife who can’t have children, and two persons of the same sex, who also can’t have children?
3. Why is a child meant to have both a father and a mother?
4. What about single parents? These families lack a father or a mother, just like households headed by two men or two women.
5. What about adoption?

6. Technology like “in vitro fertilization” (IVF) can enable two men or two women to have a child. Why is this is unacceptable? 

1. What does marriage have to do with children?

Children are at the very heart of marriage because the sexual relationship (which ought to be exclusive to a husband and wife) is one that may bring about a child. It is through their sexual difference that spouses cooperate with God in the profound adventure of welcoming a child into the world. Marriage is not just about fulfilling adult desires but is the basis for the family..

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2. What’s the difference between a husband and wife who can’t have children, and two persons of the same sex, who also can’t have children?

A man and a woman, as husband and wife, can give themselves to each other totally in a way that unites them in both body and soul. Only a man and a woman can conceive a child through each other. Even when a husband and wife do not in factconceive a child (due to infertility, age, and so on), their sexual acts are stillprocreative acts: in other words, they are the kind of acts by which children are naturally conceived. In contrast, two persons of the same sex will never be able to enter a bodily communion in such a way that they unite fully, nor can they conceive a child through any act they perform.

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3. Why is a child meant to have both a father and a mother?

In truth, every child does have a mother and a father. The simple biological fact is that two sperm or two ova cannot unite.

So, sexual difference is necessary to conceive a child, but its importance does not end there. Men and women bring unique gifts to the shared task of parenting, that is, of fathering and mothering. Each contributes in a distinct and unique way to the formation of children, helping them to understand their identity as male or female. Respecting a child’s dignity means affirming his or her need for – and right to – grow up in a family with his or her married mother and father. Pope Francis has commented on this several times, as when he wrote, “Every child has a right to receive love from a mother and a father; both are necessary for a child’s integral and harmonious development (Amoris Laetitia, no. 172).

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4. What about single parents? These families lack a father or a mother, just like households headed by two men or two women.

The Church always seeks to support single parents as they – often heroically – seek to meet the needs of their children. As most single parents will admit, however, their situation is not ideal.

There is a big difference between dealing with the unintended reality of single parenthood and approving the deliberate formation of “alternative families” that deprive a child of a father or a mother. Single parenthood can still witness to the importance of sexual difference by acknowledging the challenges of being without the other. In contrast, arrangements of two men or two women present either motherhood or fatherhood as disposable and contradict the conjugal and generative reality of marriage. Single parents may also marry at some point in the future, providing their children with a mother or a father at that time.

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5. What about adoption?

Adoption is a generous response to a child who is in need or abandoned. Mothers and fathers who adopt children witness to the truth that every child is a gift. The Catholic Church actively supports adoption and has been a leader in this vital ministry.

Adoption, guardianship, and foster care are all generous ways of caring for a child. While placing a child in the care of two men or two women may be well-intentioned, it ultimately deprives the child of either a mother or a father, and in the place of one, substitutes another (see questions #3 and 4 above).

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6. Technology like “in vitro fertilization” (IVF) can enable two men or two women to have a child. Why is this is unacceptable?

No matter how powerful reproductive technology becomes, the fact will always remain that two men or two women can never become parents through each other. They will always depend on the “donation” of someone else’s sperm or egg in order to bring about the conception of a child, or some kind of scientific manipulation of biological material to mimic the union of sperm and egg.

IVF and related technology are wrong for everyone, not just for same sex “couples.” Using these technologies means that conception takes place outside the loving embrace of husband and wife. In its place is a dehumanized act of production, a mere “putting together” of the parents’ genetic material. No child should be treated as a product. A child deserves to be the fruit of an act of marital love, of his or her parents’ mutual, loving self-gift.

Many husband-wife couples who struggle with infertility and miscarriage are advised by physicians and others to pursue IVF. More needs to be done to reach these couples with sound medical advice, the truth about IVF, and ongoing pastoral accompaniment. There are good doctors working to understand the underlying causes of infertility and miscarriage, and many women and men continue to be helped in ways that respect God’s plan and the dignity of every human life. When couples have conceived and given birth to children through IVF, they need to be gently accompanied to see that, even while their child remains a gift, the way of conceiving the child was not in accord with the dignity of human procreation.

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