Response of the
Catholic Church to
In 1987, the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) issued an instruction on reproductive technology entitled Donum Vitae: Instruction on the Respect for Human Life in Its Origin and on the Dignity of Procreation. Since the CDF is responsible for assisting the pope in overseeing Catholic theology, including Catholic moral theology, it is part of the magisterium, or teaching authority, of the church, and its pronouncements represent the official teaching of the church. Thus even though an instruction does not carry the same weight as other types of teaching documents, for example, encyclicals, it is an authoritative document of the church hierarchy and, in this case, defines official Catholic teaching on the new reproductive technologies.
Donum Vitae is divided into three parts plus an introduction and conclusion. The introduction sets out some of the basic presuppositions about human life and history that inform the Catholic perspective on human reproduction as well as some of the fundamental moral principles that will be applied in the remainder of the document in order to reach particular moral conclusions. Part 1 examines the use and treatment of