Bishop John Keenan of Paisley Welcomes Latest “Fertility Breakthrough”…

Bishop John Keenan of Paisley Welcomes Latest “Fertility Breakthrough”…

HUMAN eggs have been fully grown in a laboratory for the first time, in a breakthrough that could lead to improved fertility treatments.
Scientists have grown egg cells, which were removed from ovary tissue at their earliest stage of development, to the point at which they are ready to be fertilised.
The advance could safeguard the fertility of girls with cancer ahead of potentially harmful medical treatment, such as chemotherapy.

Immature eggs recovered from patients’ ovarian tissue could be matured in the lab and stored for later fertilisation…

The study, carried out in collaboration with the Royal Infirmary Edinburgh, The Center for Human Reproduction in New York and the Royal Hospital for Sick Children in Edinburgh, was supported by the Medical Research Council. It was published in Molecular Human Reproduction.
Professor Evelyn Telfer, of the School of Biological Sciences, who led the research, said: “Being able to fully develop human eggs in the lab could widen the scope of available fertility treatments.  Click here to read the entire report. 

On his Facebook page (screenshot above) Bishop John Keenan, Diocese of Paisley writes: “As far as I can see this is a potentially excellent breakthrough in fertility science. In principle, it is a great development if a woman’s eggs could be matured and made viable in vitro provided they could be re-implanted into her in readiness for fertilisation through the normal marital act. Obviously, this is quite different from IVF. 


I have always presumed that ferility treatment meant treatment that made the woman fertile per se. These sorts of laboratory “test-tube” treatments do not appear to “cure” the woman’s infertility, merely find a way to by-pass it on a particular occasion. If I’m wrong about that, I’ll be pleased to be corrected. 

Otherwise, I’m afraid, I question why a Bishop would welcome such scientific means of achieving conception, instead of reminding us all that if we can’t get what we want, whether material goods or a baby, we must accept that, with holy resignation, as God’s will.  That was the attitude I heard from relatives who, sadly disappointed, were unable to have children. “Not to be” are words we seldom hear these days, with little to no encouragement from the average pulpit to accept this disappointment as, for His own inscrutable purposes, part of God’s plan for our salvation, His holy will.  Or perhaps you think that’s pie-in-the-sky theobabble? 

Comments (21)

  • editor

    I’d no sooner posted this thread that I had a telephone call from a priest asking if I’d read the front page of this week’s Scottish Catholic Observer. He thought I ought to read the report about Bishop Keenan speaking out about the Humanists’ attack on religion – here’s the report:

    Father was pleased to be able to praise the Bishop and thinks I ought to do so as well (not that he put it as bluntly); I simply got the same old, same old message about not being “negative” all the time. When they do something praiseworthy, we, at Catholic Truth, should praise the Bishops.

    I’ve now read the SCO report and cannot see anything to praise. Woolly stuff, tolerant of humanism, instead of driving home the truth that we are ALL obliged to worship God, and that, like it or not, that seed of knowledge about God is in the souls of Humanists as with everyone else. Instead… well – read it for yourself and tell me if anything the Bishop says in the SCO report changes anything in the matter of his response to the Herald report about the latest “fertility breakthrough”, never mind drive home Catholic teaching about salvation – and that there are no “humanists” in Heaven!

    And, since the Bishop makes a point of saying that this latest “breakthrough” is quite different from IVF, I’m including a short video clip below, explaining Catholic teaching on IVF: IS this latest “breakthrough” in “fertility treatment” really “quite different” from IVF? Remember, this is far from being my area of expertise, so I’m ready and willing to be corrected – speak up!


    February 12, 2018 at 12:07 pm
    • gabriel syme


      First regarding this point:

      Bishop Keenan speaking out about the Humanists’ attack on religion

      I think Bishop Keenan is making a big mistake in meeting the Humanists:

      1) It needlessly dignifies the Humanist group who will use this meeting as a banner to advertise how relevant and influential they are – when in fact they are a tiny group of anti-religious zealots, who make money from selling DIY wedding ceremonies. (Even their small numbers are over-inflated as its mandatory to first join for one year, if you want to buy a wedding ceremony.) In a sense the Humanists will gain the same gravitas from this, as the protestants do through ecumenism.

      2) The Humanists are not in any way reasonable, so the meeting is fundamentally pointless. The Humanist argument that the Church should not have automatic representatives on education boards, despite running nearly 400 schools in Scotland, is fundamentally idiotic.

      They should be told where to go and then simply ignored. Its another example of Bishop Keenan trying to be “open to everyone” which is misguided.

      People say Jesus was “open to everyone” but that isn’t true – rather, He was open to everyone who repented of sin and amended their lives.

      And regarding the main point of the thread:

      I do not like this kind of experimentation and research, which is (doubtless) ultimately publicly funded. There are far more worthy sectors of research or healthcare where funds would be spent more appropriately.

      And again we see fundamental incoherence in secular thought. They never stop banging on about the myth of over-population and the need for population control etc. And so you think they would be accepting of naturally occurring infertility. If they are concerned (albeit wrongly) about the supposedly too-large size of global population, then it makes no sense whatsoever to be funding and celebrating means to defeat infertility.

      And regarding IVF: with IVF, several new lives are created and then later some are discarded as unnecessary (which is the problem) – this is done to to ensure a chance of at least one of the lives surviving the artificial process.

      However the Bishop says that these eggs would be re-implanted and then fertilised normally. So, it seems the same issue (as with IVF) would (could) be avoided.

      But then, we do not know what unexpected effects may occur with this new process and so at best it seems irresponsible of the Bishop to be giving the notion his blessing at this stage. There is no shortage of examples of supposedly beneficial medical advances causing tragedy, when side effects or other problems are discovered too late.

      He is, of course, trying to appear open to science and well informed.

      February 12, 2018 at 1:07 pm
  • Petrus


    I vehemently disagree with Bishop Keenan on this. There’s no indication that this will be any different from IVF.

    What’s more worrying is that a Bishop sees this report in a secular newspaper, knows very little about it but chooses to give his approval via social media. A very foolish move!

    February 12, 2018 at 12:56 pm
  • editor

    Gabriel Syme and Petrus,

    You two amaze me…. The good Bishop wishes to engage with the world, don’t you see that? Archbishop Tartaglia is not well, we’re told, and there was even talk of him having an auxiliary at one point, to ease the load. Who’s most likely to become the next Archbishop of Glasgow, a cynic may wonder, if not the current Bishop of Paisley (as Archbishop Tartaglia was the previous Bishop of Paisley) but me? I say, well, he simply wants to engage with the world… 😀

    Listen, they don’t call me Miss Marple for nothing. I doubt if these Paisley Pronouncements have much, if anything, to do with engaging with the world, whether through meeting humanists or approving dodgy science, and much more to do with keeping one’s profile out there…as that cynic might say…

    Now, I’m doing my best to become more charitable, unlike that cynic, although I tend to think there’s a difference between objective observations whether in politics or Church matters, and personal lack of charity, criticisms of individuals on a personal basis. I hope I’m right, as I am getting closer by the day to my Judgment. I’ve no doubt that Bishop Keenan is a very nice, kind person and may even be genuinely trying to do good in the spheres of humanism and science.

    However, whether or not that is the case – he is (with respect!) – wrong. Spreading and defending the Faith is the work of the episcopate, not engaging with worldlings on their own terms.

    For, Gabriel is correct about the meeting idea – let’s wait now for that public joint statement where both Bishop Keenan and the leader of the humanist group will declare that they have more that unites than divides them. And as for the “fertility breakthrough”…

    Gimme strength!

    February 12, 2018 at 1:27 pm
  • Mary Anne

    The eggs were obtained surgically, put in a nourishment broth in order to grow them to the the maturity needed wherein they will supposedly combine with the sperm. The sperm will not be obtained surgically (a sin of Onan). If one of them combines with the sperm, the others will no doubt be discarded. I don’t know. My question as to the further sinfulness of this intrinsically immoral act …. will God put a soul in this product and give it life? Lots of presumption here. So call me ‘rigid’ You will counter with the IVF babies. I never hear how they are doing. Does anyone know any of them? To me it seems like the whole process is open to defects in the child too. If not physical, certainly spiritual. Numbers: 14:18 “the Lord is slow to anger …….he punishes the children of the 3rd and 4th generation for the sins of their parents” Meaning the children will inherit the sin ? I don’t know. The sin is grievous. Onan is mortal. I don’t know. Just offering my slant from Catholc Nursing School of old fashioned times.

    February 12, 2018 at 2:36 pm
    • Fidelis

      Mary Anne,

      This latest development is different from IVF in that the eggs are taken from the woman and matured in a lab, and then re-planted in the womb, to combine with the sperm, naturally. That’s my understanding of it, reading the intro and the Herald article.

      I do know people with IVF children and I can’t believe they don’t have souls. That would make them robots, IMHO, and they have animus, just like humans so I believe they have souls.

      I think what makes this development questionable morally, is the desperation to get a child no matter what, the refusal to accept that it is not going to happen naturally and so couples are looking for science to help them instead of accepting God’s will, as said in the intro. It would be different if scientists/medics were able to repair what was causing the infertility but “by-passing” it, as stated in the intro, is tantamount to saying “I don’t accept God’s will in this.” That can’t be right.

      February 12, 2018 at 3:04 pm
      • Petrus

        I’ve just read the Herald piece again. I can’t see any assurance that the eggs will be reintroduced before conception.

        February 12, 2018 at 3:20 pm
      • Eileenanne

        Bishop Keenan is careful to,point out that this procedure is morally acceptable ONLY if the egg is reimplanted for fertilisation by the normal method. He introduces the link on Facebook by saying:

        “As far as I can see this is a potentially excellent breakthrough in fertility science.
        In principle it is a great development if a woman’s eggs could be matured and made viable in vitro provided they could be re-implanted into her in readiness for fertilisation through the normal marital act.
        Obviously this is quite different from IVF.”

        The doctors or scientists working on this idea probably anticipate that the eggs will be used in an IVF procedure. Bishop Keenan seems to be expressing the hope and wish that they will be returned to the woman’s body and fertilised naturally and morally. It seems feasible that women could ask for that and that it should be possible.

        February 12, 2018 at 8:15 pm
      • Fidelis


        I think the Bishop has been far too quick to approve this procedure. He ought to be more careful. It’s really no different from IVF, just a slightly different route, as you seem to acknowledge. For any Catholic, especially a Bishop “to express a hope and a wish” that this won’t happen, seems to be naïve, to say the least.

        I don’t doubt that Bishop Keenan is well-intentioned but you know what they say about the road to Hell being paved with good intentions. He should be much more careful before making a statement about such a major issue.

        Why didn’t he just encourage infertile women to pursue natural means and if it’s not possible to make them truly fertile, then accept God’s will – maybe even adopt a child?

        February 12, 2018 at 8:37 pm
      • Eileenanne

        It is significantly different from IVF IF (as Bishop Keenan has carefully pointed out) fertilisation occurs in the usual way with no outside interference by anyone other than the husband and wife.

        February 12, 2018 at 8:46 pm
      • Petrus

        Bishop Keenan has not carefully pointed that out because there is nothing to point out. The article makes no mention of it being different from IVF and makes no mention of the eggs being returned to the mother before conception.

        February 12, 2018 at 8:50 pm
      • Eileenanne

        The article doesn’t say that, but the Bishop does, in his introduction to the Facebook post which Inquoted above. He also used the opportunity to reinforce the Catholic teaching against IVF.

        February 12, 2018 at 9:03 pm
      • Petrus

        No, he didn’t “reinforce” any teaching. All he said was “obviously this is different from IVF”. He gave no indication what the Church’s teaching regarding IVF is!

        February 12, 2018 at 9:26 pm
      • Eileenanne

        It was a Facebook comment, not a thesis on infertility treatments. There is a definite indication that IVF is not acceptable and that subject to certain conditions this new procedure COULD be morally sound. He puts it no more strongly than that.

        February 12, 2018 at 9:41 pm
      • Rose


        I disagree. The Herald report includes this alarming statement:

        “Immature eggs recovered from patients’ ovarian tissue could be matured in the lab and stored for later fertilisation…”

        If they’re being stored, how is there any assurance that they will be used as the Bishop is assuming? All sorts of possible scenarios could occur.

        He’s been too quick to speak about this. a bit of spiritual advice would be much more appropriate from a Bishop.

        February 12, 2018 at 8:54 pm
      • Eileenanne

        There is no such assurance and I expect in most cases the eggs would undergo IVF. Catholics could, however, request reimplantatiion before fertilisation. We don’t know yet if that is medically possible, but it might be and some people might wish to,pursue the idea.

        February 12, 2018 at 9:01 pm
      • Petrus


        My point is this. Is it really prudent for a bishop to publicly comment on this when so many facts are unknown? It’s very foolish.

        I can’t imagine how awful it must be to suffer the pain of infertility. It truly is a cross. However, having a child is a gift, not a right. At a Catholic marriage ceremony the couple promise to “accept children lovingly from God” not “from God and science”!

        February 12, 2018 at 8:43 pm
      • Eileenanne

        Arguably he was right to use the opportunity when this was in the news to restate that Catholics should not make use of IVF and to make the point that this procedure is POTENTIALLY acceptable with the proviso he explains.

        February 12, 2018 at 8:58 pm
      • Fidelis


        You are right. I’ve just read it again and there’s no guarantee given. Thanks for pointing that out – I read it too quickly and was really depending on the Bishop’s words. Ha ha! – you’d think I’d know better by now!

        February 12, 2018 at 8:33 pm
      • Mary Anne

        Fidelis, your understanding is proper. Mine was not as far as the fertilization of the egg. It’s interesting to know of IVF children who are ok. It’s true that they have souls as they move and talk,, etc.

        February 12, 2018 at 3:48 pm
      • Lily

        I agree that they are real humans with real souls but that doesn’t mean that the IVF process is pleasing to God, as it is not fully in keeping with God’s plan for human reproduction.

        February 13, 2018 at 4:11 pm

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