Archive of June 12, 2010

Study shows problems for adults conceived by sperm donation

New York City, N.Y., Jun 12, 2010 (CNA) - A recent report by the Commission on Parenthood’s Future indicates that adult offspring of sperm donation struggle with questions of identity as a result of not knowing their biological father. Fr. Thomas Berg, who specializes in bioethics, told CNA that the practice of sperm donation has “grossly underestimated” the human need to connect with one's biological parents.

The report, “My Daddy’s Name is Donor: A New Study of Young Adults Conceived Through Sperm Donation,” was co-investigated by Commission members Elizabeth Marquardt, Norval D. Glenn and Karen Clark.

“Many people think that because these young people resulted from wanted pregnancies, how they were conceived doesn’t matter to them,” said Marquardt.

“But this study reveals that when they are adults, sperm donor offspring struggle with serious losses from being purposefully denied knowledge of, or a relationship with, their sperm donor biological fathers,” explained Clark.

The study is the first representative, comparative examination of the identity and well-being of the adult offspring of sperm donation.  It is estimated that 30,000-60,000 children are born every year through sperm donation in the U.S. alone.

The study found that young adults who were conceived through sperm donation exhibit higher rates of confusion, isolation, depression, delinquency and substance abuse than those who were raised by their biological parents.

Two-thirds of the donor-conceived adults agreed with the statement “My sperm donor is half of who I am.”  About half reported being disturbed that money was involved in their conception. 

More than half said that when they see someone who resembles them, they wonder if they are related, while nearly half said they have feared being attracted to or having sexual relations with someone to whom they are unknowingly related. 

In addition, two-thirds of the donor-conceived participants affirmed the right of donor children to know the truth about their origins, and about half have concerns about or serious objections to donor conception itself, even when the children are told the truth.

The report offered 19 recommendations to leaders in the areas of law and health; media and popular culture; parents and would-be parents; and civic, social, and religious leaders in the U.S. and around the world.  Raising questions of the ethics, meaning and practice of donor conception, the recommendations ask society to consider, “Does a good society intentionally create children in this way?”

Donor-conceived Alana Sveta tells her story on  She describes how she often tells people that her father is dead so she will not have to tell them the truth about being conceived by a sperm donor, a fact that she considers “creepy” and “disgusting.”

“It embarrasses me,” she said.

Sveta said that other donor children feel the same as she does, but have remained largely voiceless.  “It’s just that we, the children, haven’t been empowered to vocalize our issues yet. The needs and concerns of our mothers and their partners have trumped and stifled our own,” she said.

Olivia Pratten agreed.  “Unfortunately, many of the physicians who run the fertility clinics continue to ignore or dismiss what we say as being a 'bitter few,'” she said.  “As this study proves, we are not a few.”

Pratten, conceived via an anonymous sperm donor, explained on that she has yearned to know more about her father since she was told of her conception at age 5.  “I never saw him as a sperm donor,” she said.  “To me – instinctively – he was my biological father.”

Speaking of the flaws inherent in the system itself, she said, “When the parents using the technologies are called the 'consumers,' that means the resulting children are the 'products.'”

In an interview with CNA, Fr. Thomas Berg, Director of the Westchester Institute for Ethics and the Human Person, explained that he believes “this will be a very hard-hitting study.”

“It raises all kinds of issues,” he said. “I think this is one of those 800-pound gorillas that's been sitting in the room for a couple decades now.”

Fr. Berg said he was not surprised by the findings of the study.  “It makes a lot of sense to me,” he said.  “The need for connection with the biological parents is a much more powerful kind of thing than many people realize.” 

He explained that the assisted fertility industry has “grossly underestimated the need that people have to make that connection” and the result is “a huge gaping hole” in the self-understanding of those children conceived without such a connection.

“Human beings need to be grounded,” said Fr. Berg. “We need a story that tells us who we are and where we came from.  The human person can't develop fully and normally lacking that narrative.”

For children whose history is tied to an anonymous sperm donor, “there is just necessarily a huge part of that foundation that's missing,” he said.  “Part of the 'Who am I?' question never gets answered.”

“I think there's something about self-identity which is just disturbingly left unsettled for children who come into the world through sperm donors.”

Responding to the study finding that about half of the individuals questioned were disturbed that money was involved in their conception, Fr. Berg said society is reaping the fruits of the way “we have commodified life.”

“That just speaks volumes,” he told CNA. “These poor children have come to the realization that they themselves, from the very beginning, were treated as objects, about which there was monetary consideration.”

To prevent causing further harm, we must eliminate the possibility of people coming into the world through sperm and egg donations, said Fr. Berg.  This will require an entire change of mindset, as society must “rediscover the genuine God-given meaning of sexuality, marriage and family.” 

Renewing our understanding of this three-fold relationship is essential, he explained.  “The whole meaning, richness and importance of that for culture has been utterly disregarded.”

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Pew Forum contrasts secular, religious media coverage of abuse scandal

Washington D.C., Jun 12, 2010 (CNA) - A new study published on Friday by the Pew Forum contrasts the differences in media coverage of the clerical sex abuse scandal in the Catholic Church by secular and religious news outlets. Among the significant finds of the report are the fact that the Holy Father “though not accused of abusing anyone himself,” attracted more coverage by secular media “than all the other key figures combined,” according to the study.

The report, released on June 11, was conducted jointly by the Project for Excellence in Journalism and the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, both of which belong to the non-profit Pew Research Center in Washington, D.C.

Opening the report by discussing secular media coverage of the recently surfaced sex abuse cases – as covered by 52 mainstream U.S. news outlets – the Pew Forum remarked that “media scrutiny this year zeroed in on the Pope himself.”

“During the six-week period from March 12 through April 27, Pope Benedict XVI was a major focus of more than half the stories on the scandal in the mainstream U.S. media, including print, radio, network television, cable TV and online news sources,” the report said.

During this period of time, the study reported, the sex abuse scandal was the eighth biggest story on mainstream media outlets.

What “is striking about the clergy abuse scandal story is not that Benedict received so much press attention,” the Pew Forum wrote, “but that other individuals received so little. The pope, though not accused of abusing anyone himself, attracted more coverage than all the other key figures (involved in the abuse cases) combined.”

However, this is not unusual, they explained, given “the media’s penchant for personalizing big stories.”

The Pew Forum study also suggested that similar to political scandals involving either party, “the clergy scandal, was seized on by many news organizations as an opportunity to question the leadership of an organization.”

In contrast with the secular coverage, the study analyzed three Catholic media outlets: the National Catholic Reporter, Catholic News Service and Catholic News Agency. These three were chosen “based on high volume of content distribution, name recognition and diversity of individual missions,” explained the study.

The National Catholic Reporter had 15 total Vatican stories during this time period with 10 focused on the scandal. An example of the type of coverage can be in found in a March 22 piece by NCR’s Thomas Fox, who focused on “German reform Catholics” that said “the pope’s pastoral letter, written to Irish Catholics in response to sexual abuse by the clergy, is merely a starting point in a long process of change, and called for the church to overhaul its stance on celibacy,” the Pew Forum analysis quoted.

Catholic News Service wrote 58 total Vatican stories from March through April, with 26 focusing on clerical sex abuse. An April 9 story by CNS' Vatican correspondent John Thavis, for example, reported the Vatican’s defense of Pope Benedict’s response to the scandal.

Catholic News Agency wrote 329 Vatican stories with 98 focusing on the clerical sex abuse scandal, reported the study. CNA, “whose Vatican coverage was much more prolific than that of its counterparts, devoted a smaller share to the clergy scandal (29.8%),” the Pew Forum calculated, adding that the “tone of this coverage seemed to emphasize the defense of the Vatican’s actions, as well as to critique the mainstream media for its version of events.”

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Lady Gaga dismissed as 'Madonna wannabe' for 'Catholic bashing' music video

New York City, N.Y., Jun 12, 2010 (CNA) - Catholic League president Bill Donohue dismissed pop sensation Lady Gaga in her recent controversial music video – which features highly sexualized images coupled with Catholic religious symbols – as a mediocre, “Madonna wannabe.”

The starlet's recent video for her hit song “Alejandro,” features the singer clad at various points in a red, latex nun's habit, swallowing a Rosary, and engaging in simulated erotic encounters with her male back up dancers.

“Lady Gaga is playing Madonna copy cat, squirming around half-naked with half-naked guys, abusing Catholic symbols – they're always Catholic symbols – while bleating out 'Alejandro' enough times to induce vomit,” wrote Donohue in a statement Friday.

The singer “has now become the new poster girl for American decadence and Catholic bashing, sans the looks and talent of her role model,” he added.

Fox News covered the controversial video on Friday as part of a growing trend of anti-Catholicism in Hollywood.

Giving a brief history, the news outlet wrote about how pop icon Madonna ruffled feathers with numerous music videos during the 1980s and 90s, some of which featured burning crosses, erotic encounters with saints, and references to abortion.

Fox also cited model Joanna Krupa's recent stint with PETA, where she posed nude with a strategically placed cross as part of an advertisement in support of humane treatment for animals. Also referenced was Comedy Central's alleged plans to run a satirical cartoon series on Jesus Christ, titled “J.C.”

Talk show host and film critic Michael Medved asserted to Fox News that there is a long history of mocking Catholicism in the U.S.

“The reason this is considered to be OK is because the Catholic Church is the most visible and powerful, single religious institution on the planet,” said Medved. “There is no comparable, unifying force in Islam or in any other religious faith or tradition.”

“Alejandro” director Steven Klein recently defended the Lady Gaga music video to MTV, according to Fox. The video, asserts Klein, does not “denote anything negative, but represents the character's battle between the dark forces of this world and the spiritual salvation of the Soul.”

“She chooses to be a nun, and the reason her mouth and eyes disappear is because she is withdrawing her senses from the world of evil and going inward toward prayer and contemplation,” he added.

But Donohue would not have any of the reasoning. “Madonna, Lady Gaga was raised Catholic and then morphed into something unrecognizable.”

“'So I suppose you could say I'm a quite religious woman that is very confused about religion,' she told Larry King last week,” he quoted.

“That she is confused is an understatement. In any event, we hope she finds her way back home.”

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