The Russian Orthodox Church has officially examined the problem of surrogacy and expressed its position and point of view at first in the Russian Orthodox Church’s Social Concept established by the Episcopal Jubilee Assembly in 2000, and then with a special document adopted at the session of the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church on December 25-26, 2013. The issue of sperm donation has also been discussed.
According to the Social Doctrine of the Russian Orthodox Church, sperm donation is a violation of the exclusivity of marital relations by allowing third-party intervention and it encourages the irresponsible fatherhood or motherhood. The use of donor material undermines the foundations of family relationships because it implies the existence of biological parents in addition to the child’s social parents.
Surrogate motherhood, that is carrying the fertilized ovum by a woman who, after the delivery, returns the child to the “customers”, is unnatural and morally inadmissible even when carried out on a non-commercial basis. This method involves the destruction of deep emotional and spiritual closeness that is already established between mother and child during pregnancy. The child born in this way can live a crisis of self-consciousness.
All types of extracorporeal, of in vitro fertilization are morally unacceptable too; it involves the production, storage of embryos and intentional destruction of “surplus” embryos. The moral assessment of abortion condemned by the Church is based especially, even in the case of an embryo, on the acceptance of human dignity.
Insemination of single women or single men with the use of donor sperm, as well as the realization of “reproductive rights” of persons with so-called non-standard sexual orientation, deprive the future child of the right to have a father or mother. The use of reproductive methods outside the family blessed by God becomes а form of theomachism, that is battling against God, which is carried out under the guise of human autonomy and misunderstood freedom of the person.
The document of the Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church, basically focusing on the problem of the baptism of children born through surrogacy, makes references to the Social Doctrine.
The Church understands marriage as a divine definition from the beginning, rooted in human nature. In Christian understanding, the marriage is a spiritual and corporal union between a man and a woman that allows them to realize their human nature in wholeness. Church blesses the marriage, comparing it to a spiritual union of Christ and His Church (Eph. 5:22-25, 29-30, 32).
The children are the fruit of conjugal love whose birth and upbringing, according to the Orthodox teaching, are one of the most important goals of marriage.
The birth of a child is not only the natural result of marital relations but also a great event of coming into the world of a new human being who has God’s image and likeness. Giving life to children, men and women are committed to taking exclusive responsibility because they are called to have the greatest concern for the physical and spiritual health of children, starting from the first days of their intrauterine life to adulthood.
The mother has a special role in the children’s birth and upbringing, being closely associated with the child with physical, mental, and spiritual connections. The Church sees a great example of motherhood in the Holy Virgin, whose character reveals the woman’s highest virtue, the uniqueness of her maternal vocation.
One of the serious problems that families often face is the infertility of one or both of the spouses. The Church sympathizes with the childless couple, blessing them to pray that God bestows them an offspring and that they go to physicians for the treatment of infertility, as well as to adopt children.
The Church considers as a permissible measure of medical care for childless couple the artificial insemination of a wife with her husband’s spermatozoa if it is not accompanied by destruction of fertilized oocytes, as it does not violate the integrity of the marital union, in principle doesn’t differ from natural conception and realizes in the framework of marital relations.
The surrogacy unequivocally condemned by the Church. The term “surrogate motherhood” itself indicates the distortion of the high concept of maternal duty and vocation. It is also a humiliation for the child, who, instead of a real mother, is having two incomplete mothers or not having a mother, as in the case of a single man, who had wanted to have a “biological offspring”.
The social dangers relating to the applying of surrogacy are associated with the radical change of perception about the human nature. In this case, the concept of man, as an exclusive person, is changing into the idea about man as a biological being with the image of man, which can be fabricated arbitrarily by manipulating the elements of “genetic material”.
In the world gradually an attitude is being developed towards human life as a product, which can be selected according to one’s own inclinations, and which humans can dispose equally to material values.
The use of reproductive technologies in order to provide infertile couples, single men, and women with children, gradually becomes a profitable business, which gives a possibility to sperm donors and surrogate mothers to make money. As a result, the mystery of human’s birth becomes a subject of trade and financial relations. God-commanded marriage, founded on love and loyalty, is being replaced by the market of reproductive services which is ready to meet any consumer demand of artificial birth of the child in accordance with the given parameters.