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Las Cuatro Llaves Para un Matrimonio Feliz y Saludable

Por: Bonnie Borel-Donohue

¿Quién podría ser el mejor ejemplo de cómo amar a su cónyuge que el Máximo Amante, Dios? Pero, ¿cómo ama Dios?

Después de haber meditado sobre esta pregunta, el Papa Pablo VI y el Papa Juan Pablo II discernieron cuatro características claves del amor de Dios. El amor de Dios es siempre: libre, total, fiel y fecundo. Cada llave es también una de las cuatro cualidades esenciales del amor conyugal auténtico. Este folleto le dará a conocer estas cuatro llaves muy importantes para iniciarse, o volver al camino hacia un gran matrimonio. A través de las gracias que vienen con el sacramento del Santo Matrimonio, junto con la oración y recibiendo regularmente los sacramentos de la reconciliación y de la eucaristía, los esposos reciben toda la fuerza y el poder para amarse uno al otro como Jesús ama a su Iglesia: libremente, totalmente, fielmente y Estas son las cuatro llaves para el amor conyugal auténtico. A través de los sacramentos y aprendiendo más acerca de las cuatro llaves para el amor conyugal presentadas en este folleto, las parejas pueden abrir la puerta a un matrimonio más satisfactorio y gratificante.1

LPurple key imagea primera llave es libre–Para que un matrimonio sea feliz y saludable, los cónyuges deben entrar al matrimonio, así como a cada acto conyugal libremente, dándose uno al otro y recibiéndose uno al otro sin coerción, manipulación, fuerza o coacción. Esta llave requiere auto-control y la posibilidad de aplazar o sacrificar los propios deseos por el bien de la persona amada. Aunque la violación marital es una violación evidente de esta llave, vicios más sutiles como la impaciencia, el orgullo y la lujuria también pueden interferir con la práctica de esta llave. Las virtudes de la paciencia, la humildad y la castidad son necesarias, asi como los esposos a menudo tienen que esperar a que el otro esté listo para amar “libremente.” Esta llave consiste en darse cuenta de que cada persona puede tener necesidades físicas, emocionales o trabajos que deben cumplirse, como por ejemplo la mujer necesita de una cierta cantidad de tiempo para hablar y compartir, o la necesidad del hombre de meterse a su cueva un rato a solas antes de que la intimidad pueda suceder.2, 3 Para que esta llave funcione bien, ambas partes deben estar libres de adicciones, incluyendo las adicciones al alcohol, las drogas, el sexo, la pornografía, la co-dependencia, etc.4

LRed key imagea segunda llave es total–El matrimonio sacramental es una vocación, un llamado de Dios y el principal medio por el cual los esposos se santifican. Este compromiso con el cónyuge debe ser total, tomando el primer lugar y viene incluso antes del compromiso con los hijos, la familia de origen, o el trabajo,–lo cual no quiere decir que estos no sean importantes.

Para que el amor conyugal sea auténtico, todo de sí mismo se da a la persona amada, y todo es recibido y aceptado del amado incluso, el cuerpo, la mente, la fertilidad, las finanzas y hasta las condiciones de salud desconocidas en el futuro. Ocultar o mantener información crítica al prometido–(a) o esposo (a) viola esta llave, al igual que los acuerdos pre-nupciales. Estas acciones indican una falta de confianza y la decisión de compartir sólo una parte de si mismo con el cónyuge. Las parejas que intencionalmente excluyen, dañan, enferman o mutilan sus órganos reproductivos, o permiten que su cónyuge lo haga, violarían esta llave. Su don de sí mismo no es total.

Esta llave no significa que los cónyuges deben perder su identidad, que se fundan el uno al otro renunciando a los límites saludables, o que se dejen abusar. Más bien, significa que cada cónyuge aporta su don total dado por Dios de su singularidad y personalidad al matrimonio.

Esta llave implica aceptar que los hombres y las mujeres son diferentes y tienen necesidades diferentes, no siendo las necesidades de uno superiores a las del otro, sólo son diferentes. Por ejemplo, los hombres generalmente tienen una mayor necesidad de ser “respetados” (es decir, no criticados por su esposa) más que sentirse “queridos”, mientras que las mujeres tienen una mayor necesidad de sentirse “amadas”. 3, 5 Algunas parejas han encontrado útil el descubrir los lenguajes del amor de cada uno o maneras en que los dos se sienten queridos. Algunas personas experimentan o sienten amor sobre todo a través del tacto, otros a través de palabras como decir “te amo”, y otros por el tiempo que comparten juntos. Otros pueden sentirse amados si se le dan regalos, o mediante la recepción de actos de servicio, o una combinación de estos aspectos.6

Yellow key imageLa tercera llave es Fiel–Para que un matrimonio sea feliz y saludable, los cónyuges deben ser fieles. Esta llave implica la promesa de proteger el corazón, los ojos y el cuerpo, reservando el don especial de la sexualidad exclusivamente para la persona amada. Coquetear con otros, que no sean su cónyuge, mirar a otros deseándolos, ver telenovelas en forma adictiva, o leer novelas románticas, ver pornografía, y tener relaciones extramaritales violan esta llave.

Una práctica importante para esta llave es evitar las ocasiones próximas de pecado cuidando de no ponerse en cualquier situación con alguien del sexo opuesto solo, donde el potencial de tentación pudiera surgir, tales como almuerzos, cenas, deportes, otras actividades, o socialmente hablar por teléfono, enviar mensajes de texto o chat en el Internet.

Green key imageLa cuarta llave es fructífero–el amor auténtico es siempre fructífero, es creativo y realmente trae más amor y más vida. Cada vez que una pareja casada se une en el abrazo conyugal, si el acto es una expresión auténtica de amor, se dicen uno al otro y con Dios (tal como lo hicieron en sus votos originales) que amorosamente aceptan cualquier hijo que pueda resultar de esta unión. Ellos permanecen abiertos al fruto que Dios quiera hacer surgir de su amor. La anticoncepción, la esterilización y el aborto evitan que un matrimonio sea fructífero. Son pecados graves, y en consecuencia, llevan a la esterilidad, la enfermedad, la infelicidad, y la muerte.7

Mientras que las parejas nunca deben intencionalmente hacer cualquier acto marital estéril, ya sea antes, durante o después de su unión, la planificación natural familiar (PNF)8 puede ser usada para evitar el embarazo por causas serias y justificadas y no viola esta llave. Una pareja puede tener razones legítimas para espaciar sus hijos, y la Iglesia enseña que el uso de los períodos infértiles del ciclo de la mujer en esos momentos no viola esta llave, ya que cada abrazo marital todavía sigue abierto a la posibilidad de crear nueva vida. Sin embargo, la PNF puede ser objeto de abuso si se utiliza sin razones de peso para evitar un embarazo, o porque una pareja egoístamente se niegan a ser generosos y abiertos al don supremo de Dios de los hijos.

La maternidad no es el único “fruto” que Dios puede traer a un matrimonio santo. En el plan de Dios, algunas parejas no pueden tener hijos, o tantos como quisieran. La buena noticia es que hay métodos científicos modernos, sin embargo, moralmente aceptables, que pueden ayudar a un gran porcentaje de parejas que sufren de infertilidad,9 pero no todos van a tener éxito. Las parejas pueden tener la tentación de tratar de “tener hijos” a cualquier costo, incluso por medios inmorales tales como la fertilización in vitro o la maternidad subrogada. Tales medios son moralmente censurables y pecaminosos porque tratan al hijo como un “objeto” o “cosa” que se crea, se compra o se vende, lo cuál es opuesto a crear un hijo por un acto de amor. A través de la oración se pide la humildad para aceptar la voluntad de Dios, y para encontrar otras maneras de dar fruto (por ejemplo, mediante la adopción, hogares de tránsito, el cuidado de los miembros de la familia y de la comunidad), Dios bendecirá abundantemente con gran fruto a todas las parejas que siguen Su Voluntad.

Notas de pie de página4 keys spanish image

  1. Ver Humanae Vitae por el Papa Pablo VI, Amor y Responsabilidad por Karol Wojtyla y Hombre y Mujer los creó: El amor humano en el plan divino por Juan Pablo II para un mayor desarrollo de las ideas presentadas en este folleto.
  2. A nivel nacional el aclamado psicólogo clínico Willard F. Harley, Jr., les dice a los esposos que planeen dar el regalo de por lo menos 20 minutos para hablar íntimamente/ compartir tiempo antes del abrazo marital, para dar a sus esposas el tiempo que necesitan para que crezca el deseo. Ver His Needs, Her Needs: Building an Affair Proof Marriage por Willard F. Harley, Jr.
  3. Para construir intimidad, es importante que las parejas aprendan a hacer un hábito de compartir sentimientos y apreciaciones regularmente y aprendan cómo manejar con seguridad los conflictos. Intimacy: A 100-Day Guide to Better Relationships, por matrimonio muy respetado consejero Douglas Weiss, PhD, es un gran lugar para comenzar.
  4. Para obtener ayuda para superar las adicciones, se recomienda hacer una confesión sacramental y buscar el asesoramiento de un sacerdote. Para encontrar un terapeuta católico que es fiel a las enseñanzas del Magisterio de la Iglesia, vaya a www.Catholictherapists.com.
  5. Es importante que las mujeres aprendan a respetar a los esfuerzos de su marido, compartiendo lo que aprecian de ellos, y aprender a lidiar con el conflicto de la manera apropiada, sin hacer que ellos se sientan criticados. Para obtener más información acerca de las diferencias importantes entre hombres y mujeres, ver El amor que ella más desea, el respeto que se necesita desesperadamente por Emerson Eggerichs.
  6. El clásico libro Los Cinco Lenguajes del Amor: Como expresar devoción sincera a su cónyuge por Gary Chapman, ha ayudado a innumerables parejas.
  7. “Porque la paga del pecado es muerte.” (Romanos 6:23) New American Bible, Edición Revisada.
  8. Para obtener más información acerca de los diferentes métodos de PNF y saber cuál es el mejor para usted, vaya a https://onemoresoul.com/marriage-children/natural-family-planning/natural-family-planning-links.html
  9. Puede Ir a www.fertilitycare.org para aprender más sobre el Modelo Creighton FertilityCareTM System y la NaProTECNOLOGIA, cuya eficacia es igual o mayor que la fertilización in vitro para ayudar a las parejas que sufren infertilidad a lograr el embarazo.

Problemas asociados con el uso de hormonas para el control de la natalidad

por
Mario Maldonado, MD (Endocrinólogo)
Edwin Bernardo, MD (Médico de Familia)
Michael Fragoso, MD (Pediatra) y
Fr. Juan R. Vélez, MD (Ex Internista)
Traducido por Lili Cote de Bejarano, MD, MPH

Como médicos, nosotros no prescribimos anticonceptivos hormonales para el control de la natalidad. Las razones médicas para esta decisión son las siguientes.

Los anticonceptivos orales (y todos los demás anticonceptivos hormonales para el control de la natalidad) son utilizados habitualmente para prevenir el embarazo, aunque a veces se prescriben para tratar otras condiciones médicas. Los anticonceptivos hormonales pueden causar muchos posibles efectos adversos de tipo médico, social y espiritual. La gran mayoría de las recetas de anticonceptivos hormonales son dadas por los médicos a mujeres sanas, a veces a adolescentes sin enfermedad conocida. A algunas mujeres se les prescriben anticonceptivos hormonales para el control de la natalidad, por una sencilla razón—para impedir una condición completamente normal: el embarazo.

Dado que todos los medicamentos tienen potencialmente efectos secundarios no deseados, algunos de ellos graves, es importante que los médicos sopesen los riesgos y beneficios cuando se prescribe algún medicamento. De ello se deduce que no es ético exponer mujeres sanas a riesgos para la salud a fin de evitar una situación normal. El error de exponer las mujeres a estos riesgos es todavía peor dado el hecho de que otros métodos de planificación familiar existen, como la Planificación Natural de la Familia (PNF), los cuales no tienen efectos secundarios cuando se utilizan correctamente.

Los anticonceptivos hormonales tratan la fertilidad de la mujer y la maternidad como una enfermedad

Aunque puede haber razones legítimas de índole médica y personal para evitar el embarazo, la fertilidad femenina y la posibilidad del embarazo en sí no son una enfermedad, y por tanto no necesitan “tratamiento” con una pastilla (un parche, una inyección, o un DIU).

Los anticonceptivos hormonales causan abortos

Cuando los anticonceptivos orales no suprimen la ovulación en una mujer sexualmente activa y otros mecanismos que impiden la fertilización fallan, puede ocurrir la concepción.

Los anticonceptivos hormonales interfieren con la implantación de un nuevo ser humano mediante la reducción del grosor del revestimiento del útero, y alterando moléculas y factores relacionados con la implantación. Las dosis bajas de anticonceptivos hormonales impiden la liberación del óvulo femenino solamente en un 65-75% de los ciclos.1, 2 Por esta razón, es posible que en aproximadamente un 30% de sus ciclos si una mujer tiene relaciones sexuales en su periodo fertil, existe la posibililad que suceda un embarazo y posteriormente un aborto químico.

Los anticonceptivos hormonales contribuyen a una mentalidad anti-vida

Los anticonceptivos hormonales como la Píldora, el parche, el DIU o la Inyección, sustentan la práctica del aborto. La gente inconscientemente concluye: “Si fracasa el control de la natalidad, el aborto es la solución.” En los Estados Unidos una encuesta a nivel nacional indicó que el 54% de las mujeres que tuvieron un aborto estaban utilizando anticonceptivos el mes anterior.3

Los anticonceptivos hormonales aumentan el riesgo de cáncer de seno

Las mujeres se enfrentan a un mayor riesgo de desarrollar cáncer de seno, cuando usan anticonceptivos hormonales, y este riesgo continua por lo menos diez años después de que dejan de usar hormonas anticonceptivas. Si la Píldora se toma antes de que una mujer de a luz por primera vez, hay un incremento del 44% en el riesgo de cáncer de seno.4,5

Un estudio reciente de mujeres menores de 40 años de edad en los Estados Unidos (1976-2009), también demostró un aumento estadísticamente significativo en la incidencia del cáncer de seno metastásico.6 Este tipo de cáncer de seno podría estar asociado con el uso en mujeres jóvenes de anticonceptivos orales (carcinógenos del Grupo I).

Los anticonceptivos hormonales aumentan el riesgo de trombo-embolismo pulmonar

Un estudio de 1524 pacientes en los Países Bajos, llegó a la conclusión de que los anticonceptivos hormonales aumentan el riesgo de trombosis venosa cinco veces comparado con el no uso.7

El riesgo es mayor para las mujeres que utilizan anticonceptivos hormonales y que tienen sobrepeso, fuman, o son mayores de 35 años.8

Los anticonceptivos hormonales provocan un cambio continuo en el metabolismo saludable del cuerpo

Un estudio reciente reportó que el uso de anticonceptivos hormonales vía oral, vaginal o transdérmica, produjo un aumento de los marcadores de inflamación crónica un factor de riesgo para la enfermedad cardiovascular. También, el uso de anticonceptivos combinados deterioró la sensibilidad a la insulina en mujeres jóvenes y sanas.9

Además, el uso de anticonceptivos hormonales puede producir dolores de cabeza tipo migraña, aumento de peso, cambios en el humor, y pérdida de la libido. Estos contribuyen a un aumento prematuro de la perdida de masa osea.10 Se asocian con infertilidad tras un uso prolongado, e incluso en cierta medida con el uso a corto plazo.

Los anticonceptivos hormonales aumentan la incidencia de cáncer de cuello uterino

Existe una asociación entre el uso de anticonceptivos hormonales y un aumento significativo del cáncer de cuello uterino.11 Es probable que esto sea causado por la infección con el virus del papiloma humano (VPH), el cual es transmitido sexualmente, dado que un número considerable de las mujeres que utilizan anticonceptivos hormonales tienen relaciones sexuales fuera del matrimonio y por tanto un mayor riesgo de contraer enfermedades de transmisión sexual.

Los anticonceptivos hormonales aumentan el riesgo de tumores hepáticos

Hay alguna evidencia de que los anticonceptivos orales aumentan el riesgo de ciertos tumores benignos y malignos del hígado.12

Los anticonceptivos hormonales aumentan el riesgo de ataques al corazón

Tanto la primera como la segunda generación de anticonceptivos orales han sido vinculados a un mayor riesgo de ataques al corazón (infartos de miocardio)13 y accidentes cerebro-vasculares.La tercera generación de anticonceptivos orales está asociada con un incremento en enfermedad cerebrovascular isquémica.14

Los anticonceptivos hormonales tienen efectos nocivos para el matrimonio y la sociedad

Las hormonas para el control de la natalidad fomentan la mentalidad de que los hombres y las mujeres son incapaces del auto-control y por lo tanto no son capaces de abstenerse de tener relaciones sexuales. La introducción de los anticonceptivos hormonales fue el catalizador de la revolución sexual y produjo un incremento dramático del sexo pre-marital, el adulterio, el divorcio, el aborto, y los nacimientos fuera del matrimonio. Los anticonceptivos hormonales han tenido un papel indirecto en el aumento abrumador de padres solteros, madres solteras, pobreza y otros males sociales en los Estados Unidos.15,16

Los métodos de PNF son un medio excelente para planificar la familia

PFN está libre de efectos secundarios perjudiciales para la mujer y para la familia, y cuando se utiliza por motivos serios, puede ser  muy bueno para el matrimonio.17

Referencias

1. Chowdhury V, et al. Escape ovulation in women due to the missing of low dose combination oral contraceptive pills. Contraception. 1980; 22(3): 241-247.

2. Baerwald AR, et al. Effects of oral contraceptives administered at defined stages of ovarian follicular development. Fertil Steril. 2006 Jul; 86(1): 27-35. Epub 2006 Jun 9.

3. Jones, RK ,et al. Contraceptive use among U.S. women having abortions in 2000-2001. Perspec Sex Reprod Health. 2002; 34(6): 294-303.

4. Kahlenborn C. Breast Cancer, Its Link to Abortion and the Birth Control Pill. One More Soul, 2000.

5. Kahlenborn C, et al. Oral contraceptive use as a risk factor for pre-menopausal breast cancer: a meta-analysis. Mayo Clin Proc. 2006; 81(10): 1290-1302.

6. Johnson, R. H., Chien, F. L., & Bleyer, A. (2013). Incidence of breast cancer with distant involvement among women in the United States, 1976 to 2009. JAMA: The Journal of the American Medical Association. 309(8), 800-805.

7. van Hylckama Vlieg A, Helmerhorst FM, Vandenbroucke JP, Doggen CJ, Rosendaal FR. The venous thrombotic risk of oral contraceptives, effects of oestrogen dose and progestogen type: results of the MEGA case-control study. BMJ. 2009 Aug 13; 339: b2921.

8. Poulter NR. Risk of fatal pulmonary embolism with oral contraceptives. Lancet. 2000; 355(9221): 2088.

9. Piltonen T, Puurunen J, Hedberg P, Ruokonen A, Mutt SJ, Herzig KH, et al. Oral, transdermal and vaginal combined contraceptives induce an increase in markers of chronic inflammation and impair insulin sensitivity in young healthy normal-weight women: a randomized study. Hum Reprod. 2012 Oct; 27(10): 3046-3056.

10. Wooltorton, E. Medroxyprogesterone acetate (Depo-Provera) and bone mineral density loss. CMAJ. 2005 Mar 15; 172(6):746. Epub 2005 Mar 2.

11. Smith J., Cervical Cancer and use of hormonal contraceptives: a systemic review, Lancet, 2003; 361: 1159-1167.

12. Giannitrapani, L, et al. Sex hormones and risk of liver tumor. Ann NY Acad Sci, 2006 Nov; 1089: 228-236.

13. Tanis, BC, et. al. Oral contraceptives and the risk of myocardial infarction. N Engl J Med. 2001; 345(25): 1787-1793.

14. Baillargeon, JP, et al. Association between the current use of low dose oral contraceptives and cardiovascular arterial disease: a meta-analysis. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2005; 90(7): 3863-3870.

15. Akerlof, GA, et al. An analysis of out-of-wedlock childbearing in the United States. Q J Econ. 1996 May; 111(2): 277-317.

16. Akerlof, GA. Men without children. Econ J. 1998 Mar; 108(447): 287-309.

17. Hilgers TW, Standford JB. The use effectiveness to avoid pregnancy of Creighton model naproeducation technology: a meta-analysis of prospective trials. J Reprod Med. 1998; 43: 495-502.

Sterilization Reversal Book 2013 Edition

Sterilization-Reversal

The Theme of the Book

Sterilization Reversal – A Generous Act of Love is a compilation of 20 stories of couples who were sterilized and then sought sterilization reversal. It is the first book that discusses, from a Roman Catholic perspective, the destructive impact that sterilization has on marriage and the joyous spiritual and marital renewal experienced by couples after reversal. As such, Sterilization Reversal – A Generous Act of Love is a unique resource for clergy, religious educators and laypeople. It is an especially useful tool for the pastoral counseling of persons who have repented their sterilization. It is also a particularly effective means of informing people who are considering sterilization of the emptiness and heartbreak that often follow as well as the NFP alternative that nourishes the marital relationship rather than attacks it. (more…)

¿Por qué usar la Planificación Natural de la Familia?

La Planificación Natural de la Familia acepta nuestra fertilidad.

La Planificación Natural de la Familia (PNF) es la aceptación completa dentro del matrimonio del don divino de la fertilidad, un método por medio del cual la pareja observa sus síntomas de fertilidad para determinar sus períodos fértiles e infértiles a fin de lograr o posponer el embarazo. No debe de confundirse con el antiguo y significativamente menos efectivo “método del ritmo” que estima y proyecta los períodos fértiles e infértiles de la pareja basándose en la observación de cuando ocurrieron estas fases en los ciclos anteriores.

La PNF tiene fuerte base científica.

La gran efectividad de la PNF se debe a métodos más precisos y sistemáticos por los cuales, dependiendo del método, las parejas observan los cambios en las mucosidades cervicales de la mujer, los cambios de temperatura y/u otras señales para determinar las fases fértiles o infértiles. Puesto que tanto las mucosidades cervicales como la temperatura responden a los cambios químicos/hormonales que regulan la fertilidad, las parejas que usan la PNF pueden determinar con gran certeza cuando están fértiles y cuando no. El anticuado método del ritmo era más que todo una adivinanza educada que se basaba en lo que a menudo era suposición equivocada de que los ciclos de fertilidad son constantes de mes a mes.

(more…)

What Do We Do Now? Making the Switch from Contraception to Natural Family Planning

By Patty Schneier

Schneier-FamilyDiscovering the Truth about contraception can be one of the most defining moments in a couple’s marriage. But quite often, the joy of this discovery is accompanied by fears, doubts, and many questions. My husband Larry and I experienced all of the above in January, 2002 when, after 13 years of marriage, we finally decided to live our lives according to God’s plan for love and life. We literally threw out the contraception. This was the best decision we ever made, and we have never looked back. It was THE defining moment in our marriage.
Today, we continue to joyfully celebrate our conversion. We celebrate the beginning of a whole new way of life together and a whole new way of loving each other. But we also vividly remember how difficult it was to be in the middle of this conversion process. Our transformation wasn’t so “joyful” when we were actually going through it. To be honest, we were a mess. We stayed up night after night until the wee hours of the morning trying to figure out, “HOW ARE WE GOING TO LIVE THIS???” Discovering the Truth about love wasn’t enough. What to do with this Truth proved to be a far greater challenge.
Perhaps you have struggled with the issue of contraception. Perhaps you have ignored the Church’s teachings in your marriage for many years. Perhaps you or your spouse has been sterilized. But now, for whatever reasons, you find yourself wanting to change, wanting something better, wanting authentic love and unity in your marriage. This longing is the first step on the road to holiness and healing. Do not ignore this longing! The road ahead may be filled with obstacles; it may be frightening and uncertain. But take comfort in Sacred Scripture, set your foot to the path, and take one tiny step forward. I hope the following suggestions will encourage you on your journey and help you take the next step. Be not afraid! Joy awaits you! Authentic love and real freedom await you! Just say “yes” and take one tiny step.

#1 Receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation

No matter how often Larry and I may have rationalized it, using contraception was a sin in our marriage. In order to start anew, we needed the grace of this sacrament. This was the first and most important step for both of us. It was through the Sacrament of Reconciliation that we resolved to “never go back.”
Find a priest who understands the Church’s teaching. Make an appointment if necessary, and do not delay in confessing this sin. Resolve to amend your life. It doesn’t matter what you’ve done, where you’ve gone, or how long you’ve been away—NO sin is too great. Remember, you can just throw out the contraception—or you can throw out the contraception AND experience redemption, mercy, peace, and healing through the Sacrament of Reconciliation. The choice is yours.

#2 Gain Knowledge of the Truth—Read, Read, Read!

Larry and I literally had to re-learn how to love each other. We didn’t know that every sexual union was meant to be a renewal of our marriage vows; we had never heard that real love is free, total, faithful, and fruitful. We didn’t understand why the Church says what it says, and we were still unsure about many issues regarding sex. But when we discovered the Theology of the Body, it was like finding “the pearl of great price” for our marriage. The Theology of the Body is a collection of talks given by Pope John Paul II on the meaning of human sexuality. The truths revealed in the Theology of the Body reflected the deepest desires of our hearts. We immersed ourselves into this teaching in order to understand the language of our bodies and how we communicate. It was only then that we saw the beauty of God’s original plan for our sexuality. This is what we had been searching for! Our hearts were transformed, and to this day, we are still in awe of the Theology of the Body.
You may have many questions that are still unanswered. Perhaps your spouse considers the Church’s teachings to be a burden and is therefore reluctant to change. Pray for faith and reason; search for answers! Gain knowledge and understanding of authentic love—the only love that satisfies. Read books or listen to CDs together. Re-learn the meaning of your marriage, and immerse yourselves in Truth. Go to onemoresoul.comCouple-reading-scripture for a wealth of resources. I recommend the following to get you started: Good News About Sex and Marriage by Christopher West, Theology of the Body for Beginners by Christopher West, Contraception: Why Not by Professor Janet E Smith, “Prove It, God!”. . . And He Did by Patty Schneier

#3 Take a Class on Natural Family Planning

Natural Family Planning (NFP) is fertility awareness that is simple, scientific, and reliable. It is basic knowledge that can be used either to achieve a pregnancy or to avoid a pregnancy when there are serious reasons for doing so. Many people don’t realize, however, that there are different methods of NFP—all of which are in harmony with Church teaching. The most widely used methods include the Sympto-Thermal Method, Creighton Model, Ovulation Method, and Marquette Model. Each has different levels of instruction and different physical observations. Find out which method is right for you and sign up for a class. Both spouses should attend together. A National directory of NFP Teachers and NFP Centers is available at onemoresoul.com (800-307-7685). Call your Diocesan Family Life Office or local Catholic hospital for information about classes in your area.

#4 Switch to an NFP-Only Physician

This may sound drastic but, if it is at all possible, find an NFP-only physician. For me, this was a very important step—one that I didn’t want to take, because I “loved” my former Ob-Gyn who had delivered all our children. Soon after our conversion, however, I realized that his practice of prescribing contraception no longer fit with our values. I couldn’t follow his advice, and I didn’t agree with his assumptions. When I found my new physician, I felt as if I had truly come home to an entire practice that understood me and valued my fertility as a gift and a blessing—not a disease or an inconvenience that needed to be “controlled.” Despite a much longer commute to this new practice, it has been well worth it!
An NFP-only physician will affirm your decision, help you make the switch, and lend great support with medical truths and NFP experience. If you have been given hormonal contraceptives for “medical reasons,” an NFP-only physician can evaluate the underlying problem and utilize natural hormones or surgeries to restore proper function of your body. An NFP-only physician may also be able to assist couples who seek sterilization reversal. Because physicians have such a powerful influence on their patients and have a relationship built on trust, it is crucial that you find an NFP-only physician. Go to https://onemoresoul.com/nfp-directory to find your nearest NFP-only physician. If none is available in your area, ask an NFP teacher to recommend an NFP-friendly physician. If switching physicians is not possible, you may need to educate your current physician. Get materials, take them to your physician, and encourage him/her to learn the scientific facts and moral reasoning behind modern methods of NFP. Unfortunately, many physicians remain unaware and uneducated in this area. You can help change that!

#5 Connect with Others

When Larry and I converted to the Church’s teachings, we knew five other couples who did not use contraception. That’s it—five other couples out of our entire parish, list of acquaintances, colleagues, neighbors, and relatives. But these five couples were more than enough. These were the families we had always admired and respected. They soon became our confidants and closest friends. It felt so good to be able to talk with them! We swapped books and CDs; we swapped stories and experiences; we shared laughter and tears. Through it all, we witnessed their joy and learned how beautiful marriage can be. They encouraged us, taught us, and loved us throughout our entire journey. We are forever grateful.
Chances are, you know of at least one other family that practices NFP. You may not know them well, but you probably know who they are. Perhaps their marriage and family life have been an inspiration to you. Seek them out and share your story. The best place to look is within your own parish. These families can be a tremendous support for you. I strongly recommend that men seek out other men who have gone through this journey. Despite the initial awkwardness of discussing these personal issues, it can be most encouraging. You are not alone!

#6 Remain Grounded in Sacred Scripture

There were so many Scripture passages that strengthened me when I was afraid or confused. Two verses in particular were crucial at these times: Mark 1:17 “They dropped their nets and followed him.” I knew that contraception was my “net,” and I needed to drop it in order to follow Jesus. Luke 5:37 spoke to my heart as well: “No one pours new wine into old wineskins.” I wanted “new wine” in my marriage. But in order to get that, I had to get rid of the old wineskins. There was no other way. . . . The truths of these scriptures helped me to stay focused on God. His Word sustained me throughout this journey.
Pray for wisdom, strength, perseverance, and purity. Read the Bible. I recommend reading the following verses over and over again: Romans 12:1-2, Philippians 1:9-11, Ephesians 1:3-4, and Ephesians 3:14-21. Let them sink into your heart and speak to you personally. Know that you can be pure and blameless; know that you can be rooted and grounded in real love; trust that through grace you will be strengthened with power and Truth!
Finally, I share with you the life-changing question that Larry asked me after reading Good News About Sex and Marriage. I was extremely confused, frightened, and in turmoil after discovering the truth about contraception, and I didn’t know what to do. He simply asked, “What do you want for our marriage?” I replied, “I don’t know. . . but I want what’s in that book.” That was it. That’s how we began our journey together—reading, learning, praying, and talking. Then we took one step at a time to build the marriage we had always wanted. With time, our communication, our physical relationship, and our entire lifestyle changed for the better. May you be abundantly blessed as you discover God’s plan for your marriage, and may you be steadfast in your search for Truth. Make the switch. It could be THE defining moment in YOUR marriage.

NFP Contact Information

Sympto-Thermal
Couple to Couple League www.ccli.org 513-471-2000
Northwest Family Services www.nwfs.org 503-215-6377

Ovulation
Family of the Americas Foundation www.familyplanning.net 301-627-3346
Billings Ovulation
Billings Ovulation Method Association www.boma-usa.org 651-699-8139
Creighton
Pope Paul VI Institute www.popepaulvi.com 402-390-6600
Marquette
Marquette U. School of Nursing www.marquette.edu/nursing/NFP 414-288-3854

The Morning After Pill and other types of “Emergency Contraception”–Myths and Realities

by Liliana Cote de Bejarano, MD, MPH

What is “emergency contraception”?

Emergency contraception (EC) is the use of pills or devices after sex to try to prevent pregnancy.1 EC is promoted when a woman has been raped, when a couple has chosen to have sex without using any form of contraception, or when there is a suspected contraceptive failure. Types of EC may include pills or the insertion of the Copper-T Intrauterine Device (IUD) up to five days after intercourse. The use of other drugs as emergency contraception is under investigation.2

What is the “Morning After Pill”?

The phrase “Morning After Pill” (MAP) describes a set of contraceptive pills taken after a sexual act, to prevent pregnancy. One type of MAP contains only the synthetic progestin levonorgestrel (LNG), which is the main drug in other commercial contraceptives. Commercial names for the MAP include Plan B One Step, Take Action, Next Choice One Dose, My Way, and others.3 The Food and Drug Administration has approved Plan B One Step for sale without age restrictions. A second type of MAP is the anti-progesterone “Ella”, available with prescription in the United States. A third type of MAP is the “off label” use of combined oral contraceptive pills. A fourth type of EC is the abortion pill Mifepristone (RU 486), used outside the USA.

How does the Morning After Pill work?

blastocyst

The new baby (blastocyst) migrates from the fallopian tube to the uterus where it implants 5-7 days after conception.

Conception of a new human being is possible only during a few days in the woman’s cycle. Sperm can survive in the woman’s body 3-5 days, and the ovum dies 12-24 hours after ovulation. Fertilization normally occurs in the fallopian tube after ovulation. The new human being (blastocyst) moves from the fallopian tube to the uterus where it implants 5-7 days after conception. A delicate hormonal balance is necessary for the baby’s survival.

Some studies seem to show that Plan B works by changing the cervical mucus or by attacking sperm. More recent studies, however, show that these effects may happen when the drug is taken regularly (like birth control pills), but NOT after one dose (like EC).4,5

Advocates of EC claim that the active ingredient in Plan B works mainly by stopping or delaying ovulation Available studies show that when Plan B was given to women in the fertile part of their cycle, 80% OR MORE of them ovulated, although NONE of them became obviously pregnant (see diagram below).6,7 If sperm and an egg are present in the woman’s body but no obvious pregnancy develops, then abortion is the most likely cause.8 Some studies also show that Plan B disturbs the hormonal balance needed to maintain pregnancy.9,10

What about other types of emergency contraception?

Copper-T IUDs—Copper ions released from an IUD are toxic for sperm and the ovum, decreasing the probability of fertilization.11  Also, the Copper-T IUD lowers the chances of survival of any embryo that may be formed before it reaches the womb. The Copper-T IUD stops the lining of the womb from accepting a newly formed embryo.12 Thus the Copper-T IUD may have a post-fertilization effect, meaning it destroys a young human embryo.

Ella and Mifepristone (RU-486) change the body’s ability to react to some hormones. They can block the action of the hormone progesterone,13 thereby destroying a new human life through chemical abortion. Ella can also delay or block ovulation if taken before ovulation.14

If conception (fertilization) has already taken place, then the only way the IUD and the morning after pill (MAP) can be effective is by destroying the new life. When a woman takes theses pills or when the IUD is inserted, there is currently no way for her or her doctor to know whether or not she has already conceived. A pregnancy test cannot give this information before implantation. Whenever these pills are taken, or a Copper-T IUD is inserted after sexual activity, there is the risk that a new human life will be destroyed.

Remember that a new life is destroyed when implantation is prevented.

Remember that
a new life is
destroyed
when implantation
is prevented.

Does this mean that emergency contraception is an abortifacient— that it can cause an abortion?

A new human life begins at conception, also called fertilization. However, in September 1965, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) attempted to redefine “pregnancy” as beginning at the time of implantation, and not at the time of conception. The effectiveness of pills and devices that do not prevent fertilization depends on destruction of a new human life. This should be called an “abortion” in spite of the medical definition from the ACOG.

In a recent study 8 out of 10 women who took the MAP ovulated. This means that if they had sex, some of these 8 women likely became pregnant. None had an obvious pregnancy, so the women who became pregnant probably experienced an early abortion.

How effective is emergency contraception?

The Copper-T IUD prevents 99% of expected pregnancies. Ella and Plan B prevent some of expected pregnancies after unprotected intercourse.15 The effect of EC in reducing unintended pregnancies and induced abortions has not yet been proven. Available studies show that EC may have no effect on unintended pregnancies, it may even increase them.16, 17, 18,19 Women with high body mass may also find that EC has decreased or no effectiveness in preventing pregnancy.20 In addition, providing emergency contraception in advance has the negative effect of increasing risky sexual behavior.21 Overall, the evidence suggests that the Morning After Pill is not effective for preventing unintended pregnancies.

How safe is emergency contraception?

A Morning After Pill that contains LNG can cause heavier or lighter menstrual bleeding, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, fatigue, headache, dizziness, breast tenderness, delay of menses (up to 7 days), and diarrhea. The use of LNG also increases the risk of ectopic pregnancy.22 The use of Ella has been connected with headache, abdominal or upper abdominal pain, nausea, dysmenorrhea, fatigue, and dizziness.23 Women who use the Copper-T IUD can experience uterine cramps and other undesirable effects such as ectopic pregnancy, septic abortion, pelvic infection, perforation, embedment, anemia, backache, painful periods, pain during intercourse, vaginal discharges, prolonged menstrual flow, menstrual spotting, cramping, and vaginitis.24

One study reported that women may repeatedly use EC due to an exaggerated perception of its effectiveness.25 Another study found that over-the-counter access to EC leads to increased Sexually Transmitted Infections by approximately 12% for women ages 15-44 due to increased risky sexual behavior.26 More time and research are needed to know the long-term effects of emergency contraception on the health and safety of women.

Are there other options?

If you are single, the surest way to avoid pregnancy or a sexually transmitted infection is abstinence, and it always works. If you are married, the modern methods of Natural Family Planning (NFP) are the safest, healthiest, least toxic, and least expensive means for family planning. Victims of rape or sexual abuse need and deserve the best medical care and human support possible. The additional stress and health risks of emergency contraception add further harm. (Pregnancy due to rape is estimated at 5%).27 For the vast majority of these women, emergency contraceptives impose significant health risks with no benefit. If conception has already occurred, then a very early abortion is the only means for emergency contraception to be effective. Abortion carries with it many serious adverse consequences such as increased rates of breast cancer, depression, anxiety, suicidal behaviors, and substance use disorders.28 A far safer approach is to carry the child to term. Adoption is always an option.

Confidential pregnancy assistance services are available throughout the U.S. and Canada by calling Option Line at 800-395-HELP (4357) and Abortion Pill Reversal Network at 877-558-0333.

REFERENCES:

1. Trussell J, PhD and Raymond, EG, MD, MPH. Emergency contraception: a last chance to prevent unintended pregnancy. Retrieved from: http://ec.princeton.edu/questions/ec-review.pdf, July 28 2015.

2. Jesam C, Salvatierra AM, Schwartz JL, & Croxatto HB. (2010). Suppression of follicular rupture with meloxicam, a cyclooxygenase-2 inhibitor: Potential for emergency contraception. Human Reproduction (Oxford, England), 25(2), 368-373.

3. Emergency Contraception Pills. Retrieved from http://ec.princeton.edu/info/ecp.html, July 28 2015.

4. Nascimento JA, Seppala M, Perdigao A., Espejo-Arce X, Munuce MJ, Hautala L, et al. (2007). In vivo assessment of the human sperm acrosome reaction and the expression of glycodelin-A in human endometrium after levonorgestrel-emergency contraceptive pill administration. Human Reproduction (Oxford, England), 22(8), 2190-2195.

5. Hermanny A, Bahamondes MV, Fazano F, Marchi NM, Ortiz ME, Genghini MH, et al. (2012). In vitro assessment of some sperm function following exposure to levonorgestrel in human fallopian tubes. Reproductive Biology and Endocrinology : RB&E, 10, 8-7827-10-8.

6. Brache V, Cochon L, Deniaud M, Croxatto, HB. Ulipristal acetate prevents ovulation more effectively than levonorgestrel: analysis of pooled data from three randomized trials of emergency contraception regimens. Contraception. Nov 2013; 88(5): 611-618.

7. Noe G, Croxatto HB, Salvatierra AM, Reyes V, Villarroel C, Munoz C, et al. Contraceptive efficacy of emergency contraception with levonorgestrel given before or after ovulation. Contraception. Nov 2011; 84(5): 486-492.

8. Kahlenborn C, Peck R, & Severs WB. (2015). Mechanism of action of levonorgestrel emergency contraception. The Linacre Quarterly, 82(1), 18-33.

9. Croxatto HB, Brache V, Pavez M, Cochon L, Forcelledo ML, Alvarez F, et al. Pituitary-ovarian function following the standard levonorgestrel emergency contraceptive dose or a single 0.75-mg dose given on the days preceding ovulation. Contraception. Dec 2004; 70(6): 442-450.

10. Hapangama D, Glasier AF, Baird DT. The effects of peri-ovulatory administration of levonorgestrel on the menstrual cycle. Contraception. Mar 2001; 63(3): 123-129.

11. Ortiz ME, Croxatto HB. Copper-T intrauterine device and levonorgestrel intrauterine system: biological bases of their mechanism of action. Contraception. Jun 2007; 75(6 Suppl): S16-30.

12. Gemzell-Danielsson K, Berger C & Lalitkumar PGL. (2013). Emergency contraception–mechanisms of action. Contraception, 87(3), 300-308.

13. Keenan JA. Ulipristal acetate: contraceptive or contragestive? Ann Pharmacother. Jun 2011; 45(6): 813-815.

14. Brache V, Cochon L, Jesam C, Maldonado R, Salvatierra AM, Levy DP, et al. Immediate pre-ovulatory administration of 30 mg ulipristal acetate significantly delays follicular rupture. Hum Reprod. Sep 2010; 25(9): 2256-2263.

15. Fred F. Ferri M.D., F.A.C.P. (2016). Ferri’s clinical advisor 2016 Elsevier, Inc

16. Rodriguez MI, Curtis KM, Gaffield ML, Jackson E, Kapp N. Advance supply of emergency contraception: a systematic review. Contraception. May 2013; 87(5): 590-601.

17. Raymond EG, Trussell J, Polis CB. Population effect of increased access to emergency contraceptive pills: a systematic review. Obstet Gynecol. January 2007; 109(1): 181-188.

18. Walsh TL, Frezieres RG. Patterns of emergency contraception use by age and ethnicity from a randomized trial comparing advance provision and information only. Contraception. Aug 2006; 74(2): 110-117.

19. Glasier A, Fairhurst K, Wyke S, Ziebland S, Seaman P, Walker J, et al. Advanced provision of emergency contraception does not reduce abortion rates. Contraception. May 2004; 69(5): 361-366.

20. Glasier A, Cameron ST, Blithe D, Scherrer B, Mathe H, Levy D, et al. (2011). Can we identify women at risk of pregnancy despite using emergency contraception? data from randomized trials of ulipristal acetate and levonorgestrel. Contraception, 84(4), 363-367.

21. Belzer M, Sanchez K, Olson J, Jacobs AM, Tucker D. Advance supply of emergency contraception: a randomized trial in adolescent mothers. J Pediatr Adolesc Gynecol. Oct 2005; 18(5): 347-354.

22. Zhang J, Li C, Zhao WH. Xi X, Cao SJ, Ping H, et al. (2015). Association between levonorgestrel emergency contraception and the risk of ectopic pregnancy: A multicenter case-control study. Scientific Reports, 5, 8487.

23. Ulipristal Acetate. http://www.pdr.net/drug-summary/ella?druglabelid=1278 August  10 2015

24. Intrauterine Copper Contraceptive Paragard. Retrieved from http://www.pdr.net/drug-summary/paragard?druglabelid=572 August 10 2015

25. Melton L, Stanford JB, Dewitt MJ. Use of levonorgestrel emergency contraception in Utah: is it more than “plan B”? Perspect Sex Reprod Health. Mar 2012; 44(1): 22-29.

26. Mulligan K. (2015). Access to emergency contraception and its impact on fertility and sexual behavior. Health Economics (Published Online).

27. Holmes MM, Resnick HS, Kilpatrick DG, Best CL. Rape-related pregnancy: estimates and descriptive characteristics from a national sample of women. Am J Obstet Gynecol. August 1996; 175(2): 320-324.

28. Fergusson DM, Horwood LJ, Ridder EM. Abortion in young women and subsequent mental health. J Child Psychol Psych. January 2006; 47(1): 16-24.

Four Keys to Happy Healthy Marriage

By Bonnie Borel-Donahue

Who could be a better role model for how to love one’s spouse than the Ultimate Lover, God? But, just how does God love?
Having meditated on this question, Pope Paul VI and Pope John Paul II discerned four key characteristics of God’s love. God’s love is always: free, total, faithful and fruitful. Each key is also one of the four essential qualities of authentic married love. This brochure will introduce you to these four very important keys for starting out on, or getting back onto, the road to a great marriage. Through the graces that come from the sacrament of Holy Matrimony, together with prayer and regular reception of the sacraments of Reconciliation and the Eucharist, spouses are given all the strength and power to love each other as Jesus loves His Church: freely, totally, faithfully and fruitfully. These are the four keys to authentic conjugal love. Through the Sacraments and learning more about the four keys to marital love presented in this brochure, couples can open the door to an ever more satisfying and fulfilling marriage.1 (more…)

Obey Mandate or Scripture

The One More Soul “newspaper” response to the HHS mandate.

One More Soul is pleased to offer this “newspaper” response to the HHS mandate as a supplement to the resources already available from the USCCB and other sources. It is an educational piece that draws attention to several “concerns” prompted by the HHS mandate. They are concerns for all of us, whether involved in Catechesis, Bible Study, Faith Sharing, Altar-Rosary, Knights of Columbus, St Vincent De Paul, Catholic Charities and Social Services, Catholic hospitals, high schools, and universities. Please fit this issue into your agenda for as long as required to end the HHS assault on our Constitution and our Church.Our Lord Jesus told us to, “be not afraid”, and “cast out into the deep”. Our God will provide; our God is merciful; our God has a plan.Our Faith is being tested. How shall we respond? (more…)

Published NFP Studies

Updated Review of Published NFP Studies

New Method of FA/NFP (Potential and Actual)

  1. Freundl, G., Frank-Herrmann, P., Brown, S., & Blackwell, L. (2014). A new method to detect significant basal body temperature changes during a woman’s menstrual cycle. The European Journal of Contraception & Reproductive Health Care : The Official Journal of the European Society of Contraception, 19(5), 392-400.
  2. Mulcaire-Jones, G., Fehring, R. J., Bradshaw, M., Brower, K., Lubega, G., & Lubega, P. (2016). Couple beads: An integrated method of natural family planning. The Linacre Quarterly, 83(1), 69-82.
  3. Soler, F., & Barranco-Castillo, E. (2010). The symptothermal (double check) method: An efficient natural method of family planning. The European Journal of Contraception & Reproductive Health Care : The Official Journal of the European Society of Contraception, 15(5), 379-80; author reply 381-2.
  4. Ryder, R. E. (1993). “Natural family planning”: Effective birth control supported by the catholic church. BMJ (Clinical Research Ed.), 307(6906), 723-726.

Method Specific Efficacy Studies

  1. Bouchard, T., Fehring, R. J., & Schneider, M. (2013). Efficacy of a new postpartum transition protocol for avoiding pregnancy. Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine : JABFM, 26(1), 35-44.
  2. Fehring, R. J., & Mu, Q. (2014). Cohort efficacy study of natural family planning among perimenopause age women. Journal of Obstetric, Gynecologic, and Neonatal Nursing : JOGNN, 43(3), 351-358.
  3. Fehring, R. J., & Schneider, M. (2017). Effectiveness of a natural family planning service program. MCN.the American Journal of Maternal Child Nursing, 42(1), 43-49.
  4. Fehring, R. J., Schneider, M., & Barron, M. L. (2008). Efficacy of the marquette method of natural family planning. MCN.the American Journal of Maternal Child Nursing, 33(6), 348-354
  5. Fehring, R. J., Schneider, M., Barron, M. L., & Pruszynski, J. (2013). Influence of motivation on the efficacy of natural family planning. MCN.the American Journal of Maternal Child Nursing, 38(6), 352-358.
  6. Warniment, C. B., & Hansen, K. (2012). Is natural family planning a highly effective method of birth control? yes: Natural family planning is highly effective and fulfilling. American Family Physician, 86(10), 1-2.

Accuracy of Fertility (Ovulation) Indicators

  1. Ecochard, R., Leiva, R., Bouchard, T., Boehringer, H., Direito, A., Mariani, A., et al. (2013). Use of urinary pregnanediol 3-glucuronide to confirm ovulation. Steroids, 78(10), 1035-1040.
  2. Fehring, R. J., Raviele, K., & Schneider, M. (2004). A comparison of the fertile phase as determined by the clearplan easy fertility monitor and self-assessment of cervical mucus. Contraception, 69(1), 9-14.

Psychological Dynamics, Attitudes, and Characteristics of NFP/FA Users

  1. Berendt Emil., & Leonard, Judith. (2006). Profiles of responders to a natural family planning awareness campaign. Catholic Social Science Review, 11, 31-46.
  2. Fehring, R. J. (2015). The influence of contraception, abortion, and natural family planning on divorce rates as found in the 2006-2010 national survey of family growth. The Linacre Quarterly, 82(3), 273-282.
  3. Smith, A. D., & Smith, J. L. (2014). billingsMentor: Adapting natural family planning to information technology and relieving the user of unnecessary tasks. The Linacre Quarterly, 81(3), 219-238.

Probabilities of Pregnancy

  1. Frank-Herrmann, P., Jacobs, C., Jenetzky, E., Gnoth, C., Pyper, C., Baur, S., et al. (2017). Natural conception rates in subfertile couples following fertility awareness training. Archives of Gynecology and Obstetrics, 295(4), 1015-1024.

Time to Pregnancy/ Timing Intercourse

  1. Ecochard, R., Duterque, O., Leiva, R., Bouchard, T., & Vigil, P. (2015). Self-identification of the clinical fertile window and the ovulation period. Fertility and Sterility, 103(5), 1319-25.e3.

Menstrual Cycle Physiology/Medical Tx

  1. Cai, B., Dunson, D. B., & Stanford, J. B. (2010). Dynamic model for multivariate markers of fecundability. Biometrics, 66(3), 905-913.
  2. Hilgers, T. W., Keefe, C. E., & Pakiz, K. A. (2015). The use of isomolecular progesterone in the support of pregnancy and fetal safety. Issues in Law & Medicine, 30(2), 159-168.
  3. Vigil, P., Salgado, A. M., & Cortes, M. E. (2012). Ultrastructural interaction between spermatozoon and human oviductal cells in vitro. Journal of Electron Microscopy, 61(2), 123-126.

Twelve-Year Review (2000-2012) of Published NFP Studies

By Richard J. Fehring, PhD, RN, FAAN—Marquette University

New Method of FA/NFP (Potential and Actual)

  1. Arevalo, M., Jennings, V., and Sinai, I. Efficacy of a new method of family planning: the Standard Day Method. Contraception. 65 (2002): 333-338.
  2. Arevalo M, Jennings V, Nikula M, Sinai I. Efficacy of the new TwoDay Method of family planning. Fertility and Sterility. 2004;82:885-892.
  3. Blackwell, L.F., Brown, J.B., & Vigil, P., et al. Hormonal monitoring of ovarian activity using the Ovarian Monitor, Part I. Validation of home and laboratory results obtained duringovulatory cycles by comparison with radioimmunoassay. Steriods. 2003;68:465-476.
  4. Burkhart, M.C., de Mazariegos, L., Salazar, S., & Lamprecht, V.M. Effectiveness of a standard-rule method of calendar rhythm among Mayan couples in Guatemala. International Family Planning Perspectives. 26 (August, 2000):131-136.
  5. Brosens I, Hernalsteen P, Devos A, Cloke B, Brosens JJ. Self-assessment of the cervical pupil sign as a new fertility-awareness method. Fertility and Sterility, 2009 Mar;91(3):937-9.
  6. Dunlop, A.L., Allen, A.D., & Frank, E. Involving the male partner for interpreting the basal body temperature graph. Obstetrics & Gynecology. 98(2001):133-138.
  7. Dunlap AL, Schultz R, Frank E. Interpretation of the BBT chart: using the “Gap” technique compared to the Coverline technique. Contraception, 2005;71:188- 192.
  8. Fehring RJ, Schneider M, Raviele K, Barron ML. Efficacy of cervical mucus observations plus electronic hormonal fertility monitoring as a method of natural family planning. Journal of Obstetric, Gynecological, and Neonatal Nursing, 2007;36:152-160.
  9. Hadziomerovic D, Moeller KT, Lict P, Hein A, Veitenhansel S, Kusmitsch M, Wildt L. The biphasic pattern of end-expiratory carbon dioxide pressure: a method for identification of the fertile phase of the menstrual cycle. Fertility and Sterility, 2008 Sep;90(3):731-6.
  10. Wang, J., Usala,S.J. and O’Brien-Usala, F. et al., “The fertile and infertile phases of the menstrual cycle are signaled by cervical-vaginal fluid die swell functions. The Endocrinologist, (2009) 19(6): 291297.

Method Specific Efficacy Studies

  1. Arevalo, M., Jennings, V., and Sinai, I. Efficacy of a new method of family planning: the Standard Day Method. Contraception. 65 (2002): 333-338.
  2. Arevalo M, Jennings V, Nikula M, Sinai I. Efficacy of the new TwoDay Method of family planning. Fertility and Sterility. 2004;82:885-892.
  3. Burkhart, M.C., de Mazariegos, L., Salazar, S., & Lamprecht, V.M. Effectiveness of a standard-rule method of calendar rhythm among Mayan couples in Guatemala. International Family Planning Perspectives. 26 (August, 2000):131-136.
  4. Fehring RJ, Schneider M, Raviele K, Barron ML. Efficacy of cervical mucus observations plus electronic hormonal fertility monitoring as a method of natural family planning. Journal of Obstetric, Gynecological, and Neonatal Nursing, 2007;36:152-160.
  5. Fehring, R. J., M. Schneider M, and M.L. Barron. “Efficacy of the Marquette method of natural family planning,” MCN, American Journal of Maternal Child Nursing 33 (2008):348-54.
  6. Fehring R., Schneider, M., Barron, M.L. and K. Raviele. “Cohort comparison of two fertility awareness methods of family planning,” Journal of Reproductive Medicine. 2009 Mar;54(3):165-70.
  7. Fehring, R, Schneider, M, & Raviele, K. (2011). Pilot Evaluation of an Internet-based Natural Family Planning Education and Service Program, Journal of Obstetrics, Gynecology,and Neonatal Nursing. 40(3):281-91.
  8. Frank-Hermann P, Gnoth C, Baure S, Strowitski T, Freundl G. Determination of the fertile window: reproductive competence of women – European cycle databases. Gynecology Endocrinology, 2005; 20: 305- 312.
  9. Frank-Herrmann P, Heil J, Gnoth C, Toledo E, Baur S, Pyper C, Jenetzky E, Strowitzki T, Freundl G. The effectiveness of a fertility awareness based method to avoid pregnancy in relation to a couple’s sexual behavior during the fertile time: a prospective longitudinal study. Human Reproduction, 2007; 22:1310-1319.
  10. Jennings, V. & Sinai, I. Further analysis of the theoretical effectiveness of the TwoDay method of family planning. Contraception. 64(2001):149-153.
  11. I. Sinai, R. I. Lundgren, and J.N. Gribble. “Continued use of the Standard Days Method.” Journal of Family Planning and Reproductive Health Care, (2011): published ahead of print.

Review Articles Efficacy Studies

  1. Che, Y., Cleland, J.G. and Mohamed, M.A. Periodic abstinence in developing countries: an assessment of failure rates and consequences. Contraception. 2004;69:15-21.
  2. Grimes DA, Gallo MF, Grigorieva V, Nanda K, Schulz KF. Fertility awareness-based methods for contraception. Cochrane Database Systematic Review, 2004 Oct 18;(4):CD004860. Review. PMID: 15495128
  3. Grimes DA, Gallo MF, Grigorieva V, Nanda K, Schulz KF. Fertility awareness-based methods for contraception: systematic review of randomized controlled trials. Contraception, 2005;72:85-90.
  4. Leite IC, Gupta N. Assessing regional differences in contraceptive discontinuation, failure and switching in Brazil. Reproductive Health, 2007;4:6. (BioMed Central)
  5. Mansour, D, and P. Inki, and K. Gemzell-Danielsson. Efficacy of contraceptive methods: A review of the literature. The European Journal of Contraception and Reproductive Health Care 15 (2010): 4-16.
  6. Moreau C, Cleland K, Trussell J. Contraceptive discontinuation attributed to method dissatisfaction in the United States. Contraception, 2007, Oct;76(4):267- 72.
  7. Moreau C, Trussell J, Rodriquez G, Bajos N, Bouyer J. Contraceptive failure in France: results from a population-based survey. Human Reproduction, 2007;22:2422-2427.
  8. Mosher,WD and J. Jones. Use of contraception in the United States: 1982-2008. Vital and Health Statistics Series 23, Number 29 (2010): 1-77.
  9. Ranjit, N., Bankole, A., Darroch, J.E. & Singh, S. Contraceptive failure in the first two years of use: differences across socioeconomic subgroups. Family Planning Perspectives. 33 (2001):19-27.
  10. Trussell J. Contraceptive failure in the United States. Contraception. 2004;70:89-96.
  11. Wiebe ER, Trussell J. Contraceptive failure related to estimated cycle day of conception related to the start of the last bleeding episode. Contraception 2009; 79: 178-181.

Accuracy of Fertility (Ovulation) Indicators

  1. Alliende ME, Cabezon C, Figueroa H, Kottmann C. Cervicovaginal fluid changes to detect ovulation accurately. Obstetrics and Gynecology, 2005;193:71-75.
  2. Attar, E., Gokdemirel, S., Seraroglu, H., & Coskun, A. Natural contraception using the Billings ovulation method. The European Journal of Contraception and Reproductive Health Care. 2002;7:96-99.
  3. Behre, H.M., Kuhlage, J., & Gassner, C. , et al. Prediction of ovulation by urinary hormone measurements with the home use Clearplan Fertility Monitor: comparison with transvaginal ultrasound scans and serum hormone measurements. Human Reproduction. 12 (2000):2478-2482.
  4. Blackwell, L.F., Brown, J.B., & Vigil, P., et al. Hormonal monitoring of ovarian activity using the Ovarian Monitor, Part I. Validation of home and laboratory results obtained duringovulatory cycles by comparison with radioimmunoassay. Steriods. 2003;68:465-476.
  5. Brosens I, Hernalsteen P, Devos A, Cloke B, Brosens JJ. Self-assessment of the cervical pupil sign as a new fertility-awareness method. Fertility and Sterility, 2009 Mar;91(3):937-9.
  6. Ecochard, R. Boehringer, H., Rabilloud, M., & Marret, H. Chronological aspects of ultrasonic, hormonal, and other indirect indices of ovulation. British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology. 108 (2001): 822-829.
  7. Fehring, R. Accuracy of the peak day of cervical mucus as a biological marker of fertility. Contraception. (2002): 836-47.
  8. Fehring, R., Raviele, K. and Schneider, M. A comparison of the fertile phase as determined by the Clearplan Easy Fertility Monitor and self-assessment of cervical mucus. Contraception. 2004;69:9-14.
  9. Freundl, G., Godehardt, E., Kern, P.A., Frank-Hermann, P., Koubenec H.J. and Gnoth, Ch.Estimated maximum failure rates of cycle monitors using daily conception probabilities inthe menstrual cycle. Human Reproduction. 2003:18(2):2628-2633.
  10. Hadziomerovic D, Moeller KT, Lict P, Hein A, Veitenhansel S, Kusmitsch M, Wildt L. The biphasic pattern of end-expiratory carbon dioxide pressure: a method for identification of the fertile phase of the menstrual cycle. Fertility and Sterility, 2008 Sep;90(3):731-6.
  11. Scarpa B, Dunson DB, Colombo B. Cervical mucus secretions on the day of intercourse: an accurate marker of highly fertile days. European Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology and Reproductive Biology, 2006; 125:72-78.
  12. Wang, J., Usala,S.J. and O’Brien-Usala, F. et al., “The fertile and infertile phases of the menstrual cycle are signaled by cervical-vaginal fluid die swell functions. The Endocrinologist, (2009) 19(6): 291297.
  13. Blackwell1, P. Vigil, B. Gross, C. d’Arcangues, D.G. Cooke, and J. B. Brown. “Monitoring of ovarian activity by measurement of urinary excretion rates of estrone glucuronide and pregnanediol glucuronide using the Ovarian Monitor, Part II: reliability of home testing.” Human Reproduction. Advance Access published November 29, 2011).

Special Circumstances/Breastfeeding/Post OC

  1. Arevalo, M., Jennings, V. and Sinai, I. Application of simple fertility awareness-based methods of family planning to breastfeeding women. Fertility and Sterility. 2003;80:1241-1248.
  2. Gnoth, C., Frank-Hermann, P., & Schmoll, A., et al. Cycle characteristics after discontinuation of oral contraceptives. Gynecological Endocrinology. 2002;16:307-317.
  3. Fehring RJ, Barron ML, Schneider M. Protocol for determining fertility while breastfeeding and not in cycles. Fertility and Sterility, 2005;84:805-807.
  4. Tomaselli, G.A., Guida, M., & Palomba, S, et al. Using complete breast-feeding and lactational amenorrhoea as birth spacing methods. Contraception. 61 (April, 2000):253-257.
  5. Bouchard, T, Schneider, M & Fehring, R. “Efficacy of a New Postpartum Transition Protocol for Avoiding Pregnancy“ Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine. Accepted for publication 8/12.
  6. I. Sinai and J. Cachan, “A bridge for postpartum women to Standard Days Method, I. Developing the bridge,” Contraception (2012): e-published ahead of print.
  7. I. Sinai, and J. Cachan, “A bridge for postpartum women to Standard Days Method, II. Efficacy study,” Contraception (2012): e-published ahead of print.

Psychological Dynamics, Attitudes, and Characteristics of NFP/FA Users

  1. Audu, B.M., Yahya, S.J., & Bassi, A. Knowledge, attitude and practice of natural family planning methods in a population with poor utilization of modern contraceptives. Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, 2006;6:555-560.
  2. den Tonkelaar, I. & Oddens, B.J. Factors influencing women’s satisfaction with birth control methods. The European Journal of Contraception and Reproductive Health Care. 6(2001):153-158.
  3. Gribble JN, Lundgren RI, Velasquez C, Anastasi EE. Being strategic about contraceptive introduction: the experience of the Standard Days Method Contraception. 2008 Mar;77(3):147-54.
  4. Janssen, C.J.M., & van Lunsen, R.H.W. Profile and opinions of the female Persona user in The Netherlands. The European Journal of Contraception and Reproductive Health Care. 5 (2000):141-146.
  5. Leonard CJ, Chavira W, Coonrod DV, Hart KW, Bay RC. Survey of attitudes regarding natural family planning in an urban Hispanic population. Contraception, 2006;74:313-317.
  6. Mikolajczyk, R.T., Stanford, J.B., & Rauchfuss, M. Factors influencing the choice to use modern natural family planning. Contraception. 2003;67:253-258.
  7. Moreau C, Cleland K, Trussell J. Contraceptive discontinuation attributed to method dissatisfaction in the United States. Contraception, 2007, Oct;76(4):267-72.
  8. Mosher WD, Martinez GM, Chandra A, Abma J, Willson SJ. Use of contraception and use of family planning services in the United States: 1982-2002. Advance Data from Vital and Health Statistics. CDC Number 350, December 10, 2004.
  9. Research Group on Methods for the Natural Regulation of Fertility. Periodic abstinence and calendar method use in Hungary, Peru, the Philippines, and Sri Lanka. Contraception. 64 (2001): 209-215.
  10. Severy, L.J. Acceptability of home monitoring as an aid to conception. The Journal of International Medical Research. 29(2001,Suppl 1):28A-34A.
  11. Severy, L.H., Klein, C.T., & McNulty, J. Acceptability of personal hormone monitoring for contraception: longitudinal and contextual variables. The Journal of Social Psychology. 142 (2002): 87-96.
  12. Severy LJ, Robison J, Findley-Klein C, McNulty J. Acceptability of a home monitor used to aid in conception: psychological factors and couple dynamics. Contraception, 2006;73:65-71.
  13. Severy LJ, Robison J, Findley-Klein C, McNulty J. Acceptability of a home monitor used to aid in conception: psychological factors and couple dynamics. Contraception, 2006;73:65-71.
  14. Sinai I, Lundgren R, Arévalo M, Jennings V. Fertility awareness-based methods of family planning: predictors of correct use. International Family Planning Perspectives, 2006;32:94-100.
  15. Stanford, J.B., & Smith, K.R. Characteristics of women associated with continuing instruction in the Creighton Model Fertility Care System. Contraception. 61 (February, 2000):121-129.
  16. Tommaselli, G.A., Guida, M., Palomba, S. et al., The importance of user compliance on the effectiveness of natural family planning programs. Gynecological Endocrinology. 14 (2000):81-89.
  17. VandeVusse, L., Hanson, L., Fehring, R.J. Couples’ views of the effects of natural family planning on marital dynamics. Journal of Nursing Scholarship. 35 (2003):171-176.

Attitudes of Health Professionals to FA/NFP

  1. Fehring, R.J., Hanson, L., & Stanford, J.B. Nursemidwives’ knowledge and promotion of lactational amenorrhea and other natural family planning methods for child spacing. Journal of Midwifery & Women’s Health. 46 (Mar/April, 2001):68-73.
  2. Steinauer J, La Rochelle F, Rowh M, Backus L, Sandahl Y, Foster A. First impressions: What are preclinical medical students in the US and Canada learning about sexual and reproductive health. Contraception, 2009 Jul;80(1):74-80.

Probabilities of Pregnancy

  1. Colombo B, Mion A, Passarin K, Scarpa B. Cervical mucus symptom and daily fecundability: first results from a new database. Statistical Methods in Medical Research, 2006; 15:161-180.
  2. Dunson, D.B., Sinai, I., & Colombo, B. The relationship between cervical secretions and the daily probabilities of pregnancy: effectiveness of the TwoDay Algorithm. Human Reproduction. 16(2001):2278-2282.
  3. Keulers MJ, Hamilton CJCM, Franx A, Evers JLH, Bots RSGM. The length of the fertile window is associated with the chance of spontaneously conceiving an ongoing pregnancy in subfertile couples. Human Reproduction, 2007;22:1652-1656.
  4. Stanford, J.B., Smith, K.R., & Dunson, D.B. Vulvar mucus observations and the probability of pregnancy. Obstetrics & Gynecology. 2003;101:1285-1292.
  5. Wilcox, A.J., Dunson, D., & Baird, D.D. The timing of the “fertile window” in the menstrual cycle: day specific estimates from a prospective study. British Medical Journal. 321 (November, 2000):1259-1262.
  6. X. Bilianm Z. Heng, And W. Shang-Chun, et al., “Conception probabilities at different days of menstrual cycle in Chinese women,” Fertility and Sterility (July 5, 2009) Epub ahead of print.

Time to Pregnancy/ Timing Intercourse

  1. Bigelow JL, Dunson DB, Stanford JB, Ecochard R, Gnoth C, Colombo B. Mucus observations in the fertile window: a better predictor of conception than timing of intercourse. Human Reproduction. 2004;19:889-892.
  2. Colombo B, Mion A, Passarin K, Scarpa B. Cervical mucus symptom and daily fecundability: first results from a new database. Statistical Methods in Medical Research, 2006; 15:161-180.
  3. Gnoth, C., Godehardt, D., Godehardt, E., et al. Time to pregnancy: results of the German prospective study and impact on the management of infertility. Human Reproduction. 2003;18:1959-1966.
  4. Robinson JE, C.Stat MW, Ellis JE. Increased pregnancy rate with use of the Clearblue Easy Fertility Monitor. Fertility and Sterility, 2007;87:329- 234.
  5. Scarpa B, Dunson DB. Bayesian methods for searching for optimal rules for timing intercourse to achieve pregnancy. Statistics In Medicine, 2007;26:1920-1936.
  6. Sinai I. Arevalo M. It’s all in the timing: coital frequency and fertility awareness-based methods of family planning. Journal of Biosocial Science, 2006;38:763-777.
  7. Snick HKA. Should spontaneous or timed intercourse guide couples trying to conceive? Human Reproduction, 2005;10:2976-77.
  8. Snick, H.K., J.A. Collins, and J. L. H. Evers. What is the most valid comparison treatment in trials of intrauterine insemination, times or uninfluenced intercourse? A systematic review and meta-analysis of indirect evidence. Human Reproduction, 2008; 23(10):239-2245.
  9. Stanford, J.B., White, G.L., & Hatasaka, H. Timing intercourse to achieve pregnancy: current evidence. Obstetrics & Gynecology. 100 (December, 2002):1333- 1341.

Menstrual Cycle Physiology/Medical Tx

  1. Fehring, R., Schneider, M., & Raviele, K. (2006). Variability in the phases of the menstrual cycle. Journal of Obstetric, Gynecologic & Neonatal Nursing, 35(3), 376-384.
  2. Fehring RJ, Schneider M. Variability in the hormonally estimated fertile phase of the menstrual cycle. Fertility and Sterility. 2008 Oct;90(4):1232-5.
  3. Menarguez M, Pastor LM, Odeblad E. Morphological characterization of different human cervical mucus types using light and scanning electron microscopy. Human Reproduction, 2004;18:1782-1789.
  4. Mikolajczyk, RT, Buck Louis, GM, Cooney, MA, Lynch, CD, Sundaram, DR. Characteristics of prospectively measured vaginal bleeding among women trying to conceive. Paediatric and Perinatal Epidemiology 24 (2009): 24-30.
  5. Stanford, JB, Parnell, TA, and Boyle, PC (2008) Outcomes from treatment of infertility with natural procreative technology in an Irish general practice. Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine 21:375-384.
  6. Vigil, P. Contreres, JL Alvarado, A Godoy, A.<. Salgado, M.E. Cortez. Evidence of subpopulations with different levels of insulin resistance in women with polycystic ovary syndrome. Human Reproduction, 2007 Nov;22(11):2974-80.
  7. Vigil, P. Cortes, ME, Zuniga, A., Riquelme, J., Ceric, F. Scanning electron and light microscopy study of the cervical mucus in women with polycystic ovary syndrome. Journal of Electron Microscopy. 2009; 58(1):21-27.
  8. Wiebe ER, Trussell J. Contraceptive failure related to estimated cycle day of conception related to the start of the last bleeding episode. Contraception 2009; 79: 178-181.

Vasectomy Safe and Simple?

by
Liliana Cote de Bejarano, MD, MPH

About 1.5 million couples in the United States opt for sterilization every year .1 According to the Guttmacher Institute, 9.9% of couples in the US use vasectomy as a contraceptive method, and more than 500,000 vasectomies are performed in the United States every year.2 The medical community and most family planning advocates consider vasectomy safe and simple. This pamphlet provides current research on vasectomy that indicates the procedure has a number of short- and long-term complications and is not a healthy choice.

What is required for fertilization?

(more…)

First Comes Love

Here is everything you wanted to tell your married child, and everything you wish your parents had told you about marriage. First Comes Love is a collection of the very best the Church has to offer to help couples have long and very happy marriages. Drawing from Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI, Christopher West, Emily Sederstrand, Steve Wood, St John Chrysostom, and many others, this publication offers articles, quotes, personal testimonies, graphs, prayers, and recommendations. Subjects include finding the right mate, the blessings of children, the value of Natural Family Planning, how chastity works inside of marriage, and infertility; everything a young couple needs to get their marriage onto a solid foundation.

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Porque Importa la Anticoncepción

Por Stephen Patton

Traducido por: Lydia Mendez y Liliana Cote de Bejarano

Grabado en los estudios de SEMACOM Foundation

Voces: Padre Antonio La Roca y Daniel Bejarano

 

Introducción:

Saludos. Soy el obispo Víctor Galeone de la Diócesis de San Agustín en la Florida.  A continuación usted
oirá  una presentación maravillosa por Steve Patton, el director de la oficina de Vida Familiar. Steve explica claramente por qué la sabiduría para todos los tiempos de la Iglesia que trata del amor conyugal trae mucha alegría a las parejas casadas y una profunda satisfacción para los sacerdotes que les sirven. Tenga cuidado, sin embargo, este mensaje podría tener un impacto duradero para bien en su vida. Disfrute de la presentación.

 

Stephen Patton:

Buenas tardes. (more…)

The Life of Jesus in The Womb: A Meditation and a Prayer

By Kathleen Curran Sweeney

 

Introduction

We are immersed in a culture of images and the external
appearance of things. Too seldom are we asked to contemplate
the inner reality, the inner being of what we see.
In the following meditation, we are asked to reflect on
how Jesus Christ, for whom and in whom all the world is created,
took on both the external appearance and the inner reality of a
developing human person, from the moment he is conceived by
the Holy Spirit to the day of his birth. We are not accustomed
to seeing him thus, because this development is hidden within
the protective womb of Mary. But today’s technology allows us
to pull aside the veil surrounding this early development of the
child. Photography and ultrasound imagery allows us to see the
physical appearance of the child and the science of embryology
and fetology provides us with the intricate and amazing details of
the child’s development.
“The Lord called me from the womb, from the body of my
mother he named my name.” (Isaiah 49:1)
The humility of the Son of God in submitting his
personhood to this development bestows an infinite dignity on
this bodily phenomenon. Every preborn child shares in this
dignity and is called to union with Christ, even to receiving into his
body the Eucharistic Body and Blood of Christ.
Christ’s external appearance is not always attractive to
the eye. There was the time in his life that, “He had no form or
comeliness that we should look at him, and no beauty that we
should desire him.” (Isaiah 53: 2). Yet the inner reality of the
divine-human Person is such a brilliant beauty that our eyes are
not strong enough to behold it. In his condescension, he has
hidden himself in the simplicity of the Eucharistic Host.

101 WAYS to build up REAL LOVE & show AFFECTION

By Jen Messing

Let’s be honest.
Movies & TV aren’t the best place to get ideas about how to show physical affection or how relationships should start and progress.

If you want real love, you have to build a real friendship. That means not just looking for physical pleasure or emotional comfort.

If you are interested in defending
your relationship against using each other,
“how far is too far?”
may not be the question to ask.

These ideas can be a solid place to start
or deepen a relationship. Get beyond what the culture tells you is normal—take time to actually get to know yourself and each other
for who you are
and see if you enjoy each other’s company!

CONCRETE IDEAS

(more…)

What is Natural Family Planning?

Natural Family Planning (NFP) is an umbrella term for certain methods used to achieve and postpone pregnancies. NFP can also be used as a tool to evaluate women’s gynecological/reproductive health. These methods are based on the observation of naturally occurring signs of the fertile phase of a woman’s fertility cycle. Couples using NFP to achieve pregnancy engage in intercourse during the woman’s fertile phase. Couples wishing to postpone pregnancy simply abstain from genital contact during the time of fertility. No drugs, devices or surgical procedures are used in the practice of NFP.

NFP reflects the dignity of the human person within the context of marriage and family life, promotes openness to life, and recognizes the value of every child. By respecting the love-giving and life-giving nature of marriage, NFP enriches the bond between husband and wife.

Is NFP the Rhythm Method?

NFP is not the “Rhythm Method.”

The Rhythm or Calendar Method was in use more than 80 years ago. It was based on the assumption that ovulation occurred about the same time in every cycle. This method often proved unreliable because of the unique nature of each woman’s fertility cycles. Some women have very irregular cycles and almost all women have a cycle of unusual length once in a while.

Modern NFP treats each cycle as unique and is based on over 60 years of scientific research on human fertility. These methods are based on the day-to-day observations of naturally occurring signs and symptoms of the fertile and infertile phases of the  current cycle. NFP methods take advantage of the changes associated with ovulation, recognizing that every cycle is unique.

Who can use NFP?

Any married couple can use NFP! A woman need not have “regular cycles.” NFP education helps couples to fully understand their combined fertility, thereby helping them either to achieve or postpone pregnancy. The keys to successful use of NFP are accurate observation, cooperation, shared commitment, and communication between husband and wife.

 Is NFP morally acceptable?

All major religions including the Catholic Church accept the use of NFP to avoid pregnancy when couples have a sufficiently serious reason for spacing babies or limiting family size.

Also, the Catholic Church, some Orthodox churches, some parts of Judaism and an increasing number of Protestants are opposed to sterilization and the use of contraceptive or abortifacient drugs and devices. It should be noted that intrauterine devices (IUD), birth control pills, hormonal implants, patches, morning after pills, and injections can cause abortions as they change the uterine lining reducing the likelihood that the embryo can implant.

NFP is unique among the methods of family planning because it enables its users to work with  the body rather than against it. Fertility is viewed as a blessing, a reality of life that is accepted, instead of a problem to be solved or a disease to be treated.

NFP is also an excellent tool for helping diagnose problems of couples suffering infertility. Treatment of infertility using NFP to monitor the fertility cycle has achieved pregnancy success rates of 70-80%. This holistic approach honors the integrity of the marriage act, respects the dignity of parents and children, and is consistent with Catholic Church teaching.

What are the signs of fertility?

A woman’s body provides basic signs for identifying the fertile and infertile phases of her cycle. Recognizing the pattern of these physical signs forms the basis for all methods of NFP.

The primary sign of fertility is the cervical mucus. She learns to observe this normal, healthy, cervical mucus which indicates the days when intercourse is most likely to result in a pregnancy. This external observation may be by sensation, observation, or touch (or in combination).

A second sign is her basal body temperature. Due to hormonal activity, a woman’s resting temperature changes during her cycle. Lower temperatures indicate that ovulation has not yet occurred. Sustained higher temperatures indicate a rise in progesterone which signals that an ovulatory event has taken place.

Other signs of fertility are a change in the position and texture of the cervix, breast tenderness and pain around the ovary. An ovulation predictor kit can also be used to detect reproductive hormones in the urine of a woman.

How does NFP work?

NFP instruction helps a couple identify the most fertile and least fertile days of the woman’s cycle. Understanding that intercourse on fertile days can result in pregnancy, couples using the natural methods must clearly determine their family planning intention—do they wish to achieve or postpone pregnancy?

If a couple wishes to achieve a pregnancy, they have intercourse during the fertile time of the cycle. If a couple wishes to postpone or avoid a pregnancy, they abstain from intercourse and any genital contact during the fertile time.

What are the benefits of using NFP?

With NFP both spouses are taught to understand the nature of fertility and work with it, whether it’s to plan a pregnancy, space children, avoid pregnancy for serious reasons, or to monitor a woman’s health. A couple who use NFP soon learn that they have a shared responsibility for family planning. The husband is encouraged to “tune into” his wife’s cycles, and both spouses are encouraged to speak openly and frankly about their sexual desires and their thoughts concerning family size.

How effective are the methods of natural family planning?

When couples are taught by a competent teacher and follow the rules of the method carefully, NFP is highly successful in achieving their intended family plan. Numerous studies, including one by the U.S. government and another by the World Health Organization, have shown that the most common NFP methods are 97-99% effective for avoiding pregnancy.

That’s as effective as the birth control pill and far more effective than barrier methods. For couples who have made a clear decision to postpone pregnancy, and who understand and follow the rules, no more than 0.4-5% of these couples will experience pregnancy in a one year period.1 Couples who use NFP to achieve pregnancy have a 90% success rate within a year.2

1. Hatcher, R. (Ed.). (2011). Contraceptive technology (Twentieth Revised Edition ed.). New York: Ardent Media.

2. Mu, Q., & Fehring, R. J. (2014). Efficacy of achieving pregnancy with fertility-focused intercourse. MCN.the American Journal of Maternal Child Nursing, 39(1), 35-40.

 

As a family planning method, NFP:

  • calls for shared husband and wife responsibility
  • requires the couple to communicate
  • is based on scientific research
  • treats each fertility cycle as unique
  • teaches a couple to observe their signs of fertility on a daily basis
  • has no harmful side effects
  • is low cost
  • builds strong marriages
  • is morally acceptable
  • protects the environment

 

Other benefits include:

  • marriage enrichment and mutual understanding
  • appreciation for the blessings of every child
  • greater respect for, and acceptance of, the total person
  • assistance in achieving pregnancy
  • early identification of sub-fertility
  • effectiveness for spacing or limiting pregnancy
  • can be used throughout life, including postpartum, breast-feeding, and perimenopause

 

What health risks are avoided in choosing NFP?

When undergoing medical or surgical treatment, people will always be faced with potential side effects. Most people are willing to take the risks in order to be cured of their illness. Fertility, however, is not a disease. It is a normal and healthy part of human nature. Learning to live with fertility rather than waging war against it appeals to many people. The following problems are avoided by couples practicing NFP.

Potential problems associated with:

Abortion: Infertility, pelvic infection, laceration of cervix and bowel, perforated uterus, severe bleeding, shock, death due to hemorrhage or infection, increased risk of breast cancer (especially if the first pregnancy is terminated), depression, suicide.

Condoms: Least reliable method of family planning (high failure rate for postponing pregnancy), latex allergy, increased risk of pre-eclampsia.

*Depo-Provera: Prolonged infertility or unpredictable return of fertility, irregular menses, osteoporosis, decreased libido, weight gain, depression, acne, back pain, increased risk of HIV/AIDS infection.

Diaphragm: Urinary tract infections, toxic shock syndrome, allergy to latex, vaginal irritation.

*IUD/IUS: (Both) Severe menstrual cramps, heavy periods, pelvic infections, ectopic pregnancy, ovarian cysts, perforated uterus, irregular bleeding, infertility, (IUS) includes all the problems associated with hormonal birth control.

*Nuva Ring: Irregular bleeding, heart attack, stroke, fluid retention, sinus infection, headache, death.

*MORNING AFTER PILL: Nausea, vomiting, headache, breast soreness, fatigue, abdominal pain, ectopic pregnancy and dizziness.

*Implant: Acne; leaking or painful breasts; depression; prolonged, heavy and irregular menses or absence of periods; ovarian cysts; infections where rods are inserted; weight gain and hypertension.

*Hormonal Birth Control (the Pill, Patch, Shot, etc.): Headaches, depression, weight gain, breast tenderness, reduced libido, gall bladder disease; increased blood pressure, increased blood sugar; vitamin and mineral deficiencies; risk of strokes and blood clots including retinal clots; cataracts, heart attacks, ectopic pregnancy, infertility; increased risk of HPV and HIV infections; liver tumors, cancer of the brain, breast and reproductive organs; memory loss, death.

*ELLA/RU486: Bleeding, cramping, nausea, vomiting; may cause an incomplete abortion which requires surgery.

Spermicide: Increases incidence of congenital disorders in children conceived during use, vaginal irritations and infections, allergic reactions in men and women.

Female sterilization: Increased risk of ectopic pregnancy, painful menses, very heavy periods, regrets (40%), surgical risk of infection and injury to other organs, future hysterectomy.

Male sterilization: Increased risk of prostate cancer, autoimmune diseases, regret, dementia, pain.

*May also cause an early abortion.

 

Where can I learn how to use NFP?

The best way to learn NFP is from a qualified instructor—one who is certified by an NFP teacher training program. For more information about NFP instruction available in your community, contact any of the following organizations:

Billings Ovulation Method Assn (USA)

(651) 699-8139    www.Boma-usa.org

The Couple to Couple League 

(800) 745-8252    www.ccli.org

Family of the Americas Foundation

(800) 443-3395    www.familyplanning.net

FertilityCare Centers of America

(402) 390-6600, ext. 117    www.fertilitycare.org

Institute for Natural Family Planning

(414) 288-3854    www.mu.edu/nursing/NFP

Natural Family Planning International

(740) 457-9663    www.nfpandmore.org

Northwest Family Services 

(503) 215-6377    www.nwfs.org/couples-a-singles/natural-family-planning.html

United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

(202) 541-3070    www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/marriage-and-family/natural-family-planning/

One More Soul

(800) 307-7685    www.onemoresoul.com

For a directory of NFP-Only physicians and NFP teachers, as well as a great variety of resources on NFP, the blessings of children, and the harms of contraception, please visit One More Soul at www.onemoresoul.com.

The Tunnel of Parenthood

by Emily Sederstrand

Author Emily Sederstrand with her husband Tom and her son Owen

Author Emily Sederstrand with husband Tom and son Owen

In 2005, my husband, Tom, and I relocated from Ohio to upstate NY with three young children in tow. God provided for us, and we quickly made wonderful and faith-filled friends. Soon after settling in, I was invited to a “mom’s dinner,” an evening out to get refreshed. There, I was introduced to Joan, who was at the time the mother of nine and newly expecting her tenth. I looked at her in awe, unsure how anyone could have nine children!

“Oh,” she exclaimed, “you’re in the darkest part of motherhood! It’s going to get better!”

Joan was elegant and well-spoken. She turned to me and cheerfully asked, “So, what are the ages of your children?” I answered a bit sheepishly, “4 ½, 2 ½, and 1 ½,” unsure of where the conversation was heading. “Oh,” she exclaimed, “you’re in the darkest part of motherhood! It’s going to get better!” Say what? I was totally surprised, and frankly, relieved. (more…)

Alternativas para la Píldora

¿Por qué considerar alternativas para la Píldora?

  • El uso de anticonceptivos hormonales se asocia con una amplia variedad de condiciones que amenazan la vida, incluyendo enfermedades del corazón, derrame cerebral, coágulos de sangre, cáncer del hígado, varios cánceres del aparato reproductor y depresión.
  • La píldora también tiene efectos secundarios negativos comunes tales como migrañas, cambios de humor y aumento de peso.
  • La anticoncepción hormonal modifica o elimina los síntomas de la mujer, mientras que su problema médico subyacente, la causa de los síntomas, permanece sin diagnosticar y sin tratar. Enmascarar los síntomas sin el trabajo diagnóstico adecuado podría conducir a una enfermedad más grave.
  • La anticoncepción hormonal reduce nutrientes importantes para el organismo, entre ellos: vitamina B2, vitamina B6, vitamina B12, ácido fólico, vitamina C, magnesio y zinc.
  • La anticoncepción hormonal también puede causar infertilidad temporal o permanente, a veces, incluso después de que su uso es descontinuado.
  • Muchas mujeres quieren evitar la anticoncepción hormonal por razones éticas.

Datos Sobre el Ciclo Menstrual

  • LONGITUD NORMAL: 25-31 DÍAS
  • CICLO CORTO: < 24 DÍAS
  • CICLO LARGO: > 38 DÍAS
  • LOS PRIMEROS 12-18 MENSES DESPUÉS DE LA PRIMERA MENSTRUACIÓN Y AL FINAL DE LOS AÑOS REPRODUCTIVOS, LOS CICLOS PUEDEN SER MUY IRREGULARES.
  • 20% DE LAS MUJERES EXPERIMENTAN CICLOS IRREGULARES A LO LARGO de sus años fértiles.

Ciclos Irregulares

Hay varias causas para los ciclos irregulares. Algunas mujeres experimentan ciclos irregulares cerca del comienzo y el final de su vida reproductiva. El sangrado irregular puede ser causado por desequilibrios hormonales de la glándula tiroides o pituitaria, la disfunción ovárica, pólipos uterinos, fibromas, infecciones, trastornos de la coagulación, complicaciones en el embarazo, bajo peso o tener poca grasa corporal, y algunos medicamentos.

¿COMO FUNCIONA LA PÍLDORA AQUÍ?

Las píldoras anticonceptivas suprimen el ciclo de la fertilidad y el sangrado menstrual. Una mujer que usa este método anticonceptivo por lo general toma tres semanas de píldoras que contienen hormonas artificiales activas. Estas píldoras impiden el embarazo impidiendo la ovulación y además mantienen el revestimiento del útero delgado. Las pastillas que se toman durante la cuarta semana no contienen hormonas activas, por lo que la mujer experimenta sangrado en este momento. Este sangrado no es un período de “verdad”. Se llama sangrado de retirada y es la respuesta del cuerpo a la interrupción de las hormonas artificiales. Otros tipos de anticoncepción hormonal tales como las inyecciones, implantes, mini-píldoras, o dispositivos intrauterinos pueden causar sangrado entre los períodos, sangrado irregular, o abolir el sangrado menstrual.

ALTERNATIVAS

El primer paso más saludable es identificar y corregir la condición subyacente que causa el sangrado irregular. Aprender a graficar los ciclos con un método de reconocimiento de la fertilidad puede ayudar a monitorear los ciclos y a identificar la causa de la irregularidad. Vitaminas, minerales y suplementos de omega 3 en combinación con una buena nutrición, reducción del estrés, dormir suficiente en completa oscuridad, y ejercicio moderado son estrategias que pueden ayudar a mejorar el equilibrio hormonal y la regularidad del ciclo. Por ejemplo, una mujer que tiene un porcentaje de grasa corporal muy bajo puede necesitar ganar cinco o diez libras para que su ciclo reanude. Una adolescente que participa en ejercicio vigoroso regular, como los deportes en equipo, pueda que tenga que esperar hasta que termine la temporada y su nivel de ejercicio haya disminuido para ver si la menstruación regresa por sí sola.

Síndrome De Ovario Poliquístico (SOP)

Los síntomas del síndrome de ovario poliquístico, pueden incluir:

  • ciclos irregulares
  • dificultad para perder peso
  • vello corporal inusual en el pecho, el abdomen, los brazos o la cara
  • infertilidad
  • resistencia a la insulina

El SOP es una condición temporal y reversible en la cual un desequilibrio hormonal y la inflamación conducen al aumento de tamaño de los ovarios, lo que puede causar problemas en la piel, cambios en el ciclo menstrual e infertilidad.

Para tratar el SOP, hacer ejercicio, limitar los carbohidratos, comer proteínas y grasas naturales puede ayudar a mantener los niveles de insulina. Multivitaminas, aceite de linaza, inositol y suplementos de cromo son importantes para aumentar la sensibilidad a la insulina. Las mujeres con sensibilidad a los productos lácteos, la soya y los huevos deben eliminar estos de su dieta. Para las parejas con infertilidad, se utilizan tratamientos para estimular la ovulación junto con el seguimiento del ciclo de la mujer y algunas veces cirugía.

Períodos Menstruales Dolorosos

Los calambres dolorosos que acompañan a la menstruación pueden ocurrir en una mujer sana, o pueden ser síntomas de una enfermedad reconocible. El dolor se debe a la inflamación y contracciones espásticas del útero causado por sustancias llamadas prostaglandinas. Las prostaglandinas disminuyen el flujo de sangre en el útero y causan inflamación, lo que empeora la gravedad de las contracciones uterinas.

¿COMO FUNCIONA LA PÍLDORA AQUÍ?

La píldora disminuye el espesor de la pared del útero (endometrio) el cual produce prostaglandinas. El endometrio adelgazado produce menos prostaglandinas, y esto puede reducir el dolor menstrual.

ALTERNATIVAS

Cuando no hay ninguna enfermedad reconocible, los antiinflamatorios no esteroideos (AINES) son la primera elección. La vitamina B1 (tiamina) puede ser una opción efectiva. Algunos estudios sugieren que el magnesio puede aliviar el dolor relacionado con el período menstrual.

Otras alternativas naturales son el ejercicio aeróbico, la ingesta diaria de suplementos de omega-3, y cambios en la dieta, tales como la disminución de la ingesta de grasas animales.

Endometriosis

Los períodos dolorosos pueden estar relacionados con la endometriosis. El útero está revestido de tejido endometrial. Durante un ciclo normal de fertilidad, el tejido endometrial sale por la vagina durante la menstruación, y vuelve a crecer. Cuando el tejido endometrial se desplaza fuera del útero, produce inflamación local, dolor, y hasta infertilidad. Esta condición se conoce como la endometriosis.

La anticoncepción hormonal puede aliviar algunos síntomas de la endometriosis, ya que reduce el grosor del endometrio. Sin embargo, la única cura para la endometriosis es la cirugía para extirpar el tejido problema.

Períodos Menstruales Abundantes/Largos

Un período menstrual es excesivamente abundante si una mujer tiene que cambiar su toalla/tampón más de una vez cada hora o si su período dura más de siete días. La gran pérdida de sangre puede disminuir el hierro y causar anemia.

¿COMO FUNCIONA LA PÍLDORA AQUÍ?

La anticoncepción hormonal provoca un sangrado de retirada, que puede ser más ligero y más corto que un período normal. Este sangrado es menos abundante porque las hormonas artificiales disminuyen el espesor del tejido endometrial que reviste el útero.

ALTERNATIVAS

El aceite de linaza, cápsulas de clorofila (ricas en vitamina K), vitamina A y beta caroteno pueden ayudar a reducir el sangrado. Para el sangrado severo debido a un desequilibrio hormonal, pueden ser necesarios tratamientos hormonales tales como suplementos tiroideos o reemplazo con progesterona bioidéntica.

El Síndrome Premenstrual (SPM)

SPM se refiere a un grupo de síntomas que ocurren a menudo al menos cuatro días antes la menstruación y desaparecen durante el flujo menstrual. SPM puede ser causado por un desequilibrio de las hormonas estrógeno y progesterona. Los síntomas pueden incluir dolores de cabeza, migrañas, irritabilidad, antojos de alimentos, sensibilidad en los senos, aumento de peso, ansiedad, diarrea, insomnio y sentimientos de estar abrumada o triste. El SPM también está asociado con un empeoramiento de las condiciones médicas preexistentes como el asma, la artritis, trastornos de la piel y gastrointestinales, y trastornos psiquiátricos tales como ansiedad y el abuso de sustancias.

¿COMO FUNCIONA LA PÍLDORA AQUÍ?

Los anticonceptivos orales reemplazan el ciclo normal menstrual con un ciclo muy diferente. Algunos de los síntomas del síndrome premenstrual se pueden aliviar, pero otros pueden empeorar.

ALTERNATIVAS

Como primer paso una mujer puede aprender a graficar sus ciclos mensuales y monitorear los síntomas del SPM que pueda observar cada mes. Se recomienda una evaluación hormonal dirigida por un médico para determinar la presencia de desequilibrios hormonales. Si la evaluación confirma una deficiencia, el médico puede continuar el tratamiento con hormonas bioidénticas u otras terapias.

La vitamina B6 se ha recomendado para el tratamiento del síndrome premenstrual. El magnesio puede ayudar con la reducción de la retención de agua y la mejora el estado de ánimo. Una alta ingesta de calcio y vitamina D pueden reducir los síntomas del síndrome premenstrual. El calcio y la vitamina D también pueden reducir el riesgo de osteoporosis y algunos tipos de cáncer. El triptófano es utilizado durante los días antes de la menstruación y puede ser útil en mujeres con trastorno del estado de ánimo premenstrual. El aceite de onagra y la vitamina E pueden aliviar el dolor en los senos.

Acné

El acné es una inflamación localizada de la piel comúnmente influenciada por hormonas, principalmente la testosterona.

¿COMO FUNCIONA LA PÍLDORA AQUÍ?

La píldora causa una disminución de la testosterona libre. Esto a su vez puede reducir la aparición de acné, ya que en algunos casos la testosterona produce hiperactividad de las glándulas sebáceas.

ALTERNATIVAS

El tratamiento dependerá de la gravedad del acné. Antibióticos orales y antimicrobianos tópicos sin  receta se utilizan en el acné leve. Algunos medicamentos, como la espironolactona y la isotretinoína, así como el láser y la terapia de luz se utilizan para el acné severo. La levadura de cerveza es una rica fuente de cromo junto con suplementos de zinc también han mostrado una cierta efectividad para mejorar el acné.

Ningún folleto puede reemplazar el consejo médico profesional. Este folleto presenta algunas estrategias simples y fáciles de promoción de la salud para ayudar a las mujeres a tener mejores ciclos y una mejor salud. Si usted piensa que padece de estos problemas de salud mencionados, le recomendamos encarecidamente que consulte con su médico o profesional de la salud.

¿Desea más información?

El libro Fertility Cycles and Nutrition minuciosamente explora vínculos entre los desequilibrios de vitaminas/minerales y ciclos inusuales. The Effects of Light on the Menstrual Cycle presenta mas información sobre el efecto del exceso de luz nocturna. The NaPro Technology Revolution: Unleashing the Power in a Woman’s Cycle del doctor Thomas Hilgers es un gran recurso para la lectura en profundidad. Se analiza una amplia gama de temas de salud reproductiva y planes de tratamiento.

Estos recursos se pueden comprar en www.onemoresoul.com.

Alternatives to the Pill

Why consider alternatives to the pill?

  • Hormonal contraception is associated with a wide variety of life-threatening conditions, including heart disease, stroke, blood clots, liver cancer, several reproductive cancers, and depression. 
  • The pill also has common negative side effects such as migraines, moodiness, and weight gain. 
  • Hormonal contraception modifies or eliminates the woman’s symptoms, while her underlying medical problem, the cause of the symptoms, remains undiagnosed and untreated. Masking the symptoms without appropriate diagnostic work could lead to more severe illness. 
  • Hormonal contraception depletes the body of important nutrients, including: Vitamin B2, Vitamin B6, Vitamin B12, Folic Acid, Vitamin C, Magnesium, and Zinc. 
  • Hormonal contraception can also cause temporary and sometimes permanent infertility even after use is discontinued.
  • Many women want to avoid hormonal contraception for ethical reasons.

Cycle Facts

  • NORMAL LENGTH : 25-31 DAYS
  • SHORT CYCLE: < 24 DAYS
  • LONG CYCLE: > 38 DAYS
  • FOR THE FIRST 12-18 MONTHS AFTER FIRST MENSTRUATION AND AT THE END OF REPRODUCTIVE YEARS, CYCLES CAN BE VERY IRREGULAR.
  • 20% OF WOMEN EXPERIENCE IRREGULAR CYCLES throughout their fertile years.

Irregular Cycles

There are several causes for irregular cycles. Some women experience irregular cycles near the beginning and the end of their reproductive life. Irregular bleeding can be caused by hormonal imbalances of the thyroid or pituitary glands, ovarian dysfunction, uterine polyps and fibroids, infections, bleeding disorders, complications in pregnancy, being underweight or having low body fat, and some medications.

WHAT DOES THE PILL DO FOR IT?

Birth control pills suppress the fertility cycle and menstrual bleeding. A woman using birth control usually takes three weeks worth of pills that contain active artificial hormones. These pills prevent pregnancy by stopping ovulation and keeping the uterine lining thin. Pills taken during the fourth week do not contain active hormones, so the woman experiences bleeding at this time. This monthly bleeding is not a “true” period. It is called withdrawal bleeding and is the body’s response to the interruption of the artificial hormones. Other types of hormonal contraception such as shots, implants, mini-pills, or intrauterine devices can cause bleeding between periods, irregular bleeding, or no periods at all.

ALTERNATIVES

The first healthy step is to identify and correct the underlying condition causing the irregular bleeding. Charting the cycles with a method of fertility awareness can help monitor the cycles and identify the cause of the irregularity. Vitamins, minerals and fatty acid supplements in combination with good nutrition, stress reduction, sufficient sleep in complete darkness, and moderate exercise are all strategies that can help improve hormonal balance and cycle regularity. For example, a woman who has extremely low body fat may need to gain five or ten pounds for her cycle to resume. A teenager involved in regular strenuous exercise, such as team sports, may want to wait until the season is over and her exercise level has decreased to see if menstruation comes back on its own.

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome

Symptoms of Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, or PCOS, can include:

  • irregular cycles
  • difficulty losing weight
  • unusual body hair on the chest, abdomen, arms, or face
  • thinning hair
  • insulin resistance

PCOS is a temporary and reversible condition in which a hormonal imbalance and inflammation leads to enlargement of the ovaries, which can cause skin problems, changes in the menstrual cycle, and infertility.

For PCOS, exercising, limiting carbohydrates and eating natural proteins and fats can help to maintain insulin levels. Multivitamins, flax oil and chromium supplements are important to increase insulin sensitivity. Women with sensitivities to dairy, soy and eggs should eliminate these from their diet. For couples with infertility, treatments to stimulate ovulation are used with close monitoring by tracking the woman’s cycle.

Painful Periods

Painful cramps accompanying menstruation may occur in a woman who is otherwise healthy, or may be symptoms of a recognizable disease. The pain is due to inflammation and spastic contractions of the uterus caused by substances called prostaglandins. Prostaglandins decrease blood flow in the uterus and cause inflammation, which worsens the severity of uterine contractions.

WHAT DOES THE PILL DO FOR IT?

The pill decreases the thickness of the lining of the uterus which produces prostaglandins. The thinned lining produces fewer prostaglandins, which can reduce menstrual pain.

ALTERNATIVES

When no disease is diagnosed, Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs) are the first-choice. Vitamin B1 (thiamine) can be an effective option. Some studies suggest that magnesium can relieve the pain related to painful periods.

Some natural alternatives are aerobic exercise, daily intake of omega-3 fatty acids, and dietary changes such as decreasing intake of animal fats.

Endometriosis

Painful periods can be related to endometriosis. The uterus is lined with endometrial tissue. During a normal fertility cycle, the endometrial tissue sheds during menstruation, then regrows. When endometrial tissue is located outside the uterus, it produces local inflammation, pain, and infertility. This condition is called endometriosis.

Hormonal contraception can alleviate some symptoms of endometriosis because it reduces the thickness of the endometrium. However, the only real cure for endometriosis is surgery to remove the problem tissue.

Heavy/Long Periods

A period is excessively heavy if a woman must change her pad/tampon more than once every hour or if her period lasts longer than seven days. Heavy blood loss can cause anemia and iron depletion.

WHAT DOES THE PILL DO FOR IT?

Hormonal contraception causes withdrawal bleeding, which can be lighter and shorter than a normal period. Withdrawal bleeding is less severe because the pill decreases the thickness of the endometrial tissue that lines the uterus.

ALTERNATIVES

Flax oil, chlorophyll capsules (rich in vitamin K), vitamin A, and beta carotene can help to reduce blood flow. For severe bleeding due to hormonal imbalance, supplemental hormones such as thyroid-replacement hormones or bioidentical progesterone may be needed.

Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS)

PMS refers to a group of symptoms that often occur at least 4 days prior to menstruation and disappear during the menstrual flow. PMS can be caused by an imbalance of the hormones estrogen and progesterone. Symptoms can include headaches/migraines, irritability, food cravings, breast tenderness, weight gain, anxiety, diarrhea, insomnia, and feelings of being overwhelmed or sad. PMS is also associated with a worsening of preexisting medical conditions including asthma, arthritis, skin disorders, gastrointestinal disorders, and psychiatric disorders such as anxiety and substance abuse.

WHAT DOES THE PILL DO FOR IT?

Oral contraceptives replace the normal fertility/menstrual cycle with a very different cycle. Some symptoms of PMS may be relieved with this treatment, but others may be worsened.

ALTERNATIVES

The first step is for a woman to chart her monthly cycles and monitor PMS symptoms she observes each month. A targeted hormone evaluation by a doctor is recommended to determine the presence of hormonal imbalances. If the evaluation confirms a hormonal deficiency, the doctor may pursue treatment with bioidentical hormones or other therapies.

Vitamin B6 has been recommended for the treatment of PMS. Magnesium may help with reduction in water retention and improvement in mood. A high intake of calcium and vitamin D may reduce symptoms of PMS. Calcium and vitamin D may also reduce the risk of osteoporosis and some cancers. Tryptophan used during the last few days before menstruation can be helpful in women with premenstrual mood disorder. Evening primrose oil and vitamin E may relieve breast tenderness.

Acne

Acne is a common localized skin inflammation influenced by hormones, principally testosterone.

WHAT DOES THE PILL DO FOR IT?

 The Pill causes a decrease of free testosterone. This in turn can reduce the outbreak of acne since in some cases it is testosterone that causes the oil glands to be overactive.

ALTERNATIVES

Treatment will depend on the severity of the acne. Non-prescription topical antimicrobial and oral antibiotics are used in mild acne. Some medications such as spironolactone and isotretinoin, as well as laser and light therapy are used for severe acne. Brewer’s yeast is a rich source of chromium. Zinc supplements have also shown some improvement in acne.

No pamphlet can replace professional medical advice. This brochure presents some simple and easy health promoting strategies to help women experience better cycles and better health. If you think you might have any of these issues, we strongly urge you to discuss them with your doctor.

Want more information?

The book Fertility Cycles and Nutrition thoroughly explores the links between vitamin/mineral imbalances and unusual cycles. Check out The Effects of Light on the Menstrual Cycle for more info on the effect of too much nocturnal light. The NaPro Technology Revolution: Unleashing the Power in a Woman’s Cycle by Thomas Hilgers is a great resource for in-depth reading. It discusses a wide range of reproductive health issues and treatment plans.

These resources can be purchased at www.onemoresoul.com.

Why Contraception Matters

by Stephen Patton M.A., J.D.
Florida Respect Life Conference, October 13, 2007


Introduction:

Greetings. This is Bishop Victor Galeone from the Diocese of St. Augustine in Florida. You’re about to hear a marvelous presentation by Steve Patton, the Director of our Family Life office. Steve clearly explains why the Church’s timeless wisdom dealing with marital love brings great joy to married couples and deep satisfaction to the priests who serve them. Be careful, though, this message could have a lasting impact on your life, for the better. Enjoy the presentation.

Stephen Patton:

Good afternoon. I need to begin with a “viewer’s discretion advisory.” In this talk I’m going to discuss some details about the marital act: what takes place, what it means, and how it can be distorted. So if you’re listening now with young children, either live or on the recording, please take their ages into consideration and perhaps listen later when they’re not present.

I’d like to tell you about three people: a priest and a married couple. They’re fictional characters, but in a sense they’re quite real. Each represents a composite of the views of many actual priests and married couples in the United States today.

First, let me introduce you to Fr. Friendly. Fr. Friendly is loved and respected by his parishioners, and he loves and respects them. He knows all about the many temptations and tensions they face every day, and so he makes it a point to teach them often about God’s compassion and mercy. But of all the many issues that weigh down upon his flock, and so weigh down upon him, two stand out: abortion and divorce.

While he’s not what you might call an activist pro-life priest, he knows that abortion is a grave crime against the unborn. He has even occasionally preached about it, although always with compassion. He knows that most women make that awful decision not so much as a free choice, but because they didn’t think they really had a choice. He wants to reach out to them, and he wants to keep anyone else from making that same terrible decision. He wishes he could pinpoint why it is that so many people, including so many seemingly good Catholics, still fall prey to this sin by the hundreds of thousands.

He likewise grieves the epidemic of divorce. He has personally ministered to dozens of broken marriages and families. It saddens him deeply that this could happen to so many good couples, especially those who seemed to have it all together: regular church-goers, kind people, parents who love their children. He has preached about the sanctity of marriage, he has encouraged distressed couples to go to counseling, he promotes marriage enrichment programs. And yet the divorces continue to multiply.

One topic Fr. Friendly has never preached about, though, is contraception. He knows use of it is against the official teaching of the Catholic Church, and he knows that most Catholics don’t comply with that teaching. He doesn’t preach about this or bring it up in confession, though. He figures, with all the other burdens his flock is already carrying, he shouldn’t lay that one on them too. He suspects there is something wrong with contraception, but he’s always figured that it’s really not that big a deal, and that there are more important things to talk about.

Now let me introduce you to Mr. & Mrs. Goodpeople. The Goodpeople’s are active, contributing members of Fr. Friendly’s parish, and in each of the areas I just mentioned their views are virtually identical to his. They know that abortion is wrong and they don’t think anyone should ever have one. They’re also saddened at the epidemic of divorce all around them, in their own family and among their closest friends. They just can’t understand what’s going on. They take their own marriage seriously and they wish every couple would do the same.

But if they’re in tune with the teachings of the Church when it comes to abortion and divorce, they’re not when it comes to contraception. Mrs. Goodpeople has been on the Pill since she became sexually active as a teenager. No one ever told her there was anything wrong with this – not her parents, not her peers, not her teachers, not her doctors, not her priests. They’ve either said contraception was the good and responsible thing to do, or they’ve said nothing at all. For Mr. Goodpeople it was much the same way. So, the two of them took this way of thinking into their marriage. Except for when they wanted to conceive, they’ve always used contraception.

Every now and then they’ve heard something about the Catholic Church “frowning upon” contraception, or that it “disapproves of” it. But they’ve never heard that it’s a serious sin. It’s never been explained to them how it offends God and harms us. Somewhere along the line they’ve also heard rumors about something called NFP, but they’ve never looked into it. They don’t know anyone who takes it seriously, apparently including Fr. Friendly. The Goodpeople’s want to do the right thing, and they’d probably be open to learning about the church’s teaching if it was ever presented to them. But unless that happens they’re going to just keep on using contraception and eventually they will also probably choose to get sterilized.

It’s to all of you Fr. Friendly’s and Mr. and Mrs. Goodpeople’s out there that I offer these thoughts. I want to show you two things. First, I want to show you why contraception really is a big deal. I want to show you that no matter how passionate you or any of us might be about stopping abortion and divorce, until we start changing our contraceptive views and practices, we’re never going to see an end to either of those two evils.

Second, I want to bring all this home to us as a Church. What kind of effect, on us, does our complicity with the contraceptive mentality have? And what can we do about it?

Our Culture of Dual Death

So let’s look first at how contraception leads to both abortion and divorce.

You’ve probably heard the terms “culture of life” and “culture of death” that were coined by Pope John Paul II. I think we could split the term culture of death into two sub-categories: death to life and death to marital love.

By death to life, I mean not just to death to tens of millions of pre-born babies, but to a growing death to the very idea of babies. Across North America, Europe, and in virtually every other culture where abortion has become common, we can also observe declining birth rates and in many instances dramatically declining birth rates.

So a culture of death to life is culture with a generally declining view toward new human life. We’re either outright killing a huge percentage of our babies through abortion, or we’re taking a dimmer, more pessimistic view of conceiving them at all.

Our culture of death to marital love shows a similar pattern. We’re more and more seeing not just outright death to marital love in the form of divorce – which is tragic enough at about 50% of all marriages – but also a kind of death to the very idea of making such a commitment. Fewer people are getting married at all. Marriage rates in the U.S. have been steadily declining for decades.

What’s happening here? This notion of a man and a woman making a life-long commitment of love, and staying in it, has been around for thousands of years in every human culture. Why is it now, in our culture, gradually dieing away?

Look at abortion and divorce side by side. Keep in mind: neither is new to the human experience. Both have been around for thousands of years, but usually only as the extreme fall-back option. So why is it that both of them, at basically the same time suddenly came out of the dark fringes and mushroomed to epidemic levels?

What I suggest, is that all of this death and withering – in the forms of abortion, declining birth rates, divorce, declining marriage rates – all of this mushroomed together right along with the mushrooming use of contraception.

Our Culture of Contraception

I’d like to show you now what I can only describe as our culture of contraception, but first, I want to ask you to consider the terms “contraception” and “sterilization” to be virtually interchangeable. After all, contraception is basically a temporary form of sterilization, while sterilization is a permanent form of contraception. Each, though, is essentially the same thing: an act that intentionally renders the sexual act sterile. So when I refer to our culture of contraception, what I’m really referring to is our culture of sterilized sex. What do I mean by that?

The dominant, modern American view of sex is that for most if not all of a person’s reproductive life, their natural, healthy state of fertility needs to be sterilized. If you don’t sterilize it, then it is not, quote unquote, “safe”. The possibility that sexual activity could lead to pregnancy is something you need to protect yourself from. We understand the phrase, “responsible sex”, as in, “responsible people use birth control; irresponsible people don’t” in the same way.

Indoctrination to this way of thinking starts early. Whether it’s from our peers, parents, teachers, doctors or the media, instruction about birth control usually comes to us hand in hand with instruction about sex in general. It’s considered to be the normal, safe, responsible thing that people do. Now, please understand, we can and must oppose with this view. What I’m saying, though, is that there is wide support for it. You can be a well respected parent and civic leader not just in spite of holding this view but because of holding it.

The result of all this accumulated cultural pressure is that well over 90% of Americans will engage in sterilized sex in one form or another over the course of their lives, and Catholics like the Goodpeople’s are no exception. They and millions of others like them build their entire lives around this view of fertility. It’s just a given. It’s the air we breathe. Take sterilized sex out of the picture, and most Americans would feel their entire world seriously threatened. Even people who would oppose teaching children about condoms, or putting contraceptives into the hands of young or unmarried people, would see it, for married couples, as American as apple pie. It’s no wonder Fr. Friendly won’t touch it with a ten-foot pole.

But just stop and think about the enormity of what’s going on here.

Just think about what it means from a medical standpoint to sterilize the reproductive organs, either temporarily or permanently. All of medicine, all of health care can be boiled down to this: you either help sick organs get healthy or you help healthy organs stay healthy. That’s it. Medical care is never supposed to make healthy organs sick or interfere with their natural operations. Sometimes we have to make healthy organs suffer as an unintended side effect, like when a person gets ill from chemo-therapy for cancer. But that’s only when the greater good of the person’s health is at stake. We’re never supposed to make an organ sick or mutilate it as the central, intended purpose. Doctors understand this, nurses understand this, we all understand this.

But for some strange reason how we treat the reproductive organs stands as the one, glaring exception to this rule. But fertility is a natural, healthy state. It’s not an illness that needs to be corrected with surgery. It’s not a disease that we need to be healed of with a pill. But sterilizing these healthy organs is not only widely accepted by health care providers; you’re considered backwards and irresponsible if you don’t accept it. In the medical community, contraception and sterilization have become the “standard of care.”

Why sterilized sex causes abortion and divorce

Now, let’s return to the question, why would this widespread acceptance and approval of sterilized sex give rise to widespread abortion and divorce?

I’m going to answer this question at two levels, first, the more apparent level, which I’ll call the tip of the iceberg, and then the more subtle level below the surface.

– The Tip of the Iceberg

So, let’s first look at the more obvious level of how a culture of sterilized sex leads to a culture of death.

– Death to Marital Love

First, by it leading to a culture of death to marital love, I mean this. It used to be, before the contraceptive revolution, that there was a pretty clear and firm connection between sex and marriage. Married people had sex, unmarried people didn’t, or if they did, they more or less knew that they weren’t supposed to. Most everybody knew this.

But over the course of the twentieth century, as contraception became more socially accepted, more available, and more effective, all that began to change. By the time the sixties rolled around it was becoming clear, to married and unmarried people alike, that you didn’t have to be married to have sex. Contraceptive practice had made sex into a recreational activity that everyone has a right to.

What did this mean for the unmarried? Well, you probably heard the old saying, “Why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free?” Widespread acceptance and availability of contraception has led to widespread fornication. Pre marital sex is now not only socially acceptable, but socially respectable. It’s no different among Catholics. 90% of engaged couples in the U.S. who come to the Catholic Church for marriage are already sexually active. 90% Yes, people do still get married, but in fewer numbers. Why? Well, one of the reasons a man and woman used to get married was to start having sex, and contraception basically removed that as a reason.

What did the contraceptive revolution do to married people? There are three ways that it led to an increase in divorce rates.

First, it’s the flip side of what I just mentioned: if sex is no longer a reason to get married, then it’s also no longer a reason to stay married. Anyone can have it. It’s pretty much a commodity. But once sex is removed from the portrait of all those things that make marriage unique and valuable, then a married couple at risk will have one less reason to try to make it work.

Second, widespread contraceptive practice in many cases removed another reason that has traditionally held together married couples, namely, children. There is something to be said for a couple trying to make their marriage work for the sake of the children. But what happens when there are no children? More contraception has led to fewer children, and in many cases to no children at all. Divorces naturally followed.

Third, widespread use of contraception by married couples also led to an increase of adultery. Once you take away one of the greatest fears of extra-marital sex – which is pregnancy – you’re going to see an increase of that activity. And when there is an increase in adultery there’s also going to be an increase in divorce.

In net effect, our culture of sterilized sex has made marriage on the whole a less attractive institution to enter into, and an easier institution to get out of. It’s contributed to the demise of millions of marriages, both those that actually took place and those that should have taken place, but never did.

– Death to Life

Let’s look now at how our culture of widespread sterilized sex has also led to our culture of widespread death to pre-born human life. Keep in mind that for the moment we’re looking only at the tip of the iceberg. We’ll look at the deeper level in a moment.

How does widespread contraception lead to declining birth rates? Well if the life-giving potential of sex is pervasively removed from the picture, a cultural mindset is gradually fostered in which children themselves are pervasively removed from the picture. They tend to be viewed not as gifts but as liabilities, spoilers of a pleasurable lifestyle. We might have one or two, if that would be pleasurable to us, but after that the norm is to reject them.

How does widespread contraception lead to widespread abortion? I credit Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse with summing up the motto of our culture of sexual liberation this way, and keep in mind that our culture of sexual liberation was made possible only by our culture of contraception: She says ours is a culture in which, “all adults are entitled to unlimited sexual activity without a live baby resulting.” I’ll say that again, “all adults are entitled to unlimited sexual activity without a live baby resulting.”

What Dr. Morse touches upon is our culture’s prevailing disconnection between sex and babies. Before contraception was king, the prevailing assumption was that a baby was a natural consequence of sex. If you chose to engage in sex, you knew it could result in a baby. You might not have wanted that to happen, but you assumed that it could happen. If a baby did result, it was because of your freely chosen action, and so you were likely, not necessarily, but likely, to feel a certain kind of responsibility toward that child.

The contraceptive revolution changed all that. It led to the prevailing assumption that babies really shouldn’t have anything to do with sex. That is, not unless you wanted a baby to have something to do with sex, not unless you allowed that. Or as Dr. Morse said, not unless you’re into that kind of thing.

Now couples who think this way do know that keeping a baby out of the picture doesn’t just happen by itself; you have to do your part. You have to do something to the sexual act to make sure that a baby won’t be conceived. That’s what, quote unquote, taking responsibility for your actions now means with respects to sexual activity.

But if a couple has this kind of attitude, then when the contraception fails, as it often does, and there’s a pregnancy, they’re not going to tend to think the baby’s there because of their actions. They’re going to tend to think the baby’s there in spite of their actions. In other words, their mindset is not so much that this is their child that they conceived. Rather, they’re going to tend to think it’s an invader that they failed to repel. This kind of thinking is likely to foster quite a different sense of what’s the responsible thing to do next.

Now, I realize, we’re not talking about abortion, yet. Not everyone who smokes gets lung cancer, and not everyone who uses contraception goes on to have an abortion when it fails. What I’m saying, though, is that contraception, by its very nature, and as a broad social phenomenon, tends to incline the heart of a nation toward abortion. As John Paul II put it in Evangelium Vitae, Latin for the Gospel of Life, the contraceptive mentality strengthens the temptation to abort. Contraception and abortion are not the same thing, but as John Paul put it, they are as closely connected as “fruits of the same tree.”

Under the Iceberg

We’ve looked at the tip of the iceberg. I want to show you now a deeper view of how widespread sterilized sex leads to both abortion and divorce. To do that, I need to show you first the way sex is supposed to look like, the way it was made by God.

When God created sex, he made it to serve two purposes or meanings: # 1. to express the bond of marital love between a husband and a wife, and #2. to create new human life. And here’s a crucial point. He also made those two meanings or purposes to be intimately, organically bound up in one another. In other words, together the two form a whole, such that anything a person might do to disrupt the organic union of those two meanings would jeopardize the well-being of both. The meaning of marital love would be jeopardized, and so would the meaning of human life.

How are these two meanings – marital love and openness to life –expressed together in the sexual act as it was made by God?

The pinnacle moment of sex, for both the husband and the wife, is the moment of orgasm. In that one moment, which ideally happens for them at the same time, they experience together the most intense sensations of physical pleasure and emotional connectedness. By that act their bodies express all the values of the union of love which holds them together as husband and wife. They are each saying to the other, with the language of their bodies, “Oh my Gosh! I love you and I want all of you and I give all of myself to you!”

Meanwhile, consider what’s happening physiologically to heighten and reinforce this sensation of union. During orgasm, in both the man and the woman, the hormone oxytocin floods into their bloodstreams. Now ordinarily it’s understood that this happens for the woman, but it also happens for the man, at a lower level of intensity, but it still happens for the man as well as for the woman.

Oxytocin is nicknamed the hormone of love because it is involved in social recognition, bonding, and the formation of trust between people. So orgasm is deeply wired to express and affirm a bond of love. This doesn’t mean that sex is actually always used in that way, but at a deep organic level that is what it was made to do.

What about the life giving meaning? Consider what happens with the man’s and the woman’s reproductive organs. For the husband, the moment of orgasm is the moment in which he releases, into his wife’s body, not just a fluid, but literally his seed, his genetic identity. For him then that act of orgasm simultaneously expresses not only his loving union with her, but also any hope he has ever had or ever will have of becoming a father with her. Perhaps, in his mind, he may not actually want to become a father with her by this particular act. But, and this is crucial, his body nevertheless craves to express openness to that possibility. In and through his body he is saying, “Oh my gosh! I could become a father with you!” And even more, “Oh my gosh, my body is actually trying to become a father with you!”

Meanwhile, for the wife, just as with her husband, the experience of orgasm is also deeply connected to the possibility of creating a new life. For her, orgasm comes in the form of uterine contractions. The neck of her uterus literally dips down repeatedly toward the pool of her husband’s semen, in a kind of lapping motion. Please understand what’s happening here. Her body is not just launching into some kind of non-directional ecstasy; it wants that seed! It wants to help it reach its goal! So, just as with her husband’s act of ejaculation, in the very act of her uterine contractions she is simultaneously expressing not only the most intense feelings of union with her husband, but also her own deepest bodily desires to become a mother by him.

Let me add another physiological fact about the woman’s body that illustrates this deep wiring to reproduce. For the man, sexual desire for his wife is fairly constant from one day to the next. Not so for her. As you may know, the days when she is likely to feel the most intense sexual desires for her husband are those few fertile days of the month when she is most likely to conceive. In her mind, she may actually want to conceive, or not, and she may actually be able to conceive, or not. But in a sense, none of that really matters. What matters is that her body in its own way, and her husband’s body in its own way, are both deeply wired such that they are always trying to say the following two things by way of sexual intercourse, and to say them simultaneously: “I love you forever” and “I yearn to create new life with you.”

Now let’s look at what happens to this marvelously complex picture of human sexuality when a couple purposefully thwarts the life-giving meaning, and see how that can incline them toward both divorce and abortion. By the way, please don’t think in any of this that I’m referring to couples who are infertile through no fault of their own. The decisive factor is not sterility, but deliberate sterility.

– Divorce

Let’s look at divorce first. The bond that holds a married couple together is made up of a variety of forces: moral, social, religious, emotional, economic, and so forth. As any one of those forces fades or weakens, so too will the strength of the marriage bond also fade or weaken. Divorces likewise will increase. One of these forces that holds a married couple together is regular, meaningful sexual relations. “Meaningful” is the key word here. If for whatever reason their sexual relations become less meaningful, or perhaps altogether meaningless, then so too will their marital bond weaken. So, if marital sex, as a broad social phenomenon, is becoming less meaningful, then we can expect that divorces will begin to multiply.

This is indeed what has happened to the meaning of sex in our day. By our nation’s pervasive removal of the life-giving meaning of sex, we have made sex that much less meaningful. Think of the millions of couples who have contracepted themselves right up to the point where one or both of them complains that their sex has become basically meaningless. God hard-wired that life-giving meaning into the core of the sexual experience. It was made to be a major part of the wow factor of sex: the spark, the mystery of life itself. So then we turn around and do everything we can to cancel that meaning out? Don’t we think negative consequences might follow?

Please ponder the irony here. The married couple who sterilizes their sex imagines that by doing this they will enhance their relationship. You know, they get to have sex, when maybe they wouldn’t have had it otherwise, and that will strengthen their relationship, right? Well it doesn’t work that way. Yes, they might have an orgasm together and that would probably feel pleasurable at a purely physical level. And it could also be an affectionate, tension-relieving moment for them. But what they’ve lost through doing this is the fullness of the meaning of their sexual relations, and that is a huge loss. However much they might truly love one another, and want to express that love, if they’ve done something to remove that “we could have a baby” meaning, by doing that, they have diminished the meaning of the act as a whole.

And it gets worse. John Paul II pointed out that because of that organic, symbiotic connection between the two meanings of sex, if a couple takes away the life-giving meaning they are, by doing that, in some mysterious way, also taking away the love-giving meaning. In this view, to sterilize sex is to completely rob it of meaning.

A study just published in the Journal of Reproductive Medicine seems to support this view (J Reprod Med 2007; 52:263-272). The authors of the 2007 study, entitled, “Effects of Tubal Ligation Among American Women,” found that women who have had a tubal ligation were more likely than women who have not had one to report two things: #1. stress interfering with sex, and #2 seeing a physician regarding sexual problems. In addition to their own findings the authors refer in their article to past research which has shown, and I quote, “that women with a tubal ligation have a tendency to report a kind of mutilated body image.” They conclude, and again I quote, “it is reasonable to ask whether tubal ligation in some way disrupts the emotional bond between the partners.” In some way it disrupts the emotional bond. What they can’t quite identify, this “some way,” is that mysterious connection between the life-giving meaning and the love-giving meaning. To disrupt the life-giving purpose or meaning is to disrupt the love-giving meaning or purpose.

And the tragedy, again, is that this is not at all what the couple that gets sterilized desires. Quite the contrary. They do it because they think it will enhance their emotional bond. But like drinking salt water to quench one’s thirst, engaging in sterilized sex will not quench the human thirst for love. Not only is the deep need not met, it is worsened. Our contraceptive culture has left us bloated with sex, and dehydrated for love. And thereby inclined toward divorce.

– Abortion

Let’s look now at what distorting the sexual act means for abortion. Recall how in the moment of orgasm, the man’s and the woman’s bodies each in their own way convulse together in a shared effort to conceive a new life. I repeat what I said a moment ago: their bodies will try to do this every time independent of either their intention or their ability to actually conceive a new life.

In light of this fact, I think it’s beautiful to think about a couple in their seventies making love. She hasn’t ovulated in decades. There’s no possibility of conceiving a new life. And yet there are their bodies, still doing that mysterious fertility dance together, still striving, against all odds, to conceive a baby. From the beginning of their marriage all the way to its end, their love for one another is somehow always mysteriously connected to creating new life together.

But what does a young, fertile married couple do about this if it really isn’t the right time for them to have a baby? Well, if they want to live in harmony with their bodies, they will wait for a naturally infertile time. When that time comes, their bodies will again come together and do that fertility dance. They will strain to conceive. That’s very likely not going to actually happen, but it won’t be because they have done anything to thwart the life-giving potential of their own bodies. This is a natural, holistic way of living with your fertility. You always treat it with reverence, awe, and gentleness. You always receive it and work with it, even if this means having to suffer occasionally.

Compare this approach with the far more popular alternative that couples choose these days, which is not to work with the life-giving mystery of their own bodies, but to work against it. The gift of fertility is not received, it is rejected. It is not treated gently, it is interfered with, or manipulated, or surgically mutilated. By whatever method they choose, couples who sterilize their sex apply force against themselves. It’s a kind of violence done to the human body, and mind you, violence done to very special parts of the human body at the very moment when they are eagerly trying to carry out a very sacred function: to create new human life.

Speaking of self-violence, guys, think for a moment what really happens when you have a vasectomy. Your testicles are still there, but they’ve been sliced away from the act that they were created for. Now they’re just hanging there, inert, like the living dead – little zombies. By the way, if you have been sterilized, either by a vasectomy or a tubal ligation, the procedure can be reversed. You can return those organs in exile to the land of the living.

I’m not here to cast stones. I’m just asking you to stand back and think about what we’re actually doing with sterilized sex. Regardless of our motives, or our moral culpability, or whatever, we are engaging in a kind of alienation and war with our own bodies. And think about it happening not just with one couple one time, but over and over again, by millions of couples, year after year, to the point that this is now the normal way our nation, and our Church, treats the mystery of life in sex.

So here’s the punch line: Do you think that our nation’s common pattern of rejecting our fertility might have a spill-over effect in how we treat our surprise pregnancies? Is it not reasonable that violence regularly done against the life-giving potential of sex could lead toward violence done against life itself? Again, I’m not saying that any given couple, like the Goodpeople’s, who sterilize their sexual relations will necessarily themselves get an abortion or even think that anyone else should ever get one. What I am saying, though, is that any couple who uses contraception needs to know that their acts of sterilized sex are not isolated. They fit into a broad cultural pattern, and they contribute to that pattern. And it’s the very same cultural pattern that encourages abortion.

What Does This Mean for Our Church?

At the beginning of this talk I said I wanted to show you two things. I’ve just tried to do the first, which is to show you that contraception really is a big deal; that it’s at the root of our modern day cultures of abortion and divorce. Now I want to show you the second, which is what our Church’s complicity with the contraceptive mentality has done to us, and what we as a Church can do about it.

First, what do I mean by our Church’s complicity? Poll after poll, study after study, show that contraception is just as popular with us Catholics as it is with the rest of the United States public. And this is not just the case for those who say they’re Catholic, but never go to church. It includes active members like Mr. & Mrs. Goodpeople, people who attend Church regularly, who say their religion is very important to them, and who otherwise hold orthodox views. This was shown again in a May 2007 study published by Marquette University researchers, Ohlendorf and Fehring. (“The Influence of Religiosity on Contraceptive Use Among Roman Catholic Women in the United States,” The Linacre Quarterly, May 2007, Volume 74, Number 2, pp. 135 – 144.) In fact, their study showed that regular, church-going Catholics are more likely to get sterilized than Catholics who don’t go to church.

What has this done to us as a Church? I found some insight from an unusual source. When I was preparing this talk, I was trying to come up with words and images to describe a world with contraception, and a world without contraception. I turned to the 6th edition of the Roget’s International Thesaurus, copyright 2001. If you’re not familiar with this book, it is, first of all, THE authority on the English language, and, second of all, it’s a totally secular resource. It has no religious or moral agenda, good or bad. It simply does what a thesaurus is supposed to do: it groups words, as they are commonly understood, into categories of similar words, and then contrasts those categories with other categories.

The word contraception was grouped in a word category entitled “Unproductiveness.” Before I read some of the words and phrases from that category, I want to read you some of the words and phrases from the contrasting category right next to it entitled “Productiveness.” Now there are dozens of words in each of these categories, and I’m not going to read all of them. This is just a sampling to help create a picture for you.

First, under the category, Productiveness, are these words: fruitfulness, fertility, fecundity, pregnancy, richness, lushness, generousness, abundance, rich soil, compost, manure, swarming muck, land flowing with milk and honey, hotbed, and here’s the kicker: teeming loins.

Now contrast this picture with the words from the category, Unproductiveness: dryness, famine, sterility, contraception, barren wasteland, lunar landscape, howling wilderness, ineffectual, drained, childless, impotence, planned parenthood, dry womb, and finally: withered loins.

If it is indeed true that at any given time 85 percent of American Catholic couples of childbearing age are either contracepting or sterilized, then we have indeed become a Church of withered loins. Is this what we want to be? Is this what the Mystical Body of Christ is supposed to look like? Or do we want to become again what we once were, a Church of teeming loins? Let’s compare the two.

A Church of withered loins is a Church with little to say to the sexually confused world around it. If we, the devout church-goers, can’t get it straight, or refuse to get it straight, about the God-given connections between sex, love, marriage and babies, then God help the rest of the world. For example, take the growing normalization of homosexuality. There was an article by a gay activist that came out a few years ago entitled, “We Are All Sodomites Now.” He basically argues, now that you heterosexuals have completely embraced your style of sterile sex, then you’re hypocrites to question our gay style of sterilized sex. He gets a lot wrong in that article, but he sure has a point there.

A Church of withered loins likewise stutters when it tries to talk to its own young people about chastity. Millions of concerned parents like Mr. and Mrs. Goodpeople know all about the sexual meat-grinder of a world out there, and they dearly want to protect their children from it. But how will they be able to speak convincingly to their children about how a young person can go happily without sex, maybe for years, when they can’t go without it for even a few days a month? Please don’t get me wrong – we need abstinence education programs. But until we, the grown ups, can start walking the talk, then we’re pretty much just wasting our time.

A Church of withered loins also produces only a trickle of priestly and religious vocations. Vocations do not spring forth from a vacuum. They spring forth from lives, families, and parishes that are characterized by hopefulness, generosity, self-sacrifice and self-control. Sterilized sex reinforces the exactly opposite values of fearfulness, self-absorption, and self-indulgence.

What does a Church of teeming loins look like? Well it has struggles of its own. It’s not an entirely pretty picture. By the way, to help make this point, I made sure to include words like swarming muck and manure in the image of productiveness I painted a few minutes ago. But unlike the struggles of a Church of withered loins, the struggles of the Church of teeming loins are wholesome, natural, and, in the end, redemptive.

If you want to imagine what a Church of teeming loins looks like, imagine an immigrant parish of a hundred years ago, or an Irish parish of fifty years ago, or an African parish of today. It’s a parish with lots of babies: smiling babies, crying babies, soiled babies, drooling babies, sniveling babies – all those liquids of life and all their smells. It’s a parish of large families, poor families, struggling families, sacrificial families, families that help other families, families that stick together no matter what, families that build cathedrals. And oh by the way, a parish of teeming loins is also a parish with a teeming abundance of priestly and religious vocations.

Encouragement to Married Couples

How can we become this kind of a Church again? Let me offer some encouragement now to all of you Mr. & Mrs. Goodpeople’s out there, and then to all of you Fr. Friendly’s.

Mr. & Mrs. Goodpeople, I hope you know, that I know, that life can be difficult and there really can be legitimate reasons for a married couple to forestall having a child. The Church is not saying you need to have fifteen children to be good Catholics. What I’m asking you to do, though, on behalf of the Church, is to look at this over-sexualized world around us, and consider how it has maybe influenced some of the ways you view sex, fertility and babies. Those ways of the world, in many respects, are contrary not only to God’s plan but to your own happiness.

Let me quickly add this, in case you’re thinking, well, Steve, we’re pretty happy as we are with contraception, thank you very much. First, if you were to live your entire lives in a contraceptive mindset, you’d never know what a great difference you might have seen without it. Couples who make the switch regularly talk about the profound improvements they’ve seen in their marriages, their faith lives, and in their sexual lives.

Second, and this is even more important, what you think, or what I think, or what anybody thinks, is going to make us happy is not the bottom line when it comes to doing what God wants us to do. Sometimes he wants us to do things that might not feel so good, but we’ve got to do them anyway. Rejecting contraception is one of them. It’s a bad choice, but it’s not just a bad choice, like eating a Twinkie. Objectively speaking, it can sever us from friendship with God. Therefore, it is something we have to confess.

Maybe you’re still not convinced. Maybe you’re thinking that you don’t need the teachings of the Catholic Church to figure out what’s pleasing to God. Friends, please understand that this teaching and any teaching of the Catholic Church is true not because the Church teaches us that it’s true. It’s the other way around. The Church teaches it because it is true. So sure you can choose to disobey the Church’s teaching on contraception, but that’s not going to make it untrue. And it’s also not going to mean that you won’t have to suffer the consequences that will flow from your choice.

The bottom line you need to keep in mind, though, as you ponder what to do, is that this teaching of the Church is not given to us to spoil our enjoyment of life. It’s given to us so we might enjoy life to the full. So, yes, the Church lovingly invites us to treat God’s gifts of sex, fertility and babies in a way very different from the easy way the world says we should treat them. But I say to you that that easy way of the world, that way of contraception and sterilization, is the way that leads to death. Death to life. Death to love. We can choose to follow it, and we may stay married, and we may still look okay and feel okay, but in the end the sin will still have its effect, one way or the other, on our souls, on our marriages, on our church and on our country.

Or you can choose the way of God taught by the Church, which means choosing the way of life. It would mean taking time to learn about the natural cycles of your fertility. It would mean never intentionally doing anything to your bodies that would alter, mutilate, block or otherwise mess up your fertility. If there are times in your marriage that you really do need to avoid getting pregnant, it would mean abstaining from sex during the wife’s time of fertility, which is usually around five to eight days every month. No doubt, this can be difficult, but you can do it, you really can! And for making these small sacrifices you would get to live your sexual lives and your marriages in full harmony with the divine plan.

Encouragement to Priests

To our priests, and also to our bishops, I would respectfully offer these thoughts. From what I’ve observed, some married couples will discover, on their own, without any guidance from you, the truth about contraception and Natural Family Planning and make changes. But I think you know, as well as I do, that without your leadership in this area not much is ever going to change. Your influence is enormous.

I gave a presentation once about NFP to some priests, and afterwards one of them pulled me aside and said, referring to the laity, “Steve, they’re just not buying it.” And I said to him, Father, respectfully, if they’re not buying it, it’s because you’re not buying it. I know this because I know priests who do buy it, who really do understand the gravity of contraception, what’s really at stake, and who are able and willing to talk to their people about it. And they have seen their people rise to the challenge and make the necessary changes.

These priests need not thunder down threats of hell. They just firmly and lovingly explain what human sexuality is about and what we do to ourselves and our relationship to God when we use contraception. Will some people still choose to contracept and get sterilized, no matter how kindly and lovingly you speak? Sure. It happens with other issues. Will some leave the Church? Maybe. But, respectfully, Father, that is not your problem. That’s between them and the Holy Spirit. Your job as the clergy is to preach to us the truth in love, the whole truth. Our job as the laity is to hear it. When the seed falls on good soil it will bear fruit a hundred-fold. But the seed has to be sown first.

If you want to address this topic in your parish, but you don’t yet feel equipped to deliver a full homily on it, consider using what Dr. Janet Smith calls “drive-by orthodoxy.” This is when you raise the sinfulness of contraception indirectly when you’re addressing another issue. So, for example, in a homily on the sacrament of confession you could include contraception and sterilization in a list of serious sins for which a person should go to confession before receiving communion. You could also bring in a priest to give a homily. An organization called NFP Outreach, nfpoutreach.org, has several priests on staff who travel to parishes around the country giving missions on this subject. They also have lots of other resources on their website to help you educate yourself and your parishioners about this issue.

Here are some other resources: One More Soul, at omsoul.com, has probably the largest variety of educational materials on NFP, contraception, sterilization and sterilization reversal. Ascension Press, which is at AscensionPress.com, also has a wide assortment of resources on Theology of the Body, including many resources by Christopher West.

Other things you can do. Bring the issue up in confession. I know people who would have never even thought about confessing contraception until a priest gently asked them about it in confession. Always cover the matter of birth control when you’re preparing a young couple for marriage. Give them materials to review and then go over it with them afterwards. Let them know not only that God expects them not to use contraception, but that couples who use NFP have much happier marriages on average and a divorce rate that’s a fraction of the general population.

You can also make your parish as baby friendly as possible. At the end of mass many priests will openly recognize those who are celebrating a birthday or an anniversary. You could also recognize anyone who has just had a new baby or a new grandbaby. There might be many Sundays when there would be no response to that question, but that’s part of the point, right? Then when there is a new one lifted up, and she is greeted by thundering applause, the point will really be made. And give special, positive recognition to couples who have made the heroic decision to have a number of children. Usually, if they get any recognition at all, it’s negative, like, “So are you stopping now?” Let that never be the case with us, and, Father, you please lead the way. It doesn’t mean you can’t be playful. I just would love to hear a priest say something like this at the end of mass, “How many is that for you now, Ed & Ruth? What’s your secret? What kind of water are you drinking?! That’s wonderful! God bless you from all of us.”

It’s also important, though, to go beyond mere words like these and to recognize the very real financial and emotional challenges that many couples face, challenges that might make it hard for them to welcome a new child, or that might make it easy for them to succumb to the lure of contraception or sterilization. Just like it is with our fight against abortion, our fight against contraception must be more than just trying to persuade people not to do something. We also need to respond pastorally by helping to create home and parish environments where it is easy and desirable for families to care for children and to welcome new children. So let’s identify the couples that need our help, and, yes, let’s pray for them, but let’s also ask them what they really need, and help them find it.

Final Words

In this talk I hope I’ve shown you that I love our Church. It is because of that love that I want us to be freed of what I can only describe as our bondage to contraception. For that to happen, we need to change a lot of hearts and minds and that will only come by a lot of prayer and a lot of work. But if we will turn to the Lord about this serious matter, with humble and contrite hearts, then he will renew us and heal us and set us free. New fountains of living water will well up within us and flow out from us. In time we will become what God made us to be, and what the culture of death around us so desperately needs us to be: uncompromised witnesses to the sanctity of human life and marital love.

Let me close now with these words of God, spoken through the prophet Isaiah, which give us a picture of what our Church, newly freed from her bondage, can become to the dry and withered land around us: “See, I am doing something new! Now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? In the desert I make a way, in the wasteland, rivers. For I put water in the desert and rivers in the wasteland for my chosen people to drink, the people whom I formed for myself, that they might announce my praise.” Isaiah 43:18-21.

Author: Fr. Mike Chapman     Date added: 03/11/2011, 06:24 PM    
reviews
Dear Mr. Patton: About a year ago I received a copy of your recording from our archdiocesan family life office. It was sent to all priests in the archdiocese by Cristi Welch, NFP coordinator. I didn’t pay much attention to it. Later, as I packed for a road trip of many miles I put it with other cds to listen to during those long driving hours. I believe it was June 2009. I listened. Something struck a cord. But you packed a lot in a short time. I had to listen to it again and again. Each time I heard something new and challenging. In the intervening period I have listened to your words eight times. As the months past other things surfaced. "The Theology of the Body" by JPII, "Good News about Sex and Marriage" by Christopher West, Billings Ovulation Method came to Oklahoma in November, 2009. Fr. Daniel McCaffrey took my place to preach about NFP and my parishioners heard teaching they had never heard before. They want to know more. I want to know more. I’ve been a parish priest for 41 years. I am a child of the sexual revolution. I accepted it all hook, line, and sinker. At age 68, I am awakening to something new.that’s been around since Genesis according to the Pope. Thanks to you I now ask at the end of Sunday Masses if there are any "new borns" here for the first time! It is an Hispanic community. There are a lot of babies! I need to review your recording again. My conversations have changed. Confessions find my asking questions about marital status, contraceptive use, and why. I keep Dr. Mary Martin’s business card in the confessional. She is a pro life gynecologist who is teaching the Billings Method to patients who will listen. She also helps couples get pregnant in a healthy manner. There is much more I could say but right now I wish to say "THANK YOU" for your recording. It is helping me get it right. Sue Eck of BOMA asked me if I ever thanked you. I was embarrassed to say no. I do thank you and even at this time in my life and ministry it is a good, fresh teaching of the truth before us always. Good work, Mr., Patton! Thank you! Sincerely yours in Christ, Fr. Mike Chapman Holy Angels Church 317 N. Blackwelder Oklahoma City, OK 73106 5213
 
Author: Mary Pat Van Epps, Director, Diocese of Memphis NFP Center     Date added: 02/25/2008, 04:57 PM    
reviews
His voice is so gentle and full of love and truth. He has humor in it, and he paints some vivid pictures to make his points. He has really put together some great arguments to discuss contraception and sterilization and their effect on the rise in abortions and divorces, and their effect on marriages and families and the Church. I was just blown away at how good I thought it was, so I wanted to be sure that all of you know about it. I have already ordered 100 of them, and I want to put them in my NFP packets. Please be sure to get a copy from One More Soul, and I hope you will want to distribute them too. Bishop Galeone gives an introduction, and as usual, I think he is totally right when he says listening to this CD may have a lasting impact on people’s lives. If we can get people to actually listen, their lives really might be changed and our Church might be changed and our world might be changed too. God bless Steve and Bishop Galeone!!!! Please do get a copy of this CD. It is a marvelous promotion of NFP and living the teachings of our Church. I really do love the CD, did I tell you that yet????? I am telling every body I know about it.
 
Author: Christopher West (renowned authority on John Paul II`s Theology of the Body)     Date added: 02/21/2008, 04:14 PM    
reviews
This well-researched, entertaining one-hour talk was directed to priests and laity who sincerely don’t understand what the big deal is about contraception. If you know such a person, please get him or her a copy. But even if you already see contraception as the major moral and cultural issue that it is, I think you will find this talk enlightening and inspiring. It was for me.

Teaching Fertility Appreciation class diagram (PowerPoint version)

Laffiche du pissenlit et de la rose

Rpandre la Culture de Mort semble aussi facile que de cultiver des pissenlits; alors que btir la Civilisation dAmour semble aussi difficile que de cultiver des roses de prix. Cependant, la manire facile napporte que des fruits amers et la route ardue aboutit laccomplissement de nos plus profonds dsirs. Avec ces images, nous “Une me de Plus ” (One More Soul) voulons dmontrer do vient cette Culture de Mort (lusage rpandue de la contraception) et les changements apporter afin de promouvoir une socit en sant (en pratiquant soi-mme la chastet et en encourageant les autres pratiquer la mme chose). La bonne nouvelle est que cette (norme) tche peut tre accomplie – des millions de jeunes rpondent avec ardeur au message de garder lamour sexuel pour le mariage, des milliers de couples se tournent contre la contraception vers la mthode naturelle pour la planification de la famille ou choisissent tout simplement de remettre leur fertilit entre les mains de Dieu (la planification supernaturelle de la famille). En sachant do vient le problme et en sachant quoi faire, nous pouvons mettre au dfit la prsente culture, ET GAGNER!

Study Guide for “God is Love”

Synopsis

Double quotes here are used to show text taken directly from the encyclical. Numbers in parentheses are section numbers of the encyclical.

God’s love for us and our response (love for God and others) sums up well the Christian faith and also the destiny of all humans. The word “love” can have many meanings. Love as “eros” is used to mean all the spontaneous human passions, emotions, and attractions that contribute to love. Love as “agape” refers to self-sacrificing love that desires only the good of the beloved. Man is made up of body and soul, so a full, truly human love requires a proper balance of both eros and agape. (1-8)

Revelation in the Bible adds depth to our understanding of love in several ways. The Old Testament presents God to us as loving His people with a marital, erotic love and with wholehearted devotion as well. Also in the Old Testament, man is portrayed as incomplete without a mate, without someone to love and be loved by. Man’s drive to fill this incompleteness, a drive we call “eros,” directs him toward a love which is definitive and unique, that is marriage, the very relationship which God has entered with His people. (9-11)

The New Testament introduces us to the person of Jesus, who embodies “love in its most radical form.” Jesus made His love accessible in an enduring way by instituting the Eucharist. The Eucharist unites participants to Jesus’ own love, and, by its social character, also commits them to love for all who participate and, according to Jesus’ teaching, for all who are in need. (12-15)

Through Jesus Himself, through the Eucharist, and through many other avenues, God makes His love visible to us. He then commands us to love others. His own love, which we have experienced, empowers us to obey this command. The members of the Church, due to God’s love present within them, are constantly pressed to care, like God, for the whole range of other people’s needs, including material needs. (16-18)

Love in action is the direct result of the life of God in the hearts of His people. Practical service to the needy has been a key aspect of Christian community life from the very beginning, and throughout Church history to the present. “The Church’s deepest nature is expressed in her threefold responsibility: of proclaiming the word of God (kerygma-martyria), celebrating the sacraments (leitourgia), and exercising the ministry of charity (diakonia). These duties presuppose each other and are inseparable. For the Church, charity is not a kind of welfare activity which could equally well be left to others, but is a part of her nature, an indispensable expression of her very being.” This service is directed first to members of the community, but includes all others as well. (19-25)

An objection has been raised, especially by Marxism, that works of charity damage the poor because they reduce their suffering, and the poor need the incentive of that suffering to rise up and bring about justice. This objection is misleading, because we cannot do good for future people by failing to do good for people who exist. (26, 31b)

In response to this challenge and to various crises, however, the Church has come to see charity in terms of reforming social structures as well as helping individuals. The Church faces a special challenge in this because, by her nature, she must not take on the activities of a secular state. The Church remains always in the role of an advisor, but an absolutely essential advisor. Through her teaching role, the Church enables the states to achieve true justice. (27-28a)

However, justice is not enough. There is always need for personal concern, driven by genuine compassion, and the state is incapable of supplying this need. The Church has an eminent role in filling this need. The Church’s lay faithful, however, have the direct responsibility of entering into and building a just society, and their political activities must be informed and moved by love. (28b-29)

Improved communication has made people much more aware of needs throughout the world, and many very effective state agencies and humanitarian organizations have developed which address these needs. The Church has developed many forms of fruitful collaboration with these initiatives, and with other Churches and Ecclesial Communities who work toward these same goals. (30)

This circumstance raises the need for the Church to clearly identify the special characteristics that identify organized Christian charitable activity. It is, “first of all the simple response to immediate needs and specific situations; feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, caring for and healing the sick, visiting those in prison, etc. . . . Yet, . . . human beings always need something more than technically proper care. They need humanity. They need heartfelt concern. . . . Consequently, in addition to their necessary professional training, these charity workers need a `formation of the heart’ . . .Christian charitable activity must [also] be independent of parties and ideologies. . . . the program of Jesusis `a heart which sees’. This heart sees where love is needed and acts accordingly. . . . Charity, furthermore, cannot be used as a means of engaging in . . . proselytism. Love is free; . . . A Christian knows when it is time to speak of God and when it is better to say nothing and to let love alone speak.” (31)

Bishops have the primary responsibility for seeing that the Church’s charitable responsibilities are fulfilled. All who participate in the Church’s charitable work are responsible for doing it out of the love of God and not from ideology, and they are responsible for doing the work in unity with their bishop. (32-34)

Humility is needed to allow the charitable worker to avoid contempt for those being helped and to avoid discouragement at the immensity of the task. Constant prayer is also needed, especially in hard times. (35-38)

“Faith, hope and charity go together. . . . Love is the light and in the end, the only light that can always illuminate a world grown dim and give us the courage needed to keep living and working. Love is possible, and we are able to practice it because we are created in the image of God.” (39)

The saints, especially the Mother of the Lord, give us great examples of living in love, and inspire us to follow their way. In addition, they still live to help us from their place with God. Mary in particular, given to us as our mother by Jesus from the Cross, constantly fulfills her role of mother toward us, constantly helping us to grow and persevere in love. (40-42)

“Mary, Virgin and Mother, shows us what love is and whence it draws its origin and its constantly renewed power.”

Study Questions

Numbers in [square brackets] are section numbers from the encyclical. These questions are not intended to exhaust the content of the encyclical, but to provide opportunity for reflection and discussion on its principal topics.

Introduction [1]

1) What difference does it make whether a person believes or doesn’t believe that God loves him or her?

2) What is the fundamental difference between Christianity and a set of ethical rules?

PART I: The Unity of Love in Creation and in Salvation History

A problem of language [2]

3) What problems do we run into when we use the word “love”?

“Eros” and “agape” _ difference and unity [3-8]

4) Explain “eros” and “agape.”

5) Does the Church stifle or promote love? How?

6) How does love take us beyond ourselves?

7) How do body and soul collaborate in love?

8) Describe some of the stages that love goes through in becoming complete and mature.

9) How does Jesus’ sacrifice represent, “the essence of love and indeed of human life itself”?

10) How can the love that arises from our human desires and the love that descends to us from God be unified?

The newness of biblical faith [9-11]

11) What are the unique characteristics of God’s love shown in Scripture?

12) What do the creation narratives in the Bible tell us about relationships between men and women?

13) How is marriage an image of God’s love?

Jesus Christ _ the incarnate love of God [12-15]

14) How is Jesus’ death an act of love?

15) How specifically does the Eucharist unite us to God?

16) How does the Eucharist move us into loving action for one another?

17) How does New Testament teaching broaden the believer’s obligation to love?

Love of God and love of neighbor [16-18]

18) What practical help does God give the believer for carrying out the duty to love others?

19) How is this help delivered?

20) How can this duty to love others be a joy?

PART II: Caritas: The Practice of Love by the Church as a “Community of Love”

The Church’s charitable activity as a manifestation of Trinitarian love [19]

21) What does, “If you see charity, you see the Trinity” mean?

Charity as a responsibility of the Church [20-25]

22) What is the difference between the command for us to love as individuals and the command to love as a community?

23) How has this communal love been realized in the Church over the years?

24) What are “kerygma-martyria,” “leitourgia,” and “diakonia,” and why are they inseparable?

Justice and charity [26-29]

25) Why have some people asserted that justice and charity are opposed to one another?

26) What is the difference between a person being just and a society being just?

27) What problems arise when political action is not enlightened by faith?

28) What role do Church members have in building a just society?

29) What role does the Church have in building a just society?

30) What does loving personal service give to people that government organized services, in general, cannot provide?

The multiple structures of charitable service in the social context of the present day [30]

31) How has global communication changed the character of charitable work?

The distinctiveness of the Church’s charitable activity [31]

32) What “formation of the heart” is needed by workers in Christian service organizations?

33) How does this change the way the work is done?

34) Should works of charity be used as a means of adding members to the Church? Why, or why not?

Those responsible for the Church’s charitable activity [32-39]

35) What is the bishop’s role in the work of charity?

36) What interior attitudes are needed by people who do this sort of work?

37) How does prayer help develop and sustain these attitudes?

38) Faced with the massive needs in the world, how can the charitable worker have hope?

Conclusion [40-42]

39) What saints have inspired you to greater care for people in need?

40) How can you draw practical strength for service from Mary, the Mother of God?

This study guide may be copied freely, without alteration, for non-commercial purposes.

Le mariage: Une communion de vie et d’amour

Le mariage: Une communion de vie et d’amour

Lettre pastorale de l’évêque Victor Galeone

Mes chers frères et soeurs en Dieu,

1. Présentement, il y a des assemblées législatives qui considèrent des projets de loi qui pourront redéfinir le mariage comme union équilibrée entre deux adultes peu importe leur sexe. Un projet de loi comme celui-ci mettrait les unions civiles de même sexe au même niveau que le mariage traditionnel entre l’homme et la femme. Le taux de divorce ne cesse de grimper et pour empirer la situation, un couple peut maintenant se procurer un divorce en ligne pour la modique somme de $50 á $300. Tous ces récents dé’veloppements sont des symptômes dun désordre plus grave et plus sérieux. Jusqu’à ce que la racine du désordre ne soit coupée, je crains que nous allons continuer de moissonner les fruits des mariages brisés et des habitudes sexuelles désordonnées tous les niveaux de la société. Quel est ce désordre? La contraception. Cette pratique est tellement répandue qu’elle implique 90% des couples mariés et cela après une période plus ou moins longue et à tous les niveaux de notre société. Puisqu’un des plus grands rôles de l’évêque est d’enseigner, je vous prie de regarder de nouveau ce que l’église affirme à ce sujet et pourquoi elle maintient sa position.

I. Le plan de Dieu à propos du mariage

2. La majorité du peuple croit que la contraception n’a pas d’importance ou du moins qu’elle n’a pas d’effet direct sur la société. C’est tellement le cas, qu’en cernant celle-ci comme désordre on a l’impression de commettre une grande exagération et le fait même d’en discuter la gravité nous expédie dans la catégorie des défenseurs de la Société de ceux qui disent que la terre n’est pas ronde. Il est pourtant vrai que la contraception est un sujet de la plus haute importance. Pour comprendre le fait qu’elle est une action mauvaise, il nous faut approfondir nos connaissances face aux intentions originales du Créateur lui même à propos du mariage. Au début du livre de la Genèse nous apprenons que Dieu a crée le mariage avec deux objectifs particuliers: pour répandre et exprimer la vie et l’amour.

3. Dans le livre de la genèse, il y a deux récits de la création. Le premier se trouve au début du livre, “Dieu créa l’homme à son image, à l’image de Dieu, il le créa; mâle et femelle il les créa” (Gen 1:27). Le prochain verset contient le premier commandement donné par Dieu: “Soyez féconds, multiplies-vous, remplissez la terre.” Alors il est évident que le premier but du mariage est la fécondité ou le don de la vie. Sans l’union d’amour entre l’homme et la femme, la vie humaine cesserait d’exister. Dans le deuxième récit de la création, lequel se trouve dans le deuxième chapitre de la Genèse, nous apprenons que Dieu a aussi pour but du mariage le don de l’amour. Je cite: “Il n’est pas bon que l’homme soit seul; je lui ferai une aide semblable à lui.” (Gen 2:18) Oui, il est vrai que Dieu veut qu’un homme et sa femme deviennent des amis intimes, qui peuvent se supporter lun lautre dans un amour mutuel et durable. Par conséquent, le mariage existe pour transmettre la vie et l’amour.

4. Les deux buts du mariage sont tellement interconnectés qu’ils sont inséparables. Premièrement, souvenons-nous que Jésus enlève toute possibilité de divorce en exprimant les mots suivants: “et les deux deviendront une seule chair. Ainsi, ils ne sont plus deux, mais ils sont une seule chair. Que l’homme donc ne sépare pas ce que Dieu a uni.” (Marc 10;8,9) En d’autres mots, les époux forment une entité organique, comme la tête et le coeur et non pas une entité mécanique, comme la clef dans la serrure. Comme la séparation de la tête ou du coeur dans un corps humain entraînerait la mort de l’organisme, il en est de même avec le divorce. Il faut noter que ce n’est pas le cas lors du retrait d’une clef de sa serrure. Étant donné que Dieu dans le mariage a combiné les deux aspects suivants, le don de l’amour et le don de la vie, il n’est pas plus possible de séparer par la contraception ce que Dieu a uni dans le mariage quil nous est possible de séparer par le divorce ce que Dieu a uni dans le mariage sans entraîner la mort de l’organisme.

II. Le langage corporel de l’amour matrimonial

5. Avant d’examiner ce que l’Église enseigne au sujet de la contraception, j’aimerais faire un à coté. Selon le pape Jean Paul II, Dieu aurait voulu que l’amour matrimonial soit exprimé par un langage spécial le langage corporel de l’acte sexuel. En réalité, la communication sexuelle utilise souvent les mêmes termes que la communication verbale: relations ou rapports (à l’origine: (un échange pour se connaître), concevoir (planifier, imaginer l’idée) etc. Avec cela en tête, posons-nous maintenant quelques questions:

  • Est-il normal pour une femme de se boucher les oreilles par des protèges tympans lorsque son mari lui parle?
  • Est-il normal pour un époux de se couvrir la bouche lorsqu’il parle à son épouse?

Ces exemples sont tellement anormaux qu’ils semblent absurdes. Si un tel comportement se veut anormal lors d’une communication verbale, comment peut-on tolérer une femme qui utilise un diaphragme ou la pilule, ou même un mari qui utilise un condom lors de la communication sexuelle?

6. Pire encore, comment peut-on justifier un mari, qui se fait couper les cordes vocales robustes par un chirurgien, ou une épouse qui se fait enlever les tympans lorsque ceux-ci sont en bonne santé? Comment ces exemples horribles de la communication verbale diffèrent-ils de la vasectomie ou de la ligature de trompes? Le chirurgien n’a t-il pas comme rôle d’enlever un organe seulement s’il est infecté ou s’il menace la vie humaine? Si les testicules ou les ovaires sont sains, comment peut-on justifier d’aller à l’encontre du but pour lequel ils ont été créés. Les bébés feraient-ils maintenant partie des maladies dont il nous faut nous immuniser par la stérilisation?

7. Oui, nous avons été créés à l’image et à la ressemblance de Dieu! Jésus nous a révélé la vie intérieure de Dieu comme étant trinitaire. Par conséquent, le langage corporel de l’acte matrimonial entre l’homme et la femme se doit de refléter la vie intérieure de Dieu, c’est à dire que l’amour mutuel entre le Père et le Fils est l’Esprit Saint. La bible est une histoire d’amour du début la fin. Elle débute par la Genèse avec le mariage d’Adam et Ève et se termine dans l’Apocalypse par le festin du mariage de lagneau- le mariage du Christ avec son Église. De toute éternité, le Seigneur désire ardemment se donner à nous en mariage. Personne n’a su l’illustrer plus clairement que le prophète Isaïe:

“Comme un jeune homme s’unit à une vierge,ainsi tes fils s’uniront à toi; et comme la fiancée fait la joie de son fianc, ainsi tu feras la joie de ton Dieu.” (Isaïe 62:5)

St Paul renforcit ce point lorsqu’il écrit: “Époux, aimez vos femmes, comme le Christ a aimé l’Église et s’est livré lui-même pour elle.” (Eph 5:25) De quelle façon le Christ s’est-il offert pour l’Église? Il s’est offert complètement, jusqu’à la derniére goutte de sang! Il n’a rien retenu. Si les époux doivent aimer leur épouse de la même manière que Jésus, ils ne peuvent retenir quoi que soit, même pas leur fertilité.

III. La contraception: Exprimer le mensonge avec notre corps

8. Puisque Dieu a créé le corps mâle ou femelle afin de transmettre la vie et l’amour, chaque fois que nous allons intentionnellement à l’encontre de ce double but, nous vivons un mensonge. Le langage corporel de l’acte matrimonial dit “je suis complètement à toi “mais la devise contraceptive dit” sauf pour ma fertilité”. Donc l’époux et l’épouse se mentent mutuellement avec leur corps. Pire encore, le couple usurpe le rôle de Dieu. En détournant la raison pour l’acte matrimonial, le couple dit à Dieu “Tu as créé nos corps pour t’aider à transmettre la vie à une âme immortelle, mais tu as fait une erreur, une erreur que nous allons corriger. Tu es peut-être le Dieu de nos vies, mais pas de notre fertilité.”

9. En 1968, le pape Paul VI a essentiellement dit la même chose lorsqu’il a écrit dans son encyclique Humanae Vitae: “Il y a un lien indissoluble entre les deux objectifs du mariage: le don de l’amour (union) et le don de la vie (procréation). Étant donné que Dieu a lui même établi cette doctrine, l’homme ne peut séparer l’union de la procréation lorsqu’il s’agit de l’acte conjugal.” (H.V. No. 12). Le pape Paul a continue à condamner toute forme de contraception comme allant à l’encontre de la dignité humaine. Une vague de protestations s’éleva autant chez les catholiques que chez les non-catholiques réprimandant “ce vieux célibataire du Vatican” pour son manque de connections avec les temps modernes et pour sa détermination à empêcher l’Église d’entrer pleinement dans ce temps nouveau. Mais le Saint Père ne faisait que réitérer l’enseignement intact tel qu’enseigné du début de l’Église, lequel était totalement soutenu par chaque dénomination chrétienne jusqu’à ce que l’église anglicane décide à la conférence de Lambeth en 1930 de rompre son allégeance à cette doctrine. En fait, ce que le Pape voulait exprimer est l’idée suivante: “Il n’est pas bon de séparer ce que Dieu a uni. Tenter d’agir ainsi mettrait l’homme à la place de Dieu ce qui aurait pour conséquence le déclenchement d’une série de maux indescriptibles dans la société.”

10. Plusieurs se sont moqués des prédictions du Pape Paul VI concernant les conséquences de l’utilisation montante de la contraception. Ses prédictions se résumaient ainsi: 1) l’augmentation de l’infidélité conjugale 2) une dégradation générale des moeurs et de la moralité, spécialement chez les jeunes. 3) les femmes seront considérées par leur époux comme des objets sexuels et 4) les gouvernements imposeront massivement des programmes visant au contrôle des naissances. Trente-cinq ans plus tard, la décadence des moeurs se résume ainsi: 1) le taux de divorce a plus que triplé 2) le nombre de maladies transmises sexuellement est passé de 6 à 50 3) La pornographie rapporte plus d’argent que tous les sports professionnels ainsi que toute l’industrie du spectacle mis ensemble 4) Les femmes sont stérilisées à leur insu dans les pays du tiers monde tandis que la Chine se donne une loi d’avant-garde consistant à ne permettre qu’un enfant par couple. Aujourd’hui, même les détracteurs de l’encyclique Humanae Vitae admettent que ses enseignements étaient prophétiques.

11. Plusieurs catholiques qui utilisent diverses méthodes contraceptives diront qu’ils ne commettent rien de mal puisqu’ils ne font qu’obéir aux directives de leur conscience. Aprés tout, l’Église n’enseigne-t–elle pas que nous devons suivre notre conscience pour déterminer si un comportement est bon ou mauvais? Oui, c’est vrai–à la condition que cette conscience soit proprement formée. Pour être encore plus spécifique, chaque conscience doit se conformer aux lois de la nature ainsi qu’aux dix commandements de Dieu, de la même façon que nous devons ajuster nos horloges à l’heure de Greenwich ou à l’heure du soleil. Si une horloge avance trop vite ou trop lentement, ça ne sera pas long que l’heure du coucher se fera à l’aube. Soutenir qu’il nous faut suivre notre conscience individuelle même si de façon claire, elle contredit la loi de Dieu, serait aussi pire que de dire que nous devons maintenant gérer notre vie d’après l’horloge, même si elle nous dit que la nuit est le jour.

IV. La planification naturelle de la famille: Dire la vérité avec notre corps.

12. Je crains que les couples qui utilisent la contraception se sentent durement critiqués par mes propos. En réalité, je ne désire pas vous blâmer pour tout ce qui est arrivé depuis les quatre dernières décennies. Ce n’était pas de votre faute. À quelques exceptions près, nous les évêques et les prêtres sommes à blâmer en raison de notre silence. La lettre suivante reçue d’un jeune père de famille le confirme bien: “Au début de notre mariage, Jan et moi avons utilisé la contraception artificielle, comme la plupart des autres couples d’ailleurs. Dans notre culture actuelle, nous sentions que c’était quelque chose de normal à faire. Nous savions que l’Église s’opposait à la contraception mais personne ne nous avait expliqué pourquoi. Certains prêtres nous ont même dit que c’était une décision personnelle; et que si nous sentions le besoin d’utiliser des méthodes de contraception, c’était acceptable. Les couples ont besoin de se faire expliquer les raisons pour lesquelles la contraception est mauvaise. Personne ne nous a jamais dit que la pilule anticonceptionnelle pouvait avorter un foetus nouvellement conçu sans que personne ne le sache. Personne ne nous a jamais dit que la contraception artificielle est un obstacle majeur dans le dévelopement d’un bon mariage. Nous ne savions pas non plus qu’il existe d’autres alternatives à la contraception qui sont approuvées par l’Église.”

13. Bien que le fait de pratiquer la contraception soit toujours mal, il existe des façons moralement acceptables pour distancer la naissance des enfants.–La planification familiale naturelle. Les couples peuvent régulariser les naissances en s’abstenant de l’acte conjugal durant les périodes fertiles du cycle de la femme. Les instructeurs de cette méthode enseignent aux couples comment identifier les jours de fertilit, lesquels peuvent durer de sept à dix jours par cycle. La planification familiale naturelle comporte beaucoup d’avantages: elle est scientifiquement efficace, elle ne comporte aucun effet secondaire et elle n’implique aucun autre coût que la dépense initial du matériel de base. Les études ont démontré, que si la méthode de planification familiale est bien suivie, elle peut être efficace à 99% lorsqu’il s’agit de distancer les grossesses. Celle-ci est aussi efficace que la Pilule et donne un meilleur résultat que toutes les autres méthodes de contraception dites protectrices. La meilleure partie de tout est que l’époux et l’épouse qui se plient à la volonté de Dieu, découvrent la beauté et le sens de leur fcondité, améliorent leur intimité et apprennent à approfondir leur amour mutuel.

14. Comment les méthodes de régulation des naissances diffèrent-elles des méthodes de contraception? Puisque leur objectif est le même, pourquoi les utiliser? Pour comprendre la différence, il faut réaliser que le fait d’avoir une bonne intention envers une situation, ne justifie pas nécessairement les moyens utilisés pour l’atteindre. Par exemple, deux couples veulent supporter leur famille. Le premier le fait dans un travail légitime tandis que l’autre le fait en vendant des drogues illégales. Supposons que deux personnes veulent perdre du poids. La première personne le fait en suivant un régime sévère tandis que l’autre le fait en se gaffant de nourriture pour ensuite se faire vomir. Retournons donc si vous voulez à l’analogie du langage corporel: Dire qu’il n’y a pas de différence entre la Planification Familiale Naturelle et la contraception serait l’équivalent de dire que de garder le silence est l’équivalent de raconter un mensonge. Le pape Paul VI a exprimé cette idée d’une manière plus poétique: “Lorsqu’on connaît le don de l’amour conjugal tout en respectant les lois de la conception (procréation), nous admettons à ne pas être les maîtres de la source de la vie mais bien les ministres du dessein établi par le Créateur.”

15. Que diriez-vous d’un scientifique qui découvre un remède pour le cancer et qui refuse de le partager? Étant donné le cancer spirituel qui attaque nos familles aujourd’hui, comment peut-on expliquer l’hésitation de nos évêques et de nos prêtres à partager et répandre la bonne nouvelle de l’enseignement complet de l’Église à propos de la vie et de l’amour conjugal? Regardons les statistiques: Aujourd’hui, au moins 30% des mariages se terminent en divorce compare à 3% chez ceux qui utilisent la Planification familiale naturelle. Depuis 1960, lorsque l’usage de la contraception s’est propagé dramatiquement, nous avons vu un parallèle avec l’accroissement du taux de divorce. Comment peut-on expliquer l’augmentation si dramatique des mariages brisés? Comme nous l’avons vu au paragraphe No.4, le fait de séparer ce que Dieu a uni dans l’acte conjugal par la contraception apporte certainement des répercussions chez ceux qu’Il a uni par le mariage–notamment le divorce. La solution est claire. Nous avons besoin de courage.

16. Afin de contrer le silence concernant les enseignements de l’Église à ce sujet, en tant qu’évêque, je demande que les directives suivantes soient mises en place dans notre diocèse:

  • Tous les ministres pastoraux devront étudier le message libérateur de la Théologie du Corps par Jean Paul II, afin de le partager avec les autres.
  • Les confesseurs devront se familiariser avec le “Vade Mecum” pour les confesseurs qui sont concernés par certains aspects de la moralit conjugale.
  • Lorsque c’est possible, les prêtres et les diacres devront présenter les enseignements de l’Église concernant le mariage dans leur homélie. Ils devront y inclure pourquoi la contraception est mauvaise.
  • L’enseignement des méthodes de planifications familiales naturelles devra faire partie des cours de préparation au mariage.
  • Les cours de religion au secondaire ainsi que les classes de RIAC devront inclure l’enseignement de l’Église à propose des comportements sexuels condamnés par celle-ci incluant la contraception.

17. En conclusion, j’aimerais citer un article de Roberta Roanne paru dans le ‘National Catholic Reporter.’ (31 oct. 1986) Elle commença par l’affirmation suivante: “Oui, j’étais vivante et féconde en 1968. J’avais 19 ans et je savais que la pilule était un cadeau du Ciel et qu’Humanae Vitae n’était qu’un tas de conneries. La pilule allait éliminer les grossesses chez les adolescents, les désaccords maritaux et tous les problèmes de population du globe.” Après avoir raconté son odyssée de mettre au monde trois enfants pendant qu’elle passait de la pilule au stérilet puis aux condoms elle raconte: “Finalement, mon mari et moi sommes arrives à un point tournant. Alors que nous vivions le temps le plus difficile de notre mariage, nous avons fait la rencontre de gens extraordinaires qui nous ont invites à donner notre vie complètement au Seigneur et de pratiquer la chasteté l’inétrieur de notre mariage. Cela nous a tellement surpris car nous croyions que ça voulait dire de sacrifier notre vie sexuelle. Ce n’est pas ce que ça veut dire. Ça veut dire de respecter l’union corporelle comme un acte sacré. Ça voulait aussi dire que tout en agissant en couple amoureux l’un de l’autre nous devions le faire en incluant une admiration respectueuse l’un envers l’autre et non agir comme des chats en chaleur. Pour mon mari et moi, ça voulait dire de pratiquer la planification familiale naturelle…et je ne peux pas vous donner d’illusions, c’était une discipline très difficile pour nous. La planification familiale naturelle et une attitude de chasteté dans le mariage nous ont ouvert tout un nouveau monde. Ce changement a créé des liens entre mon mari et moi qui sont tellement forts et tellement profonds que c’est difficile à expliquer. Parfois c’est difficile mais ça nous rapproche encore davantage. Nous nous portons l’un l’autre en estime respectueuse. Et lorsque nous nous accouplons, c’est chaque fois comme une lune de miel. C’est triste de réaliser que j’avais déjà plus de 35 ans lorsque j’ai réalisé que l’Église avait raison après tout. Quand je dis l’Église je ne veux pas dire l’Église qui glisse de Charlie Curran, mais bien la vraie Église, celle que nous rencontrons dans ‘l’association du couple à couple’ l’Église catholique. L’Église a raison face à la contraception (c’est nul), elle dit vrai face au mariage (c’est un sacrement), elle a raison face au bonheur humain (ça circule dans les veines–non, ça envahit tout l’être humain lorsqu’on cherche à suivre la volonté de Dieu). Cela nous a permis de vivre notre foi en profondeur. Cela a ouvert nos coeurs pour aimer vraiment.”

Roberta Roane est simplement en train de répéter ce que St Paul a dit il y a plusieurs siècles: “Ne savez-vous pas que votre corps est le temple du Saint Esprit qui est en vous et qui vous vient de Dieu et que vous ne vous appartenez pas? Quelqu’un a payé le prix de votre rachat. Glorifiez donc Dieu par votre corps.” (1 Cor 6:19,20)

+ Victor Galeone

Évêque de St Augustin

10 juillet 2003

My Beautiful Daughter Letter

My beautiful daughter,

I have created you in my image and likeness. 1 You are unique and wonderfully made. 2 I see you and accept you as you are. 3 My love for you is everlasting. 4 Though I know and see all, 5 I thirst for your love and long for you to spend time with Me. Tell me your hopes, fears, and longings. Let Me see you, let Me hear your voice, for your voice is sweet, and you are lovely. 6 Draw near to Me, and I will draw near to you. 7 Whenever you need me, I will rescue you 8 and bear your pain. 9 I will give you hope and encourage your heart. 10 Allow Me to seal your heart in my love. 11

You are beautiful, my daughter, and there is no blemish in you. 12 You are a lily among the thorns. 13 You are an enclosed garden, a fountain sealed. 14 This garden is enclosed for the sharing of amazing love and intimacy between you and your spouse. Do not stir up love before its own time. 15 Trust me with your love story, and allow Me to bring you the truly great love you desire. I made man and woman to be gifts for each other. 16 Prepare yourself now to be a gift to your spouse who will cherish, protect, and honor you. My beloved child, if you have made mistakes in the past or have been wounded by another, come to Me and let Me hold and heal you. 17 I am full of mercy and compassion. 18 Behold I make all things new. 19 I will give you all that I am and all that you need. 20

I have shaped your days, before they came to be. 21 Seek my face, 22 and I will lead you to the vocation for which I created you. If I call you to be my bride alone, rejoice and open your heart to let me be your perfect Bridegroom. I take nothing away, but give everything in return. Know that, in whichever vocation I have for you, I am to be your first Love, and only I can completely fulfill you. Delight in Me, and I will give you the desires of your heart. 23

I am the Potter and you are the clay. 24 Allow Me to mold you into the woman I created you to be. Look to Mary for a perfect example of womanhood. Strive to live out her virtues and allow her to lead you ever closer to my heart. May all you do reflect the dignity that I have given you. Dress in a way that honors your beauty. 25 The world is in desperate need of you to show it my love, and I have placed you in my Kingdom for such a time as this. 26

I will be your rock, your refuge, 27 and your firm foundation. 28 When you are afraid, doubtful, or impatient, cling to Me and my promise that my plan for you still has its time, presses on to fulfillment, and will not disappoint. 29 Keep your eyes and heart fixed on Me 30 so you will not miss the many gifts I have for you. I have crowned you with my love and compassion, 31 my beauty 32 and splendor. 33 I love you and will bless you with every spiritual blessing under the heavens. 34

With all my love,

God, your Father

Scripture References

1. Genesis 1:27

2. Psalm 139:14

3. Romans 15:7

4. Jeremiah 31:3

5. Psalm 139:1-4

6. Song of Songs 2:14

7. James 4:8

8. Psalm 91:14

9. Isaiah 53:4

10. 2 Thessalonians 2:16-17

11. Song of Songs 8:6

12. Song of Songs 4:7

13. Song of Songs 2:2

14. Song of Songs 4:12

15. Song of Songs 2:7

16. Genesis 2:18

17. Psalm 147:3

18. James 5:11

19. Revelation 21:5

20. 2 Peter 1:3

21. Psalm 139:16

22. Psalm 27:8, 1 Chronicles 16:11

23. Psalm 37:4

24. Isaiah 64:8

25. 1 Timothy 2:9

26. Esther 4:14

27. Psalm 71:3

28. Matthew 7:24

29. Habakkuk 2:3

30. Hebrews 12:2

31. Psalm 103:4

32. Isaiah 61:3

33. Isaiah 62:3

34. Ephesians 1:3

2007 One More Soul www.omsoul.com (800) 307-7685

My Son Letter

My son,

Before I formed you in the womb I knew you.1 I created you in my image and likeness.2 Out of nothing, I formed your body into a temple for the Holy Spirit,3 and I breathed life into you.4 I shaped your mind, your talents, your emotions, and I formed a plan for your life that fits you perfectly.5 You are my son whom I love; remain in my love.6

Behold I stand at the door and knock.7 Will you let Me in?8 Out of love I created you, and out of love I seek to be with you.9 I have called you by name,10 and given you the choice to love Me or to reject Me.11 I ask that you open your heart to Me and follow Me.12 What will separate you from Me?13 I have seen your past, and I know your future. Though you may stray from Me, I am rich in mercy and grace.14 Come back to Me with a humble heart, ask for forgiveness, and you will be forgiven.15

You have a deep fierce heart.16 I gave you this heart for the battles that you will fight.17 Like Me, you are a warrior.18 You will be attacked by temptation, loneliness, and your own desires. So put on my armor so that you will be able to stand firm against the evil one.19 I have clothed you with power from on High.20 Pick up the sword of prayer and the shield of faith. Call out to Me, and I will give you courage under trial, resistance under temptation, and patience to endure. With Me, you have what it takes.21

You have been called to guard22 and protect the purity that I have placed within you and around you. Guard the purity found within you, and only then can you guard the purity and beauty of women. Give your heart to Me; surrender to Me; allow Me to form your desires and transform your fears. At the perfect time I will bring you a woman for whom you can give your whole life, or you will join with Me in total love for my Bride, the Church. Your bride will be a gift for you.23 Prepare now to fight for her and defend her, to love her and encourage her in holiness. Let all you do reflect the dignity that I have given to you, and honor those around you. You are called to lay down your life as I have laid down my life for you.24 There is no greater love than this that a man should lay down his life for another.25 It is in losing your life that you will gain it.26 Will you lay down your life for Me?

I love you.27 Trust in me.28 Trust that the plan I have for you will bring you the peace the world cannot give.29 Take delight in my plan for you, and I will grant you your hearts desires,30 and you will become the man I created you to be. Walk with Me, as I walk with you. Endure to the end, and we shall dwell together in my Kingdom forever.31

With all my love,

God, your Father

Scripture References

1. Psalm 139:13

2. Genesis 1:27

3. 1 Corinthians 6:19-20

4. Genesis 2:7

5. Jeremiah 29:11

6. John 15:9

7. Revelations 3:20

8. Luke 11:9

9. Luke 19:10

10. Isaiah 62:2

11. John 6:67-68

12. Matthew 19:21

13. Romans 8:35

14. Ephesians 2:18

15. Luke 5:20, Matthew 9:2, 26:28

16. Proverbs 20:5

17. 1 Peter 5:8

18. Exodus 5:3

19. Ephesians 6:1017

20. Luke 24:49

21. 1 Corinthians 10:13

22. Genesis 2:15

23. Genesis 2:18

24. Ephesians 5:25

25. John 15:13

26. Matthew 10:39

27. John 3:16, 15:9

28. John 14:1

29. John 14:27

30. Psalm 37:4

31. Matthew 24:13

2007 One More Soul www.omsoul.com (800) 307-7685

The Pill vs. NFP

A Catholic Physician’s Story

As a family physician, I was trained that the only way to plan families effectively was to use artificial contraceptives, IUD’s or sterilization. Although these artificial methods had side effects, I was taught in medical school that they were worth the risk. Moral consequences were not to be considered since our faith life had nothing to do with our bodies, right? I was constantly reminded that one’s bag of morals and life ethic should be left at the doorway to medical education. I was there to serve the desires of my patients whether they wanted birth control pills or tubal ligations. My personal feelings, regardless of Church teaching had nothing to do with my practice of medicine.

To be honest, I never knew what the Church really taught on this subject. Even if I had known, I thought it could not impact the way I practiced medicine.

At the beginning of our marriage, my wife and I used oral contraceptives, but after our first child, we switched to the Sympto-Thermal Method of Natural Family Planning. This decision was not really based on faith, but due to our concerns for the side effects of the “pill” and the fact that my wife never took it consistently anyway.

One day at the end of a rotation during family practice residency, one of my best friends asked me a question that shook me to the roots of my being. “Jose” he asked, “I know you are a good doctor, but are you a Catholic doctor?”

That simple question threw me into a tailspin. I, like so many other Catholics, thought that going to church on Sunday and going to Confession when you did something “really bad,” was all that one needed to be a good Catholic. What I found out was that I could not have been further from the truth.

It took me a while to figure it out. I sought the counsel of many. Most could not appreciate the struggle I was in and why I wrestled with these issues, especially at this point in my life. I was made to feel I would be abandoning my patients and that I would be denying them a service I had provided in the past. After all, what would my patients say to me if I told them that I had stopped prescribing contraceptives, could no longer perform vasectomies or tubal ligations, just because of my Church’s teaching?

Through it all, my wife gave me the inner strength to know that I was on the right path. As I grew in my Catholic faith I realized God’s plan for me, my family and the patients I cared for, had to do with not only what I was doing, but also the way I was doing it. My wife was instrumental in helping me pick up the pieces. In many ways, she showed me I had not entered into a profession called medicine, but rather I had entered into a vocation-a way of life-one that was very personal. She showed me that my faith and values at home should and could impact my practice of medicine.

Since that soul searching, I have become a strong advocate for Natural Family Planning and the Culture of Life. To my surprise (and the surprise of my colleagues) my patients did not feel abandoned. Some were curious as to why I had made this decision, and said they admired me for standing up for my beliefs.

I find myself each day trying to be more faithful to the God who loves and forgives me. Each day, regardless of the ‘hat’ I wear, I am able to love a little more and forgive a little more. I have learned there are issues which cannot be compromised. For me, being a Catholic physician is all I know because my faith has pierced my heart and my soul.

I tell you my story not out of pride, but rather as a way to encourage you in your own journey of faith. As a Catholic, a husband, and a physician, I hope to bring to your attention three things:

1. The effects of artificial contraception on the mind, body and soul.

2. The Church’s gift of Natural Family Planning and its effectiveness.

3. The reaffirmation of God’s plan for you in your married or single life through the understanding of your bodily cycles.

Humanae Vitae

In my renewal of the Catholic Faith, especially with regard to my medical practice, I learned that God indeed has a plan for each of us: A plan transmitted through His Church, taught through its Magisterium, and presented (among other ways) in the form of an encyclical called Humanae Vitae. Written in 1968, this document outlines the Church’s teaching on conjugal relationships and responsible parenthood. It taught that, while artificial contraception in any form is morally wrong at all times and for any reason, natural fertility regulation may be used whenever there is a serious need to avoid pregnancy. This reason could be a medical, psychological, social or economic, temporary or permanent one.

Humanae Vitae not only detailed the evil of contraception, but also stressed the serious consequences that would befall society if we fell away from the Church’s teaching. As anyone can see, we have fallen away, with estimates of contraceptive use among Catholics and non-Catholics alike as high as 90 percent. The consequences have been devastating in terms of skyrocketing marital infidelity and divorce.

Pope Paul VI’s predictions that an increase in contraceptive use would lead to men regarding women as objects of desire and would allow governments to wield technological and economic power in population-reduction programs have been overwhelmingly fulfilled.

The “Pill” vs. NFP

How It Works

The modern-day birth control pill is made up of two types of artificial steroids that mimic the effects of naturally occurring hormones, estrogen and progesterone. These artificial hormones are formulated to act singularly or in combination, and may be taken by mouth, injected or placed beneath one’s skin. Their effectiveness relies on three mechanisms.

1. Suppression of ovulation.

2. Impeding migration of sperm, and

3. Inhibiting implantation of the embryo in the uterus

The pill is very effective if used as directed. It can prevent or terminate (more on that later) pregnancy 98-99 percent of the time.

So then, if it is so effective, why would I as a physician not prescribe it? Because I believe, as a Catholic Physician, I am called to address not just the patient’s body, but the personal unity of body, mind and soul.

The Body

The effects of artificial contraception can be devastating, depending on a woman’s genetic make-up, weight, length of time and type of contraceptive taken. Modern-day contraceptives have potent cardiovascular effects. A woman’s chances of suffering a heart attack, a stroke, or blood clots are increased significantly, even at the lowered dosages in use today as opposed to higher dosages given when the pill first came on the market over 40 years ago.

Contraceptives also have a potent carcinogenic effect. They raise a woman’s chances of suffering cervical cancer, liver tumors and breast cancer. Contraceptives are linked to increased incidence of migraine headaches, vaginal infections, gallbladder disease, changes in vision and a host of other clinical problems, including death.

Perhaps most sadly, all modern artificial contraceptives can cause early (chemical) abortions. They do this by making the lining of the womb hostile to the implantation and growth of the embryo. Thus, if ovulation occurs despite the contraceptive’s first mechanism (and this happens all too frequently), and the egg is fertilized, becoming a new human being, the contraceptive’s third mechanism acts to deny the embryo the home and nutrition it should receive in its mother’s womb. Therefore, an early abortion can occur during any given cycle and the woman would never know it because the embryo dies and is expelled from the body.

Also, due to a contraceptive’s potency, the side effects will likely last much longer than their time in use, and may cause some women to be permanently infertile.

The Mind

The use of artificial contraception can lead to depression, even after one shot (in the case of Depo-Provera), worsen premenstrual syndrome, and suppress a woman’s sexual drive.

The Soul

The Catholic Church still teaches that deliberate sterilization (temporary or permanent) is a gravely immoral form of birth control. Man and woman were made to be co-creators with God in the making of new human life. Therefore, when one uses contraception it is wrong, not only because it violates the procreative meaning of the sexual act, but also because it violates the unitive act as well. The sexual act is meant by God to be ‘total self-giving’ and when marriage partners withhold their fertility from their spouses, they are not totally giving themselves. The Catholic Church’s challenge to us throughout the centuries has been not to separate the lovemaking and life creating aspects of the sexual act within marriage.

A Healthy Alternative

Natural Family Planning or NFP (of which there are several models, such as the Billings Ovulation Method, the Sympto-Thermal Method or the Creighton Model) is a truly modern and effective way to plan one’s family, understand the miraculous function of the human body, and better participate in God’s plan for married couples and their fertility.

These methods are all based on the fact that a woman will undergo cyclical changes in her fertility evidenced by certain bodily changes. These changes include differences in cervical mucus, body temperature and others. These signs of fertility and infertility are easy to observe and interpret. The couple can then use these signs of fertile and infertile days to either achieve or avoid a pregnancy.

These methods are highly effective. When learned and used correctly and conscientiously, Natural Family Planning is effective in avoiding pregnancy 99.5* percent of the time. Research has documented its effectiveness in achieving a pregnancy in the first cycle of use at 76 percent.

Why isn’t every married couple learning and using NFP? Good question. Perhaps it is because too many people simply don’t know the truth about it. NFP is not a repackaged version of the old calendar-based “rhythm method”-a misconception even doctors have today. Unfortunately, medical training in this area, in most cases, is often nonexistent or inadequate.

In addition to the medical benefits of using NFP, other benefits include the enhancement of the married couple’s sexuality, and placing responsibility for fertility on the man and the woman equally. This leads to a more loving cooperation in matters of sexuality and family planning. By learning NFP, the married couple comes to a deeper understanding of the physical aspect of sexuality and how it relates to the spiritual, mental and emotional aspects of life as well.

Finally, Natural Family Planning is a versatile method that can be used in all stages of reproductive life. The observations a woman makes as a user of NFP can be extremely helpful when seeking the assistance of a physician, should a reproductive problem arise, in the transition from one stage of life to another. These observations can help the physician diagnose and treat such problems as PMS, ovarian cysts, recurrent miscarriages and infertility. Natural Family Planning is easy to learn, inexpensive, and quickly becomes second nature to the married couples who use it. But most importantly, NFP brings together the physical, spiritual and emotional aspects of a couple’s fertility to enrich marriages by following God’s teachings and plan for their married lives

* J. Reprod. Med. 1998; 43:495-502

Dr. Jose Fernandez is a family practice physician in Kissimmee, Florida. (407) 847-9090

 

For more information on Natural Family Planning contact:

Billings Ovulation Method Assn (USA)

(651) 699-8139    www.Boma-usa.org

The Couple to Couple League

(800) 745-8252    www.ccli.org

Family of the Americas Foundation

(800) 443-3395    www.familyplanning.net

FertilityCare Centers of America

(402) 390-6600, ext. 117     www.fertilitycare.org

Marquette University Institute for NFP

(414) 288-3854   www.mu.edu/nursing/NFP

Natural Family Planning International

(740) 459-9663   www.nfpandmore.org

Northwest Family Services

(503) 215-6377    www.nwfs.org/couples-a-singles/natural-family-planning.html

United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

(202) 541-3070     www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/marriage-and-family/natural-family-planning/

One More Soul

(800) 307-7685    www.onemoresoul.com

Dandelion and Rose Poster

Download a pdf version of this poster by clicking on the pdf link above

Spreading the Culture of Death seems to be as easy as growing dandelions, while building the Civilization of Love seems to be as tough as growing prize roses. Going the easy way, however, yields very bitter fruit, and taking the more challenging path brings fulfillment of all our best heart’s desires. With these pictures, we at One More Soul are trying to show where the Culture of Death comes from (widespread contraceptive use) and what it will take to promote a healthy society (training ourselves and others in living by chastity). The good news is that this (huge) task is doable–millions of youth are responding eagerly to the message of keeping sexual love for marriage and thousands of couples have turned from contraception to Natural Family Planning or have simply chosen to put their fertility in God’s hands (SuperNatural Family Planning). Knowing where the problem is and what to do about it, we can challenge the current culture, AND WIN!

Teaching Fertility Appreciation class diagram (pdf version)

Annunciation Flyer

This is the flyer One More Soul is using to promote celebration of the Annunciation, which we think of as the ultimate pro-life celebration. We welcome you to look this over and use it to start your own movement of life affirming worship where you are. May the Lord Jesus, whose Incarnation made all human life sacred, convict all hearts of life’s true value.

Medical Residency Review Spreadsheet

This spreadsheet contains comments about various residency programs concerning their friendliness or unfriendliness to medical training in which Natural Family Planning is the exclusive means for fertility management. This is a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet and you will need that program or another spreadsheet program to open it

If you wish to add comments to the spreadsheet or modify comments you already placed there, please include your comments/changes in an e-mail to OMSoul@OMSoul.com and start the subject line with “Medical Residency comments”.>.

Many thanks to all who have participated in this project.

Divorce Rate Graph and History Table

When use of the contraceptive pill saturated US society during the years 1960 through 1980, there was an increase in the US divorce rate that followed the increase in pill use with remarkable conformity. Various social scientists have concluded that this is no coincidence. This document includes a graph of the US divorce rate from 1880 to 2002 and a table of historical events of these times that shed some light on the story the graph tells.

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Read a commentary in Steve Koob’s Blog, Steve is our director and founder.

Homilies from Called to Give Life

Homilies from Called to Give Life

Here are sixteen homilies dealing with morality for married couples and with contraception in particular. They are offered here for the use of priests and others who might find them useful. The printable version of the homilies (see above) can be opened in Microsoft Word and saved or edited from there. For those who do not have Word, the html text on this page can be copied and pasted into any word processor.

Additional homilies can be found on the God’s Plan For Life website on the homily page. That site also offers other important pro-life resources.

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Getting Beyond “I Can’t”

We travel the entire United States of America proclaiming the Gospel of Life as it pertains to God’s plan for spousal love. This plan calls for a total gift of self to one’s spouse and the acceptance of the spouse’s total gift of self in return. Contraception (the choice to make one or more acts of sexual union infertile) makes such an unconditional gift impossible. Natural Family Planning (NFP) fosters and supports this gift.

Everywhere we go we find married couples asking, “Why won’t our priests address the issue of contraception and sterilization from the pulpit?” Having heard these frustrated questions many times, we think it is time to list the top eight excuses given by priests and our answers to them.

Common objections to promoting the Church’s teachings on contraception and married sexuality:

1) “Talking about contraception and sterilization would scandalize the children in the congregation, so I can’t deal with them at the pulpit.”

But Jesus didn’t have such reservations. When he was addressing large crowds he talked about sexual sins. Recall the Sermon on the Mount (Mt 5:27). Children are not offended by a teaching on God’s plan for spousal love. Rather, they are the victims of silence at the pulpit. People get hurt when there is confusion about right and wrong, and there is a great confusion today about the moral evil of contraception and sterilization. Young children do not understand the language we use when discussing capital punishment, euthanasia, or experimentation on human embryos. They take from a homily what they need. If they have questions, they can ask their parents for an explanation suited to their level of comprehension.

Refusing to address major moral issues at the pulpit, in effect, makes infants of the entire congregation, who often do not know that contraception and sterilization are wrong, and do not understand why they are wrong. As a result, we have many adults who are seriously immature in the development of their consciences.

2) “It’s okay to talk about these matters in RCIA and marriage preparation classes, and to provide pamphlets on these issues in the vestibule, but not at the pulpit.”

This approach misses the point. “These times call for people who will look the truth in the eye and call things by their proper names, without yielding to convenient compromise or to the temptation of self-deception” (Evangelium Vitae 57). Important issues cannot be censored from the pulpit. If a message does not happen at the pulpit, it doesn’t happen. There is great ignorance among Catholics about the morality of contraception and sterilization. Very few understand why these choices and acts are immoral. Many people think that if a topic is not treated at the pulpit, where it is heard by all, then it is not important and can be ignored. RCIA classes, marriage prep classes, and the pamphlet rack are good ways to supplement teaching from the pulpit, but they can never replace it. Teachers of these classes may not have been motivated to address contentious issues; encouragement by the pastor from the pulpit will empower them.

3) “These issues are contentious. They will produce strife and discord.”

It may seem attractive to avoid contentious issues when preaching, but this means that the priest, as a moral guide, cannot provide moral guidance where it is most needed. If people already understand an issue, like slavery for example, and do not dispute it, then there is no need to address it from the pulpit. However, if many people are violating the 5th and 6th Commandments, but do not know it, and can’t understand why these acts are sinful, then we priests must address these issues. Not to address them is reprehensible negligence on our part. We must inform conscience by proposing moral truth. The approach we use is that of Jesus: we speak the truth in charity, and with conviction and forthrightness. If we allow the Gospel to be silenced because we refuse to accept criticism from those who reject Gospel values, then we fail in our priesthood. It is not our Gospel. We are not at liberty to decide what parts of the Gospel are too hard to accept and can be ignored. Contraception and sterilization are serious matters, and they are causing much harm to our marriages, our families and our young people. Here we need to learn from Jesus, who came not just to establish peace, but sometimes also division. (Lk. 12:51)

4) “Collections will go down.”

The guiding principle must be that we do not surrender the pulpit to the dollar sign. “May your money perish with you…” (Acts 8:20) The collection could go down temporarily. But beyond that, we members of the clergy must anticipate the criteria our Lord will use to evaluate our pastoral care of the flock entrusted to our care. The main criterion will not be “Did you get all the bills paid and have a smooth running operation?” Rather, it will be, “Did you guide my people into a knowledge of my ways, my plan for creation and salvation, my Gospel, and into a love for the splendor of the truth?” Paying bills is not high on the list of pastoral success criteria. The qualities of a priest are not those of a CEO. Bringing people to the person, heart, and mind of the Lord is what is essential. God does not demand success from us in terms of our people’s response to good moral teaching. He does demand that we faithfully propose and teach the values that comport well with our dignity as bodied persons. God’s plan for human sexuality, marriage, and family is an essential part of the Gospel of Life in these times.

Priests who have consistently preached and taught the values of Humanae Vitae, Familiaris Consortio and Evangelium Vitae will tell you that their collections have not collapsed. Instead, the parish has learned the meaning of a spirit of generosity, and that is reflected in parish contributions as well as volunteer service to various parish organizations. Couples who practice NFP are very often the most generous donors and volunteers in the parish. Couples open to life are also open to giving their children to the priesthood and religious life. If they are caught up in the selfish contraceptive culture, then they will likely not be generous with God by encouraging their sons and daughters to be responsive to God’s call.

5) “People will go to another church because they don’t want to hear this.”

Sad to say, not every parish is on the same page when dealing with matters of sexuality, marriage and the family. Some parishes simply embrace only whatever is comfortable or politically correct. They allow dissenting elements within the parish to determine what parts of the Gospel can be proclaimed there. This, in turn, means that forces within the secular society exert an influence over some parishioners, who bring that to bear upon the entire parish. Instead of being counter-cultural, such a parish becomes a mere reflection of the secular culture that has such a corrosive effect on faith and family life.

But this is the land of the free and the home of the brave. What is there to prevent a clergyman from proclaiming God’s beautiful plan for human love, life, marriage and family? We are not to worry about those who may reject the truth and leave. Our Lord did not change his teaching about the Eucharist when many in His audience found this a hard saying and walked away. He respected their freedom and let them walk. But they also had to respect His freedom and His responsibility to proclaim the message the Father gave Him, which is for the life of the world. If all the clergy were clearly teaching good moral principles, then our people would not go shopping for the preacher who suits their ears.

6) “When the bishop talks about it, I’ll begin to talk about it.”

One can understand why a priest or deacon would hesitate to take the initiative in teaching values that have been largely ignored since 1968. We have a right to expect our spiritual fathers, the bishops, to lead by their example in addressing these serious matters. This is their duty as moral guides and spiritual leaders of dioceses. They are to be the good shepherds for their dioceses. But what happens if they do not speak out? Is the pastor justified in keeping silent? When we priests die, the Lord will not ask you, “What did the bishop do?” He will ask, “What did you do? You are the pastor of your people.”

Our priesthood ultimately comes from the Lord. Our obligations are to the Lord. God holds us accountable for what we do, for our choices and actions, and for taking responsibility for ourselves and our people. True leadership means that we address the real needs of our times, regardless of what others are doing or not doing.

Reprehensible negligence does not justify additional reprehensible negligence. Perhaps what needs to be done in a diocese where the bishop chooses not to address these issues is to have a group of the clergy give him their assurance that they will support his giving a public teaching. Perhaps the bishop is concerned that if he takes any initiative in these matters, then his clergy will publicly refuse to comply, as happened when Humanae Vitae was first promulgated. Everyone admires leadership, but where and when will leadership arise? We think that the good Lord expects all of us to be spiritual and moral leaders.

7) “I’m not prepared to speak about these issues because I wasn’t trained in the seminary for this.”

We find that many clergy are woefully unprepared to address these issues. They have not kept up with their reading and personal ongoing formation in the areas of human sexuality, chastity, and marriage. But this is not an acceptable excuse. What other profession would be excused from professional ongoing formation—keeping abreast of contemporary developments in their profession? If medical doctors did not keep themselves updated, they would lose their license to practice medicine. Should it be any different for the clergy?

There are excellent materials available today to help us understand the beauty of God’s plan for human love, and especially marital love. There are great resources for explaining Pope John Paul II’s Theology of the Body; there is Christian Personalism (e.g., Love and Responsibility and The Acting Person). There are the writings of reliable moral theologians. There are the writings, CDs, and videotapes of Prof. Janet Smith. There are the testimonies of thousands of married couples who have discovered the blessings that these values have brought into their marriages and families. Two readily available sources for materials on Natural Family Planning and the harms of contraception and sterilization are One More Soul (www.onemoresoul.com) and the Couple to Couple League International (www.ccli.org). CCL provides three-day clergy conferences twice a year in Covington, Kentucky. NFP Outreach (www.nfpoutreach.org) helps design and conduct clergy conferences for entire dioceses on the topic of “How to Present the Values of NFP from the Pulpit.” There are many good Catholic doctors who are willing to bring their expertise to these conferences. And there are hundreds of married couples who are willing to testify about the benefits NFP has brought to their marriages. One More Soul keeps a Directory of NFP-Only Physicians and NFP Teachers in nearly every part of the country who can serve in this way (see www.onemoresoul.com/nfp-directory).

Ignorance has never been a good excuse for justifying neglect. And it will not wash today in areas that are so vital to good marriages and happy families.

8) “The recent clergy sex scandals make it impossible for me to talk about sex today. I have no credibility.”

Discrediting Catholicism, and especially our clergy, is very much the intent of some forces in the secular society, which want to muzzle the pulpits on matters of sexual morality. They don’t want us to teach about God’s plan for human sexuality. But there is no such thing as a moral vacuum. If good morality is not being taught, then other varieties of sexual ideology will be taught. We see it today in the push for acceptance of same-sex marriages, in safe sex for our young people, and in trivializing committed relationships.

The clergy sex scandals call for greater (not less) emphasis on sexual morality. If there had been greater clarity on these matters from the pulpit in the past, then everyone would know the standards (which apply to everyone), and we would have been spared much grief. Our young people would not have been victimized; dioceses would not be in danger of bankruptcy; respect for the clergy would not be at an all-time low; and bishops would not be faulted for their lack of oversight. Scandals erupt when there is no clarity of moral teaching coming from the pulpit. Our times call for more moral teaching from the pulpit, not less.

Both the clergy and the laity have to clean up their act. The abuse of young people by 4% of the clergy (see www.catholicnews.com/data/abuse/abuse04.htm) is indeed a great scandal. The abuse of sexuality by the 80% of Catholic couples who are using birth control or are sterilized is also a great scandal. Before one group can throw stones at the other, they must first clean up their act. God is chastising his people because of violations against His sexual code. He chastises the clergy by not providing vocations to religious life and the priesthood. He chastises the laity by weak marriages, a 40%+ divorce rate, lots of unhappiness, and children who bear the brunt of their parent’s selfishness. So, both the clergy and the laity need to hold each other accountable. We are not beating up on each other; rather, we are helping one another follow God’s life-giving way.

The responsibility of clergy and religious is to hand on the deposit of the Faith as preached by the Apostles, which includes teaching moral truths. We must explain why God’s plan is so good for us and so deserving of our efforts to comply with it. The responsibility of the laity is to integrate good moral principles into their lives and actions. Then they are to take these values out into the broader society and help shape the culture with these Gospel values as part of the new evangelization.

In Conclusion

Perhaps it could be said that contraception also applies to us priests today. We speak about the love-giving dimensions of the Gospel, but not its life-giving dimensions. We know, however, that love without life is sterile. And we know that real love is demonstrated by our willingness to be totally “for” our people, which may involve suffering occasional rejection and criticism. The Gospel is one of life, as well as of love. Because He loves us, Jesus was willing to lay down his life for us so that we could have life to the full. Are not we priests, then, to foster life and greater life among our people, in an age which is characterized as a culture of death? We should not be contracepting the Gospel of its life-giving dimension.

We priests may think it will be difficult for our people to give up contraception and adopt pure spousal love. But will it not also be difficult for us to give up our contraceptive approach to the Gospel? With God’s grace, and with an openness to conversion, all of this is possible.

It has been said that the greatest lies are told in silence. There are no reasons today that can justify continued silence at the pulpit about matters of sexual morality, especially in the areas of contraception and sterilization. Begin your search for good reading and reflection materials. Integrate these values into your own spirituality, and then you will develop your own way to articulate them in your preaching, teaching, and counseling.

Addendum

What follows is a set of questions and answers that Archbishop Charles Chaput published in his diocesan newspaper after he issued his pastoral letter Of Human Life in 1998. They provide some excellent material for reflection, and you might even consider using some of Archbishop Chaput’s quotes from the pulpit.

1. Isn’t a couple’s method of family planning a matter of personal conscience?

Yes it is. Catholics, like all people, are always obligated to follow their consciences—on birth control and every other matter. But that’s not where the problem lies. The problem lies in the formation of one’s conscience. A conscientious person seeks to do good and avoid evil. Seeing the difference between good and evil, though, can sometimes be difficult. As Pope John Paul II has said, the basic moral law is written in the human heart because we’re created in the image and likeness of God. But we bear the wounds of original sin, which garbles the message and dims our ability to judge and act according to truth.

Truth is objective. In other words, it’s real, is independent of us, and exists whether we like it or not. Therefore, conscience can’t invent right and wrong. Rather, conscience is called to discover the truth of right and wrong, and then to submit personal judgments to the truth once it is found. Church teaching on the regulation of births, like all her moral teachings, is a sure guide for forming our consciences according to the truth. For we have the certainty of faith, as Vatican II reminds us, that the teachings of the Church on matters of faith and morals are “not the mere word of men, but truly the word of God.” (Lumen Gentium n. 12)

Too often, we use “conscience” as a synonym for private preference, a kind of pious alibi for doing what we want or taking the easy road. We only end up hurting others and ourselves.

2. I still don’t see the big difference between a couple using “artificial” birth control and a couple using “natural” family planning. Don’t both couples have the same intention, and isn’t this what determines morality?

It’s hard to see the difference when the emphasis is placed on “artificial” versus “natural” methods. People rightly point out that many things we use are artificial but not immoral. So it’s important to realize that the Church doesn’t oppose artificial birth control because it’s artificial. Rather, what the Church opposes is any method of birth control which is contraceptive, whether artificial devices, pills, etc., are used or not.

Contraception is the choice, by any means, to sterilize a given act of intercourse. In other words, a contracepting couple chooses to engage in intercourse and, knowing that it may result in a new life, they intentionally and willfully suppress their fertility. Herein lies a key distinction: Natural family planning (NFP) is in no way contraceptive. The choice to abstain from a fertile act of intercourse is completely different from the willful choice to sterilize a fertile act of intercourse. NFP simply accepts from God’s hand the natural cycle of infertility that He has built into the nature of woman.

Regarding the issue of intention: Yes, both couples may have the same end in mind—to avoid pregnancy. But the means to achieve their common goal are not at all alike. Take, for example, two students, each of whom intends to excel in school. Obviously that’s a very good intention. With the same goal in mind, one studies diligently. The other cheats on every test. The point is, the end doesn’t justify the means—in getting an education, in regulating births, or in anything else.

3. I’m a priest. If I preach about what’s wrong with contraception, I’ll lose people.

Let me turn that around: If priests don’t preach the Church’s message about contraception, heaven loses people. Don’t be afraid. When Jesus preached the truth, He lost people. But, little by little, He gained even more people. Take courage in the Lord. It shouldn’t surprise us that people find this teaching hard to accept. Every Gospel-based life has things which are hard to accept. Should we stop teaching the truth because it’s difficult? Of course not. We have the joy and the responsibility before God to preach the truth lovingly in season and out of season.

The Church won’t be renewed without a renewal of family life. And the family can’t be renewed without a return to the truths taught in Humanae Vitae. Ignoring this issue can’t be an option: In the long run, its cost is too high. Therefore, we should make every effort to better understand the importance of Church teaching in this regard, and witness to it boldly and with confidence.

4. In your pastoral letter, you said that the most intimate, powerful part of each person is his or her fertility. My husband and I are unable to have children. What does this mean for us?

Many couples bear a great cross because, despite their openness to life, they’re unable to have children. But marital love is always life-giving when spouses give themselves honestly to each other, even if a child isn’t conceived. Only when husband and wife intentionally withhold their fertility, or abuse their sexuality in some other way, can we speak of a “life-less” act of intercourse.

Spouses’ self-giving in one flesh remains the most intimate, powerful and life-giving expression of their love for one another, even when nature, or some problem of nature, prevents new life from being conceived. Medical technology can sometimes correct a physical problem, allowing a child to be conceived by the loving embrace of parents. This is a proper and wonderful use of technology. However, couples should remember that, as creatures themselves, they’re not the arbiters of human life. Ultimately, no one is free to manipulate the conception of a human person. No matter how sincere a couple’s intentions, many of today’s new procreative techniques treat human life as a product that can be manufactured—and in doing so, they violate human dignity. Again, the end never justifies the means.

Children aren’t the only way a marriage can be fruitful. If God, in His design, closes one option for a couple, He will open another. Their love can find expression in adoption, foster-parenting, or dozens of forms of apostolic work. This kind of counsel, of course, is much easier to give than to willingly accept. I would never want to understate the real pain and loss felt by infertile couples. But I know, both from faith and from my friendships with married couples over the years, that if a husband and wife choose to trust God, their love will always be rewarded with fertility and new life—if not in the form of a child, then in the way they impact the world around them.

5. Why is the Church so obsessed with sex?

You know the old saying about the pot calling the kettle black—well, here’s a great example. Questions like this one may very well be honest, but they conceal where the real obsessions lie. American society is drowning in a sea of disordered sexuality. In such circumstances, it’s hardly an “obsession” for the Church to speak clearly and forcefully about how to swim. It’s her responsibility and mission.

God created our sexuality to be a sign in the world of His own life and love, and to reveal to us that we can only fulfill ourselves by loving as He loves. When sexuality becomes distorted, however, it’s no longer able to communicate God’s life and love. Empty of true love, life lacks meaning, and people soon seem disposable. Sex becomes a pursuit of selfish gratification at the expense of others. Children are no longer welcomed as the natural fruit of married love, but are seen as a burden to be avoided. We don’t even shrink from killing (through abortion) thousands of innocent preborn lives a day in satisfying our convenience and appetites.

It’s no exaggeration, then, to say that disordered sexuality is the beginning of what Pope John Paul II calls “the culture of death.” In fact, we’ll never build a culture of life and love without first restoring the true meaning of human sexuality. If the Church is so concerned about sex, it’s because she seeks to defend the dignity of the human person and to safeguard the true meaning of life and love, which sexuality is meant to reveal.

6. How can I preach against contraception and praise the virtues of NFP? As a priest, I’m not married.

First, the truth is the truth, no matter who speaks it. Second, preaching isn’t about the preacher; it’s about the message. Third, in his promise of celibacy, a priest doesn’t forget or deny his sexuality. Instead, he dedicates it to a different—but equally fertile—kind of fruitfulness. In other words, priestly celibacy is an affirmation, not a rejection; a strength, not a weakness. It’s a “yes” to God, which enables us to understand and serve our people better.

Remember that marriage, religious life, the single vocation, and the priesthood are all designed to fit together and complement each other in the life of the Church. Each needs the other. Each, in its own proper way, fulfills the fundamental human vocation to give ourselves away in love. I think we priests often underestimate how effective our pastoral counsel can be on issues like contraception. People want and need the truth, and over time, the human heart naturally responds to it. But our people can’t respond if they don’t hear the message of Humanae Vitae faithfully and persuasively from their pastors. That’s our job, and we should embrace it joyfully.

Reaching the Cafeteria Catholic

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A talk presented to priests of the Archdiocese of St. Louis January 5, 2006

My name is Patty Schneier, and for the past two years I have been speaking at Catholic conferences across the United States to many teenagers and married couples. But speak to a group of priests? I have only done that one time in my life. I was nervous then, and Im nervous now, because I lay awake at night thinking to myself, Who am I, that I should come before you and offer any words of encouragement that would inspire you, the holy priests of our archdiocese, whom I love and respect more than words could ever say? I am not worthy to be here. But, I told God two years ago that I would go wherever He wants me to go, say whatever He wants me to sayto whomever, whenever, and wherever He chooses. He continues to open new doors, to shove me out of my comfortable boat, and I find myself out on the water again and again and again. . . And so, here I am to speak to you today about reaching the Cafeteria Catholic. I am a local housewife and stay-at-home-mom from North St. Louis County. I spend my days driving my three children to baseball practice, soccer practice, basketball practice, Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, dancing lessons, piano lessons, allergy shots, and orthodontist appointments. We are a busy family, on the go and on the run. So, why is an ordinary housewife speaking to you today? Because to some extent, I represent many of the typical families sitting in your pews Sunday after Sunday, and I hope to give you some insight into the hearts and minds of many of your parishioners.Before we get started, I want to give you a brief summary of my storyjust as some background information. I was born and raised in a strong Catholic family, and as far back as I can remember, my faith has been very important to me. When I was 15 years old, I started singing at weddings and funerals, and for the past eleven years, I have sung every Sunday at the 7:00 AM by all outward appearances, we were a good Catholic family. Mass at St. Ferdinand Parish. I am a cantor. As an adultwhen Larry and I got marriedthis church-going lifestyle continued, and our entire family has been extremely involved at St. Ferdinand Parish for many years. We patted ourselves on the back and considered ourselves to be a good Catholic family. And by all outward appearances, we were a good Catholic family. But what did that mean? Well, we liked the title. It was a myth, but we liked the title. For us, it meant that we went to church every Sunday. It meant that we received the sacraments faithfully and regularly. It meant that we prayed together as a family. It meant that we gave our time, talent, and treasure to the Church, and it meant that we tried to pass this on to our children as well. Our Secret Cafeteria Catholicism But in secret, we did not agree with all of the teachings of the Catholic Church. Specifically, we ignored the teachings on sex and marriage. We ignored the Churchs teachings on contraception, and we had used the Pill and condoms on and off in our marriage for 13 years. We were Cafeteria Catholics wholike going through the cafeteria linepersonally selected and chose which items we wanted and which items we didnt. We were part of that vast majority of modern married Catholics who think its OK to ignore the Churchs teachings on sex and marriage. According to the National Survey of Family Growth, which is a study conducted by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Contraceptive use in the United States is virtually universal among women of reproductive age. Ninety-eight percent of all women who had ever had intercourse had used at least one contraceptive method. Previous studies indicate that those claiming to be Catholic contracept at the same rate as the general population. This statistic is mind-boggling. And if its trueeven if its close to being truethen the vast majority of your parishioners of procreative age, sitting in your pews Sunday after Sunday, are using some form of contraception. Theyve used the pill, condoms, the patch, etc., or theyve been sterilized surgically by vasectomy or tubal ligationand think they did nothing wrong. My arguments could be summarized as follows: 1. The Church is way off base here. Its OK for the Church to be pro-life and against abortion, but it should at least embrace the means of preventing all those unwanted pregnancies in the first place! 2. The Church is unrealistic in placing this huge burden on its families. If indeed almost everyone uses some form of contraception, then the Church should just change its teachings and get with the times! 3. (Im embarrassed to admit this, but this is how I felt.) The Church should just butt out! Butt out on this one! This is between me, my husband, and God. The Church has no right to stick its nose into such a private, personal decision. And theres no way that some celibate old man in Rome along with his priests and bishops are going to tell me what I can and cannot do in my marriage, because theyre not married! They have no idea what its like to be married and raise kids in modern America! My arguments were very typical and could be summed up by the mentality, My arguments were very typical …dont impose your morality on me!” Dont impose your morality on me! From there, its just a short step to, Dont impose your morality on my brother, sister, or best friend, whom I love very much. Dont impose your morality on any of my friends or relatives, who are good people! Very easily, it becomes, Dont impose your morality on anyone. If people choose to live together before marriage, well thats a private, personal decision, too. So is all premarital sex, so are homosexual acts, so is abortion. Every moral issue soon falls under the category of a private, personal decision. The list gets bigger. The dissent grows, and it festers. And soonas happened in my own lifethe last authority that I wanted to listen to on issues of sexuality, marriage, and morality was the Church. Conversion Now, its a long story, When I learned of a love that was free, faithful, total, and fruitfulthe real meaning of loveI wanted it. and you can hear it on the CD Prove It, God!. . . And He Did, but in January 2002, I began an intense spiritual journey. We had a parish mission given by the Sisters of the Apostles of the Interior Life, and I was inspired after going to this mission to search for some holiness in my life. I began a morning prayer time in which I read the daily readings of the Church and began to journal as well. This all began innocently enough. But soon it became increasingly difficult and painful as I began to wrestle with this whole issue of contraception in marriage. Thankfully, I was led to the book: Good News about Sex and Marriage: Answers to Your Honest Questions about Catholic Teaching by Christopher West. This book explained why the Church says what it says, in words that pierced my heart. From there, I was introduced to Pope John Paul IIs Theology of the Body. And when I learned of a love that was free, faithful, total, and fruitfulthe real meaning of loveI wanted it. I wanted that kind of marriage, and for the first time in my life I saw the beauty of the Churchs teachings. Larry and I received the sacrament of reconciliation, we threw out the contraception, and we have never looked back. It was the best decision we ever made.Thats the story of Prove It, God!. . . And He Did, and thats the story that I now share at Catholic Conferences all across the United States, ministering to hundreds and thousands of married couples who also struggle with this issue. But Im here to explain that this story of conversion was just the tip of the iceberg. The issues of sex, marriage, and contraception had become a wall of dissent. Once that wall fellonce I finally saw Truth in this one areait opened the doors to a totally new spiritual life as well. The ripple effect of this one decision in my life has been tremendous! I can only sum it up in the words of Pope John Paul II: Open wide the doors to Christ!The first and most immediate effect was in our marriage. I never dreamed there could be so much joy and unity in my marriage. Our entire family life has changed; the way we parent our children has changed; and the whole idea of chastitynot just for teenagers, but in marriagehas become the focus of an entire new ministry for me. The second major effect, however, is perhaps even more profound and has greater implications: Once the issue of sex and marriage was resolved, and that wall of dissent came crumbling down, I began to see the Church in a whole new way. For the past three years, I have been discovering the richness and beauty of the Church in ALL of her teachings, traditions, and devotions. I have simply fallen in love with Jesus Christ and His Church. For example: daily Eucharistic Adoration, daily Mass, the Rosary, the lives of the saints, the Bible, and Catholic books. None of these had been part of my daily lifenone of them. St. Ferdinand has had perpetual Eucharistic Adoration 7 days a week, 365 days a year, for almost 25 years, and I had never set foot in our Eucharistic Adoration Chapel. I thought only retired people attended daily Mass. I did not know that there were mysteries to the Rosary, and I did not know how to say the Rosary or lead the Rosary. I had never read a Catholic book or cared to read about the lives of the saints; now its like discovering my long lost relatives! How Did I Miss All of This? The list could go on and on, and I keep asking myself, How did I miss all of this? How did I even consider myself to be a Catholic? The joy of this journey, of coming home to the Catholic Church and coming into full communion with the Church, has been the greatest joy and discovery of my life. But it has also led me to a much deeper reflection on my past, in addition to NOT seeking the Truth regarding our sexuality,we were never presented with it and why, why, why did I choose to stay on the other side of that wall of dissent for so long? Why did I choose to listen to the worlds safe-sex mes sage for so long instead of the Church? The blame lies entirely in my own heartENTIRELY in my own heart.I was not going to listen to the Church. I couldnt see the Churchs viewpoint easily, and therefore I rejected it. I didnt bother to search for the answers to my questions or to seek out the Truth of the Church. I didnt care to look. It was much easier and much more comfortable for me to say that I was following my own conscience and let it go at that. And my conscience told me that I wasnt doing anything wrong.But Im here to explain, that in addition to NOT seeking the Truth regarding our sexuality, we were never presented with it either. After finishing Christopher Wests book, Good News About Sex and Marriage, Larry and I were both filled with shame, regret, and guiltfor having settled for a counterfeit for 13 years. We knew it was our own sin and our own stubbornness that had caused us to reject the Churchs teachings. But we were also left with one remaining question, and we both felt the exact same thing: Why havent we heard this before? Why were we shocked beyond our wildest dreams that the Church really did have some Good News about sex and marriage? In this book, Sterilization Reversal, a Generous Act of Love, 20 Catholic couples share their story, and its the same scenario: We did not know sterilization was wrong. Our pastor told us to follow our own conscience. We thought we were doing the best thing for our marriage. We didnt know. WE DID NOT KNOW. I represent the generation born after Vatican II that has experienced a lack of catechesis…. We are starvingfor truth! And from my own experience, from the past two years of traveling across the United States and speaking at Catholic Conferences, Im hearing the same thing. Sometimes there will be a line for three hours after I speak, and one woman after the next with tears in her eyes will come up and share her story. I represent the generation born after Vatican II that has experienced a lack of catechesis. We are the glitch. We are the bubble. We made a lot of banners, we sang Kum Ba Ya, and we felt filled with the Holy Spirit, but we lack a part of the foundation and we are starving for Truth. We are starving for truth! Obviously, there are no easy quick-fixes here, but I do want to recommend three specific areas where we need your helpFROM THE PULPIT! You have the opportunity to help us find healing of our bodies and wholeness in our marriages by presenting the beautiful teachings of the Church. You have the opportunity to break down the walls of dissent which divide the Body of Christ. You can help bring the Cafeteria Catholic back to full communion with the Church. The real issue here is unityunity in marriage and unity within the Church. Contraception has destroyed both, and its going to take both the laity and the clergy working together in order to restore that authentic unity. No doubt, the powerful testimony of married couples is extremely effective in this area. But do not underestimate the power of your witness as well. We need you! And so today I want to invite you to preachand to preach oftenon three specific topics: #1 Love and Respect for the Teaching Authority of the Church #2 The Virtue of Obedience #3 The Theology of the Body Love and Respect for the Church Love for the Church? We dont have it. Respect for the Church? We dont have that either. If you would ask us about loving and respecting the teaching authority of the Church, we would probably say, NO WAY! True story: I will never forget one homily given by the pastor of St. Ferdinand Parish, Fr. Gary Gebelein. (This happened years ago.) In this homily, he quoted St. Augustine who said, You possess the Holy Spirit to the extent that you love the Church. And I sat there and thought, Love the Church? Love the Church? I dont love the Church. I loved a lot of things about the Church. I loved going to church; I loved the Mass; I loved the Eucharist; I loved leading the congregation in song; I loved our pastor; I loved our school; I loved parish picnic; I loved so many things ABOUT the Church! But I sat there and thought, I dont think I really love THE Church. But,I dont have to love the Church. I have to love God with all my heart, soul, mind and strength, and I have to love my neighbor as myself. But I dont have to How can you help in this area? Challenge usinvite usto love the Church. love the Church in order to be filled with the Holy Spirit, do I? I wrestled with that statement, and it took me years to understand it. But a seed had been plantedthe simple seed of loving the Churchand I never forgot that homily.In hindsight now, I ask myself, Why, why, WHY didnt I love the Church? I was born and raised Catholic and so active in the Church. Why didnt I love the Church? Because I did not understand or appreciate the Churchs teaching authority. I did not understand that this came from Jesus himselfthat He set up his Church this way! For me, Church authority was remote, impersonal, and burdensome. It was of men, not God. Two Scripture passages were crucial in breaking down this false interpretation. The first is 1 Jn 5:3, This is love for God, to obey his commands. And his commands are not burdensome.I wrote in my journal, His commands are not burdensome? His commands are not burdensome? No way. Give me a break. I could immediately think of an area that proved that Scripture to be falsenamely, the Catholic Churchs teachings on sex and marriage! To follow the Churchs teachings was not only a burden, but a HUGE burden. I also wrote, Do I consider the teachings of the Catholic Church to be Gods commands? And then do I love God by obeying these commands? Or, are these just a bunch of man-made laws that I can ignore and still be a good Catholic? That Scripture passage got to the heart of my dissent. I could deny the authority of men in an instant. But I did not want to deny or disobey God.Another Scripture that helped me understand Church authority was in Chapter 10 of Luke. When Jesus sends out the 72, he gives them the authority to teach and preach and heal in His name. Then He says these words, Whoever hears you, hears me. Whoever rejects you, rejects me. I wrestled, and I wrestled with that statement, because I knew that I professed every Sunday to believe in one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church. I believed that Jesus gave His mission to the apostles and that it was passed on to the present Church today. So then it hit me, that when I listen to the voice of the Church, I am listening to Jesus Himself. When I ignore the teachings of the Church, I am ignoring Jesus Himself, and when I outright reject the teachings of the Church, I am rejecting Jesus Himself. Reflecting on this truth was a huge step along my journey and was crucial in breaking down my dissent.How can you help in this area? Challenge usinvite usto love the Church. Come right out and ask, Do you love the Church? And then challenge us further: Do you love the Churchs teachings? Do you love the Churchs teachings on sex and marriage? Teach us why the Church even has this teaching authority in the first place. Show us the link to Jesus himself. Its very easy for us to reject the Churchs teachings if we do not understand that the Church is the living, active voice of Jesus Christ on earth today. It becomes much more difficult for us to wrestle with the idea that when we reject the teachings of the Church, we are rejecting Jesus himself.Most of all, I want to encourage you to let your love for the Church shine! It pierces our hearts. It invites us to follow your lead. Two stories: The first one happened years ago. Before our pastor, Fr. Gary, was ever sent to St. Ferdinand, he was serving in a parish where one of my relatives attended. When she heard that Fr. Gary was coming to St. Ferdinand, she said to me, You are getting a very holy priest. He really loves the Church. She singled out that quality. And that quality was so crucial for methat example of loving the Church. The second story happened just three weeks ago. A seminarian came to tell us about the Christmas collection that would be taken up for the seminary. This young man, from the pulpit, told us a little bit about himself, told us about his calling and his vocation. And then he said these words:I love the Church, because it teaches the Truth! And tears welled up in my eyes because I had never heard that before. We need to be reminded of that over and over again. My parents (and their entire generation) were taught that the Church teaches the Truth. They may have rejected it, but they were taught it. We havent heard it, and we desperately need to hear it. The Virtue of Obedience Obviously, it is only if a four-year-old, or anyone we love, is about to drink poison . . . whats the most loving thing to do? Its to yell, STOP! when we have a love and respect for the Church that we will willingly submit to the Church and obey. Also, I realize that it is not popular to discuss the virtue of obedience from the pulpit. But we need it. We need it because our dissentour rebellionruns so rampant. Especially regarding sex and marriage, we dont want to listen to anyone. I must have said a thousand times to God, I am an adult, and I can make this decision on my own. I did not want to obey anybody.There are many Scripture passages which address the virtue of obedience.I want to point out two that were crucial in my journey. Mk 1:14-20 is the calling of Simon and Andrew, and Scripture says, They dropped their nets and followed after him. I wrote in my journal, Do I? Could I drop my issues with birth control if I had to in order to follow Jesus? The second Scripture is a similar version found in Chapter 5 of Luke. Jesus tells Peter to throw out the nets on the other side of the boat, and Peter says, Lord, weve been fishing all night and have caught nothing, but at your command Ill lower the nets. I was so much like Peter (before he obeyed)! I wanted to tell God, I wanted to tell Jesus, I wanted to tell the Pope, and all the Bishops and priests, You have no idea what youre talking about! Natural Family Planning doesnt make any sense! You cant expect us to live this! I am the one who understands sex and marriagenot you! So many of us are just like thatspiritual adolescents. Now that I have a teenager who tells me all the time, You dont know what youre talking about, I understand this attitude for what it really is. But that is the level where many of us have stayed in our spiritual growth. We are simply rebellious adolescents.How can you help foster this virtue of obedience? Specifically acknowledge these hot-button issues where you know it is difficult for us to obey. Come right out and ask us, Can you drop your issues with birth control? Practical suggestion: Appeal to us as parents. As parents, we know that any child or teenager who cannot listen and obey is obnoxious to be around. We know, tooand this is not my example, this is Christopher Weststhat if a four-year-old, or anyone we love, is about to drink poisonit may look like crystal clear water, but if that person is about to drink poisonwhats the most loving thing to do? Its to yell, STOP! Dont do it! Even if that person doesnt understand, we would still say, Stop! Dont do it! We also know that day-to-day life within a family is not a democracy. As mom of my family, I know that there is NO WAY everyone can do what they want, when they want, for as long as they want. We all have limits, boundaries, and responsibilities. And especially my teenager, even though he doesnt want those limits and boundaries, I know that he needs them.Invite us to see God as this loving Father. And there is another title that I did not understandthe title of the Church as Holy Mother Church. That title, in all honesty, used to tick me off. I thought, Why is the Church called Holy Mother Church? Who wants to listen to their mother? I know I certainly didnt. But now, as an adult, do I know that my mother would have given her life for me? YES! Do I know that she wanted only whats best for me? Of course. As a mother, do I want only whats best for my children? YES! Would I give my life for my kids? In an instant! Invite us to become more mature in our understanding, but childlike in our obedience. Invite us to see God as that loving Father, Jesus as our brother, and the Church as Holy Mother Churchwho only wants whats best for us. The Theology of the Body I cannot stress this one enough I cannot stress this one enoughTheology of the Body, Theology of the Body, THEOLOGY OF THE BODY! Theology of the Body, Theology of the Body, THEOLOGY OF THE BODY! We are so scarred and wounded by issues of the body. No one in our society escapes. As I said before, sometimes after a conference, women will stand in line with tears in their eyes and share with me their stories of pain and regret. These women suffer in secret and in silencedue to sexually transmitted diseases, eating disorders, contraception, sterilization, or post abortive stress disorder. Men, too, share with me their stories, which often include addiction to pornography and masturbation, sterilization, infidelity, contraception, homosexual acts, and soliciting prostitution. These distortions have taken their toll on our families in tragic ways and in epidemic proportions. And I know you can attest to this by the confessions that you hear. Our associate pastor, Fr. Tim Henderson, shared with us that, by far, the greatest source of tears that he hears in the confessional is the misuse of our sexuality. We are starving for truth, and we need healing of our bodies. Pope John Paul IIs Theology of the Body is the answer to our need. His beautiful teaching is beginning to revolutionize the world. we need you to call a spade a spade. Come right out and say, Contraception is a counterfeit. Its poison. And Christopher West, who has condensed the Popes teaching and made it easy for us to understand, is truly a prophet for our times.What can you do to help? Educate yourself. You cannot give what you do not have. Familiarize yourself with the Theology of the Body and the works of Christopher West. If you havent already done so, read Good News about Sex and Marriage, The Theology of the Body for Beginners, or The Theology of the Body Explained. If you prefer to listen to a CD rather than read a book, I recommend An Introduction to the Theology of the Body or his entire tape series, A Crash Course on the Theology of the Body. Better yet, go listen to Christopher West speak! Do whatever you can to learn about the Theology of the Body.I highly recommend a book by Jason Adams as well. This book, written specifically for priests, is entitled, Called to Give Life. It contains actual homilies so that you can incorporate the Theology of the Body or preach about the beauty of married love, Natural Family Planning, Humanae Vitaeall in conjunction with the Sunday readings and special feast days that lend themselves to this subject. Its an excellent, practical guide for the clergyCalled to Give Life. Also, I want to introduce you to One More Soul. One More Soul offers a wealth of resourcesall to promote the blessings of children and the harms of contraception. They have books, tapes, CDs, videos, pamphlets, DVDs and clergy packetseverything you can imagine on issues of chastity, marriage, Natural Family Planning, Humanae Vitae, and the Theology of the Body. All of it can be obtained through One More Soul www.OMSoul.com or (800) 307-7685. Begin your search for more information on the Theology of the Body, and have these resources available when married couples come to talk to you about these issues. Once you become familiar with the Theology of the Body, introduce it to your congregation. Share this good news! Preach about it at Massand not just once, but incorporate bits and pieces of the Theology of the Body into many different homilies. It is possible to doeven with children present. Challenge us to learn what real love is, and show us the counterfeits. For example, it was not condemning for me to learn that contraception was a counterfeit. It was actually freeing because I learned that there are so many counterfeits out there, and its very easy to fall for a counterfeit. Simply invite your parishioners to read these books for themselves and learn why the Church says what it says. Invite them to look deeper. And this may sound a bit bold, but we need you to call a spade a spade. Come right out and say, Contraception is a counterfeit. Its poison. Its like drinking the poison that looks like crystal clear waterbut it is poison in marriage.In addition to your homilies and speaking from the pulpit, there are more ways to promote an atmosphere of love and life all throughout your parish. I want to share with you nine practical tipsor action stepsthat you can implement in your own parish. Practical Tips/Action Steps (How to promote an atmosphere of love and life in your parish) 1. Invite Fr. Dan McCaffrey, Fr. Richard Hogan, or Fr. Matthew Habiger to speak at all the Masses at your parish. They are eager to proclaim Truth and challenge your congregation. They travel across the United States, speaking about contraception, Humanae Vitae, the gift of married love, and the meaning of real love. Better yet, schedule an entire parish mission for the family. Call (888) 637-6388. 2. In the back of church, set out brochures and resources from One More Soul, and this particular CD, Contraception: Why Not by Prof. Janet Smith. Put a sign out that says, FREETAKE ONE You never know who is going to pick up that CD. There are over one million in circulation. Its an excellent CD, and it changes lives. 3. In the bulletin, From the Pastors Pen, write about the beauty of marriage, NFP, and share your insights from the Theology of the Body. Include testimonies in your bulletin from married couples as well. This is a very strong witness, and it encourages couples to know that it is possible to live this Truth. 4. Offer websites in your bulletin. Websites are extremely important, because these issues can be very difficult and painful for married couples to confront. Some people, who perhaps have had an abortion or regret their sterilization, might not feel comfortable approaching you face to face. But they mightin the privacy of their own homeget on a website. Here, they can begin to search for some answers and gain healing. Have these websites in your bulletin: www.omsoul.com www.christopherwest.com www.ccli.org www.creightonmodel.com www.hopeafterabortion.com www.omsoul.com/nfp-links.php www.omsoul.com/pro-life-links.php www.omsoul.com/nfp-only.php . 5. Announce when and where Natural Family Planning classes will be offered throughout the diocese. Have this information in your bulletin ALL THE TIME! 6. Get with parishes in your deanery and invite speakers to come. Bring in Christopher West. Offer babysitting so that husbands and wives can attend togetherwhich is so important. 7. Attend a seminar. There are many wonderful opportunities for the clergy. The Couple to Couple League sponsors a Clergy Seminar every year. Christopher West teaches at the John Paul Theology of the Body Institute. Attend these seminars; gain more knowledge about the Theology of the Body; and immerse yourself into this beautiful teaching. 8. Promote Catholic books within your parish. For example, Oprah Winfrey set this nation on fire when she announced her Book of the Month Club. Everyone wanted to read that book, and it became a top seller. What about Catholic books? What if everyone in your parish were reading The Theology of the Body for Beginners, and you announced from the pulpit, Ive got a case of these books in the back of church. Get your copy! For the next few weeks, I will be talking about The Theology of the Body in my homilies. The following month could be about the life of a saint, or anything else you want. Have a Book of the Month in your parish! This will encourage us to read more, to learn about our faith, and to seek Truth, 9. Pray. . . . and when I say pray, I know that you pray. But let your congregation know that you are praying for them to seek Truth and to be open to the teachings of the Church. Let your congregation know that you are praying for that Cafeteria Catholic to return to full communion with the Church. Let them know that you are praying for holy marriages and holy families. This speaks volumes! Printable one-page version of Patty’s action points Click Here Most importantly, we need you as our Spiritual Fathers to challenge us to give up contraception for the good of our marriages. Invite us to read these books and to find out why the Church says what it says. Invite us to learn what Natural Family Planning really isand what it isnt. Explain that modern methods of NFP are scientific, observable, reliable, and in harmony with Church teaching for the spacing of childrenNOT the old rhythm method. Encourage us to change our entire mentality regarding love, life, and the beauty of children. Remind us of these words of the Second Vatican Council: Children are the SUPREME gift of marriage! (Gaudium et Spes 50, emphasis added) If we dont hear this message at church, where else will we hear it? Where else can we hear the message that children are a gift and a blessing? Put the Truth out therefront and Put the Truth out therefront and center from the pulpit and all throughout your parishso that we cant help but see it! center from the pulpit and all throughout your parishso that we cant help but see it! Even those that reject this teaching will at least have been told. They will never be able to say, I didnt know. Let no one in your parish be able to say, I didnt know. Finally, I want to thank all of you who already do witness to the beauty of the Churchs teachings on sex and marriage; you do let your love for the Church shine. Know that I pray for you daily in front of the Blessed Sacrament at our Eucharistic Adoration Chapel. I pray for you holy priests, for your courage, for your perseverance, and in thanksgiving for your witness.

How Faith Communities can Create an NFP Culture Liberated from Contraception and Open to the Blessings of Children

1. Include a full course of NFP in marriage preparation programs

Parish leadershippastors, DREs, parish coordinators, and catechistsmust accept the need for NFP formation in the parish. In fact, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has instructed dioceses to include Natural Family Planing in their marriage preparation programs: “We urge that premarriage programs require a full course of instruction in Natural Family Planning as a necessary component in the couples effective realization of what they need and have a right to know in order to live in accord with the clear teaching of the Church.”1 Once it is established that the Church forbids the use of contraception and sterilization for family planning, a teaching with which couples in marriage preparation should be keenly familiar, positive alternatives must be provided. If not, couples who are unaware of natural methods, or confuse them with outmoded methods may consider the Churchs teaching burdensome, irrelevant and unreasonable.

A full course of NFP instruction, which includes a complete presentation of the moral, methodological, and scientific/physiological aspects of NFP, will equip couples to embrace the Churchs teaching on marital sexuality and contraception with greater ease. Moreover, a full course in NFP will inculcate not just a methodology but a way of life that is open to the gift of fertility, total reciprocal self-giving, and the blessings of children. Natural Family Planning is hence an integral part of marriage preparation in that it requires openness, communication, selflessness, discipline, and commitmentall of which are prerequisites to a valid and successful marriage. NFP instruction, when seen in this light, fits marital preparation seamlessly, supporting the couples formation in all varieties of marital “intercourse”: physical, mental, spiritual, and emotional.

2. Introduce Natural Family Planning to adult converts in RCIA programs

Parish leaders must be sensitive to the fact that many inquirers in RCIA are engaged couples in which one or both partners are seeking marriage in the Church but are not yet Catholic. A full course in NFP is not necessarily appropriate in this setting, but a survey of the main tenets and an introduction to the methodology could be provided simply. Guest speakers (NFP teaching couples, nurses or doctors trained in NFP, diocesan NFP and/or Family Life Coordinators) are a good resource for a brief one or two class introduction. Needless to say, it is imperative that RCIA team members fully embrace the Churchs teaching on contraception and the blessings of childrena unified catechesis is essential.

For many couples, initial exposure to NFP instruction produces tentative curiosity more than an instant conversion. For this reason, it is advisable to provide couples with materials they can take home and review: books, pamphlets, tapes, videos, websites, and phone numbers for further information. Couples should also be given contact information for NFP couples who are willing to discuss NFP, which brings us to our next tool.

3. Assemble a team of NFP-using couples who are willing to give testimonials and counsel with engaged and married couples

The testimony of couples who have successfully incorporated NFP into their marriages and who can speak to its advantages is perhaps the most effective means of persuading engaged and married couples to explore Natural Family Planning. Testimonial/Consultant couples personalize the Churchs case for natural methods and provide needed support and advice for inquiring couples. Panel testimonies in which several couples of varying ages and states in life provide testimony to parishioners about the benefits of NFP are an indispensable part of couples formation. If testimonial couples are willing to make a deeper commitment, they can ease into the role of consultants, making themselves available for phone consultation, or opening their homes for a visit from couples who want to know more. This kind of openness and personal attention surpasses didactic instruction and actually disciples couples into the NFP lifestyle.

While engaged couples seeking marriage in the Church are especially suited to NFP instruction, there are many couples in the parish already married that have not chosen NFP. The parish family must not turn a blind eye to these latter couples, who are equally in need of instruction and discipleship. Testimonial evenings can be organized apart from marriage preparation classes in special events like dinners and even outings, which offer a nonthreatening fellowship. Dinners and outings create a friendly, casual environment in which NFP couples and non-NFP couples blend, as opposed to an instructional setting in which inquirers assume a student status, implying that they are non-NFP couples. Anonymity, at least initially, can be a comfort to the curious.

4. Equip families to instruct their children in the Churchs teaching on contraception and the blessings of children

The Church refers to the family as the “Domestic Church” because it is the first and most influential faith formation a person receives. Especially pertinent to catechesis in marital relations, it is the first school of human interaction and relationships. Instruction in NFP begins, not with sex, but with the example of parents, who by their interaction with each other and their children, model openness to life, self-sacrificial love, and obedience to the natural law. Put simply, children learn from their parents that Natural Family Planning fosters a happier marriage.

Parish adult education programs should accordingly address the Churchs vision for sexuality in marriage and NFP. Such instruction should be broadly integrated into Bible studies, courses for parents seeking baptism for their children, married and engaged encounters, retreats, parish missions, seasonal programs like Lenten series and observances of feasts, pro-life initiatives, and social justice campaigns. It is not necessary to invent a lot of new NFP-centered programs. Existing programs can be supplemented to include NFP and its corollaries. This is perhaps more desirable as it communicates to the parish that NFP is part and parcel of not just the vocation of marriage, but the vocation to holiness to which we are all called.

5. Preach NFP from the pulpit

Catechesis for most adult Catholics occurs during the homily of Sunday Mass. The homily is the primary instance of formal public instruction in human sexuality and beginning of life issues, including contraception and NFP. Pastors are charged with the duty of fathering their congregation away from bondage to sin and toward freedom in the truth: “If you remain in my word, you will truly be my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (Jn 8:32). Whereas the use of contraception is a significant obstacle to Christian freedom, fulfillment, and happiness, Natural Family Planning is a gateway to these goals in marriage. In general, NFP marriages enjoy greater freedom, fulfillment, and happiness, which is evidenced in their almost nonexistent divorce rate. In an age of throwaway marriages, couples should be given from every source possible a pathway to a joyful, successful marriage. What pastor would not desire this for his children: “What father among you would hand his son a snake when he asks for a fish? Or hand him a scorpion when he asks for an egg?”(Lk 11:11,12)?

There are two common objections to preaching NFP: (1) parishioners will object to the message and vote against it, as it were, with their feet; and (2) direct instruction on NFP neglects the readings, from which the homily is supposed to proceed.

That parishioners will object to the message is insufficient reason to conceal the truth. This part of the truth is one our married couples desperately need, and the love of Christ compels us. Recall the many times Jesus preached a message that was unpopular to his public, or how many times prophets and martyrs like John the Baptist stuck their necks out for the truth. Yet neither Jesus nor John the Baptist had any shortage of disciples. Compassion demands the truth, especially when so much is riding on it. Without a clear understanding of contraception and NFP many otherwise sound marriages will fail with incalculable damage to the spouses, the children, and the community. We must not let fear of rejection cause us to allow members of our community to continue on a destructive path.

The growth and appeal of Christianity throughout the ages has been the result of an uncompromising proclamation of the truth. What have we to fear, furthermore, when we have been granted the Spirit of truth through whom the Apostle Peter converted three thousand with a message that was forbidden by authorities? In his last instructions to the Apostles, through whom Holy Orders has descended to the priesthood, Christ commissioned the Apostles to teach all that He had commanded. Saint Paul, accepting this mandate fully, declared, “If I preach the gospel, this is no reason for me to boast, for an obligation has been imposed on me, and woe to me if I do not preach it!” (1 Cor 9:16). The obligation here is lovewilling the good of another. Simple love for the married members and the families of our communities will drive us to give them the tools they need to succeed.

Courage in preaching the Gospel is easy to discuss in the abstract but in the “real world” of parish life and politics, can it be done? Aside from the fact that the Gospel has always been preached in the real world, sometimes at great sacrifice, courageous emphasis on NFP has proven rewarding for many priests. Father Randall Moreau, of the Diocese of Lafayette, Louisiana, claims that a growing NFP culture in his parish has enlivened volunteerism and lightened his workload:

Natural family planners make great volunteerswilling to make sacrifices for the Church, for God, for us priests, constantly. “NFPers” far outdo the average volunteersand for so much longer than the average volunteer. [They] are passionate about our work, the salvation of soulsbecause they want souls; because they knowthat what is at stake is souls. They know its not just the priests job to save souls, its everybodys job… (Audiotape “Why NFP is a Priority in My Parish” available from One More Soul, individually and as part of a 3 tape set “NFP Talks for Clergy” )

Greater openness to Gods providence in the area of marital sexuality can be seen in two ways, either as a gateway to greater openness in other areas of spirituality and morality, or as the removal of a last hindrance to complete abandonment to Christ. Some would say that in the former case, the giving over to God of our sexuality initiates a pattern of self-denial that stimulates other virtues. In the latter case, it may well be that we let loose a flood of virtue that has been constricted by our ignorance and/or recalcitrance on this issue. In either case, when the community entrusts its marriages and its outlook on human sexuality fully to God, it sets itself on a course of advanced spirituality. This pays dividends to diocesan parishes and schools. As a result, it is improbable, if not impossible, to find a priest who regrets creating a pro-fertility, pro-Natural Family Planning parish.

Father Frank Pavone, president of Priests for Life, testifies to the positive effects of making NFP central to parish ministry for engaged couples:

Is it possible for a parish in the United States today to require the couples who get married there to learn NFP? Not only is it possible, but it is happening, right in New York City.

After my ordination in 1988, I was appointed parochial vicar at St. Charles parish, in the Oakwood Heights section of Staten Island. St. Charles registers about 3600 families, mostly of Irish and Italian descent. It has an average number of 68 weddings a year.

Whats the reaction? Overwhelmingly, the couples appreciate having taken the sessions. Initially, there is sometimes a question as to why they need to do this when “my friend did not have to when she got married in her parish.” We explain to them that we are committed to giving them the best possible preparation, so that they will be as fully equipped as possible to live a Catholic marriage. We show them that we have their best interests at heart. We explain that we dont want them to ever feel they are in a dilemma of having to choose between planning their family and being a good Catholic.

Follow-up is important. We ask them to bring us the certificate indicating they have attended Sessions I and II of the NFP course. Then we ask for feedback. Some of the reactions Ive received are, “It was interestingI never knew about those things before!” “There were a lot of charts, but as I listened I realized how useful it is.” “At first we didnt see why we should go, but now I see the value of it. Every couple should know about this!”

During all the years of this policy, we can only recall one couple who decided to go to another parish rather than have to take the NFP class.

Yes, it is possible to spread the good news of NFP. We need to be willing to be real Shepherds, leading the way courageously, ready to eagerly point to NFP and say, “Look at this! This isimportantindeed, necessaryfor you to know! This will bless your marriage.” Ultimately, from the couples we lead in this way, there can only be one wise response: “Thank you!”2

The second objection, that the readings of the Mass are not geared to homilies on contraception and the blessings of children, underestimates the unfathomable depth of the Scriptures and the lessons they contain for an endless variety of moral questions. A word for word condemnation of contraception or the blessings of children need not appear in the readings for us to glean important lessons about openness to fertility, abandonment to providence, and the evils of sexual immorality. The Liturgy of the Word, moreover, is celebrated within the context of the liturgical yearseasons and feasts that provide a thematic backdrop to the readings. Many of these seasons and feasts contain important lessons for the proper ordering of marital love. The table on the following pages relates the readings of the Mass and the liturgical calendar to the Churchs teaching on contraception and openness to children, in order to facilitate the planning of homilies on these subjects.

Opportunities for an NFP Homily

1.Seasonal Readings such as Advent, Christmas, Lent, and Easter:

Advent and Christmas

Advent and Christmas both contain readings in which the plan of God rests on the abandonment of his chosen ones to divine providence and their openness to life/children. The fiat of Mary in the annunciationand to a lesser extent, that of Elizabethexemplify the unfolding of Gods plan through the parents openness to children. How many of us could rule out the possibility that a prophet might be born to us, someone who will help heal the world in extraordinary ways? How would the world have been different if Mary and Elizabeth, or Abraham and Sarah, or Adam and Eve had not accepted Gods invitation to children? What would have become of the poor and indigent people of Calcutta if Mother Teresas parents had refused their gift of fertility?

Easter

The Easter Season is all about new life and rebirth. Easter reveals to us a new humanity definitively redeemedchildren of God and heirs to Gods eternal life. Christs resurrection is the consummate sharing of life, the transference of humanity from the state of servitude to the state of “children of God” (Rom 8:14-17). The Resurrection elevates humanity to divine filiation, that is, it makes us children of God and brothers and sisters in Christ. There is, perhaps, no better catechesis on the value and nature of childhood, therefore, than the Easter mystery, for children are the fruit of love. In the same way that our spiritual childhood is the fruit of Christs love for His bride, the Church, children are the visible fruit of marriage. Love is always life giving and fruitful. This is why Christs offering of love on the Cross did not end in death but in glorified life. If marriage is the visible sign of Christs laying down His life for the Church (Eph 5:25-32), then it, too, must be oriented to giving life.

Trinitarian communion was revealed in the glorification of the Son in the Resurrection. The Resurrection is the sign, par excellence, of the life-giving power of God. The family, reflecting the Trinity, is a communion of persons that more effectively witnesses to God when it, too, gives life. Christs resurrection applies Gods life-giving power to humanity, creating the family of God. We, in turn imitate, or rather, participate in this act when by our transmission of life, we create a family.

The family motif is carried on in The Feast of the Ascension, which anticipates our coming of age as children of God, and our consequent reception of the inheritance of the Father, the beatific vision. Trinity Sunday would likewise pertain to the Trinitarian significance of procreation and family as well as The Feast of Pentecost, because, just as children proceed from the mutual love of parents, the Holy Spirit proceeds as the personification of the mutual love of the Divine Persons. Our human relationships (communion among persons) naturally reflect the essence of God written into the creation. All creation bears the mark of its creator.

Preaching on NFP during Christmas and Easter has the added advantage of reaching Catholics who might not attend Mass regularly, but come out for special feasts. Pastors and parishioners alike are well aware of how much pew count swells during these two holy days. It may well be that this group of parishioners is the one most in need of catechesis on fertility and NFP, and what a brilliant opportunity to lend significance and solemnity to the message.

Lent

Lent is a time to accept our call to examine our consciences and repent from sin. Advent, too, with its emphasis on judgment and the bold preaching of John the Baptist to repentance in preparation for the coming of Christ, is a time to clean house spiritually. We must be ready to admit that, in light of the scandalously high number of Catholics who practice contraception and sterilization, we have distorted Gods design for marital sexuality. Since Lent and Advent emphasize new beginnings, both might be occasions to introduce the subject of sterilization reversal, a real possibility for most sterilized couples

2. Prominent Feasts/Solemnities

Presentation of the Lord (Feb. 2)

Jesus is portrayed by the prophet Simeon as a sign that will be opposed, a sign of contradiction. Jesus is the quintessential symbol of standing against the prevailing sentiment of the age, of rising up against bondage to sin and error without counting the cost. The Presentation of the Lord, traditionally associated with the virtue of obedience so well modeled by Joseph and Marys keeping of the Law, is well suited to the message that Christ has designed marriage to be fruitful despite the contraceptive mentality that so characterizes modern culture. We see in this feast a twofold offensive against a sinful culture: (1) Mary and Josephs acceptance of a mission that would require radical self denial, and (2) an instance of parents redeeming the culture surrendering their parenthood to divine providence. Generous openness to children in marriage is an exercise in both of these virtues. Accepting parenthood can change the world; Mary and Joseph are a testament to that.

St. Joseph, Husband of Mary (Mar. 19)

Husbands are often a stumbling block to the use of NFP in marriages. Saint Joseph cooperated with Marys call to parenthood, accepting Gods will with complete docility. Husbands must guard the purity of their wives, just as St. Joseph guarded Marys purity. Joseph admirably fulfills the ideal established by St. Paul in his letter to the Ephesians: “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ loved the Church and handed himself over for her to sanctify her, cleansing her by the bath of water with the word, that he might present to himself the Church in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish” (5:25-27). Husbands should not allow the purity and holiness of their wives to be compromised by supporting or coercing the use of contraception. This goes for sterilization as well, even to the male, for both spouses hereby participate in an act of coition that has been sterilized.

The Immaculate Conception (Dec. 8), The Annunciation (Mar. 25) & The Assumption (Aug. 15)

Mary, along with Abraham, is held up by the Church as an exemplar of the obedience of faith (CCC 148). Her will was wholeheartedly aligned with Gods will, that is, she willed only what God willed, consenting even to the death of her beloved son, a horror spared Abraham. Disobedience to the plan of God was foreign to Mary, who surrendered her maternal rights in order to give her son as a sheep to slaughter. Likewise, disobedience to Gods design for marriage, and the teaching of the Church He commissioned as our shepherd, should be equally foreign to us. Dissent was not an issue for Maryshe did not pursue loopholes; she was not concerned with whether Christs will for her life was infallible or notshe gave herself without reservation because she loved Him truly: “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord” (The Annunciation, Lk 1:38). Thanks be to God for such love that brought us eternal redemption. Rebellion against the Churchs clear and unwavering teaching on contraception, and the attendant desire of this rebellion to dominate and subvert our fertility, opposes the very archetype of redeemed humanity and deprives us of the divine life realized in her Assumption.

The Birth of John the Baptist (June 24)

John the Baptist is known for his passionate and hard-hitting preaching in preparation -for the New Covenant. He called the world to repentance, urging it to make way for the Christ by making amends for its wrongdoing. His life was devoted to the circumcision of the heart (cf. Rm. 2:29) that would universalize salvation, making it possible for anyone, Jew or gentile, to be justified. His death came about as the result of his public condemnation of Herods unlawful marriage to his brothers wife. The issue over which John gave up his life was the sanctity and right ordering of marriage. Can we not call ourselves to account for the disordering of marriage in our use of contraception and in our self-mutilative practice of sterilization? John the Baptist was no wild man, but a man of extraordinary conviction who deeply loved his people. His challenge, like that of the Church, is to clear the way for Christ by removing obstacles to full reception of His grace. Contraception is such an obstacle and until it is removed we cannot fully receive the gifts with which Christ has endowed marriage.

Saints Peter and Paul (June 29)

Out of the heroic sacrifice of saints Peter and Paul emerges a confirmation of the Christological ethic of leadership and service. Like Jesus before them, Peter and Paul laid down their lives to lead the Church, validating their commission as Apostolic fathers. Though this leadership exists today in the successors of the Apostles, rank and file Catholics too commonly dismiss Apostolic Succession by disobeying the teaching authority of the magisterium. Dissent from the Churchs teaching on contraception, because this teaching has been the clear and continuous exercise of the apostolic office that resides in the Pope and the College of Bishops, is an implicit repudiation of the apostolicity of the Church. To reject the teaching authority of the Church on this matter is to reject the apostolic office sustained by Peter and Paul at so great a cost.

Body and Blood

; Triumph of the Cross (Sept. 14)Although we may not be proficient in the theology of redemptive suffering, most of us are familiar with the expression, “offer it up.” Most of us are vaguely cognizant of the value of suffering for ourselves and others, though we do not like to suffer. The Triumph of the Cross opens up for us the mystery that our suffering can be united to that of Christ, not in such a way that Christs offering on the Cross was insufficient and needs to be supplemented by our own suffering. Rather, it teaches us that our suffering is made efficacious because it is a participation in Christs suffering: “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal which comes upon you to prove you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice in so far as you share Christs sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed” (1 Pt 4:12-13). Indeed, because Christ took upon Himself all human affliction on the Cross, he has already realized our suffering and offered it to God.

Our suffering has been, as it were, nailed to the Cross. Our personal self-sacrifices become one with Christs self-sacrifice. We express this connection in the Mass during the offertory when we say, “May the Lord accept this sacrifice at your hands, for the praise and glory of God, for our good and the good of all of His Church.” This shared sacrifice is redemptive to us and to the rest of the Church (“for our good and the good of all His Church”). Jesus does not offer Himself apart from us, exclusively. On the contrary, He offers Himself in union with humanity, incorporating us into His once-for-all sacrifice. He is our corporate representative, allowing all of the merit he earned to be applied to us, not juridically as if God simply demanded a pound of flesh for the wrongdoing of humanity, but communally, drawing his brothers and sisters (us) into an offering of love. Our every trial and our every act of love has meaning to the extent that it proceeds from the self-offering of Christ.

So what does this all have to do with contraception? We live in a hedonistic culture that tells us to pursue only what feels good, and to avoid all that feels bad by any means necessary. Parenthood and children have been assailed by this self-serving ethic. In the pursuit of sexual pleasure, material gain, and personal gratification, contraception has become the means of thwarting our fertility. Children are perceived by too many as an inconveniencetoo costly, too time consuming, too needy. Yet, in keeping with the tenet that pleasure must be pursued at all costs, hedonism is not willing to let go of the sexual act that is designed to produce children. Modern culture is practically obsessed with the refinement of methods and gadgets that could “liberate” our sexuality from the threat and demands of parenthood. The result has been the objectification of persons: the turning of human beings into objects of sexual gratification. Love, which is the foundation and goal of romantic interaction, is replaced by infatuation and lust, creating counterfeit relationships that often end in separation and divorce.

Contraception, because it is aimed at mutual self-gratification instead of mutual self-gift, fuels this decline. Couples are trained to say with their bodies, “I give my whole self to you,” while in truth withholding part of themselves from their partners. Standing against this degradation is the Triumph of the Cross, in which Jesus heart matched perfectly His action. When He said, “This is my body given up for you,” he enacted this promise bodily on the Cross. In His sacrifice is the very definition of love: the complete offering of self in recognition and service of anothers God-given dignity. Jesus put the definition more simply: “No one has greater love than this, to lay down ones life for ones friends” (Jn 15:13).

Holy Family

What feast could be more suited to the message of the blessings of children and the harm of contraception? Mary and Joseph, despite the most difficult of circumstances, devoted themselves to the Christ child. Their openness to life was not hindered by the inconvenience of Gods call for them, nor by the interruption of their plans for the future. Unlike the contracepting couple that says “no” to Gods call to parenthood, Mary and Joseph said “yes.” The faithfulness of the Holy Family in service to life, brought life to us all in the person of Christ. In the same way that Mary and Joseph found themselves in the vocation of parenthood, so too do we discover ourselves in our acceptance of this holy calling. The marriage of Joseph and Mary reveals to us that the raising of a child enhances the love of spouses for one another and deepens their shared sense of meaning in life. Theirs is a shining example of a sentiment common among parents: “Its the hardest thing Ive ever done, but its worth it!”

3. Anniversaries/Commemorations

Anniversary of Humanae Vitae (July 25)

Pope Paul VIs Encyclical Humanae Vitae is a concise summation of the Churchs teaching on contraception. It defines the duties and responsibilities of conjugal love, the unitive and procreative aspects of sex, the morally impermissible methods of regulating birth, the morality of Natural Family Planning, and the consequences of artificial birth control for the world. There are, in fact, three consequences outlined by Pope Paul VI that have unfortunately been confirmed: (1) marital infidelity, (2) a general decline in morality, and (3) the abuse of contraceptive methods by public authorities. The high divorce rates we have experienced, the scandalous rate of out-of-wedlock pregnancies and fatherless families, and the coercive contraception and abortion policies that have emerged around the globe all prove Humanae Vitae right. The encyclical goes on to explain pastoral directives that emphasize self-mastery, and the creation of a climate of chastity. Appeals are made to public authorities, scientists, spouses, medical personnel, priests, and bishops, to uphold the truth about contraception and support openness to the blessings of children. It is a timeless document that, contrary to popular misconception, did not invent a new doctrine on fertility in marriage, but reiterated and clarified what the Church had always and universally taught.

Anniversary of Roe v. Wade (Jan. 22) & Respect Life Sunday (first Sun. in Oct.)

Since 1973, nearly 42 million babies have been killed in the U.S.a rate of approximately 1.5 million every year. While there is widespread agreement among Christians that abortion is an evil that must be eradicated (though agreement is not universal), there is much less awareness and agreement that contraception has fueled the demand for abortion. Beyond the fact that the birth control pill is an abortifacient, contraception is based on intolerance of new life. Contraception assumes that fertility is a disease of sorts that must be treated with medication and which must be avoided by the use of prophylactics. The belief that we can artificially sterilize sex acts so as to avoid children implies a lack of appreciation for their value and opens the floodgates for a spectrum of other artificial measures that seek to achieve the same end through similarly illicit means. When we accept the use of contraception, we play into the hands of those who conspire against life: “It may be that many people use contraception with a view to excluding the subsequent temptation of abortion. But the negative values inherent in the contraceptive mentalitywhich is very different from responsible parenthood, lived in respect for the full truth of the conjugal actare such that they in fact strengthen this temptation when an unwanted life is conceived. Indeed, the pro-abortion culture is especially strong precisely where the Churchs teaching on contraception is rejected” (EV 13). For this reason Pope John Paul II has described contraception and abortion as “fruits of the same tree” (EV 13). In an audience with the Austrian bishops, June 19, 1987 he was equally direct: “It is ever more clear that it is absurd, for instance, to want to overcome abortion through the promotion of contraception. The invitation to contraception as a supposedly harmless manner of the relation between the sexes is not only an insidious denial of mans moral freedom. It fosters a depersonalized understanding of sexuality which is directed merely to the moment and promotes in the last analysis that mentality out of which abortion arises and from which it is continuously nourished. Furthermore, it is certainly not unknown to you that in more recent methods the transition from contraception to abortion has become extremely easy” (LOsservatore Romano, July 13, 1987).

Can preaching NFP help solve a shortage of vocations to the priesthood?

Preaching NFP is not only beneficial to parishioners, but also to the clergy. We ought to ask ourselves what effect, if any, contraception has had on the apparent lack of new vocations to the priesthood. The median age of priests is increasing, and so is their workload. Clergy are often asked to pastor two or three parishes concurrently, working from early morning to late evening fulfilling their sacramental and organizational duties, pressured to oversee all sorts of parish and diocesan initiatives, all the while trying to maintain an interior life. While priests do a laudable job at balancing these demands, both clergy and laity could benefit from aninflux of new priests. We must consider the possibility that smaller families, resulting largely from a contraceptive culture, are less likely to produce young men for the priesthood. Social customs influence parents to desire the propagation of the family name through their sons, and parents naturally desire grandchildren. While neither of these concerns is trivial, both are logically intensified when there are fewer children in the family. Parents might tend to be “freer” with their children if they have more of them.

6. Organize conferences, missions, and retreats on NFP on a regular basis

Programs such as these should situate instruction on NFP and contraception within their parent topics, marriage and family and should characterize NFP as more than a method of family planning, but a way of life built on self-giving and obedience. Drawing upon the experience of married couples, and the expertise of clergy, moral theologians, and medical personnel, these special settings are an opportunity to “wake parishioners up,” and reestablish the significance of NFP for married life. Many couples erroneously view the issue as passe, irrelevant, and idealistic. Put simply, they have moved on with their lives, suppressing any consideration of the morality of their approach to family planning. Conferences, missions, and retreats are opportunities for couples to stop and look around, to begin an examination of conscience with regard to their sexuality.

The parish is responsible for the ongoing education of adults in marital chastity, bringing to spouses a thorough understanding of the whole panoply of the marital embrace. This requires more than a one-time exposure in a pre-Cana setting. Rather, it must adapt to the deepening of needs within marriage that arise with time. It goes without saying that the attitude of married couples toward sexuality, children, personal goals and needs, spirituality, and life in general changes dramatically as couples grow in their marriage. How many married couples by their first, tenth, or twenty-fifth anniversary, would say that their view of these issues has not changed from the time they were engaged? The parish must adapt to this change, offering couples dynamic nurturing of their maturing vocation. Pope John Paul II addresses the need for continuous formation of spouses in the lifestyle of NFP as part of the necessary conditionspsychological, moral, spiritualof living according to Gods moral norms:

But the necessary conditions also include knowledge of the bodily aspect and the bodys rhythms of fertility. Accordingly, every effort must be made to render such knowledge accessible to all married people and also to young adults before marriage, through clear, timely and serious instruction and education given by married couples, doctors and experts. Knowledge must then lead to education in self-control: hence the absolute necessity for the virtue of chastity and for permanent education in it

Married people too are called upon to progress unceasingly in their moral life, with the support of a sincere and active desire to gain ever better knowledge of the values enshrined in and fostered by the law of God. They must also be supported by an upright and generous willingness to embody these values in their concrete decisions On the same lines, it is part of the Churchs pedagogy that husbands and wives should first of all recognize clearly the teaching of Humanae Vitae as indicating the norm for the exercise of their sexuality, and that they should endeavor to establish conditions necessary for observing that norm (FC 34).

These most important building blocks, marriage and family, are crucial to the life of the parish. Families are the primary source of most of the parishs initiatives and they are certainly the main source of future parishioners and of parish giving. Investing in families is investing in the vitality and future of the parish. Contraception weakens marriages, stunts the growth of families and, in turn, threatens the stability of the parish. Vibrant families make for a vibrant community. It is in the interest of the community to eliminate threats to its welfare.

7. Pastoral leaders must receive NFP education

The continuous education of married couples requires an educated leadership:

This shared progress demands reflection, instruction and suitable education on the part of the priests, religious and lay people engaged in family pastoral work: they will all be able to assist married people in their human and spiritual progress, a progress that demands awareness of sin, a sincere commitment to observe the moral law, and the ministry of reconciliation (FC 34).

There are myriad organizations to which pastoral leaders can turn that support NFP education. The starting point should be diocesan NFP coordinators and/or Family Life Coordinators. These offices sometimes organize seminars for priests, create and distribute publications on NFP, and maintain contact information for NFP educators and mission speakers. They can also point inquirers in the direction of organizations that specialize in NFP education such as One More Soul, Couple to Couple League, Family of the Americas, Billings Ovulation Method Association and the Pope Paul VI Institute to name just a few. Audio/Video tapes, pamphlets, magazines, and books are, of course, indispensable in keeping on top of the issue. The following, although by no means exhaustive, is a standard of resources for self-education:

Audio/Video3

Contraception: Why Not, Professor Janet E. Smith (audio and/or video) Humanae Vitae: Making Happier Healthier Families, Professor Janet E. Smith (audio) Why NFP is a Priority in My Parish, Fr. Randall Moreau (audio) Creating a Culture of Life within a Parish: Begin with NFP, Frs. Marcos Gonzalez & Roberto Pirrone (audio)

Books

4

Sex and the Marriage Covenant, John Kippley (out of print but 2nd edition underway)Love and Responsibility, Karol Wojtyla (Pope John Paul II)The Art of Natural Family Planning, John and Sheila Kippley (4th edition)Love and Fertility, Mercedes Arzu WilsonThe Billings Method, Dr. Evelyn BillingsHumanae Vitae: A Generation Later, Professor Janet E. SmithGood News About Sex and Marriage: Answers to your Honest Questions about Catholic Teaching, Christopher WestCatholic Sexual Ethics: A Summary, Explanation, and Defense (2nd Edition), Fr. Ronald Lawler, Joseph Boyle, Jr. , William MayBirth Control and Christian Discipleship, John Kippley

8. All the little things: literature centers, bulletin announcements, and petitions for General Intercessions.

In order to create an NFP culture in the parish, there must be attention to the little things that, when done consistently, really are not that little. Literature centers placed in the vestibule of the Church, like the checkout isle of a grocery store, give parishioners one last look at what is going on in the parish before they leave to carry Christ out into the world. A little basic marketing can be helpful: pamphlets, flyers, and books must be neat and organized, placed prominently at eye-level, with smart, professional-looking signage and attractive visuals. Effective attention grabbers include, “Is your marriage all it can be?” “What does the Church really teach about contraception?”, “Marriage builders”, “Marriage Insurance”, and “Love that Lasts”. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has made posters available in which the caption, “Capture the Romance,” appears underneath a picture of a happy, attractive couple.5 One More Soul distributes ready-made pamphlet packets to get started on a literature center. Personalizing pamphlets with address labels with contact information for local NFP teachers and testimony/consultant couples will direct readers as to where they can dig deeper.

Bulletin announcements are a convenient way to deepen the parishs awareness of NFP. Quotes from notable people in support of NFP, and “factoids” about NFP such as, “Did you know that Natural Family Planning is not the same as the Rhythm Method? Heres why”, or “Did you know that Natural Family Planning has helped infertile couples achieve pregnancy by determining the optimal fertile time for conception?”6 can get readers thinking. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Diocesan Development Program for NFP produces a pamphlet called NFP: Myths and Reality that debunks misconceptions about NFP with short, pithy snippets; these, also, would be excellent bulletin sections. How about brief personal testimonies from couples who have converted to the NFP lifestyle from a contraceptive lifestyle? One More Soul publishes a pamphlet of three such testimoniesentitled “The Hurtful Consequences of Artificial Contraception and Sterilizationthat, with regard to both content and length, would be a nice fit for bulletin announcements. A new book from One More Soul is also available, entitled Sterilization Reversal: A Generous Act of Love, in which twenty Catholic couples share the stories of their reversals. This could be easily adapted for bulletin use by adding whole stories as inserts or by using interesting quotes in the bulletin itself.

The following is a set of notable quotes on NFP/contraception that could be published in bulletins:7

“It was Humanae Vitae more than anything else that made me feel I must belong to that Church that could have the extraordinary insight and courage to produce this encyclicalknowing that it would be absolutely torn to pieces, treated as a kind of blasphemy in the idiotic society we live in.” Malcolm Muggeridge

“in some critical respects the abortion decision is of the same character as the decision to use contraceptionfor two decades people have organized intimate relationships and made choices that define their views of themselves and their place in society, in reliance on the availability of abortion in the event that contraception should fail.” U.S. Supreme Court, Planned Parenthood v. Casey

“The close connection which exists, in mentality, between that practice of contraception and that of abortion is becoming increasingly obvious. It is being demonstrated in an alarming way by the development of chemical products, intrauterine devices, and vaccines which, distributed with the same ease as contraceptives, really act as abortifacients in the very early stages of life of a new human being.” Pope John Paul II, Gospel of Life 13

“The way to plan the family is Natural Family Planning, not contraception. In destroying the power of giving life, through contraception, a husband or wife is doing something to self. This turns the attention to self, and so it destroys the gift of love in him or her. By properly using the Natural Family Planning method, couples are using their bodies to glorify God in the sanctity of family life.” Mother Teresa

“God chooses to bring forth new human life through the love of spouses. The entire world was created for us and for others like us. God wishes to share His creation with new human souls, and brings new souls into the world through the love of men and women for each other.. . . When a man and woman have a child together, its an act that changes the cosmos; something has come into existence that will never pass out of existence.”Dr. Janet Smith, Humanae Vitae: A Challenge to Love

“NFP allows couples to respect their bodies, obey their God, and fully respect their spouses.”Dr. Janet Smith, Humanae Vitae: A Challenge to Love

“The Church condemns contraception not because it wants to deny spouses sexual pleasure, but because it wants to help them find marital happiness and to help them have happy homes, for without these our well-being as individuals and as a society is greatly endangered In teaching that contraception is intrinsically immoral, the Church is not imposing a disciplinary law on Catholics; she is preaching only what nature and the Gospel preach.” Dr. Janet Smith, Humanae Vitae: A Challenge to Love

“God has entrusted spouses with the extremely important mission of transmitting human life. In fulfilling this mission spouses freely and deliberately render a service to God, the Creator. This service has always been a source of great joy, although the joys are, at times, accompanied by not a few difficulties and sufferings.” Humanae Vitae

“The experience of tens of thousands of couples has shown that, when lived prayerfully and unselfishly, NFP deepens and enriches marriage and results in great intimacyand greater joy.” Archbishop Charles Chaput, Of Human Life

Statistics and study results are eye opening as well. Here is a list of statistics, all of which are taken from The Art of Natural Family Planning by John and Sheila Kippley, that can be used for bulletin announcements:

Negative effects of the Pill: Studies show an increased risk in breast cancer, cervical cancer, liver tumors, blood clots, heart attacks and brain hemorrhage in women who use the Pill, Norplant, or Depo-Provera (p.8).

Spermicides: “Women who inadvertently become pregnant while using spermicidal contraceptives suffer about twice the rate of miscarriages in the first three months of pregnancy as other women, according to researchers at Temple University and the New Jersey School of Osteopathic Medicine” (p.12).

Condoms & Diaphragms: “Women who rely on birth control methods, such as condoms and diaphragms, that prevent semen from reaching the uterus, are more than twice as likely to develop one of the most serious complications of pregnancy as are their counterparts who had been repeatedly exposed to sperm from the prospective father. The complication is called preeclampsia or toxemia of pregnancy and is the third-ranking cause of pregnancy-related death, following infection and hemorrhage” (p.12).

Tubal Ligation (sterilization): “The incidence of complications [with tubal ligation] was 22% to 37%, with symptoms of dysfunctional uterine bleeding, dysmenorrhea [painful periods], dyspareunia [pain during intercourse] and pelvic pain. This group of symptoms has been called the post-tubal-ligation or post-sterilization syndrome” (p.12).

Vasectomy: Two studies published in the 1993 Journal of the American Medical Association “showed that vasectomy greatly increases the risk of developing prostate cancer. One study showed a 66% to 85% greater risk, and the other showed the increased risk to run from 56% to 106%” (p.17).

Failure rates for artificial birth control: Based on data from the Guttmacher Institute, an affiliate of Planned Parenthood, failure rates for the condom range from 9.8%-18.5%, and for the Pill range from 3.8% to 8.7% (p.146).

Low Divorce Rates for NFP: Available studies show a divorce rate among NFP couples of 5% or less.(p.245).8

Of course, anything that could be published in the bulletin could be used in the homily. In fact, a tie-in between the homily and bulletin is recommended as a way to draw parishioners attention to the bulletin item/insert and reinforce their reception of the message from the pulpit.

Some parishes include petitions that accentuate the Churchs teaching on the blessings of children and openness to life in the General Intercessions. Indeed the USCCBs Pastoral Plan for Pro-Life Activities suggests, “Parishes should include in the petitions at every Mass a prayer that ours will become a nation that respects and protects all human life, born and unborn, reflecting a true culture of life.”9 Saint Boniface parish in Lafayette, Indiana, always includes a petition that contrasts the culture of death with the culture of life: “That the culture of death, promoting contraception, sterilization, human embryonic research, abortion, infanticide, euthanasia, assisted suicide, capital punishment, and terrorism, would give way to the gospel of life, let us pray to the Lord.”

Here are a few more examples:

For openness among married couples to the gift of life, let us pray to the Lord. For all those whose lives have been harmed by abortion, contraception, and sterilization, let us pray to the Lord.

For an end to the destructive influence of contraception on marriage, and a renewed openness to the blessings of children, let us pray to the Lord.

That couples will turn away from reproductive technologies that harm children, such as artificial insemination and in vitro fertilization, let us pray to the Lord.

That married couples will embrace their fertility and refrain from contraception and sterilization, let us pray to the Lord.

That the Lord in His mercy would roll back the culture of death and free our land from abortion, contraception, sterilization, and euthanasia, let us pray to the Lord.

For the young people of our parish and society, that the Lord would protect them from the temptations of contraception and immorality and help them lead full, joyful Christian lives, let us pray to the Lord.

For all those who have fallen into abortion, contraception, and sterilization, that the Lord would bring them reconciliation and complete healing, let us pray to the Lord.

Priests for Life

publishes these petitions:

Christmas: “That the joy of Christmas at the birth of Christ may also be reflected in our willingness to welcome every child, even in difficult circumstances, we pray to the Lord.”

Feast of the Holy Family: “That the family may become ever more the sanctuary of life, where all are welcomed as a gift rather than a burden.”

First Sunday of Lent (A): “That all may reject the temptation to be like gods who have mastery over human life, and instead may accept and reverence life as a supreme gift of the Creator, we pray to the Lord.”

7th Sunday of Easter (A): “That as Christs disciples, who live in a Culture of Death, we may effectively witness the Gospel of Life that has been entrusted to us, we pray to the Lord.”

“That the leaders and members of the Church may fulfill with joy their calling to proclaim, celebrate, and serve the Gospel of Life, we pray to the Lord.”

Issues of marital sexuality such as contraception, Natural Family Planning, and openness to procreation impact the spiritual lives of parishioners whether they are married adults, single adults, children, or senior citizens. There is no one that falls outside the reach of marriage and family life concerns. Our vision for marriage, children, and procreation is central to the health of our families, and the health of our families greatly determines the welfare of the worshipping community. Spouses that hold nothing back in their giving to one another, who make themselveslike Christa complete gift of self for each other, will also give themselves this way to the parish family. Even more, they will raise their children with the example of self-emptying sacrifice, insuring a future generation of Catholics schooled in authentic love. Since marriage is, as St. Paul describes in his letter to the Ephesians, a sign of Christs covenant relationship with His Church, our marriages must maintain the integrity of unreserved mutual self-offering that is the essence of Christs Paschal offering (cf. Eph. 5:21-32).

The issue of contraception is not an isolated moral issue but is associated with, according to Pope Paul VI, a range of far-reaching negative consequences such as

justifying “behavior leading to marital infidelity or to a gradual weakening in the discipline of morals”

setting conditions for young people to succumb to temptation

loss of mutual respect between spouses

oppressive contraceptive policies by states (HV 17).

Why is this so? Because contraception distorts the meaning, not just of the sexual act, but of our very concept of love, which the sexual act expresses. Contraception strikes at the root virtue of all Christian lifelove. A contraceptive concept of love asserts mutual self-gratification above mutual and complete self-offering. A moral structure that accepts this inversion of values has a faulty orientation in general and is bound to affect our view of other moral issues. Father Thomas Dufner of Holy Family Catholic Church, St. Louis Park, Minnesota, put the issue this way in a recent homily: A concept of love without life becomes corrupted into pre-marital sex, adultery, abortion, pornography, and homosexuality. On the other hand, a concept of life outside of the loving embrace leads to in vitro fertilization, embryonic stem cell research, and cloning.

Life and love go hand in hand. Just as Christs offering of love gave life to all, so are we called to love in a life-giving way. Parishes are communities called to be sanctuaries of life and love, are they not? Let us build parish communities that foster marriages fully open to life-giving love, that accept the revelatory nature of marital sexuality as a co-creative cooperation with God, and that admit no exceptions to true love.

About the Author

This booklet is drawn from Part 3 of Called to Give Life by Jason T. Adams. Jason Adams is a father of five and the Theology Chair at Guerin Catholic High School, Noblesville, Indiana. He serves as Outreach Associate for One More Soul, the publisher of Called to Give Life. He holds the degrees of Bachelor of Arts, in Secondary Education, from Purdue University, and Master of Arts, in Theology and Christian Ministry, from the Franciscan University of Steubenville. Jason and Linda have used Natural Family Planning to successfully postpone and achieve pregnancy throughout their marriage, and have shared their testimony to its benefits in Pre-Cana, RCIA, young adult/youth groups, and other venues.

Foot Notes

1 United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), Faithful to Each Other Forever: A Catholic Handbook of Pastoral Help for Marriage Preparation, 1988, p. 47.

2 “Teaching NFP: A Step Forward,” Fr. Frank Pavone, www.priestsforlife.org/articles/teachingnfp.html.

3 One More Soul offers a tape sampler of 12 tapes that can be assembled a la carte to include the tapes listed here; (800) 307-7685.

4 All of these titles are available at One More Soul. See catalog for details, or log onto www.OMSoul.com.

5 USCCB Diocesan Development Program for NFP, Tel. 202-541-3240/3070; Fax 202-541-3054; E-mail nfp@usccb.org

6 Second quote, Bernadette Sacksteder.

7 Compiled by Bernadette Sacksteder.

8 A more recent study sponsored by the Family of Americas Foundation, a worldwide organization that promotes the ovulation method of NFP, surveyed 600 NFP-using couples and found that ONLY 3.6 PERCENT OF NFP USERS HAD EVER DIVORCED.

9 Pastoral Plan for Pro-Life Activities: A Campaign in Support of Life. USCCB. Washington, DC: 2001, p. 31.

Teaching Fertility Appreciation

Teaching Fertility Appreciation Teacher’s Guide

by Ross and Lisa Novack

 

The Fertility Appreciation class series was developed by Ross and Lisa Novack in January 1998 and was taught by them at Elizabeth’s New Life Center in Dayton, Ohio, from March 1998 to September 2001. The class plan was revised for publication in October 2002.

 

Ross Novack is an officer and an Electrical Engineer in the United States Air Force. Lisa is a stay-at-home wife and mother of three young children. They are trained users of the Sympto-Thermal Method of Natural Family Planning. They were involved with Elizabeth’s New Life Center in Dayton, Ohio, for four years. Ross was a member of the board of directors, and Lisa worked as a peer counselor and also offered computer graphics help. Together they developed these classes to make clients aware of the beauty of their God-given fertility, as well as informing them about the effects of contraception and the benefits of Natural Family Planning.

 

Contents

Why Teach Fertility Appreciation?

Fertility Appreciation Class Plan Part I: Understanding Your Fertility

Fertility Appreciation Class Plan Part II: Family Planning Methods

Fertility Appreciation Basics: A Review

Class Diagram

Teaching Fertility Appreciation and the Principle of Double Effect

What a Woman Should Know about Contraceptives, by Chris Kahlenborn, MD with Ann Moell, MD

Teaching Fertility Appreciation in a Pregnancy Support Center

Resources for Teaching Fertility Appreciation

 

Why Teach Fertility Appreciation?

What follows is the text of a pamphlet published by One More Soul describing the benefits achieved at Elizabeth’s New Life Center in Dayton, Ohio, through teaching Fertility Appreciation.

“Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do so will be called least in the kingdom of heaven. But whoever obeys and teaches these commandments will be called greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” Matt 5:19

 

“If you remain in my word, you will truly be my disciples, and you will know the Truth, and the Truth will set you free.” John 8:32

 

At Elizabeth’s New Life Center, our philosophy is to be present to the needs of the women who come to us by providing peer counseling, material assistance, prenatal medical care, emotional support and friendship, spiritual guidance, education, whatever these needs may be. It is by being present to them that we reach these women with love, influencing them to choose life for their babies, supporting them in that decision, and helping them to change their lives for the better. Lisa and I have come to see this as the living application of the slogan, “Love them both.” An integral part of truly loving these women as God does is telling them the TRUTH — In Love — about marriage, sexuality, and chastity — the Truth that the world does not give.

 

The women who come to the Center are often not prepared to hear and accept the Truth we present to them. They have been conditioned by the world’s message: instant gratification, pleasure above all, and casual sex without strings. They have been taught that contraception is the world’s greatest invention, that children are a burden, and that babies can be disposed of. Some have never been taught what is right and good — not from their parents or families, not in school, and often not even in their churches. If they are told these things, it is by way of “Don’t do this” or “Don’t do that” without the reasons behind it. As a result, some clients have little or no basis on which our counselors can talk to them about chastity or morality.

 

A Fertility Appreciation class is another opportunity to teach these clients, to lay the foundation, and to encourage them to change their behavior. In this context we can do the groundwork necessary for the client to consider chastity or secondary virginity. The class gives us time to present our case in a way that is different from one-on-one counseling. The clients share their experiences and observations with each other, often validating in their eyes what we are trying to teach them.

 

In teaching Fertility Appreciation, we are trying to give the skills and information they need to form their consciences and make good choices. The primary goals of our class are to: 1) Teach God’s plan for sex and marriage, 2) Promote chastity or secondary virginity among unmarried women, and 3) Promote Natural Family Planning and generous self-giving within marriage in preference to contraception.

 

Really, though, the purpose and reach goes much further. We want them to realize the beauty and complexity of their fertility and the immeasurable value of their life and sexuality. We want to inform them of the physical, emotional, spiritual, and relational risks and harms of using contraception. In addition, we want them to be aware of the abortifacient effects of many types of contraception including the Pill, IUD, Norplant, Depo-Provera, and the Patch.

 

It is our responsibility to share the knowledge and Truth we’ve found. People have a need and a right to know how their bodies work, the purpose of sex, God’s plan for sex and marriage, the harms of artificial contraception, and that Natural Family Planning exists and is highly effective and worthwhile. Armed with this Truth, they can begin to turn their lives toward constructive relationships, freedom, and joy.

 

Is It Right to Teach Fertility Appreciation to Single Persons?

 

In this class, participants learn the basics of their fertility and are introduced to the ovulation method of Natural Family Planning. Some people are concerned that by teaching an unmarried person to read natural fertility signs, we are encouraging sexual activity without the potential consequence of making a baby. It is, however, impossible to give women the full understanding of how their bodies work without also discussing the observable signs of when they are fertile and when they are not. While providing this information, we also teach participants about the natural law (and therefore God’s law) concerning their sexuality — both the moral imperatives of God’s law and the consequences of not living by God’s law concerning sex. The information presented in the class is strongly oriented toward use within a marriage relationship and would be very difficult to use in a situation of adultery or fornication.

 

Women have the right to know how their bodies work as well as the right to know the effect contraceptive drugs and mechanical devices have on their bodies. Spreading this Truth is so critical because it is a basis for positive behavior change, which is our best hope for overcoming the problems of women and of society that are brought into pregnancy support centers every day. People are unlikely to get this message anywhere else.

 

In the “Artificial versus Natural Family Planning” video used in the class, Dr. Jerome Lejeune sheds light on this situation. He says, “I think the reason why NFP is not widely used by everyone is in fact because of two things: first, a man must have love for his woman and second, he must have respect for her physiology. And it cannot be used if you have random partners or if you do not have a real conjugal law.” By conjugal law, he means an understanding and respect for God’s law for sex. Consequently, our students are unlikely to use NFP without respecting God’s order for sexuality, which is chastity. In talking to a priest about the class, he said, “We can never be wrong about giving people information with which to make good moral choices. We are not responsible for the choices others make, but in fact we may be culpable for withholding the truth.”

 

Through this class, we try to instill in the clients a sense of the wonder and gift of their fertility and of pro-creating with God in bringing new life into the world. These are ambitious goals. We’re planting seeds. Only God knows if and when these seeds will germinate and bear fruit. However, God does sometimes let us see the fruits of our efforts to encourage us.

 

We have had several participants tell us later that our class helped them choose chastity. We’ve also had several married participants learn and practice NFP. They were pleased with the understanding it gave them of their own bodies. One participant, after sitting through our class, confided in us that she had an appointment to get an IUD the next day, and that, after listening to our presentation, she decided not to go. We’ve been amazed how God has used this class to change lives.

Structure of a Fertility Appreciation Class

The class has two parts:

 

Part one

covers philosophy and biology. We talk about how a woman’s natural fertility works and how wonderfully God has made our bodies. We discuss God’s plan for sex, how the female reproductive system works, and the naturally occurring signs of fertility (mucus) in a woman’s cycle.

 

We talk to them about God’s plan for sex and marriage and discuss the two-fold Natural Law purpose of sex — “Bonding and Babies.”

 

Bonding

— We talk about chastity, the emotional and psychological effects of premarital sex, and WHY sex is for marriage. We tell them that sex speaks the language of the body and what it says is, “I give myself to you completely and accept you completely not just now but for always.” We tell them how this bonding produces effects that are great for marriage, but it is disastrous outside of marriage — often causing couples to overlook serious problems with their partner.

Babies

— The “two become one” so completely that nine months later you’re picking out a name for that “one.” Openness to life when you have sex with your spouse is like saying, “I love you so much that I want to make another person just like you!” By withholding our fertility in sex, we put up a barrier to our love and union.

We explain the consequences of breaking God’s Natural Law for sex by using sex outside of the purposes for which it was created. We stress to them that it’s never too late — even though they’re not virgins, it’s never too late to choose chastity.

 

We show the video, “Appreciating Your Fertility” and explain the female reproductive system using a poster, talking about all the parts, what each does, and what happens in a woman’s normal cycle.

 

Part two

of the class reviews all the concepts covered in part one — especially God’s plan for sex and marriage, and the naturally occurring signs of fertility. We show the video “Artificial vs. Natural Family Planning” and then discuss the effects of artificial contraception, covering each method of contraception in detail.

We then discuss Natural Family Planning, which is the way God gives us to be able to postpone a pregnancy for a justifiable reason. This is done by learning the naturally occurring signs of a woman’s fertility so that the couple knows when to have and when to abstain from sex. We include several important points in our discussion of NFP including the scientific proof of the method, its low cost (money and time), moral acceptability, high success rate in a wide variety of cycle situations, reversibility, and ease of use. We stress that this is not the calendar rhythm method (the old rhythm method was only 65% effective — modern NFP is 98-99% effective if used properly). We tell them basically how it works day to day for a couple — charting, decision-making, and showing mutual respect. Lastly, we relate the many advantages of NFP including improved communication between husband and wife, increased respect and understanding, relationship building, reversibility (can be used to achieve pregnancy), and the decreased divorce rate of couples practicing NFP.

 

“When we first started working on this class we expected the clients to sit there and stare blankly at us as so often happens in a classroom setting — but we’ve been pleasantly surprised. Clients often share their own experiences, adding credibility to what we have said. They ask questions that are relevant and usually very astute; they answer questions when asked; and we often receive comments of amazement that they’ve never been told these things. We attribute this to the very intimate nature of the subject matter as well as the casual, comfortable, matter-of-fact way in which we try to approach it.”

 

Ross & Lisa Novack (developers of the Fertility Appreciation class)

 

 
Fertility Appreciation Class Plan

Part I: Understanding Your Fertility

I. Introduction and Purpose

A. Hi, thank you for coming. We’re really glad you’re here. [Tell them your name(s) and, if applicable, how long you’ve been married and how many kids you have. Have each of them introduce themselves and if they’re pregnant, have them tell when they’re due.]

 

B. The class is called “Understanding Your Fertility,” and it is the first class of a two-part series. Please try to make it again next week for the second class, which is called “Family Planning Methods.” In this part of the class we will:

 

1. Learn about God’s beautiful plan for sex and marriage,

 

2. Learn about how a woman’s natural fertility works — her reproductive system and the naturally occurring signs of fertility in a woman’s cycle, and

 

3. Learn to appreciate how wonderfully God has made our bodies — they are so intricate and so carefully balanced.

 

C. [Ask them a few questions and get their answers. You may give the basics now or wait.]

 

1. What do you already know about how the woman’s cycle works?

 

2. How many days a month do you think you can get pregnant?

 

[One day per cycle. A woman’s egg lives for 12-24 hours — though a man’s sperm may live in her for up to five days before that to fertilize the egg.]

 

3. How do you know when you’re fertile and when you aren’t?

 

[Presence of mucus or wetness. Low waking basal body temperature.]

 

These are some of the things we’ll learn more about in today’s class.

II. God’s Plan for Sex

A. What do you think God’s plan is for sex and marriage? [Listen to some of their answers.] Well, God has given a purpose and meaning to everything in life including sex. Sex can be a truly beautiful and amazing experience between a man and a woman, but God’s plan for sex is within the context of Marriage. It is only within this context that sex can really be true and beautiful. Experienced outside this context, sex’s meaning is distorted, and it can have serious consequences, as we’ll talk about. In this class, we’ll be focusing on God’s plan and how God made you in light of this plan.

 

B. Let’s begin with a quick lesson in Natural Law, which comes from elementary philosophy, because it’s helpful in understanding this section. The Natural Law is a self-evident truth. It is something you use everyday without knowing it. What the Natural Law says is this, “You have to treat things in accord with the nature and reality that they have if you want them to prosper.” [REPEAT] So, if you want something to thrive, you have to treat it according to the way it is made. Take the tomato plant, for example. If you want to get good tomatoes, you’ve got to treat that tomato plant in accord with its nature and reality, with the way it was made — that means providing it with the right amount of water, the right sunlight, temperature, etc. You can’t put the plant in the closet for a week and expect it to produce good tomatoes. Similarly, we have to treat ourselves and our sexuality in accord with our nature and reality so we prosper and reach our full

God-given potential.

 

C. So, why did God make sex — what’s its purpose? God made sex for two inseparable purposes: for the unification of the married couple and for the procreation of children, or for “Bonding and Babies.” So, that’s its nature and reality. First, let’s talk about bonding.

 

1. Bonding— We use our bodies to communicate. Our actions tell others about us and who we are as a person. We can’t separate a person from their actions. Sex speaks the language of the body, and what it says is “I give myself totally to you and accept you totally — not just for this moment but for always.” When a couple has sex, the two become one — physically, mentally, and spiritually. Sex is the super glue of the heart, bonding the two together. God meant for sex to bind the married couple together — to help them to outlast the difficult times and those times when they aggravate each other and get on each other’s nerves. It also helps them to overlook their spouse’s faults. For example, it helps me overlook Lisa throwing her clothes on the floor, and it helps Lisa overlook me not listening real well when she talking. [Add your own example.] This “blindness” is a good thing within marriage but can be very harmful outside of marriage. Consequently, it’s so important that we don’t have sex while dating. It could cause you to overlook faults that you need to see — such as selfishness, lack of self-control, or dangerous or harmful behavior. If you’re having sex before marriage, you could be bonding with someone that isn’t the right person for you to spend the rest of your life with. This bond is why breaking up, when you’re in a sexual relationship, is so hard to do. If the time comes that you realize the person you’re with isn’t the right person for you and you break up, part of your heart is torn away with that super glue. And it hurts. Each time we have a sexual relationship and break up, our hearts get a little harder. And so it’s harder to bond and really open ourselves up to truly loving the other. That’s not God’s plan for you. He doesn’t want you to go around with all these little parts of your heart torn out, and He surely doesn’t want us to lose our capability to love. By remaining chaste during dating — by not having sex — we are best able to clearly and wisely judge whether the other person is right for us, whether you’re compatible to live together for the rest of your lives. Now, let’s talk about babies.

 

2. Babies— In the sexual union, the “two become one” so completely that nine months later, they might be picking out a name for that “one.” The most special thing a husband and wife can do is to participate with God in the creation of a totally new person. God is the only one who can really make a baby — He gives us a part in that creation, but without Him we can’t make it happen. God wants to use the husband and wife’s act of lovemaking to bring forth new life. Being open to life when you have sex with your spouse by not using contraception is like saying to them, “I love you SO MUCH that I want to make another person just like you!” Saying, “I want to have children with you,” has so much more real, true love in it than saying, “I want to have sex with you.” When a couple contracepts, they refuse the self-giving nature of sex and put up a barrier to their love and union. They use each other for pleasure. They hold something back — “I love you except—your fertility.” This doesn’t mean we have to have as many babies as we can, but it does mean that we have to be responsible parents, use self-control, and follow God’s Natural Law. We’ll talk about this more later.

 

D. So God made sex for bonding and for babies — that’s His natural law or His purpose and design for sex. He meant for us to bond and have babies with someone who will be there for us through all the good times, through all the tough times. For better or for worse. God gives us His law. He made us, after all, and He knows how we work best! God’s law is written in all of our hearts — we know it deep down, and our experience tells us it’s true. Behaving contrary to the natural law is like putting honey in your gas tank even though the owner’s manual says that you should use gas. Of course, it is your car. So, you can do what you want with it because you have your God-given free will, but it’s not going to work right if you use it in a way that’s contrary to its nature and design. It’s also your body — you can do what you want with it because you have your God-given free will, but it’s not going to work right if you use your body contrary to its nature and design. Living by God’s law brings peace, joy, and freedom. God’s laws about sex are not rules to oppress us but guidelines to help us be really happy and healthy and free and to reach our full human potential. If we violate this law, we harm ourselves.

 

E. Let’s talk about some of the consequences or the ways we harm ourselves when we use sex outside of God’s plan by having sex outside of marriage or by using contraception:

 

1. Emotional — the pain of breaking that “super glue” bond of the heart and of closing us to truly loving others. This is a pain God never intended for us — it’s really the pain of divorce.

 

2. Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs) — there are over 50 strains of STDs today. The main STDs are Syphilis, Gonorrhea, Chlamydia, HPV (AKA Genital Warts), Herpes, and HIV/AIDS. The last three [Repeat them.] are incurable — if you get them, you have them for the rest of your life, and you may not even know you have them. Today alone 55,000 people (12,000 of them teens) will contract a STD. STDs cause pain and suffering and even death. Some cause serious infections or harm to your reproductive organs, sometimes causing permanent sterility — so later, when you want to get pregnant, you can’t.

 

3. Other consequences of violating God’s plan include unexpected pregnancy, divorce, abuse of women, sexual addiction, and adultery and infidelity. Adultery and premarital sex are made possible by contraception because it appears to separate babies from sex, making sex outside marriage possible without the consequences. Unfaithfulness always damages marriages and is often the cause of divorce. Most of these consequences hurt women more than men.

 

F. God loves us so much and doesn’t want us to suffer and get hurt from these things. He wants what’s best for us. To Love is wanting and doing what’s best for the other person. It’s very important to remember that it’s never too late. If you’re having sex outside of marriage and want to stop and wait until you’re married, remember that God forgives us. You can choose chastity or what some people call “secondary virginity.” You can always admit to Him that you’ve done wrong, ask for forgiveness, and pray for the strength to do what’s right.

III. The Female Reproductive System

A. I’d like to start out this next section on the female reproductive system by telling you, “A woman’s fertility is not a disease, it’s a natural function of her body.” God created us in a very intricate way. It’s amazing how everything works together. What’s going on in a woman’s body affects not only whether she can get pregnant but also how she feels and even how she thinks. Remember we talked a little while ago about what we already know about how our bodies work — now I’m going to show you a video about how it all fits together.

 

B. Show “Appreciating Your Fertility” video from Family of the Americas. (If you do not have the video or it is not available, you may proceed with the class anyway. The following reiterates and expounds on everything from the video.)

 

C. Now, we’re going to talk about what you saw in the video. (Use poster or diagram. Point to the different parts and have them tell you what it is. Then, explain what each part does.)

 

1. Vagina or birth canal

 

2. Uterus or womb

 

3. Cervix — neck of the womb. The mucus is produced here in the cervical crypts.

 

4. Endometrial Lining — the membrane that lines the walls of the uterus. It forms at the beginning of each new cycle to provide a kind of bed in which a newly conceived baby can implant and grow. At the end of the cycle, if the egg has been not fertilized, this bed will be expelled as menstruation.

 

5. Ovaries — the organs where the eggs are stored, develop, and grow and where some hormones are produced. At birth, a female’s ovaries contain all the eggs she will have for the rest of her life.

 

6. Fallopian Tubes — the channels that lead from the ovaries to the uterus. This is where conception occurs. Growing up, I always thought the sperm and egg met in the womb.

 

D. The Woman’s Cycle — Now we’re going to talk about the woman’s cycle and the hormones that control it.

 

1. The entire cycle begins in the brain. The pituitary gland begins by sending out a signal, a hormone called FSH (follicle stimulating hormone). It is sent through the bloodstream and stimulates the follicle on the ovary from which the egg will eventually develop and be released.

 

2. As the follicle develops, the ovaries begin producing the hormone estrogen, triggering several things to happen in the woman’s body. Estrogen signals the cervical glands to begin producing a type of secretion or mucus necessary for conception. This mucus starts out thick and tacky, and eventually becomes clear, slippery, and very stretchy. At that point, it can look like raw egg white. A woman can check the mucus throughout the day any time she goes to the bathroom — just by observing any mucus on the tissue after she wipes. This mucus filters out abnormal sperm and helps the healthy ones to survive and swim up to try to fertilize the egg. Without mucus, the sperm quickly die. Ladies, you may have noticed this mucus and thought something was wrong. We’ve even known nurses to think this. But this mucus is quite natural and necessary for new life to be conceived. The estrogen also helps make the endometrial lining thick and plush, so it’s ready to nourish a newly conceived baby, if the egg is fertilized.

 

3. Next, the estrogen sends a signal back to the pituitary gland, which then releases LH or luteinizing hormone. This hormone triggers the release of the egg or ovulation. After ovulation, the follicle that just released the egg now produces progesterone, which means “for gestation”). This hormone also affects several functions, including continuing to stabilize the endometrial lining of the uterus, making the mucus become thick and tacky and dry up, and elevating and stabilizing the woman’s temperature for incubation. When the sperm and egg meet at conception, a whole new human being is formed with a whole new genetic makeup — part mom and part dad. The single cell egg begins to divide and divide again. All the while, it travels down the fallopian tube and then implants in the uterus and begins to grow. By 10 weeks, the baby is completely formed. The baby’s heart, brain, spine, fingers, and toes are all there, and the baby just needs time to mature.

 

4. If conception has not occurred usually within 24 hours after ovulation, the egg that was released will disintegrate, the endometrial lining will be expelled with menstruation, the progesterone level drops, and the whole cycle will start all over again.

 

E. Breastfeeding and Fertility:

 

1. When a woman is breast-feeding, her body produces a hormone called prolactin (meaning “for milk”). If her body is producing a high enough level of prolactin, this hormone suppresses the other hormones and causes her not to ovulate — giving her a period of infertility. To do this, the mother must be exclusively breast-feeding — no bottles and no nursing on-demand. This does not work for all women. Mothers who are using “ecological” or exclusive breast-feeding, generally experience an absence of cycles from 6 months to a year and a half. Fertility usually returns when the baby stops nursing frequently and starts on solids. This is the body’s way of spacing babies — it’s one of God’s many design features and one of the many benefits of breast-feeding.

 

2. Another important benefit of breast-feeding is the protection it provides against cancer. A major study published [by Oxford University] in 2002 found that the risk of breast cancer dropped by 4.3 percent for every year woman breast-feeds and by 7 percent for each additional child a woman has — even if she doesn’t breast-feed. On the flip side, research has shown an increased risk of breast cancer from abortion and the use of hormonal contraceptives. These and many other benefits of breast-feeding for mom and baby really show us that doing things God’s way — the way He designed them — is best.

 

F. Now, we’re going to review the Fertility Appreciation Basics sheet. [Hand out sheet and have them follow along. What follows below expands on the points made on the sheet.]

 

1. Ovulation occurs on only 1 day in each cycle. The woman’s egg lives only 12 — 24 hours if it’s not fertilized.

 

2. The man’s sperm need mucus for food and protection to survive. Sperm without mucus die within hours. Sperm in the best fertile mucus may live 3 — 5 days. Men are always fertile.

 

3. A woman’s fertility depends on ovulation and satisfactory mucus.

 

4. Pregnancy can result from contact of sexual organs on fertile mucus days without penetration or ejaculation. The man can release a tiny drop of highly fertile seminal fluid when he’s aroused before climax.

 

5. Intimate sexual contact on days of possible fertility may cause conception even though contraceptive devices are employed. Many women get pregnant every year while using contraception like the Pill, Depo Provera, or Norplant and even after sterilization (tubal ligation or vasectomy). We see a lot of them in our center. None are 100% effective except for abstinence or hysterectomy (or castration).

 

6. The changing levels of a woman’s hormones each day may affect her feelings, moods, and perceptions. Ladies, this is why you may feel like a different person from one day to the next.

 

7. Charting the signs of your fertility will help you to understand what is going on with your body and your emotions — get you in tune with your body. Understanding your fertility depends on accurate information and accurate charting.

 

8. A married couple may use these charts to know when the wife is fertile and help them achieve or avoid getting pregnant by knowing when to have or abstain from intercourse. This method is called Natural Family Planning, and it has been shown to be highly effective (as good or better than most methods of artificial contraception) and has many great benefits for the married couple.

 

9. Remember that even though you’ve learned a little about NFP today, if you want to practice it, it’s very important to take a class to learn all the guidelines and have your charts reviewed by an instructor.

IV. Conclusion

A. God made you in a very special, intricate way, and He loves you and wants what’s best for you.

 

B. Your body is a beautiful creation and the way that it works is really something special and amazing. Your natural fertility is something to be cherished and taken care of.

 

C. You can learn to read the natural signs your body gives you to know when you are fertile and when you are not.

 

D. Remember that God’s plan for sex is a part of marriage, sex is for babies and bonding. God set up this plan for sex and marriage because He loves new life — but He wants us to be able to have a part in the decision of when to have children. The husband and wife must be generously open to new life, but if there’s a serious reason that they need to postpone getting pregnant, God has given us the tools to do this naturally while still being open to new life and obedient to His plan for sex. We call this Natural Family Planning.

 

E. In the second part of this class, called “Family Planning Methods,” we’ll build on what we learned today. We’ll look at different types of birth control and family planning, how effective they are, and what effects they can have on your body. Hope to see you then. Thanks for your attention.

 

 

Fertility Appreciation Class Plan

Part II: Family Planning Methods

I. Introduction and Purpose

A. Hi, thanks for coming. We’re really glad you’re here. [Reintroduce yourself and spouse or teaching partner and have those present introduce/reintroduce themselves.]

 

B. This class, called “Family Planning Methods,” is the second class of a two-part series. We’ll be reviewing some of what we learned in the first class. If you weren’t here for the first class, called “Understanding Your Fertility,” please try to come the next time it’s offered. It’s an important class and complements what you’ll learn today. In this class, we’re going to be talking about artificial contraception and natural family planning.

II. Review from Part 1

A. What do you remember from last week?

 

1. What are the two purposes of sex?

 

[Babies & Bonding]

 

2. What is the primary sign of fertility?

 

[Mucus]

 

B. Let’s review what we learned in the first class about the female reproductive system. [Point to each part on chart and have them name the part and its function. Review the class plan for part one, if necessary.]

 

1. Vagina, cervix, uterus, endometrial lining, ovaries, and fallopian tubes.

 

2. Review the basics of what happens in a normal cycle including the timing of the different hormones.

III. Disadvantages of Artificial Birth Control

A. Show the “Artificial vs. Natural” video from Family of the Americas. [It is possible to teach this class without the video, but you may need to be more detailed in explanations of each type of artificial contraception listed below. The video provides good witness testimony and moving images.]

 

B. Now, let’s review and take a closer look the different types of artificial contraception and their effects. [Encourage the women to share their stories — it gives credibility to the information presented here. Some of the best and most compelling reasons for not using this or that type of artificial contraception came from the women in our classes. The following information can be reduced or tailored to the audience, especially if the class is talkative about their experiences. To shorten the lesson content, go over how each type works, skip the cost, and highlight only a few of the side effects.]

 

Often women are not told the risks and side effects by their doctors. We must take control and responsibility for our own bodies. It is up to us to ask the questions and make the sometimes-tough decisions about what we put into our bodies and how we use them.

 

C.

The Pill

 

 

1. It costs $250 to $300 per year.

 

2. The Pill contains synthetic forms of the hormones estrogen and progesterone.

 

3. It works in three ways: first, it suppresses ovulation; second, it thickens the cervical mucus; and third, it thins the lining of the uterus or endometrium.

 

a. The third method, thinning of the endometrium, causes an early abortion by preventing implantation of the fertilized egg or ovum if an egg has been released and fertilized.

 

b. It’s estimated that the Pill may cause one or more early abortions a year.

 

4. The Pill suppresses pituitary functioning all month long (other functions than ovulation).

 

5. It has over 30 known side effects including: nausea, vomiting, weight gain, acne, decreased sex drive, yeast infections, moodiness, headaches, blood clots, increased risk of stroke and cancer of reproductive organs, high blood pressure, irregular bleeding, difficulty in conceiving after stopping the Pill, and it may actually increase the risk of STDs.

 

a. More than a third of all women who start taking the Pill stop within three months because of the side effects — so know you’re not alone if you’ve had problems while on the Pill.

 

b. The Pill can have harmful effects on the circulatory system, just as smoking does. A woman who takes the Pill and smokes increases her risk of heart disease by 500%.

 

D.

Norplant

 

 

1. It costs $600 to $800 per 5 years for insertion and removal.

 

2. Norplant consists of five or six rods placed just under the skin in the upper arm which release hormones into the bloodstream over a period of five years.

 

3. It works similar to the Pill. It thickens the cervical mucus, but because of the different hormone mix, it suppresses ovulation only half of the time inducing early abortions the other half of the time by making the endometrium hostile to the newly fertilized egg.

 

Norplant may cause as many as three early abortions yearly.

 

4. Side effects are similar to the Pill but others include: severe abdominal pain, migraine headaches and blurred vision, arm pain and infection, migration or fragmentation of the rods (where the rods actually break and move to other parts of the arm), hair loss, liver tumors, gall bladder disease, ovarian cysts, absence of periods (two-thirds of all users).

 

a. Not having periods may sound good, but nature intended the woman’s period to cleanse her body from unwanted bacteria.

 

E.

Depo-Provera

(also known as “The Shot”)

 

1. It costs up to $200 per year.

 

2. Depo is a hormonal contraceptive injection given every 3 months [with the hassle of having to go to her OB/GYN every 3 months to get it].

 

3. It works similar to the Pill and Norplant.

 

4. Its side effects are like those of the Pill.

 

a. If you have an allergic reaction or bad side effects, you can’t take it out of your system. They have to give you more drugs.

 

b. In a brochure for the patient, the manufacturer warns women not to use Depo if they have any heart or lung problems or have a family history of these problems.

 

c. The manufacturer also tells users that Depo-Provera strips the body of calcium and recommends increasing their intake of calcium-rich foods. Long-time users may be at an increased risk for osteoporosis.

 

F.

Intrauterine Device (IUD)

.

 

1. It costs $200 to $300 per year.

 

2. An IUD consists of a metal or plastic device inserted

into the uterus.

 

Many IUDs also have a spermicide or hormone added.

 

3. It causes a chronic irritation of the uterine lining, making the endometrium hostile to the fertilized egg. The woman still has her cycle and ovulates normally.

 

4. It usually acts by preventing sperm transport, but also can prevent implantation, resulting in an early abortion. IUDs are 84% effective. The rest of the time doctors either have to remove the device from the pregnant woman or perform an abortion. If a woman doesn’t realize until later in her pregnancy that she is pregnant, there is great risk to her and the baby.

 

5. Side effects are: pain and menstrual fluctuations; occasional perforation of the uterus or cervix; embedding, migration, or fragmentation of the IUD; continual spotting or prolongation of menstrual flow.

 

6. The IUD can cause serious pelvic infections like Pelvic Inflammatory Disease, which progresses from the uterus through the fallopian tubes into the pelvis, sometimes going undetected for long periods and causing infertility.

 

7. The IUD does not prevent STDs, rather it increases the risk of STDs like HIV. This happens for two reasons: first, it can cause chronic infection in the woman’s uterus, and second, there’s a string attached to the IUD (to remove it if necessary) that can act as a wick for bacteria or viruses.

 

G.

Condoms

 

 

1. Ineffectiveness: They normally fail between 15 and 35% of the time in preventing pregnancy, and there’s a 35-44% failure rate for unmarried women. A recent Center for Disease Control study, where the CDC pooled the results from all available studies, found the condom to fail one-third (or 33%) of the time.

 

The higher failure rate of condoms for unmarried women may be due to unmarried partners taking less care in using the condom. Also, unmarried people are more likely to store condoms in their wallet or car, where heat can damage the condom and cause it to break.

 

2. Condoms have a much higher failure rate for preventing STDs. No matter what “safe sex” advocates want to tell you, condoms don’t protect against HIV. The HIV virus and the sperm are smaller than the smallest detectable hole in a condom. To visualize this, think of the smallest hole in the condom being the same diameter as a softball, the sperm is the size of a shrimp, and the HIV virus is the size of a pea. Condoms don’t protect against Syphilis or HPV (also known as genital warts) either, which are contracted by skin to skin contact and may be on parts of the body not covered by the condom.

 

H.

Gels, foams, and spermicides

 

 

These can contribute to Toxic Shock Syndrome, have low effectiveness rates, and increase risk of STDs.

 

I.

Sterilization

 

 

1. Tubal ligation or “Getting your tubes tied”

 

a. This involves surgically cutting the fallopian tubes and sealing the tubes by tying them or burning the ends.

 

b. This is supposed to prevent the egg from passing from the tube to the uterus and the sperm from getting to the egg.

 

c. Side effects: severe bleeding, pelvic infection, increased cramping, decreased sex drive, psychological problems, ectopic or tubal pregnancy

 

A sterilized woman has a three times greater risk of a tubal pregnancy. This occurs when the egg is fertilized but can’t travel down to the uterus. The growing baby then ruptures the fallopian tube, causing serious hemorrhaging that can be life-threatening. We once had a woman in our class whose aunt had a tubal ligation and later had five ectopic pregnancies.

 

2. Vasectomy

 

a. This involves surgically cutting and sealing the Vas Deferens, which is the tube that transports the developed sperm from the testes out toward the penis.

 

b. It prevents the sperm from leaving the testes. The man’s body must then break the sperm down and absorb them. It’s this fact that causes many of the physical side effects of the vasectomy. The man’s body reacts as if his sperm were harmful bacteria. In essence, his body becomes allergic to itself. This is called the Auto-Immune Syndrome, and it happens in 55-75% of patients.

 

c. Other side effects, some of which may be caused by the Auto-Immune Syndrome, include: thyroid and joint disorders, heart and circulatory disease, diabetes, 85-90% higher risk of prostate cancer, increased risk of kidney problems, decreased sex drive, and psychological problems.

 

d. Furthermore, both tubal ligation and vasectomy are meant to be permanent. However, we don’t know what the future holds — unforeseen and tragic things may happen — and we may desire to have another child later on. A sterilization reversal can be costly, painful, and not 100% successful.

IV. Natural Family Planning

A. A doctor in the video made a really good point when he said, “A woman is only fertile about one hundred hours of every cycle, yet most methods of artificial contraception act on her body throughout her entire cycle, 24 hours a day, every day.” Now, we’re going to talk about a method called Natural Family Planning (NFP). This is where, as we learned last week, the couple learns to read and understand the naturally occurring signs of her fertility to know when she’s fertile and when she’s not. Couples then use this information to decide together whether to try to conceive or to postpone getting pregnant.

 

B. Natural Family Planning is scientifically proven, highly effective (98-99%), and successful in a wide variety of cycle situations, whether you’re nursing, pre-menopausal, or have long cycles. It is readily available, very inexpensive, simple to learn, and easy to use. It doesn’t take much time — only 5 minutes or less every day. It’s morally acceptable to everyone — to Catholics and other Christians, Mormons, and Muslims. It’s completely natural, doesn’t interfere with the normal functioning of your body, and has absolutely no harmful side effects — though there are many benefits that we’ll discuss in few minutes.

 

A study published in 1991 in the British Medical Journal found that the couples who were taught the Ovulation Method of Natural Family Planning by Mother Teresa and her Missionaries of Charity in Calcutta, India were using it with a 99.5% effectiveness rate — as good or better than any other method of family planning available. For the most part, these people in this study, who learned the Ovulation Method, were poor and illiterate.

 

C. This is not the old Calendar Rhythm Method you’ve probably heard about. Modern methods of NFP are often confused with the Rhythm Method of the 1950s and 1960s.

 

The Rhythm Method was only about 65% effective. When it was developed in the 1930s, it was thought that every woman’s fertility was the same as every other woman’s and that all women had the same 30-day cycle from month to month, which of course we know now is not true.

 

D. There are two main methods of NFP — the Ovulation Method, which involves observing the mucus sign, and the Sympto-Thermal Method, which combines the mucus sign with other crosschecks. The primary crosscheck is the woman’s basal body temperature — this is her temperature right when she wakes up. Both methods are highly effective (98-99% effective), if taught correctly and used properly. The Ovulation Method is simpler to learn and use and best for women with normal cycles. The videos we watched focus on this method. The Sympto-Thermal Method is best for women who have harder to read or more variable cycles, those who are nursing, or those who are having difficulties getting pregnant.

 

E. Really NFP is very simple to use. This is how it works for most: During the day, the woman observes her mucus sign, which she does by checking for mucus on the tissue when she wipes. Then, at bedtime, the husband notes the observations on a chart. If they are using the Sympto-Thermal Method, he’ll also mark down her morning temperature and any other crosschecks, which could include cervical position, breast tenderness, cramps, headache, moods, etc. Usually, a couple is using the method to postpone a pregnancy, and they want to know when the woman is in her infertile time. By applying some simple rules to the data, they will know whether or not she’s starting her fertile time, if she’s still in her fertile time, when she’s transitioning into the infertile time, and usually when her period is about to start. If she is fertile, they might discuss whether they want to try to conceive or avoid a pregnancy and why. This could lead them to talk about bigger issues in their marriage like their budget, what they’re spending their money on, his/her job situation, how much support the husband is giving with parenting or housekeeping, how overwhelmed or overburdened they might be feeling with the children they have, or other future plans. After the discussion, they might decide, “Let’s go for it” or “Let’s wait.” Whatever the decision, they just had some pretty important communication. When a couple is contracepting, it could be a long time between discussions like this one.

 

F. If the couple decides to abstain until the infertile time, which may be between 8 and 15 days long for a normal cycle, they can show their love in many other creative ways. This becomes a time for growing in their relationship — building the “best friends” side of their marriage. They should not tempt each other if they’ve agreed to abstain. She may not be able to wear her slinky nightgown because of her effect on him. It may also be difficult for her because a woman usually has a higher libido during her fertile time. They may have to guard what they watch and read. Remember, we’re not animals, we can control our passions and develop self-control. Sure it takes work to guard your heart and mind from all the sensuality of the world, but you’re doing it out of love for one another and growing in faithfulness. The couple using NFP to postpone will usually experience what’s been called the “courtship/honeymoon cycle.” When they reach the “safe-time” to have sex, these couples often experience a more exciting and fulfilling union — like on their honeymoon, because of their growth in friendship and the sacrifice that they made for each other.

 

G. Then when the couple is ready for children, they can use NFP to help you conceive a child. By using NFP, they’ll know exactly when it’s the best time to have intercourse to achieve a pregnancy. We know many couples who used NFP to get pregnant when they were having trouble doing so — ourselves included.

 

H. Having the husband involved in charting and making decisions together is very important to the success of the method. It may be hard to believe, but the man will come to understand his wife’s body more and be more sensitive to her needs. Over time of using the method, he may know before her that the symptoms she’s having are due to PMS and then be able to be more understanding and helpful to her. If she’s feeling crabby, moody, or irritable, then he knows why she’s feeling that way, knows not to take it personally, and knows when to “cut her some slack.” Through the understanding he gains of her by using NFP, the man learns to truly love and care for his wife and her body. He gains respect for the “mystery and mystique” of her body, as I like to call it, and will realize, as I did, how amazingly intricate my wife is made and how wonderful is it that she can conceive and nurture new life within her.

 

I. The woman will understand her body more, too, and can more quickly and easily detect changes and problems if they occur. By knowing her body well, she’s able to identify when things aren’t right with her body and discuss it more accurately with her doctor.

 

J. By using NFP, the couple learns respect for the natural way their bodies work. They work with the natural cycles and are not polluting her body with chemicals or foreign objects or putting up a barrier to their union. They learn to be more generous and giving with each other, because they’re holding nothing back. They’re respecting sex for what God created it to be in saying to each other, “I give myself totally to you and accept you totally — not just for this moment but for always.”

 

K. By not using artificial means to prevent a pregnancy, they keep themselves open to God’s working in their lives and through their lovemaking. In doing this, they’re following God’s Natural Law. Natural Law is the way that God designed things to work the best. It’s also the purpose for which He made things. As we discussed last week, God designed sex for both babies and bonding. When we try to thwart God’s plan by having sex outside of marriage or by using artificial contraception, there are harmful consequences — emotional pain of breaking up, sexually transmitted diseases, abuse of women, unexpected pregnancy, divorce, and many others.

 

Behaving contrary to Natural Law is like putting honey in your gas tank even though the owner’s manual says that you should use gas. Of course, it’s your car, so you can do what you want with it because you have your God-given free will. But it’s not going to work right if you use it in a way that’s contrary to its nature and design. Living by God’s law brings peace, joy, and freedom. God’s laws about sex are not rules to oppress us but guidelines to help us be really happy and healthy and free. It’s meant to help us to learn to love and be loved as He loves us — for our own sake.

 

L. Does anyone know the current national divorce rate? They say it’s around 50%. Does any one know when the divorce rate started ramping up? Would it surprise you if I told you, that it was around the time the contraceptive pill became widely available? Does anyone want to guess what the divorce rate is among couples practicing NFP? The estimate is less than 5%. It sounds to me like God knew what He was doing. This doesn’t mean that NFP is going fix a bad marriage, but it does strengthen marriages.

V. Conclusion

A. Remember that God’s plan for sex is a part of marriage. Saying “I want to have children with you” is much more meaningful than just saying “I want to have sex with you.” Sex before marriage can be just using the other person — not truly loving them. Remember, truly loving someone means you want what’s best for the other person, and you act accordingly. God made you in a very special, intricate way, and He loves you and wants what’s best for you. Your body is a beautiful creation, and your natural fertility is something to be cherished and taken care of. Also remember that it’s never too late to choose chastity — to wait until marriage for sex; it’s how God planned for us to work.

 

B. You have learned a little about NFP and how to read your natural signs of fertility, but there’s a bit more to it. There are special rules of charting and guidelines you need to know for how to avoid or achieve pregnancy with the ovulation method of Natural Family Planning.

 

C. If you want to learn more about how to practice NFP, we will have a follow up meeting with an instructor. [time & date] You’ll receive a book and charting supplies, and she will make sure you understand all the rules and how to chart your cycle.

 

Thanks for your time and attention. We’re available now or can be contacted anytime if you have questions.

 

The Fertility Appreciation class series was developed and taught by Ross and Lisa Novack for Elizabeth’s New Life Center in Dayton, Ohio.

Fertility Basics: A Review

  • OVULATION occurs on only 1 DAY in each cycle
  • The EGG lives only 12 — 24 hours if not fertilized
  • SPERM need MUCUS to survive
  • SPERM without MUCUS DIE within HOURS
  • SPERM with best MUCUS may live 3 — 5 DAYS
  • FERTILITY depends on OVULATION and SATISFACTORY MUCUS
  • PREGNANCY can result from CONTACT of sexual organs on FERTILE MUCUS days WITHOUT PENETRATION or EJACULATION
  • Intimate sexual contact on days of possible fertility MAY CAUSE CONCEPTION even though CONTRACEPTIVES are used
  • The changing levels of hormones may affect: FEELINGS, MOODS, AND PERCEPTIONS
  • Understanding your fertility depends on: ACCURATE INFORMATION and ACCURATE CHARTING

Remember: If you want to practice Natural Family Planning — it is important to have your charting reviewed by an instructor.

Class Diagram

 

Reprinted with permission of Family of the Americas.

This diagram is available in color on the One More Soul website onemoresoul.com in the Online Publications section under Other Items look for the title “Teaching Fertility Appreciation class diagram (pdf version) ” To copy this file to your computer, go to the page for the diagram and, with the link labeled “Download a printable version of this publication” follow the directions below.

 

If you’re on a PC, right-click the link and choose “Save Target to disk…” or “Save to disk…” or “Save Target as…”

 

If you’re on a Mac, option-click the link and it will download to the default download location on your Mac.

Teaching Fertility Appreciation and the Principle of Double Effect

The following is adapted from the Catholic Dictionary (published by Our Sunday Visitor Books).

 

Principle of Double Effect: Actions sometimes have two effects closely related to each other, one good and the other bad. The question is: Is it permissible to perform an action from which two such results follow?

 

Action: Teaching Fertility Appreciation (FA) at a Pregnancy Support Center to unmarried women.

 

Possible Results: 1) The women apply the knowledge of FA and NFP to fornicate by using NFP as a contraceptive, or 2) The women choose “secondary virginity” or chastity until marriage and embrace God’s plan for marriage and sexuality, or 3) The married and unmarried women choose to go off artificial birth control and choose to be generous with their fertility.

Using the Principle of Double Effect

It is permissible to perform the action if all of the following five conditions are met:

 

1. There is no other action which will produce the good effect without the possibility of also causing the bad effect. Teaching FA and NFP is the only action we have available to open the clients up to chastity. They’re likely to never hear about these things (i.e., morality of sex and marriage, how their body works, harmful effects of and abortifacient action of artificial birth control) ever again anywhere else.

 

2. The action is good (or at least neutral) and directly productive of the good effect. Teaching God’s plan for sex and marriage and the beauty and design of our fertility is a good action. There is nothing intrinsically evil about Fertility appreciation or Natural Family Planning. It is good for people to know the Truth “for it will set you free.” Also, teaching and informing consciences has the direct effect of influencing people and bringing about a change in their beliefs and behavior.

 

3. The intention of the person is good. Our intention in teaching the class is good and correct. We intend and hope and pray that the result will be good. We do not want or intend to have the woman use NFP to contracept and fornicate.

 

4. The circumstances are good for producing the good effect. We have a positive class setting. Our class is spread out over two meetings, which gives a double reinforcement of the message. We back all our information up with videos and materials we hand out. The clients and their guests are taught both the method and the reasons behind the method. We’re not telling them this on the bus or on the street corner where they don’t get the whole pitch.

 

5. The reason for the action is proportional to the seriousness of the indirect bad effect. Reason we are doing this is to give them the knowledge and Truth by which to make proper moral judgements with, or put simply, to get them to stop fornicating and/or contracepting. The possible ramifications of withholding the Truth from people are readily apparent in the world (i.e., fornication, adultery, contraception, pornography, abortion, etc.).

 

All the conditions are met.

 

Father Bill Kramer of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati said, “We can never be wrong about giving people information with which to make good moral choices. We are not responsible for the choices that others make [granted their choices are not directly caused by our coercion or lies], but in fact we may be culpable for withholding the truth.”

 

What if we don’t teach them? If we don’t teach them, will this bring their promiscuity to an end? Probably not. If we don’t teach them, are they likely to choose chastity or secondary virginity? Probably not. We may be the last people to plant in them the seed about the Truth of their sexuality and God’s design.

Scripture Verses

“Much will be required from the person entrusted with much..”

 

Lk 12:48

 

“Whoever obeys and teaches these commandments will be called greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”

 

Mt 5:20

 

“If you remain in my word, you are truly my disciples and you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.”

 

Jn 8:31,32

 

“I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.”

 

Jn 11:25

 

For these and other reasons, we feel that it is right and good that we do this.

 

 

What a Woman Should Know about Contraceptives

“The Pill”

The birth control pill is used by over 10 million women in the US today and about 4 million of those are under age 25.1The Pill consists of a combination of two types of artificial hormones called estrogens and progestins. It works by inhibiting ovulation and sperm transport and by changing the lining of the inside of a woman’s uterus (called the endometrium) so that if the woman does conceive she will often have an early abortion.

 

Ethical side effects: It is estimated that women experience at least one very early abortion for every year that they are on the Pill.2Both pro-abortion and pro-life groups acknowledge that the Pill causes early abortions.3

 

Medical side effects: The birth control pill increases the risk of breast cancer by over 40% if it is taken before a woman delivers her first baby.4This risk increases by 70% if the Pill is used for four or more years before the woman’s first child is born.5Other side effects that women have experienced include the development of high blood pressure, blood clots, stroke, heart attack, depression, weight gain, migraine, dark spots on the skin and difficulty with breast-feeding. Diabetics who take oral contraceptives may note increased sugar levels. Some women who stop taking the Pill do not have a return of their fertility (menstrual cycles) for a year or longer. Although the Pill decreases ovarian and some uterine cancers, it increases breast, liver, and cervical cancer.4At least three studies have noted that the AIDS virus is transmitted more easily to women who are taking the Pill and whose partner(s) has the HIV virus. 6, 7, 8The cost of using the Pill for five years is over $1,000.

“The Shot” and Norplant

Commonly known as “the shot,” Depo-Provera, a long acting progestin hormone, is injected into a woman’s muscle every three months. It works by decreasing ovulation, by inhibiting sperm transport and by changing the lining of a woman’s uterus. Norplant is another progestin that is placed into silastic (rubber-like) tubes and placed under the skin of a woman and left there for up to five years.

 

Ethical side effects: By changing the lining of the uterus, Norplant and Depo-Provera both can cause an early abortion when conception does occur. Women who use Norplant will probably experience more than one abortion each year since the average woman ovulates in more than 40% of her cycles while using Norplant.9Depo-Provera may theoretically cause just as many abortions as Norplant since it is also a type of progestin.

 

Medical side effects: The results of two major world studies have shown that women who take Depo-Provera for two years or more before age 25 have at least a 190% increased risk of developing breast cancer.10In addition, Depo-Provera may reduce a woman’s bone density, and worsen a woman’s cholesterol level. One study found that women who had received injectable progestins (i.e., usually Depo-Provera or norethisterone enanthate) for at least five years and who had used them at least five years prior, suffered a 430% increased risk of developing cervical cancer.11Several studies have shown that women who receive injectable progestins have a much higher rate of contracting the AIDS virus if their partner is infected, with one study showing a 240% increased risk.12Norplant, which was developed later than Depo-Provera, has received less scrutiny, but may carry just as high a risk as Depo-Provera. In addition, over 50,000 women have participated in law suits against the manufacturer of Norplant, citing complaints of irregular bleeding, scarring, painful muscles, and headaches.13

 

Other Hormonal Contraceptives

The same artificial hormones used in the Pill, Depo-Provera, and Norplant are packaged in a variety of other delivery systems: the Patch, the “Morning after Pill,” the monthly injection Lunelle, hormone impregnated IUDs and vaginal inserts, and others. More are in development. Most are so new that their side effects have not been well researched. They use the same chemicals as the Pill and can be expected to have generally the same effects. All the hormonal contraceptives can also cause extended periods of infertility after they are discontinued.

Barrier Methods: The Condom and the Diaphragm

The condom has a failure rate that is estimated to be between 10-30%.14, 15There are several reasons for this such as breakage or slippage during use, defective condoms that have been damaged or poorly manufactured in the factory, and cracked condoms caused by storage in a hot or very cold place.

 

Medical side effects: The condom does not adequately stop the transmission of the AIDS virus: CM Rowland, Ph.D., editor of the journal Rubber Chemistry and Technology, tells us that electron micrographs (pictures taken with a very powerful microscope) reveal voids (holes) in the condom that are up to 50 times bigger than the HIV particle.16 The analogy would be that of throwing a marble at a tennis court fence and expecting it to stop the marble from going through.

 

The diaphragm is a barrier method of birth control so it theoretically does not cause early abortion. At least one study has noted that women who use barrier methods such as the diaphragm or condom, or the withdrawal method, had a 137% increased risk of developing preeclampsia in future pregnancies.17Preeclampsia, a complication occurring in some pregnant women, consists of a syndrome of high blood pressure, fluid retention, and kidney damage, which may eventually lead to prolonged seizures and/or coma. It is theorized that exposure to the male’s sperm has a protective role against preeclampsia.

Spermicides

Frequently, couples will use a spermicide in conjunction with their barrier method. A spermicide is an agent that is designed to kill the male’s

sperm and is often sold as a gel or as an ingredient in the vaginal sponge. Toxic Shock Syndrome has been associated with the spermicide sponge.18One researcher has noted that couples who have used certain spermicides within a month of conception have experienced a doubling in the rate of birth defects as well as a doubling of the rate of miscarriage.19

 

The IUD (Intrauterine Device)

[Most of the information regarding the IUD is taken from the 1997 PDR20 (Physician’s Desk Reference)]. This is a coil-like device made of hard plastic which may also contain copper. A doctor inserts it into a woman’s uterus. It works by irritating the lining of the uterus and obstructing sperm transport. When conception occurs in spite of this, it has

a secondary function of preventing implantation, thus causing an early abortion.21Other side effects include uterine perforation which may lead to a hysterectomy, and infection, such as a pelvic or tubo-ovarian abscess. Use of all IUDs has been associated with an increased incidence of PID (Pelvic Inflammatory Disease).20According to Rossing and Daling, two prominent researchers, women who had previously used an IUD for three or more years were more than twice as likely as women who had never used an IUD to have a tubal pregnancy (adjusted relative risk = 2.5, 95% confidence interval = 1.5-4.3). Among these long-term users of an IUD, risk of ectopic pregnancy remained elevated for many years after the device was removed. [An ectopic pregnancy is one in which the unborn child implants himself/ herself in a location other than in the mother’s uterus, usually in the fallopian tube.] Ectopic pregnancy remains the leading cause of maternal death in the United States. In addition the IUD may cause back aches, cramping, dyspareunia (painful intercourse), dysmenorrhea (painful menstrual cycles), and infertility. Since women who have an IUD in place experience a number of early abortions, they theoretically are at increased risk for developing breast cancer, since abortion has been associated with an increased risk of breast cancer.4

 

“Permanent” Sterilization: Tubal Ligation and Vasectomy

Tubal ligation, the “tying off” or cutting of a woman’s fallopian tubes, does not always prevent pregnancy. When pregnancy does occur, it is associated with a much higher incidence of ectopic pregnancy,22which, as was noted, is the leading cause of death in pregnant women. In addition, women who undergo the procedure may experience complications from the anesthesia or from the laparoscopic technique. Complications of laparoscopy include: bladder puncture, bleeding, and even cardiac arrest after inflation of the abdomen with carbon dioxide.23In addition, some women who have undergone a tubal ligation experience a syndrome of intermittent vaginal bleeding associated with severe cramping pain in the lower abdomen.24

About 50% of men who undergo a vasectomy will develop anti-sperm antibodies.25In essence, their bodies will come to recognize their own sperm as “the enemy.” This may have far-reaching complications and could theoretically lead to a higher incidence of autoimmune disease. In addition, several studies have noted that men who undergo a vasectomy have a higher incidence of developing prostate cancer especially 15-20 years after their vasectomy26, 27, 28, 29although a recent large study did not find a link.30In addition, Giovannucci31noted that men who died from their prostate cancer had a trend of having undergone vasectomy.

Wise Options

The best option before marriage is abstinence. The obvious benefits include greater self-respect, freedom from the risk of venereal disease especially AIDS, as well as monetary savings and no chance of a surprise pregnancy.

 

Within marriage it should be noted that an openness towards having children yields specific medical benefits. Having more children reduces the risk of breast cancer, some uterine cancers, and ovarian cancer dramatically.

NFP: Natural Family Planning

Natural Family Planning is a totally natural method by which couples can manage their fertility. In NFP a woman determines when she is either fertile or infertile by observing the consistency of her cervical mucus. The WHO (World Health Organization) has performed several large-scale trials that have had a “failure rate” of between 0.3 and 3%, which is as good as any artificial form of birth control. One very large trial performed on about 20,000 Indian women showed a failure rate of less than 0.3%.32

Some obvious benefits of NFP are that it is free of cost and there is no increased risk of cancer. Couples who use NFP have a divorce rate that is less than 5%33__far lower than the national rate of about 50%.

 

For more information on NFP or the side effects of a particular contraceptive contact:

  • The Couple to Couple League
    (513) 471-2000
    www.ccli.org
  • Family of the Americas Foundation
    (800) 443-3395
    www.familyplanning.net
  • Billings Ovulation Method Assn.
    (651) 699-8139
    www.Boma-usa.org
  • Pope Paul VI Institute
    (402) 390-6600
    www.popepaulvi.com
  • Northwest Family Services
    (503) 215-6377
    www.nwfs.org
  • One More Soul NFP Center
    1846 North Main Street
    Dayton, OH 45405-3832
    (937) 279-5433
    OneMoreSoul.com

REFERENCES:

1 Faust JM. Image change for condoms. ABC News Report. [Internet E-mail]. 6/8/97.

 

2 Kahlenborn C. “How do the Pill and other contraceptives work?” Breast Cancer, Its Link to Abortion and the Birth Control Pill. Dayton, OH: One More Soul; 2000; 315-335.

 

3 Alderson Reporting Company. Transcripts of oral arguments before court on abortion case. New York Times. April 27, 1989; B12.

 

4 Kahlenborn C. “Breast Cancer and the Pill.” Breast Cancer, Its Link to Abortion and the Birth Control Pill. Dayton, OH: One More Soul; 2000; 29-42, 149-180.

 

5 Romieu I, Berlin J, et al. Oral contraceptives and breast cancer. Review and meta-Analysis. Cancer. 1990; 66: 2253-2263.

 

6 Allen S. et al. Human immunodeficiency virus infection in urban Rwanda. JAMA. 1991; 266: 1657-1663.

 

7 Simonsen et al. HIV infection among lower socioeconomic strata prostitutes in Nairobi. AIDS. 1990; 139-144.

 

8 Mati et al. Contraceptive use and the risk of HIV in Nairobi, Kenya. Inter. J. of Gyn. and Ob. 1995; 48: 61-67.

 

9 Croxatto HB, Diaz S, et al. Plasma progesterone levels during long-term treatment with levonorgestrel silastic implants. Acta Endocrinologica 1982; 101: 307-311.

 

10 Skegg DCG, Noonan EA, et al. Depot medroxyprogesterone acetate and breast cancer [A pooled analysis of the World Health Organization and New Zealand studies]. 1995; JAMA: 799-804.

 

11 Herrero et al. Injectable contraceptives and risk of invasive cervical cancer: evidence of an association. Int. J. of Cancer. 1990; 46: 5-7.

 

12 Ungchusak et al. Determinants of HIV infection among female commercial sex workers in northeastern Thailand: Results from a longitudinal study. J. of Ac. I. Def. Syn. and H. Retro. 1996. 12: 500-507.

 

13 Taylor D. Spare the Rod. The Guardian (U.K.) March 12, 1996; 11.

 

14 Collart D. Biochemistry & Molecular Biology. Condom failure for protection from sexual transmission of the HIV-a review of the medical literature. 5393 Whitney Ct., Stone Mountain, GA 30088.

 

15 Rahwan R. Chemical Contraceptives, Interceptives and Abortifacients, 1995. College of Pharmacy, Ohio State University.

 

16 Rowland CW., The Washington Post (letter) June 25, 1992.

 

17 Klonoff-Cohen HS et al. An epidemiologic study of contraception and preeclampsia. JAMA. 1989; 262: 3143-3147.

 

18 Faich G et al. Toxic shock syndrome and the contraceptive sponge. JAMA. 1986; 255: 216-218.

 

19 Jick et al. Vaginal spermicides and congenital disorders. JAMA. 1981; 245:1329-1332.

 

20 Ortho Pharmaceutical. Description of Paraguard. Physician Desk Reference. 1997: 1936-1939.

 

21 Ortho Pharmaceutical. Description of Paraguard. Physician Desk Reference. 1997: 1936-1939.

 

22 Gaeta TJ et al. Atypical ectopic pregnancy. Am J Emer Med. 1993; 11: 233-234.

 

23 Dunn HP, Unexpected Sequellae of Sterilization. International Review of Natural Family Planning, 1:4 (Winter, 1977) 318.

 

24 Townsend DE et al. Post-ablation-tubal sterilization syndrome. Obstet Gynecol. 1993; 82: 422-424.

 

25 Rosenberg et al. Vasectomy and the risk of prostate cancer. American J. of Epidemiology. 1990; 132: 1051-1055.

 

26 Giovannucci E et al. A prospective cohort study of vasectomy and prostate cancer in US men. JAMA. 1993; 269: 873-877.

 

27 Giovannucci E et al. A retrospective cohort study of vasectomy and prostate cancer in US men. JAMA. 1993; 269: 878-882.

 

28 Hayes RB et al. Vasectomy and prostate cancer in US Blacks and Whites. American J. of Epidemiology. 1993; 137: 263-269.

 

29 Rosenberg L et al. Vasectomy and the risk of prostate cancer. American J. of Epidemiology. 1990; 132: 1051-1055.

 

30 John EM et al. Vasectomy and prostate cancer: results from a multiethnic case-control study. JNCI. 1995; 87: 662-669.

 

31 Giovannucci et al. A long-term study of mortality in men who have undergone vasectomy. NEJM. 1992; 326: 1392-1398.

 

32 Ryder RE. “Natural Family Planning”: Effective birth control supported by the Catholic Church. BMJ. 1993; 307: 723-6.

 

33 Kippley JF, Kippley SK. The Art of Natural Family Planning (Fourth Edition). Couple to Couple League, Cincinnati, USA, p. 245.

Teaching Fertility Appreciation in a Pregnancy Support Center

(Part1) What follows is a presentation made by Ross & Lisa Novack at a Heartbeat International conference in the year 2000 at Columbus, Ohio. They explain why this class is a crucial part of Pregnancy Support ministry.

 

Good morning! Are you enjoying the conference so far? Well, my name is Ross Novack and this is Lisa, my lovely and pregnant wife, helpmate, and mother of our 20 month daughter, Emily. It’s such a great honor for us to come to speak to you today — You who are so committed to the cause of life. Lisa and I have been working with Elizabeth’s New Life Pregnancy Support Center in Dayton, Ohio, for about three years. I’m a member of its Board of Trustees, and I’m always amazed, though I shouldn’t be, at the work that God is doing there and in all pregnancy support centers. I also helped to put together our “Chastity by Choice” high school abstinence program, and I’ve been one of the program’s presenters. I’m happy to tell you that the program is having great success in getting Dayton area teens to choose and live chastity. As for Lisa, she did peer counseling before Emily was born. She is also my co-board member and my helpmate in everything. Together, we developed and now teach a class series called Fertility Appreciation at Elizabeth’s New Life Center. This is why we’re here to speak to you today.

 

Since becoming active in the pro-life movement, I’ve come to feel that, next to prayer, working with and supporting pregnancy support centers is the most important work we can do to save babies, help mothers, and spread the Gospel of Life. God’s response to the tragedy of legalized abortion and the hardening of people’s hearts against life and their fertility has been to raise up crisis pregnancy centers so that our hearts might be softened and we might go out to spread His good news. What a great grace it is to do this work — to be His hands, His feet, and His voice in this work of Mercy. What a great need there is out there for your services, your support, and your hope — God’s hope. The battle will only be won with God’s grace and our everyday efforts to open hearts and minds to the Truth — the Truth of the God-given dignity of the human person and the right to life for born and unborn. However, even if the laws were to change today and abortion be made illegal, there would still be a great need for pregnancy support centers. We all know, as long as there is human nature, flawed as it is by the fall, there will be crisis pregnancies. We can easily see the damage all around us of the culture of death — of contraception and abortion on demand. This is why we all entered the fight and this is why you’re here: to learn more about how to improve your centers and help women to change their lives for the better.

 

So, Lisa and I are here today to give you another approach or tool, so to speak, to use to preach the Gospel of Life and to influence women and men to change their minds and behavior and respect their sexuality. First, I’ll be telling you why this is the most important new class for you to start in your pregnancy support center. And then, Lisa will briefly introduce our class and tell you about the resources you might need for developing a class at your own pregnancy support center.

 

The Fertility Appreciation class grew out of the vision of Vivian and Steve Koob, the founders of Elizabeth’s New Life Center. We at Elizabeth’s try to be present to the needs of the women who come to us by providing peer counseling, material assistance, emotional support and friendship, spiritual guidance, education, whatever these needs may be. It is by being present to them that we reach these women with love, influencing them to choose life for their babies, supporting them in that decision, and helping them to change their lives for the better. Lisa and I have come to see this as the living application of the slogan “Love them both.” An integral part of truly loving these women as God does is telling them the TRUTH — In Love — about marriage, sexuality, and chastity — the Truth that the world does not give.

 

However, as those of you who have counseled these women know, the women that come to us are often not immediately inclined or prepared to hear and accept the Truth we present to them. They have been conditioned by the world’s message — the world’s call to instant gratification, pleasure above all, and casual sex without strings, and the belief that contraception is the world’s greatest invention, that children are a burden, that marriage is an archaic invention that oppresses women, and that babies can be disposed of. Sadly, their consciences have been formed in this mistaken philosophy. Some have never been taught what is right and good — not from their parents or families, not in school, and often not even in their churches. Or if they are told these things, it is by way of “Don’t do this” or “Don’t do that” without the “Why” or the reasons behind it. As a result, our counselors find that some clients have little or no basis or foundation on which they can talk to them about chastity or morality. The short counseling session a counselor may have with a client is often not enough time to lay the ground work necessary to get the client to consider chastity or secondary virginity. The fertility awareness class provides centers with another opportunity to teach these clients, lay the foundation, and encourage them to change their behavior. The class gives us more time to present our case to the clients in a way that is different from one-on-one counseling. The clients share their experiences and observations with each other, often validating in their eyes what we are trying to teach them.

 

In offering Fertility Appreciation classes to our clients, we are trying to give them knowledge and information to help them form their consciences and make good choices. The primary goals of our class are 1) to teach God’s plan for sex and marriage, 2) to promote chastity or secondary virginity among unmarried women, and 3) to promote Natural Family Planning and generous self-giving within marriage over artificial contraception. Really, though, its purpose and reach goes much further. We want them to realize the beauty and complexity of their fertility and the immeasurable value of their life and sexuality. We want to inform them of the physical, emotional, spiritual, and relational risks and harms of using artificial contraception. In addition, we want them to be aware of the abortifacient effects of many types of artificial contraception including the Pill, IUD, Norplant, and Depo-Provera and that if they are using them, they can have numerous chemical abortions each year without ever knowing it.

 

It is our responsibility to share the knowledge and Truth we’ve found. These women, and in fact all people, have the right to hear these things. They have a right to know how their bodies work, the purpose of sex, and God’s plan for sex and marriage, the harms of artificial contraception, and that Natural Family Planning exists and is highly effective and worthwhile. Armed with this Truth, they can begin to turn their lives into something good, free, and joyful.

 

In our class, the women learn the basics of their fertility and are introduced to the ovulation method of NFP. You may be concerned that by teaching an unmarried woman to read her fertility signs, we are giving her the tools to sin without the potential consequence of making a baby. It is literally impossible to give them the full understanding of how their bodies work without also informing them of the observable signs of when they are fertile and when they are not. However, we don’t give them this information without also teaching them about the natural law concerning their sexuality — both the moral imperatives of God’s law and the consequences of not living by God’s law concerning sex. The information presented in the class is highly unlikely to encourage them to commit adultery or fornication. Additionally, as I said before, women have the right to know how their bodies work as well as the right to know the effect contraceptive drugs and mechanical devices have on their bodies. We don’t intend the clients to use NFP as contraception. On the contrary, we hope and pray that the women who attend our classes will change their behavior for the good. In fact, spreading this Truth is so critical, because the potential for harm is so great for both women and society. In fact, the effects of withholding the Truth from people are apparent in the problems our society is facing today and our centers address on a daily basis. Our clients are unlikely to get this message anywhere else. In the “Artificial versus Natural Family Planning” video, we use in the class, Dr. Lejeune sheds light on this situation. He said, “I think the reason why NFP is not widely used by everyone is in fact because of two things: first, a man must have love for his woman, and second, he must have respect for her physiology. And it cannot be used if you have random partners or if you do not have a real conjugal law.” By conjugal law, he means an understanding and respect for God’s law for sex. Consequently, our clients are unlikely to use NFP without respecting God’s order for sexuality, which is chastity. In talking to a priest about the class, he said, “We can never be wrong about giving people information with which to make good moral choices. We are not responsible for the choices other make, but in fact we may be culpable for withholding the Truth.”

 

Through this class, we try to instill in the clients a sense of the wonder and gift of their fertility and of pro-creating with God in bringing forth new life into the world. Surely, these are ambitious goals, but we’re about planting seeds. Only God knows if and when these seeds will germinate and bear fruit. However, God does sometimes encourage us by letting us see the fruits of our efforts. We have had several clients tell us later that our class helped them choose chastity. We’ve also had several married clients learn and practice NFP and have been pleased with the understanding it gives them of their own bodies. Another client, after sitting through our class, confided in us that she had an appointment to get an IUD the next day, and that after listening to our presentation, she had decided not to go. We’ve been amazed how God has used this class to change lives.

 

Listen to Jesus— words from the Sermon on the Mount found in the Gospel of Matthew Chapter 5:

 

“Think not that I have come to abolish the law and the prophets; I have come not to abolish them but to fulfil them. For truly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the law until all is accomplished. Whoever then relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but he who does them and teaches them shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.”

 

May you (and you and you) be called “great” in the kingdom of heaven and may a thousand thousand people embrace you and thank you in heaven for leading them to the Truth and helping them to get to heaven. May Jesus say as you enter heaven, “Well done, good and faithful servant, enter the kingdom my Father has prepared for you.”

 

Now, I will turn it over to Lisa who will give you a sample of what we teach in the class and introduce you to the materials that we use.

Teaching Fertility Appreciation in a Pregnancy Support Center (Part 2):

Review of the Class Outline (given by Lisa Novack)

I want to begin by making it clear that we do not actually teach NFP to our clients in this class. We do teach them the signs of fertility in their own bodies, and as Ross said, we teach them God’s plan for sex and marriage. We introduce the concepts of Natural Family Planning and talk about the benefits gained through its use. If clients are interested in learning and practicing NFP, we refer them to certified teachers. We personally have been users of the sympto-thermal method of NFP for over four years, but we teach about the ovulation method to our clients because of its simplicity. Mother Teresa and her Missionaries of Charity taught the ovulation method to the illiterate poor of Calcutta with a documented effectiveness rate of 99.6%. In the United States, both methods of NFP have 98 — 99% effectiveness rates when taught properly and used properly by highly motivated couples.

 

It’s not absolutely necessary to teach this class as a married couple, but we feel it benefits our clients to see a couple working together as a team and to see the loving example of a Godly man. It would be much more difficult for a man than a woman to teach the class on his own (unless he were a doctor), simply because the clients are more open to hearing this information from a woman.

 

When we first started working on this class we expected the clients to sort of sit there and stare blankly at us as so often happens in a classroom setting — but we’ve been pleasantly surprised again and again at how actively the clients participate in this class. They will often share their own experiences, ask questions that are relevant and usually very astute, answer questions when I ask them, and we often receive comments of amazement that they’ve never been told these things. We attribute this to the very intimate nature of the subject matter as well as the casual, comfortable, matter-of-fact way in which we try to approach it. By the way, another class that Elizabeth’s New Life Center has begun to offer to our single clients is a three part class called “Chastity by Choice,” and it goes hand in hand with this class. It has had similarly active participation, I believe, due to the intimate nature and casual approach to the material.

 

At this point, I’d like to go through our class with you in a slightly abbreviated form. You may find some of the material blunt or graphic but this is necessary for clarity and truth.

 

The class is set up in two parts, each an hour and 15 minutes, a week apart. We begin by introducing ourselves and asking the clients to introduce themselves. In the first class, we talk about how a woman’s natural fertility works and how wonderfully God has made our bodies — they are so intricate and so carefully balanced.

 

Ross and Lisa proceeded to give a detailed outline of their Fertility Appreciation presentations. This material is presented in greater detail earlier in this book, beginning on page 7.

 

 

Resources for Teaching Fertility Appreciation

Books:

Mercedes Arzu Wilson, Love and Family: Raising a Traditional Family in a Secular World, San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1996.

 

Mercedes Arzu Wilson, Love & Fertility (booklet), Dunkirk, MD: Family of the Americas Foundation, Inc., 1986, (800) 443-3395.

 

Mary Beth Bonacci, Real Love: Answers to Your Questions on Dating, Marriage, and the Real Meaning of Sex, Ignatius Press, 1996.

 

John and Sheila Kippley, The Art of Natural Family Planning, 4th edition, Cincinnati: Couple to Couple League, 1996, (800) 745-8252.

 

Sheila Kippley, Breastfeeding and Natural Child Spacing: How Natural Mothering Spaces Babies, Cincinnati: Couple to Couple League, (800) 745-8252.

 

Marilyn M. Shannon, Fertility, Cycles and Nutrition, 2nd edition, Cincinnati: Couple to Couple League, 1996, (800) 745-8252.

 

Pope Paul VI’s Encyclical Letter Humanae Vitae (Of Human Life), Boston: Pauline Books & Media, 1968 (Cleveland Center (216) 621-9427).

 

Pope John Paul II’s Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris Consortio (The Role of the Christian Family in the Modern World), Boston: Pauline Books & Media, 1981.

 

Pope John Paul II’s Encyclical Letter Evangelium Vitae (The Gospel of Life), Boston: Pauline Books & Media, 1995.

Video Tapes:

Appreciating Your Fertility (video), Dunkirk, MD: Family of the Americas Foundation, Inc., 1993.

 

Love & Fertility (video), Dunkirk, MD: Family of the Americas Foundation, Inc., 1989.

 

Natural vs. Artificial Family Planning (video), Dunkirk, MD: Family of the Americas Foundation, Inc.

 

Sex Has a Price Tag (video), Pam Stenzel, Creative Youth Resources / Youth for Christ, (800) 735- 3252 (available through One More Soul).

Organizations:

The following organizations have a wide variety of resources available. Most will send a free catalog upon request:

  • One More Soul, 1846 N. Main St., Dayton, OH 45405, (937) 279-5433, (800) 307-7685, Fax (937) 275-3902, www.OMSoul.com e-mail: OMSoul@OMSoul.com.
  • Family of the Americas, PO Box 1170, Dunkirk, MD 20754-1170, (301) 627-3346, (800) 443-3395 (orders only), Fax (301) 627-0847, www.familyplanning.net/
  • Couple to Couple League International, PO Box 11184, Cincinnati, OH 45211-1184, (513) 471-2000, (800) 745-8252 (orders only), Fax (513) 557-2449, www.ccli.org.
  • Heartbeat International, 7870 Olentangy River Road Suite #304, Columbus, OH 43235-1319, (614) 885-7577, (888) 550-7577, Fax (614) 885-8746, www.heartbeatinternational.org, email: support@heartbeatinternational.org.
  • Real Love, Inc., 1520 West Warner Rd. Suite #106-138, Gilbert, AZ 85233, (602) 812-1194, www.reallove.com (chastity education).
  • Human Life International, 4 Family Life, Front Royal, VA 22630, (540) 635-7884, (800) 549-LIFE (catalog orders only), Fax (540) 636-7363, www.hli.org, email: hli@hli.org.
  • The Pope Paul VI Institute, 6901 Mercy Rd, Omaha, NE 68106, (402) 390-6600, (fertility/ infertility research & information). www.popepaulvi.com

Gospel of Life – Evangelium Vitae

To the Bishops Priests and Deacons Men and Women religious Lay Faithful and all People of Good Will on the Value and Inviolability of Human Life

Introduction

1. The Gospel of life is at the heart of Jesus message. Lovingly received day after day by the Church, it is to be preached with dauntless fidelity as “good news” to the people of every age and culture.

At the dawn of salvation, it is the birth of a Child which is proclaimed as joyful news: “I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to all the people; for to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord” (Lk 2:10-11). The source of this “great joy” is the birth of the Savior; but Christmas also reveals the full meaning of every human birth, and the joy which accompanies the Birth of the Messiah is thus seen to be the foundation and fulfillment of joy at every child born into the world (cf. Jn 16:21).

When he presents the heart of his redemptive mission, Jesus says: “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly” (Jn 10:10). In truth, he is referring to that “new” and “eternal” life which consists in communion with the Father, to which every person is freely called in the Son by the power of the Sanctifying Spirit. It is precisely in this “life” that all the aspects and stages of human life achieve their full significance.

The incomparable worth of the human person

2. Man is called to a fullness of life which far exceeds the dimensions of his earthly existence, because it consists in sharing the very life of God. The loftiness of this supernatural vocation reveals the greatness and the inestimable value of human life even in its temporal phase. Life in time, in fact, is the fundamental condition, the initial stage, and an integral part of the entire unified process of human existence. It is a process which, unexpectedly and undeservedly, is enlightened by the promise and renewed by the gift of divine life, which will reach its full realization in eternity (cf. 1 Jn 3:1-2). At the same time, it is precisely this supernatural calling which highlights the relative character of each individuals earthly life. After all, life on earth is not an “ultimate” but a “penultimate” reality; even so, it remains a sacred reality entrusted to us, to be preserved with a sense of responsibility and brought to perfection in love and in the gift of ourselves to God and to our brothers and sisters.

The Church knows that this Gospel of life, which she has received from her Lord,1 has a profound and persuasive echo in the heart of every person-believer and non-believer alikebecause it marvelously fulfills all the hearts expectations while infinitely surpassing them. Even in the midst of difficulties and uncertainties, every person sincerely open to truth and goodness can, by the light of reason and the hidden action of grace, come to recognize in the natural law written in the heart (cf. Rom 2:14-15) the sacred value of human life from its very beginning until its end, and can affirm the right of every human being to have this primary good respected to the highest degree. Upon the recognition of this right, every human community and the political community itself are founded.

In a special way, believers in Christ must defend and promote this right, aware as they are of the wonderful truth recalled by the Second Vatican Council: “By his incarnation the Son of God has united himself in some fashion with every human being.”2 This saving event reveals to humanity not only the boundless love of God who “so loved the world that he gave his only Son” (Jn 3:16), but also the incomparable value of every human person.

The Church, faithfully contemplating the mystery of the Redemption, acknowledges this value with ever new wonder.3 She feels called to proclaim to the people of all times this “Gospel,” the source of invincible hope and true joy for every period of history. The Gospel of Gods love for man, the Gospel of the dignity of the person and the Gospel of life are a single and indivisible Gospel.

For this reason, manliving manrepresents the primary and fundamental way for the Church.4

New threats to human life

3. Every individual, precisely by reason of the mystery of the Word of God who was made flesh (cf. Jn 1:14), is entrusted to the maternal care of the Church. Therefore every threat to human dignity and life must necessarily be felt in the Churchs very heart; it cannot but affect her at the core of her faith in the Redemptive Incarnation of the Son of God, and engage her in her mission of proclaiming the Gospel of life in all the world and to every creature (cf. Mk 16:15).

Today this proclamation is especially pressing because of the extraordinary increase and gravity of threats to the life of individuals and peoples, especially where life is weak and defenseless. In addition to the ancient scourges of poverty, hunger, endemic diseases, violence and war, new threats are emerging on an alarmingly vast scale.

The Second Vatican Council, in a passage which retains all its relevance today, forcefully condemned a number of crimes and attacks against human life. Thirty years later, taking up the words of the Council and with the same forcefulness I repeat that condemnation in the name of the whole Church, certain that I am interpreting the genuine sentiment of every upright conscience: “Whatever is opposed to life itself, such as any type of murder, genocide, abortion, euthanasia, or willful self-destruction, whatever violates the integrity of the human person, such as mutilation, torments inflicted on body or mind, attempts to coerce the will itself; whatever insults human dignity, such as subhuman living conditions, arbitrary imprisonment, deportation, slavery, prostitution, the selling of women and children; as well as disgraceful working conditions, where people are treated as mere instruments of gain rather than as free and responsible persons; all these things and others like them are infamies indeed. They poison human society, and they do more harm to those who practice them than to those who suffer from the injury. Moreover, they are a supreme dishonor to the Creator.”5

4. Unfortunately, this disturbing state of affairs, far from decreasing, is expanding: with the new prospects opened up by scientific and technological progress there arise new forms of attacks on the dignity of the human being. At the same time a new cultural climate is developing and taking hold, which gives crimes against life a new andif possibleeven more sinister character, giving rise to further grave concern: broad sectors of public opinion justify certain crimes against life in the name of the rights of individual freedom, and on this basis they claim not only exemption from punishment but even authorization by the State, so that these things can be done with total freedom and indeed with the free assistance of health-care systems.

All this is causing a profound change in the way in which life and relationships between people are considered. The fact that legislation in many countries, perhaps even departing from basic principles of their Constitutions, has determined not to punish these practices against life, and even to make them altogether legal, is both a disturbing symptom and a significant cause of grave moral decline. Choices once unanimously considered criminal and rejected by the common moral sense are gradually becoming socially acceptable. Even certain sectors of the medical profession, which by its calling is directed to the defense and care of human life, are increasingly willing to carry out these acts against the person. In this way the very nature of the medical profession is distorted and contradicted, and the dignity of those who practice it is degraded. In such a cultural and legislative situation, the serious demographic, social and family problems which weigh upon many of the worlds peoples and which require responsible and effective attention from national and international bodies, are left open to false and deceptive solutions, opposed to the truth and the good of persons and nations.

The end result of this is tragic: not only is the fact of the destruction of so many human lives still to be born or in their final stage extremely grave and disturbing, but no less grave and disturbing is the fact that conscience itself, darkened as it were by such widespread conditioning, is finding it increasingly difficult to distinguish between good and evil in what concerns the basic value of human life.

In communion with all the bishops of the world

5. The Extraordinary Consistory of Cardinals held in Rome on April 4-7, 1991 was devoted to the problem of the threats to human life in our day. After a thorough and detailed discussion of the problem and of the challenges it poses to the entire human family and in particular to the Christian community, the Cardinals unanimously asked me to reaffirm with the authority of the Successor of Peter the value of human life and its inviolability, in the light of present circumstances and attacks threatening it today.

In response to this request, at Pentecost in 1991 I wrote a personal letter to each of my Brother Bishops asking them, in the spirit of episcopal collegiality, to offer me their cooperation in drawing up a specific document.6 I am deeply grateful to all the Bishops who replied and provided me with valuable facts, suggestions, and proposals. In so doing, they bore witness to their unanimous desire to share in the doctrinal and pastoral mission of the Church with regard to the Gospel of life.

In that same letter, written shortly after the celebration of the centenary of the Encyclical Rerum Novarum, I drew everyones attention to this striking analogy: “Just as a century ago it was the working classes which were oppressed in their fundamental rights, and the Church very courageously came to their defense by proclaiming the sacrosanct rights of the worker as a person, so now, when another category of persons is being oppressed in the fundamental right to life, the Church feels in duty bound to speak out with the same courage on behalf of those who have no voice. Hers is always the evangelical cry in defense of the worlds poor, those who are threatened and despised and whose human rights are violated.”7

Today there exists a great multitude of weak and defenseless human beings, unborn children in particular, whose fundamental right to life is being trampled upon. If, at the end of the last century, the Church could not be silent about the injustices of those times, still less can she be silent today, when the social injustices of the past, unfortunately not yet overcome, are being compounded in many regions of the world by still more grievous forms of injustice and oppression, even if these are being presented as elements of progress in view of a new world order.

The present Encyclical, the fruit of the cooperation of the Episcopate of every country of the world, is therefore meant to be a precise and vigorous reaffirmation of the value of human life and its inviolability, and at the same time a pressing appeal addressed to each and every person, in the name of God: respect, protect, love and serve life, every human life! Only in this direction will you find justice, development, true freedom, peace, and happiness!

May these words reach all the sons and daughters of the Church! May they reach all people of good will who are concerned for the good of every man and woman and for the destiny of the whole of society!

6. In profound communion with all my brothers and sisters in the faith, and inspired by genuine friendship towards all, I wish to meditate upon once more and proclaim the Gospel of life, the splendor of truth which enlightens consciences, the clear light which corrects the darkened gaze, and the unfailing source of faithfulness and steadfastness in facing the ever new challenges which we meet along our path.

As I recall the powerful experience of the Year of the Family, as if to complete the Letter which I wrote “to every particular family in every part of the world,”8 I look with renewed confidence to every household and I pray that at every level a general commitment to support the family will reappear and be strengthened, so that today tooeven amid so many difficulties and serious threatsthe family will always remain, in accordance with Gods plan, the “sanctuary of life.”9

To all the members of the Church, the people of life and for life, I make this most urgent appeal, that together we may offer this world of ours new signs of hope, and work to ensure that justice and solidarity will increase and that a new culture of human life will be affirmed, for the building of an authentic civilization of truth and love.

Chapter I The Voice of Your Brothers Blood Cries to Me from the Ground

Present Day Threats to Human Life

“Cain rose up against his brother Abel, and killed him” (Gen 4:8): the roots of violence against life

7. “God did not make death, and he does not delight in the death of the living. For he has created all things that they might exist … God created man for incorruption, and made him in the image of his own eternity, but through the devils envy death entered the world, and those who belong to his party experience it” (Wis 1:13-14; 2:23-24).

The Gospel of life, proclaimed in the beginning when man was created in the image of God for a destiny of full and perfect life (cf. Gen 2:7; Wis 9:2-3), is contradicted by the painful experience of death which enters the world and casts its shadow of meaninglessness over mans entire existence. Death came into the world as a result of the devils envy (cf. Gen 3:1,4-5) and the sin of our first parents (cf. Gen 2:17, 3:17-19). And death entered it in a violent way, through the killing of Abel by his brother Cain: “And when they were in the field, Cain rose up against his brother Abel, and killed him” (Gen 4:8).

This first murder is presented with singular eloquence in a page of the Book of Genesis which has universal significance: it is a page rewritten daily, with inexorable and degrading frequency, in the book of human history.

Let us re-read together this biblical account which, despite its archaic structure and its extreme simplicity, has much to teach us.

“Now Abel was a keeper of sheep, and Cain a tiller of the ground. In the course of time Cain brought to the Lord an offering of the fruit of the ground, and Abel brought of the firstlings of his flock and of their fat portions. And the Lord had regard for Abel and his offering, but for Cain and his offering he had not regard. So Cain was very angry, and his countenance fell. The Lord said to Cain, Why are you angry and why has your countenance fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door; its desire is for you, but you must master it.

“Cain said to Abel his brother, Let us go out to the field. And when they were in the field, Cain rose up against his brother Abel, and killed him. Then the Lord said to Cain, Where is Abel your brother? He said, I do not know; am I my brothers keeper? And the Lord said, What have you done? The voice of your brothers blood is crying to me from the

ground. And now you are cursed from the ground, which has opened its mouth to receive your brothers blood from your hand. When you till the ground, it shall no longer yield to you its strength; you shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth. Cain said to the Lord, My punishment is greater than I can bear. Behold, you have driven me this day away from the ground; and from your face I shall be hidden; and I shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will slay me. Then the Lord said to him, Not so! If any one slays Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold. And the Lord put a mark on Cain, lest any who came upon him should kill him. Then Cain went away from the presence of the Lord, and dwelt in the land of Nod, east of Eden” (Gen 4:2-16).

8. Cain was “very angry” and his countenance “fell” because “the Lord had regard for Abel and his offering” (Gen 4:4-5). The biblical text does not reveal the reason why God prefers Abels sacrifice to Cains. It clearly shows however that God, although preferring Abels gift, does not interrupt his dialogue with Cain. He admonishes him, reminding him of his freedom in the face of evil: man is in no way predestined to evil. Certainly, like Adam, he is tempted by the malevolent force of sin which, like a wild beast, lies in wait at the door of his heart, ready to leap on its prey. But Cain remains free in the face of sin. He can and must overcome it: “Its desire is for you, but you must master it” (Gen 4:7).

Envy and anger

have the upper hand over the Lords warning, and so Cain attacks his own brother and kills him. As we read in the Catechism of the Catholic Church: “In the account of Abels murder by his brother Cain, Scripture reveals the presence of anger and envy in man, consequences of original sin, from the beginning of human history. Man has become the enemy of his fellow man.”10

Brother kills brother

. Like the first fratricide, every murder is a violation of the “spiritual” kinship uniting mankind in one great family, 11 in which all share the same fundamental good: equal personal dignity. Not infrequently, the kinship “of flesh and blood” is also violated; for example when threats to life arise within the relationship between parents and children, such as happens in abortion or when, in the wider context of family or kinship, euthanasia is encouraged or practiced.

At the root of every act of violence against ones neighbor there is a concession to the “thinking” of the evil one, the one who “was a murderer from the beginning” (Jn 8:44). As the Apostle John reminds us: “For this is the message which you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another, and not be like Cain who was of the evil one and murdered his brother” (1 Jn 3:11-12). Cains killing of his brother at the very dawn of history is thus a sad witness of how evil spreads with amazing speed: mans revolt against God in the earthly paradise is followed by the deadly combat of man against man.

After the crime, God intervenes to avenge the one killed. Before God, who asks him about the fate of Abel, Cain, instead of showing remorse and apologizing, arrogantly eludes the question: “I do not know; am I my brothers keeper?” (Gen 4:9). “I do not know”: Cain tries to cover up his crime with a lie. This was and still is the case, when all kinds of ideologies try to justify and disguise the most atrocious crimes against human beings. “Am I my brothers keeper?” Cain does not wish to think about his brother and refuses to accept the responsibility which every person has towards others. We cannot but think of todays tendency for people to refuse to accept responsibility for their brothers and sisters. Symptoms of this trend include the lack of solidarity towards societys weakest memberssuch as the elderly, the infirm, immigrants, and children and the indifference frequently found in relations between the worlds peoples even when basic values such as survival, freedom and peace are involved.

9. But God cannot leave the crime unpunished: from the ground on which it has been spilt, the blood of the one murdered demands that God should render justice (cf. Gen 37:26; Is 26:21; Ez 24:7-8). From this text the Church has taken the name of the “sins which cry to God for justice,” and, first among them, she has included willful murder.12 For the Jewish people, as for many peoples of antiquity, blood is the source of life. Indeed “the blood is the life” (Dt 12:23), and life, especially human life, belongs only to God: for this reason whoever attacks human life, in some way attacks God himself.

Cain is cursed by God and also by the earth, which will deny him its fruit (cf. Gen 4:11-12). He is punished: he will live in the wilderness and the desert. Murderous violence profoundly changes mans environment. From being the “garden of Eden” (Gen 2:15), a place of plenty, of harmonious interpersonal relationships and of friendship with God, the earth becomes “the land of Nod” (Gen 4:16), a place of scarcity, loneliness and separation from God. Cain will be “a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth” (Gen 4:14): uncertainty and restlessness will follow him forever.

And yet God, who is always merciful even when he punishes, “put a mark on Cain, lest any who came upon him should kill him” (Gen 4:15). He thus gave him a distinctive sign, not to condemn him to the hatred of others, but to protect and defend him from those wishing to kill him, even out of a desire to avenge Abels death. Not even a murderer loses his personal dignity, and God himself pledges to guarantee this. And it is precisely here that the paradoxical mystery of the merciful justice of God is shown forth. As Saint Ambrose writes: “Once the crime is admitted at the very inception of this sinful act of parricide, then the divine law of Gods mercy should be immediately extended. If punishment is forthwith inflicted on the accused, then men in the exercise of justice would in no way observe patience and moderation, but would straightaway condemn the defendant to punishment…. God drove Cain out of his presence and sent him into exile far away from his native land, so that he passed from a life of human kindness to one which was more akin to the rude existence of a wild beast. God, who preferred the correction rather than the death of a sinner, did not desire that a homicide be punished by the exaction of another act of homicide.”13

“What have you done?” (Gen 4:10): the eclipse of the value of life

10. The Lord said to Cain: “What have you done? The voice of your brothers blood is crying to me from the ground” (Gen 4:10). The voice of the blood shed by men continues to cry out, from generation to generation, in ever new and different ways.

The Lords question: “What have you done?,” which Cain cannot escape, is addressed also to the people of today, to make them realize the extent and gravity of the attacks against life which continue to mark human history; to make them discover what causes these attacks and feeds them; and to make them ponder seriously the consequences which derive from these attacks for the existence of individuals and peoples.

Some threats come from nature itself, but they are made worse by the culpable indifference and negligence of those who could in some cases remedy them. Others are the result of situations of violence, hatred, and conflicting interests, which lead people to attack others through murder, war, slaughter, and genocide.

And how can we fail to consider the violence against life done to millions of human beings, especially children, who are forced into poverty, malnutrition, and hunger because of an unjust distribution of resources between peoples and between social classes? And what of the violence inherent not only in wars as such but in the scandalous arms trade, which spawns the many armed conflicts which stain our world with blood? What of the spreading of death caused by reckless tampering with the worlds ecological balance, by the criminal spread of drugs, or by the promotion of certain kinds of sexual activity which, besides being morally unacceptable, also involve grave risks to life? It is impossible to catalogue completely the vast array of threats to human life, so many are the forms, whether explicit or hidden, in which they appear today!

11. Here though we shall concentrate particular attention on another category of attacks, affecting life in its earliest and in its final stages, attacks which present new characteristics with respect to the past and which raise questions of extraordinary seriousness. It is not only that in generalized opinion these attacks tend no longer to be considered as “crimes”; paradoxically they assume the nature of “rights,” to the point that the State is called upon to give them legal recognition and to make them available through the free services of health-care personnel. Such attacks strike human life at the time of its greatest frailty, when it lacks any means of self-defense. Even more serious is the fact that, most often, those attacks are carried out in the very heart of and with the complicity of the familythe family which by its nature is called to be the “sanctuary of life.”

How did such a situation come about? Many different factors have to be taken into account. In the background there is the profound crisis of culture, which generates skepticism in relation to the very foundations of knowledge and ethics, and which makes it increasingly difficult to grasp clearly the meaning of what man is, the meaning of his rights and his duties. Then there are all kinds of existential and interpersonal difficulties, made worse by the complexity of a society in which individuals, couples, and families are often left alone with their problems. There are situations of acute poverty, anxiety or frustration in which the struggle to make ends meet, the presence of unbearable pain, or instances of violence, especially against women, make the choice to defend and promote life so demanding as sometimes to reach the point of heroism.

All this explains, at least in part, how the value of life can today undergo a kind of “eclipse,” even though conscience does not cease to point to it as a sacred and inviolable value, as is evident in the tendency to disguise certain crimes against life in its early or final stages by using innocuous medical terms which distract attention from the fact that what is involved is the right to life of an actual human person.

12. In fact, while the climate of widespread moral uncertainty can in some way be explained by the multiplicity and gravity of todays social problems, and these can sometimes mitigate the subjective responsibility of individuals, it is no less true that we are confronted by an even larger reality, which can be described as a veritable structure of sin. This reality is characterized by the emergence of a culture which denies solidarity and in many cases takes the form of a veritable “culture of death.” This culture is actively fostered by powerful cultural, economic and political currents which encourage an idea of society excessively concerned with efficiency. Looking at the situation from this point of view, it is possible to speak in a certain sense of a war of the powerful against the weak: a life which would require greater acceptance, love and care is considered useless, or held to be an intolerable burden, and is therefore rejected in one way or another. A person who, because of illness, handicap or, more simply, just by existing, compromises the well-being or life-style of those who are more favored tends to be looked upon as an enemy to be resisted or eliminated. In this way a kind of “conspiracy against life” is unleashed. This conspiracy involves not only individuals in their personal, family or group relationships, but goes far beyond, to the point of damaging and distorting, at the international level, relations between peoples and States.

13. In order to facilitate the spread of abortion, enormous sums of money have been invested and continue to be invested in the production of pharmaceutical products which make it possible to kill the fetus in the mothers womb without recourse to medical assistance. On this point, scientific research itself seems to be almost exclusively preoccupied with developing products which are ever more simple and effective in suppressing life and which at the same time are capable of removing abortion from any kind of control or social responsibility.

It is frequently asserted that contraception, if made safe and available to all, is the most effective remedy against abortion. The Catholic Church is then accused of actually promoting abortion, because she obstinately continues to teach the moral unlawfulness of contraception. When looked at carefully, this objection is clearly unfounded. It may be that many people use contraception with a view to excluding the subsequent temptation of abortion. But the negative values inherent in the “contraceptive mentality”which is very different from responsible parenthood, lived in respect for the full truth of the conjugal actare such that they in fact strengthen this temptation when an unwanted life is conceived. Indeed, the pro-abortion culture is especially strong precisely where the Churchs teaching on contraception is rejected. Certainly, from the moral point of view contraception and abortion are specifically different evils: the former contradicts the full truth of the sexual act as the proper expression of conjugal love, while the latter destroys the life of a human being; the former is opposed to the virtue of chastity in marriage, the latter is opposed to the virtue of justice and directly violates the divine commandment “You shall not kill.”

But despite their differences of nature and moral gravity, contraception and abortion are often closely connected, as fruits of the same tree. It is true that in many cases contraception and even abortion are practiced under the pressure of real life difficulties, which nonetheless can never exonerate from striving to observe Gods law fully. Still, in very many other instances, such practices are rooted in a hedonistic mentality unwilling to accept responsibility in matters of sexuality, and they imply a self-centered concept of freedom, which regards procreation as an obstacle to personal fulfillment. The life which could result from a sexual encounter thus becomes an enemy to be avoided at all costs, and abortion becomes the only possible decisive response to failed contraception.

The close connection which exists, in mentality, between the practice of contraception and that of abortion is becoming increasingly obvious. It is being demonstrated in an alarming way by the development of chemical products, intrauterine devices, and vaccines which, distributed with the same ease as contraceptives, really act as abortifacients in the very early stages of the development of the life of the new human being.

14. The various techniques of artificial reproduction, which would seem to be at the service of life and which are frequently used with this intention, actually open the door to new threats against life. Apart from the fact that they are morally unacceptable, since they separate procreation from the fully human context of the conjugal act, 14 these techniques have a high rate of failure: not just failure in relation to fertilization but with regard to the subsequent development of the embryo, which is exposed to the risk of death, generally within a very short space of time. Furthermore, the number of embryos produced is often greater than that needed for implantation in the womans womb, and these so-called “spare embryos” are then destroyed or used for research which, under the pretext of scientific or medical progress, in fact reduces human life to the level of simple “biological material” to be freely disposed of.

Prenatal diagnosis

, which presents no moral objections if carried out in order to identify the medical treatment which may be needed by the child in the womb, all too often becomes an opportunity for proposing and procuring an abortion. This is eugenic abortion, justified in public opinion on the basis of a mentalitymistakenly held to be consistent with the demands of “therapeutic interventions”which accepts life only under certain conditions and rejects it when it is affected by any limitation, handicap or illness.

Following this same logic, the point has been reached where the most basic care, even nourishment, is denied to babies born with serious handicaps or illnesses. The contemporary scene, moreover, is becoming even more alarming by reason of the proposals, advanced here and there, to justify even infanticide, following the same arguments used to justify the right to abortion. In this way, we revert to a state of barbarism which one hoped had been left behind forever.

15. Threats which are no less serious hang over the incurably ill and the dying. In a social and cultural context which makes it more difficult to face and accept suffering, the temptation becomes all the greater to resolve the problem of suffering by eliminating it at the root, by hastening death so that it occurs at the moment considered most suitable.

Various considerations usually contribute to such a decision, all of which converge in the same terrible outcome. In the sick person the sense of anguish, of severe discomfort, and even of desperation brought on by intense and prolonged suffering can be a decisive factor. Such a situation can threaten the already fragile equilibrium of an individuals personal and family life, with the result that, on the one hand, the sick person, despite the help of increasingly effective medical and social assistance, risks feeling overwhelmed by his or her own frailty; and on the other hand, those close to the sick person can be moved by an understandable even if misplaced compassion. All this is aggravated by a cultural climate which fails to perceive any meaning or value in suffering, but rather considers suffering the epitome of evil, to be eliminated at all costs. This is especially the case in the absence of a religious outlook which could help to provide a positive understanding of the mystery of suffering.

On a more general level, there exists in contemporary culture a certain Promethean attitude which leads people to think that they can control life and death by taking the decisions about them into their own hands. What really happens in this case is that the individual is overcome and crushed by a death deprived of any prospect of meaning or hope. We see a tragic expression of all this in the spread of euthanasiadisguised and surreptitious, or practiced openly and even legally. As well as for reasons of a misguided pity at the sight of the patients suffering, euthanasia is sometimes justified by the utilitarian motive of avoiding costs which bring no return and which weigh heavily on society. Thus it is proposed to eliminate malformed babies, the severely handicapped, the disabled, the elderly, especially when they are not self-sufficient, and the terminally ill. Nor can we remain silent in the face of other more furtive, but no less serious and real, forms of euthanasia. These could occur for example when, in order to increase the availability of organs for transplants, organs are removed without respecting objective and adequate criteria which verify the death of the donor.

16. Another present-day phenomenon, frequently used to justify threats and attacks against life, is the demographic question. This question arises in different ways in different parts of the world. In the rich and developed countries there is a disturbing decline or collapse of the birthrate. The poorer countries, on the other hand, generally have a high rate of population growth, difficult to sustain in the context of low economic and social development, and especially where there is extreme underdevelopment. In the face of overpopulation in the poorer countries, instead of forms of global intervention at the international levelserious family and social policies, programs of cultural development and of fair production and distribution of resourcesanti-birth policies continue to be enacted.

Contraception, sterilization, and abortion are certainly part of the reason why in some cases there is a sharp decline in the birthrate. It is not difficult to be tempted to use the same methods and attacks against life also where there is a situation of “demographic explosion.”

The Pharaoh of old, haunted by the presence and increase of the children of Israel, submitted them to every kind of oppression and ordered that every male child born of the Hebrew women was to be killed (cf. Ex 1:7-22). Today not a few of the powerful of the earth act in the same way. They too are haunted by the current demographic growth, and fear that the most prolific and poorest peoples represent a threat for the well-being and peace of their own countries. Consequently, rather than wishing to face and solve these serious problems with respect for the dignity of individuals and families and for every persons inviolable right to life, they prefer to promote and impose by whatever means a massive program of birth control. Even the economic help which they would be ready to give is unjustly made conditional on the acceptance of an anti-birth policy.

17. Humanity today offers us a truly alarming spectacle, if we consider not only how extensively attacks on life are spreading but also their unheard-of numerical proportion, and the fact that they receive widespread and powerful support from a broad consensus on the part of society, from widespread legal approval and the involvement of certain sectors of health-care personnel.

As I emphatically stated at Denver, on the occasion of the Eighth World Youth Day, “with time the threats against life have not grown weaker. They are taking on vast proportions. They are not only threats coming from the outside, from the forces of nature or the Cains who kill the Abels; no, they are scientifically and systematically programmed threats. The twentieth century will have been an era of massive attacks on life, an endless series of wars, and a continual taking of innocent human life. False prophets and false teachers have had the greatest success.”15 Aside from intentions, which can be varied and perhaps can seem convincing at times, especially if presented in the name of solidarity, we are in fact faced by an objective “conspiracy against life,” involving even international Institutions, engaged in encouraging and carrying out actual campaigns to make contraception, sterilization and abortion widely available. Nor can it be denied that the mass media are often implicated in this conspiracy, by lending credit to that culture which presents recourse to contraception, sterilization, abortion and even euthanasia as a mark of progress and a victory of freedom, while depicting as enemies of freedom and progress those positions which are unreservedly pro-life.

Am I my brothers keeper?” (Gen 4:9): a perverse idea of freedom

18. The panorama described needs to be understood not only in terms of the phenomena of death which characterize it but also in the variety of causes which determine it. The Lords question: “What have you done?” (Gen 4:10), seems almost like an invitation addressed to Cain to go beyond the material dimension of his murderous gesture, in order to recognize in it all the gravity of the motives which occasioned it and the consequences which result from it.

Decisions that go against life sometimes arise from difficult or even tragic situations of profound suffering, loneliness, a total lack of economic prospects, depression, and anxiety about the future. Such circumstances can mitigate even to a notable degree subjective responsibility and the consequent culpability of those who make these choices which in themselves are evil. But today the problem goes far beyond the necessary recognition of these personal situations. It is a problem which exists at the cultural, social and political level, where it reveals its more sinister and disturbing aspect in the tendency, ever more widely shared, to interpret the above crimes against life as legitimate expressions of individual freedom, to be acknowledged and protected as actual rights.

In this way, and with tragic consequences, a long historical process is reaching a turning point. The process which once led to discovering the idea of “human rights”rights inherent in every person and prior to any Constitution and State legislationis today marked by a surprising contradiction. Precisely in an age when the inviolable rights of the person are solemnly proclaimed and the value of life is publicly affirmed, the very right to life is being denied or trampled upon, especially at the more significant moments of existence: the moment of birth and the moment of death.

On the one hand, the various declarations of human rights and the many initiatives inspired by these declarations show that at the global level there is a growing moral sensitivity, more alert to acknowledging the value and dignity of every individual as a human being, without any distinction of race, nationality, religion, political opinion or social class.

On the other hand, these noble proclamations are unfortunately contradicted by a tragic repudiation of them in practice. This denial is still more distressing, indeed more scandalous, precisely because it is occurring in a society which makes the affirmation and protection of human rights its primary objective and its boast. How can these repeated affirmations of principle be reconciled with the continual increase and widespread justification of attacks on human life? How can we reconcile these declarations with the refusal to accept those who are weak and needy, or elderly, or those who have just been conceived? These attacks go directly against respect for life and they represent a direct threat to the entire culture of human rights. It is a threat capable, in the end, of jeopardizing the very meaning of democratic coexistence: rather than societies of “people living together”, our cities risk becoming societies of people who are rejected, marginalized, uprooted and oppressed. If we then look at the wider worldwide perspective, how can we fail to think that the very affirmation of the rights of individuals and peoples made in distinguished international assemblies is a merely futile exercise of rhetoric, if we fail to unmask the selfishness of the rich countries which exclude poorer countries from access to development or make such access dependent on arbitrary prohibitions against procreation, setting up an opposition between development and man himself? Should we not question the very economic models often adopted by States which, also as a result of international pressures and forms of conditioning, cause and aggravate situations of injustice and violence in which the life of whole peoples is degraded and trampled upon?

19. What are the roots of this remarkable contradiction?

We can find them in an overall assessment of a cultural and moral nature, beginning with the mentality which carries the concept of subjectivity to an extreme and even distorts it, and recognizes as a subject of rights only the person who enjoys full or at least incipient autonomy and who emerges from a state of total dependence on others. But how can we reconcile this approach with the exaltation of man as a being who is “not to be used”? The theory of human rights is based precisely on the affirmation that the human person, unlike animals and things, cannot be subjected to domination by others. We must also mention the mentality which tends to equate personal dignity with the capacity for verbal and explicit, or at least perceptible, communication. It is clear that on the basis of these presuppositions there is no place in the world for anyone who, like the unborn or the dying, is a weak element in the social structure, or for anyone who appears completely at the mercy of others and radically dependent on them, and can only communicate through the silent language of a profound sharing of affection. In this case, it is force which becomes the criterion for choice and action in interpersonal relations and in social life. But this is the exact opposite of what a State ruled by law, as a community in which the “reasons of force” are replaced by the “force of reason,” historically intended to affirm.

At another level, the roots of the contradiction between the solemn affirmation of human rights and their tragic denial in practice lies in a notion of freedom which exalts the isolated individual in an absolute way, and gives no place to solidarity, to openness to others and service of them. While it is true that the taking of life not yet born or in its final stages is sometimes marked by a mistaken sense of altruism and human compassion, it cannot be denied that such a culture of death, taken as a whole, betrays a completely individualistic concept of freedom, which ends up by becoming the freedom of “the strong” against the weak who have no choice but to submit.

It is precisely in this sense that Cains answer to the Lords question: “Where is Abel your brother?” can be interpreted: “I do not know; am I my brothers keeper?” (Gen 4:9). Yes, every man is his “brothers keeper,” because God entrusts us to one another. And it is also in view of this entrusting that God gives everyone freedom, a freedom which possesses an inherently relational dimension. This is a great gift of the Creator, placed as it is at the service of the person and of his fulfillment through the gift of self and openness to others; but when freedom is made absolute in an individualistic way, it is emptied of its original content, and its very meaning and dignity are contradicted.

There is an even more profound aspect which needs to be emphasized: freedom negates and destroys itself, and becomes a factor leading to the destruction of others, when it no longer recognizes and respects its essential link with the truth. When freedom, out of a desire to emancipate itself from all forms of tradition and authority, shuts out even the most obvious evidence of an objective and universal truth, which is the foundation of personal and social life, then the person ends up by no longer taking as the sole and indisputable point of reference for his own choices the truth about good and evil, but only his subjective and changeable opinion or, indeed, his selfish interest and whim.

20. This view of freedom leads to a serious distortion of life in society. If the promotion of the self is understood in terms of absolute autonomy, people inevitably reach the point of rejecting one another. Everyone else is considered an enemy from whom one has to defend oneself. Thus, society becomes a mass of individuals placed side by side, but without any mutual bonds. Each one wishes to assert himself independently of the other and in fact intends to make his own interests prevail. Still, in the face of other peoples analogous interests, some kind of compromise must be found, if one wants a society in which the maximum possible freedom is guaranteed to each individual. In this way, any reference to common values and to a truth absolutely binding on everyone is lost, and social life ventures on to the shifting sands of complete relativism. At that point, everything is negotiable, everything is open to bargaining: even the first of the fundamental rights, the right to life.

This is what is happening also at the level of politics and government: the original and inalienable right to life is questioned or denied on the basis of a parliamentary vote or the will of one part of the peopleeven if it is the majority. This is the sinister result of a relativism which reigns unopposed: the “right” ceases to be such, because it is no longer firmly founded on the inviolable dignity of the person, but is made subject to the will of the stronger part. In this way democracy, contradicting its own principles, effectively moves towards a form of totalitarianism. The State is no longer the “common home” where all can live together on the basis of principles of fundamental equality, but is transformed into a tyrant State, which arrogates to itself the right to dispose of the life of the weakest and most defenseless members, from the unborn child to the elderly, in the name of a public interest which is really nothing but the interest of one part. The appearance of the strictest respect for legality is maintained, at least when the laws permitting abortion and euthanasia are the result of a ballot in accordance with what are generally seen as the rules of democracy. Really, what we have here is only the tragic caricature of legality; the democratic ideal, which is only truly such when it acknowledges and safeguards the dignity of every human person, is betrayed in its very foundations: “How is it still possible to speak of the dignity of every human person when the killing of the weakest and most innocent is permitted? In the name of what justice is the most unjust of discriminations practiced: some individuals are held to be deserving of defense and others are denied that dignity?” 16 When this happens, the process leading to the breakdown of a genuinely human co-existence and the disintegration of the State itself has already begun.

To claim the right to abortion, infanticide, and euthanasia, and to recognize that right in law, means to attribute to human freedom a perverse and evil significance: that of an absolute power over others and against others. This is the death of true freedom: “Truly, truly, I say to you, every one who commits sin is a slave to sin” (Jn 8:34).

And from your face I shall be hidden” (Gen 4:14): the eclipse of the sense of God and of man

21. In seeking the deepest roots of the struggle between the “culture of life” and the “culture of death,” we cannot restrict ourselves to the perverse idea of freedom mentioned above. We have to go to the heart of the tragedy being experienced by modern man: the eclipse of the sense of God and of man, typical of a social and cultural climate dominated by secularism, which, with its ubiquitous tentacles, succeeds at times in putting Christian communities themselves to the test. Those who allow themselves to be influenced by this climate easily fall into a sad vicious circle: when the sense of God is lost, there is also a tendency to lose the sense of man, of his dignity and his life; in turn, the systematic violation of the moral law, especially in the serious matter of respect for human life and its dignity, produces a kind of progressive darkening of the capacity to discern Gods living and saving presence.

Once again we can gain insight from the story of Abels murder by his brother. After the curse imposed on him by God, Cain thus addresses the Lord: “My punishment is greater than I can bear. Behold, you have driven me this day away from the ground; and from your face I shall be hidden; and I shall be a fugitive and wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will slay me” (Gen 4:13-14). Cain is convinced that his sin will not obtain pardon from the Lord and that his inescapable destiny will be to have to “hide his face” from him. If Cain is capable of confessing that his fault is “greater than he can bear,” it is because he is conscious of being in the presence of God and before Gods just judgment. It is really only before the Lord that man can admit his sin and recognize its full seriousness. Such was the experience of David who, after “having committed evil in the sight of the Lord,” and being rebuked by the Prophet Nathan, exclaimed: “My offences truly I know them; my sin is always before me. Against you, you alone, have I sinned; what is evil in your sight I have done” (Ps 51:5-6).

22. Consequently, when the sense of God is lost, the sense of man is also threatened and poisoned, as the Second Vatican Council concisely states: “Without the Creator the creature would disappear … But when God is forgotten the creature itself grows unintelligible.”17 Man is no longer able to see himself as “mysteriously different” from other earthly creatures; he regards himself merely as one more living being, as an organism which, at most, has reached a very high stage of perfection. Enclosed in the narrow horizon of his physical nature, he is somehow reduced to being “a thing,” and no longer grasps the “transcendent” character of his “existence as man.” He no longer considers life as a splendid gift of God, something “sacred” entrusted to his responsibility and thus also to his loving care and “veneration.” Life itself becomes a mere “thing,” which man claims as his exclusive property, completely subject to his control and manipulation.

Thus, in relation to life at birth or at death, man is no longer capable of posing the question of the truest meaning of his own existence, nor can he assimilate with genuine freedom these crucial moments of his own history. He is concerned only with “doing,” and, using all kinds of technology, he busies himself with programming, controlling and dominating birth and death. Birth and death, instead of being primary experiences demanding to be “lived,” become things to be merely “possessed” or “rejected.”

Moreover, once all reference to God has been removed, it is not surprising that the meaning of everything else becomes profoundly distorted. Nature itself, from being “mater” (mother), is now reduced to being “matter,” and is subjected to every kind of manipulation. This is the direction in which a certain technical and scientific way of thinking, prevalent in present-day culture, appears to be leading when it rejects the very idea that there is a truth of creation which must be acknowledged, or a plan of God for life which must be respected. Something similar happens when concern about the consequences of such a “freedom without law” leads some people to the opposite position of a “law without freedom,” as for example in ideologies which consider it unlawful to interfere in any way with nature, practically “divinizing” it. Again, this is a misunderstanding of natures dependence on the plan of the Creator. Thus it is clear that the loss of contact with Gods wise design is the deepest root of modern mans confusion, both when this loss leads to a freedom without rules and when it leaves man in “fear” of his freedom.

By living “as if God did not exist,” man not only loses sight of the mystery of God, but also of the mystery of the world and the mystery of his own being.

23. The eclipse of the sense of God and of man inevitably leads to a practical materialism, which breeds individualism, utilitarianism, and hedonism. Here too we see the permanent validity of the words of the Apostle: “And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a base mind and to improper conduct” (Rom 1:28). The values of being are replaced by those of having. The only goal which counts is the pursuit of ones own material well being. The so-called “quality of life” is interpreted primarily or exclusively as economic efficiency, inordinate consumerism, physical beauty, and pleasure, to the neglect of the more profound dimensionsinterpersonal, spiritual and religiousof existence.

In such a context suffering, an inescapable burden of human existence but also a factor of possible personal growth, is “censored,” rejected as useless, indeed opposed as an evil, always and in every way to be avoided. When it cannot be avoided and the prospect of even some future well being vanishes, then life appears to have lost all meaning and the temptation grows in man to claim the right to suppress it.

Within this same cultural climate, the body is no longer perceived as a properly personal reality, a sign and place of relations with others, with God and with the world. It is reduced to pure materiality: it is simply a complex of organs, functions, and energies to be used according to the sole criteria of pleasure and efficiency. Consequently, sexuality too is depersonalized and exploited: from being the sign, place and language of love, that is, of the gift of self and acceptance of another, in all the others richness as a person, it increasingly becomes the occasion and instrument for self-assertion and the selfish satisfaction of personal desires and instincts. Thus the original import of human sexuality is distorted and falsified, and the two meanings, unitive and procreative, inherent in the very nature of the conjugal act, are artificially separated: In this way, the marriage union is betrayed and its fruitfulness is subjected to the caprice of the couple. Procreation then becomes the “enemy” to be avoided in sexual activity: if it is welcomed, this is only because it expresses a desire, or indeed the intention, to have a child “at all costs,” and not because it signifies the complete acceptance of the other and therefore an openness to the richness of life which the child represents.

In the materialistic perspective described so far, interpersonal relations are seriously impoverished. The first to be harmed are women, children, the sick or suffering, and the elderly. The criterion of personal dignitywhich demands respect, generosity, and serviceis replaced by the criterion of efficiency, functionality and usefulness: others are considered not for what they “are,” but for what they “have, do and produce.” This is the supremacy of the strong over the weak.

24. It is at the heart of the moral conscience that the eclipse of the sense of God and of man, with all its various and deadly consequences for life, is taking place. It is a question, above all, of the individual conscience, as it stands before God in its singleness and uniqueness.18 But it is also a question, in a certain sense, of the “moral conscience” of society: in a way it too is responsible, not only because it tolerates or fosters behavior contrary to life, but also because it encourages the “culture of death,” creating and consolidating actual “structures of sin” which go against life. The moral conscience, both individual and social, is today subjected, also as a result of the penetrating influence of the media, to an extremely serious and mortal danger: that of confusion between good and evil, precisely in relation to the fundamental right to life. A large part of contemporary society looks sadly like that humanity which Paul describes in his Letter to the Romans. It is composed “of men who by their wickedness suppress the truth” (1:18): having denied God and believing that they can build the earthly city without him, “they became futile in their thinking” so that “their senseless minds were darkened” (1:21); “claiming to be wise, they became fools” (1:22), carrying out works deserving of death, and “they not only do them but approve those who practice them” (1:32). When conscience, this bright lamp of the soul (cf. Mt 6:22-23), calls “evil good and good evil” (Is 5:20), it is already on the path to the most alarming corruption and the darkest moral blindness.

And yet all the conditioning and efforts to enforce silence fail to stifle the voice of the Lord echoing in the conscience of every individual: it is always from this intimate sanctuary of the conscience that a new journey of love, openness, and service to human life can begin.

You have come to the sprinkled blood” (cf. Heb 12: 22, 24): signs of hope and invitation to commitment

25. “The voice of your brothers blood is crying to me from the ground” (Gen 4:10). It is not only the voice of the blood of Abel, the first innocent man to be murdered, which cries to God, the source and defender of life. The blood of every other human being who has been killed since Abel is also a voice raised to the Lord. In an absolutely singular way, as the author of the Letter to the Hebrews reminds us, the voice of the blood of Christ, of whom Abel in his innocence is a prophetic figure, cries out to God: “You have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God … to the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks more graciously than the blood of Abel” (12:22, 24).

It is the sprinkled blood. A symbol and prophetic sign of it had been the blood of the sacrifices of the Old Covenant, whereby God expressed his will to communicate his own life to men, purifying and consecrating them (cf. Ex 24:8; Lev 17:11). Now all of this is fulfilled and comes true in Christ: his is the sprinkled blood which redeems, purifies and saves; it is the blood of the Mediator of the New Covenant “poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins” (Mt 26:28). This blood, which flows from the pierced side of Christ on the Cross (cf. Jn 19:34), “speaks more graciously” than the blood of Abel; indeed, it expresses and requires a more radical “justice,” and above all it implores mercy, 19 it makes intercession for the brethren before the Father (cf. Heb 7:25), and it is the source of perfect redemption and the gift of new life.

The blood of Christ, while it reveals the grandeur of the Fathers love, shows how precious man is in Gods eyes and how priceless the value of his life. The Apostle Peter reminds us of this: “You know that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your fathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot” (1 Pt 1:18-19). Precisely by contemplating the precious blood of Christ, the sign of his self-giving love (cf. Jn 13:1), the believer learns to recognize and appreciate the almost divine dignity of every human being and can exclaim with ever renewed and grateful wonder: “How precious must man be in the eyes of the Creator, if he gained so great a Redeemer (Exsultet of the Easter Vigil), and if God gave his only Son in order that man should not perish but have eternal life (cf. Jn 3:16)!” 20

Furthermore, Christs blood reveals to man that his greatness, and therefore his vocation, consists in the sincere gift of self. Precisely because it is poured out as the gift of life, the blood of Christ is no longer a sign of death, of definitive separation from the brethren, but the instrument of a communion which is richness of life for all. Whoever in the Sacrament of the Eucharist drinks this blood and abides in Jesus (cf. Jn 6:56) is drawn into the dynamism of his love and gift of life, in order to bring to its fullness the original vocation to love which belongs to everyone (cf. Gen 1:27; 2:18-24).

It is from the blood of Christ that all draw the strength to commit themselves to promoting life. It is precisely this blood that is the most powerful source of hope, indeed it is the foundation of the absolute certitude that in Gods plan life will be victorious. “And death shall be no more,” exclaims the powerful voice which comes from the throne of God in the Heavenly Jerusalem (Rev 21:4). And Saint Paul assures us that the present victory over sin is a sign and anticipation of the definitive victory over death, when there “shall come to pass the saying that is written: Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting? ” (1 Cor 15:54-55).

26. In effect, signs which point to this victory are not lacking in our societies and cultures, strongly marked though they are by the “culture of death.” It would therefore be to give a one-sided picture, which could lead to sterile discouragement, if the condemnation of the threats to life were not accompanied by the presentation of the positive signs at work in humanitys present situation.

Unfortunately it is often hard to see and recognize these positive signs, perhaps also because they do not receive sufficient attention in the communications media. Yet, how many initiatives of help and support for people who are weak and defenseless have sprung up and continue to spring up in the Christian community and in civil society, at the local, national and international level, through the efforts of individuals, groups, movements and organizations of various kinds!

There are still many married couples who, with a generous sense of responsibility, are ready to accept children as “the supreme gift of marriage.”21 Nor is there a lack of families which, over and above their everyday service to life, are willing to accept abandoned children, boys and girls and teenagers in difficulty, handicapped persons, elderly men and women who have been left alone. Many centers in support of life, or similar institutions, are sponsored by individuals and groups which, with admirable dedication and sacrifice, offer moral and material support to mothers who are in difficulty and are tempted to have recourse to abortion. Increasingly, there are appearing in many places groups of volunteers prepared to offer hospitality to persons without a family, who find themselves in conditions of particular distress or who need a supportive environment to help them to overcome destructive habits and discover anew the meaning of life.

Medical science

, thanks to the committed efforts of researchers and practitioners, continues in its efforts to discover ever more effective remedies: treatments which were once inconceivable but which now offer much promise for the future are today being developed for the unborn, the suffering and those in an acute or terminal stage of sickness. Various agencies and organizations are mobilizing their efforts to bring the benefits of the most advanced medicine to countries most afflicted by poverty and endemic diseases. In a similar way, national and international associations of physicians are being organized to bring quick relief to peoples affected by natural disasters, epidemics, or wars. Even if a just international distribution of medical resources is still far from being a reality, how can we not recognize in the steps taken so far the sign of a growing solidarity among peoples, a praiseworthy human and moral sensitivity, and a greater respect for life?

27. In view of laws which permit abortion and in view of efforts, which here and there have been successful, to legalize euthanasia, movements and initiatives to raise social awareness in defense of life have sprung up in many parts of the world. When, in accordance with their principles, such movements act resolutely, but without resorting to violence, they promote a wider and more profound consciousness of the value of life, and evoke and bring about a more determined commitment to its defense.

Furthermore, how can we fail to mention all those daily gestures of openness, sacrifice and unselfish care which countless people lovingly make in families, hospitals, orphanages, homes for the elderly and other centers or communities which defend life? Allowing herself to be guided by the example of Jesus the “Good Samaritan” (cf. Lk 10:29-37) and upheld by his strength, the Church has always been in the front line in providing charitable help: so many of her sons and daughters, especially men and women Religious, in traditional and ever new forms, have consecrated and continue to consecrate their lives to God, freely giving of themselves out of love for their neighbor, especially for the weak and needy. These deeds strengthen the bases of the “civilization of love and life,” without which the life of individuals and of society itself loses its most genuinely human quality. Even if they go unnoticed and remain hidden to most people, faith assures us that the Father “who sees in secret” (Mt 6:6) not only will reward these actions but already here and now makes them produce lasting fruit for the good of all.

Among the signs of hope we should also count the spread, at many levels of public opinion, of a new sensitivity ever more opposed to war as an instrument for the resolution of conflicts between peoples, and increasingly oriented to finding effective but “non-violent” means to counter the armed aggressor. In the same perspective there is evidence of a growing public opposition to the death penalty, even when such a penalty is seen as a kind of “legitimate defense” on the part of society. Modern society in fact has the means of effectively suppressing crime by rendering criminals harmless without definitively denying them the chance to reform.

Another welcome sign is the growing attention being paid to the quality of life and to ecology, especially in more developed societies, where peoples expectations are no longer concentrated so much on problems of survival as on the search for an overall improvement of living conditions. Especially significant is the re-awakening of an ethical reflection on issues affecting life. The emergence and ever more widespread development of bioethics is promoting more reflection and dialoguebetween believers and non-believers, as well as between followers of different religions on ethical problems, including fundamental issues pertaining to human life.

28. This situation, with its lights and shadows, ought to make us all fully aware that we are facing an enormous and dramatic clash between good and evil, death and life, the “culture of death” and the “culture of life.” We find ourselves not only “faced with” but necessarily “in the midst of” this conflict: we are all involved and we all share in it, with the inescapable responsibility of choosing to be unconditionally pro-life.

For us too Moses invitation rings out loud and clear: “See, I have set before you this day life and good, death and evil…. I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse; therefore choose life, that you and your descendants may live” (Dt 30:15, 19). This invitation is very appropriate for us who are called day by day to the duty of choosing between the “culture of life” and the “culture of death.” But the call of Deuteronomy goes even deeper, for it urges us to make a choice which is properly religious and moral. It is a question of giving our own existence a basic orientation and living the law of the Lord faithfully and consistently: “If you obey the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you this day, by loving the Lord your God, by walking in his ways, and by keeping his commandments and his statutes and his ordinances, then you shall live … therefore choose life, that you and your descendants may live, loving the Lord your God, obeying his voice, and cleaving to him; for that means life to you and length of days” (30:16,19-20).

The unconditional choice for life reaches its full religious and moral meaning when it flows from, is formed by and nourished by faith in Christ. Nothing helps us so much to face positively the conflict between death and life in which we are engaged as faith in the Son of God who became man and dwelt among men so “that they may have life, and have it abundantly” (Jn 10:10). It is a matter of faith in the Risen Lord, who has conquered death; faith in the blood of Christ “that speaks more graciously than the blood of Abel” (Heb 12:24).

With the light and strength of this faith, therefore, in facing the challenges of the present situation, the Church is becoming more aware of the grace and responsibility which come to her from her Lord of proclaiming, celebrating and serving the Gospel of life.

Chapter II I Came That They Might Have Life

The Christian Message Concerning Life

The life was made manifest, and we saw it” (1 Jn 1:2): with our gaze fixed on Christ, “the Word of life”

29. Faced with the countless grave threats to life present in the modern world, one could feel overwhelmed by sheer powerlessness: good can never be powerful enough to triumph over evil!

At such times the People of God, and this includes every believer, is called to profess with humility and courage its faith in Jesus Christ, “the Word of life” (1 Jn 1:1). The Gospel of life is not simply a reflection, however new and profound, on human life. Nor is it merely a commandment aimed at raising awareness and bringing about significant changes in society. Still less is it an illusory promise of a better future. The Gospel of life is something concrete and personal, for it consists in the proclamation of the very person of Jesus. Jesus made himself known to the Apostle Thomas, and in him to every person, with the words: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life” (Jn 14:6). This is also how he spoke of himself to Martha, the sister of Lazarus: “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and whoever lives and believes in me shall never die” (Jn 11:25-26). Jesus is the Son who from all eternity receives life from the Father (cf. Jn 5:26), and who has come among men to make them sharers in this gift: “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly” (Jn 10:10).

Through the words, the actions and the very person of Jesus, man is given the possibility of “knowing” the complete truth concerning the value of human life. From this “source” he receives, in particular, the capacity to “accomplish” this truth perfectly (cf. Jn 3:21), that is, to accept and fulfill completely the responsibility of loving and serving, of defending and promoting human life. In Christ, the Gospel of life is definitively proclaimed and fully given. This is the Gospel which, already present in the Revelation of the Old Testament, and indeed written in the heart of every man and woman, has echoed in every conscience “from the beginning,” from the time of creation itself, in such a way that, despite the negative consequences of sin, it can also be known in its essential traits by human reason. As the Second Vatican Council teaches, Christ “perfected revelation by fulfilling it through his whole work of making himself present and manifesting himself; through his words and deeds, his signs and wonders, but especially through his death and glorious Resurrection from the dead and final sending of the Spirit of truth. Moreover, he confirmed with divine testimony what revelation proclaimed: that God is with us to free us from the darkness of sin and death, and to raise us up to life eternal.”22

30. Hence with our attention fixed on the Lord Jesus, we wish to hear from him once again “the words of God” (Jn 3:34) and meditate anew on the Gospel of life. The deepest and most original meaning of this meditation on what revelation tells us about human life was taken up by the Apostle John in the opening words of his First Letter: “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon and touched with our hands, concerning the word of lifethe life was made manifest, and we saw it, and testify to it, and proclaim to you the eternal life which was with the Father and was made manifest to usthat which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you may have fellowship with us” (1:1-3).

In Jesus, the “Word of life,” Gods eternal life is thus proclaimed and given. Thanks to this proclamation and gift, our physical and spiritual life, also in its earthly phase, acquires its full value and meaning, for Gods eternal life is in fact the end to which our living in this world is directed and called. In this way the Gospel of life includes everything that human experience and reason tell us about the value of human life, accepting it, purifying it, exalting it and bringing it to fulfillment.

The Lord is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation” (Ex 15:2): life is always a good

31. The fullness of the Gospel message about life was prepared for in the Old Testament. Especially in the events of the Exodus, the center of the Old Testament faith experience, Israel discovered the preciousness of its life in the eyes of God. When it seemed doomed to extermination because of the threat of death hanging over all its newborn males (cf. Ex 1:15-22), the Lord revealed himself to Israel as its Savior, with the power to ensure a future to those without hope. Israel thus comes to know clearly that its existence is not at the mercy of a Pharaoh who can exploit it at his despotic whim. On the contrary, Israels life is the object of Gods gentle and intense love.

Freedom from slavery meant the gift of an identity, the recognition of an indestructible dignity and the beginning of a new history, in which the discovery of God and discovery of self go hand in hand. The Exodus was a foundational experience and a model for the future. Through it, Israel comes to learn that whenever its existence is threatened it need only turn to God with renewed trust in order to find in him effective help: “I formed you, you are my servant; O Israel, you will not be forgotten by me” (Is 44:21).

Thus, in coming to know the value of its own existence as a people, Israel also grows in its perception of the meaning and value of life itself. This reflection is developed more specifically in the Wisdom Literature, on the basis of daily experience of the precariousness of life and awareness of the threats which assail it. Faced with the contradictions of life, faith is challenged to respond.

More than anything else, it is the problem of suffering which challenges faith and puts it to the test. How can we fail to appreciate the universal anguish of man when we meditate on the Book of Job? The innocent man overwhelmed by suffering is understandably led to wonder: “Why is light given to him that is in misery, and life to the bitter in soul, who long for death, but it comes not, and dig for it more than for hid treasures?” (3:20-21). But even when the darkness is deepest, faith points to a trusting and adoring acknowledgment of the “mystery”: “I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted” (Job 42:2).

Revelation progressively allows the first notion of immortal life planted by the Creator in the human heart to be grasped with ever greater clarity: “He has made everything beautiful in its time; also he has put eternity into mans mind” (Ec 3:11). This first notion of totality and fullness is waiting to be manifested in love and brought to perfection, by Gods free gift, through sharing in his eternal life.

“The name of Jesus … has made this man strong” (Acts 3:16): in the uncertainties of human life, Jesus brings lifes meaning to fulfillment

32. The experience of the people of the Covenant is renewed in the experience of all the “poor” who meet Jesus of Nazareth. Just as God who “loves the living” (cf. Wis 11:26) had reassured Israel in the midst of danger, so now the Son of God proclaims to all who feel threatened and hindered that their lives too are a good to which the Fathers love gives meaning and value.

“The blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have good news preached to them” (Lk 7:22). With these words of the Prophet Isaiah (35:5-6, 61:1), Jesus sets forth the meaning of his own mission: all who suffer because their lives are in some way “diminished” thus hear from him the “good news” of Gods concern for them, and they know for certain that their lives too are a gift carefully guarded in the hands of the Father (cf. Mt 6:25-34).

It is above all the “poor” to whom Jesus speaks in his preaching and actions. The crowds of the sick and the outcasts who follow him and seek him out (cf. Mt 4:23-25) find in his words and actions a revelation of the great value of their lives and of how their hope of salvation is well-founded.

The same thing has taken place in the Churchs mission from the beginning. When the Church proclaims Christ as the one who “went about doing good and healing all that were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him” (Acts 10:38), she is conscious of being the bearer of a message of salvation which resounds in all its newness precisely amid the hardships and poverty of human life. Peter cured the cripple who daily sought alms at the “Beautiful Gate” of the Temple in Jerusalem, saying: “I have no silver and gold, but I give you what I have; in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk” (Acts 3:6). By faith in Jesus, “the Author of life” (Acts 3:15), life which lies abandoned and cries out for help regains self-esteem and full dignity.

The words and deeds of Jesus and those of his Church are not meant only for those who are sick or suffering or in some way neglected by society. On a deeper level, they affect the very meaning of every persons life in its moral and spiritual dimensions. Only those who recognize that their life is marked by the evil of sin can discover in an encounter with Jesus the Savior the truth and the authenticity of their own existence. Jesus himself says as much: “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick; I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance” (Lk 5:31-32).

But the person who, like the rich landowner in the Gospel parable, thinks that he can make his life secure by the possession of material goods alone, is deluding himself. Life is slipping away from him, and very soon he will find himself bereft of it without ever having appreciated its real meaning: “Fool! This night your soul is required of you; and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?” (Lk 12:20).

33. In Jesus own life, from beginning to end, we find a singular “dialectic” between the experience of the uncertainty of human life and the affirmation of its value. Jesus life is marked by uncertainty from the very moment of his birth. He is certainly accepted by the righteous, who echo Marys immediate and joyful “yes” (cf. Lk 1:38). But there is also, from the start, rejection on the part of a world which grows hostile and looks for the child in order “to destroy him” (Mt 2:13); a world which remains indifferent and unconcerned about the fulfillment of the mystery of this life entering the world: “there was no place for them in the inn” (Lk 2:7). In this contrast between threats and insecurity on the one hand and the power of Gods gift on the other, there shines forth all the more clearly the glory which radiates from the house at Nazareth and from the manger at Bethlehem: this life which is born is salvation for all humanity (cf. Lk 2:11).

Lifes contradictions and risks were fully accepted by Jesus: “though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich” (2 Cor 8:9). The poverty of which Paul speaks is not only a stripping of divine privileges, but also a sharing in the lowliest and most vulnerable conditions of human life (cf. Phil 2:6-7). Jesus lived this poverty throughout his life, until the culminating moment of the Cross: “he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name which is above every name” (Phil 2:8-9). It is precisely by his death that Jesus reveals all the splendor and value of life, inasmuch as his self-oblation on the Cross becomes the source of new life for all people (cf. Jn 12:32). In his journeying amid contradictions and in the very loss of his life, Jesus is guided by the certainty that his life is in the hands of the Father. Consequently, on the Cross, he can say to him: “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit!” (Lk 23:46), that is, my life. Truly great must be the value of human life if the Son of God has taken it up and made it the instrument of the salvation of all humanity!

Called … to be conformed to the image of his Son” (Rom 8:28-29): Gods glory shines on the face of man

34. Life is always a good. This is an instinctive perception and a fact of experience, and man is called to grasp the profound reason why this is so.

Why is life a good?

This question is found everywhere in the Bible, and from the very first pages it receives a powerful and amazing answer. The life which God gives man is quite different from the life of all other living creatures, inasmuch as man, although formed from the dust of the earth (cf. Gen 2:7, 3:19; Job 34:15; Ps 103:14; 104:29), is a manifestation of God in the world, a sign of his presence, a trace of his glory (cf. Gen 1:26-27; Ps 8:6). This is what Saint Irenaeus of Lyons wanted to emphasize in his celebrated definition: “Man, living man, is the glory of God.”23 Man has been given a sublime dignity, based on the intimate bond which unites him to his Creator: in man there shines forth a reflection of God himself.

The Book of Genesis affirms this when, in the first account of creation, it places man at the summit of Gods creative activity, as its crown, at the culmination of a process which leads from indistinct chaos to the most perfect of creatures. Everything in creation is ordered to man and everything is made subject to him: “Fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over … every living thing” (1:28); this is Gods command to the man and the woman. A similar message is found also in the other account of creation: “The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it” (Gen 2:15). We see here a clear affirmation of the primacy of man over things; these are made subject to him and entrusted to his responsible care, whereas for no reason can he be made subject to other men and almost reduced to the level of a thing.

In the biblical narrative, the difference between man and other creatures is shown above all by the fact that only the creation of man is presented as the result of a special decision on the part of God, a deliberation to establish a particular and specific bond with the Creator: “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness” (Gen 1:26). The life which God offers to man is a gift by which God shares something of himself with his creature.

Israel would ponder at length the meaning of this particular bond between man and God. The Book of Sirach too recognizes that God, in creating human beings, “endowed them with strength like his own, and made them in his own image” (17:3). The biblical author sees as part of this image not only mans dominion over the world but also those spiritual faculties which are distinctively human, such as reason, discernment between good and evil, and free will: “He filled them with knowledge and understanding, and showed them good and evil” (Sir 17:7). The ability to attain truth and freedom are human prerogatives inasmuch as man is created in the image of his Creator, God who is true and just (cf. Dt 32:4). Man alone, among all visible creatures, is “capable of knowing and loving his Creator.”24 The life which God bestows upon man is much more than mere existence in time. It is a drive towards fullness of life; it is the seed of an existence which transcends the very limits of time: “For God created man for incorruption, and made him in the image of his own eternity” (Wis 2:23).

35. The Yahwist account of creation expresses the same conviction. This ancient narrative speaks of a divine breath which is breathed into man so that he may come to life: “The Lord God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being” (Gen 2:7).

The divine origin of this spirit of life explains the perennial dissatisfaction which man feels throughout his days on earth. Because he is made by God and bears within himself an indelible imprint of God, man is naturally drawn to God. When he heeds the deepest yearnings of the heart, every man must make his own the words of truth expressed by Saint Augustine: “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.”25

How very significant is the dissatisfaction which marks mans life in Eden as long as his sole point of reference is the world of plants and animals (cf. Gen 2:20). Only the appearance of the woman, a being who is flesh of his flesh and bone of his bones (cf. Gen 2:23), and in whom the spirit of God the Creator is also alive, can satisfy the need for interpersonal dialogue, so vital for human existence. In the other, whether man or woman, there is a reflection of God himself, the definitive goal and fulfillment of every person.

“What is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?,” the Psalmist wonders (Ps 8:4). Compared to the immensity of the universe, man is very small, and yet this very contrast reveals his greatness: “You have made him little less than a god, and crown him with glory and honor” (Ps 8:5). The glory of God shines on the face of man. In man the Creator finds his rest, as Saint Ambrose comments with a sense of awe: “The sixth day is finished and the creation of the world ends with the formation of that masterpiece which is man, who exercises dominion over all living creatures and is as it were the crown of the universe and the supreme beauty of every created being. Truly we should maintain a reverential silence, since the Lord rested from every work he had undertaken in the world. He rested then in the depths of man, he rested in mans mind and in his thought; after all, he had created man endowed with reason, capable of imitating him, of emulating his virtue, of hungering for heavenly graces. In these his gifts God reposes, who has said: Upon whom shall I rest, if not upon the one who is humble, contrite in spirit and trembles at my word? (Is 66:1-2). I thank the Lord our God who has created so wonderful a work in which to take his rest.”26

36. Unfortunately, Gods marvelous plan was marred by the appearance of sin in history. Through sin, man rebels against his Creator and ends up by worshipping creatures: “They exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshipped and served the creature rather than the Creator” (Rom 1:25). As a result man not only deforms the image of God in his own person, but is tempted to offences against it in others as well, replacing relationships of communion by attitudes of distrust, indifference, hostility and even murderous hatred. When God is not acknowledged as God, the profound meaning of man is betrayed and communion between people is compromised.

In the life of man, Gods image shines forth anew and is again revealed in all its fullness at the coming of the Son of God in human flesh. “Christ is the image of the invisible God” (Col 1:15), he “reflects the glory of God and bears the very stamp of his nature” (Heb 1:3). He is the perfect image of the Father.

The plan of life given to the first Adam finds at last its fulfillment in Christ. Whereas the disobedience of Adam had ruined and marred Gods plan for human life and introduced death into the world, the redemptive obedience of Christ is the source of grace poured out upon the human race, opening wide to everyone the gates of the kingdom of life (cf. Rom 5:12-21). As the Apostle Paul states: “The first man Adam became a living being; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit” (1 Cor 15:45).

All who commit themselves to following Christ are given the fullness of life: the divine image is restored, renewed, and brought to perfection in them. Gods plan for human beings is this, that they should “be conformed to the image of his Son” (Rom 8:29). Only thus, in the splendor of this image, can man be freed from the slavery of idolatry, rebuild lost fellowship, and rediscover his true identity.

Whoever lives and believes in me shall never die” (Jn 11:26): the gift of eternal life

37. The life which the Son of God came to give to human beings cannot be reduced to mere existence in time. The life which was always “in him” and which is the “light of men” (Jn 1:4) consists in being begotten of God and sharing in the fullness of his love: “To all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God; who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God” (Jn 1:12-13).

Sometimes Jesus refers to this life which he came to give simply as “life”, and he presents being born of God as a necessary condition if man is to attain the end for which God has created him: “Unless one is born anew, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (Jn 3:3). To give this life is the real object of Jesus mission: he is the one who “comes down from heaven, and gives life to the world” (Jn 6:33). Thus can he truly say: “He who follows me … will have the light of life” (Jn 8:12).

At other times, Jesus speaks of “eternal life.” Here the adjective does more than merely evoke a perspective which is beyond time. The life which Jesus promises and gives is “eternal” because it is a full participation in the life of the “Eternal One.” Whoever believes in Jesus and enters into communion with him has eternal life (cf. Jn 3:15; 6:40) because he hears from Jesus the only words which reveal and communicate to his existence the fullness of life. These are the “words of eternal life” which Peter acknowledges in his confession of faith: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life; and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God” (Jn 6:68-69). Jesus himself, addressing the Father in the great priestly prayer, declares what eternal life consists in: “This is eternal life, that they may know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (Jn 17:3). To know God and his Son is to accept the mystery of the loving communion of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit into ones own life, which even now is open to eternal life because it shares in the life of God.

38. Eternal life is therefore the life of God himself and at the same time the life of the children of God. As they ponder this unexpected and inexpressible truth which comes to us from God in Christ, believers cannot fail to be filled with ever new wonder and unbounded gratitude. They can say in the words of the Apostle John: “See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. … Beloved, we are Gods children now; it does not yet appear what we shall be, but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is” (1 Jn 3:1-2).

Here the Christian truth about life becomes most sublime

. The dignity of this life is linked not only to its beginning, to the fact that it comes from God, but also to its final end, to its destiny of fellowship with God in knowledge and love of him. In the light of this truth Saint Irenaeus qualifies and completes his praise of man: “the glory of God” is indeed, “man, living man,” but “the life of man consists in the vision of God.”27

Immediate consequences arise from this for human life in its earthly state, in which, for that matter, eternal life already springs forth and begins to grow. Although man instinctively loves life because it is a good, this love will find further inspiration and strength, and new breadth and depth, in the divine dimensions of this good. Similarly, the love which every human being has for life cannot be reduced simply to a desire to have sufficient space for self-expression and for entering into relationships with others; rather, it develops in a joyous awareness that life can become the “place” where God manifests himself, where we meet him and enter into communion with him. The life which Jesus gives in no way lessens the value of our existence in time; it takes it and directs it to its final destiny: “I am the resurrection and the life … whoever lives and believes in me shall never die” (Jn 11:25-26).

“From man in regard to his fellow man I will demand an accounting” (Gen 9:5): reverence and love for every human life

39. Mans life comes from God; it is his gift, his image and imprint, a sharing in his breath of life. God therefore is the sole Lord of this life: man cannot do with it as he wills. God himself makes this clear to Noah after the Flood: “For your own lifeblood, too, I will demand an accounting … and from man in regard to his fellow man I will demand an accounting for human life” (Gen 9:5). The biblical text is concerned to emphasize how the sacredness of life has its foundation in God and in his creative activity: “For God made man in his own image” (Gen 9:6).

Human life and death are thus in the hands of God, in his power: “In his hand is the life of every living thing and the breath of all mankind,” exclaims Job (12:10). “The Lord brings to death and brings to life; he brings down to Sheol and raises up” (1 Sam 2:6). He alone can say: “It is I who bring both death and life” (Dt 32:39).

But God does not exercise this power in an arbitrary and threatening way, but rather as part of his care and loving concern for his creatures. If it is true that human life is in the hands of God, it is no less true that these are loving hands, like those of a mother who accepts, nurtures and takes care of her child: “I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a child quieted at its mothers breast; like a child that is quieted is my soul” (Ps 131:2; cf. Is 49:15; 66:12-13; Hos 11:4). Thus Israel does not see in the history of peoples and in the destiny of individuals the outcome of mere chance or of blind fate, but rather the results of a loving plan by which God brings together all the possibilities of life and opposes the powers of death arising from sin: “God did not make death, and he does not delight in the death of the living. For he created all things that they might exist” (Wis 1:13-14).

40. The sacredness of life gives rise to its inviolability, written from the beginning in mans heart, in his conscience. The question: “What have you done?” (Gen 4:10), which God addresses to Cain after he has killed his brother Abel, interprets the experience of every person: in the depths of his conscience, man is always reminded of the inviolability of lifehis own life and that of othersas something which does not belong to him, because it is the property and gift of God the Creator and Father.

The commandment regarding the inviolability of human life reverberates at the heart of the “ten words” in the covenant of Sinai (cf. Ex 34:28). In the first place, that commandment prohibits murder: “You shall not kill” (Ex 20:13); “do not slay the innocent and righteous” (Ex 23:7). But, as is brought out in Israels later legislation, it also prohibits all personal injury inflicted on another (cf. Ex 21:12-27). Of course, we must recognize that in the Old Testament this sense of the value of life, though already quite marked, does not yet reach the refinement found in the Sermon on the Mount. This is apparent in some aspects of the current penal legislation, which provided for severe forms of corporal punishment and even the death penalty. But the overall message, which the New Testament will bring to perfection, is a forceful appeal for respect for the inviolability of physical life and the integrity of the person. It culminates in the positive commandment which obliges us to be responsible for our neighbor as for ourselves: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Lev 19:18).

41. The commandment “You shall not kill,” included and more fully expressed in the positive command of love for ones neighbor, is reaffirmed in all its force by the Lord Jesus. To the rich young man who asks him: “Teacher, what good deed must I do, to have eternal life?”, Jesus replies: “If you would enter life, keep the commandments” (Mt 19:16,17). And he quotes, as the first of these: “You shall not kill” (Mt 19:18). In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus demands from his disciples a righteousness which surpasses that of the Scribes and Pharisees, also with regard to respect for life: “You have heard that it was said to the men of old, You shall not kill; and whoever kills shall be liable to judgment. But I say to you that every one who is angry with his brother shall be liable to judgment” (Mt 5:21-22).

By his words and actions, Jesus further unveils the positive requirements of the commandment regarding the inviolability of life. These requirements were already present in the Old Testament, where legislation dealt with protecting and defending life when it was weak and threatened: in the case of foreigners, widows, orphans, the sick and the poor in general, including children in the womb (cf. Ex 21:22; 22:20-26). With Jesus these positive requirements assume new force and urgency, and are revealed in all their breadth and depth: they range from caring for the life of ones brother (whether a blood brother, someone belonging to the same people, or a foreigner living in the land of Israel) to showing concern for the stranger, even to the point of loving ones enemy.

A stranger is no longer a stranger for the person who must become a neighbor to someone in need, to the point of accepting responsibility for his life, as the parable of the Good Samaritan shows so clearly (cf. Lk 10:25-37). Even an enemy ceases to be an enemy for the person who is obliged to love him (cf. Mt 5:38-48; Lk 6:27-35), to “do good” to him (cf. Lk 6:27, 33, 35) and to respond to his immediate needs promptly and with no expectation of repayment (cf. Lk 6:34-35). The height of this love is to pray for ones enemy. By so doing we achieve harmony with the providential love of God: “But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father who is in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” (Mt 5:44-45; cf. Lk 6:28, 35).

Thus, the deepest element of Gods commandment to protect human life is the requirement to show reverence and love for every person and the life of every person. This is the teaching which the Apostle Paul, echoing the words of Jesus, addresses to the Christians in Rome: “The commandments, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not kill, You shall not steal, You shall not covet, and any other commandment, are summed up in this sentence, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law” (Rom 13:9-10).

“Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it” (Gen 1:28): mans responsibility for life

42. To defend and promote life, to show reverence and love for it, is a task which God entrusts to every man, calling him as his living image to share in his own lordship over the world: “God blessed them, and God said to them, Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth ” (Gen 1:28).

The biblical text clearly shows the breadth and depth of the lordship which God bestows on man. It is a matter first of all of dominion over the earth and over every living creature, as the Book of Wisdom makes clear: “O God of my fathers and Lord of mercy… by your wisdom you have formed man, to have dominion over the creatures you have made, and rule the world in holiness and righteousness” (Wis 9:1, 2-3). The Psalmist too extols the dominion given to man as a sign of glory and honor from his Creator: “You have given him dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under his feet, all sheep and oxen, and also the beasts of the field, the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea, whatever passes along the paths of the sea” (Ps 8:6-8).

As one called to till and look after the garden of the world (cf. Gen 2:15), man has a specific responsibility towards the environment in which he lives, towards the creation which God has put at the service of his personal dignity, of his life, not only for the present but also for future generations. It is the ecological questionranging from the preservation of the natural habitats of the different species of animals and of other forms of life to “human ecology” properly speaking 28which finds in the Bible clear and strong ethical direction, leading to a solution which respects the great good of life, of every life. In fact, “the dominion granted to man by the Creator is not an absolute power, nor can one speak of a freedom to use and misuse, or to dispose of things as one pleases. The limitation imposed from the beginning by the Creator himself and expressed symbolically by the prohibition not to eat of the fruit of the tree (cf. Gen 2:16-17) shows clearly enough that, when it comes to the natural world, we are subject not only to biological laws but also to moral ones, which cannot be violated with impunity.”29

43. A certain sharing by man in Gods lordship is also evident in the specific responsibility which he is given for human life as such. It is a responsibility which reaches its highest point in the giving of life through procreation by man and woman in marriage. As the Second Vatican Council teaches: “God himself who said, It is not good for man to be alone (Gen 2:18) and who made man from the beginning male and female (Mt 19:4), wished to share with man a certain special participation in his own creative work. Thus he blessed male and female saying: “Increase and multiply” (Gen 1:28).30

By speaking of “a certain special participation” of man and woman in the “creative work” of God, the Council wishes to point out that having a child is an event which is deeply human and full of religious meaning, insofar as it involves both the spouses, who form “one flesh” (Gen 2:24), and God who makes himself present. As I wrote in my Letter to Families: “When a new person is born of the conjugal union of the two, he brings with him into the world a particular image and likeness of God himself: the genealogy of the person is inscribed in the very biology of generation. In affirming that the spouses, as parents, cooperate with God the Creator in conceiving and giving birth to a new human being, we are not speaking merely with reference to the laws of biology. Instead, we wish to emphasize that God himself is present in human fatherhood and motherhood quite differently than he is present in all other instances of begetting on earth. Indeed, God alone is the source of that image and likeness which is proper to the human being, as it was received at Creation. Begetting is the continuation of Creation.”31

This is what the Bible teaches in direct and eloquent language when it reports the joyful cry of the first woman, “the mother of all the living” (Gen 3:20). Aware that God has intervened, Eve exclaims: “I have begotten a man with the help of the Lord” (Gen 4:1). In procreation therefore, through the communication of life from parents to child, Gods own image and likeness is transmitted, thanks to the creation of the immortal soul.32 The beginning of the “book of the genealogy of Adam” expresses it in this way: “When God created man, he made him in the likeness of God. Male and female he created them, and he blessed them and called them man when they were created. When Adam had lived a hundred and thirty years, he became the father of a son in his own likeness, after his image, and named him Seth” (Gen 5:1-3). It is precisely in their role as co-workers with God who transmits his image to the new creature that we see the greatness of couples who are ready “to cooperate with the love of the Creator and the Savior, who through them will enlarge and enrich his own family day by day.”33 This is why the Bishop Amphilochius extolled “holy matrimony, chosen and elevated above all other earthly gifts” as “the begetter of humanity, the creator of images of God.”34

Thus, a man and woman joined in matrimony become partners in a divine undertaking: through the act of procreation, Gods gift is accepted and a new life opens to the future.

But over and above the specific mission of parents, the task of accepting and serving life involves everyone; and this task must be fulfilled above all towards life when it is at its weakest. It is Christ himself who reminds us of this when he asks to be loved and served in his brothers and sisters who are suffering in any way: the hungry, the thirsty, the foreigner, the naked, the sick, the imprisoned … Whatever is done to each of them is done to Christ himself (cf. Mt 25:31-46).

“For you formed my inmost being” (Ps 139:13): the dignity of the unborn child

44. Human life finds itself most vulnerable when it enters the world and when it leaves the realm of time to embark upon eternity. The word of God frequently repeats the call to show care and respect, above all where life is undermined by sickness and old age. Although there are no direct and explicit calls to protect human life at its very beginning, specifically life not yet born, and life nearing its end, this can easily be explained by the fact that the mere possibility of harming, attacking, or actually denying life in these circumstances is completely foreign to the religious and cultural way of thinking of the People of God.

In the Old Testament, sterility is dreaded as a curse, while numerous offspring are viewed as a blessing: “Sons are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward” (Ps 127:3; cf. Ps 128:3-4). This belief is also based on Israels awareness of being the people of the Covenant, called to increase in accordance with the promise made to Abraham: “Look towards heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them … so shall your descendants be” (Gen 15:5). But more than anything else, at work here is the certainty that the life which parents transmit has its origins in God. We see this attested in the many biblical passages which respectfully and lovingly speak of conception, of the forming of life in the mothers womb, of giving birth and of the intimate connection between the initial moment of life and the action of God the Creator.

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you” (Jer 1:5): the life of every individual, from its very beginning, is part of Gods plan. Job, from the depth of his pain, stops to contemplate the work of God who miraculously formed his body in his mothers womb. Here he finds reason for trust, and he expresses his belief that there is a divine plan for his life: “You have fashioned and made me; will you then turn and destroy me? Remember that you have made me of clay; and will you turn me to dust again? Did you not pour me out like milk and curdle me like cheese? You clothed me with skin and flesh, and knit me together with bones and sinews. You have granted me life and steadfast love; and your care has preserved my spirit” (Job 10:8-12). Expressions of awe and wonder at Gods intervention in the life of a child in its mothers womb occur again and again in the Psalms.35

How can anyone think that even a single moment of this marvelous process of the unfolding of life could be separated from the wise and loving work of the Creator, and left prey to human caprice? Certainly the mother of the seven brothers did not think so; she professes her faith in God, both the source and guarantee of life from its very conception, and the foundation of the hope of new life beyond death: “I do not know how you came into being in my womb. It was not I who gave you life and breath, nor I who set in order the elements within each of you. Therefore the Creator of the world, who shaped the beginning of man and devised the origin of all things, will in his mercy give life and breath back to you again, since you now forget yourselves for the sake of his laws” (2 Mac 7:22-23).

45. The New Testament revelation confirms the indisputable recognition of the value of life from its very beginning. The exaltation of fruitfulness and the eager expectation of life resound in the words with which Elizabeth rejoices in her pregnancy: “The Lord has looked on me … to take away my reproach among men” (Lk 1:25). And even more so, the value of the person from the moment of conception is celebrated in the meeting between the Virgin Mary and Elizabeth, and between the two children whom they are carrying in the womb. It is precisely the children who reveal the advent of the Messianic age: in their meeting, the redemptive power of the presence of the Son of God among men first becomes operative. As Saint Ambrose writes: “The arrival of Mary and the blessings of the Lords presence are also speedily declared … Elizabeth was the first to hear the voice; but John was the first to experience grace. She heard according to the order of nature; he leaped because of the mystery. She recognized the arrival of Mary; he the arrival of the Lord. The woman recognized the womans arrival; the child, that of the child. The women speak of grace; the babies make it effective from within to the advantage of their mothers who, by a double miracle, prophesy under the inspiration of their children. The infant leaped, the mother was filled with the Spirit. The mother was not filled before the son, but after the son was filled with the Holy Spirit, he filled his mother, too.”36

“I kept my faith even when I said, I am greatly afflicted ” (Ps 116:10): life in old age and at times of suffering

46. With regard to the last moments of life too, it would be anachronistic to expect biblical revelation to make express reference to present-day issues concerning respect for elderly and sick persons, or to condemn explicitly attempts to hasten their end by force. The cultural and religious context of the Bible is in no way touched by such temptations; indeed, in that context the wisdom and experience of the elderly are recognized as a unique source of enrichment for the family and for society.

Old age is characterized by dignity and surrounded with reverence

(cf. 2 Mac 6:23). The just man does not seek to be delivered from old age and its burden; on the contrary his prayer is this: “You, O Lord, are my hope, my trust, O Lord, from my youth… so even to old age and gray hairs, O God, do not forsake me, till I proclaim your might to all the generations to come” (Ps 71:5, 18). The ideal of the Messianic age is presented as a time when “no more shall there be … an old man who does not fill out his days” (Is 65:20).

In old age, how should one face the inevitable decline of life? How should one act in the face of death? The believer knows that his life is in the hands of God: “You, O Lord, hold my lot” (cf. Ps 16:5), and he accepts from God the need to die: “This is the decree from the Lord for all flesh, and how can you reject the good pleasure of the Most High?” (Sir 41:3-4). Man is not the master of life, nor is he the master of death. In life and in death, he has to entrust himself completely to the “good pleasure of the Most High,” to his loving plan.

In moments of sickness too, man is called to have the same trust in the Lord and to renew his fundamental faith in the One who “heals all your diseases” (cf. Ps 103:3). When every hope of good health seems to fade before a persons eyesso as to make him cry out: “My days are like an evening shadow; I wither away like grass” (Ps 102:11) even then the believer is sustained by an unshakable faith in Gods life-giving power. Illness does not drive such a person to despair and to seek death, but makes him cry out in hope: “I kept my faith, even when I said, I am greatly afflicted ” (Ps 116:10); “O Lord my God, I cried to you for help, and you have healed me. O Lord, you have brought up my soul from Sheol, restored me to life from among those gone down to the pit” (Ps 30:2-3).

47. The mission of Jesus, with the many healings he performed, shows Gods great concern even for mans bodily life. Jesus, as “the physician of the body and of the spirit,”37 was sent by the Father to proclaim the good news to the poor and to heal the brokenhearted (cf. Lk 4:18; Is 61:1). Later, when he sends his disciples into the world, he gives them a mission, a mission in which healing the sick goes hand in hand with the proclamation of the Gospel: “And preach as you go, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand. Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons” (Mt 10:7-8; cf. Mk 6:13; 16:18).

Certainly the life of the body in its earthly state is not an absolute good for the believer, especially as he may be asked to give up his life for a greater good. As Jesus says: “Whoever would save his life will lose it; and whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospels will save it” (Mk 8:35). The New Testament gives many different examples of this. Jesus does not hesitate to sacrifice himself and he freely makes of his life an offering to the Father (cf. Jn 10:17) and to those who belong to him (cf. Jn 10:15). The death of John the Baptist, precursor of the Savior, also testifies that earthly existence is not an absolute good; what is more important is remaining faithful to the word of the Lord even at the risk of ones life (cf. Mk 6:17-29). Stephen, losing his earthly life because of his faithful witness to the Lords Resurrection, follows in the Masters footsteps and meets those who are stoning him with words of forgiveness (cf. Acts 7:59-60), thus becoming the first of a countless host of martyrs whom the Church has venerated since the very beginning.

No one, however, can arbitrarily choose whether to live or die; the absolute master of such a decision is the Creator alone, in whom “we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28).

All who hold her fast will live” (Bar 4:1): from the law of Sinai to the gift of the Spirit

48. Life is indelibly marked by a truth of its own. By accepting Gods gift, man is obliged to maintain life in this truth which is essential to it. To detach oneself from this truth is to condemn oneself to meaninglessness and unhappiness, and possibly to become a threat to the existence of others, since the barriers guaranteeing respect for life and the defense of life, in every circumstance, have been broken down.

The truth of life is revealed by Gods commandment.

The word of the Lord shows concretely the course which life must follow if it is to respect its own truth and to preserve its own dignity. The protection of life is not only ensured by the specific commandment “You shall not kill” (Ex 20:13; Dt 5:17); the entire Law of the Lord serves to protect life, because it reveals that truth in which life finds its full meaning.

It is not surprising, therefore, that Gods Covenant with his people is so closely linked to the perspective of life, also in its bodily dimension. In that Covenant, Gods commandment is offered as the path of life: “I have set before you this day life and good, death and evil. If you obey the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you this day, by loving the Lord your God, by walking in his ways, and by keeping his commandments and his statutes and his ordinances, then you shall live and multiply, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land which you are entering to take possession of” (Dt 30:15-16). What is at stake is not only the land of Canaan and the existence of the people of Israel, but also the world of today and of the future, and the existence of all humanity. In fact, it is altogether impossible for life to remain authentic and complete once it is detached from the good; and the good, in its turn, is essentially bound to the commandments of the Lord, that is, to the “law of life” (Sir 17:11). The good to be done is not added to life as a burden which weighs on it, since the very purpose of life is that good and only by doing it can life be built up.

It is thus the Law as a whole which fully protects human life. This explains why it is so hard to remain faithful to the commandment “You shall not kill” when the other “words of life” (cf. Acts 7:38) with which this commandment is bound up are not observed. Detached from this wider framework, the commandment is destined to become nothing more than an obligation imposed from without, and very soon we begin to look for its limits and try to find mitigating factors and exceptions. Only when people are open to the fullness of the truth about God, man and history will the words “You shall not kill” shine forth once more as a good for man in himself and in his relations with others. In such a perspective we can grasp the full truth of the passage of the Book of Deuteronomy which Jesus repeats in reply to the first temptation: “Man does not live by bread alone, but… by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the Lord” (Dt 8:3; cf. Mt 4:4).

It is by listening to the word of the Lord that we are able to live in dignity and justice. It is by observing the Law of God that we are able to bring forth fruits of life and happiness: “All who hold her fast will live, and those who forsake her will die” (Bar 4:1).

49. The history of Israel shows how difficult it is to remain faithful to the Law of life which God has inscribed in human hearts and which he gave on Sinai to the people of the Covenant. When the people look for ways of living which ignore Gods plan, it is the Prophets in particular who forcefully remind them that the Lord alone is the authentic source of life. Thus Jeremiah writes: “My people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns, that can hold no water” (2:13). The Prophets point an accusing finger at those who show contempt for life and violate peoples rights: “They trample the head of the poor into the dust of the earth” (Amos 2:7); “they have filled this place with the blood of innocents” (Jer 19:4). Among them, the Prophet Ezekiel frequently condemns the city of Jerusalem, calling it “the bloody city” (22:2; 24:6, 9), the “city that sheds blood in her own midst” (22:3).

But while the Prophets condemn offences against life, they are concerned above all to awaken hope for a new principle of life, capable of bringing about a renewed relationship with God and with others, and of opening up new and extraordinary possibilities for understanding and carrying out all the demands inherent in the Gospel of life. This will only be possible thanks to the gift of God who purifies and renews: “I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and you shall be clean from all your impurities, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you” (Ezek 36:25-26; cf. Jer 31:34). This “new heart” will make it possible to appreciate and achieve the deepest and most authentic meaning of life: namely, that of being a gift which is fully realized in the giving of self. This is the splendid message about the value of life which comes to us from the figure of the Servant of the Lord: “When he makes himself an offering for sin, he shall see his offspring, he shall prolong his life … he shall see the fruit of the travail of his soul and be satisfied” (Is 53:10, 11).

It is in the coming of Jesus of Nazareth that the Law is fulfilled and that a new heart is given through his Spirit. Jesus does not deny the Law but brings it to fulfillment (cf. Mt 5:17): the Law and the Prophets are summed up in the golden rule of mutual love (cf. Mt 7:12). In Jesus the Law becomes once and for all the “gospel,” the good news of Gods lordship over the world, which brings all life back to its roots and its original purpose. This is the New Law, “the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus” (Rom 8:2), and its fundamental expression, following the example of the Lord who gave his life for his friends (cf. Jn 15:13), is the gift of self in love for ones brothers and sisters: “We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brethren” (1 Jn 3:14). This is the law of freedom, joy, and blessedness.

“They shall look on him whom they have pierced” (Jn 19:37): the Gospel of life is brought to fulfillment on the tree of the Cross

50. At the end of this chapter, in which we have reflected on the Christian message about life, I would like to pause with each one of you to contemplate the One who was pierced and who draws all people to himself (cf. Jn 19:37; 12:32). Looking at “the spectacle” of the Cross (cf. Lk 23:48) we shall discover in this glorious tree the fulfillment and the complete revelation of the whole Gospel of life.

In the early afternoon of Good Friday, “there was darkness over the whole land … while the suns light failed; and the curtain of the temple was torn in two” (Lk 23:44, 45). This is the symbol of a great cosmic disturbance and a massive conflict between the forces of good and the forces of evil, between life and death. Today we too find ourselves in the midst of a dramatic conflict between the “culture of death” and the “culture of life.” But the glory of the Cross is not overcome by this darkness; rather, it shines forth ever more radiantly and brightly, and is revealed as the center, meaning and goal of all history and of every human life.

Jesus is nailed to the Cross and is lifted up from the earth. He experiences the moment of his greatest “powerlessness,” and his life seems completely delivered to the derision of his adversaries and into the hands of his executioners: he is mocked, jeered at, insulted (cf. Mk 15:24-36). And yet, precisely amid all this, having seen him breathe his last, the Roman centurion exclaims: “Truly this man was the Son of God!” (Mk 15:39). It is thus, at the moment of his greatest weakness, that the Son of God is revealed for who he is: on the Cross his glory is made manifest.

By his death, Jesus sheds light on the meaning of the life and death of every human being. Before he dies, Jesus prays to the Father, asking forgiveness for his persecutors (cf. Lk 23:34), and to the criminal who asks him to remember him in his kingdom he replies: “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise” (Lk 23:43). After his death “the tombs also were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised” (Mt 27:52). The salvation wrought by Jesus is the bestowal of life and resurrection. Throughout his earthly life, Jesus had indeed bestowed salvation by healing and doing good to all (cf. Acts 10:38). But his miracles, healings and even his raising of the dead were signs of another salvation, a salvation which consists in the forgiveness of sins, that is, in setting man free from his greatest sickness and in raising him to the very life of God.

On the Cross, the miracle of the serpent lifted up by Moses in the desert (Jn 3:14-15; cf. Num 21:8-9) is renewed and brought to full and definitive perfection. Today too, by looking upon the one who was pierced, every person whose life is threatened encounters the sure hope of finding freedom and redemption.

51. But there is yet another particular event which moves me deeply when I consider it. “When Jesus had received the vinegar, he said, It is finished; and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit” (Jn 19:30). Afterwards, the Roman soldier “pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water” (Jn 19:34).

Everything has now reached its complete fulfillment. The “giving up” of the spirit describes Jesus death, a death like that of every other human being, but it also seems to allude to the “gift of the Spirit,” by which Jesus ransoms us from death and opens before us a new life.

It is the very life of God which is now shared with man. It is the life which through the Sacraments of the Churchsymbolized by the blood and water flowing from Christs sideis continually given to Gods children, making them the people of the New Covenant. From the Cross, the source of life, the “people of life” is born and increases.

The contemplation of the Cross thus brings us to the very heart of all that has taken place. Jesus, who upon entering into the world said: “I have come, O God, to do your will” (cf. Heb 10:9), made himself obedient to the Father in everything and, “having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end” (Jn 13:1), giving himself completely for them.

He who had come “not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mk 10:45), attains on the Cross the heights of love: “Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (Jn 15:13). And he died for us while we were yet sinners (cf. Rom 5:8).

In this way, Jesus proclaims that life finds its center, its meaning, and its fulfillment when it is given up.

At this point our meditation becomes praise and thanksgiving, and at the same time urges us to imitate Christ and follow in his footsteps (cf. 1 Pt 2:21).

We too are called to give our lives for our brothers and sisters, and thus to realize in the fullness of truth the meaning and destiny of our existence.

We shall be able to do this because you, O Lord, have given us the example and have bestowed on us the power of your Spirit. We shall be able to do this if every day, with you and like you, we are obedient to the Father and do his will.

Grant, therefore, that we may listen with open and generous hearts to every word which proceeds from the mouth of God. Thus, we shall learn not only to obey the commandment not to kill human life, but also to revere life, to love it and to foster it.

Chapter III You Shall Not Kill

Gods Holy Law

If you would enter life, keep the commandments” (Mt 19:17): Gospel and commandment

52. “And behold, one came up to him, saying, Teacher, what good deed must I do, to have eternal life? ” (Mt 19:6). Jesus replied, “If you would enter life, keep the commandments” (Mt 19:17). The Teacher is speaking about eternal life, that is, a sharing in the life of God himself. This life is attained through the observance of the Lords commandments, including the commandment “You shall not kill.” This is the first precept from the Decalogue which Jesus quotes to the young man who asks him what commandments he should observe: “Jesus said, You shall not kill, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not steal… ” (Mt 19:18).

Gods commandment is never detached from his love:

it is always a gift meant for mans growth and joy. As such, it represents an essential and indispensable aspect of the Gospel, actually becoming “gospel” itself: joyful good news. The Gospel of life is both a great gift of God and an exacting task for humanity. It gives rise to amazement and gratitude in the person graced with freedom, and it asks to be welcomed, preserved and esteemed, with a deep sense of responsibility. In giving life to man, God demands that he love, respect and promote life. The gift thus becomes a commandment, and the commandment is itself a gift.

Man, as the living image of God, is willed by his Creator to be ruler and lord. Saint Gregory of Nyssa writes that “God made man capable of carrying out his role as king of the earth … Man was created in the image of the One who governs the universe. Everything demonstrates that from the beginning mans nature was marked by royalty… Man is a king. Created to exercise dominion over the world, he was given a likeness to the king of the universe; he is the living image who participates by his dignity in the perfection of the divine archetype.”38 Called to be fruitful and multiply, to subdue the earth and to exercise dominion over other lesser creatures (cf. Gen 1:28), man is ruler and lord not only over things but especially over himself, 39 and in a certain sense, over the life which he has received and which he is able to transmit through procreation, carried out with love and respect for Gods plan. Mans lordship however is not absolute, but ministerial: it is a real reflection of the unique and infinite lordship of God. Hence man must exercise it with wisdom and love, sharing in the boundless wisdom and love of God. And this comes about through obedience to Gods holy Law: a free and joyful obedience (cf. Ps 119), born of and fostered by an awareness that the precepts of the Lord are a gift of grace entrusted to man always and solely for his good, for the preservation of his personal dignity and the pursuit of his happiness.

With regard to things, but even more with regard to life, man is not the absolute master and final judge, but ratherand this is where his incomparable greatness lieshe is the “minister of Gods plan.”40

Life is entrusted to man as a treasure which must not be squandered, as a talent which must be used well. Man must render an account of it to his Master (cf. Mt 25:14-30; Lk 19:12-27).

“From man in regard to his fellow man I will demand an accounting for human life” (Gen 9:5): human life is sacred and inviolable

53. “Human life is sacred because from its beginning it involves the creative action of God, and it remains forever in a special relationship with the Creator, who is its sole end. God alone is the Lord of life from its beginning until its end: no one can, in any circumstance, claim for himself the right to destroy directly an innocent human being.”41 With these words the Instruction Donum Vitae sets forth the central content of Gods revelation on the sacredness and inviolability of human life.

Sacred Scripture

in fact presents the precept “You shall not kill” as a divine commandment (Ex 20:13; Dt 5:17). As I have already emphasized, this commandment is found in the Decalogue, at the heart of the Covenant which the Lord makes with his chosen people; but it was already contained in the original covenant between God and humanity after the purifying punishment of the Flood, caused by the spread of sin and violence (cf. Gen 9:5-6).

God proclaims that he is absolute Lord of the life of man, who is formed in his image and likeness (cf. Gen 1:26-28). Human life is thus given a sacred and inviolable character, which reflects the inviolability of the Creator himself. Precisely for this reason God will severely judge every violation of the commandment “You shall not kill,” the commandment which is at the basis of all life together in society. He is the “goel,” the defender of the innocent (cf. Gen 4:9-15; Is 41:14; Jer 50:34; Ps 19:14). God thus shows that he does not delight in the death of the living (cf. Wis 1:13). Only Satan can delight therein: for through his envy death entered the world (cf. Wis 2:24). He who is “a murderer from the beginning,” is also “a liar and the father of lies” (Jn 8:44). By deceiving man, he leads him to projects of sin and death, making them appear as goals and fruits of life.

54. As explicitly formulated, the precept “You shall not kill” is strongly negative: it indicates the extreme limit which can never be exceeded. Implicitly, however, it encourages a positive attitude of absolute respect for life; it leads to the promotion of life and to progress along the way of a love which gives, receives and serves. The people of the Covenant, although slowly and with some contradictions, progressively matured in this way of thinking, and thus prepared for the great proclamation of Jesus that the commandment to love ones neighbor is like the commandment to love God; “on these two commandments depend all the law and the prophets” (cf. Mt 22:36-40). Saint Paul emphasizes that “the commandment… you shall not kill… and any other commandment, are summed up in this phrase: You shall love your neighbor as yourself ” (Rom 13:9; cf. Gal 5:14). Taken up and brought to fulfillment in the New Law, the commandment “You shall not kill” stands as an indispensable condition for being able “to enter life” (cf. Mt 19:16-19). In this same perspective, the words of the Apostle John have a categorical ring: “Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him” (1 Jn 3:15).

From the beginning, the living Tradition of the Churchas shown by the Didache, the most ancient non-biblical Christian writingcategorically repeated the commandment “You shall not kill”: “There are two ways, a way of life and a way of death; there is a great difference between them… In accordance with the precept of the teaching: you shall not kill… you shall not put a child to death by abortion nor kill it once it is born… The way of death is this: … they show no compassion for the poor, they do not suffer with the suffering, they do not acknowledge their Creator, they kill their children and by abortion cause Gods creatures to perish; they drive away the needy, oppress the suffering, they are advocates of the rich and unjust judges of the poor; they are filled with every sin. May you be able to stay ever apart, o children, from all these sins!” 42

As time passed, the Churchs Tradition has always consistently taught the absolute and unchanging value of the commandment “You shall not kill.” It is a known fact that in the first centuries, murder was put among the three most serious sinsalong with apostasy and adulteryand required a particularly heavy and lengthy public penance before the repentant murderer could be granted forgiveness and readmission to the ecclesial community.

55. This should not cause surprise: to kill a human being, in whom the image of God is present, is a particularly serious sin. Only God is the master of life! Yet from the beginning, faced with the many and often tragic cases which occur in the life of individuals and society, Christian reflection has sought a fuller and deeper understanding of what Gods commandment prohibits and prescribes.43 There are in fact situations in which values proposed by Gods Law seem to involve a genuine paradox. This happens for example in the case of legitimate defense, in which the right to protect ones own life and the duty not to harm someone elses life are difficult to reconcile in practice. Certainly, the intrinsic value of life and the duty to love oneself no less than others are the basis of a true right to self-defense. The demanding commandment of love of neighbor, set forth in the Old Testament and confirmed by Jesus, itself presupposes love of oneself as the basis of comparison: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Mk 12:31). Consequently, no one can renounce the right to self-defense out of lack of love for life or for self. This can only be done in virtue of a heroic love which deepens and transfigures the love of self into a radical self-offering, according to the spirit of the Gospel Beatitudes (cf. Mt 5:38-40). The sublime example of this self-offering is the Lord Jesus himself.

Moreover, “legitimate defense can be not only a right but a grave duty for someone responsible for anothers life, the common good of the family or of the State.”44 Unfortunately it happens that the need to render the aggressor incapable of causing harm sometimes involves taking his life. In this case, the fatal outcome is attributable to the aggressor whose action brought it about, even though he may not be morally responsible because of a lack of the use of reason.45

56. This is the context in which to place the problem of the death penalty. On this matter there is a growing tendency, both in the Church and in civil society, to demand that it be applied in a very limited way or even that it be abolished completely. The problem must be viewed in the context of a system of penal justice ever more in line with human dignity and thus, in the end, with Gods plan for man and society. The primary purpose of the punishment which society inflicts is “to redress the disorder caused by the offense.”46 Public authority must redress the violation of personal and social rights by imposing on the offender an adequate punishment for the crime, as a condition for the offender to regain the exercise of his or her freedom. In this way authority also fulfills the purpose of defending public order and ensuring peoples safety, while at the same time offering the offender an incentive and help to change his or her behavior and be rehabilitated.47

It is clear that, for these purposes to be achieved, the nature and extent of the punishment must be carefully evaluated and decided upon, and ought not go to the extreme of executing the offender except in cases of absolute necessity: in other words, when it would not be possible otherwise to defend society. Today however, as a result of steady improvements in the organization of the penal system, such cases are very rare, if not practically non-existent.

In any event, the principle set forth in the new Catechism of the Catholic Church remains valid: “If bloodless means are sufficient to defend human lives against an aggressor and to protect public order and the safety of persons, public authority must limit itself to such means, because they better correspond to the concrete conditions of the common good and are more in conformity to the dignity of the human person.”48

57. If such great care must be taken to respect every life, even that of criminals and unjust aggressors, the commandment “You shall not kill” has absolute value when it refers to the innocent person. And all the more so in the case of weak and defenseless human beings, who find their ultimate defense against the arrogance and caprice of others only in the absolute binding force of Gods commandment.

In effect, the absolute inviolability of innocent human life is a moral truth clearly taught by Sacred Scripture, constantly upheld in the Churchs Tradition and consistently proposed by her Magisterium. This consistent teaching is the evident result of that “supernatural sense of the faith” which, inspired and sustained by the Holy Spirit, safeguards the People of God from error when “it shows universal agreement in matters of faith and morals.”49

Faced with the progressive weakening in individual consciences and in society of the sense of the absolute and grave moral illicitness of the direct taking of all innocent human life, especially at its beginning and at its end, the Churchs Magisterium has spoken out with increasing frequency in defense of the sacredness and inviolability of human life. The Papal Magisterium, particularly insistent in this regard, has always been seconded by that of the Bishops, with numerous and comprehensive doctrinal and pastoral documents issued either by Episcopal Conferences or by individual Bishops. The Second Vatican Council also addressed the matter forcefully, in a brief but incisive passage.50

Therefore, by the authority which Christ conferred upon Peter and his Successors, and in communion with the Bishops of the Catholic Church, I confirm that the direct and voluntary killing of an innocent human being is always gravely immoral. This doctrine, based upon that unwritten law which man, in the light of reason, finds in his own heart (cf. Rom 2:14-15), is reaffirmed by Sacred Scripture, transmitted by the Tradition of the Church and taught by the ordinary and universal Magisterium.51

The deliberate decision to deprive an innocent human being of his life is always morally evil and can never be licit either as an end in itself or as a means to a good end. It is in fact a grave act of disobedience to the moral law, and indeed to God himself, the author and guarantor of that law; it contradicts the fundamental virtues of justice and charity. “Nothing and no one can in any way permit the killing of an innocent human being, whether a fetus or an embryo, an infant or an adult, an old person, or one suffering from an incurable disease, or a person who is dying. Furthermore, no one is permitted to ask for this act of killing, either for himself or herself or for another person entrusted to his or her care, nor can he or she consent to it, either explicitly or implicitly. Nor can any authority legitimately recommend or permit such an action.”52

As far as the right to life is concerned, every innocent human being is absolutely equal to all others. This equality is the basis of all authentic social relationships which, to be truly such, can only be founded on truth and justice, recognizing and protecting every man and woman as a person and not as an object to be used. Before the moral norm which prohibits the direct taking of the life of an innocent human being, “there are no privileges or exceptions for anyone. It makes no difference whether one is the master of the world or the poorest of the poor on the face of the earth. Before the demands of morality we are all absolutely equal.”53

Your eyes beheld my unformed substance” (Ps 139:16): the unspeakable crime of abortion

58. Among all the crimes which can be committed against life, procured abortion has characteristics making it particularly serious and deplorable. The Second Vatican Council defines abortion, together with infanticide, as an “unspeakable crime.”54

But today, in many peoples consciences, the perception of its gravity has become progressively obscured. The acceptance of abortion in the popular mind, in behavior and even in law itself, is a telling sign of an extremely dangerous crisis of the moral sense, which is becoming more and more incapable of distinguishing between good and evil, even when the fundamental right to life is at stake. Given such a grave situation, we need now more than ever to have the courage to look the truth in the eye and to call things by their proper name, without yielding to convenient compromises or to the temptation of self-deception. In this regard the reproach of the Prophet is extremely straightforward: “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness” (Is 5:20). Especially in the case of abortion there is a widespread use of ambiguous terminology, such as “interruption of pregnancy,” which tends to hide abortions true nature and to attenuate its seriousness in public opinion. Perhaps this linguistic phenomenon is itself a symptom of an uneasiness of conscience. But no word has the power to change the reality of things: procured abortion is the deliberate and direct killing, by whatever means it is carried out, of a human being in the initial phase of his or her existence, extending from conception to birth.

The moral gravity of procured abortion is apparent in all its truth if we recognize that we are dealing with murder and, in particular, when we consider the specific elements involved. The one eliminated is a human being at the very beginning of life. No one more absolutely innocent could be imagined. In no way could this human being ever be considered an aggressor, much less an unjust aggressor! He or she is weak, defenseless, even to the point of lacking that minimal form of defense consisting in the poignant power of a newborn babys cries and tears. The unborn child is totally entrusted to the protection and care of the woman carrying him or her in the womb. And yet sometimes it is precisely the mother herself who makes the decision and asks for the child to be eliminated, and who then goes about having it done.

It is true that the decision to have an abortion is often tragic and painful for the mother, insofar as the decision to rid herself of the fruit of conception is not made for purely selfish reasons or out of convenience, but out of a desire to protect certain important values such as her own health or a decent standard of living for the other members of the family. Sometimes it is feared that the child to be born would live in such conditions that it would be better if the birth did not take place. Nevertheless, these reasons and others like them, however serious and tragic, can never justify the deliberate killing of an innocent human being.

59. As well as the mother, there are often other people too who decide upon the death of the child in the womb. In the first place, the father of the child may be to blame, not only when he directly pressures the woman to have an abortion, but also when he indirectly encourages such a decision on her part by leaving her alone to face the problems of pregnancy: 55 in this way the family is thus mortally wounded and profaned in its nature as a community of love and in its vocation to be the “sanctuary of life”. Nor can one overlook the pressures which sometimes come from the wider family circle and from friends. Sometimes the woman is subjected to such strong pressure that she feels psychologically forced to have an abortion: certainly in this case moral responsibility lies particularly with those who have directly or indirectly obliged her to have an abortion. Doctors and nurses are also responsible, when they place at the service of death skills which were acquired for promoting life.

But responsibility likewise falls on the legislators who have promoted and approved abortion laws, and, to the extent that they have a say in the matter, on the administrators of the health-care centers where abortions are performed. A general and no less serious responsibility lies with those who have encouraged the spread of an attitude of sexual permissiveness and a lack of esteem for motherhood, and with those who should have ensuredbut did noteffective family and social policies in support of families, especially larger families and those with particular financial and educational needs. Finally, one cannot overlook the network of complicity which reaches out to include international institutions, foundations and associations which systematically campaign for the legalization and spread of abortion in the world. In this sense abortion goes beyond the responsibility of individuals and beyond the harm done to them, and takes on a distinctly social dimension. It is a most serious wound inflicted on society and its culture by the very people who ought to be societys promoters and defenders. As I wrote in my Letter to Families, “we are facing an immense threat to life: not only to the life of individuals but also to that of civilization itself.”56 We are facing what can be called a “structure of sin” which opposes human life not yet born.

60. Some people try to justify abortion by claiming that the result of conception, at least up to a certain number of days, cannot yet be considered a personal human life. But in fact, “from the time that the ovum is fertilized, a life is begun which is neither that of the father nor the mother; it is rather the life of a new human being with his own growth. It would never be made human if it were not human already. This has always been clear, and … modern genetic science offers clear confirmation. It has demonstrated that from the first instant there is established the program of what this living being will be: a person, this individual person with his characteristic aspects already well determined. Right from fertilization the adventure of a human life begins, and each of its capacities requires timea rather lengthy timeto find its place and to be in a position to act.”57 Even if the presence of a spiritual soul cannot be ascertained by empirical data, the results themselves of scientific research on the human embryo provide “a valuable indication for discerning by the use of reason a personal presence at the moment of the first appearance of a human life: how could a human individual not be a human person?.”58

Furthermore, what is at stake is so important that, from the standpoint of moral obligation, the mere probability that a human person is involved would suffice to justify an absolutely clear prohibition of any intervention aimed at killing a human embryo. Precisely for this reason, over and above all scientific debates and those philosophical affirmations to which the Magisterium has not expressly committed itself, the Church has always taught and continues to teach that the result of human procreation, from the first moment of its existence, must be guaranteed that unconditional respect which is morally due to the human being in his or her totality and unity as body and spirit: “The human being is to be respected and treated as a person from the moment of conception; and therefore from that same moment his rights as a person must be recognized, among which in the first place is the inviolable right of every innocent human being to life.”59

61. The texts of Sacred Scripture never address the question of deliberate abortion and so do not directly and specifically condemn it. But they show such great respect for the human being in the mothers womb that they require as a logical consequence that Gods commandment “You shall not kill” be extended to the unborn child as well.

Human life is sacred and inviolable at every moment of existence, including the initial phase which precedes birth. All human beings, from their mothers womb, belong to God who searches them and knows them, who forms them and knits them together with his own hands, who gazes on them when they are tiny shapeless embryos and already sees in them the adults of tomorrow whose days are numbered and whose vocation is even now written in the “book of life” (cf. Ps 139: 1, 13-16). There too, when they are still in their mothers wombas many passages of the Bible bear witness60they are the personal objects of Gods loving and fatherly providence.

Christian Tradition

as the Declaration issued by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith points out so well61is clear and unanimous, from the beginning up to our own day, in describing abortion as a particularly grave moral disorder. From its first contacts with the Greco-Roman world, where abortion and infanticide were widely practiced, the first Christian community, by its teaching and practice, radically opposed the customs rampant in that society, as is clearly shown by the Didache mentioned earlier.62 Among the Greek ecclesiastical writers, Athenagoras records that Christians consider as murderesses women who have recourse to abortifacient medicines, because children, even if they are still in their mothers womb, “are already under the protection of Divine Providence.”63 Among the Latin authors, Tertullian affirms: “It is anticipated murder to prevent someone from being born; it makes little difference whether one kills a soul already born or puts it to death at birth. He who will one day be a man is a man already.”64

Throughout Christianitys two thousand year history, this same doctrine has been constantly taught by the Fathers of the Church and by her Pastors and Doctors. Even scientific and philosophical discussions about the precise moment of the infusion of the spiritual soul have never given rise to any hesitation about the moral condemnation of abortion.

62. The more recent Papal Magisterium has vigorously reaffirmed this common doctrine. Pius XI in particular, in his Encyclical Casti Connubii, rejected the specious justifications of abortion.65 Pius XII excluded all direct abortion, i.e., every act tending directly to destroy human life in the womb “whether such destruction is intended as an end or only as a means to an end.”66 John XXIII reaffirmed that human life is sacred because “from its very beginning it directly involves Gods creative activity.”67 The Second Vatican Council, as mentioned earlier, sternly condemned abortion: “From the moment of its conception life must be guarded with the greatest care, while abortion and infanticide are unspeakable crimes.”68

The Churchs canonical discipline, from the earliest centuries, has inflicted penal sanctions on those guilty of abortion. This practice, with more or less severe penalties, has been confirmed in various periods of history. The 1917 Code of Canon Law punished abortion with excommunication.69 The revised canonical legislation continues this tradition when it decrees that “a person who actually procures an abortion incurs automatic (latae sententiae) excommunication.”70 The excommunication affects all those who commit this crime with knowledge of the penalty attached, and thus includes those accomplices without whose help the crime would not have been committed.71 By this reiterated sanction, the Church makes clear that abortion is a most serious and dangerous crime, thereby encouraging those who commit it to seek without delay the path of conversion. In the Church, the purpose of the penalty of excommunication is to make an individual fully aware of the gravity of a certain sin and then to foster genuine conversion and repentance.

Given such unanimity in the doctrinal and disciplinary tradition of the Church, Paul VI was able to declare that this tradition is unchanged and unchangeable.72 Therefore, by the authority which Christ conferred upon Peter and his Successors, in communion with the Bishopswho on various occasions have condemned abortion and who in the aforementioned consultation, albeit dispersed throughout the world, have shown unanimous agreement concerning this doctrineI declare that direct abortion, that is, abortion willed as an end or as a means, always constitutes a grave moral disorder, since it is the deliberate killing of an innocent human being. This doctrine is based upon the natural law and upon the written Word of God, is transmitted by the Churchs Tradition, and taught by the ordinary and universal Magisterium.73

No circumstance, no purpose, no law whatsoever can ever make licit an act which is intrinsically illicit, since it is contrary to the Law of God which is written in every human heart, knowable by reason itself, and proclaimed by the Church.

63. This evaluation of the morality of abortion is to be applied also to the recent forms of intervention on human embryos which, although carried out for purposes legitimate in themselves, inevitably involve the killing of those embryos. This is the case with experimentation on embryos, which is becoming increasingly widespread in the field of biomedical research and is legally permitted in some countries. Although “one must uphold as licit procedures carried out on the human embryo which respect the life and integrity of the embryo and do not involve disproportionate risks for it, but rather are directed to its healing, the improvement of its condition of health, or its individual survival,”74 it must nonetheless be stated that the use of human embryos or fetuses as an object of experimentation constitutes a crime against their dignity as human beings who have a right to the same respect owed to a child once born, just as to every person.75

This moral condemnation also regards procedures that exploit living human embryos and fetusessometimes specifically “produced” for this purpose by in vitro fertilizationeither to be used as “biological material” or as providers of organs or tissue for transplants in the treatment of certain diseases. The killing of innocent human creatures, even if carried out to help others, constitutes an absolutely unacceptable act.

Special attention must be given to evaluating the morality of prenatal diagnostic techniques which enable the early detection of possible anomalies in the unborn child. In view of the complexity of these techniques, an accurate and systematic moral judgment is necessary. When they do not involve disproportionate risks for the child and the mother, and are meant to make possible early therapy or even to favor a serene and informed acceptance of the child not yet born, these techniques are morally licit. But since the possibilities of prenatal therapy are today still limited, it not infrequently happens that these techniques are used with a eugenic intention which accepts selective abortion in order to prevent the birth of children affected by various types of anomalies. Such an attitude is shameful and utterly reprehensible, since it presumes to measure the value of a human life only within the parameters of “normality” and physical well-being, thus opening the way to legitimizing infanticide and euthanasia as well.

And yet the courage and the serenity with which so many of our brothers and sisters suffering from serious disabilities lead their lives when they are shown acceptance and love bears eloquent witness to what gives authentic value to life, and makes it, even in difficult conditions, something precious for them and for others. The Church is close to those married couples who, with great anguish and suffering, willingly accept gravely handicapped children. She is also grateful to all those families which, through adoption, welcome children abandoned by their parents because of disabilities or illnesses.

It is I who bring both death and life” (Dt 32:39): the tragedy of euthanasia

64. At the other end of lifes spectrum, men and women find themselves facing the mystery of death. Today, as a result of advances in medicine and in a cultural context frequently closed to the transcendent, the experience of dying is marked by new features. When the prevailing tendency is to value life only to the extent that it brings pleasure and well being, suffering seems like an unbearable setback, something from which one must be freed at all costs. Death is considered “senseless” if it suddenly interrupts a life still open to a future of new and interesting experiences. But it becomes a “rightful liberation” once life is held to be no longer meaningful because it is filled with pain and inexorably doomed to even greater suffering.

Furthermore, when he denies or neglects his fundamental relationship to God, man thinks he is his own rule and measure, with the right to demand that society should guarantee him the ways and means of deciding what to do with his life in full and complete autonomy. It is especially people in the developed countries who act in this way: they feel encouraged to do so also by the constant progress of medicine and its ever more advanced techniques. By using highly sophisticated systems and equipment, science and medical practice today are able not only to attend to cases formerly considered untreatable and to reduce or eliminate pain, but also to sustain and prolong life even in situations of extreme frailty, to resuscitate artificially patients whose basic biological functions have undergone sudden collapse, and to use special procedures to make organs available for transplanting.

In this context the temptation grows to have recourse to euthanasia, that is, to take control of death and bring it about before its time, “gently” ending ones own life or the life of others. In reality, what might seem logical and humane, when looked at more closely is seen to be senseless and inhumane. Here we are faced with one of the more alarming symptoms of the “culture of death”, which is advancing above all in prosperous societies, marked by an attitude of excessive preoccupation with efficiency and which sees the growing number of elderly and disabled people as intolerable and too burdensome. These people are very often isolated by their families and by society, which are organized almost exclusively on the basis of criteria of productive efficiency, according to which a hopelessly impaired life no longer has any value.

65. For a correct moral judgment on euthanasia, in the first place a clear definition is required. Euthanasia in the strict sense is understood to be an action or omission which of itself and by intention causes death, with the purpose of eliminating all suffering. “Euthanasias terms of reference, therefore, are to be found in the intention of the will and in the methods used.”76

Euthanasia must be distinguished from the decision to forego so-called “aggressive medical treatment,” in other words, medical procedures which no longer correspond to the real situation of the patient, either because they are by now disproportionate to any expected results or because they impose an excessive burden on the patient and his family. In such situations, when death is clearly imminent and inevitable, one can in conscience “refuse forms of treatment that would only secure a precarious and burdensome prolongation of life, so long as the normal care due to the sick person in similar cases is not interrupted.”77 Certainly there is a moral obligation to care for oneself and to allow oneself to be cared for, but this duty must take account of concrete circumstances. It needs to be determined whether the means of treatment available are objectively proportionate to the prospects for improvement. To forego extraordinary or disproportionate means is not the equivalent of suicide or euthanasia; it rather expresses acceptance of the human condition in the face of death.78

In modern medicine, increased attention is being given to what are called “methods of palliative care,” which seek to make suffering more bearable in the final stages of illness and to ensure that the patient is supported and accompanied in his or her ordeal. Among the questions which arise in this context is that of the licitness of using various types of painkillers and sedatives for relieving the patients pain when this involves the risk of shortening life. While praise may be due to the person who voluntarily accepts suffering by forgoing treatment with painkillers in order to remain fully lucid and, if a believer, to share consciously in the Lords Passion, such “heroic” behavior cannot be considered the duty of everyone. Pius XII affirmed that it is licit to relieve pain by narcotics, even when the result is decreased consciousness and a shortening of life, “if no other means exist, and if, in the given circumstances, this does not prevent the carrying out of other religious and moral duties.”79 In such a case, death is not willed or sought, even though for reasonable motives one runs the risk of it: there is simply a desire to ease pain effectively by using the analgesics which medicine provides. All the same, “it is not right to deprive the dying person of consciousness without a serious reason.” 80 as they approach death people ought to be able to satisfy their moral and family duties, and above all they ought to be able to prepare in a fully conscious way for their definitive meeting with God.

Taking into account these distinctions, in harmony with the Magisterium of my Predecessors 81 and in communion with the Bishops of the Catholic Church, I confirm that euthanasia is a grave violation of the law of God, since it is the deliberate and morally unacceptable killing of a human person. This doctrine is based upon the natural law and upon the written word of God, is transmitted by the Churchs Tradition, and taught by the ordinary and universal Magisterium.82

Depending on the circumstances, this practice involves the malice proper to suicide or murder.

66. Suicide is always as morally objectionable as murder. The Churchs tradition has always rejected it as a gravely evil choice.83 Even though a certain psychological, cultural and social conditioning may induce a person to carry out an action which so radically contradicts the innate inclination to life, thus lessening or removing subjective responsibility, suicide, when viewed objectively, is a gravely immoral act. In fact, it involves the rejection of love of self and the renunciation of the obligation of justice and charity towards ones neighbor, towards the communities to which one belongs, and towards society as a whole.84 In its deepest reality, suicide represents a rejection of Gods absolute sovereignty over life and death, as proclaimed in the prayer of the ancient sage of Israel: “You have power over life and death; you lead men down to the gates of Hades and back again” (Wis 16:13; cf. Tob 13:2).

To concur with the intention of another person to commit suicide and to help in carrying it out through so-called “assisted suicide” means to cooperate in, and at times to be the actual perpetrator of, an injustice which can never be excused, even if it is requested. In a remarkably relevant passage Saint Augustine writes that “it is never licit to kill another: even if he should wish it, indeed if he request it because, hanging between life and death, he begs for help in freeing the soul struggling against the bonds of the body and longing to be released; nor is it licit even when a sick person is no longer able to live.”85 Even when not motivated by a selfish refusal to be burdened with the life of someone who is suffering, euthanasia must be called a false mercy, and indeed a disturbing “perversion” of mercy. True “compassion” leads to sharing anothers pain; it does not kill the person whose suffering we cannot bear. Moreover, the act of euthanasia appears all the more perverse if it is carried out by those, like relatives, who are supposed to treat a family member with patience and love, or by those, such as doctors, who by virtue of their specific profession are supposed to care for the sick person even in the most painful terminal stages.

The choice of euthanasia becomes more serious when it takes the form of a murder committed by others on a person who has in no way requested it and who has never consented to it. The height of arbitrariness and injustice is reached when certain people, such as physicians or legislators, arrogate to themselves the power to decide who ought to live and who ought to die. Once again we find ourselves before the temptation of Eden: to become like God who “knows good and evil” (cf. Gen 3:5). God alone has the power over life and death: “It is I who bring both death and life” (Dt 32:39; cf. 2 Kg 5:7; 1 Sam 2:6). But he only exercises this power in accordance with a plan of wisdom and love. When man usurps this power, being enslaved by a foolish and selfish way of thinking, he inevitably uses it for injustice and death. Thus the life of the person who is weak is put into the hands of the one who is strong; in society the sense of justice is lost, and mutual trust, the basis of every authentic interpersonal relationship, is undermined at its root.

67. Quite different from this is the way of love and true mercy, which our common humanity calls for, and upon which faith in Christ the Redeemer, who died and rose again, sheds ever new light. The request which arises from the human heart in the supreme confrontation with suffering and death, especially when faced with the temptation to give up in utter desperation, is above all a request for companionship, sympathy and support in the time of trial. It is a plea for help to keep on hoping when all human hopes fail. As the Second Vatican Council reminds us: “It is in the face of death that the riddle of human existence becomes most acute” and yet “man rightly follows the intuition of his heart when he abhors and repudiates the absolute ruin and total disappearance of his own person. Man rebels against death because he bears in himself an eternal seed which cannot be reduced to mere matter.”86

This natural aversion to death and this incipient hope of immortality are illumined and brought to fulfillment by Christian faith, which both promises and offers a share in the victory of the Risen Christ: it is the victory of the One who, by his redemptive death, has set man free from death, “the wages of sin” (Rom 6:23), and has given him the Spirit, the pledge of resurrection and of life (cf. Rom 8:11). The certainty of future immortality and hope in the promised resurrection cast new light on the mystery of suffering and death, and fill the believer with an extraordinary capacity to trust fully in the plan of God.

The Apostle Paul expressed this newness in terms of belonging completely to the Lord who embraces every human condition: “None of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord; so then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lords” (Rom 14:7-8). Dying to the Lord means experiencing ones death as the supreme act of obedience to the Father (cf. Phil 2:8), being ready to meet death at the “hour” willed and chosen by him (cf. Jn 13:1), which can only mean when ones earthly pilgrimage is completed. Living to the Lord also means recognizing that suffering, while still an evil and a trial in itself, can always become a source of good. It becomes such if it is experienced for love and with love through sharing, by Gods gracious gift and ones own personal and free choice, in the suffering of Christ Crucified. In this way, the person who lives his suffering in the Lord grows more fully conformed to him (cf. Phil 3:10; 1 Pet 2:21) and more closely associated with his redemptive work on behalf of the Church and humanity.87 This was the experience of Saint Paul, which every person who suffers is called to relive: “I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christs afflictions for the sake of his Body, that is, the Church” (Col 1:24).

We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29): civil law and the moral law

68. One of the specific characteristics of present-day attacks on human lifeas has already been said several timesconsists in the trend to demand a legal justification for them, as if they were rights which the State, at least under certain conditions, must acknowledge as belonging to citizens. Consequently, there is a tendency to claim that it should be possible to exercise these rights with the safe and free assistance of doctors and medical personnel.

It is often claimed that the life of an unborn child or a seriously disabled person is only a relative good: according to a proportionalist approach, or one of sheer calculation, this good should be compared with and balanced against other goods. It is even maintained that only someone present and personally involved in a concrete situation can correctly judge the goods at stake: consequently, only that person would be able to decide on the morality of his choice. The State therefore, in the interest of civil coexistence and social harmony, should respect this choice, even to the point of permitting abortion and euthanasia.

At other times, it is claimed that civil law cannot demand that all citizens should live according to moral standards higher than what all citizens themselves acknowledge and share. Hence the law should always express the opinion and will of the majority of citizens and recognize that they have, at least in certain extreme cases, the right even to abortion and euthanasia. Moreover, the prohibition and the punishment of abortion and euthanasia in these cases would inevitably leadso it is saidto an increase of illegal practices: and these would not be subject to necessary control by society and would be carried out in a medically unsafe way. The question is also raised whether supporting a law which in practice cannot be enforced would not ultimately undermine the authority of all laws.

Finally, the more radical views go so far as to maintain that in a modern and pluralistic society people should be allowed complete freedom to dispose of their own lives as well as of the lives of the unborn: it is asserted that it is not the task of the law to choose between different moral opinions, and still less can the law claim to impose one particular opinion to the detriment of others.

69. In any case, in the democratic culture of our time it is commonly held that the legal system of any society should limit itself to taking account of and accepting the convictions of the majority. It should therefore be based solely upon what the majority itself considers moral and actually practices. Furthermore, if it is believed that an objective truth shared by all is de facto unattainable, then respect for the freedom of the citizenswho in a democratic system are considered the true rulerswould require that on the legislative level the autonomy of individual consciences be acknowledged. Consequently, when establishing those norms which are absolutely necessary for social coexistence, the only determining factor should be the will of the majority, whatever this may be. Hence every politician, in his or her activity, should clearly separate the realm of private conscience from that of public conduct.

As a result, we have what appear to be two diametrically opposed tendencies. On the one hand, individuals claim for themselves in the moral sphere the most complete freedom of choice and demand that the State should not adopt or impose any ethical position but limit itself to guaranteeing maximum space for the freedom of each individual, with the sole limitation of not infringing on the freedom and rights of any other citizen. On the other hand, it is held that, in the exercise of public and professional duties, respect for other peoples freedom of choice requires that each one should set aside his or her own convictions in order to satisfy every demand of the citizens which is recognized and guaranteed by law; in carrying out ones duties the only moral criterion should be what is laid down by the law itself. Individual responsibility is thus turned over to the civil law, with a renouncing of personal conscience, at least in the public sphere.

70. At the basis of all these tendencies lies the ethical relativism which characterizes much of present-day culture. There are those who consider such relativism an essential condition of democracy, inasmuch as it alone is held to guarantee tolerance, mutual respect between people and acceptance of the decisions of the majority, whereas moral norms considered to be objective and binding are held to lead to authoritarianism and intolerance.

But it is precisely the issue of respect for life which shows what misunderstandings and contradictions, accompanied by terrible practical consequences, are concealed in this position.

It is true that history has known cases where crimes have been committed in the name of “truth.” But equally grave crimes and radical denials of freedom have also been committed and are still being committed in the name of “ethical relativism.” When a parliamentary or social majority decrees that it is legal, at least under certain conditions, to kill unborn human life, is it not really making a “tyrannical” decision with regard to the weakest and most defenseless of human beings? Everyones conscience rightly rejects those crimes against humanity of which our century has had such sad experience. But would these crimes cease to be crimes if, instead of being committed by unscrupulous tyrants, they were legitimated by popular consensus?

Democracy cannot be idolized to the point of making it a substitute for morality or a panacea for immorality. Fundamentally, democracy is a “system” and as such is a means and not an end. Its “moral” value is not automatic, but depends on conformity to the moral law to which it, like every other form of human behavior, must be subject: in other words, its morality depends on the morality of the ends which it pursues and of the means which it employs. If today we see an almost universal consensus with regard to the value of democracy, this is to be considered a positive “sign of the times,” as the Churchs Magisterium has frequently noted.88 But the value of democracy stands or falls with the values which it embodies and promotes. Of course, values such as the dignity of every human person, respect for inviolable and inalienable human rights, and the adoption of the “common good” as the end and criterion regulating political life are certainly fundamental and not to be ignored.

The basis of these values cannot be provisional and changeable “majority” opinions, but only the acknowledgment of an objective moral law which, as the “natural law” written in the human heart, is the obligatory point of reference for civil law itself. If, as a result of a tragic obscuring of the collective conscience, an attitude of skepticism were to succeed in bringing into question even the fundamental principles of the moral law, the democratic system itself would be shaken in its foundations, and would be reduced to a mere mechanism for regulating different and opposing interests on a purely empirical basis.89

Some might think that even this function, in the absence of anything better, should be valued for the sake of peace in society. While one acknowledges some element of truth in this point of view, it is easy to see that without an objective moral grounding not even democracy is capable of ensuring a stable peace, especially since peace which is not built upon the values of the dignity of every individual and of solidarity between all people frequently proves to be illusory. Even in participatory systems of government, the regulation of interests often occurs to the advantage of the most powerful, since they are the ones most capable of maneuvering not only the levers of power but also of shaping the formation of consensus. In such a situation, democracy easily becomes an empty word.

71. It is therefore urgently necessary, for the future of society and the development of a sound democracy, to rediscover those essential and innate human and moral values which flow from the very truth of the human being and express and safeguard the dignity of the person: values which no individual, no majority and no State can ever create, modify or destroy, but must only acknowledge, respect and promote.

Consequently there is a need to recover the basic elements of a vision of the relationship between civil law and moral law, which are put forward by the Church, but which are also part of the patrimony of the great juridical traditions of humanity.

Certainly the purpose of civil law is different and more limited in scope than that of the moral law. But “in no sphere of life can the civil law take the place of conscience or dictate norms concerning things which are outside its competence,”90 which is that of ensuring the common good of people through the recognition and defense of their fundamental rights, and the promotion of peace and of public morality.91 The real purpose of civil law is to guarantee an ordered social coexistence in true justice, so that all may “lead a quiet and peaceable life, godly and respectful in every way” (1 Tim 2:2). Precisely for this reason, civil law must ensure that all members of society enjoy respect for certain fundamental rights which innately belong to the person, rights which every positive law must recognize and guarantee. First and fundamental among these is the inviolable right to life of every innocent human being. While public authority can sometimes choose not to put a stop to something whichwere it prohibited would cause more serious harm,92 it can never presume to legitimize as a right of individualseven if they are the majority of the members of societyan offence against other persons caused by the disregard of so fundamental a right as the right to life. The legal toleration of abortion or of euthanasia can in no way claim to be based on respect for the conscience of others, precisely because society has the right and the duty to protect itself against the abuses which can occur in the name of conscience and under the pretext of freedom.93

In the Encyclical Pacem in Terris, John XXIII pointed out that “it is generally accepted today that the common good is best safeguarded when personal rights and duties are guaranteed. The chief concern of civil authorities must therefore be to ensure that these rights are recognized, respected, coordinated, defended, and promoted, and that each individual is enabled to perform his duties more easily. For to safeguard the inviolable rights of the human person, and to facilitate the performance of his duties, is the principal duty of every public authority. Thus any government which refused to recognize human rights or acted in violation of them, would not only fail in its duty; its decrees would be wholly lacking in binding force.”94

72. The doctrine on the necessary conformity of civil law with the moral law is in continuity with the whole tradition of the Church. This is clear once more from John XXIIIs Encyclical: “Authority is a postulate of the moral order and derives from God. Consequently, laws and decrees enacted in contravention of the moral order, and hence of the divine will, can have no binding force in conscience…; indeed, the passing of such laws undermines the very nature of authority and results in shameful abuse.”95 This is the clear teaching of Saint Thomas Aquinas, who writes that “human law is law inasmuch as it is in conformity with right reason and thus derives from the eternal law. But when a law is contrary to reason, it is called an unjust law; but in this case it ceases to be a law and becomes instead an act of violence.”96 And again: “Every law made by man can be called a law insofar as it derives from the natural law. But if it is somehow opposed to the natural law, then it is not really a law but rather a corruption of the law.”97

Now the first and most immediate application of this teaching concerns a human law which disregards the fundamental right and source of all other rights which is the right to life, a right belonging to every individual. Consequently, laws which legitimize the direct killing of innocent human beings through abortion or euthanasia are in complete opposition to the inviolable right to life proper to every individual; they thus deny the equality of everyone before the law. It might be objected that such is not the case in euthanasia, when it is requested with full awareness by the person involved. But any State which made such a request legitimate and authorized it to be carried out would be legalizing a case of suicide-murder, contrary to the fundamental principles of absolute respect for life and of the protection of every innocent life. In this way the State contributes to lessening respect for life and opens the door to ways of acting which are destructive of trust in relations between people. Laws which authorize and promote abortion and euthanasia are therefore radically opposed not only to the good of the individual but also to the common good; as such they are completely lacking in authentic juridical validity. Disregard for the right to life, precisely because it leads to the killing of the person whom society exists to serve, is what most directly conflicts with the possibility of achieving the common good. Consequently, a civil law authorizing abortion or euthanasia ceases by that very fact to be a true, morally binding civil law.

73. Abortion and euthanasia are thus crimes which no human law can claim to legitimize. There is no obligation in conscience to obey such laws. Instead there is a grave and clear obligation to oppose them by conscientious objection. From the very beginnings of the Church, the apostolic preaching reminded Christians of their duty to obey legitimately constituted public authorities (cf. Rom 13:1-7; 1 Pet 2:13-14), but at the same time it firmly warned that “we must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29). In the Old Testament, precisely in regard to threats against life, we find a significant example of resistance to the unjust command of those in authority. After Pharaoh ordered the killing of all newborn males, the Hebrew midwives refused. “They did not do as the king of Egypt commanded them, but let the male children live” (Ex 1:17). But the ultimate reason for their action should be noted: “the midwives feared God” (ibid.). It is precisely from obedience to Godto whom alone is due that fear which is acknowledgment of his absolute sovereigntythat the strength and the courage to resist unjust human laws are born. It is the strength and the courage of those prepared even to be imprisoned or put to the sword, in the certainty that this is what makes for “the endurance and faith of the saints” (Rev 13:10).

In the case of an intrinsically unjust law, such as a law permitting abortion or euthanasia, it is therefore never licit to obey it, or to “take part in a propaganda campaign in favor of such a law, or vote for it.”98

A particular problem of conscience can arise in cases where a legislative vote would be decisive for the passage of a more restrictive law, aimed at limiting the number of authorized abortions, in place of a more permissive law already passed or ready to be voted on. Such cases are not infrequent. It is a fact that while in some parts of the world there continue to be campaigns to introduce laws favoring abortion, often supported by powerful international organizations, in other nationsparticularly those which have already experienced the bitter fruits of such permissive legislationthere are growing signs of a rethinking in this matter. In a case like the one just mentioned, when it is not possible to overturn or completely abrogate a pro-abortion law, an elected official, whose absolute personal opposition to procured abortion was well known, could licitly support proposals aimed at limiting the harm done by such a law and at lessening its negative consequences at the level of general opinion and public morality. This does not in fact represent an illicit cooperation with an unjust law, but rather a legitimate and proper attempt to limit its evil aspects.

74. The passing of unjust laws often raises difficult problems of conscience for morally upright people with regard to the issue of cooperation, since they have a right to demand not to be forced to take part in morally evil actions. Sometimes the choices which have to be made are difficult; they may require the sacrifice of prestigious professional positions or the relinquishing of reasonable hopes of career advancement. In other cases, it can happen that carrying out certain actions, which are provided for by legislation that overall is unjust, but which in themselves are indifferent, or even positive, can serve to protect human lives under threat. There may be reason to fear, however, that willingness to carry out such actions will not only cause scandal and weaken the necessary opposition to attacks on life, but will gradually lead to further capitulation to a mentality of permissiveness.

In order to shed light on this difficult question, it is necessary to recall the general principles concerning cooperation in evil actions. Christians, like all people of good will, are called upon under grave obligation of conscience not to cooperate formally in practices which, even if permitted by civil legislation, are contrary to Gods law. Indeed, from the moral standpoint, it is never licit to cooperate formally in evil. Such cooperation occurs when an action, either by its very nature or by the form it takes in a concrete situation, can be defined as a direct participation in an act against innocent human life or a sharing in the immoral intention of the person committing it. This cooperation can never be justified either by invoking respect for the freedom of others or by appealing to the fact that civil law permits it or requires it. Each individual in fact has moral responsibility for the acts which he personally performs; no one can be exempted from this responsibility, and on the basis of it everyone will be judged by God himself (cf. Rom 2:6; 14:12).

To refuse to take part in committing an injustice is not only a moral duty; it is also a basic human right. Were this not so, the human person would be forced to perform an action intrinsically incompatible with human dignity, and in this way human freedom itself, the authentic meaning and purpose of which are found in its orientation to the true and the good, would be radically compromised. What is at stake therefore is an essential right which, precisely as such, should be acknowledged and protected by civil law. In this sense, the opportunity to refuse to take part in the phases of consultation, preparation and execution of these acts against life should be guaranteed to physicians, health-care personnel, and directors of hospitals, clinics, and convalescent facilities. Those who have recourse to conscientious objection must be protected not only from legal penalties but also from any negative effects on the legal, disciplinary, financial and professional plane.

You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Lk 10:27): “promote” life

75. Gods commandments teach us the way of life. The negative moral precepts, which declare that the choice of certain actions is morally unacceptable, have an absolute value for human freedom: they are valid always and everywhere, without exception. They make it clear that the choice of certain ways of acting is radically incompatible with the love of God and with the dignity of the person created in his image. Such choices cannot be redeemed by the goodness of any intention or of any consequence; they are irrevocably opposed to the bond between persons; they contradict the fundamental decision to direct ones life to God.99

In this sense, the negative moral precepts have an extremely important positive function. The “no” which they unconditionally require makes clear the absolute limit beneath which free individuals cannot lower themselves. At the same time they indicate the minimum which they must respect and from which they must start out in order to say “yes” over and over again, a “yes” which will gradually embrace the entire horizon of the good (cf. Mt 5:48). The commandments, in particular the negative moral precepts, are the beginning and the first necessary stage of the journey towards freedom. As Saint Augustine writes, “the beginning of freedom is to be free from crimes…like murder, adultery, fornication, theft, fraud, sacrilege and so forth. Only when one stops committing these crimes (and no Christian should commit them), one begins to lift up ones head towards freedom. But this is only the beginning of freedom, not perfect freedom.”100

76. The commandment “You shall not kill” thus establishes the point of departure for the start of true freedom. It leads us to promote life actively, and to develop particular ways of thinking and acting which serve life. In this way we exercise our responsibility towards the persons entrusted to us and we show, in deeds and in truth, our gratitude to God for the great gift of life (cf. Ps 139:13-14).

The Creator has entrusted mans life to his responsible concern, not to make arbitrary use of it, but to preserve it with wisdom and to care for it with loving fidelity. The God of the Covenant has entrusted the life of every individual to his or her fellow human beings, brothers and sisters, according to the law of reciprocity in giving and receiving, of self-giving and of the acceptance of others. In the fullness of time, by taking flesh and giving his life for us, the Son of God showed what heights and depths this law of reciprocity can reach. With the gift of his Spirit, Christ gives new content and meaning to the law of reciprocity, to our being entrusted to one another. The Spirit who builds up communion in love creates between us a new fraternity and solidarity, a true reflection of the mystery of mutual self-giving and receiving proper to the Most Holy Trinity. The Spirit becomes the new law which gives strength to believers and awakens in them a responsibility for sharing the gift of self and for accepting others, as a sharing in the boundless love of Jesus Christ himself.

77. This new law also gives spirit and shape to the commandment “You shall not kill.” For the Christian it involves an absolute imperative to respect, love and promote the life of every brother and sister, in accordance with the requirements of Gods bountiful love in Jesus Christ. “He laid down his life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren” (1 Jn 3:16).

The commandment “You shall not kill,” even in its more positive aspects of respecting, loving, and promoting human life, is binding on every individual human being. It resounds in the moral conscience of everyone as an irrepressible echo of the original covenant of God the Creator with mankind. It can be recognized by everyone through the light of reason and it can be observed thanks to the mysterious working of the Spirit who, blowing where he wills (cf. Jn 3:8), comes to and involves every person living in this world.

It is therefore a service of love which we are all committed to ensure to our neighbor, that his or her life may be always defended and promoted, especially when it is weak or threatened. It is not only a personal but a social concern which we must all foster: a concern to make unconditional respect for human life the foundation of a renewed society.

We are asked to love and honor the life of every man and woman and to work with perseverance and courage so that our time, marked by all too many signs of death, may at last witness the establishment of a new culture of life, the fruit of the culture of truth and of love.

Chapter IV You Did It to Me

For a New Culture of Human Life

You are Gods own people, that you may declare the wonderful deeds of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light” (1 Pet 2:9): a people of life and for life

78. The Church has received the Gospel as a proclamation and a source of joy and salvation. She has received it as a gift from Jesus, sent by the Father “to preach good news to the poor” (Lk 4:18). She has received it through the Apostles, sent by Christ to the whole world (cf. Mk 16:15; Mt 28:19-20). Born from this evangelizing activity, the Church hears every day the echo of Saint Pauls words of warning: “Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel!” (1 Cor 9:16). As Paul VI wrote, “evangelization is the grace and vocation proper to the Church, her deepest identity. She exists in order to evangelize.”101

Evangelization is an all-embracing, progressive activity through which the Church participates in the prophetic, priestly and royal mission of the Lord Jesus. It is therefore inextricably linked to preaching, celebration, and the service of charity. Evangelization is a profoundly ecclesial act, which calls all the various workers of the Gospel to action, according to their individual charisms and ministry.

This is also the case with regard to the proclamation of the Gospel of life, an integral part of that Gospel which is Jesus Christ himself. We are at the service of this Gospel, sustained by the awareness that we have received it as a gift and are sent to preach it to all humanity, “to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8). With humility and gratitude we know that we are the people of life and for life, and this is how we present ourselves to everyone.

79. We are the people of life because God, in his unconditional love, has given us the Gospel of life and by this same Gospel we have been transformed and saved. We have been ransomed by the “Author of life” (Acts 3:15) at the price of his precious blood (cf. 1 Cor 6:20; 7:23; 1 Pet 1:19). Through the waters of Baptism we have been made a part of him (cf. Rom 6:4-5; Col 2:12), as branches which draw nourishment and fruitfulness from the one tree (cf. Jn 15:5). Interiorly renewed by the grace of the Spirit, “who is the Lord and giver of life,” we have become a people for life and we are called to act accordingly.

We have been sent.

For us, being at the service of life is not a boast but rather a duty, born of our awareness of being “Gods own people, that we may declare the wonderful deeds of him who called us out of darkness into his marvelous light” (cf. 1 Pet 2:9). On our journey we are guided and sustained by the law of love: a love which has as its source and model the Son of God made man, who “by dying gave life to the world.”102

We have been sent as a people.

Everyone has an obligation to be at the service of life. This is a properly “ecclesial” responsibility, which requires concerted and generous action by all the members and by all sectors of the Christian community. This community commitment does not however eliminate or lessen the responsibility of each individual, called by the Lord to “become the neighbor” of everyone: “Go and do likewise” (Lk 10:37).

Together we all sense our duty to preach the Gospel of life, to celebrate it in the Liturgy and in our whole existence, and to serve it with the various programs and structures which support and promote life.

“That which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you” (1 Jn 1:3): proclaiming the Gospel of life

80. “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon and touched with our hands, concerning the word of life … we proclaim also to you, so that you may have fellowship with us” (1 Jn 1:1, 3). Jesus is the only Gospel: we have nothing further to say or any other witness to bear.

To proclaim Jesus is itself to proclaim life.

For Jesus is “the word of life” (1 Jn 1:1). In him “life was made manifest” (1 Jn 1:2); he himself is “the eternal life which was with the Father and was made manifest to us” (1 Jn 1:2). By the gift of the Spirit, this same life has been bestowed on us. It is in being destined to life in its fullness, to “eternal life,” that every persons earthly life acquires its full meaning.

Enlightened by this Gospel of life, we feel a need to proclaim it and to bear witness to it in all its marvelous newness. Since it is one with Jesus himself, who makes all things new 103 and conquers the “oldness” which comes from sin and leads to death, 104 this Gospel exceeds every human expectation and reveals the sublime heights to which the dignity of the human person is raised through grace. This is how Saint Gregory of Nyssa understands it: “Man, as a being, is of no account; he is dust, grass, vanity. But once he is adopted by the God of the universe as a son, he becomes part of the family of that Being, whose excellence and greatness no one can see, hear or understand. What words, thoughts, or flight of the spirit can praise the superabundance of this grace? Man surpasses his nature: mortal, he becomes immortal; perishable, he becomes imperishable; fleeting, he becomes eternal; human, he becomes divine.”105

Gratitude and joy at the incomparable dignity of man impel us to share this message with everyone: “that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you may have fellowship with us” (1 Jn 1:3). We need to bring the Gospel of life to the heart of every man and woman and to make it penetrate every part of society.

81. This involves above all proclaiming the core of this Gospel. It is the proclamation of a living God who is close to us, who calls us to profound communion with himself and awakens in us the certain hope of eternal life. It is the affirmation of the inseparable connection between the person, his life, and his bodiliness. It is the presentation of human life as a life of relationship, a gift of God, the fruit and sign of his love. It is the proclamation that Jesus has a unique relationship with every person, which enables us to see in every human face the face of Christ. It is the call for a “sincere gift of self” as the fullest way to realize our personal freedom.

It also involves making clear all the consequences of this Gospel. These can be summed up as follows: human life, as a gift of God, is sacred and inviolable. For this reason, procured abortion and euthanasia are absolutely unacceptable. Not only must human life not be taken, but it must be protected with loving concern. The meaning of life is found in giving and receiving love, and in this light human sexuality and procreation reach their true and full significance. Love also gives meaning to suffering and death; despite the mystery which surrounds them, they can become saving events. Respect for life requires that science and technology should always be at the service of man and his integral development. Society as a whole must respect, defend, and promote the dignity of every human person, at every moment and in every condition of that persons life.

82. To be truly a people at the service of life we must propose these truths constantly and courageously from the very first proclamation of the Gospel, and thereafter in catechesis, in the various forms of preaching, in personal dialogue and in all educational activity. Teachers, catechists, and theologians have the task of emphasizing the anthropological reasons upon which respect for every human life is based. In this way, by making the newness of the Gospel of life shine forth, we can also help everyone discover in the light of reason and of personal experience how the Christian message fully reveals what man is and the meaning of his being and existence. We shall find important points of contact and dialogue also with nonbelievers, in our common commitment to the establishment of a new culture of life.

Faced with so many opposing points of view, and a widespread rejection of sound doctrine concerning human life, we can feel that Pauls entreaty to Timothy is also addressed to us: “Preach the word, be urgent in season and out of season, convince, rebuke, and exhort, be unfailing in patience and in teaching” (2 Tim 4:2). This exhortation should resound with special force in the hearts of those members of the Church who directly share, in different ways, in her mission as “teacher” of the truth. May it resound above all for us who are bishops: we are the first ones called to be untiring preachers of the Gospel of life. We are also entrusted with the task of ensuring that the doctrine which is once again being set forth in this Encyclical is faithfully handed on in its integrity. We must use appropriate means to defend the faithful from all teaching which is contrary to it. We need to make sure that in theological faculties, seminaries and Catholic institutions sound doctrine is taught, explained, and more fully investigated.106 May Pauls exhortation strike a chord in all theologians, pastors, teachers and in all those responsible for catechesis and the formation of consciences. Aware of their specific role, may they never be so grievously irresponsible as to betray the truth and their own mission by proposing personal ideas contrary to the Gospel of life as faithfully presented and interpreted by the Magisterium.

In the proclamation of this Gospel, we must not fear hostility or unpopularity, and we must refuse any compromise or ambiguity which might conform us to the worlds way of thinking (cf. Rom 12:2). We must be in the world but not of the world (cf. Jn 15:19; 17:16), drawing our strength from Christ, who by his Death and Resurrection has overcome the world (cf. Jn 16:33).

I give you thanks that I am fearfully, wonderfully made” (Ps 139:14): celebrating the Gospel of life

83. Because we have been sent into the world as a “people for life,” our proclamation must also become a genuine celebration of the Gospel of life. This celebration, with the evocative power of its gestures, symbols and rites, should become a precious and significant setting in which the beauty and grandeur of this Gospel is handed on.

For this to happen, we need first of all to foster, in ourselves and in others, a contemplative outlook.107 Such an outlook arises from faith in the God of life, who has created every individual as a “wonder” (cf. Ps 139:14). It is the outlook of those who see life in its deeper meaning, who grasp its utter gratuitousness, its beauty, and its invitation to freedom and responsibility. It is the outlook of those who do not presume to take possession of reality but instead accept it as a gift, discovering in all things the reflection of the Creator and seeing in every person his living image (cf. Gen 1:27; Ps 8:5). This outlook does not give in to discouragement when confronted by those who are sick, suffering, outcast or at deaths door. Instead, in all these situations it feels challenged to find meaning, and precisely in these circumstances it is open to perceiving in the face of every person a call to encounter, dialogue and solidarity.

It is time for all of us to adopt this outlook, and with deep religious awe to rediscover the ability to revere and honor every person, as Paul VI invited us to do in one of his first Christmas messages.108 Inspired by this contemplative outlook, the new people of the redeemed cannot but respond with songs of joy, praise and thanksgiving for the priceless gift of life, for the mystery of every individuals call to share through Christ in the life of grace and in an existence of unending communion with God our Creator and Father.

84. To celebrate the Gospel of life means to celebrate the God of life, the God who gives life: “We must celebrate Eternal Life, from which every other life proceeds. From this, in proportion to its capacities, every being which in any way participates in life, receives life. This Divine Life, which is above every other life, gives and preserves life. Every life and every living movement proceed from this Life which transcends all life and every principle of life. It is to this that souls owe their incorruptibility; and because of this, all animals and plants live, which receive only the faintest glimmer of life. To men, beings made of spirit and matter, Life grants life. Even if we should abandon Life, because of its overflowing love for man, it converts us and calls us back to itself. Not only this: it promises to bring us, soul and body, to perfect life, to immortality. It is too little to say that this Life is alive: it is the Principle of life, the Cause and sole Wellspring of life. Every living thing must contemplate it and give it praise: it is Life which overflows with life.”109

Like the Psalmist, we too, in our daily prayer as individuals and as a community, praise and bless God our Father, who knitted us together in our mothers womb, and saw and loved us while we were still without form (cf. Ps 139:13, 15-16). We exclaim with overwhelming joy: “I give you thanks that I am fearfully, wonderfully made; wonderful are your works. You know me through and through” (Ps 139:14). Indeed, “despite its hardships, its hidden mysteries, its suffering and its inevitable frailty, this mortal life is a most beautiful thing, a marvel ever new and moving, an event worthy of being exalted in joy and glory.”110 Moreover, man and his life appear to us not only as one of the greatest marvels of creation: for God has granted to man a dignity which is near to divine (Ps 8:5-6). In every child which is born and in every person who lives or dies we see the image of Gods glory. We celebrate this glory in every human being, a sign of the living God, an icon of Jesus Christ.

We are called to express wonder and gratitude for the gift of life and to welcome, savor and share the Gospel of life not only in our personal and community prayer, but above all in the celebrations of the liturgical year. Particularly important in this regard are the Sacraments, the efficacious signs of the presence and saving action of the Lord Jesus in Christian life. The Sacraments make us sharers in divine life, and provide the spiritual strength necessary to experience life, suffering, and death in their fullest meaning. Thanks to a genuine rediscovery and a better appreciation of the significance of these rites, our liturgical celebrations, especially celebrations of the Sacraments, will be ever more capable of expressing the full truth about birth, life, suffering and death, and will help us to live these moments as a participation in the Paschal Mystery of the Crucified and Risen Christ.

85. In celebrating the Gospel of life, we also need to appreciate and make good use of the wealth of gestures and symbols present in the traditions and customs of different cultures and peoples. There are special times and ways in which the peoples of different nations and cultures express joy for a newborn life, respect for and protection of individual human lives, care for the suffering or needy, closeness to the elderly and the dying, participation in the sorrow of those who mourn, and hope and desire for immortality.

In view of this and following the suggestion made by the Cardinals in the Consistory of 1991, I propose that a Day for Life be celebrated each year in every country, as already established by some Episcopal Conferences. The celebration of this Day should be planned and carried out with the active participation of all sectors of the local Church. Its primary purpose should be to foster in individual consciences, in families, in the Church and in civil society a recognition of the meaning and value of human life at every stage and in every condition. Particular attention should be drawn to the seriousness of abortion and euthanasia, without neglecting other aspects of life, which from time to time deserve to be given careful consideration, as occasion and circumstances demand.

86. As part of the spiritual worship acceptable to God (cf. Rom 12:1), the Gospel of life is to be celebrated above all in daily living, which should be filled with self-giving love for others. In this way, our lives will become a genuine and responsible acceptance of the gift of life and a heartfelt song of praise and gratitude to God who has given us this gift. This is already happening in the many different acts of selfless generosity, often humble and hidden, carried out by men and women, children and adults, the young and the old, the healthy and the sick.

It is in this context, so humanly rich and filled with love, that heroic actions too are born. These are the most solemn celebration of the Gospel of life, for they proclaim it by the total gift of self. They are the radiant manifestation of the highest degree of love, which is to give ones life for the person loved (cf. Jn 15:13). They are a sharing in the mystery of the Cross, in which Jesus reveals the value of every person, and how life attains its fullness in the sincere gift of self. Over and above such outstanding moments, there is an everyday heroism, made up of gestures of sharing, big or small, which build up an authentic culture of life. A particularly praiseworthy example of such gestures is the donation of organs, performed in an ethically acceptable manner, with a view to offering a chance of health and even of life itself to the sick who sometimes have no other hope.

Part of this daily heroism is also the silent but effective and eloquent witness of all those “brave mothers who devote themselves to their own family without reserve, who suffer in giving birth to their children and who are ready to make any effort, to face any sacrifice, in order to pass on to them the best of themselves.”111 In living out their mission “these heroic women do not always find support in the world around them. On the contrary, the cultural models frequently promoted and broadcast by the media do not encourage motherhood. In the name of progress and modernity the values of fidelity, chastity, sacrifice, to which a host of Christian wives and mothers have borne and continue to bear outstanding witness, are presented as obsolete … We thank you, heroic mothers, for your invincible love! We thank you for your intrepid trust in God and in his love. We thank you for the sacrifice of your life … In the Paschal Mystery, Christ restores to you the gift you gave him. Indeed, he has the power to give you back the life you gave him as an offering.”112

What does it profit, my brethren, if a man says he has faith but has not works?” (Jas 2:14): serving the Gospel of life

87. By virtue of our sharing in Christs royal mission, our support and promotion of human life must be accomplished through the service of charity, which finds expression in personal witness, various forms of volunteer work, social activity and political commitment. This is a particularly pressing need at the present time, when the “culture of death” so forcefully opposes the “culture of life” and often seems to have the upper hand. But even before that it is a need which springs from “faith working through love” (Gal 5:6). As the Letter of James admonishes us: “What does it profit, my brethren, if a man says he has faith but has not works? Can his faith save him? If a brother or sister is ill clad and in lack of daily food, and one of you says to them, Go in peace, be warmed and filled, without giving them the things needed for the body, what does it profit? So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead” (2:14-17).

In our service of charity, we must be inspired and distinguished by a specific attitude: we must care for the other as a person for whom God has made us responsible. As disciples of Jesus, we are called to become neighbors to everyone (cf. Lk 10:29-37), and to show special favor to those who are poorest, most alone and most in need. In helping the hungry, the thirsty, the foreigner, the naked, the sick, and the imprisonedas well as the child in the womb and the old person who is suffering or near deathwe have the opportunity to serve Jesus. He himself said: “As you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me” (Mt 25:40). Hence we cannot but feel called to account and judged by the ever relevant words of Saint John Chrysostom: “Do you wish to honor the body of Christ? Do not neglect it when you find it naked. Do not do it homage here in the church with silk fabrics only to neglect it outside where it suffers cold and nakedness.”113

Where life is involved, the service of charity must be profoundly consistent.

It cannot tolerate bias and discrimination, for human life is sacred and inviolable at every stage and in every situation; it is an indivisible good. We need then to “show care” for all life and for the life of everyone. Indeed, at an even deeper level, we need to go to the very roots of life and love.

It is this deep love for every man and woman which has given rise down the centuries to an outstanding history of charity, a history which has brought into being in the Church and society many forms of service to life which evoke admiration from all unbiased observers. Every Christian community, with a renewed sense of responsibility, must continue to write this history through various kinds of pastoral and social activity. To this end, appropriate and effective programs of support for new life must be implemented, with special closeness to mothers who, even without the help of the father, are not afraid to bring their child into the world and to raise it. Similar care must be shown for the life of the marginalized or suffering, especially in its final phases.

88. All of this involves a patient and fearless work of education aimed at encouraging one and all to bear each others burdens (cf. Gal 6:2). It requires a continuous promotion of vocations to service, particularly among the young. It involves the implementation of long-term practical projects and initiatives inspired by the Gospel.

Many are the means towards this end which need to be developed with skill and serious commitment. At the first stage of life, centers for natural methods of regulating fertility should be promoted as a valuable help to responsible parenthood, in which all individuals, and in the first place the child, are recognized and respected in their own right, and where every decision is guided by the ideal of the sincere gift of self. Marriage and family counseling agencies by their specific work of guidance and prevention, carried out in accordance with an anthropology consistent with the Christian vision of the person, of the couple and of sexuality, also offer valuable help in rediscovering the meaning of love and life, and in supporting and accompanying every family in its mission as the “sanctuary of life.” Newborn life is also served by centers of assistance and homes or centers where new life receives a welcome. Thanks to the work of such centers, many unmarried mothers and couples in difficulty discover new hope and find assistance and support in overcoming hardship and the fear of accepting a newly conceived life or life which has just come into the world.

When life is challenged by conditions of hardship, maladjustment, sickness or rejection, other programssuch as communities for treating drug addiction, residential communities for minors or the mentally ill, care and relief centers for AIDS patients, associations for solidarity especially towards the disabledare eloquent expressions of what charity is able to devise in order to give everyone new reasons for hope and practical possibilities for life.

And when earthly existence draws to a close, it is again charity which finds the most appropriate means for enabling the elderly, especially those who can no longer look after themselves, and the terminally ill to enjoy genuinely humane assistance and to receive an adequate response to their needs, in particular their anxiety and their loneliness. In these cases the role of families is indispensable; yet families can receive much help from social welfare agencies and, if necessary, from recourse to palliative care, taking advantage of suitable medical and social services available in public institutions or in the home.

In particular, the role of hospitals, clinics, and convalescent homes needs to be reconsidered. These should not merely be institutions where care is provided for the sick or the dying. Above all, they should be places where suffering, pain, and death are acknowledged and understood in their human and specifically Christian meaning. This must be especially evident and effective in institutes staffed by Religious or in any way connected with the Church.

89. Agencies and centers of service to life, and all other initiatives of support and solidarity which circumstances may from time to time suggest, need to be directed by people who are generous in their involvement and fully aware of the importance of the Gospel of life for the good of individuals and society.

A unique responsibility belongs to health-care personnel: doctors, pharmacists, nurses, chaplains, men and women religious, administrators and volunteers.

Their profession calls for them to be guardians and servants of human life. In todays cultural and social context, in which science and the practice of medicine risk losing sight of their inherent ethical dimension, health-care professionals can be strongly tempted at times to become manipulators of life, or even agents of death. In the face of this temptation, their responsibility today is greatly increased. Its deepest inspiration and strongest support lie in the intrinsic and undeniable ethical dimension of the health-care profession, something already recognized by the ancient and still relevant Hippocratic Oath, which requires every doctor to commit himself to absolute respect for human life and its sacredness.

Absolute respect for every innocent human life also requires the exercise of conscientious objection in relation to procured abortion and euthanasia. “Causing death” can never be considered a form of medical treatment, even when the intention is solely to comply with the patients request. Rather, it runs completely counter to the healthcare profession, which is meant to be an impassioned and unflinching affirmation of life. Biomedical research too, a field which promises great benefits for humanity, must always reject experimentation, research or applications which disregard the inviolable dignity of the human being, and thus cease to be at the service of people and become instead means which, under the guise of helping people, actually harm them.

90. Volunteer workers have a specific role to play: they make a valuable contribution to the service of life when they combine professional ability and generous, selfless love. The Gospel of life inspires them to lift their feelings of good will towards others to the heights of Christs charity; to renew every day, amid hard work and weariness, their awareness of the dignity of every person; to search out peoples needs and, when necessary, to set out on new paths where needs are greater but care and support weaker.

If charity is to be realistic and effective, it demands that the Gospel of life be implemented also by means of certain forms of social activity and commitment in the political field, as a way of defending and promoting the value of life in our ever more complex and pluralistic societies. Individuals, families, groups and associations, albeit for different reasons and in different ways, all have a responsibility for shaping society and developing cultural, economic, political and legislative projects which, with respect for all and in keeping with democratic principles, will contribute to the building of a society in which the dignity of each person is recognized and protected and the lives of all are defended and enhanced.

This task is the particular responsibility of civil leaders. Called to serve the people and the common good, they have a duty to make courageous choices in support of life, especially through legislative measures. In a democratic system, where laws and decisions are made on the basis of the consensus of many, the sense of personal responsibility in the consciences of individuals invested with authority may be weakened. But no one can ever renounce this responsibility, especially when he or she has a legislative or decision-making mandate, which calls that person to answer to God, to his or her own conscience and to the whole of society for choices which may be contrary to the common good. Although laws are not the only means of protecting human life, nevertheless they do play a very important and sometimes decisive role in influencing patterns of thought and behavior. I repeat once more that a law which violates an innocent persons natural right to life is unjust and, as such, is not valid as a law. For this reason I urgently appeal once more to all political leaders not to pass laws which, by disregarding the dignity of the person, undermine the very fabric of society.

The Church well knows that it is difficult to mount an effective legal defense of life in pluralistic democracies, because of the presence of strong cultural currents with differing outlooks. At the same time, certain that moral truth cannot fail to make its presence deeply felt in every conscience, the Church encourages political leaders, starting with those who are Christians, not to give in, but to make those choices which, taking into account what is realistically attainable, will lead to the reestablishment of a just order in the defense and promotion of the value of life. Here it must be noted that it is not enough to remove unjust laws. The underlying causes of attacks on life have to be eliminated, especially by ensuring proper support for families and motherhood. A family policy must be the basis and driving force of all social policies. For this reason, there need to be set in place social and political initiatives capable of guaranteeing conditions of true freedom of choice in matters of parenthood. It is also necessary to rethink labor, urban, residential and social service policies so as to harmonize working schedules with time available for the family, so that it becomes effectively possible to take care of children and the elderly.

91. Today an important part of policies which favor life is the issue of population growth. Certainly public authorities have a responsibility to “intervene to orient the demography of the population.”114 But such interventions must always take into account and respect the primary and inalienable responsibility of married couples and families, and cannot employ methods which fail to respect the person and fundamental human rights, beginning with the right to life of every innocent human being. It is therefore morally unacceptable to encourage, let alone impose, the use of methods such as contraception, sterilization, and abortion in order to regulate births. The ways of solving the population problem are quite different. Governments and the various international agencies must above all strive to create economic, social, public health and cultural conditions which will enable married couples to make their choices about procreation in full freedom and with genuine responsibility. They must then make efforts to ensure “greater opportunities and a fairer distribution of wealth so that everyone can share equitably in the goods of creation. Solutions must be sought on the global level by establishing a true economy of communion and sharing of goods, in both the national and international order.”115 This is the only way to respect the dignity of persons and families, as well as the authentic cultural patrimony of peoples.

Service of the Gospel of life is thus an immense and complex task. This service increasingly appears as a valuable and fruitful area for positive cooperation with our brothers and sisters of other Churches and ecclesial communities, in accordance with the practical ecumenism which the Second Vatican Council authoritatively encouraged.116 It also appears as a providential area for dialogue and joint efforts with the followers of other religions and with all people of good will. No single person or group has a monopoly on the defense and promotion of life. These are everyones task and responsibility. On the eve of the Third Millennium, the challenge facing us is an arduous one: only the concerted efforts of all those who believe in the value of life can prevent a setback of unforeseeable consequences for civilization.

“Your children will be like olive shoots around your table” (Ps 128:3): the family as the “sanctuary of life

92. Within the “people of life and the people for life,” the family has a decisive responsibility. This responsibility flows from its very nature as a community of life and love, founded upon marriage, and from its mission to “guard, reveal and communicate love.”117 Here it is a matter of Gods own love, of which parents are co-workers and as it were interpreters when they transmit life and raise it according to his fatherly plan.118 This is the love that becomes selflessness, receptiveness and gift. Within the family each member is accepted, respected and honored precisely because he or she is a person; and if any family member is in greater need, the care which he or she receives is all the more intense and attentive.

The family has a special role to play throughout the life of its members, from birth to death. It is truly “the sanctuary of life: the place in which lifethe gift of Godcan be properly welcomed and protected against the many attacks to which it is exposed, and can develop in accordance with what constitutes authentic human growth.”119 Consequently the role of the family in building a culture of life is decisive and irreplaceable.

As the domestic church, the family is summoned to proclaim, celebrate, and serve the Gospel of life. This is a responsibility which first concerns married couples, called to be givers of life, on the basis of an ever greater awareness of the meaning of procreation as a unique event which clearly reveals that human life is a gift received in order then to be given as a gift. In giving origin to a new life, parents recognize that the child, “as the fruit of their mutual gift of love, is, in turn, a gift for both of them, a gift which flows from them.”120

It is above all in raising children that the family fulfills its mission to proclaim the Gospel of life. By word and example, in the daily round of relations and choices, and through concrete actions and signs, parents lead their children to authentic freedom, actualized in the sincere gift of self, and they cultivate in them respect for others, a sense of justice, cordial openness, dialogue, generous service, solidarity and all the other values which help people to live life as a gift. In raising children Christian parents must be concerned about their childrens faith and help them to fulfill the vocation God has given them. The parents mission as educators also includes teaching and giving their children an example of the true meaning of suffering and death. They will be able to do this if they are sensitive to all kinds of suffering around them and, even more, if they succeed in fostering attitudes of closeness, assistance and sharing towards sick or elderly members of the family.

93. The family celebrates the Gospel of life through daily prayer, both individual prayer and family prayer. The family prays in order to glorify and give thanks to God for the gift of life, and implores his light and strength in order to face times of difficulty and suffering without losing hope. But the celebration which gives meaning to every other form of prayer and worship is found in the familys actual daily life together, if it is a life of love and self-giving.

This celebration thus becomes a service to the Gospel of life, expressed through solidarity as experienced within and around the family in the form of concerned, attentive and loving care shown in the humble, ordinary events of each day. A particularly significant expression of solidarity between families is a willingness to adopt or take in children abandoned by their parents or in situations of serious hardship. True parental love is ready to go beyond the bonds of flesh and blood in order to accept children from other families, offering them whatever is necessary for their well being and full development. Among the various forms of adoption, consideration should be given to adoption-at-a-distance, preferable in cases where the only reason for giving up the child is the extreme poverty of the childs family. Through this type of adoption, parents are given the help needed to support and raise their children, without their being uprooted from their natural environment.

As “a firm and persevering determination to commit oneself to the common good,”121 solidarity also needs to be practiced through participation in social and political life. Serving the Gospel of life thus means that the family, particularly through its membership of family associations, works to ensure that the laws and institutions of the State in no way violate the right to life, from conception to natural death, but rather protect and promote it.

94. Special attention must be given to the elderly. While in some cultures older people remain a part of the family with an important and active role, in others the elderly are regarded as a useless burden and are left to themselves. Here the temptation to resort to euthanasia can more easily arise.

Neglect of the elderly or their outright rejection are intolerable. Their presence in the family, or at least their closeness to the family in cases where limited living space or other reasons make this impossible, is of fundamental importance in creating a climate of mutual interaction and enriching communication between the different age groups. It is therefore important to preserve, or to re-establish where it has been lost, a sort of “covenant” between generations. In this way parents, in their later years, can receive from their children the acceptance and solidarity which they themselves gave to their children when they brought them into the world. This is required by obedience to the divine commandment to honor ones father and mother (cf. Ex 20:12; Lev 19:3). But there is more. The elderly are not only to be considered the object of our concern, closeness, and service. They themselves have a valuable contribution to make to the Gospel of life. Thanks to the rich treasury of experiences they have acquired through the years, the elderly can and must be sources of wisdom and witnesses of hope and love.

Although it is true that “the future of humanity passes by way of the family,”122 it must be admitted that modern social, economic and cultural conditions make the familys task of serving life more difficult and demanding. In order to fulfill its vocation as the “sanctuary of life,” as the cell of a society which loves and welcomes life, the family urgently needs to be helped and supported. Communities and States must guarantee all the support, including economic support, which families need in order to meet their problems in a truly human way. For her part, the Church must untiringly promote a plan of pastoral care for families, capable of making every family rediscover and live with joy and courage its mission to further the Gospel of life.

Walk as children of light” (Eph 5:8): bringing about a transformation of culture

95. “Walk as children of light… and try to learn what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness” (Eph 5:8, 10-11). In our present social context, marked by a dramatic struggle between the “culture of life” and the “culture of death,” there is need to develop a deep critical sense, capable of discerning true values and authentic needs.

What is urgently called for is a general mobilization of consciences and a united ethical effort to activate a great campaign in support of life. All together, we must build a new culture of life: new, because it will be able to confront and solve todays unprecedented problems affecting human life; new, because it will be adopted with deeper and more dynamic conviction by all Christians; new, because it will be capable of bringing about a serious and courageous cultural dialogue among all parties. While the urgent need for such a cultural transformation is linked to the present historical situation, it is also rooted in the Churchs mission of evangelization. The purpose of the Gospel, in fact, is “to transform humanity from within and to make it new.”123 Like the yeast which leavens the whole measure of dough (cf. Mt 13:33), the Gospel is meant to permeate all cultures and give them life from within, 124 so that they may express the full truth about the human person and about human life.

We need to begin with the renewal of a culture of life within Christian communities themselves. Too often it happens that believers, even those who take an active part in the life of the Church, end up by separating their Christian faith from its ethical requirements concerning life, and thus fall into moral subjectivism and certain objectionable ways of acting. With great openness and courage, we need to question how widespread is the culture of life today among individual Christians, families, groups and communities in our Dioceses. With equal clarity and determination we must identify the steps we are called to take in order to serve life in all its truth. At the same time, we need to promote a serious and in-depth exchange about basic issues of human life with everyone, including non-believers, in intellectual circles, in the various professional spheres and at the level of peoples everyday life.

96. The first and fundamental step towards this cultural transformation consists in forming consciences with regard to the incomparable and inviolable worth of every human life. It is of the greatest importance to re-establish the essential connection between life and freedom. These are inseparable goods: where one is violated, the other also ends up being violated. There is no true freedom where life is not welcomed and loved; and there is no fullness of life except in freedom. Both realities have something inherent and specific which links them inextricably: the vocation to love. Love, as a sincere gift of self, 125 is what gives the life and freedom of the person their truest meaning.

No less critical in the formation of conscience is the recovery of the necessary link between freedom and truth. As I have frequently stated, when freedom is detached from objective truth it becomes impossible to establish personal rights on a firm rational basis; and the ground is laid for society to be at the mercy of the unrestrained will of individuals or the oppressive totalitarianism of public authority.126

It is therefore essential that man should acknowledge his inherent condition as a creature to whom God has granted being and life as a gift and a duty. Only by admitting his innate dependence can man live and use his freedom to the full, and at the same time respect the life and freedom of every other person. Here especially one sees that “at the heart of every culture lies the attitude man takes to the greatest mystery: the mystery of God.”127 Where God is denied and people live as though he did not exist, or his commandments are not taken into account, the dignity of the human person and the inviolability of human life also end up being rejected or compromised.

97. Closely connected with the formation of conscience is the work of education, which helps individuals to be ever more human, leads them ever more fully to the truth, instills in them growing respect for life, and trains them in right interpersonal relationships.

In particular, there is a need for education about the value of life from its very origins. It is an illusion to think that we can build a true culture of human life if we do not help the young to accept and experience sexuality and love and the whole of life according to their true meaning and in their close interconnection. Sexuality, which enriches the whole person, “manifests its inmost meaning in leading the person to the gift of self in love.”128 The trivialization of sexuality is among the principal factors which have led to contempt for new life. Only a true love is able to protect life. There can be no avoiding the duty to offer, especially to adolescents and young adults, an authentic education in sexuality and in love, an education which involves training in chastity as a virtue which fosters personal maturity and makes one capable of respecting the “spousal” meaning of the body.

The work of educating in the service of life involves the training of married couples in responsible procreation. In its true meaning, responsible procreation requires couples to be obedient to the Lords call and to act as faithful interpreters of his plan. This happens when the family is generously open to new lives, and when couples maintain an attitude of openness and service to life, even if, for serious reasons and in respect for the moral law, they choose to avoid a new birth for the time being or indefinitely. The moral law obliges them in every case to control the impulse of instinct and passion, and to respect the biological laws inscribed in their person. It is precisely this respect which makes legitimate, at the service of responsible procreation, the use of natural methods of regulating fertility. From the scientific point of view, these methods are becoming more and more accurate and make it possible in practice to make choices in harmony with moral values. An honest appraisal of their effectiveness should dispel certain prejudices which are still widely held, and should convince married couples, as well as health-care and social workers, of the importance of proper training in this area. The Church is grateful to those who, with personal sacrifice and often unacknowledged dedication, devote themselves to the study and spread of these methods, as well to the promotion of education in the moral values which they presuppose.

The work of education cannot avoid a consideration of suffering and death.

These are a part of human existence, and it is futile, not to say misleading, to try to hide them or ignore them. On the contrary, people must be helped to understand their profound mystery in all its harsh reality. Even pain and suffering have meaning and value when they are experienced in close connection with love received and given. In this regard, I have called for the yearly celebration of the World Day of the Sick, emphasizing “the salvific nature of the offering up of suffering which, experienced in communion with Christ, belongs to the very essence of the Redemption.”129 Death itself is anything but an event without hope. It is the door which opens wide on eternity and, for those who live in Christ, an experience of participation in the mystery of his Death and Resurrection.

98. In a word, we can say that the cultural change which we are calling for demands from everyone the courage to adopt a new life-style, consisting in making practical choicesat the personal, family, social and international levelon the basis of a correct scale of values: the primacy of being over having, 130 of the person over things.131 This renewed life-style involves a passing from indifference to concern for others, from rejection to acceptance of them. Other people are not rivals from whom we must defend ourselves, but brothers and sisters to be supported. They are to be loved for their own sakes, and they enrich us by their very presence.

In this mobilization for a new culture of life, no one must feel excluded: everyone has an important role to play. Together with the family, teachers and educators have a particularly valuable contribution to make. Much will depend on them if young people, trained in true freedom, are to be able to preserve for themselves and make known to others new, authentic ideals of life, and if they are to grow in respect for and service to every other person, in the family and in society.

Intellectuals

can also do much to build a new culture of human life. A special task falls to Catholic intellectuals, who are called to be present and active in the leading centers where culture is formed, in schools and universities, in places of scientific and technological research, of artistic creativity and of the study of man. Allowing their talents and activity to be nourished by the living force of the Gospel, they ought to place themselves at the service of a new culture of life by offering serious and well documented contributions, capable of commanding general respect and interest by reason of their merit. It was precisely for this purpose that I established the Pontifical Academy for Life, assigning it the task of “studying and providing information and training about the principal problems of law and biomedicine pertaining to the promotion of life, especially in the direct relationship they have with Christian morality and the directives of the Churchs Magisterium.”132 A specific contribution will also have to come from Universities, particularly from Catholic Universities, and from Centers, Institutes and Committees of Bioethics.

An important and serious responsibility belongs to those involved in the mass media, who are called to ensure that the messages which they so effectively transmit will support the culture of life. They need to present noble models of life and make room for instances of peoples positive and sometimes heroic love for others. With great respect they should also present the positive values of sexuality and human love, and not insist on what defiles and cheapens human dignity. In their interpretation of things, they should refrain from emphasizing anything that suggests or fosters feelings or attitudes of indifference, contempt, or rejection in relation to life. With scrupulous concern for factual truth, they are called to combine freedom of information with respect for every person and a profound sense of humanity.

99. In transforming culture so that it supports life, women occupy a place, in thought and action, which is unique and decisive. It depends on them to promote a “new feminism” which rejects the temptation of imitating models of “male domination,” in order to acknowledge and affirm the true genius of women in every aspect of the life of society, and overcome all discrimination, violence and exploitation.

Making my own the words of the concluding message of the Second Vatican Council, I address to women this urgent appeal: “Reconcile people with life.”133 You are called to bear witness to the meaning of genuine love, of that gift of self and of that acceptance of others which are present in a special way in the relationship of husband and wife, but which ought also to be at the heart of every other interpersonal relationship. The experience of motherhood makes you acutely aware of the other person and, at the same time, confers on you a particular task: “Motherhood involves a special communion with the mystery of life, as it develops in the womans womb … This unique contact with the new human being developing within her gives rise to an attitude towards human beings not only towards her own child, but every human being, which profoundly marks the womans personality.”134 A mother welcomes and carries in herself another human being, enabling it to grow inside her, giving it room, respecting it in its otherness. Women first learn and then teach others that human relations are authentic if they are open to accepting the other person: a person who is recognized and loved because of the dignity which comes from being a person and not from other considerations, such as usefulness, strength, intelligence, beauty or health. This is the fundamental contribution which the Church and humanity expect from women. And it is the indispensable prerequisite for an authentic cultural change.

I would now like to say a special word to women who have had an abortion. The Church is aware of the many factors which may have influenced your decision, and she does not doubt that in many cases it was a painful and even shattering decision. The wound in your heart may not yet have healed. Certainly what happened was and remains terribly wrong. But do not give in to discouragement and do not lose hope. Try rather to understand what happened and face it honestly. If you have not already done so, give yourselves over with humility and trust to repentance. The Father of mercies is ready to give you his forgiveness and his peace in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. You will come to understand that nothing is definitively lost and you will also be able to ask forgiveness from your child, who is now living in the Lord. With the friendly and expert help and advice of other people, and as a result of your own painful experience, you can be among the most eloquent defenders of everyones right to life. Through your commitment to life, whether by accepting the birth of other children or by welcoming and caring for those most in need of someone to be close to them, you will become promoters of a new way of looking at human life.

100. In this great endeavor to create a new culture of life we are inspired and sustained by the confidence that comes from knowing that the Gospel of life, like the Kingdom of God itself, is growing and producing abundant fruit (cf. Mk 4:26-29). There is certainly an enormous disparity between the powerful resources available to the forces promoting the “culture of death” and the means at the disposal of those working for a “culture of life and love.” But we know that we can rely on the help of God, for whom nothing is impossible (cf. Mt 19:26).

Filled with this certainty, and moved by profound concern for the destiny of every man and woman, I repeat what I said to those families who carry out their challenging mission amid so many difficulties: 135 a great prayer for life is urgently needed, a prayer which will rise up throughout the world. Through special initiatives and in daily prayer, may an impassioned plea rise to God, the Creator and lover of life, from every Christian community, from every group and association, from every family and from the heart of every believer. Jesus himself has shown us by his own example that prayer and fasting are the first and most effective weapons against the forces of evil (cf. Mt 4:1-11). As he taught his disciples, some demons cannot be driven out except in this way (cf. Mk 9:29). Let us therefore discover anew the humility and the courage to pray and fast so that power from on high will break down the walls of lies and deceit: the walls which conceal from the sight of so many of our brothers and sisters the evil of practices and laws which are hostile to life. May this same power turn their hearts to resolutions and goals inspired by the civilization of life and love.

We are writing this that our joy may be complete” (1 Jn 1:4): the Gospel of life is for the whole of human society

101. “We are writing you this that our joy may be complete” (1 Jn 1:4). The revelation of the Gospel of life is given to us as a good to be shared with all people: so that all men and women may have fellowship with us and with the Trinity (cf. 1 Jn 1:3). Our own joy would not be complete if we failed to share this Gospel with others but kept it only for ourselves.

The Gospel of life is not for believers alone: it is for everyone. The issue of life and its defense and promotion is not a concern of Christians alone. Although faith provides special light and strength, this question arises in every human conscience which seeks the truth and which cares about the future of humanity. Life certainly has a sacred and religious value, but in no way is that value a concern only of believers. The value at stake is one which every human being can grasp by the light of reason; thus it necessarily concerns everyone.

Consequently, all that we do as the “people of life and for life” should be interpreted correctly and welcomed with favor. When the Church declares that unconditional respect for the right to life of every innocent personfrom conception to natural deathis one of the pillars on which every civil society stands, she “wants simply to promote a human State. A State which recognizes the defense of the fundamental rights of the human person, especially of the weakest, as its primary duty.”136

The Gospel of life is for the whole of human society. To be actively pro-life is to contribute to the renewal of society through the promotion of the common good. It is impossible to further the common good without acknowledging and defending the right to life, upon which all the other inalienable rights of individuals are founded and from which they develop. A society lacks solid foundations when, on the one hand, it asserts values such as the dignity of the person, justice and peace, but then, on the other hand, radically acts to the contrary by allowing or tolerating a variety of ways in which human life is devalued and violated, especially where it is weak or marginalized. Only respect for life can be the foundation and guarantee of the most precious and essential goods of society, such as democracy and peace.

There can be no true democracy without a recognition of every persons dignity and without respect for his or her rights.

Nor can there be true peace unless life is defended and promoted. As Paul VI pointed out: “Every crime against life is an attack on peace, especially if it strikes at the moral conduct of people… But where human rights are truly professed and publicly recognized and defended, peace becomes the joyful and operative climate of life in society.”137

The “people of life” rejoices in being able to share its commitment with so many others. Thus may the “people for life” constantly grow in number and may a new culture of love and solidarity develop for the true good of the whole of human society.

Conclusion

102. At the end of this Encyclical, we naturally look again to the Lord Jesus, “the Child born for us” (cf. Is 9:6), that in him we may contemplate “the Life” which “was made manifest” (1 Jn 1:2). In the mystery of Christs Birth the encounter of God with man takes place and the earthly journey of the Son of God begins, a journey which will culminate in the gift of his life on the Cross. By his death Christ will conquer death and become for all humanity the source of new life.

The one who accepted “Life” in the name of all and for the sake of all was Mary, the Virgin Mother; she is thus most closely and personally associated with the Gospel of life. Marys consent at the Annunciation and her motherhood stand at the very beginning of the mystery of life which Christ came to bestow on humanity (cf. Jn 10:10). Through her acceptance and loving care for the life of the Incarnate Word, human life has been rescued from condemnation to final and eternal death.

For this reason, Mary, “like the Church of which she is the type, is a mother of all who are reborn to life. She is in fact the mother of the Life by which everyone lives, and when she brought it forth from herself she in some way brought to rebirth all those who were to live by that Life.”138

As the Church contemplates Marys motherhood, she discovers the meaning of her own motherhood and the way in which she is called to express it. At the same time, the Churchs experience of motherhood leads to a most profound understanding of Marys experience as the incomparable model of how life should be welcomed and cared for.

A great portent appeared in heaven, a woman clothed with the sun” (Rev 12:1): the motherhood of Mary and of the Church

103. The mutual relationship between the mystery of the Church and Mary appears clearly in the “great portent” described in the Book of Revelation: “A great portent appeared in heaven, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars” (12:1). In this sign the Church recognizes an image of her own mystery: present in history, she knows that she transcends history, inasmuch as she constitutes on earth the “seed and beginning” of the Kingdom of God.139 The Church sees this mystery fulfilled in complete and exemplary fashion in Mary. She is the woman of glory in whom Gods plan could be carried out with supreme perfection.

The “woman clothed with the sun”the Book of Revelation tells us”was with child” (12:2). The Church is fully aware that she bears within herself the Savior of the world, Christ the Lord. She is aware that she is called to offer Christ to the world, giving men and women new birth into Gods own life. But the Church cannot forget that her mission was made possible by the motherhood of Mary, who conceived and bore the One who is “God from God,” “true God from true God.” Mary is truly the Mother of God, the Theotokos, in whose motherhood the vocation to motherhood bestowed by God on every woman is raised to its highest level. Thus Mary becomes the model of the Church, called to be the “new Eve,” the mother of believers, the mother of the “living” (cf. Gen 3:20).

The Churchs spiritual motherhood is only achievedthe Church knows this toothrough the pangs and “the labor” of childbirth (cf. Rev 12:2), that is to say, in constant tension with the forces of evil which still roam the world and affect human hearts, offering resistance to Christ: “In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (Jn 1:4-5).

Like the Church, Mary too had to live her motherhood amid suffering: “This child is set … for a sign that is spoken againstand a sword will pierce through your own soul alsothat thoughts out of many hearts may be revealed” (Lk 2:34-35). The words which Simeon addresses to Mary at the very beginning of the Saviors earthly life sum up and prefigure the rejection of Jesus, and with him of Mary, a rejection which will reach its culmination on Calvary. “Standing by the cross of Jesus” (Jn 19:25), Mary shares in the gift which the Son makes of himself: she offers Jesus, gives him over, and begets him to the end for our sake. The “yes” spoken on the day of the Annunciation reaches full maturity on the day of the Cross, when the time comes for Mary to receive and beget as her children all those who become disciples, pouring out upon them the saving love of her Son: “When Jesus saw his mother, and the disciple whom he loved standing near, he said to his mother, Woman, behold, your son! ” (Jn 19:26).

And the dragon stood before the woman … that he might devour her child when she brought it forth” (Rev 12:4): life menaced by the forces of evil

104. In the Book of Revelation, the “great portent” of the “woman” (12:1) is accompanied by “another portent which appeared in heaven”: “a great red dragon” (Rev 12:3), which represents Satan, the personal power of evil, as well as all the powers of evil at work in history and opposing the Churchs mission.

Here too Mary sheds light on the Community of Believers. The hostility of the powers of evil is, in fact, an insidious opposition which, before affecting the disciples of Jesus, is directed against his mother. To save the life of her Son from those who fear him as a dangerous threat, Mary has to flee with Joseph and the Child into Egypt (cf. Mt 2:13-15).

Mary thus helps the Church to realize that life is always at the center of a great struggle between good and evil, between light and darkness. The dragon wishes to devour “the child brought forth” (cf. Rev 12:4), a figure of Christ, whom Mary brought forth “in the fullness of time” (Gal 4:4) and whom the Church must unceasingly offer to people in every age. But in a way, that child is also a figure of every person, every child, especially every helpless baby whose life is threatened, becauseas the Council reminds us”by his Incarnation the Son of God has united himself in some fashion with every person.”140 It is precisely in the “flesh” of every person that Christ continues to reveal himself and to enter into fellowship with us, so that rejection of human life, in whatever form that rejection takes, is really a rejection of Christ. This is the fascinating but also demanding truth which Christ reveals to us and which his Church continues untiringly to proclaim: “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me” (Mt 18:5); “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me” (Mt 25:40).

Death shall be no more” (Rev 21:4): the splendor of the Resurrection

105. The angels Annunciation to Mary is framed by these reassuring words: “Do not be afraid, Mary” and “with God nothing will be impossible” (Lk 1:30, 37). The whole of the Virgin Mothers life is in fact pervaded by the certainty that God is near to her and that he accompanies her with his providential care. The same is true of the Church, which finds “a place prepared by God” (Rev 12:6) in the desert, the place of trial but also of the manifestation of Gods love for his people (cf. Hos 2:16). Mary is a living word of comfort for the Church in her struggle against death. Showing us the Son, the Church assures us that in him the forces of death have already been defeated: “Death with life contended: combat strangely ended! Lifes own Champion, slain, yet lives to reign.”141

The Lamb who was slain

is alive, bearing the marks of his Passion in the splendor of the Resurrection. He alone is master of all the events of history: he opens its “seals” (cf. Rev 5:1-10) and proclaims, in time and beyond, the power of life over death. In the “new Jerusalem,” that new world towards which human history is travelling, “death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain any more, for the former things have passed away” (Rev 21:4).

And as we, the pilgrim people, the people of life and for life, make our way in confidence towards “a new heaven and a new earth” (Rev 21:1), we look to her who is for us “a sign of sure hope and solace.”142

O Mary,

bright dawn of the new world, Mother of the living, to you do we entrust the cause of life Look down, O Mother, upon the vast numbers of babies not allowed to be born, of the poor whose lives are made difficult, of men and women who are victims of brutal violence, of the elderly and the sick killed by indifference or out of misguided mercy. Grant that all who believe in your Son may proclaim the Gospel of life with honesty and love to the people of our time. Obtain for them the grace to accept that Gospel as a gift ever new, the joy of celebrating it with gratitude throughout their lives and the courage to bear witness to it resolutely, in order to build, together with all people of good will, the civilization of truth and love, to the praise and glory of God, the Creator and lover of life.

Given in Rome, at Saint Peters, on 25 March, the Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord, in the year 1995, the seventeenth of my Pontificate.

Notes

1

The expression “Gospel of life” is not found as such in Sacred Scripture. But it does correspond to an essential dimension of the biblical message.

2

Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World Gaudium et Spes, 22.

3

Cf. John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Redemptor Hominis (4 March 1979), 10; AAS 71 (1979), 275.

4

Cf. ibid., 14: loc.cit., 285.

5

Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World Gaudium et Spes, 27.

6

Cf. Letter to all my Brothers in the Episcopate regarding the “Gospel of Life” (19 May 1991): Insegnamenti XIV, 1 (1991), 1293-1296.

7

Ibid., loc.cit., p. 1294.

8

Letter to Families Gratissimam sane (2 February 1994), 4: AAS 86 (1994), 871.

9

John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Centesimus Annus (1 May 1991), 39: AAS 83 (1991), 842.

10

No. 2259.

11

Saint Ambrose, De Noe, 26:94-96: CSEL 32, 480-481.

12

Cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, Nos. 1867 and 2268.

13

De Cain et Abel, II, 10, 38: CSEL, 32, 408.

14

Cf. Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Instruction on Respect for Human Life in its Origin and on the Dignity of Procreation Donum Vitae: AAS 80 (1988), 70-102.

15

Address during the Prayer Vigil for the Eighth World Youth Day, Denver, 14 August 1993, II, 3: AAS 86 (1994), 419.

16

John Paul II, Address to the Participants at the Study Conference on “The Right to Life and Europe”, 18 December 1987: Insegnamenti, X, 3 (1987), 1446-1447.

17

Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World Gaudium et Spes, 36.

18

Cf. ibid., 16.

19

Cf. Saint Gregory the Great, Moralia in Job, 13, 23: CCL 143A, 683.

20

John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Redemptor Hominis (4 March 1979), 10; AAS 71 (1979), 274.

21

Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World Gaudium et Spes, 50.

22

Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation Dei Verbum, 4.

23

“Gloria Dei vivens homo”: Adversus Haereses, IV, 20, 7: SCh 100/2, 648-649.

24

Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World Gaudium et Spes, 12.

25

Confessions, I, 1: CCL 27, 1.

26

Exameron, VI, 75-76: CSEL 32, 260-261.

27

“Vita autem hominis visio Dei”: Adversus Haereses, IV, 20, 7: SCh 100/2, 648-649.

28

Cf. John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Centesimus Annus (1 May 1991), 38: AAS 83 (1991), 840-841.

29

John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Sollicitudo Rei Socialis (30 December 1987), 34: AAS 80 (1988), 560.

30

Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World Gaudium et Spes, 50.

31

Letter to Families Gratissimam sane (2 February 1994), 9: AAS 86 (1994), 878; cf. Pius XII, Encyclical Letter Humani Generis (12 August 1950): AAS 42 (1950), 574.

32

“Animas enim a Deo immediate creari catholica fides nos retinere iubet”: Pius XII, Encyclical Letter Humani Generis (12 August 1950): AAS 42 (1950), 575.

33

Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World Gaudium et Spes, 50; cf. John Paul II, Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris Consortio (22 November 1981), 28: AAS 74 (1982), 114.

34

Homilies, II, 1; CCSG 3, 39.

35

See, for example, Psalms 22:10-11; 71:6; 139:13-14.

36

Expositio Evangelii secundum Lucam, II, 22-23: CCL, 14, 40-41.

37

Saint Ignatius of Antioch, Letter to the Ephesians, 7, 2: Patres Apostolici, ed. F.X. Funk, II, 82.

38

De Hominis Opificio, 4: PG 44, 136.

39

Cf. Saint John Damascene, De Fide Orthodoxa, 2, 12: PG 94, 920.922, quoted in Saint Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae, I-II, Prologue.

40

Paul VI, Encyclical Letter Humanae Vitae (25 July 1968), 13: AAS 60 (1968), 489.

41

Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Instruction on Respect for Human Life in its Origin and on the Dignity of Procreation Donum Vitae (22 February 1987), Introduction, No. 5: AAS 80 (1988), 76-77; cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, No. 2258.

42

Didache, I, 1; II, 1-2; V, 1 and 3: Patres Apostolici, ed. F.X. Funk, I, 2-3, 6-9, 14-17; cf. Letter of Pseudo-Barnabas, XIX, 5: loc. cit., 90-93.

43

Cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, Nos. 2263-2269; cf. also Catechism of the Council of Trent III, 327-332.

44

Catechism of the Catholic Church, No. 2265.

45

Cf. Saint Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae, II-II, q. 64, a. 7; Saint Alphonsus De Liguori, Theologia Moralis, l. III, tr. 4, c. 1, dub.3.

46

Catechism of the Catholic Church, No. 2266.

47

Cf. ibid.

48

No. 2267.

49

Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church Lumen Gentium, 12.

50

Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World Gaudium et Spes, 27.

51

Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church Lumen Gentium, 25.

52

Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Declaration on Euthanasia Iura et Bona (5 May 1980), II: AAS 72 (1980), 546.

53

Encyclical Letter Veritatis Splendor (6 August 1993), 96: AAS 85 (1993), 1209.

54

Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World Gaudium et Spes, 51, “Abortus necnon infanticidium nefanda sunt crimina”.

55

Cf. John Paul II, Apostolic Letter Mulieris Dignitatem (15 August 1988), 14: AAS 80 (1988), 1686.

56

No. 21: AAS 86 (1994), 920.

57

Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Declaration on Procured Abortion (18 November 1974), Nos. 12-13: AAS 66 (1974), 738.

58

Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Instruction on Respect for Human Life in its Origin and on the Dignity of Procreation Donum Vitae (22 February 1987), I, No. 1: AAS 80 (1988), 78-79.

59

Ibid., loc. cit., 79.

60

Hence the Prophet Jeremiah: “The word of the Lord came to me saying: Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations” (1:4-5). The Psalmist, for his part, addresses the Lord in these words: “Upon you I have leaned from my birth; you are he who took me from my mothers womb” (Ps 71:6; cf. Is 46:3; Job 10:8-12; Ps 22:10-11). So too the Evangelist Luke in the magnificent episode of the meeting of the two mothers, Elizabeth and Mary, and their two sons, John the Baptist and Jesus, still hidden in their mothers wombs (cf. 1:39-45) emphasizes how even before their birth the two little ones are able to communicate: the child recognizes the coming of the Child and leaps for joy.

61

Cf. Declaration on Procured Abortion (18 November 1974), No. 7: AAS 66 (1974), 740-747.

62

“You shall not kill a child by abortion nor shall you kill it once it is born”: V, 2: Patres Apostolici, ed. F.X. Funk, I, 17.

63

Apologia on behalf of the Christians, 35: PG 6, 969.

64

Apologeticum, IX, 8: CSEL 69, 24.

65

Cf. Encyclical Letter Casti Connubii (31 December 1930), II: AAS 22 (1930), 562-592.

66

Address to the Biomedical Association “San Luca” (12 November 1944): Discorsi e Radiomessaggi, VI (1944-1945), 191; cf. Address to the Italian Catholic Union of Midwives (29 October 1951), No. 2: AAS 43 (1951), 838.

67

Encyclical Letter Mater et Magistra (15 May 1961), 3: AAS 53 (1961), 447.

68

Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World Gaudium et Spes, 51.

69

Canon 2350, 1.

70

Code of Canon Law, canon 1398; cf. Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches, canon 1450, 2.

71

Cf. ibid., canon 1329; also Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches, canon 1417.

72

Cf. Address to the National Congress of Italian Jurists (9 December 1972): AAS 64 (1972), 777; Encyclical Letter Humanae Vitae (25 July 1968), 14: AAS 60 (1968), 490.

73

Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church Lumen Gentium, 25.

74

Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Instruction on Respect for Human Life in its Origin and on the Dignity of Procreation Donum Vitae (22 February 1987), I, 3: AAS 80 (1988), 80.

75

Charter of the Rights of the Family (22 October 1983), article 4b: Vatican Polyglot Press, 1983.

76

Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Declaration on Euthanasia Iura et Bona (5 May 1980), II: AAS 72 (1980), 546.

77

Ibid., IV: loc. cit., 551.

78

Cf. ibid.

79

Pius XII, Address to an International Group of Physicians (24 February 1957), III: AAS 49 (1957), 147; cf. Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Declaration on Euthanasia Iura et Bona, III: AAS 72 (1980), 547-548.

80

Pius XII, Address to an International Group of Physicians (24 February 1957), III: AAS 49 (1957), 145.

81

Pius XII, Address to an International Group of Physicians (24 February 1957): loc. cit., 129-147; Congregation of the Holy Office, Decretum de directa insontium occisione (2 December 1940): AAS 32 (1940), 553-554; Paul VI, Message to French Television: “Every life is sacred” (27 January 1971): Insegnamenti IX (1971), 57-58; Address to the International College of Surgeons (1 June 1972): AAS 64 (1972), 432-436; Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World Gaudium et Spes, 27.

82

Cf. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church Lumen Gentium, 25.

83

Cf. Saint Augustine, De Civitate Dei I, 20: CCL 47, 22; Saint Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae, II-II, q. 6, a. 5.

84

Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Declaration on Euthanasia Iura et Bona (5 May 1980), I: AAS 72 (1980), 545; Catechism of the Catholic Church, Nos. 2281-2283.

85

Ep. 204, 5: CSEL 57, 320.

86

Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World Gaudium et Spes, 18.

87

Cf. John Paul II, Apostolic Letter Salvifici Doloris (11 February 1984), 14-24: AAS 76 (1984), 214-234.

88

Cf. John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Centesimus Annus (1 May 1991), 46: AAS 83 (1991), 850; Pius XII, Christmas Radio Message (24 December 1944): AAS 37 (1945), 10-20.

89

Cf. John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Veritatis Splendor (6 August 1993), 97 and 99: AAS 85 (1993), 1209-1211.

90

Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Instruction on Respect for Human Life in its Origin and on the Dignity of Procreation Donum Vitae (22 February 1987), III: AAS 80 (1988), 98.

91

Cf. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Declaration on Religious Freedom Dignitatis Humanae, 7.

92

Cf. Saint Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae I-II, q. 96, a. 2.

93

Cf. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Declaration on Religious Freedom Dignitatis Humanae, 7.

94

Encyclical Letter Pacem in Terris (11 April 1963), II: AAS 55 (1963), 273-274. The internal quote is from Pius XII, Radio Message of Pentecost 1941 (1 June 1941): AAS 33 (1941), 200. On this topic, the Encyclical cites: Pius XII, Encyclical Letter Mit brennender Sorge (14 March 1937): AAS 29 (1937): AAS 29 (1937), 159; Encyclical Letter Divini Redemptoris (19 March 1937), III: AAS 29 (1937), 79; Pius XII, Christmas Radio Message (24 December 1942): AAS 35 (1943), 9-24.

95

Encyclical Letter Pacem in Terris (11 April 1963), II: loc. cit., 271.

96

Summa Theologiae I-II, q. 93, a. 3, ad 2um.

97

Ibid., I-II, q. 95, a. 2. Aquinas quotes Saint Augustine: “Non videtur esse lex, quae iusta non fuerit”, De Libero Arbitrio, I, 5, 11: PL 32, 1227.

98

Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Declaration on Procured Abortion (18 November 1974), No. 22: AAS 66 (1974), 744.

99

Cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, Nos. 1753-1755; John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Veritatis Splendor (6 August 1993), 81-82: AAS 85 (1993), 1198-1199.

100

In Iohannis Evangelium Tractatus, 41, 10: CCL 36, 363; cf. John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Veritatis Splendor (6 August 1993), 13: AAS 85 (1993), 1144.

101

Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Nuntiandi (8 December 1975), 14: AAS 68 (1976), 13.

102

Cf. Roman Missal, prayer of the celebrant before communion.

103

Cf. Saint Irenaeus: “Omnem novitatem attulit, semetipsum afferens, qui fuerat annuntiatus”, Adversus Haereses: IV, 34, 1: SCh 100/2, 846-847.

104

Cf. Saint Thomas Aquinas, “Peccator inveterascit, recedens a novitate Christi”, In Psalmos Davidis Lectura: 6,5.

105

De Beatitudinibus, Oratio VII: PG 44, 1280.

106

Cf. John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Veritatis Splendor (6 August 1993), 116: AAS 85 (1993), 1224.

107

Cf. John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Centesimus Annus (1 May 1991), 37: AAS 83 (1991), 840.

108

Cf. Message for Christmas 1967: AAS 60 (1968), 40.

109

PseudoDionysius the Areopagite, On the Divine Names, 6, 1-3: PG 3, 856-857.

110

Paul VI, Pensiero alla Morte, Istituto Paolo VI, Brescia 1988, 24.

111

John Paul II, Homily for the Beatification of Isidore Bakanja, Elisabetta Canori Mora and Gianna Beretta Molla (24 April 1994): LOsservatore Romano, 25-26 April 1994, 5.

112

Ibid.

113

In Matthaeum, Hom. L, 3: PG 58, 508.

114

Catechism of the Catholic Church, No. 2372.

115

John Paul II, Address to the Fourth General Conference of Latin American Bishops in Santo Domingo (12 October 1992), No. 15: AAS 85 (1993), 819.

116

Cf. Decree on Ecumenism Unitatis Redintegratio, 12; Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World Gaudium et Spes, 90.

117

John Paul II, Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris Consortio (22 November 1981), 17: AAS 74 (1982), 100.

118

Cf. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World Gaudium et Spes, 50.

119

John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Centesimus Annus (1 May 1991), 39: AAS 83 (1991), 842.

120

John Paul II, Address to Participants in the Seventh Symposium of European Bishops, on the theme of “Contemporary Attitudes towards Life and Death: a Challenge for Evangelization” (17 October 1989), No. 5: Insegnamenti XII, 2 (1989), 945. Children are presented in the Biblical tradition precisely as Gods gift (cf. Ps 127:3) and as a sign of his blessing on those who walk in his ways (cf. Ps 128:3-4).

121

John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Sollicitudo Rei Socialis (30 December 1987), 38: AAS 80 (1988), 565-566.

122

John Paul II, Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris Consortio (22 November 1981), 86: AAS 74 (1982), 188.

123

Paul VI, Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Nuntiandi (8 December 1975), 18: AAS 68 (1976), 17.

124

Cf. ibid., 20: loc. cit., 18.

125

Cf. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World Gaudium et Spes, 24.

126

Cf. John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Centesimus Annus (1 May 1991), 17: AAS 83 (1991), 814; Encyclical Letter Veritatis Splendor (6 August 1993), 95-101: AAS 85 (1993), 1208-1213.

127

John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Centesimus Annus (1 May 1991), 24: AAS 83 (1991), 822.

128

John Paul II, Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris Consortio (22 November 1981), 37: AAS 74 (1982), 128.

129

Letter establishing the World Day of the Sick (13 May 1992), No. 2: Insegnamenti XV, 1 (1992), 1410.

130

Cf. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World Gaudium et Spes, 35; Paul VI, Encyclical Letter Populorum Progressio (26 March 1967), 15: AAS 59 (1967), 265.

131

Cf. John Paul II, Letter to Families Gratissimam sane (2 February 1994), 13: AAS 86 (1994), 892.

132

John Paul II, Motu Proprio Vitae Mysterium (11 February 1994), 4: AAS 86 (1994), 386-387.

133

Closing Message of the Council (8 December 1965): To Women.

134

John Paul II, Apostolic Letter Mulieris Dignitatem (15 August 1988), 18: AAS 80 (1988), 1696.

135

Cf. John Paul II, Letter to Families Gratissimam sane (2 February 1994), 5: AAS 86 (1994), 872.

136

John Paul II, Address to Participants in the Study Conference on “The Right to Life in Europe” (18 December 1987): Insegnamenti X, 3 (1987), 1446.

137

Message for the 1977 World Day of Peace: AAS 68 (1976), 711-712.

138

Blessed Guerric of Igny, In Assumptione B. Mariae, Sermo I, 2: PL 185, 188.

139

Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church Lumen Gentium, 5.

140

Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World Gaudium et Spes, 22.

141

Roman Missal, Sequence for Easter Sunday.

142

Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church Lumen Gentium, 68.

Civilization of Love Tools

Building The Civilization Of Love
One Life At A Time


by Vince Sacksteder



Openness to Children


On our Dandelion and Rose poster, by the roots of the rose are five strategies for building the Civilization of Love. They are Openness to Children, Premarital Chastity, Natural Family Planning, Marital Faithfulness, and Fertility Appreciation. The more I think about these, the more I realize that each one is a powerful tool for building the Civilization of Love. We can all do something (or lots of things) to make a difference. Openness to children is a great place to start.


First, look inside yourself. How much do you treasure children? One woman who helps at One More Soul had been using Natural Family Planning for years to postpone having another child. She and her husband finally decided to let fertility have a chance. Their child, Faith Elizabeth, is with us now. What a joy! Some of us married folk may be feeling the call to welcome another child into our family. Listen to the Spirit; this may be the perfect time! Even if you are past childbearing age, or single, there are still great opportunities to welcome children. Smile when you see a child, or wave. Coo at babies. Never let a harried mother get by without a friendly word. Actively look for opportunities to help young families. For example, a single person or childless couple could “adopt” a family (or vice versa) by helping with baby-sitting, participating in birthday celebrations, etc. This kind of practical love is the foundation of the Civilization of Love.


Second, look around you. Nearly everyone of childbearing age is pressured by our culture to contracept. That means your brothers and sisters, your nieces and nephews, and all your neighbors. There are medical doctors in my family who freely prescribe contraceptives. People simply don’t know the dreadful things contraceptives do to people’s bodies and relationships. We can help! Be alert for opportunities. Build strong relationships with those around you, and then, at the right moment, don’t be afraid to speak the truth in love. God will take care of the rest. Take every chance you get to talk about the blessings of having children. My wife and I have eleven on earth and maybe others in heaven. Believe me, I know that childcare doesn’t always feel like a blessing, but these children are our greatest joy on earth. Speaking about the blessings of children is a breath of fresh air in our dark world. It sinks into people’s souls and lifts them up. If you need ideas about what to say, our website is loaded with them, and we are here to help.


Third, look at organizations. Newspapers, churches, schools, etc., offer wonderful opportunities to spread the message of how good children are and how much trouble contraceptives cause. After all, without children, the human family disappears, and at least half the divorces in the US would never have happened without contraceptives. Whenever the newspaper runs a “news” piece about how great contraceptives are for women, write a letter telling the truth. When there is news about horrors like a young mom abandoning her infant in a dumpster, write a letter about the supreme gift that children are. Get to know teachers, school board members, etc. and get the truth into the schools. Work with your pastor to support him in getting the truth out. Do what it takes to elect government officials who will act according to the truth. Sometimes whole organizations (e.g. Knights of Columbus, Elks) can help spread the message. There are great opportunities!


The task is huge, but the good news is that there are many of us to work on it. Every one of us can make an important difference. Even better, God is on our side. We know how much He loves life. Through His grace, we can transform our world!


Premarital Chastity


by Vince & Bernadette M. Sacksteder

On our Dandelion and Rose poster, by the roots of the rose are strategies for building the Civilization of Love. They are Openness to Children, Premarital Chastity, Natural Family Planning, Marital Faithfulness, and Fertility Appreciation. In a special series of articles, we’ve been examining each one to see how we can use them to transform our world. Premarital Chastity is the basic strategy that enables all the others. Sometimes we think that chastity is just a message we preach to teenagers, but it is something each of us needs to practice every day.


Start with personal commitment. Are you determined to live a chaste life? Everything we put in our heads (movies, books and images) needs to reflect the dignity of the human person and the sacredness of sex. We can use the way we talk to reflect this dignity, avoiding jokes that trivialize or mock sex, and looking for opportunities to speak of real love. Sometimes we can’t avoid images, especially in advertising and popular media, that are inappropriate. It’s important to think of the people in these pictures as real people, not just something fun to look at. It takes a conscious effort. Ask yourself questions like, “Who is this person?” “What kind of laundry detergent do they use?” Imagine them as your sister or brother. Making these choices, over and over, joins us to the pure mind of Christ, who looked on even prostitutes with saving love.


At the same time, consider how you treat those around you. People are desperate for someone to give them the respect due to a child of God. If you’re a man, make a commitment to honor and respect the dignity of each woman you meet, no matter what she’s doing, or how she’s dressed. If you’re a woman, resolve not to manipulate the men in your life or regard them as overgrown children. Dress in a way that encourages men to see your dignity as a person, not a sex object. We need to help the men around us get to heaven more than we need to attract their attention.


If you have children, or can influence teenagers, help them choose chastity. Show them how to build healthy, chaste relationships. You could be saving them from a lifetime of pain. Research shows that children often base their sexual choices on their parents’ advice. Help your children see sex as something beautiful and good to be shared with one special person, not something cheap and casual that deserves mockery.


Honor the heroes of chastity: couples who save sex for their wedding night; single men and women who guard their purity; priests, religious, and others who are living holy celibacy. Honor those who struggle with same-sex attractions withoutgiving in to a homosexual lifestyle. Often these people feel like freaks in our sex-obsessed culture, but they are the heroes of this battle – duking it out every day where the fighting is fiercest.


We can change our culture for the better. When you see advertisements that use sex or the human body to sell products, let the advertisers know you are offended and refuse to buy the product. When networks air shows degrading sex or promoting immodesty, write the producers and let them know you don’t want this piped into your home. Note which companies advertise during those shows, stop buying their products, and tell them why. When radio DJs degrade sex, let the radio stations and their advertisers know you are not amused.


There is a great battle being fought in our schools for the hearts and minds of the next generation. Many abstinence educators are working valiantly to spread the message that chastity is the only viable choice. You can help: abstinence educators need single people to inspire teens, and married people to show that a good marriage is worth waiting for. When others promote condoms in the schools, let the schools know that condoms don’t protect against anything (even AIDS). Condoms only reduce, not eliminate the risk, and make matters worse by encouraging risky behavior. If there is no abstinence program in your area, start one. There are terrific chastity educators and organizations that can help you get started.


Our legislators also need to hear that abstinence education works when they are debating how to spend federal money, or determining how AIDS prevention funds should be used. Organizations can invite speakers about chastity and abstinence into schools and workplaces. Most abstinence programs offer adult presentations, and many work places have “brown bag lunch” speakers. Employers sometimes even pay their employees to attend “how to talk to your kids about sex” sessions. After all, better parents make better, less stressed workers.


There are endless ways to help; we just need to discern where God is calling us. There is so much to be done! The rewards are incalculable. As we make chastity real in our own lives, and help others make it real in theirs, we will see our world change. Through chastity we learn how to love as God loves. When we do, the Civilization of Love is present wherever we are.


For more information about chastity resources, or how you can help, call One More Soul, or check out the following website: www.abstinence.net

Marital Faithfulness


On our Dandelion and Rose poster, by the roots of the rose are five strategies for building the Civilization of Love. They are Openness to Children, Premarital Chastity, Natural Family Planning, Marital Faithfulness, and Fertility Appreciation. In a special series of articles in the One More Soul Update, we’ve been examining each one to see how they can be used to transform our world. Marital Faithfulness is a fundamental building block for the Civilization of Love. When marriages collapse, civilization collapses. Building healthy marriages is crucial to ensure our culture rests on a stable foundation.


Marriage, of course, starts with love. For those of us lucky enough to be married, this is the core of our lives. Every day we struggle with the littleness of our love and the great debt of honor and tenderness that we owe our spouses. Don’t turn away from this challenge – it is the lifeblood of the Civilization of Love. The love that spouses pour out to each other flows through all the community, changing things for the better. It is like oxygen in a polluted world, helping us all breathe easier. Every one of us, married or single, must support couples as they labor to build love into the community. We need to educate our hearts about the great good that abides in and comes from marital love, and show this vision to those around us.


One simple way to help those around you see this is to compliment married couples on the goodness of their marriage: “What a lovely couple you make!” Let them know the good you see in them and the hope you have for their joy. When you see a couple struggling under their load (it can be fierce), encourage them and do whatever will help. Those blessed with the single life have a special part to play in this. Single persons are the extra hearts and hands of the community. They can make all the difference when a couple is having difficulties. Once, my wife and I were so sick with the flu that we couldn’t stand up. Two neighbor families divided our five small children between them until we could get up again. Of course, they all got the flu too, but I know that God has rewarded them abundantly. We can never pay that favor back, but we try to pass it on.


People today fear marriage. They have so much experience with divorce – their parents, close relatives, even themselves –they settle for a sex partner instead of a spouse. It is hard to find hope. For many, seeing is believing. Too many have never seen a marriage really work. They need someone to show them how good a marriage can be. Only then will they believe that such a marriage can really exist. There are so many who need to be told that they can have a wholehearted relationship, not by their own power, but with the help and grace of God.


There are simple things organizations can do to help. Newspapers like to run articles about childhood sweethearts who are now celebrating their 50th or 60th anniversary. On Valentine’s Day there are sure to be articles about husbands and wives. If these publications do a good job, let them know. Send them story opportunities ahead of time, and letters to the editor later affirming how good marriage is. If publications praise adultery or fornication, challenge them. Churches can do more to honor marriages that last and the spouses who made them last. Programs could be developed for schools to expose students to couples who have had long successful marriages. There are many great possibilities here – God will show you which ones are for you to do.


It’s time to turn our world upside down – I mean right side up. Marriage has been regarded as silly, outmoded, an enemy of freedom, etc., long enough. It is time to show instead how glorious marriage can be: an awesome opportunity to share in the very love of God and make that love physically present in our world.

Natural Family Planning


On our Dandelion and Rose poster, by the roots of the rose are five strategies for building the Civilization of Love. They are Openness to Children, Premarital Chastity, Marital Faithfulness, Natural Family Planning, and Fertility Appreciation. In a special series of articles in the One More Soul Update, we’ve been examining each one to see how they can be used to transform our world. The first three operate as weapons of defense, but with the last two we go onto the offense, especially with Natural Family Planning. The fact is that when a couple chooses Natural Family Planning (NFP) they open themselves to life and love in a radical way. Everything is different after that, and better! Each of us needs to become expert with this weapon.


The biggest obstacle to NFP is ignorance. This approach to child spacing has no health risks, is more reliable than any artificial contraceptive, and is very nearly free! It strengthens marriages, raises the dignity of women, and helps self-centered couples to become open to children. Once people really understand how good NFP is, they want to use it and start reaping some of those benefits for themselves. We encourage everyone, both single and married, to learn NFP, even if they may never use it. So many of our friends, neighbors, and relations need to know about NFP. Even married couples who are open to receiving all the children God may bless them with would do well to learn NFP. If a crisis arises (they always do) it’s helpful to already have this powerful tool in your pocket. Also, you’ll be able to use it to help those who want to know what makes your family different from others.


The second biggest obstacle to NFP is fear: fear of failure, fear of an unplanned pregnancy, fear of the unknown, fear of being different, so many fears. It’s always hard to choose something so counter-cultural. The changes NFP calls for can be intimidating. Arm yourself with information – the more you really know about NFP the less intimidating it will be. Put your trust in God, and choose to trust His plan for your life. He’s the Good Shepherd who will never lead you astray. You can help others too by your example and encouragement. Pray for those who need courage, including us at One More Soul. This is a great apostolate!


There are some great organizations promoting NFP. Several are listed in the box below. Find one, plug yourself in, and start promoting NFP. Lots of Catholic dioceses have NFP offices. They can always use some encouragement and support. Newspapers, schools, churches, medical organizations, and many other associations are great channels for this good news. Pray for guidance, discern which direction to take your energy, and have at it! The possibilities here are unlimited.


In an age when the world has lost its sexual sanity, NFP seems to be a special gift from God that paves the way back. Let’s make sure we don’t let this powerful weapon lie unused.

Fertility Appreciation


On our Dandelion and Rose poster, by the roots of the rose are five strategies for building the Civilization of Love. They are Openness to Children, Premarital Chastity, Natural Family Planning, Marital Faithfulness, and Fertility Appreciation. In a special series of articles in the One More Soul Update, we’ve been examining each one to see how they can be used to transform our world. The first three operate as weapons of defense, but with the last two we go onto the offense. With Fertility Appreciation we help people, especially women, understand the great value they have because of their fertility. So many people have no concept of the great dignity they possess. Fertility, especially, has been devalued. Instead of a great gift to be treasured, our society treats fertility as at best an inconvenience, and at worst a disease which we must “cure.” It’s common to take pills, get shots, even have surgery to remove the “defect” of being fertile. This is a great tragedy, the source of much of the pain that fills our society.


Fertility Appreciation, learning to value and respect the great gift God has given us, is aimed at reversing the unfortunate effects of rejecting our fertility. A great place to start is learning to value ourselves! I am “fearfully and wonderfully made!”(Ps. 139:14) Life-breath from God flows in and out of me. I can share that life with those around us. Wonder of wonders, I can participate in the creation of another life, a life able to know and love eternally! We may look like oysters outside, but inside we are full of pearls. The more deeply we understand this truth, wrap ourselves around it, and allow it to affect the deepest part of ourselves, the more we will be able to support the parents and potential parents we come in contact with.


The people we meet and live with need help with this idea. The culture tells them “blessed are the barren,” that they should avoid parenthood like the plague and live as thoughtless children all their lives: (e.g. “the one who dies with the most toys wins”). We know the truth. Children are the SUPREME blessing of marriage. Every child is a blessing, regardless of circumstances. We can show parents that we honor them, that we are proud of them for taking on this awesome responsibility. If we have been blessed with children of our own, we can radiate the truth that they are a wonderful gift. We must think it, live it, spread it. Sure, children will try us to the depths of our souls, but that’s part of the blessing. That’s how we grow.


Organizations can especially help to spread this message. Parenting never takes place in a vacuum. Our local pregnancy support center, Elizabeth New Life Center, offers a wonderful service to their clients: a class called Fertility Appreciation* in which men and women are taught about how fertility works. They get to see what an awesome gift and challenge their fertility is. For many, this is a totally new concept. They have never heard that their fertility is a gift of incalculable value, that they themselves have great value and dignity. For many, this becomes a door into a more solid, healthy lifestyle. The success stories are awesome.


Lots of organizations can help here. News media have a great power to affirm parents, as do the schools, churches, fraternal organizations, and others. Early in our marriage, when my wife and I had only one child, we went to a small Baptist church south of town. They gave a potted lily to the youngest mother there, which was my wife. It was a small, silly thing, but it really affirmed us. It gave us a boost of strength and joy that helped us keep going. Ask the Holy Spirit for inspirations – there are so many great possibilities.


Our culture has swallowed whole the lie that fertility is a curse, and that lie has helped to drive it mad. By becoming aware ourselves of the incredible dignity God has endowed each of us with in gifting us with fertility, and by sharing that truth with others, we inject a little sanity into our world – the medicine our culture needs to heal. Sometimes it seems the world will never be sane again, but there are more and more signs that things are beginning to change. Now, more than ever, it is crucial to spread this “medicine” as far and wide as we can.

The teacher’s guide for this class is available from One More Soul. The title is Teaching Fertility Appreciation.

Prayer: the greatest weapon of all


On our Dandelion and Rose poster, by the roots of the rose are five strategies for building the Civilization of Love. They are Openness to Children, Premarital Chastity, Natural Family Planning, Marital Faithfulness, and Fertility Appreciation. In a special series of articles in the One More Soul Update we’ve been examining each one to see how they can be used to answer the cry, “What can we do!?” which rises in our hearts as we face the culture of death. The simple answer is : Lots of things, but none of them will work without prayer. “Unless the Lord builds the house, the builders accomplish nothing.” (Ps. 127:1)


Some of us are expert pray-ers, others are unsure about it. Simply put, prayer means lifting our hearts and minds to God to receive His clarity of thought about what needs to be done and His strength to do it. What makes this so important in the current struggle is that none of us is wise enough to know exactly what needs to be done, and none of us is strong enough to do it by ourselves. We all need help, especially when we are going up against all the power of the world, of the devil, and of our own twisted ideas and inclinations. There is really only one source of the Civilization of Love and that is God, who is Love. Any other approach dances around the issue and wastes our time.


So, how do we pray? There are more ways of praying than anyone can count: from pondering the Scriptures in God’s presence to rosaries, from songs in a great congregation to solitary thoughts in a hermitage. There are more books of advice about prayer than anybody’s garage could hold, and most of them are pretty helpful. What matters, however, is whether our prayer does or does not draw us into the wisdom and strength of God, so that we do God’s will in love. So, whatever type of prayer you know, start now, and don’t give up.


Remember that the purpose of prayer is not to change God, but to change us. You know that prayer is doing its job when you notice yourself thinking the thoughts God would think and doing things God would do. The goal here is for each one of us to work hand in-glove with God. With that kind of a setup, we can’t lose!


Ways to get started praying:


Get up a few minutes earlier in the morning, and spend the extra time with God. Tell Him about your life: your hopes, plans, struggles. Listen for His response – it may be hard to hear at first, but the more you listen the more you’ll learn to recognize His voice.


Read the Bible – a little bit each day. Try to apply what you’ve read to your own life.


Play praise and worship music, or other Christian music, while you’re driving your car. Sing along, and lift your heart up to God through the music. If you don’t drive, listen to the music on headphones.


Every time you pass an abortion clinic, Planned Parenthood office, pornography store, or other place where people are led astray, say a short prayer for the conversion of everyone connected with that place.


Set your watch to go off at a certain time. When it does, stop wherever you are and say a simple prayer for all those who are suffering because of the sexual confusion in our culture.


One More Soul: educating people about the blessings of children and the harms of contraception.

Parish Talk On Contraception

Given November 11, 1995 at all weekend Masses at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church, Wharton, Texas

Joe Begins Speaking

Good morning. Let me begin by saying that this is the hardest thing we have ever had to do – certainly for me and also, I think, for us as a married couple. Please don’t think that we, at our young age, after just a couple years of marriage, think we have a lot to teach all of you. Almost every couple here could teach us a great deal about marriage, and a great deal more about life.

We’re not here to speak so much about what we know as about what the Church knows – this Church which has conducted literally millions of marriages in the last 2,000 years, this church which has shared in the struggles of married couples all those years.

We are here to talk about contraception. Its morality. Its effects. And what the church teaches.

Let us begin by looking back thirty years at the promises which were made to us by the promoters of contraception. Contraception was supposed to be the answer to many problems.

First to the problems of marriage.

They said contraception would take the pressures off. They said it would eliminate financial worries. They said it would allow couples to focus more on their mutual love.

Secondly, contraception was supposed to solve problems about sex.

They told us it would allow freer sex. They said it would allow women to have sex without worrying so much about the consequences. We were told it would make sex a more loving act.

Finally, we were promised it would help families.

Children would be planned and, thus, more loved. Smaller families could give more attention to kids. Happier, less worried parents would give a more loving home to those children

Those were the promises made. But let’s look at how those promises meet up with what has happened. Did it really have these results? Let’s take another look.

Regarding marriage,

Are marriages less pressurized today? Have divorces decreased or increased? Is adultery more or less common? Do husbands respect their wives more or less?

And what about sex?

Is married sex better today? Do women feel less used or more? Do men feel like loving husbands or do they sometimes feel like sex-crazed animals? Is sex more loving, or is it sometimes more selfish? And are all those terrible health risks for women on birth control worth it?

Finally, what about the family?

Are families stronger today? Are children more wanted and better taken care of? Is contraception reducing teenage sex? And, are the kids learning about love at home, or somewhere else?

Let’s admit some truths. Here are the facts. These are not opinions, they are facts on which I think we can probably agree. Our society loves sex, but doesn’t know anything about love. Women have been turned into objects for men’s pleasures. Men are told you’re not normal if you don’t want sex all the time. The divorce rate is over 50% during the first five years of marriage. There are over 1.5 million abortions each year, and the majority of women say they had one because their contraception failed. Families are being destroyed all over our country. Children are not learning how to love from mom and dad anymore, but are learning a strange sort of love everywhere else. Teenage pregnancy is skyrocketing. Our kids are in terrible trouble. Here’s a fact that your doctor probably hasn’t told you: In the United States alone, over 1000 women die yearly from the serious side effects of the pill. That’s just from the heart attacks, strokes and embolisms that are directly tied to using the pill. And, finally, and most disturbingly, if you use the pill, an IUD, Norplant, or Depo-Provera over a long period of time, you are likely to be causing your body to abort your newly conceived child as your means of birth control. In the case of the pill it may be once every 5 years, in the others it may be several abortions per year. This means that there are as many as 13 million babies being killed every year in the US from supposed contraceptives. That’s 8 1/2 times as many abortions as from surgical abortions. That means we may have killed as many babies in the US from abortion in the last 20 years as the entire population of the US.

My wife and I are here today to ask:

Is this all worth it?

Is this what we were promised? Because, I think if this were a used car or a piece of clothing or a new appliance, we would take it back and ask for a refund. We’ve been sold a bill of goods. We have been lied to. We haven’t gotten any of what was promised. You see, the Catholic Church predicted all of this thirty years ago, but we didn’t listen. Pope Paul VI wrote a famous letter to priests and doctors and to us in 1968. We probably never heard about that letter, but he said all of this would happen. He offered a better way, but no one heard. No one listened.

I think we were let down. I want to make an apology for all those people who failed us. For the bishops and priests who remained silent because of their lack of knowledge or lack of courage, for their fear of being rejected by us if they spoke the truth with faith, I apologize And, for the Doctors, who made lots of money selling the drugs and devices and turning around and treating the bad side effects, I apologize. And, finally for the media, the TV and Hollywood, who wanted love without consequences, and made us deal with the consequences, I apologize. All of them were wrong. They hurt us, but now we can make a change.

It’s important to say that sex is a good thing. It is a very good and holy thing. The Catholic Church has always said that. It is the way in marriage that men and women physically express their love for each other. It’s supposed to bring them closer. It’s supposed to deepen their love. It’s not meant to be used before marriage. It’s not meant to lead to abortions. It’s not supposed to cause cancer or aids or gonorrhea. It’s not supposed to cause heart attacks or strokes. It was made a wonderful act of love by God. We are the one’s who have turned it into all this. We have made it something cheap and terrible. Every form of contraception has side effects. Many of those side effects are very dangerous, and almost always to women, almost never to men. God didn’t intend sex to be like that.

We have been told that you have to take these risks if you want a smaller family. We have been taught that this is just the only way, but that’s just not true. Let me tell you about the alternative, a wonderful alternative.

It’s called Natural Family Planning.

There are no drugs, no devices, no creams, or jellies There are no bad side effects – no cancer, no vomiting, no pain, no heart attacks or strokes. Best of all, it is more effective than even the most effective contraception and it is FREE. It costs nothing to use.

Let me repeat: IT IS MORE EFFECTIVE THAN ANY FORM OF CONTRACEPTION. ANY FORM.

You see, that’s because it is based on the truth about our bodies. It’s all based on knowledge. God gave us these bodies and the fact is they are really neat! He gave us the ability to pinpoint, and I mean exactly, pinpoint, down to the exact day, when a woman can have a baby and he also gave every woman a special time each month when it is impossible and again I mean impossible, for her to have a baby no matter how often she tries. That is the real truth about how God made us. It’s all because he loves us. You see, he knew that we would have financial problems and we would have pressures. He wanted us to love with sex the right way, not the selfish way, but he wanted it to be fairly easy. All because he loves us. So he designed us a certain way, and doctors discovered all about it.

I wish I had time to explain it all to you exactly, but I don’t. It will take just a little explanation and a little practice, and it can be done God’s way. We just have to learn to look for some simple signs and we can plan to have a baby or not to have a baby. It all involves just a little self-control. Usually that means abstaining from sex about seven to ten days a month if you want to avoid a baby. If your math is any good, you understand that means the other 20 to 23 days no abstinence is required. None.

Natural Family Planning is used with great success all over the world. It is used in India with the poorest families who can’t even read. It is used in Africa with ancient tribes. It is used in Central America by poor campesinos. And it is taught here in the United States to rich and poor, educated and uneducated. It is used worldwide by millions of couples. If you think that this a personal matter – If you think this is just not anyone’s business, but your own – If you think that everyone uses contraception, it’s just not true. Natural Family Planning is something you need. It will deepen your love, it will strengthen your marriage, and it will keep you true to the Church’s teaching.

Elsy begins speaking

You may be listening to what has been said and asking yourself “Why should I do this?” Maybe the question you should be asking yourself is “Why shouldn’t I do this?” You have nothing to lose and everything to gain

I can only offer you my perspective as a woman, wife, and mother.

I think women have been most cheated by contraception even though it was intended to help them most. Society has shifted all of the burden and responsibility onto women for planning their families and even worse, women are asked to take all of the health risks that come with using the different contraception methods. Women are asked to swallow the pills, take the shots, and use the devices. We as a society do not respect women. If we truly valued and cared about women as mothers, wives, as workers and as professionals we would not ask them to carry this burden alone and accept all of these health risks. Contraception has reduced women to sex objects for their husbands. Contraception is much more about sex than love.

Women are asked to make all of the sacrifices, carry all of the burdens, and take all of the risks while men are the ones that benefit. When contraception fails, and a pregnancy occurs men can walk away and leave the woman to take complete responsibility for that child even though he helped create that child as much as the woman did. In our country today, we are seeing men bring children into the world before and even after marriage and then walk away from them without even the blink of an eye. Sex in marriage should not exist for the benefit and pleasure of one person only, but in many marriages sex is either nonexistent or just something that women do for their husbands.

When sex in marriage becomes totally selfish and for the benefit of only one person, it is not an act of love anymore. And contraception has helped to create this. There is so much more to have. Love is so much greater than any of us. If we can learn to love God’s way, that love is so much more satisfying.

My husband and I took our Natural Family Planning classes from a couple who had been married for twenty-five years. For the first 10 years, they used birth control pills. The woman was Catholic, but her husband was not, and even though she knew it was wrong, she was afraid that it would cause problems in her marriage if she insisted that they not use contraception. After ten years, their marriage had fallen into a rut. They had problems and found sex unsatisfying and meaningless. They had just gotten used to living together and finding a way to get along. Finally, a Lutheran minister introduced Natural Family Planning to them, and they decided they had nothing to lose so they took a chance and tried it.

Their marriage underwent a renewal and fifteen years later they now teach Natural Family Planning to others because it has become such an important part of their own life.

Many people feel that the Church is just asking too much and being unreasonable. But the couples who practice Natural Family Planning would say that it is not a burden at all. In fact, of the women who have made the change from using contraception to practicing Natural Family Planning, many describe Natural Family Planning as less constricting and more freeing than contraception.

Natural Family Planning can take your marriage to a new level because it is based on mutual respect and love for one another. It is a responsibility that men and women must share. Every woman has the right to ask her husband to share in the responsibility of planning their family. Contraception allows a man to say to a woman, a husband to say to his wife, “I love you, but the thing that makes you uniquely a woman — the incredible and awesome ability to carry and give birth to a child—that part of you I don’t want. I am willing to have sex with you but only if you can’t get pregnant. You are the one that can have children, so you take care of this.”

Sex should make women feel more loved by their husbands and should lead women to love their husbands more deeply. Natural Family Planning does this because it is based on truth and involves both men and women in the most intimate expression of love in their marriage.

The Catholic Church and married couples have been deeply wounded by the selfish mentality contraception has fostered. My husband and I have nothing to gain from teaching this, but the fact is the doctors and drug companies have gained much monetarily from pushing birth control.

In order to accept this teaching of the Church, we must accept that the Catholic Church is wiser than we are. We can never go wrong in following its teaching and Christ will never lead us astray when we are being faithful to His Church because the Church is divine and we are only human.

Joe continues

We men need Natural Family Planning, too. We need self-control. This society has taught us that all that matters is sex. That instinct in us has been turned into something awful. We are out of control.

Men are usually much more interested in sex. That is the way we are made. It can be easy to take our passions and force them on women. Contraception has given us an excuse and made it even easier. It has told us that we can have sex wherever we want, whenever we want, with whomever we want. It has turned us into beasts. Just look around at our society.

Men cheat on their wives today more than ever before in the US. Pornography is so very common. Every night men can go to Houston and Victoria and find a lot of places where they can stare at naked women. Young boys are having sex more than ever and younger than ever. Prostitution is at an all-time high even though AIDS is killing people. We are out of control and, worst of all, our children are learning all of this stuff from us. We need to change this.

NFP means we learn about our fertility. It means we learn about our wives’ fertility. It means we learn to respect both. If we want to have a child it shows how. If we must avoid a child, we learn how. We have sex freely and lovingly sometimes and we learn to control ourselves and express love other ways in other times. In short we learn to respect women and this is a lesson we need to learn. We learn how to love the right way. Your wife needs NFP. She needs you. You need NFP. You need it in your marriage now.

Let me finish by making one last explanation of all this. The Church has taught for 2,000 years that contraception is wrong. This is not a new teaching. Technology has just made contraception easier and made this teaching more important. This teaching will not and cannot change. The Church has also taught for 2000 years that sex is very good. Very, very, very, very good. Sex is an act of love with the potential to give life. We need to learn about that potential and respect it. We have no right to tamper with or change that potential. Only God may have control over that life-giving power. Sex must be loving. It’s power to give life may not be changed, not with chemicals, or devices, or surgery. We have to learn how this system of God’s works and we must work within His rules.

If we play by those rules, we will be blessed; but if we break those rules bad things will happen. This is true in all of God’s creation. When you break the rules, you pay.

The fact is that many of us have broken the rules

We got our tubes tied. We had a vasectomy. We used the pill. We used condoms. We used an IUD. We used a diaphragm. We got Norplant. We got a depo shot.

No matter when we did it, or how many times we did it, no matter for how long we did it, or for what reasons we did it, the fact is that we did do it.

It is painful to admit this, but God loves us. God is waiting for us to ask His forgiveness in the sacrament of reconciliation. He wants us to try again. His mercy is great and his forgiveness is never refused to those who repent.

Finally, let me end with the words of our Lord; I believe these are the most joyful words of the Gospel: “Remember that there is more rejoicing in heaven over 1 repentant sinner than 99 who have no need to repent.”

Breast Cancer, Abortion, and the Pill

For the past year, One More Soul has been privileged to work with Dr. Chris Kahlenborn in publishing his new book: Breast Cancer, Its Link to Abortion and the Birth Control Pill . This book is the culmination of seven years the author spent reviewing and analyzing more than 500 research studies and related works. It is very timely because of the breast cancer epidemic, which currently threatens every woman.

In the concluding chapter of Dr. Kahlenborns book, he summarizes his conclusions and provides recommendations for action. The substance of that chapter is presented here, modified slightly to improve readability as a separate article.

Conclusions

General

Breast cancer is the worldwide leading cancer for women and is the most common cause of cancer death for U.S. women age 20-59. In the U.S. about 175,000 women are diagnosed with breast cancer annually and more than 43,000 women die from this cause. Both induced abortion and oral contraceptive use, especially at a young age, increase a womans risk for developing breast cancer. The U.S. has one of the highest rates of induced abortion and oral contraceptive use in the world, especially in young women. The breast cancer risks from abortion and hormonal contraceptive use act independently of each other. They also reinforce each other and have a cumulative effect if combined with other risk factors such as a family history of breast cancer, nulliparity (never having given birth), late menopause, early menarche (early onset of menses), greater age at first birth, a previous occurrence of breast cancer, etc. The breast cancer rate in the U.S. is rising, and these factors may result in higher increases as the latent period (the time it takes for cancer to develop after exposure to a risk factor) for these women is completed. Calculations based on the available studies indicate that induced abortion may result in over 46,800 additional cases of breast cancer in the U.S. annually, with even more cases added due to hormonal contraceptive use.

Black Women

Breast cancer in the U.S. is more prevalent in young black women than in white women of equivalent age, and is the second leading cause of cancer death (after lung cancer) among black women. This may be a consequence of more extensive hormonal contraceptive use (eg, Depo-Provera) and/or a greater prevalence of abortion among young black women. Black women who develop breast cancer generally have more aggressive cancers resulting in a reduced life expectancy.

Abortion

When research studies on a particular topic are assembled into one set of conclusions, the product is called a “meta-analysis.” The most meticulous and comprehensive meta-analysis to date on the relation of breast cancer to induced abortion was done by Joel Brind, PhD, in 1996 [1]. Brind concluded that women who have an abortion prior to their first full-term pregnancy have a 50% increased risk of developing breast cancer, while those who have an abortion after their first full-term pregnancy have a 30% increased risk.

Janet Daling noted in 1994 [2] that women younger than 18 who had an abortion experienced a 150% increased risk of developing breast cancer. This risk increased to 800% if a woman had her abortion between the 9th and 24th week of pregnancy.

Comparing the maternal mortality risk of childbirth to that from abortion, when proper weight is given to the increased risk of breast cancer and suicide due to abortion, and the decreased risk of ovarian cancer with full-term pregnancy, abortion is many times more hazardous to the mother in the long-run than carrying a child to term.

Family History of Breast Cancer

Women who have a family history of breast cancer and choose to have an abortion are at very high risk of developing breast cancer. Andrieu et al (1994) [3] found that women who have a family history of breast cancer and who had two or more induced abortions have a 600% increased risk of breast cancer as compared to the rest of the population. Daling et al (1994) [2] noted that women who had an abortion prior to age 18 and had a positive family history of breast cancer had an infinitely increased risk of developing breast cancer compared to young women

who had a family history of breast cancer and had not had an abortion. She also noted that women who were 30 or older at the time of their abortion and had breast cancer in their family history had a 270% increased risk.

Birth Control Pill

If a woman takes the oral contraceptive pill before her first child is born, she suffers at least a 40% increased risk of developing breast cancer. If she takes oral contraceptive pills for four years or more prior to her first baby, she suffers at least a 72% increased risk according to the meta-analysis by Romieu (1990) [4].

Women who took oral contraceptive pills early in their lives and who develop breast cancer generally develop more aggressive breast cancer and have a poorer prognosis.

Available studies of women who used DMPA (Depo-Provera) show a 190% increased risk of breast cancer in women who used it for 2 or more years prior to age 25. Young black women in the U.S. are at higher risk of breast cancer since they use Depo-Provera more frequently than white women.

Other Cancers

Oral contraceptive pills decrease the risk of uterine and ovarian cancer, but increase the risk of breast, cervical and liver cancer. It is estimated that an additional 40,000 to 80,000 cases of cancer will occur in the U.S. annually when the cumulative effect of oral contraceptives on all cancers is considered.

A summary of studies examining the effect of oral contraceptives on invasive cervical cancer shows the following increased risks: for any use (30%); long-term use (62%); use before age 25 (65%); use before age 20 (80%).

Preventive Factors

Of the many identified risks of breast cancer, several are controllable by behavior: hormone exposure (including hormonal contraceptives), abortion, number of births, age at first childbirth, length of breastfeeding, degree of alcohol use, obesity and radiation exposure.

Natural Family Planning (NFP) methods are available which use no chemicals or surgery and cause no increase in breast cancer risk. Not to be confused with the “rhythm method,” NFP is based on observations of a womans cervical mucus and (for some methods) other signs as well. One of the largest research studies of NFP (involving 19,843 women and performed in India by the World Health Organization) showed a pregnancy rate of 0.2 pregnancies per 100 women yearly. [5]

Natural Family Planning methods have been used to diagnose and treat a variety of female reproductive system disorders including infertility. Various medical problems (eg. excessive menstrual cramping and bleeding) can be treated far more safely with less toxic means (eg. magnesium/calcium supplements and/or ibuprofen products).

Natural family planning information is available from a number of national organizations:

The Couple to Couple League 1-513-471-2000

Pope Paul VI Institute 1-402-390-6600

Family of the Americas 1-800-443-3395

Billings Ovulation Method Association 1-888-637-6371

The Augustine Foundation 1-877-554-4637

NW Family Services 1-503-215-6377

National Conference of Catholic Bishops 1-202-541-3240

One More Soul 1-800-307-7685

How Risk Factors are Combined

Women who have had an induced abortion and also use oral contraceptives have a “multiplied risk” of developing breast cancer. For example, Daling [2] noted that women who have an induced abortion prior to age 18 have a 150% increased risk of developing breast cancer, while Romieu et al [4] noted that women who use oral contraceptives for 4 or more years prior to their first full-term birth have a 72% increased risk. According to the multiplier effect, women who are in both of these categories would have a relative risk of 2.5 x 1.72 = 4.3. This represents a 330% increased risk, meaning that women who use the birth control pill for at least 4 years before first birth and who also have an abortion before age 18 have a 330% increased risk of developing breast cancer some time in their lives. Thousands of women meet these criteria.

Recommendations

Prevention of Breast Cancer

A major educational effort is needed to raise awareness in physicians, pharmacists, nurses, attorneys and especially the general public regarding controllable risk factors for breast cancer: avoidance of factors which increase risk as well as use of factors which reduce risk. Women must be informed of the risks of both hormonal contraceptives and induced abortion especially when they have additional risk factors such as a family history of breast cancer, being less than 18 years of age, or being a black woman.

Women need to be taught natural family planning methods, none of which increases cancer risk. Women must be informed of practices that reduce breast cancer risk such as long-term breastfeeding, bearing a child at a young age, and bearing more than one child. The use of Vitamin A may be of benefit, though this should be avoided by women who could become pregnant as it may (rarely) cause birth defects.

Women with Identified Breast Cancer Risks

Women who have had induced abortions and/or used oral contraceptive pills, especially at an early age, need lifelong physician monitoring. They (and all women) should consistently perform self-breast exams. They should also seriously consider protective strategies such as extended breastfeeding and/or use of vitamin A. Tamoxifen and drugs similar to it have been found to decrease the risk of breast cancer in certain groups of women. Reports by the Eli Lilly company stated that Evista (raloxifene), an artificial hormone given to some postmenopausal women to prevent osteoporosis, may reduce breast cancer risk (Company Press Release, Eli Lilly, 12/11/98). Neither drug should be given to pre- or peri-menopausal women who might conceive. Additional exposure to risk factors such as repeat abortion or additional hormone (eg, contraceptive) use should be avoided.

Women with Breast Cancer

Women who already have breast cancer should be treated with the appropriate combination of surgery and/or radiation and/or chemotherapy and/or hormonal therapy. They should ask their

physicians about the effectiveness of vitamin A, and should be encouraged to ask about new treatments such as “virus infecting tumor cells,” which are currently being studied, as well as new medicines which target specific proteins or genes that a breast cancer cell may produce (eg, the drug Herceptin). Herceptin has been used to treat a type of breast cancer known as HER-2/neu, which is more common in women who have used oral contraceptive pills at an early age (Ranstam, 1992) [6].

Pregnancy and Breast Cancer

If a woman with breast cancer is pregnant, the baby should not be aborted as abortion markedly reduces the mothers life expectancy (Clarck and Chua, 1989) [7].

Public Policy

Breast cancer and other medical problems caused by hormonal contraceptives and/or induced abortion represent a serious and growing health problem. The government, health professionals as a body and the research establishment have not responded well to this situation in which millions of lives are at stake. It is critical that the responsible parties address this pressing crisis. Eventually public opinion and/or court action will make this unavoidable.

Current U.S. domestic and foreign policy which promotes hormonal contraceptive use and induced abortion must be reversed in light of the drastic effects these risks have on the lives of women. The long-term effects of each risk factor have likely not yet been realized since the full latent period has not passed for many women. As the health consequences of hormonal contraceptive use and induced abortion become evident to the citizens of the affected countries, the good will of the major promoters will be questioned and their credibility undermined. It is time for a major reassessment and restructuring of our policy on these matters. An apology to the affected countries and their people is also long overdue.

Individual Women

Because the government, the media, the medical establishment, and the research community have failed to educate women about these health risks, it is necessary for individual women to inform themselves of the risks. It is possible that women can curtail or even reverse the epidemic of breast cancer that currently threatens them by avoiding the hazardous risks of induced abortion and hormonal contraception and by instead adopting positive strategies which lower breast cancer risk. Although this would involve a definite cultural shift, there is little doubt that thousands of lives would be saved in the long run.

References

  • Brind J, Chinchilli M, et al. Induced abortion as an independent risk factor for breast cancer: a comprehensive review and meta-analysis. J Epidemiol Community Health. 10/ 1996; 50: 481-496.
  • Daling J, Malone K, et al. Risk of breast cancer among young women: relationship to induced abortion. JNCI. 1994; 86: 1584-1592.
  • Andrieu N, et al. Familial risk of breast cancer and abortion. Cancer Detection and Prevention. 1994; 18: 51-55.
  • Romieu I, Berlin J, et al. Oral contraceptives and breast cancer. Review and meta-Analysis. Cancer. 1990; 66: 2253-2263.
  • Ryder RE. “Natural Family Planning”: Effective birth control supported by the Catholic Church. Br Med J. 1993; 307: 723-726.
  • Ranstam J et al. Oral contraceptives and breast cancer. Dissertation Abstracts International. 1992; 53: 705C.
  • Clarck RM, Chua T. Breast cancer and pregnancy: the ultimate challenge. Clinical Oncology. 1989; 1: 11-18.
  • Dr. Chris Kahlenborn is an internist in private practice in Altoona, PA. Dr. Kahlenborn is the author of Breast Cancer, Its Link to Abortion and the Birth Control Pill upon which this booklet is based.

    is available from One More Soul for a suggested donation of $11.95 for the soft cover edition and $25 for the hardback.

    Permission is granted to copy and distribute this One More Soul booklet without alteration.

    Sensible Sex

    Copyright 1998 Ruth D. Lasseter. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission from One More Soul, (1846 N Main Street, Dayton, OH 45405) except in the case of brief quotations embodied in articles and reviews.

    Three old friends, middle-aged mothers all, are having lunch together. Nancy is a Methodist minister; the other, Mary Ann, is Catholic and a pro-life executive; the third is myself, a convert to Catholicism and freelance writer. The subject of contraception comes up.

    “Why can’t you Catholics just do it the sensible way,” says Nancy in a good-natured crack.

    “It may look sensible to you, Nancy, but you know the facts as well as I do: the society that accepts contraception inevitably comes to accept abortion, too.” states Mary Ann.

    As for me, like the tar baby, I ain’t sayin’ nuthin’. I listen to my two friends argue, their kind faces rigid and defensive now, and I am silent because I feel the “tar” of my own sins. I once thought, like Nancy, that artificial contraception was sensible. But Mary Ann is right; a contracepting society becomes a society that sanctions abortion and euthanasia, as experience and research have shown. My friends are deadlocked within these two irreconcilable attitudes toward unnatural contraception: Is it sensible? Or is it a preliminary to genocide, or at least infanticide? The Catholic Church recognizes that there can be no resolution and no compromise between the two attitudes, as incompatible as oil and water.

    … the difference, both anthropological and moral, between contraception and recourse to the rhythm of the cycle … is a difference which is much wider and deeper than is usually thought, one which involves in the final analysis two irreconcilable concepts of the human person and of human sexuality.

    (Familiaris Consortio, section 32, p. 30)

    Nancy, Mary Ann, and I are pro-life and pro-family Christian women; we are educated, responsible, and experienced. We have a host of subjects to discuss and many things in common. Yet we cannot discuss contraceptives. It isn’t just that birth control is a tacky and taboo subject. Like all proper women have always done, we might (and do) freely talk about other equally tacky and private matters – labor and childbirth and nursing, child rearing (up to puberty, at least), piles and constipation, indigestion and canker sores, crime and pornography. But not contraception. It divides friends and ruins lunches. To Nancy, the method of Natural Family Planning seems so unsensible, so unnecessary; it seems like the Amish using candlelight instead of electricity. To Mary Ann, the means are everything, since as she says, “they may lead to other ends than those intended or desired.”

    What’s going on here? There’s more than personal preference for an archaic technology, more than candlelight and electricity, that causes friends to fall silent and defensive. We don’t talk about, don’t ask about, don’t discuss contraception. Easier just to swallow a pill, have our husbands put on sheaths, or have ourselves “fixed.”

    Why can’t we talk about it? Are we too ashamed and hurt to do so? Too tarred? We women have submitted our female sexuality’s cyclic nature to the constant male sex drive of our husbands. Are we ashamed to have made ourselves always available to our spouses, from the very beginning of marriage beyond our menopause? Ashamed to admit that we sophisticated and independent women have followed the Old Wives’ Tale that a woman MUST be available for her man? Why do we not ask ourselves, if not other women, why we should feel ashamed and exploited in having done so? Are we afraid that the answer just might be another Old Wives Tale: that a man will leave her for another, more accommodating woman, if she doesn’t “turn on the heat.” Or that he might find her boring if they have to talk only and not work out their tensions in the bedroom. Most self-respecting women won’t admit to themselves or anyone else that they, too, share petty jealousy, suspicion, resentment, and even secret sympathy with the radical feminists, whose politics and tactics are deplorable. Yet, we should talk, for the answer is none of these phantoms. It is true that women who contracept do feel exploited by their husbands; husbands who resort to condoms feel resentment towards their wives’ fertility. Here is another social rift; husbands and wives don’t talk about contraceptives, either. As our own beloved children grow into puberty, we who are using unnatural contraceptives cannot talk to them about sexual chastity and self-control, even in the face of AIDS and STDs and every sort of promiscuously born disease of soul and body. Even while we are told that we are free at last, we know that we are helpless; we give our children condoms and are silent about chastity; we feel heartbroken, not knowing why. The tar is on us all.

    The Contraceptive Mentality

    I am going to “break silence.” I have a story to tell. I want to tell this story so that other married couples may have the courage to know themselves and to begin talking again about their marriage and their love, and so come to find between them a truly Christian theology of the body. My perspective is unusual, but hardly unique; I am Protestant in heritage, Catholic by conversion. Having been connected since birth with a science and medicine-friendly family, I am quite familiar with the marvels of modern medical technology, including the whole hog of contraceptive devices, which are hardly conducive to health and well being.

    Since a story is a story, it can not be a rational argument. However, my story may be useful as an example for the arguments put forth by others who have the gift of apologetics, as I do not. Janet E. Smith’s fine book, Humanae Vitae: A Generation Later, has just been published by the Catholic University of America Press; its 425 pages contain a very complete and convincing rational argument in defense of the Catholic Church’s unbroken teaching on unnatural contraception. In addition to offering a new translation of the encyclical Humanae Vitae, it is a very sensible book.

    I grew up with the two great Protestant imperatives: first, the importance of the individual’s responsibility in forming a great love bond with his Creator (achieved through reading and meditating on scripture, through personal prayer, through charitable acts); second, the realization of the good of passionate, romantic love between man and woman. It would take a book to discuss the particulars of these two Protestant pillars and how they have been pulled down by the permissiveness of our age – a modern God-hating Samson. While the pillars remain standing for the Evangelical Protestants, who strongly oppose abortion, they may yet topple because of these sects’ general acceptance of contraception, a silent destroyer of just that married love and mutual respect which Protestants have so long recognized and properly praised. Yet, there are indications that at least some evangelical Protestants are beginning to rethink this issue; the January, 1992, issue of the journal First Things had a feature on this new trend.

    The Catholic view is that contracepted sex is inherently sinful, an offence against God’s will for the purpose of human sexuality, and divisive of the two aspects of sacred marriage – the unitive and generative. Despite widespread civil laws (the Comstock Laws, enacted by Protestant legislatures, which were in effect until the 1930s in this country) which banned contraceptive devices, modern Protestants cannot understand all the fuss; they think it’s mere ecclesiastical and legalistic hair-splitting. An impassioned Anglican friend said to us recently, “It isn’t these silly rules over contraception that we should be quibbling about! The affirmation of LOVE is what is so needed today and you Catholics don’t seem to realize this!”

    Of course, it is true that the rules, and the quibble over rules, can lead away from love and from the vision of love. However, it is not a neat set of rules that is at stake. The sacredness of marital sexuality and its place in a greater divine order is what is at stake and under attack, and divorced from that order, the loss of love, indeed.

    Under the guise of helping love, artificial contraception cunningly establishes a tyrant in the marriage: the sex act declines from a reaffirming of the whole marriage covenant, true lovemaking, to joint seeking of mutual satisfaction. A subtle shift, but a decisive one, away from God and the covenant of marriage.

    The well-documented symptoms attending this shift are the grist of many marriage and sexual therapy manuals; yet, the authors of such books, many of them Christian, never consider that the contraceptive devices could be causing the familiar problems. The nuptial exchange between man and woman is replaced by a woman’s sense, vague and minuscule at first, that she must be “available” to her husband; anxiety develops about “performance” and sensual attractiveness; she may begin to feel used by her spouse. The husband, in an equally subtle way, ceases to delight in his bride and begins to think of her as an object to arouse and satisfy passion. He has a vague sense that something is wrong; he feels restless and unsatisfied. If they try to talk about “what’s wrong with us?” it often draws up petty resentments. They suspect, vaguely, that “something sexual” is wrong. They may just as often conclude that “something spiritual” is wrong. A vast and foggy field, in either case. They just don’t seem able to come to an understanding over their difficulties. This couple may in every other way be moral and exemplary Christians; it has never occurred to them that artificial contraception could be destroying their marriage covenant and their love.

    They may seek help for what they perceive is a sexual problem; they are encouraged, and sincerely try, to be more loving, considerate, and attentive to one another. They may pray together, but as the secrets of their innermost hearts have already been shut to each other and to God, the Lord and Giver of life, their prayer is blocked; they may develop a distaste for religion in all forms. Over all, there is a secret resentment against the other for his/her lack of … whatever it was that used to make life so good. The husband thinks: “If only she would stop this complaining and snap out of it! I’m doing the best that I can to show her that I love her, but it’s not good enough for her.” The wife thinks: “He doesn’t love me anymore. He says that he does, but he doesn’t really mean it. What can I do?” When there are children present, there is usually enough shared love for these children to keep the husband and wife in charity, but there is no doubt that eros (and caritas, reverence, and respect) between the couple is lessened or nonexistent. The last thing that such a couple will do is consider jettisoning the contraceptive device. They are likely to heed popular remedies: develop more sex appeal or get more involved in the community, or even do more things together as a family.

    If a woman should have a surprise pregnancy at such a crisis as this, she is very likely to consider a secret abortion in a desperate attempt to save her husband’s love. She may seek among women (often of charismatic or even feminist or New Age persuasion) the emotional contact and spiritual fellowship which is ebbing away from the marriage. She is likely to develop a distaste for “maleness”; her own vile thoughts may shock and disgust her. For his part, the husband may begin to wonder if a little innocent flirtation with another woman could really be so harmful. He may begin to treat his wife disrespectfully (in ways other than having contraceptive sex with her). His own behavior may disturb him, so that, in order to avoid his wife, he begins to spend more time away from home. He may turn more energetically to his work and to companionship with other males. He may begin to keep an eye out for the opportunity for a sexual misadventure. At no point is either aware that the communion of their marriage is betrayed by that lie, which began as such a tiny thing, accepted with such good intentions.

    This tiny thing is so very subtle and slow in its tyrannical effect and usurpation; the small denials that anything is wrong (the unspoken concerns about damage inflicted on bodily health by the contraceptive device, the increased tension in conversation and in everyday life, the uneasy sense of future trouble, the steady growth of mistrust, the general boredom with family life in general and spousal sex in particular, the secret fantasies and desires) all go unnoticed until their cumulative effect has destroyed trust and made impossible the very love that the contracepting couple so fervently hoped to preserve. Yet, for most Protestants and a majority of Catholics, artificial birth control continues to be accepted and promoted as an unquestioned good.

    My Story

    On June 24, 1967, Rollin and I celebrated our wedding with a traditional Anglican marriage rite and nuptial mass. The church organ was amazingly pure, and there was a professional choir to sing three J.S. Bach hymns and the beautiful music of the Anglican liturgy. Our wedding took place at the Trinity Episcopal Church, Indianapolis, which is a perfect replica of a 13th Century English church, complete with rood screen, painted roof, lych gate, and cloistered garden. On June 23, I was confirmed at that same church; only five people were present at this ceremony, Bishop Grey (a tall, elderly man, radiating the odour of Anglican sanctity), Fr. Lynch (who had given me instruction and who presided at our wedding), Rollin (who was my sponsor), and his elderly mother. The Bishop gently urged me to fight “manfully” for Christ and to give my life entirely into God’s care; he confirmed me with a light slap on my cheek. In memory, that tap, symbolic of the suffering that a Christian must endure, has become a stunning blow.

    It is significant that my vow of obedience to Christ came the day before our vows of fidelity to our marriage in Christ. The vow of unconditional love and fidelity from Christ, for Christ, was immediately followed by our vows of unconditional love and fidelity for one another. Because of the immediate proximity of these rites to one another, the symbolic blow of Christian suffering and the symbolic kiss of unconditional love have flowed over the years, especially at times of crisis, from one into the other until they have become one. Suffering and sweetness are indivisible; both are essential. The adventure of faith, lived out in sacramental marriage, is one, great, mysterious union of suffering and unconditional love.

    As we began our preparation for marriage, we talked with everyone we knew who could help us make a good start. One Catholic couple, very dear to us, talked of the importance of family life and warned us about the dangers of contraception; they called it “psychological infanticide.” Theirs was the only voice we heard that spoke of unnatural contraception as an evil; the encyclical Humanae Vitae was still a year away from publication. Everyone else with whom we talked looked on artificial contraception as a great medical breakthrough, a positive good, about which there could be no possible objection.

    Aside from the Great New Reproductive Technology, talking about sexual matters twenty-five years ago, even with a clergyman or a doctor, was a very difficult thing to do; other than “among the girls,” people did not discuss such private matters. Nevertheless, the sexual deviations were beginning to erupt on a vast scale and we needed to know how to establish our marriage in a Christian framework; there were few resources available. We asked Fr. Lynch, the venerable clergyman who married us, to help us with this matter of artificial contraception in our upcoming marriage. He replied that artificial contraception was warranted in some cases. He went on to state, mistakenly, that Catholicism had limited the purpose of sex to procreation only, and that the Anglican tradition held that while marriage must be open to procreation “in general,” it need not be open to procreation in every act. That sounded convincing to untried postulants; we did not spot the logical flaw until years later. We know it well now. By the same formula of totality, extended into marital fidelity, need every act of sexual union necessarily be with one’s spouse? Couldn’t one affirm, by the principle of totality, that if one affirmed marriage most of the time, did one have to be faithful to marriage all of the time, every single time? The widespread infidelity, which followed closely behind the argument for totality in matters of contraception, is no accident; in fact, contraception made the concupiscence and its justification possible.

    Although we did not foresee these unintended consequences in society, we were afraid of the consequences of choosing wrongly in our own marriage. We wanted to be faithful to God, to our love, and to the family we hoped to have. We were not sure what to do, and we were too shy about such matters to talk freely yet with one another. My doctor, parents, and friends (all well meaning) urged various methods and devices upon us; dire warnings were whispered about what would happen to our love if I were to get pregnant too soon. This was disheartening and very scary; Rollin was told similar well-intended lies.

    In the end, we decided to listen to our Catholic friends who had warned us about the inherent evil of contraception. We decided that we would begin by giving ourselves to the will of God. We strengthened one another in faith; we reassured each other that our high and holy love would endure. We also assured ourselves that we could accept and provide for children, if they came early in our marriage. Besides all this, it was highly repugnant to us, as to any romantic couple, to carefully plan out and buy “life insurance” for every risk of life. This was an adventure! We were certain of the high quest and vocation of marriage. We told each other that we could not give allegiance to Christ and at the same time dictate the extent and terms of His grace in our lives. So, we galloped off together with very high spirits and a bit too much self-congratulation on our great undertaking.

    During the first summer after our marriage, we conceived a baby, but I had a miscarriage in the first few weeks of pregnancy. The same thing happened again in the Fall, and again in the winter. My OB-GYN told us that, for one reason or another, we would probably never be able to have children. This was both disappointing and confusing; had we not eagerly given ourselves to the Lord of Life? Why were these tiny lives not carried to term? Didn’t God care about them and us as we thought? Things weren’t going our way.

    Of course, we hadn’t really surrendered to the will of God. We were eager to do so, but did not know about suffering, yet; we were young and looked only for the sweetness of God’s gifts of love. We reviewed our first year of marriage, how much it meant to us and how we had come to find both love and holiness, which we never imagined possible. Finally, we came to the certainty that we were wrong to demand that God give us children. Shortly after this, we became pregnant again, and our infant son, John, was born at full-term in December 1968.

    When John was born, we were blessed with a profound and awe-full experience of the holiness of life. Here was a child, a unique human being with a particular destiny in history. Where had he come from? How marvelous to have been so chosen to be his parents! This wonder, this awe, at the fact of a new life and at the certainty of his God-given origins has never lessened with ensuing births: Will, Katie, Austin, Ben, and Helen. They are all “wonderfully and mysteriously made.”

    About the time of John’s birth, the contraceptive controversy was in full fury. Six months previously, Humanae Vitae had been issued and everyone was talking about it, Protestants and Catholics, alike. The document was, above all, incomprehensible. No one could believe that the “men of Rome” could be so backwards, so insensitive, so benighted as to deny this “help” to married couples. Those crazy clerics ridiculously predicted that contraception would open a Pandora’s box of most dire ills: rogue male behavior, breakup of families, irreverence for women, cheapening of sex, increased violence and rape, abortion, child abuse, and euthanasia. It’s grim to realize how fast these evils did rush into society, just as the “stupid” encyclical warned that they would.

    One of the “help for new mothers” booklets that was given me at the hospital contained an advertisement for spermicidal foam. It featured a picture of a sweet young mother holding a tiny infant to her breast; the caption beneath read: “You gave him life. Now, give him yourself.” The serpent at his most eloquent! Foam was a fairly new product. Unlike the pill, it did not cause blood clots and high blood pressure; it did not interfere with the spontaneity of the sex act; it purported to prevent conception. Like Eve and her apple, I showed it to Adam and bade him eat.

    When we discovered that we were pregnant and would have another baby within a year of the first, we quarreled seriously and viciously for the first time in our marriage. I had hated using the foam; it made me feel cheap. Rollin, taken unprepared, was annoyed at the prospect of another baby; he felt tricked by me.

    The bitterness of this first quarrel should have alerted us to the effects of contraception on married love and trust. We did resolve, once again, to avoid using unnatural contraceptives, but were still unconvinced that Humanae Vitae was right as a universal statement for all Christians and all marriages.

    A half-educated, partially committed effort at the calendar rhythm method was, most happily, unsuccessful in avoiding new pregnancies. A year and a half after our second son, William, was born, our Katie came to us. One year later, our twins, Austin and Ben, were born. Then two years later, Helen came. A great multiplication of Love!

    It is a recognized trend that the older parents grow, the less they remember of unpleasantness and trials in their young families. We are no exception. Our memory of that time is of madcap joy, knee-deep in babies and toddlers, six of them, age five and under! That we were sometimes so dead tired that we could barely push through the day is remembered only vaguely. In truth, I don’t think we slept more than a few hours any night for at least seven years, and we were always worried about how we were going to support our family. We were filled with trust in one another and with a sense of purpose, and we drew strength from it; it kept us from being overwhelmed by anxiety and fatigue. There was a sense of divine protection and mystery behind everything that happened in those years.

    Because we had chosen obedience to the will of God and had entrusted our fertility, as well as our souls, to one another, we knew the gift of unconditional love. This was a shared secret between us, given us by Christ, whose presence was constantly felt as a “third” in our marriage. This secret, pondered deeply in my heart and cherished in Rollin’s, took the form of enormous confidence about what we were doing. This was not pride, though pride is ever a threat in every human being, but rather a certainty born of deep reverence for and awareness of the presence of Christ’s holiness in our marriage. During this time, we thought a great deal about the revealed mysteries of Christianity; I said the rosary regularly and meditated often on Mary. Sometimes my thoughts would flow out to the Mother of God in silent, loving exchange; these meditative thoughts, really prayer-thoughts, concerned the developing child in my womb. Every event, every new life, was embraced as a prayer answered, was known to be willed, under the mercy of God.

    Discouragement and Alienation

    Our faith and our confidence came under very heavy siege, however, as the universities began to crumble, the judicial system to capitulate, and the Episcopal Church to succumb to radical feminism and homosexual politics. Unknown to ourselves, we were becoming desperate; we were too much alone and we were afraid of the changing world’s condition and our children’s maturation into it. Everywhere, everyday, we met relentless hammering against our faith and hostility against us for our choices. Despair! Despair! Despair pounded against our over-tired minds, weakening our resolve and eroding our sense of purpose.

    In 1974, the year that Helen was born, Rollin sacrificed his tenured university position to begin studying for the ministry in the Episcopal church. The reasons for my opposition to Rollin’s decision to do this would serve as a strong warning against married clergy in the Roman Catholic Church. Briefly, I did not see how we were to continue our soul-to-soul intimacy of marriage when he, necessarily, could not confide to me concerns heard by him in the confessional and elsewhere. More important, there was no way that our domestic church could remain as important to him as the parish church was bound to become, and, sooner or later, this would surely cause great problems for me and for our children.

    At this time, Rollin and I decided that six children were all we could manage for awhile. Not being able to accept any known form of birth control as moral and consistent with God’s will, and knowing the unreliability of “rhythm,” we would observe total abstinence, we decided.

    At the recommendation of some Catholic friends, we sought the help of their beloved monsignor. We told our story and our intention and asked his help, advice, and prayers. He replied that abstinence was “too heroic,” and, as we were not Catholics, he did not understand why we did not just use contraception. (“Do it the sensible way,” I hear my friend Nancy echo). We tried to explain that we were seeking to be obedient to God’s will in both the procreative and unitive aspects of our marriage, but we failed to convince him or to receive any support. We observed total abstinence for many months. Then, I made a radical decision and had a sterilization operation.

    What made me change my mind, our minds? Two catalysts and a single cause. First, Rollin strongly and openly opposed the Episcopal Church’s trend toward the ordination of women, the endorsement of various sexual aberrations, and the acceptance of abortion. The Episcopal bishop, a liberal fellow, would not accept him as a candidate. The bishop’s rejection was devastating to him, and I determined that he didn’t need to feel rejected by his wife, as well. This well-intended wifely solicitude was as much tainted by the serpent’s pride as was the contraceptive advertisement for spermicidal foam that I’d bought into so many years before; it was just another variation of “You gave him life, now give him yourself.” The second catalyst was the growing influence of Jungian psychology and Jungian devotees in our life. Like the contraceptive mentality, Jungianism exhibits a definite cultishness in its proud rejection of revealed Christian truth and moral authority. Behind both catalysts was a single cause: loss of faith. Under severe pressure from calamity both within and without, we abandoned our faith and trust in God and in each other.

    Rollin was opposed to the ligation, but I had the so-called “Band-Aid” operation, anyway. (“It’s my body and my decision,” I had parroted). No one else opposed this surgery at all, quite the opposite, in fact. The very first effect of this, as in an abortion, was relief. That relief didn’t last long. Ensuing hormonal imbalance caused a deep, prolonged depression. In fact, as I later learned, my estrogen level dropped to a menopausal level, literally, overnight. I gained a lot of weight in a very short time, another common side effect. My mind was confused; and I was filled with irrational resentment. There was abdominal pain for months after the surgery, probably caused by the nitrous oxide gas that was used to inflate my abdomen for surgery. Periods became so heavy that twice I was hospitalized for excessive hemorrhaging, another common but seldom publicized side effect. At the age of thirty, I was forced by deteriorating health to have a hysterectomy.

    Until the hysterectomy, I had secret thoughts that the tubal ligation could be reversed, if we wanted more children. (N.B.: if we wanted more children; no longer Thy Will Be Done). After this second, more radical, operation, however, it was impossible to have any more children.

    Thereafter, Rollin and I seldom talked about the operation or what had led up to it. We seldom talked at all. We became very touchy about “slights”; we were impatient and sometimes rude to each other; we were often filled with self-pity. Despite a steady and comfortable income, we quarreled constantly about money. We became stressed and tense. Our fears for the children’s safety became exaggerated to the point of panic; we were terrified that we would lose one of these precious, irreplaceable lives. We lost our sense of humor and seemed to bicker over everything. He began to lose respect for me and I for him. Aversion to intimacy began to develop. Life became a horrid burden to us both, each secretly resenting and blaming the other.

    While we were still firmly opposed to abortion, we were no longer “pro-life” in any greater sense. Dark and cynical, we had become anti-life at a very basic level. When we talked about sexual matters, it was with a rather wry, sometimes bawdy, humor; it was no longer approached with reverence and awe. We seldom talked about anything else but our children, the one remaining source of delight to us both. It grieved me that I’d taken this veterinary approach, done this self-mutilation, to my body; quite irrationally, I blamed and hated Rollin for it. However, everyone who knew of it praised us to the skies: clergyman, relatives, doctors, and psychologist; we had finally joined the contraceptive cult. Women who have had abortions must surely feel like this, too. Everyone else – other women, medical personnel, their lover or husband, their family, their minister (or even some priests) – will try to “be compassionate and sensitive to the needs of women” and to tell the aborted woman that what she did was okay, but she knows it was not okay. Yet, she isn’t allowed by these “sensitive” friends and family to grieve or even mention it, not ever again. Who will listen to the “silent scream” within the agonized soul of such women? There was no one there for me, for us, and this was not even an abortion.

    At this time, we heard from the Catholic couple, who had talked so strongly to us before we were married about the dangers of contraception; they were not getting along and were thinking about divorce. This stunned us! Here was another couple with seven children. What had gone wrong? We snapped out of our own self-pity to try and turn them away from separation and divorce.

    Our friends told us that they had decided that the whole church was wrong, that it was just a power institution imposing rules on “little people” to spoil their sexual freedom. They renounced their former convictions about the evils of unnatural contraception; they ridiculed themselves for ever having held such convictions. We were embarrassed by their rude jokes; they were insulting to each other; their language had become coarse and vulgar. Both had come to support abortion. They encouraged their children to use contraception themselves. They talked about sex as if they were talking about a tennis match. The final severance came when a newly launched affair with a female graduate student became public scandal.

    We were really horrified by this; the same shoals lay dead ahead of us. The fact was that this couple had given up their faith. So had we. Like our friends, we had stopped going to church ourselves, but we had not gone so far as both to hate the church and to reject the sacraments. We had not quite despaired. We were very near despair, really in much greater danger than either of us knew at the time. We did know, however, that we had reached such a point of desolation in love that there were no more resources left to us and that we would soon be as lost as our lost friends.

    Reconciliation

    One night, while driving alone to the grocery, incongruously, I prayed a desperate prayer, asking God’s help and promising to do whatever I was told to do. God spoke to me then! He made it known to me that we could go no further until we ended our isolation and committed ourselves again to Christ’s Church. I considered this revelation and finally came to the conclusion that, although we would be rejected and shunned by family and friends, the Roman Catholic Church (progressive and trendy as it seemed then) was what I had to choose. I told Rollin that very night that I intended to become a Catholic. He did not seem surprised and by the next morning revealed to me that this was what he, too, wanted to do.

    On the day that we were formally received, I said to Rollin that it felt like we had just gotten married, again. There was no trained choir for this nuptial; the organ was preempted by a guitarist who throbbed the strings with heavy hand; the church building was ugly, a yellow brick, auditorium-like affair; the priest’s holiness was less than exemplary. It didn’t matter at all. What mattered was our surrender to Christ and to His Church; through this surrender the restoration of our marriage could begin.

    Our conversion to Catholicism brought great joy, but also great sorrow. We could hardly bear to see the American Catholic Church chasing after the very trendiness and politics that we had just left behind. Why would Catholics no longer want to say the Rosary? Why would they want to have the Stations of the Cross, and other images, removed? Why did they hate the Holy Father and the church’s teaching authority? How could they ever endorse abortion … or contraception? Why did so many Catholics seem to mistrust their own beautiful heritage?

    We began to think about these questions again. We were a long way from unconditional love or trust; that had been too badly shattered to be rebuilt in a week or even years. It was being rebuilt for us, however, by Him who had always been faithful, even when we were faithless.

    We admitted that we were WRONG to have done what we did in ever using artificial contraception and, above all, in having a sterilization operation; we were also WRONG to have given so much allegiance to cultish thought, to Jungianism. The former violated the unity of our marriage; the latter denied and trivialized moral absolutes. This dual admission of guilt did not make it possible to reverse a biological procedure, which had removed my womb. It did make it possible to return to holiness, to find forgiveness, and to receive healing within our souls and marriage.

    Until we came to this admission of error, we had gotten in the habit of denying that anything was wrong or, at most, justifying our actions, or casting blame on other people and each other. The most difficult act of all was admitting that we were wrong. We were wrong; we had sinned; we repented of that wrong and WE WERE FORGIVEN. We could, of course, have gone on living with no such admission of guilt; how heavy and sorrowful our lives, had we chosen self-pity and perpetual justification! Once such justification and blame begin, there is no end to it or the self-pity it generates. Yet, had we not sinned, there would have been no forgiveness, no grace – O Felix Culpa! Thanks be to God!

    Unconditional love and trust has been given back to us, but it did not happen right away. We agreed that it wasn’t enough to admit our faults to ourselves and to each other; we needed absolution. On our wedding anniversary, together we sought the sacrament of confession

    We remember these former betrayals of love as mistakes, not to be repeated. Nothing can undo the fact that these things did happen. Yet, the memory is without bitterness and without recrimination, though not without regret. We are terribly sorry to have ever been apart from God and from each other. The most dreadful experience, the most absolute evil imaginable, is to be totally cut off from the unconditional love of God and from its vessel, the love of our spouse. We regret its having happened because we never wanted nor intended to hurt one another, nor to despair of God’s presence in our lives. On the other hand, our experience has made us acutely aware of the power of unnatural contraceptives and of cult-like thought to effect just this horror in the lives of loving spouses.

    Some will no doubt say that had we not lost our faith, we would not have resorted to contraception and would not have been tempted toward any cult; no doubt this is accurate. Others may think that we were only looking for something upon which to pin the woes of an already troubled marriage and chose contraception as the goat. This is not accurate; we know the facts and have presented them faithfully. From the beginning, we were given a great love; we unintentionally betrayed that love through the deliberate choosing of an inherently evil act. It matters not that our original intentions were sincere and benevolent. Sincerity does not undo reality. Through consciously choosing unnatural contraception and through buying into Jungianism as a substitute for religion, we abandoned our faith and ushered in the unhappy consequences that followed. Those consequences are not to be underestimated, for nothing less than eternal salvation, our family’s permanence, and unconditional love is at stake.

    Christian newly-weds are not faced with the same isolation that we were at the time of our marriage. Nor do they have to rely on calendar rhythm. Thanks to doctors John and Elizabeth Billings, to John and Sheila Kipply, and to the research of others, the symptoms of a woman’s fertility are known and easy to determine now, as they were not twenty-five years ago. The Couple to Couple League (P. O. Box 111184, Cincinnati, Ohio, 45211) is reliable in teaching couples how to use Natural Family Planning, which is in complete accord with the doctrines of the church and which violates no aspect of marriage, neither the unitive nor the procreative. Through fertility awareness and a few days per month of abstinence, couples can be sensible in their family planning, spontaneous in their sexual union, and true to the will of God. That will is to offer every act of marriage thoughtfully, responsibly, and prayerfully to God who sustains us and our love.

    The choice of the natural rhythms involves accepting the cycle of the … woman, and thereby accepting dialogue, reciprocal respect, shared responsibility and self-control. To accept the cycle and to enter into dialogue means to recognize both the spiritual and corporal character of conjugal communion and to live personal love with its requirement of fidelity.

    (Familiaris Consortio, section 32)

    It is not, as our ignorant brethren assume, that a woman should have as many babies as she possibly can, no matter what her health or the family’s finances. It is that we should seek, first, the kingdom of heaven and to do no harm to others, to violate no life, no love.

    We are rational creatures and are expected to use RIGHTLY our reason and our free will when approaching the holy ground of our sexuality. These brief periods of abstinence, of shared sacrifice, become times of love-making of another sort, of thanksgiving for God’s gift of each to the other, each other’s love, and the miracle of being loved.

    In this context the couple comes to experience how conjugal communion is enriched with those values of tenderness and affection, which constitute the inner soul of human sexuality in its physical dimension also. In this way sexuality is respected and promoted in its truly and fully human dimension and is never “used” as an “object” that, by breaking the personal unity of soul and body, strikes at God’s creation itself at the level of the deepest interaction of nature and person.

    (Familiaris Consortio, section 32)

    The spousal union remains one of unconditional love between the spouses, and each carries the grace of Christ in sexuality, a grace found in a thousand daily acts of intimacy and of love to the beloved other.

    “God does not ask the impossible, but by His commands, instructs you to do what you are able, to pray for what you are not able that He may help you.”

    (Casti Connubii, section IV, p. 31)

    In His boundless Mercy, He also forgives those who have not been able to “preserve in wedlock their chastity unspotted.” Blessedly, there can be granted a second spring, a second virginity within marriage. Through God’s forgiveness, chastity between spouses can be restored to its divine purity, its unconditional love.

    We women have always held the sexual standards of society and had the responsibility for our children’s moral education. Now, we have the knowledge of our own fertility. Is it unreasonable to ask our husbands to respect this, to center relations around female sexuality instead of the male sexual drive? In doing so, would it not then be easier to teach our children to save sex for marriage and to uphold standards of chastity for them? Would not widespread knowledge and endorsement of Natural Family Planning restore respect for women and the family to its rightful place in society? Would it not strongly censure or forbid pornographic material as the vile exploitation that it is?

    This “tar baby” has seen the consequences of contraceptives in her own life and marriage. I’d gladly endure the briar-patch, once again, to find the freedom and sanctity of married love that has been restored to us through familiarity with NFP. It really is the only truly sensible way of family planning.

    Of Human Life

    Dear Friend,

    The legacy of some men diminishes with time. With others, it grows. In a century of Popes who were good men, good teachers and good fathers in the faith, Paul VI stands out for his steadfast and humble service to the truth. Many of his writings are now classics of Catholic doctrine. None drew more controversy and criticism than Humanae Vitae, his 1968 encyclical which reaffirmed what the Church believes about the conception of new life. Looking back after 30 years, however, we can better understand the wisdom and foresight of this extraordinary man of God. In a time when the word “prophetic” has almost lost its force from misuse and overuse, today we can truly say that Paul VI was prophetic in his teachings on married love and sexuality.

    My own thoughts on Paul VI’s encyclical, which follow here, are just one example of a much wider re-appreciation of Humanae Vitae now going on in faithful hearts around the world. I want to offer my thanks and friendship to everyone involved with One More Soul for kindly reprinting the pastoral letter Of Human Life and, more importantly, for the tremendous work they do, day in and day out. To all who read this booklet, may God bless you richly and fill your life with His peace.

    Your brother in the Lord,

    Most Reverend Charles J. Chaput, OFM Cap Archbishop of Denver

    Of Human Life

    A pastoral letter to the people of God of northern Colorado on the truth and meaning of married love

    + Charles J. Chaput, OFM Cap Archbishop of Denver July 22, 1998

    Dear brothers and sisters in the Lord,

    1.

    Thirty years ago this week, Pope Paul VI issued his encyclical letter Humanae Vitae (Of Human Life), which reaffirmed the Church’s constant teaching on the regulation of births. It is certainly the most misunderstood papal intervention of this century. It was the spark which led to three decades of doubt and dissent among many Catholics, especially in the developed countries. With the passage of time, however, it has also proven prophetic. It teaches the truth. My purpose in this pastoral letter, therefore, is simple. I believe the message of Humanae Vitae is not a burden but a joy. I believe this encyclical offers a key to deeper, richer marriages. And so what I seek from the family of our local Church is not just a respectful nod toward a document which critics dismiss as irrelevant, but an active and sustained effort to study Humanae Vitae; to teach it faithfully in our parishes; and to encourage our married couples to live it.

    I. The World Since 1968

    2.

    Sooner or later, every pastor counsels someone struggling with an addiction. Usually the problem is alcohol or drugs. And usually the scenario is the same. The addict will acknowledge the problem but claim to be powerless against it. Or, alternately, the addict will deny having any problem at all, even if the addiction is destroying his or her health and wrecking job and family. No matter how much sense the pastor makes; no matter how true and persuasive his arguments; and no matter how life-threatening the situation, the addict simply cannot understand – or cannot act on – the counsel. The addiction, like a thick pane of glass, divides the addict from anything or anyone that might help.

    3.

    One way to understand the history of Humanae Vitae is to examine the past three decades through this metaphor of addiction. I believe people in the developed world find this encyclical so hard to accept not because of any defect in Paul VI’s reasoning, but because of the addictions and contradictions they have inflicted upon themselves, exactly as the Holy Father warned.

    4.

    In presenting his encyclical, Paul VI cautioned against four main problems (HV 17) that would arise if Church teaching on the regulation of births was ignored. First, he warned that the widespread use of contraception would lead to “conjugal infidelity and the general lowering of morality.” Exactly this has happened. Few would deny that the rates of abortion, divorce, family breakdown, wife and child abuse, venereal disease, and out of wedlock births have all massively increased since the mid-1960s. Obviously, the birth control pill has not been the only factor in this unraveling. But it has played a major role. In fact, the cultural revolution since 1968, driven at least in part by transformed attitudes toward sex, would not have been possible or sustainable without easy access to reliable contraception. In this, Paul VI was right.

    5.

    Second, he also warned that man would lose respect for woman and “no longer [care] for her physical and psychological equilibrium,” to the point that he would consider her “as a mere instrument of selfish enjoyment, and no longer as his respected and beloved companion.” In other words, according to the Pope, contraception might be marketed as liberating for women, but the real “beneficiaries” of birth control pills and devices would be men. Three decades later, exactly as Paul VI suggested, contraception has released males – to a historically unprecedented degree – from responsibility for their sexual aggression. In the process, one of the stranger ironies of the contraception debate of the past generation has been this: Many feminists have attacked the Catholic Church for her alleged disregard of women, but the Church in Humanae Vitae identified and rejected sexual exploitation of women years before that message entered the cultural mainstream. Again, Paul VI was right.

    6.

    Third, the Holy Father also warned that widespread use of contraception would place a “dangerous weapon . . . in the hands of those public authorities who take no heed of moral exigencies.” As we have since discovered, eugenics didn’t disappear with Nazi racial theories in 1945. Population control policies are now an accepted part of nearly every foreign aid discussion. The massive export of contraceptives, abortion and sterilization by the developed world to developing countries – frequently as a prerequisite for aid dollars and often in direct contradiction to local moral traditions – is a thinly disguised form of population warfare and cultural re-engineering. Again, Paul VI was right.

    7.

    Fourth, Pope Paul warned that contraception would mislead human beings into thinking they had unlimited dominion over their own bodies, relentlessly turning the human person into the object of his or her own intrusive power. Herein lies another irony: In fleeing into the false freedom provided by contraception and abortion, an exaggerated feminism has actively colluded in women’s dehumanization. A man and a woman participate uniquely in the glory of God by their ability to co-create new life with Him. At the heart of contraception, however, is the assumption that fertility is an infection which must be attacked and controlled, exactly as antibiotics attack bacteria. In this attitude, one can also see the organic link between contraception and abortion. If fertility can be misrepresented as an infection to be attacked, so too can new life. In either case, a defining element of woman’s identity – her potential for bearing new life – is recast as a weakness requiring vigilant distrust and “treatment.” Woman becomes the object of the tools she relies on to ensure her own liberation and defense, while man takes no share of the burden. Once again, Paul VI was right.

    8.

    From the Holy Father’s final point, much more has flowed: In vitro fertilization, cloning, genetic manipulation, and embryo experimentation are all descendants of contraceptive technology. In fact, we have drastically and naively underestimated the effects of technology not only on external society, but on our own interior human identity. As author Neil Postman has observed, technological change is not additive but ecological. A significant new technology does not “add” something to a society; it changes everything – just as a drop of red dye does not remain discrete in a glass of water, but colors and changes every single molecule of the liquid. Contraceptive technology, precisely because of its impact on sexual intimacy, has subverted our understanding of the purpose of sexuality, fertility and marriage itself. It has detached them from the natural, organic identity of the human person and disrupted the ecology of human relationships. It has scrambled our vocabulary of love, just as pride scrambled the vocabulary of Babel.

    9.

    Now we deal daily with the consequences. I am writing these thoughts during a July week when, within days of each other, news media have informed us that nearly 14 percent of Coloradans are or have been involved in drug or alcohol dependency; a governor’s commission has praised marriage while simultaneously recommending steps that would subvert it in Colorado by extending parallel rights and responsibilities to persons in “committed relationships,” including same-sex relationships; and a young east coast couple have been sentenced for brutally slaying their newborn baby. According to news reports, one or both of the young unmarried parents “bashed in [the baby’s] skull while he was still alive, and then left his battered body in a Dumpster to die.” These are the headlines of a culture in serious distress. U.S. society is wracked with sexual identity and behavior dysfunctions, family collapse and a general coarsening of attitudes toward the sanctity of human life. It’s obvious to everyone but an addict: We have a problem. It’s killing us as a people. So what are we going to do about it? What I want to suggest is that if Paul VI was right about so many of the consequences deriving from contraception, it is because he was right about contraception itself. In seeking to become whole again as persons and as a people of faith, we need to begin by revisiting Humanae Vitae with open hearts. Jesus said the truth would make us free. Humanae Vitae is filled with truth. It is therefore a key to our freedom.

    II. What Humanae Vitae Really Says

    10.

    Perhaps one of the flaws in communicating the message of Humanae Vitae over the last 30 years has been the language used in teaching it. The duties and responsibilities of married life are numerous. They’re also serious. They need to be considered carefully, and prayerfully, in advance. But few couples understand their love in terms of academic theology. Rather, they fall in love. That’s the vocabulary they use. It’s that simple and revealing. They surrender to each other. They give themselves to each other. They fall into each other in order to fully possess, and be possessed by, each other. And rightly so. In married love, God intends that spouses should find joy and delight, hope and abundant life, in and through each other – all ordered in a way which draws husband and wife, their children, and all who know them, deeper into God’s embrace.

    11.

    As a result, in presenting the nature of Christian marriage to a new generation, we need to articulate its fulfilling satisfactions at least as well as its duties. The Catholic attitude toward sexuality is anything but puritanical, repressive, or anti-carnal. God created the world and fashioned the human person in His own image. Therefore the body is good. In fact, it’s often been a source of great humor for me to listen incognito as people simultaneously complain about the alleged “bottled-up sexuality” of Catholic moral doctrine, and the size of many good Catholic families. (From where, one might ask, do they think the babies come?) Catholic marriage – exactly like Jesus Himself – is not about scarcity but abundance. It’s not about sterility, but rather the fruitfulness which flows from unitive, procreative love. Catholic married love always implies the possibility of new life; and because it does, it drives out loneliness and affirms the future. And because it affirms the future, it becomes a furnace of hope in a world prone to despair. In effect, Catholic marriage is attractive because it is true. It’s designed for the creatures we are: persons meant for communion. Spouses complete each other. When God joins a woman and man together in marriage, they create with Him a new wholeness; a “belonging” which is so real, so concrete, that a new life, a child, is its natural expression and seal. This is what the Church means when she teaches that Catholic married love is by its nature both unitive and procreative – not either/or.

    12.

    But why can’t a married couple simply choose the unitive aspect of marriage and temporarily block or even permanently prevent its procreative nature? The answer is as simple and radical as the Gospel itself. When spouses give themselves honestly and entirely to each other, as the nature of married love implies and even demands, that must include their whole selves – and the most intimate, powerful part of each person is his or her fertility. Contraception not only denies this fertility and attacks procreation; in doing so, it necessarily damages unity as well. It is the equivalent of spouses saying: “I’ll give you all I am – except my fertility; I’ll accept all you are – except your fertility.” This withholding of self inevitably works to isolate and divide the spouses, and unravel the holy friendship between them . . . maybe not immediately and overtly, but deeply, and in the long run often fatally for the marriage.

    13.

    This is why the Church is not against “artificial” contraception. She is against all contraception. The notion of “artificial” has nothing to do with the issue. In fact, it tends to confuse discussion by implying that the debate is about a mechanical intrusion into the body’s organic system. It is not. The Church has no problem with science appropriately intervening to heal or enhance bodily health. Rather, the Church teaches that all contraception is morally wrong; and not only wrong, but seriously wrong. The covenant which husband and wife enter at marriage requires that all intercourse remain open to the transmission of new life. This is what becoming “one flesh” implies: complete self-giving, without reservation or exception, just as Christ withheld nothing of Himself from His bride, the Church, by dying for her on the cross. Any intentional interference with the procreative nature of intercourse necessarily involves spouses’ withholding themselves from each other and from God, who is their partner in sacramental love. In effect, they steal something infinitely precious – themselves – from each other and from their Creator.

    14.

    And this is why natural family planning (NFP) differs not merely in style but in moral substance from contraception as a means of regulating family size. NFP is not contraception. Rather, it is a method of fertility awareness and appreciation. It is an entirely different approach to regulating birth. NFP does nothing to attack fertility, withhold the gift of oneself from one’s spouse, or block the procreative nature of intercourse. The marriage covenant requires that each act of intercourse be fully an act of self-giving, and therefore open to the possibility of new life. But when, for good reasons, a husband and wife limit their intercourse to the wife’s natural periods of infertility during a month, they are simply observing a cycle which God Himself created in the woman. They are not subverting it. And so they are living within the law of God’s love.

    15.

    There are, of course, many wonderful benefits to the practice of NFP. The wife preserves herself from intrusive chemicals or devices and remains true to her natural cycle. The husband shares in the planning and responsibility for NFP. Both learn a greater degree of self-mastery and a deeper respect for each other. It’s true that NFP involves sacrifices and periodic abstinence from intercourse. It can, at times, be a difficult road. But so can any serious Christian life, whether ordained, consecrated, single or married. Moreover, the experience of tens of thousands of couples has shown that, when lived prayerfully and unselfishly, NFP deepens and enriches marriage and results in greater intimacy – and greater joy. In the Old Testament, God told our first parents to be fruitful and multiply (Gn 1:28). He told us to choose life (Dt 30:19). He sent His son, Jesus, to bring us life abundantly (Jn 10:10) and to remind us that His yoke is light (Mt 11:30). I suspect, therefore, that at the heart of Catholic ambivalence toward Humanae Vitae is not a crisis of sexuality, Church authority or moral relevance, but rather a question of faith: Do we really believe in God’s goodness? The Church speaks for her Bridegroom, Jesus Christ, and believers naturally, eagerly listen. She shows married couples the path to enduring love and a culture of life. Thirty years of history record the consequences of choosing otherwise.

    III. What We Need To Do

    16.

    I want to express my gratitude to the many couples who already live the message of Humanae Vitae in their married lives. Their fidelity to the truth sanctifies their own families and our entire community of faith. I thank in a special way those couples who teach NFP and counsel others in responsible parenthood inspired by Church teaching. Their work too often goes unnoticed or underappreciated – but they are powerful advocates for life in an age of confusion. I also want to offer my prayers and encouragement to those couples who bear the cross of infertility. In a society often bent on avoiding children, they carry the burden of yearning for children but having none. No prayers go unanswered, and all suffering given over to the Lord bears fruit in some form of new life. I encourage them to consider adoption, and I appeal to them to remember that a good end can never justify a wrong means. Whether to prevent a pregnancy or achieve one, all techniques which separate the unitive and procreative dimensions of marriage are always wrong. Procreative techniques which turn embryos into objects and mechanically substitute for the loving embrace of husband and wife violate human dignity and treat life as a product. No matter how positive their intentions, these techniques advance the dangerous tendency to reduce human life to material which can be manipulated.

    17.

    It’s never too late to turn our hearts back toward God. We are not powerless. We can make a difference by witnessing the truth about married love and fidelity to the culture around us. In December last year, in a pastoral letter entitled Good News of Great Joy, I spoke of the important vocation every Catholic has as an evangelizer. We are all missionaries. America in the 1990s, with its culture of disordered sexuality, broken marriages and fragmented families, urgently needs the Gospel. As Pope John Paul II writes in his apostolic exhortation On the Family (Familiaris Consortio), married couples and families have a critical role in witnessing Jesus Christ to each other and to the surrounding culture (49, 50).

    18.

    In that light, I ask married couples of the archdiocese to read, discuss and pray over Humanae Vitae, Familiaris Consortio and other documents of the Church which outline Catholic teaching on marriage and sexuality. Many married couples, unaware of the valuable wisdom found in these materials, have deprived themselves of a beautiful source of support for their mutual love. I especially encourage couples to examine their own consciences regarding contraception, and I ask them to remember that “conscience” is much more than a matter of personal preference. It requires us to search out and understand Church teaching, and to honestly strive to conform our hearts to it. I urge them to seek sacramental Reconciliation for the times they may have fallen into contraception. Disordered sexuality is the dominant addiction of American society in these closing years of the century. It directly or indirectly impacts us all. As a result, for many, this teaching may be a hard message to accept. But do not lose heart. Each of us is a sinner. Each of us is loved by God. No matter how often we fail, God will deliver us if we repent and ask for the grace to do His will.

    19.

    I ask my brother priests to examine their own pastoral practices, to ensure that they faithfully and persuasively present the Church’s teaching on these issues in all their parish work. Our people deserve the truth about human sexuality and the dignity of marriage. To accomplish this, I ask pastors to read and implement the Vademecum for Confessors Concerning Some Aspects of the Morality of Conjugal Life, and to study the Church’s teaching on marriage and family planning. I urge them to appoint parish coordinators to facilitate the presentation of Catholic teaching on married love and family planning – especially NFP. Contraception is a grave matter. Married couples need the good counsel of the Church to make right decisions. Most married Catholics welcome the guidance of their priests, and priests should never feel intimidated by their personal commitment to celibacy, or embarrassed by the teaching of the Church. To be embarrassed by Church teaching is to be embarrassed by Christ’s teaching. The pastoral experience and counsel of a priest are valuable on issues like contraception precisely because he brings new perspective to a couple and speaks for the whole Church. Moreover, the fidelity a priest shows to his own vocation strengthens married people to live their vocation more faithfully.

    20.

    As archbishop, I commit myself and my offices to supporting my brother priests, deacons, and their lay collaborators in presenting the whole of the Church’s teaching on married love and family planning. I owe both the clergy of our local Church and their staffs – especially the many dedicated parish catechists – much gratitude for the good work they have already accomplished in this area. It is my intention to ensure that courses on married love and family planning are available on a regular basis to more and more people of the archdiocese, and that our priests and deacons receive more extensive education in the theological and pastoral aspects of these issues. I direct, in a particular way, our Offices of Evangelization and Catechetics; Marriage and Family Life; Catholic Schools; Youth, Young Adult and Campus Ministries; and the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults to develop concrete ways to better present Church teaching on married love to our people, and to require adequate instruction in NFP as part of all marriage preparation programs in the archdiocese.

    21.

    Two final points. First, the issue of contraception is not peripheral, but central and serious in a Catholic’s walk with God. If knowingly and freely engaged in, contraception is a grave sin, because it distorts the essence of marriage: the self-giving love which, by its very nature, is life-giving. It breaks apart what God created to be whole: the person-uniting meaning of sex (love) and the life-giving meaning of sex (procreation). Quite apart from its cost to individual marriages, contraception has also inflicted massive damage on society at large: initially by driving a wedge between love and the procreation of children; and then between sex (i.e., recreational sex without permanent commitment) and love. Nonetheless – and this is my second point – teaching the truth should always be done with patience and compassion, as well as firmness. American society seems to swing peculiarly between Puritanism and license. The two generations – my own and my teachers’ – which once led the dissent from Paul VI’s encyclical in this country, are generations still reacting against the American Catholic rigorism of the 1950s. That rigorism, much of it a product of culture and not doctrine, has long since been demolished. But the habit of skepticism remains. In reaching these people, our task is to turn their distrust to where it belongs: toward the lies the world tells about the meaning of human sexuality, and the pathologies those lies conceal.

    22.

    In closing, we face an opportunity which comes only once in many decades. Thirty years ago this week, Paul VI told the truth about married love. In doing it, he triggered a struggle within the Church which continues to mark American Catholic life even today. Selective dissent from Humanae Vitae soon fueled broad dissent from Church authority and attacks on the credibility of the Church herself. The irony is that the people who dismissed Church teaching in the 1960s soon discovered that they had subverted their own ability to pass anything along to their children. The result is that the Church now must evangelize a world of their children’s children – adolescents and young adults raised in moral confusion, often unaware of their own moral heritage, who hunger for meaning, community, and love with real substance. For all its challenges, this is a tremendous new moment of possibility for the Church, and the good news is that the Church today, as in every age, has the answers to fill the God-shaped empty places in their hearts. My prayer is therefore simple: May the Lord grant us the wisdom to recognize the great treasure which resides in our teaching about married love and human sexuality, the faith, joy and perseverance to live it in our own families – and the courage which Paul VI possessed to preach it anew.

    + Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap Archbishop of Denver July 22, 1998

    IV. Addendum: Some Common Questions

    In the weeks following publication of his pastoral letter, Archbishop Chaput answered some common questions about family planning and related issues in his regular Denver Catholic Register column.

    1. Isn’t a couple’s method of family planning a matter of personal conscience?

    Yes it is. Catholics, like all people, are always obligated to follow their consciences – on birth control and every other matter. But that’s not where the problem lies. The problem lies in the formation of one’s conscience. A conscientious person seeks to do good and avoid evil. Seeing the difference between good and evil, though, can sometimes be difficult. As Pope John Paul II has said, the basic moral law is written in the human heart because we’re created in the image and likeness of God. But we bear the wounds of original sin, which garbles the message and dims our ability to judge and act according to truth.

    Truth is objective. In other words, it’s real; independent of us; and exists whether we like it or not. Therefore, conscience can’t invent right and wrong. Rather, conscience is called to discover the truth of right and wrong, and then to submit personal judgments to the truth once it is found. Church teaching on the regulation of births, like all her moral teachings, is a sure guide for forming our consciences according to the truth. For we have the certainty of faith, as Vatican II reminds us, that the teachings of the Church on matters of faith and morals are “not the mere word of men, but truly the word of God” (Lumen Gentium n. 12)

    Too often, we use “conscience” as a synonym for private preference; a kind of pious alibi for doing what we want or taking the easy road. We only end up hurting others and ourselves.

    2.

    I still don’t see the big difference between a couple using “artificial” birth control and a couple using “natural” family planning. Don’t both couples have the same intention, and isn’t this what determines morality?

    It’s hard to see the difference when the emphasis is placed on “artificial” versus “natural” methods. People rightly point out that many things we use are artificial but not immoral. So it’s important to realize that the Church doesn’t oppose artificial birth control because it’s artificial. Rather, what the Church opposes is any method of birth control which is contraceptive, whether artificial devices, pills, etc., are used or not.

    Contraception is the choice, by any means, to sterilize a given act of intercourse. In other words, a contracepting couple chooses to engage in intercourse and, knowing that it may result in a new life, they intentionally and willfully suppress their fertility. Herein lies a key distinction: Natural family planning (NFP) is in no way contraceptive. The choice to abstain from a fertile act of intercourse is completely different from the willful choice to sterilize a fertile act of intercourse. NFP simply accepts from God’s hand the natural cycle of infertility that He has built into the nature of woman.

    Regarding the issue of intention: Yes, both couples may have the same end in mind – to avoid pregnancy. But the means to achieve their common goal are not at all alike. Take, for example, two students, each of whom intends to excel in school. Obviously that’s a very good intention. With the same goal in mind, one studies diligently. The other cheats on every test. The point is, the end doesn’t justify the means – in getting an education, in regulating births, or in anything else.

    3.

    I’m a priest. If I preach about what’s wrong with contraception, I’ll lose people.

    Let me turn that around: If priests don’t preach the Church’s message about contraception, heaven loses people. Don’t be afraid. When Jesus preached the truth, He lost people. But, little by little, He gained even more people. Take courage in the Lord. It shouldn’t surprise us that people find this teaching hard to accept. Every Gospel-based life has things which are hard to accept. Should we stop teaching the truth because it’s difficult? Of course not. We have the joy and the responsibility before God to preach the truth lovingly in season and out of season.

    The Church won’t be renewed without a renewal of family life. And the family can’t be renewed without a return to the truths taught in Humanae Vitae. Ignoring this issue can’t be an option: In the long run, its cost is too high. Therefore, we should make every effort to better understand the importance of Church teaching in this regard, and witness to it boldly and with confidence.

    4. In your pastoral letter, you said that the most intimate, powerful part of each person is his or her fertility. My husband and I are unable to have children. What does this mean for us?

    Many couples bear a great cross because, despite their openness to life, they’re unable to have children. But marital love is always life-giving when spouses give themselves honestly to each other, even if a child isn’t conceived. Only when husband and wife intentionally withhold their fertility, or abuse their sexuality in some other way, can we speak of a “life-less” act of intercourse.

    Spouses’ self-giving in one flesh remains the most intimate, powerful and life-giving expression of their love for one another, even when nature, or some problem of nature, prevents new life from being conceived. Medical technology can sometimes correct a physical problem, allowing a child to be conceived by the loving embrace of parents. This is a proper and wonderful use of technology. However, couples should remember that, as creatures themselves, they’re not the arbiters of human life. Ultimately, no one is free to manipulate the conception of a human person. No matter how sincere a couple’s intentions, many of today’s new procreative techniques treat human life as a product which can be manufactured – and in doing so, they violate human dignity. Again, the end never justifies the means.

    Children aren’t the only way a marriage can be fruitful. If God, in His design, closes one option for a couple, He will open another. Their love can find expression in adoption, foster-parenting, or dozens of forms of apostolic work. This kind of counsel, of course, is much easier to give than to willingly accept. I would never want to understate the real pain and loss felt by infertile couples. But I know, both from faith and from my friendships with married couples over the years, that if a husband and wife choose to trust God, their love will always be rewarded with fertility and new life – if not in the form of a child, then in the way they impact the world around them.

    5.

    Why is the Church so obsessed with sex?

    You know the old saying about the pot calling the kettle black – well, here’s a great example. Questions like this one may very well be honest, but they conceal where the real obsessions lie. American society is drowning in a sea of disordered sexuality. In such circumstances, it’s hardly an “obsession” for the Church to speak clearly and forcefully about how to swim. It’s her responsibility and mission.

    God created our sexuality to be a sign in the world of His own life and love, and to reveal to us that we can only fulfill ourselves by loving as He loves. When sexuality becomes distorted, however, it’s no longer able to communicate God’s life and love. Empty of true love, life lacks meaning, and people soon seem disposable. Sex becomes a pursuit of selfish gratification at the expense of others. Children are no longer welcomed as the natural fruit of married love, but are seen as a burden to be avoided. We don’t even shrink from killing (through abortion) thousands of innocent preborn lives a day in satisfying our convenience and appetites.

    It’s no exaggeration, then, to say that disordered sexuality is the beginning of what Pope John Paul II calls “the culture of death.” In fact, we’ll never build a culture of life and love without first restoring the true meaning of human sexuality. If the Church is so concerned about sex, it’s because she seeks to defend the dignity of the human person, and to safeguard the true meaning of life and love which sexuality is meant to reveal.

    6. How can I preach against contraception and praise the virtues of NFP? As a priest, I’m not married.

    First, the truth is the truth, no matter who speaks it. Second, preaching isn’t about the preacher; it’s about the message. Third, in his promise of celibacy, a priest doesn’t forget or deny his sexuality. Instead, he dedicates it to a different – but equally fertile – kind of fruitfulness. In other words, priestly celibacy is an affirmation, not a rejection; a strength, not a weakness. It’s a “yes” to God which enables us to understand and serve our people better.

    Remember that marriage, religious life, the single vocation, and the priesthood are all designed to fit together and complement each other in the life of the Church. Each needs the other. Each, in its own proper way, fulfills the fundamental human vocation to give ourselves away in love. I think we priests often underestimate how effective our pastoral counsel can be on issues like contraception. People want and need the truth, and over time, the human heart naturally responds to it. But our people can’t respond if they don’t hear the message of Humanae Vitae faithfully and persuasively from their pastors. That’s our job, and we should embrace it joyfully.

    Please contact One More Soul (800) 307-7685 to receive their Resource Guide 2002 offering 200 books, videos, tapes and pamphlets for helping people understand how children are a great blessing from God and how contraception is very harmful.

    Information about Natural Family Planning is available from One More Soul and other organizations.

    Billings Ovulation Method Association

    (651) 699-8139

    Couple to Couple League

    (800) 745-8252

    Family of the Americas Foundation

    (301) 627-3346

    US Conference of Catholic Bishops

    (202) 541-3240

    Northwest Family Services

    (503) 215-6377

    Natural Family Planning Outreach

    (405 942-4084

    Pope Paul VI Institute

    (404) 390-9851

    St. Augustine Foundation

    (877) 554-4637

    Your Local parish, Catholic hospital, or diocesan NFP office

    Why Is Contraception Immoral?

    Why is contraception immoral?

    Too often the discussion of the morality of contraception fragments into a specific treatment of individual devices and methods wherein the overarching theological and philosophical essence of contraception is obfuscated. We lose sight of the forest for the trees. Behind every device and method of contraception is a fundamental breach of Gods design for marital sexuality. Without this perspective, the Churchs condemnation of contraception might appear to be a knee-jerk reaction to modernity or a rejection of science and mans dominion over the material universe. The more we can recover the root of the Churchs prohibition of contraception, the more consistent and comprehensive will be our objections.

    What is contraception?

    In order to discuss the morality of a thing, we must first define it. Contraception, from the Latin contra (against) and conceptio (to conceive), literally means “against conception.” It may be defined as “every action which, whether in anticipation of the conjugal act, or in its accomplishment, or in the development of its natural consequences, proposes, whether as an end or as a means, to render procreation impossible” (HV 14). Simply put, contraception is any intentional attempt to render the conjugal act infertile. Father Ronald Lawler and Dr. William May elaborate:

    Contraception, as the word itself suggests, is actively aimed at preventing conception. But it is necessary to begin with a clear definition of contraception to make unmistakable the precise nature of the acts to which moral judgments about contraception are intended to apply.

    In his encyclical Humanae Vitae, Paul VI gave an exact account of the nature of contraceptive actions. A contraceptive act is had in any act of coition which is intended precisely to act against the procreative good, to prevent it from being realizedThus, there are various ways in which intercourse can be contraceptive: through the use of mechanical devices (such as condoms or diaphragms), by the use of withdrawal or spermicides, by the use of anovulant pills, by surgical sterilization, and the like. Contraception is always part of a dual act, contraceptive intercourse. In this dual act of contraceptive intercourse, one chooses to engage in sexual intercourse. While choosing to have intercourse, which is known to be essentially related to the procreation of new human life, and precisely because one does not want the act of intercourse to flower the fruitfulness which it can have, one performs the contraceptive act. This act is aimed precisely against the procreative good. The coming-to-be of a new human life (which is in itself a great good, though one may perhaps very reasonably desire not to realize it here and now) is treated as an evil, something to be acted against. The precise purpose of the contraceptive act, as we shall more fully show below, is to act directly against the great human good of procreation to treat it as if here and now it was an evil, not a good.

    Contraception or contraceptive intercourse therefore is not identical in meaning with birth control or family planning. Plainly there are other ways to control births and to plan ones family than by engaging in contraceptive intercourse. One can control or prevent births by means far worse than contraception by abortion, for instance. And one can plan ones family by means that are in themselves thoroughly good that is, by Natural Family Planning.1

    Note that in this definition contraception is not regarded as a classification of things alone that act against conception, but that it extends to the broader consideration of action, that is, a choice or act of the will against the natural fertility of sex. Hence it is not the material artificiality of contraception, the interference of man-made devices with a God-given faculty, alone that makes it unnatural. The artificiality of contraception extends to the willful frustration of ones true end. In other words, it violates the natural law, the purpose for which man and marriage were designed:

    Contrary to popular belief, the Church does not oppose artificial birth control because its artificial. She opposes it because its contraceptive. Contraception is the choice by any means to impede the procreative potential of a given act of intercourse. In other words, the contracepting couple chooses to engage in intercourse, and, foreseeing that their act may result in a new life, they intentionally and willfully suppress their fertility.2

    A further point to be made is that, even if couples do not impede the procreative potential of a given act of intercourse, (i.e., even if they do not contracept), they may well be engaging in their acts of intercourse with a mentality opposed to the good of children. Such a mentality (some call it a “contraceptive mentality”) is utterly contrary to the meaning of marital love. It can develop even in a couple that practices natural means of birth regulation if the couple begins to see fertility as a disease to be avoided at all costs. While engaging in an act of intercourse with an anti-child mentality is not the moral equivalent of engaging in contracepted intercourse, it springs from the same disordered view of fertility and may result in a sort of rebellion against the goods of marriage.

    In order to determine, therefore, what constitutes a violation of the procreative meaning of intercourse, we must not only ask what method is being used to regulate birth (means) but what is our intention, our motivation, our attitude toward the goods of marriage? In Humanae Vitae Pope Paul VI refers to the inseparability of the unitive and procreative meanings of intercourse. Since these two meanings of the act are truly inseparable, contraception wars against both. Contraception is a wholesale violation of the meaning of marital love. We have arrived, therefore, at an even broader understanding of the “contraceptive act”: any act of intercourse that separates or opposes the procreative and unitive goods of marital sex.3

    Why is contraception wrong?

    Contraception willfully divides the unitive and procreative aspects of sex.

    That contraception deliberately separates the unitive and procreative aspects of sex is affirmed by John Paul II in his 1994 Letter to Families:

    In particular, responsible fatherhood and motherhood directly concern the moment in which a man and a woman, uniting themselves in one flesh, can become parents. This is a moment of special value both for their interpersonal relationship and for their service to life: They can become parentsfather and motherby communicating life to a new human being. The two dimensions of conjugal union, the unitive and the procreative, cannot be artificially separated without damaging the deepest truth of the conjugal act itself (12).

    (a) Why are the unitive and procreative aspects of marital sex so important?

    Marriage, because it is part of Gods plan to redeem and sanctify the world, has specific divinely instituted ends or goods. While secular culture may view marriage as a civil institution that is reducible to a contract, the concept of Christian marriage is founded on the mystery that marriage is a sacramental covenant communion in which two become one for the sake of their own salvation and the salvation of the world.

    The matrimonial covenant, by which a man and a woman establish between themselves a partnership of the whole of life, is by its nature ordered toward the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of offspring; this covenant between baptized persons has been raised by Christ the Lord to the dignity of a sacrament (CCC 1601).

    A definition of the unitive and procreative elements of marriage will help demonstrate the salvific power of marriage and the indissoluble relationship between the unitive and procreative aspects of the marital act. The unitive aspect of marriage can be understood as the mutual and total self-giving of spouses to each others salvation. The procreative aspect is the participation of the spouses in the creation of new life. The mutual commitment to salvation that characterizes the unitive aspect overflows to another person: the child. Love, by its nature grows; it never suppresses a good. Love is complete giving. Because it delights in the good of another, it is generous and unreserved.

    The marital act is the visible sign of this overflowing of love. It visibly encapsulates the union between spouses and its life-giving power. Just as marriage integrates unitive and procreative, so must the physical expression of spousal communion. To separate the unitive from the procreative in the marital act is to disintegrate it and to frustrate Gods plan for marriage.

    Marriage is designed to give life, not to turn inward on itself. The grace of God that exists in the love of spouses is meant to overflow to the world. God gives life and love abundantly and expects us to do the same. This is why Christ established marriage as a sacrament that signifies His own fecund relationship with the Church:

    Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ loved the Church and handed himself over for her to sanctify her, cleansing her by the bath of water with the word, that he might present to himself the Church in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. So also husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one hates his own flesh but rather nourishes and cherishes it, even as Christ does the Church, because we are members of his body.

    For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.

    This is a great mystery, but I speak in reference to Christ and the Church. In any case, each one of you should love his wife as himself, and the wife should respect her husband (Eph 5:25-33).

    Christ espouses His Church, our mother, and in this covenant there is a mutual outpouring of self in which nothing is held back, even to the point of giving ones own life. The communion that exists between Christ and His Bride brings forth new lifespiritual children who deepen the life of the Church. In the same way, marriage must be life-giving. Spouses must exhibit the same total self-gift that Christ offered, holding nothing backincluding their fertility. Christs love for His Church is never contraceptive, never self-gratifying, but exists for the very purpose of creating new life.

    Consider an entity in which two people love each other so much that they exist as one, and in which the love of this union is so real and so intense that another person proceeds from it, a person who is sent out into the world to sanctify it. Sound familiar? The life-giving love of family is analogous to the inner life of God himself. Pope John Paul II writes: “God in his deepest mystery is not a solitude, but a family, since He has in Himself fatherhood, sonship, and the essence of the family which is love.”4 When we live according to this mystery we conform to the image of God; when we live counter to it we deviate from the image of God.

    As a communion of persons, the marriage that is open to children witnesses to the world the very life of God:

    The Christian family is a communion of persons, a sign and image of the communion of the Father and the Son in the Holy Spirit. In the procreation and education of children it reflects the Fathers work of creation. It is called to partake of the prayer and sacrifice of ChristThe Christian family has an evangelizing and missionary task (CCC 2205).

    This is the exalted dignity of marriage, expressed by the cooperation of unitive and procreative elements. To deny either is to deny the divine calling that makes marriage part of Gods plan.

    (b) Isnt this philosophical hair-splitting? Does God really delineate marital sex into its unitive and procreative aspects?

    If it seems unlikely that God would engage in categorizing and defining the aspects of marital sex, it is only because we know that God sees things in wholes, not in parts. God gets to the essence of things and so should we. This is why the Church exhorts her children to observe sex in its wholeness, not separating unitive and procreative. Parsing sex into categories comes about as a response to our abuse of its integrity.

    Catechism Connection

    The Unitive and Procreative Ends of the Marital Embrace

    The spouses union achieves the twofold end of marriage: the good of the spouses themselves and the transmission of life. These two meanings or values of marriage cannot be separated without altering the couples spiritual life and compromising the goods of marriage and the future of the family. The conjugal love of man and woman thus stands under the twofold obligation of fidelity and fecundity (CCC 2363).

    Fecundity is a gift, and end of marriage, for conjugal love naturally tends to be fruitful. A child does not come from outside as something added on to the mutual love of the spouses, but springs from the very heart of that mutual giving as its fruit and fulfillment. So the Church, which is on the side of life teaches that each and every marriage act must remain open to the transmission of life. This particular doctrine, expounded on numerous occasions by the Magisterium, is based on the inseparable connection, established by God, which man on his own initiative may not break, between the unitive significance and the procreative significance which are both inherent to the marriage act (CCC 2366)

    (a) The practice of contraception holds that man, apart from God, is the overseer of when life shall begin.

    Pope John Paul II explains:

    At the origin of every human person there is a creative act of God [I]t follows that the procreative capacity, inscribed in human sexuality, isin its deepest trutha cooperation with Gods creative power. It also follows that men and women are not the arbiters, are not the masters of this same capacity, called as they are, in it and through it, to be participants in Gods creative decision. When, therefore, through contraception, married couples remove from the exercise of their conjugal sexuality its potential procreative capacity, they claim a power which belongs solely to God: the power to decide, in a final analysis, the coming into existence of a human person. They assume the qualification not of being cooperators in Gods creative power, but the ultimate depositories of the source of human life[C]ontraception isso profoundly unlawful as never to be, for any reason, justified. To think or to say the contrary is equal to maintaining that in human life situations may arise in which it is lawful not to recognize God as God.5

    This, according to Dietrich Von Hildebrand, is the sin of irreverence:

    The sinfulness of birth control is rooted in the arrogation of the right to separate the actualized love union in marriage from a possible conception, to sever the wonderful, deeply mysterious connection instituted by God. This mystery is approached in an irreverent attitude. We are here confronted with the fundamental sin of irreverence toward God, the denial of our creaturehood, the acting as if we were our own lords. This is a basic denial of our being bound to God: it is a disrespect for the mysteries of Gods creation, and its sinfulness increases with the rank of the mystery in question. It is the same sinfulness that lies in suicide or in euthanasia, in both of which we act as if we were masters of life.

    Every active intervention of the spouses that eliminates the possibility of conception through the conjugal act is incompatible with the holy mystery of the superabundant relation in this incredible gift of God. And this irreverence also affects the purity of the conjugal act, because the union can be the real fulfillment of love only when it is approached with reverence and when it is embedded in the consciousness of our basic bond to God

    We thus see that artificial birth control is sinful not only because it severs the mysterious link between the most intimate love union and the coming into existence of a new human being, but also because in a certain way it artificially cuts off the creative intervention of God, or better still, it artificially separates an act which is ordained toward cooperation with the creative act of God from this, its destiny. For, as Paul VI says, this is to consider oneself not a servant of God, but “Lord over the origin of human life.” 6

    (b) Contraception impairs the full reciprocal self-offering that constitutes the marital embrace.

    In his 1981 Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris Consortio, Pope John Paul II describes this reservation of self in the marital embrace as an “objectively contradictory language”:

    When couples, by means of recourse to contraception, separate these two meanings that God the Creator has inscribed in the being of man and woman and in the dynamism of their sexual communion, they act as “arbiters” of the divine plan and they “manipulate” and degrade human sexuality and with it themselves and their married partner by altering its value of “total” self-giving. Thus the innate language that expresses the total reciprocal self-giving of husband and wife is overlaid through contraception, by an objectively contradictory language, namely, that of not giving oneself totally to the other. This leads not only to a positive refusal to be open to life but also to a falsification of the inner truth of conjugal love, which is called upon to give itself in personal totality (32).

    The Most Reverend John J. Meyers, Archbishop of Newark, explains the Holy Fathers formulation:7

    John Paul II roots the entire Christian sexual ethic not only in the structure of the act (though he acknowledges its importance), but rather in the meaning of the love reflected in sexual intercourse. Couples readily assent to the teaching that the normal meaning of intercourse is mutual love. They can also readily assent to the teaching that the ultimate meaning of sexual intercourse is when their love for each other can produce new life, if it be Gods will.

    What they are gradually beginning to see is that within this context, it is morally dishonest to withhold part of that love through contraceptive intercourse.

    Long before he became Pope, John Paul taught at length on sexual morality. He maintained that the only proper response to a person is love. For him, a person could never be reduced to the level of an object, a means to an end. Contraceptive intercourse, he posited, is one way in which married couples sin against one another, their own love, and the Creator, by reducing the other to a means of pleasure.

    Moreover, as Pope, John Paul II has explored the marriage relationship more deeply. He has repeatedly explored the “language of the body.” The human body, with its sexual dimension seen in the very mystery of creation, is not only a source of fruitfulness and procreation, as in the whole natural order, but includes right from the beginning the “nuptial” attribute, that is, the capacity for expressing lovethat love precisely in which the man-person becomes a gift, and by means of that gift, fulfills the very meaning of his being and existence.8

    The conjugal act is true only when the conjugal love which it expresses is true. As the Holy Father states: “In the act which expresses their conjugal love, the spouses are called to make of themselves a gift, one to the other: nothing of what constitutes their being a person may be excluded from this self donation.”9

    Contraception introduces a limitation on the self-giving of the other, and therefore a falsification which contradicts true married love.

    Married couples are gradually beginning to see the core practical teaching of the Holy Father: that married couples may engage in conjugal relations whenever they wish, but they must mean what they are saying with their bodies.

    Pope John Paul II has, in other words, fueled a reexamination of the Churchs teaching on fertility and contraception by expanding the Churchs definition of contraception from the unlawful and unnatural sterilization of the sexual act, to the deeper and more comprehensive sterilization of human love and mutual self-gift:

    Man and woman carry on in the language of the body that dialogue which, according to Genesis 2:24, 25, had its beginning on the day of creation. This language of the body is something more than mere sexual reaction. As authentic language of the persons, it is subject to the demands of truth, that is, to objective moral norms. Precisely on the level of this language, man and woman reciprocally express themselves in the fullest and most profound way possible to them by the corporeal dimension of masculinity and femininity. Man and woman express themselves in the measure of the whole truth of the human person.

    Man is precisely a person because he is master of himself and has self-control. Indeed, insofar as he is master of himself he can give himself to the other. This dimensionthe dimension of the liberty of the giftbecomes essential and decisive for that language of the body, in which man and woman reciprocally express themselves in the conjugal union. Granted that this is communion of persons, the language of the body should be judged according to this criterion of truth

    According to the criterion of this truth, which should be expressed in the language of the body, the conjugal act signifies not only love, but also potential fecundity. Therefore it cannot be deprived of its full and adequate significance by artificial means. In the conjugal act it is not licit to separate the unitive aspect from the procreative aspect, because both the one and the other pertain to the intimate truth of the conjugal act. The one is activated together with the other and in a certain sense the one by means of the other Therefore, in such a case the conjugal act, deprived of its interior truth because it is artificially deprived of its procreative capacity, ceases also to be an act of love.

    It can be said that in the case of an artificial separation of these two aspects, a real bodily union is carried out in the conjugal act, but it does not correspond to the interior truth and to the dignity of personal communioncommunion of persons. This communion demands that the language of the body be expressed reciprocally in the integral truth of its meaning. If this truth be lacking, one cannot speak either of the truth of self-mastery, or of the truth of the reciprocal gift and of the reciprocal acceptance of self on the part of the person. Such a violation of the interior constitutes the essential evil of the contraceptive act.10

    In their expression of marital sexuality, the couple signifies bodily such mutual, self-emptying love as Christ Himself poured forth on the Cross. For this reason, some in the Church have referred to the Crucifixion as the consummation of the union between Christ, the Bridegroom, and his bride, the Church. To deprive the marital act of its mutually self-emptying capacity by withholding ones generative power, is, simply put, a lie. One “speaks” with ones body what one does not mean interiorly. A communion of persons, which is the rightful end of the sexual act, cannot be achieved with such a reservation. Contraception is a violation of the communion for which sexuality is directed in the first place.

    Bishops Speak

    Most Reverend Charles J. Chaput, OFM Cap, Archbishop of Denver

    The covenant which husband and wife enter at marriage requires that all intercourse remain open to the transmission of new life. This is what becoming “one flesh” implies: complete self-giving, without reservation or exception, just as Christ withheld nothing of Himself from His bride, the Church, by dying for her on the cross. Any intentional interference with the procreative nature of intercourse necessarily involves spouses withholding themselves from each other and from God, who is their partner in sacramental love. In effect, they steal something infinitely precious themselves from each other and from their Creator.

    Of Human Life: A Pastoral Letter to the People of God of Northern Colorado on the Truth and Meaning of Married Love:

    July 22, 1998.

    Most Reverend Glennon P. Flavin, DD, Former Bishop of Lincoln, Nebraska

    Therefore, we who have been blessed by God with the gift of the Catholic Faith can have no doubt about the immorality of artificial contraception. The Catholic Church clearly teaches that the use of artificial contraception in all its forms, including direct sterilization, is gravely immoral, is intrinsically evil, is contrary to the law of nature and natures God. This is and always has been the uninterrupted teaching of the Catholic Church from the beginning.

    The ban on contraception is not a disciplinary law of the Church, like abstinence on Friday, which the Church can enact and which the Church can change and from which the Church can dispense for good reasons. Rather, it is a Divine Law which the Church cannot change any more than it can change the Law of God forbidding murder. Artificial contraception is wrong, not because the Church says it is wrong (it was wrong before Christ established the Church); it is wrong because God Himself, through the revelation of His Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, has declared it to be wrong. Because artificial contraception is intrinsically evil, it may never be practiced for any reason, no matter how good and urgent. A good end never justifies the use of an evil means.

    A Pastoral Letter to Catholic Couples and Physicians on the issue of Artificial Contraception:

    October 11, 1991.

    Did you know …

    Catholics out-contracept the general population

    According to the 1995 National Survey of Family Growth, conducted by the National Center for Health Statistics, the percentage of Catholic women (ages 15-44) who were using some form of contraception was 70% versus a 64% rate for women in the general population.

    In 1988, the most common form of contraception among Catholic women was oral contraception (the Pill), whereas in the 1995 study, the most frequent form of contraception was sterilization. 40% of Catholic respondents reported the use of sterilizationthat represents 4.8 million Catholic women ages15-44. The rate of sterilization among Catholics doubled from 1988 to 1995.

    Only about 3% of Catholic women using a method of birth regulation use Natural Family Planning: about 300-400 thousand women.

    Richard J. Fehring, DNSc, RN, and Andrea Matovina Schlidt, BSN, RN. “Trends in Contraceptive Use Among Catholics in the United States.” Linacre Quarterly, 68 (2): 170-185.

    About the Author

    This booklet is drawn from Chapter 1 of Called to Give Life by Jason T. Adams. Jason Adams is a father of five and the Theology Chair at Guerin Catholic High School, Noblesville, Indiana. He serves as Outreach Associate for One More Soul, the publisher of Called to Give Life. He holds the degrees of Bachelor of Arts, in Secondary Education, from Purdue University, and Master of Arts, in Theology and Christian Ministry, from the Franciscan University of Steubenville. Jason and Linda have used Natural Family Planning to successfully postpone and achieve pregnancy throughout their marriage, and have shared their testimony to its benefits in Pre-Cana, RCIA, young adult/youth groups, and other venues.

    Foot Notes

    1 Lawler, Ronald, O.F.M., Cap., et al. Catholic Sexual Ethics. Our Sunday Visitor, Huntington, Indiana: 1996, pp.153-154.

    2 West, Christopher. Good News About Sex & Marriage: Answers to Your Honest Questions about Catholic Teaching. Charis/Servant Publications, Ann Arbor, Michigan: 2000, p.112.

    3 Note that this discussion encompasses premarital sex. Fornication is a violation of the procreative aspect of marriage in that it denies the right of children to be conceived, born, and reared within a permanent union of mother and father (i.e., a family). It furthermore violates the unitive end of marriage insofar as “unitive” is understood to mean the permanent and unbreakable communion of persons that constitutes marriage.

    4 in Hahn, Scott, A Father Who Keeps His Promises, Charis (Servant), Ann Arbor, MI, 1998, p. 36.

    5 Pope John Paul II, Discourse, Sept. 17, 1983; 28 The Pope Speaks 356, 356-57 (1983); as quoted in The Winning Side, Dr. Charles Rice, p.109.

    6 Von Hildebrand, Dietrich. Love, Marriage, and the Catholic Conscience: Understanding the Churchs Teachings on Birth Control. Sophia Institute Press, Manchester, New Hampshire: 1998, pp.45-46.

    7 The following is excerpted from Bishop John J Meyers, “The Rejection and Rediscovery by Christians of the Truths of Humanae Vitae,” Trust the Truth, The Pope John Center, Braintree, Massachusetts: 1991.

    8 John Paul II, General Audience, 16 January, 1980.

    9 John Paul II, Discourse on Responsible Parenthood, 17 September, 1983.

    10 General Audience, August 22, 1984.

    Discerning Just and Serious Reasons for Postponing Pregnancy

    How should a couple discern “just” and “serious” reasons for postponing pregnancy?
    Intentions and Motivation

    Spouses are called to have children, as children are the “supreme good” of married life (CCC 1664). However, there is no obligation to have as many children as physically possible without consideration of circumstances. Rather, the Church teaches that procreation may be regulated under certain conditions:

    For just reasons, spouses may wish to space the births of their children. It is their duty to make certain that their desire is not motivated by selfishness but is in conformity with the generosity appropriate to responsible parenthood. Moreover, they should conform their behavior to the objective criteria of morality (CCC 2368).

    Those are also to be considered responsible who for serious reasons [seriis causis] and with due respect for moral precepts, decide not to have another child for either a definite or an indefinite amount of time.1

    The Church provides some guidelines for determining when it is moral to have children and when it is moral to postpone or cease having children. The decision must be considered in light of the Christian virtues of self-donation, charity, and prudence. Self-donation and charity, which are so closely related as to be practically synonymous, demand that the decision to have children consider first and foremost the good of the children (both existing and future), that is, a selfless appraisal of the intrinsic value of another child and his/her welfare, as well as proper concern for children already born. Prudence calls us to make wise and responsible decisions in service of charity and guides charity to its most fruitful end.

    It is neither prudent nor charitable to have more children than a couple can reasonably care for. Indeed, Karol Wojtyla (John Paul II) teaches in his book Love and Responsibility that the prudent exercise of the gift of procreation is part of responsible parenthood:

    There are, however, circumstances in which this disposition [to be a responsible parent] itself demands renunciation of procreation, and any further increase in the size of the family would be incompatible with parental duty. A man and a woman moved by true concern for the good of their family and a mutual sense of responsibility for the birth, maintenance, and upbringing of their children, will then limit intercourse and abstain from it in periods in which this might result in another pregnancy undesirable in the particular conditions of their married life and family.2

     

    Specific Criteria

     

    Humanae Vitae teaches that there are four factors that must be weighed in order to make a prudent decision to procreate: physical, psychological, economic, and social (HV 10). While there is no checklist of specific criteria formulated by the Church for these factors, we can reasonably identify the more obvious points. Danger to the physical well-being of the mother and/or child, inability to physically provide basic care for children, severe mental disability that makes responsible parenthood impossibleall of these could be serious or just reasons for postponing children. Economic factors might include an inability to provide for the basic needs of the children (e.g., food, shelter, clothing, safe environment, adequate education, medical care), serious marital instability, spousal abuse, gross lack of spousal support, and unemployment, to name a few, while social factors would include such things as compulsory limits to family size.

    These more obvious criteria may not describe the situation of many couples, in whose case the decision to procreate is a clearer calling and obligation though not without some degree of ambiguity and moral deliberation. In these cases it might be more helpful to identify what could be considered invalid or selfish motives for the postponement of children. Loss of free time, sense of lost youth, cramped social life, inconvenience, change in sex life, inopportune timing, distaste for babies bodily functions (diaper changing, spit-up, slobber, crying, etc.), and materialism (inordinate attachment to material possessions), arguably all fall short of the standard of just or serious reasons.

    The Second Vatican Councils Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World also offers some criteria for discerning the call to have children:

    Parents should regard as their proper mission the task of transmitting human life and educating those to whom it has been transmitted. They should realize that they are thereby cooperators with the love of God the Creator, and are, so to speak, the interpreters of that love. Thus they will fulfill their task with human and Christian responsibility, and, with docile reverence toward God, will make decisions by common counsel and effort. Let them thoughtfully take into account both their own welfare and that of their children, those already born and those which the future may bring. For this accounting they need to reckon with both the material and the spiritual conditions of the times as well as of their state in life. Finally, they should consult the interests of the family group, of temporal society, and of the Church herself. The parents themselves and no one else should ultimately make this judgment in the sight of God. But in their manner of acting, spouses should be aware that they cannot proceed arbitrarily, but must always be governed according to a conscience dutifully conformed to the divine law itself, and should be submissive toward the Churchs teaching office, which authentically interprets that law in the light of the Gospel. That divine law reveals and protects the integral meaning of conjugal love, and impels it toward a truly human fulfillment. Thus, trusting in divine Providence and refining the spirit of sacrifice, married Christians glorify the Creator and strive toward fulfillment in Christ when with a generous human and Christian sense of responsibility they acquit themselves of the duty to procreate. Among the couples who fulfill their God-given task in this way, those merit special mention who with a gallant heart, and with wise and common deliberation, undertake to bring up suitably even a relatively large family (GS 50).

    The council urges that spouses balance the “duty” to procreate with their state in life, the welfare of their existing and future children, as well as the needs of the Church and the world. Their discernment should be filled with the spirit of sacrifice and trust in divine providence. The concrete, practical living out of these ideals requires us to take stock of our priorities and consider what is really important in life. Our Lord taught, “seek first the kingdom of God and his justice, and all these things shall be given you besides” (Mt 6:33). Every good in our lives hinges on our relationship with God, whether the good is material means, personal fulfillment, or companionship. If we fail to embrace the call of God by rejecting the goods with which he has endowed marriage, the things that we try to put in place of these goods are emptied of their significance. Pitting our plans against Gods can never lead to fulfillment. Trusting in Gods providence in the spirit of sacrifice places our desires at the disposal of God with the confidence that He knows what is best for us and will never stop caring for us.

     

    Getting Your Ducks in a Row

     

    A serious decision of conscience such as this requires prayerhonest, deep, and persistent prayer. Guidance from priests, NFP couples, holy friends and family, books, tapes, and videos help provide direction and conscience formation. Cutting costs, living more simply, and reprioritizing our material desires, can help eliminate financial obstacles to choosing parenthood or a larger family. A couple should do everything they can to make a truly informed choice based on the objective norms for marriage and procreation revealed in the Church. A well-founded decision would involve at least the following three elements: 1) consulting the official teaching of the Church, 2) prayer and soul-searching, and 3) advice of Church authorities. To make such an important decision without these would be seriously negligent.

    Because marriage, by its very nature, is ordered to the procreation and education of children (CCC 1652), spouses have a responsibility to steer their circumstances, over time, in the direction of having children. Excepting the rare cases of spouses who are physically, psychologically, economically, or socially incapable of caring for children, spouses are called to actively plan their lives for the eventuality of having children. Steps must be taken to facilitate openness to life in attitude and circumstance even if the couple has chosen to take some time to think about it. Couples who neglect these stepsprayer, inquiry, introspection, financial self-controlhave never really entered the realm of conscientious deliberation but may have a priori closed themselves to new life.

     

    Listening to Our Bodies

     

    Natural Family Planning opens the door for couples to listen to their bodies in the discernment of whether to welcome or postpone children. The desire for the marital embrace can not be reduced to a purely physiological impulse. Rather, it is properly understood as a divinely crafted inclination that harmonizes physical desire with actual grace (divine prompting toward some good). In other words, the sexual impulse toward our spouse is a means of divine suggestion. If we are constantly and indefinitely denying attraction to our spouse, we may nee