Diocesan News

Modern NFP Makes Moral Family Planning Easier (three articles follow)

(SNR) - Back in 1968, when Pope Paul VI clarified the Catholic Church’s teaching on the immorality of contraception in his encyclical Humanae Vitae, little research had been done on the cycles of female fertility.

The best most Catholic couples had at their disposal before then was the so-called "rhythm" method – basically a calendar system based on the law of averages. For couples with serious reasons to delay pregnancy (financial woes, health concerns, marriage problems and the like), the rhythm method was often ineffective.

Fortunately, numerous doctors were already working for more reliable systems of Natural Family Planning (NFP).

"NFP has always been identifying the signs that a woman’s body gives her each cycle that she is fertile/ovulating, and those signs haven’t changed over the years," explained Michele Chambers, who has been the NFP services and chastity program coordinator for the Diocese of Lincoln since 2001. "What has changed is the research and refining of the methodology."

Scientific Systems

Today, there are multiple systems available to couples who want to plan their families in a way that’s morally acceptable for Catholics.

Among the most popular are the Billings Method, based on cervical secretions, and the Symptothermal Method, which combines tracking basal body temperature, cervical changes and secretions.

In 1976, Dr. Thomas Hilgers of Omaha began to collect scientifically sound information about biological indicators that could help women track their fertility patterns more successfully. He introduced the Creighton Model FertilityCare System of natural family planning (NFP) in 1980. In the three decades since, more and more data has been added to refine and support the Creighton Model.

Along the way, Dr. Hilgers founded the Pope Paul VI Institute and developed NaProTechnology, a system that helps physicians and other health care professionals use a woman’s fertility charts to diagnose and treat many different women’s health issues.

His pioneering work has actually led many women to be cured of infertility and other ailments, while the standard treatment protocol has been to prescribe birth control pills to mask symptoms.

This habit of prescribing the Pill instead of finding an actual cure rankles women like Dr. Christine Cimo Hemphill, Pope John Paul II Fellow and practitioner at the Pope Paul VI Institute.

"We are very far behind in researching cures for female health issues," Dr. Hemphill stated. "It seems that women’s health is the one area where we’ve stopped looking for causes to treat and began just covering/masking symptoms to get the patient out the door."

Misguided Misgivings

Despite the scientific research behind modern NFP systems, it is far from consideration as an acceptable form of family planning in the medical community.

"Many training programs do not encourage natural methods of avoiding pregnancy as a viable option," admitted Dr. Hemphill. "It’s still viewed as Roman Catholic Roulette."  

Mrs. Chambers noted that even Catholic couples have their misgivings about NFP. They might think it’s difficult to use. Physicians frequently discourage the use of NFP, and if family and friends are equally discouraging, it’s hard to accept the NFP lifestyle.

"Most common is the worry about abstaining during fertile days," Mrs. Chambers said.

In a society that looks upon sexual activity as a right, not a privilege, couples are loathe to accept any system that requires delaying sexual pleasure for a few days.

"I remind my couples that there are naturally occurring times of abstinence in a marriage — when a spouse is gone for work, right after the birth of a child, during an illness, etc.," said Mrs. Chambers. "No one thinks these times of abstinence are burdensome."

Another primary worry that couples have with NFP is that they’ll get pregnant when they aren’t ready to welcome a child into their families.

"Used as instructed, NFP has a 99.5% effectiveness. This is the same as the Pill," Mrs. Chambers said. "The difference is that couples that use NFP have to put God in control! That is a leap of faith, and one that God rewards."

Measurable Benefits

Many couples who make the switch from artificial contraception to NFP are pleasantly surprised.

"The benefit I hear most often from the women I work with is that they feel better once they stop using artificial contraception.  Many have side effects that they may not have even realized from the Pill," said Mrs. Chambers.

"It empowers women to have that knowledge about themselves and their health, which helps them to really be ‘in control’," she continued.  "Often, the husbands become involved with the family planning, where before it was the woman’s responsibility."

 Mrs. Chambers has also seen marriages transformed by the use of NFP.

"It becomes more difficult to ‘use’ their spouse for sex, and the couple can grow toward expressing their love for each other in other ways in addition to sex, especially during their time of abstinence," she said. "If couples pray about their relationship, God may shed light on it and transform their sexual relationship into a source of joyful happiness which transforms their life, whether they’re abstaining or not."

Heavenly Focus

Allen and Lisa McInerney of North American Martyrs Parish in Lincoln have been using NFP throughout their marriage.

"We wanted a way to control when we conceived children while still following the teachings of the Church and not doing anything that would work against our fertility or that could be harmful to Lisa’s health," said Mr. McInerney.

The couple was surprised to discover that NFP had a significant health benefit: Mrs. McInerney’s charts enabled her doctor to diagnose and treat two health problems: low progesterone and ovarian cysts.

"I cannot imagine our marriage without it," Mrs. McInerney said. "We see it as one of the ways we can help get each other to Heaven."

Overcoming Frustration

It’s not always been easy for the McInerneys. With Mrs. McInerney’s unusual cycles, the couple faced more days of abstinence than they had anticipated.

As an NFP practitioner, Mrs. Chambers sees such frustrations from time to time.

"It would not be natural to not be frustrated, since that physical intimacy with your spouse is part of why you are married, and a wonderful expression of your love and desire for each other," she reasoned.

However, when things are consistently frustrating, she recommends a few steps.

"First, pray for patience!  Second, keep charting well. Third, go talk to an experienced teacher, who can give you guidance, support or maybe a referral to a physician if it’s needed."

The McInerneys followed such advice and have weathered the difficult times without regret.

"It has been well worth it and we wouldn’t go back and change our practices even if we could.  Sometimes the best things do take some extra effort," Mr. McInerney said.

Making the Switch

Catholic couples who have been relying on contraception can find a lot of help switching to NFP. Mrs. Chambers and her team of instructors frequently offer free introduction classes to help couples learn the scientific basis of NFP.

Every priest in the diocese is also available to offer education about Church’s teachings, as well as absolution in the sacrament of confession for those who have come to regret the decision to contracept.

There are several physicians in the diocese who are well versed in NFP and can offer support and medical guidance.

There is an ongoing need for more physicians to learn NaProTechnology and NFP systems so that they can support their patients. Dr. Hemphill said that more than 375 physicians have completed the two-week training program offered at the Pope Paul VI Institute in Omaha.

"We need to expose young doctors in residencies and medical students to these skills and solutions," she said. "We need financial support from the communities to encourage these physicians to seek the training… and we need to voice our desire for physicians to have this training."

For more information about Natural Family Planning, call the diocesan Family Life Office at 402-488-2040, Ext. 320. Information about the Creighton Model, NaProTechnology, and the Pope Paul VI Institute can be found online at www.popepaulvi.com.

 

Hormone Contraception: Risks without Reward

(SNR) - Objectively, the medical community at large seems to be fully in support of artificial contraception, especially in its hormonal form: the Pill, the patch, the vaginal ring or injections.

In fact, the Pill has become a "panacea" of sorts, with advertising – and doctors – recommending it for various female ailments ranging from endometriosis and polycystic ovarian syndrome to unpredictable cycles or acne.

This is true in spite of the serious side effects that women can suffer from taking the Pill, including heart disease, cardiovascular disease, deadly blood clots, cervical cancer, osteoporosis and, according to some recent studies, a measurably increased risk of breast cancer.

Most women are remarkably uninformed about the personal risk they take by using hormonal contraception. While the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires manufacturers to disclose side effects on their web sites and on printed materials that accompany the prescription, women still aren’t getting the message.

David City’s Dr. Jo Witter, family practitioner and Catholic mother of six, has a theory as to why doctors aren’t more careful to explain the risks.

"I think there’s an underlying tone among practitioners who prescribe the Pill that women are not really smart enough to understand these things. And there’s an underlying feeling that these risks that you’re posing to women by prescribing the Pill are actually less than the risk of bearing a child."

To be sure, women definitely take on risk when they carry a child to term, but with modern antibiotics, prenatal care and other treatments and tools, the vast majority of women end up just fine.

Dr. Witter is troubled by the side effects in women who’ve used the Pill.

"Honestly, I have never treated a woman under the age of 50 for a blood clot or pulmonary embolism who was not on the Pill," she stated. "I have never seen a tumor on the liver of a young woman who was not on the Pill."

She’s also concerned about what women will face in the future, especially for those who start on it at a young age.

"There’s more and more evidence that points toward the Pill and its relationship to breast cancer," Dr. Witter said. "And osteoporosis is a huge issue with progesterone-only contraception."

Progesterone-only pills ("mini-pills") and injections suppress estrogen. In women, low estrogen leads to a lack of bone density. So, when young women start using these forms of contraception, they are actually preventing their bodies from forming strong, healthy bones. That can mean serious problems as they grow older.

Dr. Witter suspected as much when a pharmaceutical sales representative first came to sell her on Depo-Provera, an injectable contraception.

"I asked… what happens to bone density, what happens after menopause when these women have had no estrogen, and he said, ‘Oh, we don’t know that there’s any effect,’" Dr. Witter recalled grimly.

A few years later, the FDA issued a "black box warning" stating that the drug causes osteoporosis, especially in young women who are still building bone mass. And yet, some physicians and "family planning" clinics continue to push it as a viable solution, without any mention of the danger to the young women who have come to them for help.

Apart from the physical risks assumed by women – and only women, since they are the ones consuming the contraception – the Pill, the patch and other hormone-based birth control raises serious moral concerns.

According to manufacturers, hormonal contraception works in one of three ways: it either prevents ovulation (no egg is released), inhibits sperm motility (preventing a released egg from being fertilized), or it prevents implantation of the newly-formed human embryo, which is clearly an abortifacient because the Catholic Church teaches, based on the natural law, that life begins at conception.

The trouble is, a woman can’t tell which of the modes is at work on any given cycle. She may think the Pill is preventing ovulation, when in reality, she may be conceiving and losing a child every cycle.

"It’s very, very tempting to say, ‘That’s not the way I intend for it to work, so it’s okay.’ But that’s just a form of intellectual dishonesty," said Dr. Witter.

She also had sad news for any woman using the "mini-pill" or injected contraception, which are primarily or totally synthetic progesterone:

"Anything that has no estrogen involved probably works more as an abortifacient than as a true contraception," she said.

Many Catholic women are surprised to learn this – and understandably devastated if they have been relying on hormonal contraception as a family planning tool.

Fortunately, modern forms of Natural Family Planning (NFP) are rooted in decades of scientific research. With proper education from an NFP instructor, Catholic couples can confidently plan their families in cooperation with God’s design for human fertility.

Dr. Witter recommends that couples who wish to change to NFP pray about it, sign up for classes and seek out a supportive physician… which is no easy task. Most medical schools barely give lip service to natural methods of family planning.

When Dr. Witter was a student at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, she said, "They referred to it as the calendar method or the rhythm method, which of course is not even accurate."

Thus, physicians who support NFP are largely self-taught. Dr. Witter admitted, "I learned a hundred times more about Natural Family Planning through my Catholic high school religion class than I did in medical school."

However, the physicians are out there, eager to help couples live in concert with Christ and His Church as they manage their fertility. Some have taken a two-week seminar to learn the Creighton Model of NFP from the Pope Paul VI Institute in Omaha or a similar program.

Above all, Dr. Witter reminded couples to rely on the Lord.

"God has such a much greater plan than we have for ourselves," she said.

 

The Sanctified View of Human Sexuality

(SNR) - While the secular world around us presents a diminished view of human sexuality, the Catholic Church has steadfastly taught that God’s two purposes for sex – procreation and spousal unity – are intrinsically tied together and cannot be licitly separated.

The issue became more complex during the 1960s, when "reliable" hormonal birth control was introduced to society. In 1968, Pope Paul VI published his landmark encyclical letter Humanae Vitae ("Human Life") to clearly define the Church’s teaching.

After much prayer, study and consultation with experts and laypersons, the Holy Father concluded that contraception is in direct conflict with God’s law and cannot be used in any form: sterilization, condoms and other barrier methods, spermicides, coitus interruptus (withdrawal), the Pill and any other action that seeks to render procreation impossible.

Pope Paul VI’s teaching, though considered controversial at the time, was nothing new. Indeed, even some of the Church Fathers spoke of contraception.

Saint Augustine quite pointedly addressed it in Marriage and Concupiscence, written in 419. "Those who [obstruct procreation], although they are called husband and wife, are not; nor do they retain any reality of marriage, but with a respectable name cover a shame. Sometimes this lustful cruelty, or cruel lust, comes to this, that they even procure poisons of sterility (a reference to oral contraception of the day)."

The Catechism of the Catholic Church clearly condemns all use of contraception and sterilization in #2370: "[E]very 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 is intrinsically evil."

In Theology of the Body, a series of lectures presented by Pope John Paul II and published as a book in 1984, the Holy Father stated, "When the conjugal act is deprived of its inner truth, because it is deprived of its procreative capacity, it also ceases to be an act of love." He reasoned that love is an act that requires offering oneself completely while receiving the other completely, while contraception is a rejection of each other’s fertility.

The Church’s teaching on human sexuality does not mean that Catholic couples are forced to have more children than they can afford to feed, clothe, shelter, educate and love.

As Pope Paul VI wrote, "If there are serious reasons to space out births… the Church teaches that it is morally permissible to take into account the natural rhythms of human fertility and to have coitus only during the infertile times in order to regulate conception without offending the moral principles which have been recalled earlier."

Today, with modern systems of Natural Family Planning such as the Creighton Model developed using decades of data by the Pope Paul VI Institute in Omaha, couples are able to space out births according to their means in an educated way.

Pope Paul VI was careful to acknowledge that the Church’s position would not be popular.

"…The teaching of the Church on birth regulation, which is a promulgation of the divine law, will easily appear to many to be difficult or even impossible to put into practice," he wrote, adding that a Catholic person’s commitment to upholding this teaching, "would not be livable without the help of God, who upholds and strengthens the good will of men."

Pope Paul VI encouraged all Catholics to maintain a Christ-centered perspective for their views on human sexuality with the words, "[Man] cannot attain that true happiness for which he yearns with all the strength of his spirit, unless he keeps the laws which the Most High God has engraved in his very nature."

 

Fact or Fiction: do 98% of Catholics use Contraception?

(SNR) - When the Health and Human Services contraception mandate was issued last January, the ensuing media firestorm included a hail of statistics meant to support the administration’s position.

Among them was the rather shocking report that 98% of Catholic women use artificial contraception. This statistic originated in an April 2011 study titled, "Countering Conventional Wisdom: New Evidence on Religion and Contraception Use."

The study was written by Rachel K. Jones and Joerg Drewek of the Guttmacher Institute, a non-profit research organization that originally started as a division of Planned Parenthood.

On February 15, 2012, the Guttmacher Institute posted the actual data behind the statistic. Among the facts that indicate the 98% figure is not accurate:

 The study was limited to women aged 15-44 who had been sexually active. Obviously, there are many other Catholic women outside that limited range, which may have altered the results.

 The respondents identified themselves as Catholic, but were not asked to describe whether or not they were practicing Catholics, nor were they asked if they understood the Church’s teaching on contraception.

 The women were asked to respond "yes" or "no" to a question that asked if they had ever used one of 12 forms of birth control. They were not asked what system they used regularly, so even if a woman had only used a contraceptive device once, she was counted among the 98%.

 The study did not include unmarried women following the Church’s teachings on chastity, nor did it include those married women who were not either actively trying to avoid or achieve pregnancy.

 The "98%" figure did not take into account the 11% of respondents who listed "None."

So what is the actual number? It’s difficult to know for sure.

A 2005 nationwide poll by Harris Interactive of 2,242 U.S. adults found that 90% of Catholics supported the use of contraception. Others have placed the average closer to 80-85%.

Certainly, the culture of the Catholic community in which a person lives can make a difference.

In dioceses where the bishop and priests actively teach couples about the theological and spiritual problems of contraception, the rate of use among Catholics is likely far lower than it would be in dioceses where the topic is avoided and couples are left to fend for themselves in determining right from wrong.

Regardless, couples who follow the Church’s teaching and remain open to life are not alone.(SNR) - Back in 1968, when Pope Paul VI clarified the Catholic Church’s teaching on the immorality of contraception in his encyclical Humanae Vitae, little research had been done on the cycles of female fertility.

The best most Catholic couples had at their disposal before then was the so-called "rhythm" method – basically a calendar system based on the law of averages. For couples with serious reasons to delay pregnancy (financial woes, health concerns, marriage problems and the like), the rhythm method was often ineffective.

Fortunately, numerous doctors were already working for more reliable systems of Natural Family Planning (NFP).

"NFP has always been identifying the signs that a woman’s body gives her each cycle that she is fertile/ovulating, and those signs haven’t changed over the years," explained Michele Chambers, who has been the NFP services and chastity program coordinator for the Diocese of Lincoln since 2001. "What has changed is the research and refining of the methodology."

Scientific Systems

Today, there are multiple systems available to couples who want to plan their families in a way that’s morally acceptable for Catholics.

Among the most popular are the Billings Method, based on cervical secretions, and the Symptothermal Method, which combines tracking basal body temperature, cervical changes and secretions.

In 1976, Dr. Thomas Hilgers of Omaha began to collect scientifically sound information about biological indicators that could help women track their fertility patterns more successfully. He introduced the Creighton Model FertilityCare System of natural family planning (NFP) in 1980. In the three decades since, more and more data has been added to refine and support the Creighton Model.

Along the way, Dr. Hilgers founded the Pope Paul VI Institute and developed NaProTechnology, a system that helps physicians and other health care professionals use a woman’s fertility charts to diagnose and treat many different women’s health issues.

His pioneering work has actually led many women to be cured of infertility and other ailments, while the standard treatment protocol has been to prescribe birth control pills to mask symptoms.

This habit of prescribing the Pill instead of finding an actual cure rankles women like Dr. Christine Cimo Hemphill, Pope John Paul II Fellow and practitioner at the Pope Paul VI Institute.

"We are very far behind in researching cures for female health issues," Dr. Hemphill stated. "It seems that women’s health is the one area where we’ve stopped looking for causes to treat and began just covering/masking symptoms to get the patient out the door."

Misguided Misgivings

Despite the scientific research behind modern NFP systems, it is far from consideration as an acceptable form of family planning in the medical community.

"Many training programs do not encourage natural methods of avoiding pregnancy as a viable option," admitted Dr. Hemphill. "It’s still viewed as Roman Catholic Roulette."  

Mrs. Chambers noted that even Catholic couples have their misgivings about NFP. They might think it’s difficult to use. Physicians frequently discourage the use of NFP, and if family and friends are equally discouraging, it’s hard to accept the NFP lifestyle.

"Most common is the worry about abstaining during fertile days," Mrs. Chambers said.

In a society that looks upon sexual activity as a right, not a privilege, couples are loathe to accept any system that requires delaying sexual pleasure for a few days.

"I remind my couples that there are naturally occurring times of abstinence in a marriage — when a spouse is gone for work, right after the birth of a child, during an illness, etc.," said Mrs. Chambers. "No one thinks these times of abstinence are burdensome."

Another primary worry that couples have with NFP is that they’ll get pregnant when they aren’t ready to welcome a child into their families.

"Used as instructed, NFP has a 99.5% effectiveness. This is the same as the Pill," Mrs. Chambers said. "The difference is that couples that use NFP have to put God in control! That is a leap of faith, and one that God rewards."

Measurable Benefits

Many couples who make the switch from artificial contraception to NFP are pleasantly surprised.

"The benefit I hear most often from the women I work with is that they feel better once they stop using artificial contraception.  Many have side effects that they may not have even realized from the Pill," said Mrs. Chambers.

"It empowers women to have that knowledge about themselves and their health, which helps them to really be ‘in control’," she continued.  "Often, the husbands become involved with the family planning, where before it was the woman’s responsibility."

 Mrs. Chambers has also seen marriages transformed by the use of NFP.

"It becomes more difficult to ‘use’ their spouse for sex, and the couple can grow toward expressing their love for each other in other ways in addition to sex, especially during their time of abstinence," she said. "If couples pray about their relationship, God may shed light on it and transform their sexual relationship into a source of joyful happiness which transforms their life, whether they’re abstaining or not."

Heavenly Focus

Allen and Lisa McInerney of North American Martyrs Parish in Lincoln have been using NFP throughout their marriage.

"We wanted a way to control when we conceived children while still following the teachings of the Church and not doing anything that would work against our fertility or that could be harmful to Lisa’s health," said Mr. McInerney.

The couple was surprised to discover that NFP had a significant health benefit: Mrs. McInerney’s charts enabled her doctor to diagnose and treat two health problems: low progesterone and ovarian cysts.

"I cannot imagine our marriage without it," Mrs. McInerney said. "We see it as one of the ways we can help get each other to Heaven."

Overcoming Frustration

It’s not always been easy for the McInerneys. With Mrs. McInerney’s unusual cycles, the couple faced more days of abstinence than they had anticipated.

As an NFP practitioner, Mrs. Chambers sees such frustrations from time to time.

"It would not be natural to not be frustrated, since that physical intimacy with your spouse is part of why you are married, and a wonderful expression of your love and desire for each other," she reasoned.

However, when things are consistently frustrating, she recommends a few steps.

"First, pray for patience!  Second, keep charting well. Third, go talk to an experienced teacher, who can give you guidance, support or maybe a referral to a physician if it’s needed."

The McInerneys followed such advice and have weathered the difficult times without regret.

"It has been well worth it and we wouldn’t go back and change our practices even if we could.  Sometimes the best things do take some extra effort," Mr. McInerney said.

Making the Switch

Catholic couples who have been relying on contraception can find a lot of help switching to NFP. Mrs. Chambers and her team of instructors frequently offer free introduction classes to help couples learn the scientific basis of NFP.

Every priest in the diocese is also available to offer education about Church’s teachings, as well as absolution in the sacrament of confession for those who have come to regret the decision to contracept.

There are several physicians in the diocese who are well versed in NFP and can offer support and medical guidance.

There is an ongoing need for more physicians to learn NaProTechnology and NFP systems so that they can support their patients. Dr. Hemphill said that more than 375 physicians have completed the two-week training program offered at the Pope Paul VI Institute in Omaha.

"We need to expose young doctors in residencies and medical students to these skills and solutions," she said. "We need financial support from the communities to encourage these physicians to seek the training… and we need to voice our desire for physicians to have this training."

For more information about Natural Family Planning, call the diocesan Family Life Office at 402-488-2040, Ext. 320. Information about the Creighton Model, NaProTechnology, and the Pope Paul VI Institute can be found online at www.popepaulvi.com.

 

 

 

 

Hormone Contraception: Risks without Reward

 

(SNR) - Objectively, the medical community at large seems to be fully in support of artificial contraception, especially in its hormonal form: the Pill, the patch, the vaginal ring or injections.

 

In fact, the Pill has become a "panacea" of sorts, with advertising – and doctors – recommending it for various female ailments ranging from endometriosis and polycystic ovarian syndrome to unpredictable cycles or acne.

 

This is true in spite of the serious side effects that women can suffer from taking the Pill, including heart disease, cardiovascular disease, deadly blood clots, cervical cancer, osteoporosis and, according to some recent studies, a measurably increased risk of breast cancer.

 

Most women are remarkably uninformed about the personal risk they take by using hormonal contraception. While the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires manufacturers to disclose side effects on their web sites and on printed materials that accompany the prescription, women still aren’t getting the message.

 

David City’s Dr. Jo Witter, family practitioner and Catholic mother of six, has a theory as to why doctors aren’t more careful to explain the risks.

 

"I think there’s an underlying tone among practitioners who prescribe the Pill that women are not really smart enough to understand these things. And there’s an underlying feeling that these risks that you’re posing to women by prescribing the Pill are actually less than the risk of bearing a child."

 

To be sure, women definitely take on risk when they carry a child to term, but with modern antibiotics, prenatal care and other treatments and tools, the vast majority of women end up just fine.

 

Dr. Witter is troubled by the side effects in women who’ve used the Pill.

 

"Honestly, I have never treated a woman under the age of 50 for a blood clot or pulmonary embolism who was not on the Pill," she stated. "I have never seen a tumor on the liver of a young woman who was not on the Pill."

 

She’s also concerned about what women will face in the future, especially for those who start on it at a young age.

 

"There’s more and more evidence that points toward the Pill and its relationship to breast cancer," Dr. Witter said. "And osteoporosis is a huge issue with progesterone-only contraception."

 

Progesterone-only pills ("mini-pills") and injections suppress estrogen. In women, low estrogen leads to a lack of bone density. So, when young women start using these forms of contraception, they are actually preventing their bodies from forming strong, healthy bones. That can mean serious problems as they grow older.

 

Dr. Witter suspected as much when a pharmaceutical sales representative first came to sell her on Depo-Provera, an injectable contraception.

 

"I asked… what happens to bone density, what happens after menopause when these women have had no estrogen, and he said, ‘Oh, we don’t know that there’s any effect,’" Dr. Witter recalled grimly.

 

A few years later, the FDA issued a "black box warning" stating that the drug causes osteoporosis, especially in young women who are still building bone mass. And yet, some physicians and "family planning" clinics continue to push it as a viable solution, without any mention of the danger to the young women who have come to them for help.

 

Apart from the physical risks assumed by women – and only women, since they are the ones consuming the contraception – the Pill, the patch and other hormone-based birth control raises serious moral concerns.

 

According to manufacturers, hormonal contraception works in one of three ways: it either prevents ovulation (no egg is released), inhibits sperm motility (preventing a released egg from being fertilized), or it prevents implantation of the newly-formed human embryo, which is clearly an abortifacient because the Catholic Church teaches, based on the natural law, that life begins at conception.

 

The trouble is, a woman can’t tell which of the modes is at work on any given cycle. She may think the Pill is preventing ovulation, when in reality, she may be conceiving and losing a child every cycle.

 

"It’s very, very tempting to say, ‘That’s not the way I intend for it to work, so it’s okay.’ But that’s just a form of intellectual dishonesty," said Dr. Witter.

 

She also had sad news for any woman using the "mini-pill" or injected contraception, which are primarily or totally synthetic progesterone:

 

"Anything that has no estrogen involved probably works more as an abortifacient than as a true contraception," she said.

 

Many Catholic women are surprised to learn this – and understandably devastated if they have been relying on hormonal contraception as a family planning tool.

 

Fortunately, modern forms of Natural Family Planning (NFP) are rooted in decades of scientific research. With proper education from an NFP instructor, Catholic couples can confidently plan their families in cooperation with God’s design for human fertility.

 

Dr. Witter recommends that couples who wish to change to NFP pray about it, sign up for classes and seek out a supportive physician… which is no easy task. Most medical schools barely give lip service to natural methods of family planning.

 

When Dr. Witter was a student at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, she said, "They referred to it as the calendar method or the rhythm method, which of course is not even accurate."

 

Thus, physicians who support NFP are largely self-taught. Dr. Witter admitted, "I learned a hundred times more about Natural Family Planning through my Catholic high school religion class than I did in medical school."

 

However, the physicians are out there, eager to help couples live in concert with Christ and His Church as they manage their fertility. Some have taken a two-week seminar to learn the Creighton Model of NFP from the Pope Paul VI Institute in Omaha or a similar program.

 

Above all, Dr. Witter reminded couples to rely on the Lord.

 

"God has such a much greater plan than we have for ourselves," she said.

 

 

 

 

 

The Sanctified View of Human Sexuality

 

(SNR) - While the secular world around us presents a diminished view of human sexuality, the Catholic Church has steadfastly taught that God’s two purposes for sex – procreation and spousal unity – are intrinsically tied together and cannot be licitly separated.

 

The issue became more complex during the 1960s, when "reliable" hormonal birth control was introduced to society. In 1968, Pope Paul VI published his landmark encyclical letter Humanae Vitae ("Human Life") to clearly define the Church’s teaching.

 

After much prayer, study and consultation with experts and laypersons, the Holy Father concluded that contraception is in direct conflict with God’s law and cannot be used in any form: sterilization, condoms and other barrier methods, spermicides, coitus interruptus (withdrawal), the Pill and any other action that seeks to render procreation impossible.

 

Pope Paul VI’s teaching, though considered controversial at the time, was nothing new. Indeed, even some of the Church Fathers spoke of contraception.

 

Saint Augustine quite pointedly addressed it in Marriage and Concupiscence, written in 419. "Those who [obstruct procreation], although they are called husband and wife, are not; nor do they retain any reality of marriage, but with a respectable name cover a shame. Sometimes this lustful cruelty, or cruel lust, comes to this, that they even procure poisons of sterility (a reference to oral contraception of the day)."

 

The Catechism of the Catholic Church clearly condemns all use of contraception and sterilization in #2370: "[E]very 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 is intrinsically evil."

 

In Theology of the Body, a series of lectures presented by Pope John Paul II and published as a book in 1984, the Holy Father stated, "When the conjugal act is deprived of its inner truth, because it is deprived of its procreative capacity, it also ceases to be an act of love." He reasoned that love is an act that requires offering oneself completely while receiving the other completely, while contraception is a rejection of each other’s fertility.

 

The Church’s teaching on human sexuality does not mean that Catholic couples are forced to have more children than they can afford to feed, clothe, shelter, educate and love.

 

As Pope Paul VI wrote, "If there are serious reasons to space out births… the Church teaches that it is morally permissible to take into account the natural rhythms of human fertility and to have coitus only during the infertile times in order to regulate conception without offending the moral principles which have been recalled earlier."

 

Today, with modern systems of Natural Family Planning such as the Creighton Model developed using decades of data by the Pope Paul VI Institute in Omaha, couples are able to space out births according to their means in an educated way.

 

Pope Paul VI was careful to acknowledge that the Church’s position would not be popular.

 

"…The teaching of the Church on birth regulation, which is a promulgation of the divine law, will easily appear to many to be difficult or even impossible to put into practice," he wrote, adding that a Catholic person’s commitment to upholding this teaching, "would not be livable without the help of God, who upholds and strengthens the good will of men."

 

Pope Paul VI encouraged all Catholics to maintain a Christ-centered perspective for their views on human sexuality with the words, "[Man] cannot attain that true happiness for which he yearns with all the strength of his spirit, unless he keeps the laws which the Most High God has engraved in his very nature."

 

 

 

 

 

Fact or Fiction: do 98% of Catholics use Contraception?

 

(SNR) - When the Health and Human Services contraception mandate was issued last January, the ensuing media firestorm included a hail of statistics meant to support the administration’s position.

 

Among them was the rather shocking report that 98% of Catholic women use artificial contraception. This statistic originated in an April 2011 study titled, "Countering Conventional Wisdom: New Evidence on Religion and Contraception Use."

 

The study was written by Rachel K. Jones and Joerg Drewek of the Guttmacher Institute, a non-profit research organization that originally started as a division of Planned Parenthood.

 

On February 15, 2012, the Guttmacher Institute posted the actual data behind the statistic. Among the facts that indicate the 98% figure is not accurate:

 

 The study was limited to women aged 15-44 who had been sexually active. Obviously, there are many other Catholic women outside that limited range, which may have altered the results.

 

 The respondents identified themselves as Catholic, but were not asked to describe whether or not they were practicing Catholics, nor were they asked if they understood the Church’s teaching on contraception.

 

 The women were asked to respond "yes" or "no" to a question that asked if they had ever used one of 12 forms of birth control. They were not asked what system they used regularly, so even if a woman had only used a contraceptive device once, she was counted among the 98%.

 

 The study did not include unmarried women following the Church’s teachings on chastity, nor did it include those married women who were not either actively trying to avoid or achieve pregnancy.

 

 The "98%" figure did not take into account the 11% of respondents who listed "None."

 

So what is the actual number? It’s difficult to know for sure.

 

A 2005 nationwide poll by Harris Interactive of 2,242 U.S. adults found that 90% of Catholics supported the use of contraception. Others have placed the average closer to 80-85%.

 

Certainly, the culture of the Catholic community in which a person lives can make a difference.

 

In dioceses where the bishop and priests actively teach couples about the theological and spiritual problems of contraception, the rate of use among Catholics is likely far lower than it would be in dioceses where the topic is avoided and couples are left to fend for themselves in determining right from wrong.

 

Regardless, couples who follow the Church’s teaching and remain open to life are not alone.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Southern Nebraska Register:

Southern Nebraska Register | 3700 Sheridan Blvd Suite 10, Lincoln NE 68506-6100 | 402-488-0090 | Email Site Map | Clergy Resources

Site by Solutio