Category Archives: contraception

holy innocents

14 Pro-Life Resolutions to Make This Year

The feast of The Holy Innocents, celebrated on December 28th, really pricks my heart. Therefore, I find it rather disappointing that it seems to pass by each year without much attention. Certainly the Church calendar is dotted with the memorials of so many great martyrs, but the Holy Innocents offer us a particular model for our current culture.

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Your Food Is Organic, Your Family Planning Should Be Too

 birth control comparison

We no longer drink diet soda, eat a growing variety of sweets or chew gum because of artificial sweeteners. My husband switched us to tooth polish without fluoride and soap without antibacterial agents.

Our eggs come free-ranged, our bread whole grain, and our produce organic. Attending home school functions nowadays, we have to be mindful of gluten, nuts and food dyes in whatever we bring to share.

From sensitivities to allergies and everything in between, there’s an increased awareness of how what we put into our bodies affects our well-being. Labels contain ingredient lists, product packaging includes warnings and restaurants highlight low calorie menu items to aid consumers.

Cigarettes and Peanut Buttercigarette-110849_640

Once upon a time, airplanes and eateries had smoking sections and school lunches consisted of peanut butter and jelly on white bread. Today you’d be hard pressed to find even an outdoor event that welcomes tobacco users and whole school buildings are designated as nut-free.

Time and science have taught us a few lessons about toxins and disease, allergies and life threatening reactions. In fact, the government felt so compelled to protect the citizenry from harm that it now regulates sales and distribution of tobacco products (among a host of other things).

With this increased personal awareness and national concern over what is safe and what is not, you have to ask yourself why the Pill, a class 1 carcinogen (in the same category as tobacco, arsenic, and asbestos), would be routinely sold to a substantial percentage of the population without sufficient (if any) warning.

Even more curious is why adolescents, who can’t legally purchase tobacco, are often prescribed the Pill for off-label uses (especially considering there are safer alternatives).

If We’re Gonna Compare Labels

If we’re going to read labels and make educated choices about food, cleaning supplies and beverages, then let’s compare methods of family planning.

barrier birth control

  • Withdrawal is an age-old practice which has a lower effectiveness rate because it is not only difficult to practice, but sperm can be transmitted before full ejaculation. It is generally less physically satisfying to both partners.
  • Barrier methods that include the condom, sponge, cervical cap, diaphragm and spermicide range in effectiveness from 80-88%. Each requires a foreign body/substance to be inserted in the woman’s vagina increasing her risk of allergy or urinary tract infections. Spermicides can increase a woman’s risk of HIV infection. They can also be noisy, messy, costly and some require an initial physician’s visit.
  • Hormonal injections are said to be 97-99% effective, but require a physician’s assistance every 3 months. Studies show women had a more than three-fold risk increase of acquiring chlamydia and gonorrhea. Weight gain, decreased bone density, bleeding and injection site infection are all possible side effects. Injectable hormones have been known to continue effecting a woman’s fertility cycles for months to a year after stopping usage (possibly inhibiting conception in couples who were hoping to achieve a pregnancy).
  • Hormonal Implants are surgically placed under the skin for long term usage and are 99% effectiveness. Known side effects include irregular periods, depression, nervousness, hair loss, weight gain, and infection at the implantation site.
  • Pill claims 92-99% effectiveness. As stated in #3 of the post series, there are two types of the Pill and both are abortifacient. The combination (estrogen/progestin) Pill has three functions: to suppress ovulation, to slow sperm motility through thickened cervical mucus and to prevent implantation of a newly conceived child by depleting the endometrium of glycogen (this last function is abortifacient). Side effects include nausea, increased appetite, headaches, lowered libido, blood clots, death and increased risk of premenopausal birth cancer. Yazmin (Yaz) has been linked to 23 deaths in Canada.
  • IUDs claim 99% effectiveness, but (as I stated in #3 of this post series) it has been a continual source of litigation for its various makers. The non-hormonal variety is abortifacient and the hormonally imbedded IUD is sometimes abortifacient. Problems include bleeding, perforation of the uterus, migration of the device, increase of ectopic pregnancies, cramping, heavier/longer periods, spotting, infection, death and pelvic inflammatory disease leading to infertility. Dalcon Shield, the 1970’s IUD maker, went bankrupt because of law suits and Bayer, the maker of the current, popular Mirena IUD is currently being sued. FDA reports document more than 45,000 adverse events reported, including device expulsion/dislocation and vaginal hemorrhage.
  • Non-hormonal Tubal Blockage Device (aka Essure) claims 99% effectiveness. This device is really interesting because it claims to be non-surgically implanted, but I’m not sure how they reach a woman’s Fallopian tubes and call it non-surgical when lesser invasive, in-office procedures can be billed as surgical. Essure is permanent. Online anecdotes document a numerous problems with the device and its insertion and side effects include rash, bleeding, bloating, the need for hysterectomy and death. Since 2004, 850 Adverse Event Reports have been filed with the FDA.

Collateral Damage

Drop-sided cribs were outlawed after the deaths of a few dozen children, but tens of thousands of documented adverse events and the deaths of (at least) dozens of women (not to mention more than 55 million aborted babies) seem to be acceptable collateral damage.

  • Sterilization (male and female) is 99% effective and meant to be permanent (although there are some successful reversals). Men may experience a granuloma, long term testicular pain and decreased desire. Women are known to suffer regret, cramping, bleeding, increased risk of cervical cancer and Post Tubal Ligation Syndrome.

Total abstinence being the only 100% effective means of avoiding pregnancy, we need to realize that if a couple believes sex doesn’t equate to babies, they’ll want a back-up plan for the times their contraceptives fail. Abortion is that back-up.

While I found plenty of stats claiming that greater access to contraceptives leads to less abortion, it’s hard to square that claim with the more than 55 million abortions (not including those lives terminated by abortifacients) that have been performed since 1973.

Considering the above list of options, one would think that abortion should be rare, but more than 55 million is hardly a miniscule number.

  • Lactational Amenorrhea Method (LAM) is 98% effective, if the user follows proper guidelines. This method is highly effective for women who have given birth in the last 6 months, have not had a menstrual period or noticed the return of fertile cervical mucus and who are feeding from the breast only. Some women practicing LAM have experienced up to 24 months or more of delayed fertility (after birth). There are no side effects caused by the method.
  • Natural Family Planning Methods are 95-99% effective. Sometimes referred to as Fertility Awareness Methods, they range from methods that read only one bodily sign (temperature only or mucus only) to the Symptom-Thermal Method which reads two to three signs (temperature, mucus and cervix). Modern methods of NFP that exhibit the highest rates of effectiveness require couples to abstain from sexual relations during the fertile time of the cycle. There are no side effects caused by the method.

Connecting the Dots

Conversely, when couples connect sex with its procreative potential, the want for abortion declines if not disappears.

Natural methods reveal the power of the female fertility cycle, respect the wholeness of a woman and cause the lovers to become aware of the days when pregnancy is possible.

Why should one partner shoulder the sole burden of responsibility? When both are involved in the decision making and practice, they understand that their mutual actions have direct consequences.women's health

We’ve come to demand honest labeling, safety recalls and regulatory measures for everything from cigarette packs and alcohol to car seats and strollers, so why aren’t we demanding the same in women’s healthcare?

 

Follow along with the whole 6 part discussion on rethinking your family planning on www.blessingsinbrelinskyville.com.

 

Pope Francis Said What? On Rabbits and Responsible Parenthood

I’m taking a brief detour from my post series on birth control to address the recent comments made by our Holy Father.
Drifting down the aisle at Sam’s Club, my brood and I were busy absorbing all the sights as we awaited our pizza. Having just persuaded the seven of them (the baby was in the cart) to leave the books behind, we were absent-mindedly milling about when a man halted our parade. The stranger (an apparent nursery rhyme aficionado) began reciting, “There was an old lady who lived in a shoe, had so many children she didn’t know what to do” Seeing as my children were quite well-behaved (thankfully they generally are in public), I was baffled as to the reason for this unwarranted serenade.



Pope Francis’ recent rabbit comment has been splashed across the headlines. There are accusations, questions, criticisms and explanations. Admittedly, as a mama of a big brood who has endured more than a couple of comments (plus the aforementioned serenade) and as a teacher of Natural Family Planning with boots on the ground in the ministry, his comments touched a nerve. I cannot claim to know his motivations on the matter, but I am going to offer some balance to the statements he made.


On his trip home from Manila, Pope Francis stated,
“Some think that — excuse the language — that in order to be good Catholics, we have to be like rabbits. No. Responsible parenthood. This is clear and that is why in the Church there are marriage groups, there are experts in this matter, there are pastors, one can search; and I know so many ways that are licit and that have helped this.”

Certainly, his choice of the term rabbit must have been a simple oversight, but it still was one that could be called unsettling. Although it is probably more disturbing to families who’ve already experienced the judgment and ridicule of a society that equates a child to a burden or an environmental hazard. He is correct that not all couples are obliged to produce as many children as they are physically able to; however, that also does not mean that God is not calling some couples to total surrender.


Consider Pope Francis’ prior comments shared on the Feast of the Holy Family. “In a world often marked by egoism, a large family is a school of solidarity and of mission that’s of benefit to the entire society. Every family is a cell of society, but large families are richer and more vital cells.” These words seem to provide a counterbalance to the notion that responsible parenthood means simply that less children should be received.


Pope Francis also pointed the faithful toward the guidance of “experts” in this matter which reminded me of an instruction I’d come across during adoration some months ago. At the time I sprawled the comments in the back of my pocket calendar because they seemed necessary for me to keep close at hand. The book was Trustful Surrender to Divine Providence by Fr. Jean Baptiste Saint-Jure and here’s his expert opinion: 
“If you are the father or mother of a family, you ought to conform your will to God’s with regard to the number or sex of the children He pleases to give you. When men were animated by the spirit of faith they regarded a large family as a gift of God and a blessing from heaven and considered God more than themselves as the father of their children.” He went on to say, “Never be afraid of relying too much on Him, but rather seek always to increase your trust more and more, for this is the most pleasing homage you can pay Him and it will be the measure of the graces you will receive. Little or much will be given you according as you have expected little or much.”

If Pope Francis issues us in the direction of our pastors as experts in the matter, there could be a difference in the direction we receive. The pope warned a mother, who was expecting her eighth child to be delivered by cesearean section, that she was tempting God, but Fr. Saint-Jure seems to instruct that we should never be afraid to rely too much on God. That leaves room for one to wonder what exactly makes someone an expert in guiding a couple in their family planning.
As an NFP teacher, I concur that there are licit means of postponing a child, but we must be clear that licit does not mean required. When we began teaching NFP a decade ago, we encouraged couples to prayerfully discern each cycle whether or not they had a serious reason to postpone a pregnancy. Later, the word serious was changed to a just reason (the change being attributed to a better translation) and now we have discarded both of those terms and replaced them with responsible parenthood.
I think the argument could be made in either direction as to whether in our age/culture the words (serious, just, responsible parenthood) bear the same weight and express the same meaning. But the more important point is that couples need to ask God (continually) to align their will with His, not the other way around. Fr. Jean Baptiste Saint-Jure says,
“He (God) promises solemnly to give them not only life everlasting but a hundredfold all things they deny themselves to please Him in this life (Matt 19:24). He further promises to ease the burden of His cross so as to lighten it; for He not only says that His yoke is sweet but adds that His burden is light (Matt 11:30). If then we do not experience the sweetness of Christ’s yoke not the lightness of the burden of the cross, it must be because we have not yet made the denial of our will and completely given up own human outlook so as to consider things in the light of faith.
Interestingly, Pope Francis said, “Another curious thing in relation to this is that for the most poor people, a child is a treasure. It is true that you have to be prudent here too, but for them a child is a treasure. Some would say ‘God knows how to help me’ and perhaps some of them are not prudent, this is true. Responsible paternity, but let us also look at the generosity of that father and mother who see a treasure in every child.” He seems to acknowledge that some, but clearly not all, recognize a child as a treasure and he mentions the generosity of parents who see children as a treasure.
Of course, we should acknowledge the audiences he was considering when these comments were made. Because an impoverished, third world parent, who has no means of providing for a child’s basic needs, is not at all the same as the parent, who lives in a modern subdivision and eats five meals a day. Unfortunately, there is a tendency to use a broad brush in applying this idea of what exactly is responsible parenthood. Additionally, there is a real danger in one group discerning what is best for another (thinking of China’s one-child policy).
Clearly, his comments could use a bit more clarification, but I suppose it is a good that he has once again spurred a conversation about what the Church actually teaches. The large family is not by default more faithful, but neither is the small family automatically more responsible. There are licit means for planning a family, but there can be illicit intentions for doing so. We must all learn to listen. Not to the noisy banter of the media or even of those who might wish to serenade us with their opinions, we must listen to the small voice Who knows what is truly best for us, His children.

“It is very different from the serenity of spirit to be found in parents who are surrounded by a rich abundance of young lives. The joy that comes from the plentiful blessings of God breaks out in a thousand different ways and there is no fear that it will end. The brows of these fathers and mothers may be burdened with cares, but there is never a trace of that inner shadow that betrays anxiety of conscience or fear of an irreparable return to loneliness, Their youth never seems to fade away, as long as the sweet fragrance of a crib remains in the home, as long as the walls of the house echo to the silvery voices of children and grandchildren.

“Their heavy labors multiplied many times over, their redoubled sacrifices and their renunciation of costly amusements are generously rewarded even here below by the inexhaustible treasury of affection and tender hopes that dwell in their hearts without ever tiring them or bothering them.” Pope Pius XII

Demystified: How the Female Fertility Cycle Works Part 2 of 6

Springtime in my fourth grade year, they lined us up, boys on one side, girls on the other. The boys got shuffled off into one classroom, while we girls got ushered into another. Giddy and curious, we whispered and fidgeted while the teacher set-up her materials. That was the day I first heard about periods. By the end of the lesson, I knew enough to utilize a maxi-pad and understood the general gist of the fact that my body could one day grow a baby.
Over the years, my knowledge pool would grow (I’d graduate to tampons, discover Motrin for cramps and get myself put on contraceptives). But aside from the basic facts of menstruation and the understanding that I was fertile, the extent of my education hadn’t increased far beyond that fourth grade lesson. No worries though, my annual trips to the gynecologist were enough to leave me feeling confident that I had it all under control.

Married young, I suffered through our first few years together with daily bouts of nausea and monthly crying jags (okay, my poor hubby suffered too, having to contend with my nauseated, weeping self). We were in our early twenties and unready for children, so I swallowed my daily pill and accepted the unpleasant consequences. Finally, my husband had watched enough of my misery, so he suggested that I stop the pill. Eagerly, I abandoned that plastic wheel of synthetic hormones and secretly I hoped for a pregnancy.
Erratic, sporadic cycles of varying lengths followed my choice to ditch birth control. Clueless, I made an appointment with a doctor. In her office, I explained my reasons for coming off of the pill, shared that I was now only menstruating every few months and begged her help. She explained the pill could regulate my cycle problems, but I said I wasn’t interested in going back on birth control. So, she handed me a blank temperature chart with the simple instructions to take my temperature by mouth every morning, record the data and return in a few months. That was it. I left scratching my head.
Unfortunately, too many woman are left with the same rudimentary education that I had when it comes to their fertility and more often than not they, too, are receiving inadequate (if not downright erroneous) instruction from their doctor. For part 2 of this post series, we need to be educated about the female fertility cycle.
To define the term, a cycle begins on the first day of a woman’s menstruation and it ends on the day before the next menstruation starts. It consists of three phases. Phase I begins with menstruation and ends with the onset of signs of fertility. This phase is generally infertile, meaning it is unlikely that intercourse in this phase will result in a pregnancy. Phase II begins with the onset of the fertile signs and is thus fertile so intercourse during this phase can result in conception. Phase III is again infertile and it is determined to begin after measured bodily signs confirm that ovulation has completed.
Note that an ovulated egg is only fertile for approximately 24 hours, but Phase II generally ranges from seven to ten days. The reason for the discrepancy is because the female body produces fluids that aim to extend the life of sperm. Simply, those fluids allow the female body to store and nurture her partner’s sperm for up to five days after they have engaged in intercourse.
Fascinating really when you consider that under a microscope cervical mucus either displays a block pattern or a channel pattern. The block pattern (which is produced by infertile mucus) looks a bit like a brick wall and it creates a barrier against incoming sperm. In opposition, fertile mucus looks like open channels which corral the sperm (the channels actually filter out abnormally shaped-ones) and allow them unfettered passage toward the fallopian tubes.
Every women experiences the three phases in any given cycle, but the length of those phases is not necessarily static therefore individual women have individual cycle lengths. Hormones drive the dance of the female fertile cycle and in doing so those hormones cause readable changes in the woman’s body. I now know that the chart that doctor handed me was meant to record my basal body temperature, my temperature upon waking (at the same time each day and before eating, drinking or exercising).
Woman can assess their state of fertile/non-fertile by watching for progression in their cervical mucus, becoming familiar with the changes in position and firmness of their cervix and by confirming a sustained shift in their basal body temperature. With this information, a woman can determine, with a high rate of effectiveness (99%*), where she is in her cycle on any given day and apply that information to either achieve or postpone pregnancy.
To give an analogy and illustrate the changes, a woman’s cervical mucus follows a pattern similar to the pattern you see when you have a cold. Just as nasal mucus changes from not there to dry and sticky to wet and runny, so too cervical mucus morphs from state to state as its role changes from prohibiting the migration of sperm to facilitating the migration (although unlike nasal fluids, normal cervical mucus is a sign of health). And like a new flower bud starts out firm and tight, so is the cervical o’s hard and closed during the infertile phases. Then continuing like the bud, the cervix softens and widens in the hopes of allowing sperm to enter during the fertile time.
If she is seeking to avoid a conception, then the couple simply do not engage in sexual relations during the fertile phase. There’s no need for third party input, devices or prescription drugs, the couple need only choose to shelf or redirect their sexual desires for a time. Practicing periodic abstinence does nothing to harm or control the cycle. On the contrary, the ultimate green family planning, couples who work with the cycle never introduce chemicals into the body or the environment (because the woman on hormonal birth control deposits chemicals into the environment each time she flushes the toilet.) And then there’s the advantage of the “honeymoon effect” which we’ll talk about later in this post series.
When that doctor told me that the pill would fix my cycle irregularities, she was being dishonest. Hormonal birth control doesn’t correct the cycle, it only creates a bogus cycle. My problems would have been masked, not fixed. Sadly, many women buy this logic and unknowingly cover up a health problem. Unfortunately, once the pill taker finally decides she wants to conceive she may find that the timing wasn’t what she’d hoped for because there’s an underlying issue that she must now correct. That was my story, it took us more than a year each time when we were trying (in earnest) to conceive our oldest two children.
In part 1, I covered how woman needs to reclaim her wholeness. Society has fractured woman into a collection of parts and in doing so it has allowed men to say in effect, I want you darling, but not your fill-in-the-blank. From hair dye and false lashes to Botox and boob jobs, whole industries cater to our obsession to be something more or less or different than what nature would have us to be. I had a friend whose husband preferred blondes, so she spent years coloring her brunette locks to suit his taste. Finally, the day dawned when she realized she wasn’t a blonde and she didn’t necessarily care to be anymore. She informed her husband his blonde days were over. Thankfully, his love for her was more than “root” deep.
If a woman has to suppress her natural hormones and thwart her essence as a life-bearer in order to satisfy her partner than he is not honoring her dignity. He is picking and choosing among her attributes, saying, “I’ll take you, minus your fertility.” Whether consciously or not, he is rejecting a part of her.
Often women in our Natural Family Planning (NFP) classes come to this epiphany and it can be painful. We taught a doctor and his wife in one of our classes. I remember her turning to him midway through and asking if he’d known that the hormonal patch she’d been on had serious risks. He answered yes and she wanted to know why he allowed her to jeopardize her health when clearly there was no reason for it. He shrugged.
When women learn to read their cycles, they often report a renewed sense of self-worth. They see themselves as not only whole, but purposeful and they feel rightly entitled to be treated that way.
A healthy function of the female body, fertility can’t be separated out while still maintaining the balance of the whole. If you amputated your foot, some part of you would always be missing. You might learn to compensate for the absent appendage, but the fact would remain that some part of you was gone. Women often can’t place their finger on it, but they sense this. Not surprisingly, couples who practice a method of NFP have only a 5% rate of divorce by comparison to the 50% rate in the population at large. Clearly, when couples treat one another with dignity and respect, honoring the wholeness of each person, their relationship is positively effected.
*A 2007 German study which focused on a form of the Symptom-Thermal Method confirmed a method effectiveness rate (rate based on perfect use of the method) of 99.6% and a user effectiveness rate (rate which includes incorrect and correct application of the method and its rules during the study period) of 98.2%.

Dr. Joseph Roetzer wrote in his book, National Conception Regulation,that among the thousands of patients he worked with he found a method effectiveness of 99.8% and a user effectiveness of 99.2%.
There are several methods of Natural Family Planning or Fertility Awareness Methods (FAM) and you can learn more about them through home study or by attending classes. There are also a number of reliable apps and devices on the market that make the recording and charting of your fertility signs as easy as the push of a button. But ultimately, the greatest success of any NFP/FAM method comes from proper and adequate education.

Follow along with the whole 6 part discussion on rethinking your family planning. 
(1)Reclaiming Womanhood: Why It’s Time to Rethink Your Birth Control Plan
(3)Knowledge Is Power: How Doctors and Big Pharma Profit from Ignorance;  
(4)If Your Food Is Organic Your Family Planning Should Be Too: The Nitty Gritty of Birth Control
(5)Pulling Back the Veil and Exposing Your Genuine Fears
 
(6)Now That You Know the Facts on Birth Control, What’s the Next Step? 

Burning with the Fire of Truth: Are We Pro-life or Just Pro-birth? The Contraception Debate

While house hunting, we happened upon a sweet southern lady. She would turn out to be the previous owner of our current abode, a fine gentlewoman full of spunk and hospitality. Proudly, she pointed out what she considered to be a pivotal selling point. In her melodic drawl, she advised, “Y’all can burn in the country!” Spying the numerous blackened patches and charred stumps that dotted the grounds, it was clear she practiced what she pitched. Deed transferred, we’d come to appreciate the necessity for yard waste disposal with the abundance of flower and fauna spread across our yardage.
A few years later, the deep gully in our chicken yard had amassed an ample amount of logs and limbs, dragged down from our neighbor’s lot by fierce spring rains. Added to that was the dry, weathered Fraser fir from Christmas past and all the twisted, rotting scraps the kids had freed from my azalea bushes. Seeing as the weather was the right balance of early fall temperatures combined with still summer air, I set about to preparing a controlled bonfire.
Carefully, I built two piles as my helpers stretched the long, green hose from the nearest spigot. Once all safety precautions had been enabled, I stuck the match and set the blaze. It would surely have done Mrs. Wade proud to see those flames dancing hot and steady. There’s something about a bonfire that excites the heart. Maybe its the inviting warmth that calls you closer or maybe its the hypnotic tongues of fire lapping up the oxygen. My brood and I fed and monitored that burn until the sun started its descent. Then, as the smells of supper wafted out from the kitchen, I decided it was time to enlist Smokey’s advice (to prevent forest fires) so I pointed the hose squarely at the center of the flames.
A good bit of time passed with me standing guard, hose in hand. Enough water had met its target so that a small swift river was flowing down the gulley and all appearances of smoke had ceased. The wood looked thoroughly saturated in my estimation; therefore, I called it a day and headed inside.
Satisfied that I’d accomplished my day’s task of rendering most of our yard waste to ash and properly extinguishing any resultant threat, I peacefully laid my head down that night. You might imagine my shock at what I discovered the next morning. Smoke and heat were wafting from my pile which was also substantially smaller than when I’d left it. Apparently, my fire woman skills were lacking as I’d failed to snuff out the source of the fire.
The crew and I participated in the 41st annual March for Life in Washington, DC earlier this month. Coverage of the event is always minimal at best so any mention of it calls my attention. Scrolling on social media I was intrigued by an article debating the tactics of Michael Voris of The Vortex at the March. Brendan Malone, on TheLeading Edge, alleged that Mr. Voris was creating divisions among pro-lifers at the event because while interviewing attendees he asked whether or not they supported contraception. It seems many were accepting and saw no dilemma in their stance.
While I won’t weigh in either way on Mr. Voris’ tactics, I must agree with the point he was trying hard to make. According to Guttmacher statsapproximately 68-72% of Catholic women contracept. Certainly, Catholics are not the only pro-lifers, but that statistic is similar to the population at large.
Well, everyone knows that access to affordable, convenient contraception reduces the need for abortion, right? I mean pro-lifers need to target their attention on the bigger problem at large which is simply the aborting of the unborn, agreed? I mean these are two separate battles, aren’t they?
Consider that according to Guttmacher, “Fifty-four percent of women who have abortions had used a contraceptive method (usually the condom or the pill) during the month they became pregnant.” Only, 8% have never used contraceptives. Get that? More than half of women seeking to dispose of their unborn babes had been attempting to frustrate their conception in the first place (i.e. thought they couldn’t get pregnant because they were using contraceptives).
What Mr. Voris was trying to expose, I believe, was the ember that fuels the raging firestorm of abortion.
I’ve written about contraception before (you can read more HERE and HERE), but undoubtedly the topic is far from exhausted. As the interviewer unveiled at the March, many pro-lifers are soaking the blaze with good efforts and righteous confrontation, but until we target the interior ignitor we will never fully succeed in the fight.
Going back to those stats it is clear that contraception does not reduce abortions, indeed it actually leads to more abortions.
Firstly, it is important to remember that hormonal contraceptives like the Pill and devices like the IUD are, in and of themselves, abortifacients. That means they can and do abort newly conceived children before their mothers even know of their creation. So, to begin with, contraceptives abort babies. Just because no one has discovered their conception doesn’t nullify their killing.
“In summary, according to multiple references throughout the Physician’s Desk Reference, which articulate the research findings of all the birth control pill manufacturers, there are not one but three mechanisms of birth control pills: 1)inhibiting ovulation, 2)thickening cervical mucus, and 3) thinning and shriveling the lining of the uterus to the point that it is unable or less able to facilitate the implantation of the newly-fertilized egg. The first two mechanisms are contraceptive. The third is abortive.”Additionally, the mini-pill, the IUD and

the drug RU-486 have abortion as the primary operation.

Alcorn, Randy. Does the Birth Control Pill Cause Abortions?(Eternal Perspective Ministries: 2007)
Secondly, contraceptives delude couples into thinking sex and procreation are not necessarily connected events. Men hear that a woman’s fertility is a feature they can opt out of; and women are sold the idea that their healthy, functioning bodies are in need of medical intervention. A child is nothing more than choice. This distorted notion is the oxygen feeding this inferno. When a man and woman view sexual intercourse as nothing more than a pleasurable activity void of long-term effects, they don’t bother to consider or plan for the future or a different outcome. The unexpected child is then viewed as a threat and a failure, a problem to be remedied.
The medical community has done a fantastic job at convincing the populous that it has the remedy for most of what ails us. (Unfortunately, they have incorrectly taught women that fertility is an ailment when instead it is a healthy, function of the female body.) Indeed it has done its job so well that now people sue their doctor when his promises of health and vitality fall flat. Remembering that more than half of those seeking abortion were depending on contraception to avoid the “problem” of a child in the first place, it is easy to see the “need” for a back-up plan. And the medical community has filled the need by offering abortions. Not only is abortion the back-up to contraceptive failures, it is the extended money maker.
Oh, but my doctor doesn’t “do” abortions, you argue. Well, if your doctor wrote a prescription for your “sister’s” contraceptive then he/she is complicit in abortion- via the abortifacient components of the contraceptives or her decision to procure a back-up abortion.
By further extension, if patients have been promised sex without procreative consequences, they certainly aren’t interested in the unexpected blessing of a child with special needs. No worries, the medical community is happy to weed out those pesky, needy children whose parents bothered to consider allowing the unplanned pregnancy to continue.
Like the hot burning ember contained in the core of my bonfire, so is contraception to the pro-life fight. Sex divorced of procreation is, simply and honestly, a lie. True, there are ethical means by which to postpone pregnancy, but couples who choose to practice periodic abstinence understand that sex is the means to the procreative powers.
If the pro-life movement doesn’t acknowledge that contraception leads directly to abortion, then it will never succeed in extinguishing the wildfire. We didn’t begin this tragedy with 54 million dead babies on the abortionist’s floor (that is in America alone, not counting those babes aborted through contraceptive means), we began it with the erroneous belief that conception was separate from sex. If we hope to end this holocaust, we need to train our nozzle of energy, time and resources at the central igniter, as well as the burn pile.

Women, Behold Our Mother – Mary Is The Answer To Modern Feminism

My grade school education was provided by a mix of 70’s style Sisters (in their knee-length blue skirts and simple habits) and lay women (some clearly representing new age feminism). Like many schools of the time, we learned the faith blended in with current culture. Madonna flooded our ears and flashed across the MTV screen inspiring the abandonment of modesty and submission.

Single mothers were becoming more prevalent and Church teachings less relevant. By extension, contraception promised independence; whereas, chastity was viewed as repressive. And Roe vs. Wade provided the back-up security measure while Humanae Vitae got buried in controversy.


Modernity and freedom seemed tied to rebelliousness and pride. Reverence faded from fashion. Coupled with Vatican II confusion, the role of women inside and outside of the Church became skewed.

Subordination Becomes A Dirty Word

Not surprisingly, many female lectors and parishioners began to stumble over the Ephesian instruction,  
Wives should be subordinate to their husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is head of his wife just as Christ is head of the church, he himself the savior of the body. As the church is subordinate to Christ, so wives should be subordinate to their husbands in everything. 
 
Of course, had they listened beyond the word “subordinate” (in some versions it reads submit or subject) to the verses describing a husband’s sacrificial role, they might have embraced the beauty contained in their part as women.

As women roared into a generation of new ideas and ideology, tossing their bras in the bonfire of feminism, they traded part of their true identity for a false freedom. Where once they were cherished as whole persons, now they could be separated into parts. Their partners could take what they wanted to and leave the rest behind (think, fertility).

Untying The Aprons Strings


Surely there was good to come from untying the knotted apron strings and stepping outside of the kitchen doors, but there is an internal wisdom unique to womanhood that got cast aside with the frying pan. Where once mother was the heart of the home, the proud and needed homemaker, now children returned home to empty houses and TV-sitters. Fathers cast-off their responsibilities with greater ease now that mother could be expected to shoulder the full weight of parenthood and provisions.

In line with our first fore-mother Eve, the modern woman was intrigued by the hissing, serpent promises of power, knowledge and self-reliance if only she would swallow the forbidden contraceptives. Of course, in this case she wasn’t encouraged to enjoy any fruit, but to toss aside her very own fruitfulness.

Ah yes, if she could unbridle herself from her fertility, than she’d be free to soar beyond her grandmother’s wildest dreams. She could be more like man, unshackled of the blessings of her womb. Happiness was only a career step higher, a one night stand away.

Mary Gets It Right


While Humanae Vitae prophesied the weeds that would grow from such unfruitful seeds, too many remain ignorant or obstinate to the truths foretold. So much more than is the gift we have in our Blessed Mother that she has the power to correct these errors.

In my own life, it was she who aided my conviction, her example that called me back from the misguided path I was stumbling down. I’ve written before about my conversion experience and about the vow I made to Jesus through her hands. It was a vow to surrender my fertility to Jesus with total abandon and trust if only she would promise to align my heart with His. But that is simply part of my personal experience and Mary has so much more to offer to all of her daughters.

She’s been referred to as the new Eve, because Our Lady said yes where Eve said no. Mary received the gift God offered without question or constraint, whereas Eve grabbed for more than her allotted portion. Mary trusted, while Eve doubted. The young, unwed, Jewish girl accepted the challenge with humility and surrender, as opposed to Eve’s willingness to breach the bond of communion. 
 

Mary was an Ephesians woman, she silently withstood Joseph’s initial plans to quietly relinquish her. She placed herself, heavy with child, upon a lowly donkey and let her husband lead her across rough terrain. And when her husband couldn’t secure a room at the inn, she dutifully accepted what he had to give to her, a stable and a manger instead of the private room and a cradle. Then again, she would pick up and take her newborn to unfamiliar territory when Joseph said they must flee.

Remnants Remain


Pregnant myself right now, it seems difficult to imagine her position and to see myself in it. Standing by a doubting husband without arguing my case, thrusting my big, uncomfortable self into less than ideal situations without whining, placing my newborn and myself at the mercy of my husband’s dreams without second guessing, certainly my remnants of modern feminism would strike up a cord of rebellion.

But God knew well the challenges that would come, yes He even knew the modern woman with her thirst for self-importance and separate identity. He gave Mother Mary to women of every age and generation, her wisdom and motherly witness are as relevant now as they have ever been.

For her part, Mary relied on God for all things, trusted in His Word and placed herself totally at His disposal. Like a chalice, she was the open vessel into which God poured His own lifeblood. She was receptive to God’s Will, not grasping or wanting, but receiving. Her identity was reflective. Her fulfillment found in mirroring her Creator and in shining the light of her Son.

The Body Speaks The Truth


Woman’s body speaks this truth. We are made to receive, literally. Our womb, like the chalice, accepts and distributes the blood of new life. Our natural inclination is maternal in that we most often seek to nurture and instruct others rather than gain for our own satisfactions alone.

Contraception lured us into believing we could betray our role as receptors with no consequence. We could pop a pill and obstruct the seed from taking root within us. However, true love, agape, is written on our hearts and in our female bodies, we cannot suppress our true nature or substitute our real identity.

Divorce, abortion, depression, pornography, addiction, sexual abuse and the poverty of single mothers are symptoms of the barren seed of modern feminism. In seeking self-importance rather than reflective- identity, we separated ourselves from the source of all joy and goodness. God’s grace cannot flow into a sealed chalice.

Jesus, Himself, gave us his mother from the cross. In the midst of His Passion, He sought to leave her to humanity. Because He knew how much we desperately needed her humble example, her simple, complete faith in order that we might receive the gift of salvation He was pouring out for us.

Mother Mary is the answer to modern feminism, as she is the correction to the error of Eve. Like a mother, she loves her children and wants only our happiness, true happiness that can only be found in union with God and His Will. 
 
Women, we must behold our Mother, the one to whom we were promised by Christ. And she will teach us to embrace our femininity, to relish the gift of our role as subordinates.

Getting The Facts Straight On Abortion And Contraceptives

Okay, so this isn’t my typical post, but I felt it needed to be written. Unfortunately, too many people (me included for many years) aren’t learning the facts about hormonal birth control’s abortifacient properties. Sadly, many of us may one day discover our missed children in heaven.

   
Consider the facts:

Are all obstetricians and gynecologists providers of abortion? Nearly all are.


Some ob/gyns perform surgical abortions. This means they end the life of an unborn child, by a variety of means and then extract the body from the mother’s womb or cause the mother’s body to expel the child. In third trimester abortion, some children are first expelled from the mother’s body and then killed after birth (like in the current case of Kermit Gosnell, in PA).



Any ob/gyn who prescribes hormonal birth control(the Pill, Norplant, Depro-Provera, etc.)is supplying abortifacient drugs because EVERYtype of chemical birth control has the power to cause early abortions.

  • “Combination oral contraceptives act by suppression of gonadotropins. Although the primary mechanism of this action is inhibition of ovulation, other alterations include changes in the cervical mucus, which increase the difficulty of sperm entry into the uterus, and changes in the edometrium, which reduce the likelihood of implantation” (implantation of a child who has already been conceived). From the Physician’s Desk Reference product info for Ortho-Cept

    • “In summary, according to multiple references throughout the Physician’s Desk Reference, which articulate the research findings of all the birth control pill manufacturers, there are not one but three mechanisms of birth control pills: 1)inhibiting ovulation, 2)thickening cervical mucus, and 3) thinning and shriveling the lining of the uterus to the point that it is unable or less able to facilitate the implantation of the newly-fertilized egg. The first two mechanisms are contraceptive. The third is abortive.”

    • When a woman taking the Pill discovers she is pregnant it means that all three mechanisms failed. The third mechanisms sometimes fails as backup, just as the first two mechanisms sometimes fail; however, each and every time the third mechanism succeeds it has caused an abortion.

  • The prescription drug RU-486 has the primary function of causing an abortion.

  • The mini-pill (progestin-only or progestogen-only) is abortifacient.

    • The primary mechanism through which the mini-pill prevents conception is not known, but progestogen-only contraceptives are known to alter the cervical mucus, exert a progestational effect on the endometrium, interfering with implantation, and in some patients, suppress ovulation. According to the FDA

  • Intra-Uterine Devices (IUDs), which were once pulled from the market due to numerous damage suffered by their users, are abortifacient. They have two functions 1) thicken cervical mucus to inhibit sperm migration 2) cause inflammation of the uterine lining to inhibit implantation of the newly conceived child.
      
    How statistically significant is the abortifacient mechanism of hormonal birth control?

  • Although the combined Pill probably suppresses ovulation in 95% of cycles, abortions can occur among the other 5% (noting that the mini-pill or single hormone pill is less effective at suppressing). A “breakthrough ovulation” rate of 4.7% was reported in 1984, so applying that rate to the 13.8 million American women on the Pill in the early 90’s would yield 648,000 ovulations per cycle (not every ovulation results in pregnancy). Assuming 25% of those breakthrough ovulations result in pregnancy would mean that of those 648,000 ovulations, 162,150 new human lives could be conceived each cycle. That’s 1,945,800 lives each year that would then be denied implantation in the womb and thus be aborted. More than the number killed by surgical abortions.
     
From a pro-life standpoint we must address this problem and educate others, including healthcare providers. From a Catholic standpoint we must ask why Catholic physicians are not being held accountable for their part in fueling the abortion industry and the culture of death.  It is not enough to simply avoid contraceptives for ourselves and ignore that the doctors we are funding financially are killing our sister’s unborn children.

http://ccli.org/

What are couples, who have discerned a serious reason to postpone a pregnancy to do?  They are free to practice Natural Family Planning, methods of fertility awareness that are up to 99% effective, morally acceptable and abortion-free.


We cannot turn back the clocks to the day before abortion and contraception stripped away God’s design for man’s sexual powers, but we can pull back the veil of dishonesty and misinformation that attempts to hide the death agenda. We can start at home, in our own marital bedroom by rejecting the lie. We can educate anyone who will listen via all means available. We can pray, pray, pray for our physicians and priests that they may have the courage to face the truth and refuse the wide road.

Kippley, John F. and Sheila K. The Art of Natural Family Planning. (Couple to Couple League International, Inc. : 1996)

Alcorn, Randy. Does the Birth Control Pill Cause Abortions? (Eternal Perspective Ministries: 2007)

http://www.babycenter.com/0_intrauterine-device-iud_3564.bc. (Accessed April 12, 2013) 

Weeding The Garden For Life: The Roots and Fruits of Contraception

 

There’s a little garden beside my front walkway dedicated to St. Joseph. Matthew’s rose bush blooms within it as well as the Hostas and Day Lilies that were transplanted from other places on our property. In the beginning, our statue of the foster father of Jesus stood prominently among a balance of lively greenery and rich, brown dirt. Not the typical red clay of North Carolina, but soil that offered the promise of nutrients and growth. 

Probably a month or more ago, clover sprang up in random patches around the resident plant life. I considered briefly that the clover, a weed, was intruding in this garden, but then it reminded me of shamrock with its heart-shaped leaves and emerald green color, so I let it remain. The clover, itself, is really quite small and unobtrusive, so why not allow it to blend in with the pattern, was my reasoning. 

Life got busier throughout the weeks, postponing my good intentions to accomplish some yard work and so the invasion of weeds persisted. That is how it works. Today there is scarcely a square foot of brown soil to be seen as weeds of all varieties have laid their roots and spread their leaves across my humble, welcoming garden. The balance and the beauty seem lost to the eye now and, of course, it only stands to get worse. 


In Saturday’s box on the calendar, I’ve scribbled a reminder to myself that weeding must be done; however, a real plan of action is necessary if it is my serious intention to regain control of this modest patch of earth. I could rise early and set to the task of pulling up weeds one by one. Surely, by the time the day’s heat becomes unbearable, I will be able to wipe my brow and step back to admire the return of balance. 

Perhaps, pride might be entertained a bit too considering the sacrifice of time that will be required to prune around the shrine. The pride, though, would be short-lived because everyone knows the cleverness of weeds which are sure to re-stake their claim in due time. 

Perhaps, an ample dousing of poison is in line, but then there is a risk to all that lies in close proximity. Truly, those roots, hidden beneath the surface, must be unveiled in their entirety. The right plan includes uprooting, tilling, sifting, laying down a protective barrier and then recovering. I know what it’s going to take, but I have to decide whether or not the desired result is worth the cost of the required sacrifice.

Facing A Dilemma

The dilemma in my welcome path garden offers a simple picture of a critical problem facing us in this state, this nation, this world today. The culture of death has come into nearly full bloom. Its broad leaves of abortion, euthanasia, divorce, cohabitation, addiction, pornography, promiscuity, prostitution and infidelity have taken over our civilization like kudzu. 

Here in the United States, possibly the last bastion of hope for Christians, we are under attack from our own government which seeks to sow more laws that would eradicate what’s left of our religious liberties. Ah yes, the problem is as evident and well-defined as the creeping crab grass. 

We, patriots and Christians, see the enemy and we are taking a stand against this injustice which is being perpetrated under the title of the HHS mandate. We will not sit idly by as this latest attempt to strip away our freedom reaches into our churches, our Catholic hospitals, and our pockets. We’ll march, we’ll rally, we’ll donate time and money, we’ll debate, we’ll evangelize and we’ll pray- all noble and necessary tasks, but a bit like my less painful plan to pull the weeds one by one and then step back in temporary triumph. 

Digging Up The Roots 

Before we can mount a sincere attack, the question needs to be asked, “From what root did these broad leaves of death spring?” Taking a long, honest look you’ll find that these are the fruits of contraception and the misuse of Natural Family Planning, the thinking that by utilizing a moral means one can legitimately justify the same ends. 

Were people still familiar with Thomas Malthus, the original population doomsayer who preached total abstinence in order to save the world from mass starvation, this misuse of the natural means might be just as easily called the Malthusian mentality. It was this seed of thinking, that responsible men must take charge of their own destiny by thwarting the gift of procreative powers or be doomed to starvation, that was scattered about. Seeds germinate and sprout, that is their nature, so too did this idea. For if man was wise enough to discover his power to save the universe, then he must be equally endowed with the good sense to order his life as best he sees fit.  

If one man can justify the end, of inhibiting the conception of a new life, then another man can do the same even if by different means. If the end is good, why squabble over the means. While the initial idea took some decades to establish hardy root-age, “modern” science, and a well-known woman named Margaret Sanger, eventually hailed a new way to rescue planet earth and its female inhabitants from the dreaded potential of babies. 

 

Fortunately, the Catholic Church continued to stand upright, keeping Her branches bathed in the Son light, so that She alone continues to speak the truth that contraception is a misuse of the body and counter to the Will of the Creator, and therefore an impermissible moral evil. Pope Paul VI, in his famous encyclical Humanae Vitae, reiterated the truth of God’s design of creating them male and female and prophesied the dire results that would follow were mankind to allow this seedling of contraception to remain rooted in its heart. As he forewarned, the right balance and inherent beauty of our world has all but been completely overgrown with ideas and practices of the culture of death. 
 

Now if we are of the mind to dig up the problem, we must acknowledge that while the Church rejected the lie of contraception, Her people did not all heed Her instructions. Quite frankly, too many entrusted in the ranks of shepherds either allowed the culture of death to flourish unchallenged or aided its foothold through their sins of omission in the pulpit. Today the onslaught of the HHS mandate seems to have awakened the sleeping giant, who is now rubbing the sleep from his eyes and beginning to shake the trellis which was built beneath him. A welcome renewal, but not enough alone to reclaim the garden.

Contradiction Doesn’t Win

Morally good and constitutionally right as it is to argue for the protection of our religious liberty in light of the current threat of a mandate, we cannot hope to achieve victory if we continue to provide fertilizer in the enemy camp. Plainly stated, it is a contradiction that we fight for religious liberty in our healthcare system while at the same time the majority of Catholic physicians in our pews willingly sustain the culture of death by penning countless prescriptions for contraceptives and scheduling quick and easy sterilizations. Not to mention, the majority of their Catholic patients are happy to give them their business. 

Why even the heralded breakthrough of ultrasound is often wielded in the doctor’s hands as a tool to discern the fit from the “unfit” in the womb. Ask any mother over the age of thirty-five and you’ll likely find she has been offered, if not downright pressured to submit to, a battery of tests aimed at informing her and her doctor as to the “quality of life” her unborn child might be expected to have and to offer. Because by extension of the anti-life mentality, a child who might require extra attention and care is a drain on his parents and society, so it is the duty of the doctor to offer an alternative. 

It didn’t take long to come full circle with this technology, as recent headlines prove that female babies are targeted for sex selection abortions even within the borders of our blessed America. America is only a step to two away from adopting another of China’s infamous policies if we continue down this path.


Wish that I could say, the meager faction of Natural Family Planning teachers and promoters were fully doing their part to reseed the truth, but sadly that message, also, has been watered down. Only ten years ago when my husband and I were trained to understand the signs of our mutual fertility, it was directly noted that a serious reason needed to be discerned in order for a couple to rightly postpone a pregnancy, even indefinitely. The very word serious was meant to reflect the challenge and requirement of monthly turning to God and seeking His guidance as to whether or not husband and wife could actively avoid the fertile phase. We affirmed our Creator’s role, the blessing of family members and focused on expressing the call to generosity and trust. However, in an attempt to attract new business, the message was tailored to sound more appealing to younger couples, who’d grown up without benefit of well formed consciences in the area of Church teaching. Serious reason was replaced with responsible parenthood. Not that responsible parenthood isn’t a goal, but it seems more in line with the culture’s vision that responsible adults are the ones who limit their family size to one boy and one girl. The new slant is toward having a goal every cycle, to either be working at achieving or avoiding. Those of us whose goal is total surrender to God’s total dominion over our love lives are labeled Providentialists, a term more synonymous with religious zealots (aka freaks).

In the state I live in, there can hardly be found a single ob/gyn practice that doesn’t embrace the culture of death. While looking for a new physician, I called about a dozen offices and asked about their acceptance of Natural Family Planning. Each time the receptionist misunderstood me and readily rattled off the lists of hormonal contraceptives they could provide me with. Forced to choose a practice, I chose one that was recommended by pro-life friends, who praised one of the physicians as being both Catholic and the father of a large family. Presenting in the office, I was immediately bombarded with advertisements for contraception in nearly every room. Not a single pro-life, pro-NFP message was found anywhere. As an added challenge, in the state of NC, home birth midwives, who provide a real pro-life, pro-family, pro-woman alternative, are illegal. One cannot ignore the effect this has on other less informed women. If the message everywhere in the “world”(from your doctor’s office and hospitals, to print ads and commercials) is one of anti-life, it isn’t hard to understand why even seemingly pro-life people easily make some concessions.

Let The Fields Run Wild

Are we just supposed to give up and let the fields return to the wild? Should we just accept that the land has already been conquered by the enemy? No way! But if we continue to focus all of our attention on a single issue like the HHS mandate alone, then we simply break a weed or two from its stem while leaving all the deep root age behind. My beloved Catholic Church is to be applauded for holding fast to Truth, but we as the Body of Christ must rise up and shine in every place and circumstance. We must examine our consciences continually and ask ourselves if we are willing to follow the examples of St. Gianna Beretta Molla and Chiara Corbella, who sacrificed their lives (literally) in order that their unborn children could live. This call to live our faith, means clinging to the Cross which entails real actions, real sacrifices. Perhaps, for too long, the majority have grown accustomed to merely glancing at the Crucifix and so have lost sight of the need to kiss it. We conjure up every manner of excuse for how we can tolerate individual situations that fuel the culture of death. 

In my own case, well intentioned people have attempted to dissuade me from remaining completely open to life because in recent years it has meant much loss and physical suffering. In the case of physicians, they claim it is too big a risk to their livelihood to stop authoring prescriptions for abortifacients. And the excuses we all make go on and on. 

Relinquish Control

It is long past time to relinquish control, give God everything and trust in His promises to provide for His people. Yes, we must do battle in the public square, but we must also work diligently and overtly for His glory. Not that we should be self-righteous like the Pharisees, but when people in the “world” look at us, they should see our unwavering love and devotion to Christ Jesus. We’ll make mistakes, we’ll fail some days, so then we should run to confession and adoration so that the Divine Gardener can prune our hearts and refresh spirits. Realize that the blood of martyrs waters the mustard seed, so pray for courage and fortitude. Let us remember his first command was to “be fruitful and multiply, fill the earth and subdue it.” 
 

The old laws may have changed, but the commandments never will. Find inspiration in knowing that there is no doubt that Christ will be the Victor. Accept your vocation and within it carry His standard high in the battlefields. Recognize that we must fight tirelessly on all fronts to extirpate the source of the culture of death. If we all conform ourselves to the task at hand, we can be confident that in His time the garden will return to its former beauty.



“Set your hearts on his kingdom first, and on God’s saving justice, and all these other things will be given you as well. So do not worry about tomorrow: tomorrow will take care of itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

Natural Family Planning Is Real Healthcare

The current controversy over the US government’s mandate with regards to women’s healthcare has shone a light on the Catholic Church and her teachings. Considering how many people, both inside and outside of the Catholic Church, are ignorant of this beautiful and unalterable teaching, this debate provides the perfect opportunity to enlighten the population. 

Understanding The History

Firstly, a brief history lesson is necessary. In 1798, Thomas Malthus, an English economist proposed the first population scare. He wrote that population would increase at a rate that would surpass the available food supply, thereby, leading to mass starvation. As an Anglican clergyman, Malthus recommended that people delay getting married (which at that time did not mean they should live together for a few years) and that couples should practice total abstinence once their desired number of children was reached. In 1823, his dire predictions continued to be promoted by the neo-Malthusians; however, they dumped the pesky morality component that called for abstinence and encouraged people to have their cake and eat it, too, by contracepting . American Protestant reformer, Anthony Comstock successfully petitioned the US Congress and several states to outlaw contraceptives in 1870 because at that time all Christian churches understood that contraception was fundamental wrong. 

Enter Margaret Sanger, who like Hilter wanted to rid the gene pool of misfits (like people of other races or abilities), she was the famous American that dedicated herself to promoting unnatural forms of birth control. Ms. Sanger is the mother of Planned Parenthood, the organization that continues her legacy today by setting up clinics in communities which predominantly consist of minorities. By 1930, the bishops of the Church of England also caved into the secular pressure for contraception during the Lambeth Conference. Then, a year later, in the US, the Federal Council of Churches followed down the same slippery slope. The Catholic Church understood that the moral teachings given to her by Jesus Christ are and always will be unalterable. So, the Catholic Church stood alone, and continues to do so today, in proclaiming that contraception and sterilization are inherently wrong. 

While it is true that several shepherds within the Church, personally and publicly, rejected this teaching, they had no authority to do so. Like Judas, their consciences were corrupt and they misled others with their public dissent. In order to correct the confusion, Pope Paul VI, inspired by the Holy Spirit, wrote the encyclical Humanae Vitae in which he reaffirmed the Church’s Tradition. Prophetically, he spoke of the ends (including abortion, diminished respect for woman, increased divorce rates) that would result should people accept contraception. Today, it is quite clear that Pope Paul VI’s warnings were divinely inspired as every consequence he predicted has come to pass.

Consider that Malthus’ theories were wrong. Our ability to produce food is such that we here in the US routinely throw mountains of food into the garbage every day. Of course, Malthus’ failed ideas have simply morphed into today’s environmental hysteria which is based on similarly infantile science. The populations of Europe are currently dying out, literally; not from lack of food, but from lack of people. As the number of births has declined, whole generations are missing to enter the workforce and to care for the elder generations. Like Hitler, Margaret Sanger is long dead, unfortunately their racist agenda persists and is now even funded by the government. It is no secret that Planned Parenthood continues to target the poor and minorities and now there is a new tool in the arsenal, ultrasound. With ultrasound, doctors can inform parents whether or not their unborn child is even worthy of being born. 

Has The Church Failed?

So, what are couples expected to do, you might ask. Is the Catholic Church forcing women to bear more children than they are able to properly care for? Is the Catholic Church some archaic, male-dominated institution that seeks to enslave women by keeping them barefoot and pregnant? Are these teachings simply the musings of a group of sad, old men who have no idea of the struggles of family life? Has the Catholic Church simply failed to keep up with the changing times? Nothing could be further from the truth! 

Firstly, one must understand that God, Himself, created the joy of sex. He gave man and woman the power to procreate while He retained the role of Creator. In the marital embrace, he designed the perfect way for husband and wife to physically manifest their sacramental union of oneness. Both of these gifts, unity and the power to procreate, belong in every act of intercourse and when they do, the truth, beauty and joy of the sexual encounter is experienced by the couple. Contrary, to “modern” theory, God isn’t a prude and He knows well the crosses that couples bear in raising a family. So, in His infinite wisdom, He designed woman with limited periods of fertility.

In the 1930’s and 1940’s, based on the science of the time, physicians developed and promoted the Rhythm Method for spacing children. The Catholic Church was able to accept this method because it did nothing to destroy the marital act nor destroy a potential child. It should be noted that all married couples are called to generosity, but that they are free to prayerfully discern if they have a just reason to postpone a pregnancy in any given month. 

The Rhythm Method sought to give couples the knowledge about the woman’s fertile and infertile times each cycle, so that couples could avoid sexual intimacy during the fertile days if they felt called to avoid a pregnancy. Unfortunately, the Rhythm Method was based on elementary science which assumed every woman had a 28 day cycle and that every woman therefore ovulated on day 14 of every cycle. The days of fertility to be avoided were then based on a non-individual based calculation that was applied to every woman. This proved successful for some couples, but not for others. The Rhythm Method, sadly, became characterized as Catholic birth control.

The Science Of Our Times

Today our scientific knowledge has increased by leaps and bounds and so we now have 99% effective methods for postponing pregnancy. I say postponing because, unlike with contraception and sterilization, family planning is meant to be a continual, prayerful assessment of God’s call in our married lives. 

My husband and I teach a method known as the Symptom-Thermal Method (STM) of Natural Family Planning (NFP). As volunteers, we have the privilege of teaching women that their body displays three detectable signs of fertility/infertility each month. With a little education, a woman can read her body signals (cervical mucus, basal temperature and cervix state). Unlike contraception, NFP methods respect the nature and beauty of a women’s body. NFP does not require women to insert nor ingest items or medications which cause harmful or unpleasant side effects. There are no long term costs involved in practicing NFP. There are no environmental hazards, like estrogen leeched into your drinking water. Practicing NFP is a two person job because it requires self control from both the man and the woman, so unlike contraception it is not solely the woman’s responsibility. Additionally, the knowledge gained through reading a woman’s body has helped couples of diminished fertility to conceive. 

Where contraception attempts to alter the woman’s body hormonally, thwart the man’s sperm or destroy a newly conceived life, NFP leads couples to abstain from sexual relations during the fertile days each month. It protects the nature of the sexual act, to be unitive and open to life. When husband and wife come together, they speak with their bodies. They say to one another, “I love all of you (including your fertility), I give all of myself to you.” By avoiding the marital embrace during the fertile days, the couple has not violated the marital union in anyway. In fact, they have chosen to make a sacrifice of their passionate desire for union for the good of the whole family. Each one, husband and wife, has said through their abstaining, “I want the best for you and for our whole family, so I am willing to place my desires on hold for a few days.” 

I could go on and on about how women feel empowered when they come to realize the gifts of their fertility. I could talk at length about how a knowledgeable woman is better able to care for her own health. I could further explain how NFP requires men to learn self-control and how that leads them to better respect their partners and to appreciate the sexual union. The Catholic Church knows well the truth of all of these benefits that is why she has and will hold fast to the teaching that contraception in not good for women nor families. 

Are Women Too Simple-Minded?

Some would promote the idea that poor women are less capable of learning how to read their fertility (code for women are too stupid), but that is a gross fallacy and one that is right in line with Margaret Sangers’ eugenic agenda. Others would say that poor men are like animals and cannot control their sexual appetites, but that too is a lie. The Catholic Church views every man and woman as an image of the Creator and as such he/she is inscribed with an inherent intelligence and worth. The Catholic Church, seemingly alone, is crying out in the secular wilderness that contraception is not healthcare and women deserve better. It is not simply a matter of not wanting Catholic institutions to pay for immoral products and services, it is a matter of serving and protecting women of every race and religion. 

If contraception was truly allowing couples to plan their family, why have 50 million babies been aborted? If contraception was empowering women, why are so many women alone and unhappy? If contraception was beneficial to families, why are so many families shattered by divorce or led by single mothers? 

This controversy could turn out to be a blessing in disguise, if faithful Catholics have the courage to live out loud by sharing the truth with everyone who will listen. We must reeducate ourselves and others to the teachings given us by Christ. We must defend the Catholic Church’s stance against contraception, not because we need to defend the church as an historical institution but because we must defend the Body of Christ. As God is unchanging and unending, so too is His Church and this teaching.


References: The Art of Natural Family Planning, John and Sheila Kippley

Marks of True Love: A Marriage Like No Other

                                                                                                                                   Childhood sweethearts, my husband and I married for the first time at Sts. Peter and Paul Russian OrthodoxChurch. After the beautiful, two hour long Liturgy complete with crowns and chanting, my mother remarked there was no doubt we had indeed been united by this sacrament. Unlike some modern weddings which focus on flowery arrangements, self-appointed roles and individually crafted vows, ours followed tradition with its focus on the sacramental and not so much the selves. Of course, at 21 and 23 we’d have a lot to learn about life and marriage in the years to come.


our 20th Anniversary

Having married outside of the Catholic Church, our pre-cana consisted only of a few short meetings with the priest, who was to marry us. I remember only his encouraging me to convert and little else. We missed the boat, so to speak, on so many crucial lessons, but thankfully God always has a back-up plan.


Totally unaware of the Churches’ teachings, we contracepted early on until the time when we deemed ourselves ready to welcome another family member. What joy it seemed then to ask God to create a new life on our terms, in our time. However, after the death of our firstborn we began to realize that life was far more fragile than we’d considered and our well-crafted life plans disappeared with his heartbeat. We desperately wanted more children and so I suppose our hearts were ready soil for God to plant a different kind of seed.

An Attention Grabber

Browsing through a bookstore’s discount bin at the mall, I happened upon a thick book that grabbed my attention. Fertility awareness was the topic, and seeing as our attempts to conceive had taken much time and effort the first time around, it seemed the perfect read. I gobbled up that book and eagerly applied the newly found knowledge about my basal body temperature, mucus and cervical changes.


Fast forward six years and many changes later, my husband converted to the Catholic faith and we married for the second time in a little chapel at Immaculate Conception Catholic Church. In truth, standing there surrounded by a few friends and flanked by a toddler and a baby, we had our marriage, which was already considered valid by the Catholic Church, blessed.

Marrying For the Second Time

While our “first” marriage had united us together in that permanent bond of marriage, endowing us with the gifts to live out that vocation, I believe that “second” marriage made us evermore conscious of our need to rely on Divine Providence and our responsibility to actively grow together in our faith. Like too many other young people, after our wedding ceremony we had created all too many excuses for sleeping in on Sundays and relegated Christ to Easter and Christmas those first few years. Thankfully, once our family size increased, so too did our knowledge of the necessity for faith, but still missing were those hard truths.


Though my eyes had been opened to the beauty of my fertility, unfortunately that initial method of fertility awareness was void of theological truth and thus allowed for contraceptive behaviors and devices during the fertile phase of the cycle. It also didn’t challenge us to include God in our family planning, though at the time we felt an internal stirring to openness. Thankfully, our Lord is patient and so He nurtured that sapling and in time He would redirect its growth.

Standing On The Precipice Of Divorce

By the time we were celebrating our tenth anniversary, we’d been blessed with one son through adoption, two more birth sons, and our first daughter had entered the world. By all accounts our cup was overflowing, but in reality we were standing on the precipice of divorce, contemplating the looming pit of broken vows and broken dreams.


Well-meaning friends and family worried about our children and about divorced parents trying to raise them apart, so they encouraged us to protect ourselves. Protect ourselves, especially, against the possibility of anymore conceptions. Really, with four children already, many people couldn’t understand why we’d ever want more. Their advice seemed reasonable, so we took it and reverted back to contracepting during the fertile time.


We chose to work through our trial with a Christian therapist, who instructed us in reading the Bible. Little did this faithful, Protestant therapist know, not only was he helping to heal our broken hearts, but he was leading us deeper into our Catholic faith. For the first time, we began reading God’s Word separately and together. A deeper and more intimate relationship developed between the three of us (Christ, my husband and me) and we developed a thirst for more.


Truthfully, I knew something wasn’t right in our contracepting, but I couldn’t quite figure out what that “something” was. When I’d contracepted in our early years, I struggled with a myriad of physical and psychological symptoms as a result of the synthetic hormones. Contracepting without hormones, I still felt unsatisfied mentally, physically and spiritually.


A couple at our parish introduced us to The Mary Foundation, a fantastic organization that gave away free audio tapes (now CDs). For two people still emerging from the “modern theological” desert, hungry and parched, these tapes were our manna and rain. After listening to “The Mass Explained,” we ordered a box full of all their titles. My husband listened during commutes to work and I listened while cleaning the house and pushing kids on the swing.

Perplexed By My Husband’s Command

Then, one day my husband came home and handed me a tape. Entitled “The Key to Happy Families,” he wouldn’t divulge the contents, but simply instructed me to listen. Perplexed by his secrecy and intrigued by his command, I readily hit the play button. By the time the tape reel had run its course, my head was spinning.


The Pill is an abortifacient, so we could have aborted our own children? Contracepting is a mortal sin? A pope wrote a whole encyclical on this subject and prophesied abortion on demand, increased divorced rates, infidelity in marriages, and more. The Catholic Church actually has a teaching on this subject?


As a cradle Catholic, why had I not heard this before? And what was I going to do now?


From that day forward, my husband and I agreed, we could not contracept again, not with our bodies, not with our minds, not with our hearts. A dramatic turning point for me, I was working through my pain and was now more confused than ever.

Making The Vow

Alone in my bedroom, on my knees, I gave it all over to the Blessed Mother. I told her of my fears, my desires, my weakness and I asked her specifically to align my heart to God’s Will. Pledging my fertility to Jesus through her hands, I surrendered in a way I never had before. For the first time, I recognized and accepted my smallness. I promised to allow Jesus to have total control over my fertility, so long as Our Lady would wrap me in her mantle of comfort and protection.


I didn’t hear any voices, I didn’t see any heavenly lights, but I knew that she heard me, that she’d swaddled me in her motherly embrace. Of course, it was still a process, learning to completely surrender and trust. A process that we are still working through ten more years later and one that I think we will be trying to perfect for the rest of our lives.


This passed June, we celebrated our 20th anniversary in the company of our 7 children. Certainly, our married life has not been without further crosses. We’ve endured the losses of five more children, we’ve revisited old weaknesses, we’ve faced the judgment of others, but, contrary to the world’s idea of love and freedom, we’ve discovered that surrender, forgiveness and self-sacrifice are the source and summit of true love.


At 41 and 43, we recognize that our marriage includes a third partner, God. He was there on our wedding day and He has been there every day since, even when we relegated Him to the back seat. Through His Word and His sacrifice on the cross, He taught us the meaning of love and He showed us how to manifest that love toward one another.


Freely, faithfully and fully, we give ourselves, our whole selves, to one another and to Christ, inside of our bedroom and out. Today I understand, with a new perspective, my mother’s comment on our wedding day. Truly, the three of us were united by the Sacrament of Marriage.