Confessions of Cultural Heretics

"When the whole world is running headlong towards the precipice, one who walks in the opposite direction is looked on as being crazy." T.S. Elliot

Archive for the category “NFP”

Toledo Stand Up For Religious Freedom Rally- Updated with Video of Speech

On Friday I had the great honor of being one of the speakers for the Toledo Stand Up For Religious Freedom Rally.  I was able to join on stage an  Rev. Mark Hodges, pastor of St. Stephen Orthodox Church in Lima, Sister Cecilia Mary Sartorius, mother superior of the Little Sisters of the Poor in Oregon, Monica Martinez of the Diocese of Toledo, and Bishop Leonard Blair in speaking out against this atrocious mandate.  Here is the speech that I gave:

Good Afternoon! I am honored to be speaking before you all.  I am so glad to see so many individuals standing up for religious freedom!  I am a medical student at the University of Toledo College of Medicine and will be starting my training as a family physician in June.  My wife and I have also been teaching NFP in Toledo for the past three years.  As a soon to be doctor, the fight against this mandate is extremely important to me.

I wanted to first speak to you in my capacity as a medical professional.  From my perspective and that of many physicians around the country, this mandate does not make medical sense.  Now, I am not talking about the morality of contraception or even the health concerns of side effects of hormonal contraception and sterilization, but rather the fact that the government is mandating that we cover a medication and procedure that destroys a healthy physiologic state and that we are supposed to call this preventative care.   A recent post of the blog Catholic Vote made an excellent point in regards to the Affordable Care Act and subsequent clarifications (under which this Mandate falls): She writes:  You know that old sesame street song: “One of these things is not like the others, one of these things just doesn’t belong.” Among the conditions targeted [In this act] are alcoholism, depression, HIV, syphilis, diabetes, breast cancer, and fertility.  Which of these things just doesn’t belong?

This attitude that our government has taken towards fertility simply baffles me.  This just  isn’t good medicine.  But then again, this Mandate is not about medicine.  Rather this Mandate is about the erosion of religious liberty and conscience rights in the United States.   Once the government is able to force us to pay for contraception, sterilization, or abortifacients, then how long before hospitals and physicians will be forced to perform sterilizations or physicians be forced to write the prescriptions?  How long before you all are unable to receive healthcare that respects your beliefs?

The success of this mandate will be measured by how quickly and effectively Catholics and Christians are driven out of healthcare and education completely.  It is about how the government can keep Catholic and Christian businessmen and women from being successful, and it is about restricting which professions and jobs we can pursue. For if we are to be adhere to the teachings of our Faith and follow our conscience, how can we keep our Hospitals, Universities, and businesses open?  And when these close and we are out of work, they win.

We cannot let this happen.  We are the frontline in the defense of religious liberty and conscience protection.  This is not just about protecting institutions, but about protecting the religious liberty of the individual, for that is whom the First Amendment is written.  It is our individual witness, each and every day, that is going to turn this tide.  We must tell our family, friends, and colleagues what is going on and the Truth about this Mandate.  There are many misconceptions about this Mandate and distortions in regards to why we are opposing it.  I have had to face down colleagues and my superiors in defense of our religious liberty in the very hospitals in Toledo.  And there many fellow Catholics and other Christians who have no idea that this fight is even occurring.   And so We must stand up and be willing to be Martyrs in defense of our Faith and religious liberty, to show this country that we will not back down, and I pray that through this all, we will prevail and regain the freedom that is rightfully ours.

We had an excellent turnout with estimates around 1000 people!  There were many priests, religious, families, and business men and women present in the crowd.  I was amazed at the turn out and so happy to see so many concerned with this issue.  We even had media coverage which was for the most part non-biased.  I was interviewed by the local Fox Affiliate, which you can watch here: http://www.foxtoledo.com/dpp/news/local/standing-up-for-religious-freedom?ref=scroller&categoryId=20000&status=true

We had coverage by the local paper, the ABC affiliate, and the CBS affiliate, as well as the local Catholic paper The Catholic Chronical.

And here is a video of the Bishop’s address to the crowd.

I will try to keep posting pictures and videos as they come available.

 

UPDATE:

Confronting Scandal from the Pulpit

This past weekend Brian and I taught the second class in our NFP course. Since the class is held on Sunday afternoon we had to go to an earlier Mass than our usual 10:30 time at our parish. Originally we had been planning on attending the 8:30 at our parish, but the two little guys soon made it clear that there was no way that was going to happen. So we found a 9:30 at a nearby parish where we are friends with the pastor.

Now this is your stereotypical suburbanite parish- from the 70s architecture to the unspoken dress code of North Face fleeces and jeans. Like I said, however we know the pastor and he is completely orthodox and we knew we would at least have a reverent Mass and homily that would be spiritually uplifting.

After the deacon finished proclaiming the Gospel, he did not sit down, instead he began to preach. This was unexpected, as we had never seen a deacon deliver the sermon before (which we later learned only happens about once a month).

At first, we thought the Deacon was giving a good homily in regards to the constancy of truth and absoluteness of God’s teaching and its root in love for us. His discussion of “the grey” and how it resides in us and not in God was good, however, then he began to discuss contraception and moral teachings of the Church, and what he said was wrong. Dead wrong.

What he said next basically was that it is fine for Catholics to use contraception as long as they have “struggled with the Church’s teaching and attempted to form their conscience, but still conscientiously object” and will “be silent about it”. Here he mentioned the recent polls of Catholics that have been reported so much lately and the only issue he had with the numbers was that those who were using contraception were only wrong in making that information public.

The irony of hearing this lies in the fact that we were coming to mass to prepare our hearts and our minds to go and teach the Church’s Truth about contraception, family planning, and the generosity of the Lord. It was heartbreaking to basically hear from the pulpit permission for couples to continue to use contraception. It is this type of message and preaching that continues to undermine our ability to reach couples and inform their consciences. And to compound matters, the Deacon did not attempt at all to clarify why the Church teaches against contraception, for in doing so, he may have been able to help form and guide those who were struggling in the pew. Rather, by leaving this out, he basically gave everyone the ability to continue to use contraception and disagree with the Church on other teachings with a clear conscience as long as they kept quiet about it.

I have never walked out of Mass before, but I was horrified and mad. The only thing that kept me in my seat was the fact that we had to go to this Mass in order to make it in time to set up for our class. It is because of incidents like these, that we find ourselves in the pickle that we do regarding the HHS mandate. Maybe it would be a little easier to make headway with those who don’t understand our objections if there wasn’t so much dissension being justified from the pulpits.

Although we were certain Fr. was just as shocked as we were by what was said, we knew we had to do something and felt that maybe God had led us to Mass there for a reason that morning. As soon as we arrived home, we composed an email to the pastor, explaining the reason we came to his parish that day and expressed our tremendous concern for his flock which had all been given a false teaching on contraception and conscience formation. We also implored him to remedy the scandal that had just occurred by clarifying to this deacon and the whole congregation the actual church teachings on these subjects.

I am happy to say that we received this response that evening:

“You are right in that I too was surprised at the sermon. I think the deacon must have been going on an erroneous notion of “dissent” that was popularized years ago.  I will be clarifying things with him and with the parish. I also agree with you that now is not the time to be making things more grey, which is what the homily did. Thank you very much for the email, as it helps me to address the issue more forcefully.”

Knowing this holy priest, we have every confidence that he will indeed follow through with these intentions. Please pray for him as he faces this challenge as it is likely to cause quite a stir.

So as we begin Lent, we challenge all of you to find a way in your own parish or community to do your part to see that the Church’s teachings are being relayed faithfully and adequately. You never know the difference you could make.

-Johanna-

UPDATED: HHS Contraception Mandate Not Just About Religious Liberty

When I heard the news on Friday that the Department of Health and Human Services had refused to rescind its ‘Contraception Mandate’, I was angered but not surprised.  When this was originally announced last summer, many individuals, including myself, took up the battle cry, arguing that this was a major assault on religious liberty.  This has once again been the battle cry since Friday.  I am very grateful for Cardinal-elect Dolan and his leadership in this matter, and we must pray that other bishops, clergy, and laity will follow his lead.  In 20 months, if this Rule is not rescinded, the rubber will meet the road and we will truly see where Catholic Institutions and the Faithful stand.

However, there is another aspect to all of this that I would like to point out.  This fight is more than just a fight for religious liberty.  The actions of HHS and Kathleen Sebelius are not just attacks on religious liberty, but this rule is also an attack on the dignity of women and men, the promulgation of bad medicine, and the furthering of the pro-abortion agenda.  First of all, contraception hurts women.  What our society has forgotten is that there is a difference between using someone and loving someone, and this is particularly true in regards sexual morality.  Frankly, when a couple uses some for of contraception, the sexual act is turned into something less than its full potential.  The couple no longer fully give of themselves to one another, and they have frustrated the natural end of the sexual act (the procreative aspect) by deliberately altering their body in one way or another. Since the sexual act is a good for man (that can be misused of course), this frustrating of the act itself cries out against the Natural Law (you can read more on this aspect here and here.) The deliberate loss of the procreative aspect through a use of artificial contraception also changes the act from one of love to one of using one another.  There is no thought of deeper unity that rises out of sexual intercourse, namely the possibility of creating new life through such a profound act.  Rather the act becomes one motivated by pleasure and gratification.  Women become something to be used for pleasure by the man and vice versa.  This objectification arises because the deeper bond associated with sexual intercourse,( ie the family and childrearing) has been thrown out.  It is fairly self evident when you look out into the world and see how more and more people treat sex as an exploit or pleasure without consequences through their one night stands and such.  Are culture has glorified this attitude and now are government is trying to expand this attitude by forcing insurance companies to provide free access to birth control and abortifacients.

This is where we get into the bad medicine.  The underlying attitude of Sebelius’ statement is basically pregnancy is a disease that must be prevented or eliminated.  Thus we have birth control, and when that fails the Plan B abortifacient, and when that fails finally abortion.  Now, first of all pregnancy is obviously NOT a disease, but this is the prevailing attitude that motivates the growing desire for more contraception and abortion.  Women and men have rejected the natural function of a woman’s body in childbearing as they have rejected the natural consequence of the sexual act (procreation).  So now we have our government continuing to reinforce this attitude the pregnancy is a disease.  How long before we are openly seeing children being vilified? How long before a population control agenda is put in place like we see in China? Do not think I am overreacting because what do you think will happen if more and more people reject the contraception/abortion agenda and return to big families? Those who are pushing the contraception mandate will then take action towards large families and children.  Moving on to more bad medicine.  Hormonal contraception and abortifacients are unhealthy for women. Period.  There is a ever growing body of evidence on the negative effects of contraception on a woman’s body and even her mental health.  Increases in cancers, depression, infertility, blood clots, heart disease, etc. And yet, the HHS does not care, and in fact probably rejects these arguments outright.  They would rather have women deal with these consequences than have children.  And you know what happens when woman stop having children? Apparently healthcare costs go down, hmmm, seems like maybe because this is because there are fewer people in the health care system?  Wow, what a solution.  Let us eradicate disease by eradicating people.  This also brings us to the fact that this is bad economic policy as well.  We are on the verge (if not already there) of a demographic winter and are facing the collapse of the economic system because there are not enough workers and not enough people to buy goods.  Moreover, it is the eradication of culture and us as a people by shrinking our population one generation at a time until we are overcome by another people.

There are so many more consequences of having the Federal government force insurances to provide free contraception and sterlization than simply an attack on religious liberty and consciences of so many individuals and institutions.  This attitude and underlying philosophy will not only destroy religious liberty but the nation as a whole through the continued degradation of men and women, the promulgation of a dangerous drug and bad medicine, and the destruction of our economic and social future.  This is very much a part of the culture of death and the pro-abortion agenda.  When contraception fails, there must be a back up in abortion (recent Guttmacher Institute study showed 54% of women who had an abortion were using contraception).

As we face this next attack (which seems to be aimed specifically at Catholics) we must keep in mind that this fight is not just about religious liberty, but about re-establishing what is Good Medicine, and re-establishing the importance of intact, large families in our society.

For more on the negative effects of contraception, see this talk given my Janet Smith.

UPDATE:

Bad Catholic has an excellent post on “Why Contraception is a Bad Idea” where he address the point from natural law in a very understandable manner.

Why Natural Family Planning Should Be Part of Marriage Prep

With Natural Family Planning (NFP) Awareness Week coming up (July 24-July 30), we wanted to share a few thoughts on NFP.  As a teaching couple, we have heard many arguments for and against NFP and whether or not it should be a mandatory part of marriage preparation.  One of the great misunderstandings concerning NFP is that many individuals consider its purpose to be only a natural method to avoid pregnancy.  Now, NFP is extremely useful and efficient in this regard, but in reality, learning about NFP and Fertility Awareness is so much more than simply learning how to avoid pregnancy.  So let us look at a few reasons why learning NFP is so important in our day and age.

Medical Benefits

The simple act of charting can have immense medical benefits for the woman.  Both in our medical experience and in our Natural Family Planning course, we have seen many women who have experienced tremendous paybacks as a result of recording their fertility signs.  And this experience is not simply ours alone.  One only needs to talk to all of the women who have been helped by Dr. Hilgers at the Pope Paul VI Institute to find out how the act of charting opened the doors to cures and solutions of their cycle and pregnancy related medical issues.  Whether using the Creighton Model, the Symptothermal or any other method, a couple who is charting can detect hormonal imbalances, infertility, nutritional deficiencies, cancers, and a variety of cycle issues.  These same couples, through charting, can reduce their need for unnecessary interventions during an infertility workup, or during pregnancy.  Consider that if a couple knows the date of conception through charting, a very accurate due date can be determined.  This saves the couple from needing an ultrasound to determine the due date, and can save many dangerous interventions at the end of the pregnancy since the parents and physician can know with great accuracy when to expect the baby.  If a couple who had a history of charting,  were to consult a physician due to difficulties with either the woman’s menstrual cycle or achieving pregnancy, so much more information can be made available to the doctor.  Without this information, the doctor may not be able to offer as much assistance, or require the woman to undergo many invasive procedures in order to ascertain the root cause of the problem.

Formation of the Lost Sheep

It is obvious that the knowledge of NFP can be truly helpful to many couples experiencing medical difficulties. This is not the only reason, however that we feel that the message of NFP is so badly needed.  The sad reality of today is that, out of those couples who wish to be married in the Church, an overwhelming majority of them are already cohabitating and on the pill. There has been a huge gap in the moral formation of the past two generations and their views on sexuality have been largely formed by the secular culture. The results of this influence have been disastrous. During the morality sections of our class, we have a unique opportunity in reaching out to these couples to educate them in the truth and beauty of human sexuality and to encourage them to embrace God’s design for marriage. Once they understand their dignity as human persons and the nature of love, they begin to see children as a much desired blessing rather than a terrible burden. As in any type of conversion, changing a person’s view on sexuality is a process. We have seen time and again how the Holy Spirit does work in miraculous ways on the hardest of hearts through the message of NFP and watched as relationships have transformed before our very eyes. Many couples have even expressed outrage that no one had ever told them these things before. Through our students we have recognized a burning desire for this message, and a readiness to challenge the unsatisfying lies of the world.  For the majority of those couples, they never would have been exposed to the fullness of the teaching of the Church, had their pastor not required it for their marriage preparation.

Achieving Pregnancy

Recent studies have shown that 80% of couples who use a fertility awareness method to time intercourse will conceive within 6 months of trying, and over 90% by 12 months.  Dr. Hilgers has shown in his work that 98% of couples in one study were pregnant within one year.  Studies have also shown that at the end of 3 years, over 60% of couples with subfertility will conceive if they use a fertility awareness method.   This has a better efficacy (and lower cost) than IVF and many of the other assisted reproductive technologies.

In today’s society, where children are viewed to be more a burden than blessing, where the majority of physicians do not respect a moral approach to reproduction, and where so many women experience cycle issues, how can we not expose couples to this information?  Even if they choose not to use NFP at that time, they might face a situation in which they may need to turn to it later in their marriage.  A course in NFP may be one of the greatest opportunities a couple has to learn about the beauty of married life and the marital act, and the blessing that children truly are.  By requiring a course in NFP, those being prepared for marriage are being given a great gift of knowledge that they will be able to carry with them for their entire lives.

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