Hello Fr. Bloom!
I love your work and thank you so much for placing your sermons on the net! I wrote previously regarding ... which our parish is starting, and we are now in the process of setting it up. I had asked you about how we can remain true in church teaching re: contraception, in vitro fertilization, sterilization, etc. in our ministry. I'm still working on that issue and I will be searching for good material to place into the hands of our ministers.
But, now, my question is about attitude. I am facilitating a disccussion group re: Pope John Paul II's encyclical, "Gospel of Life." We're on the chapter re: contraception. Next week I will give the people in the class your talk, "Birth Control." But the real issue, I think, is not about knowledge, but about attitude. In our discussions, I hear, "Well, not only do I disagree with this issue, but this issue is not important as the main doctrinal issues that all of us Catholics should adhere to." This is not the only time I hear this argument. I heard it two days ago from another Catholic who does not believe in purgatory, "The Catholic views on purgatory are not as important as its views that Jesus Christ died, rose from the dead." How would you respond to these comments?
Thank you, and may God bless you!
Great to hear from and about your wonderful work with ... And that you are leading a discussion on "The Gospel of Life." You have put your finger on the central difficulty in talking even to practicing Catholics about birth control. The attitude you mention has several levels. For a starter we are all influenced by "secular humanism." There was a great article in Homiletics and Pastoral Review call "Preaching to Secular Humanists on Sunday." (I refer to it on my website essay of secular humanism.) Then there is the related problem you note which is sometimes called "cafeteria Catholicism." I would not of course start out by accusing anyone of these things, but be aware they are at work in people's thinking. What can have some effect in talking about birth control is laying the church documents to one side and start by studying what is involved in the most common methods. I did a little Internet research this evening to be able to help counsel a woman who is in a complicated marriage and health situation, is pretty closed to NFP, yet knows that human life begins at conception. She was surprised when I told her that hormone altering contraceptives (Norplant, De-Provera, the Pill) work by not only preventing conception, but that if it occurs also can prevent implantation. One of the articles I found began this way:
Progestin-only contraceptives may be administered by mouth, injection, implants, intrauterine devices and vaginal rings. This discussion will focus on Norplant implant, followed by Depo-Provera injection and the mini- pill.
What is the mechanism of action of progestin-only contraceptives?
(from "Contraceptive Technology" Sixteenth Revised Edition, by Robert Hatcher M.D.)
The third mechanism (creating a thin uterine lining) of course would be abortifacient. I noticed that the Planned Parenthood website was quite upfront about that effect. In addition they also mention that the IUD "prevents a fertilized egg from implanting in the uterus." For sure Planned Parenthood would not accept that this is an "early abortion." In describing the "Morning After Pill" they call it "Emergency Contraception" and say it "prevents an egg that may have been fertilized through unprotected intercourse from implanting in the uterus and causing a pregancy." All this points to the fact we have blurred the line between contraception and abortion--and supports the view (propounded by Paul VI in Humanae Vitae) that use of contraception would lead to acceptance of abortion.
Anyway these are some thoughts occasioned by a recent pastoral situation. If the members of your discussion group have gotten so far as recognize that human life begins at conception, some of this information might be startling and cause some re-thinking. I will be anxious to hear how your discussion goes this week--and my prayers will be with you.
Fr. Phil Bloom
Thank you for your help and prayers! I gave the women in my group information from Planned Parenthood, as you suggested. I think a seed has been planted. It was "news" to them. Amazingly, what I think everyone knows, is not common knowledge. They had no problem seeing that contraception has crossed the line into abortion. They still wonder why contraception that does not kill a fertalized egg, or sterilization is morally wrong.
I used the analogy given to me by Molly Kelly, the "chastity expert." She explained to me that a mother's womb is like a sacred vessel because, when a woman is pregnant, it holds a human being created by God, made in His image. Therefore, it should be treated respectfully, like other "vessels" touched by God: the Ark used to store the 10 Commandments, or the chalice used to hold the consecrated Host. I am paraphrasing what she said, but this explanation makes the best sense to me. I don't think the women in the class paid much attention to my explanation because they were still absorbed in the Planned Parenthood info. That was too much information to take in.
They also do not like the way some of the questions are phrased in the book that we are using by American Life League. For example, one ALL answer jumps to the conclusion that people use contraceptives because they desire to live in a hedonistic lifestyle. But Pope John Paul II did not do that in his writing. He first describes that many people use contraception under the pressure of real-life difficulties, then he mentions too, that contraceptive practices are rooted in a hedonistic mentality (Chapter One, Section 13).
The good news is that they don't care how long this study will last, it seems like we are going very slow. But they don't care if it takes two years! I take that as a positive sign. Seeds have been planted. It amazes me how God works, and I was afraid to stand up in defense of unpopular Church teachings. Thank you very much for your help.
I'll let you know more about ... when things are farther along... there's much interest in my church. There again, I was afraid to speak in front of a group of women from my church re: this ministry, because these women come from all walks of life... But we had our first meeting and I was amazed how well I was able to respond to questions and to hold my own. Although I know it has nothing to do with me, but everything to do with God.
Again, many thanks.
Birth Control vs. Natural Family Planning: Six Differences