My husband and I had hit rock bottom. Our marriage was strained to the breaking point. We were expecting our seventh child, conceived unexpectedly while I was working to finish my bachelor’s degree after a fourteen-year hiatus from college. We had been too busy, we thought, to work through difficult communication problems. For several years we had slipped by on the lazy assumption that our communication problems would solve themselves with time. Things were okay while my husband’s National Guard unit was activated for a mission in Iraq. Once the intensity ended, however, we were expected to resume normal family life. We had no foundation left. Our marriage and our family were in crisis. I felt our convictions to avoid the use of contraception were fundamental to the trials we were experiencing. I did not know how to reconcile my fidelity to Church teaching with the misery I was in.
Before our baby was conceived, I had been mentally planning to move out and take the kids with me. I would go to another city to pursue a graduate degree, surviving on welfare and student financial aid. All that changed with a positive pregnancy test. I felt passionately that all my children deserved a stay-at-home mom during their baby years, so I felt trapped for at least three more years. The pregnancy had me feeling more depressed and desperate than I had ever been. Despite having used midwives for previous pregnancies and births, I was having complications and needed a physician. I made arrangements with a Catholic OB/GYN, a doctor who was recommended to me as a devout Catholic and friendly to Natural Family Planning (NFP). At my first visit she told me she was discerning making her practice NFP-only, meaning she would no longer prescribe or recommend contraceptives and she would cease doing sterilizations. She was a practitioner of NFP herself. It made me feel safe and I confided my marital situation to her. I was grateful to have at least one safe haven in my stormy life.
As the pregnancy progressed, my appointments were more frequent and the doctor/patient relationship progressed. I asked the doctor about the abortifacient effects of the pill. She told me, “It doesn’t do that.” I brought her a scientific article provided by the Couple to Couple League that led her to admit the pill does cause early abortions. She gave no indication that she would make any changes to her practice. In fact, she talked about how the income generated from prescribing contraceptives was essential to the financial solvency of her practice. As my body experienced the burdens of weight gain and a growing child in the womb, my marital problems compounded my stress level. An anti-depressant was suggested. My mental state was grave, so I was willing to try it. It was at this vulnerable time that my Catholic doctor asked me the first time, “Are you going to get your tubes tied?” She asked at least two more times before the baby was born.
Following that first incident the scales fell from my eyes and I stopped trusting her. I realized how duplicitous it is for a doctor to make token gestures about being a faithful Catholic, all the while being a cog in the machine of the culture of death. My doctor was an abortionist, just at a very early stage. She mutilated the reproductive capabilities of women, likely at the same rate as her non-Catholic peers. She was a professional who enabled fornication, adultery, objectification of women, and corrosive damage to marriages through the prescriptions she wrote. The fact that she was “NFP-friendly” did not matter. My doctor intentionally brandished a title which implies moral superiority and trustworthiness. She used a “Catholic” smokescreen while she benefitted from the lucrative evil of the industry.
I have seen the same deception take other forms as well. A married acquaintance of mine who sees a different Catholic doctor is using an abortifacient, contraceptive drug to control prolonged bleeding associated with her menstrual cycle. She is convinced, by the testimony of her Catholic doctor, that use of the drug is morally licit. I have read about double effect and understand the moral implications. In the case of my acquaintance, the contraceptive effect would have to be an undesired and unavoidable effect of the treatment. She has not tried any sort of nutritional therapy or NaPro Technology to treat her problem, despite having local NFP-only doctors and other resources available to her. She believes, on the testimony of her Catholic doctor, that she has found a backdoor to using contraception without sinning. I told her that she is risking the grave matter of mortal sin and that she should seek a spiritual director who can help her understand.
Within my own circles of association, the deception of my doctor has even infiltrated the Church. Recently I visited our diocesan office for Natural Family Planning to ask if they had information about the Marquette Method of NFP, a relatively new method that my husband and I have been using. While visiting with the diocesan resource person, I related how I avoid OB/GYN offices because I hate contraception. I had to interrupt so I could tell my story before a supposedly-NFP-friendly doctor was recommended. The doctor with whom I had my bad experience is well-known and widely recommended locally. I said that a doctor who claims to be Catholic but defies Church teaching in practice is more dangerous than an atheist. At least with an atheist, a Catholic woman will be wary. Hopefully awareness has been raised at a key resource point in the diocese.
After my seventh child was born, I stopped seeing the “devout Catholic” doctor who is “friendly to NFP”. Acute postpartum depression set in and my husband’s kindness became my salvation. It was the beginning of the regrowth of our marriage. Today we have two more beautiful children, nine in all. Our marriage is vibrant and joyful. Our oldest child and only girl is in a courtship with a wonderful man and doing well in her studies at an orthodox, Catholic university. We have blissful hopes for grandchildren and visions of holiday family gatherings in the future.
Sometimes I wonder how my life would be different if I had succumbed to the abandonment of hope my doctor offered me in being sterilized. I honestly believe it would have created a discord in my marriage that would have led either to divorce or a lost joy that we could never recover. Our two youngest children are priceless treasures to my husband, to me, and to all their older siblings. It frightens and saddens me to think they might have never been conceived. Thank God for the teachings of the Church and for the brave and charitable souls who taught them to me.
Doctors who call themselves Catholic and practice in a manner that defies Catholic teaching are wolves in sheep’s clothing. Faithful Catholics need to be awake and vigilant any time they are under the care of a doctor. I try to imagine how many children have not been born and how many marriages and families have been reduced to ruin because of Catholic doctors who believe that their judgments warrant an exception to Natural Law. Their arrogance and betrayal are particularly insidious now as the Church faces persecution from the federal government via the HHS Mandate. Let us pray for their conversion, give fraternal correction, and refuse to give financial patronage to their practices.
Doctors who are committed to Catholic teaching and the sanctity of human life can be located through the ministry of One More Soul. Some areas also have regional Catholic medical associations faithful to the Magisterium of the Church. Readers might be surprised what resources are available in their area. Changing doctors or seeking an alternative healthcare provider (such as a Certified Professional Midwife for prenatal care and birth) is worth the inconvenience to avoid the near occasion of sin and to promote a culture of life. We must all do what we can to stop the deception and to minister to the deceived.
“Behold, I am sending you like sheep in the midst of wolves; so be shrewd as serpents and simple as doves.” –Matthew 10:16