Question 33



Promoters of a new pill claim that a woman’s periods can be eliminated forever.   But does it stop ovulation also?  Can a woman get pregnant?  Dr. Mary Martin M.D., FACOG explains: “ Of course there is ‘escape ovulation.’ No woman is perfectly compliant with medication. OCP's require the dose to be taken at the same time of day, every day and assumes that absorption and distribution of the drug will always be uniform. Admittedly, taking the pill for such long periods of time decreases the chance of pregnancy because of the chronic suppressive effects on ovulation, but the definition of when life begins has now been changed to facilitate the agenda of the contraceptive mentality. Chronic thinning of the endometrial lining will most likely prevent implantation if escape ovulation occurs. The potential to prevent just one life from coming to fruition should be reason enough to avoid Lybrel.” 

A New York ad promoting sales for the pill cites certain advantages.  Now a woman can avoid having a monthly reminder of her biological clock.  But this is part of a woman’s femininity.  A woman’s fertility expresses itself in a monthly cycle of ovulation and menstruation.  That is the way God designed Eve and all her daughters.  Fertility in a woman is one of her features which makes her so attractive to men.  It has been this way for millennia. 

Of course, every married woman wants some control over her fertility.  She wants to space her children responsibly, having as many children as she and her husband can provide for.  Good reasons exist for spacing pregnancies, and sometimes avoiding pregnancy for an indefinite period of time.  This is the role of NFP.  But to reject one’s fertility completely is contrary to the way God designed us. 

Our fertility is a good thing, not a bad thing; a sign of health, not of a disease.  It should be treasured as a part of our makeup as bodied-persons, as either a male-person or a female-person, fertile and sexual.  Just as we should not turn against our bodily health, so also we should not turn against our fertility.   

I am a celibate person.  As a Benedictine monk and a Catholic priest, my calling in life requires that I forgo having a spouse, enjoying the spousal act, and taking on the responsibilities of a husband and father.  Instead, God has asked me to be totally available to honor and glorify Him through a commitment of service to his people.  Celibacy is a gift God gives to some “for the sake of the kingdom.”  Already in this world the celibate gives a real (vs. symbolic) witness to what our status will be in Heaven, where there will be no giving and receiving as experienced now in marriage.  Celibacy is closely related to what Jesus asked Peter: “Do you love me, Peter? ... Then feed my sheep.”  As a celibate male-person, I experience the same desires and attractions of any healthy man.  But my calling in life requires total abstinence from the spousal act. 

A celibate person treasures the gifts of human fertility, spousal love and family life.  These are endowments of the human race, completely necessary for the continuation of the race.  A lot of my time as a priest, monk, and moral theologian is spent in helping others discover the value of their sexuality and fertility, and how to live it in a fully human manner.   

The New York ad asks: “Will this mean a whole new relationships with your boyfriend, your co-workers, your boss?”  Perhaps the ad is referring only to the “bad moods” frequently associated with PMS, the mood swings caused by powerful hormonal changes in the woman’s body.  But the ad is also suggesting that the “liberated” woman is now able to share her intimacies with whomever she chooses, since there will be no pregnancies.  Happily married young wives explain to me why this makes no sense.  A woman, as God designed her, wants to know that she is unconditionally accepted by the person to whom she gives herself completely.  She needs total unconditional acceptance of herself, just as God made her, which includes her fertility.   

A woman wants to be respected for her own dignity, for the person God designed her to be.  A career is part of the picture, but undeniably present are her powerful instincts to be a spouse and mother.  A woman wants to be appreciated as a woman, for her feminine genius, for the complementarity she brings to a successful marriage and family.  Asking a woman to sacrifice her fertility and much of her feminine mystique in exchange for a career is asking too high a price.  If the “new freedom” means easy availability for casual recreational sex, then it is full of illusions.  There is no dignity in easy availability.  There is no deep level emotional bonding in easy sex.  There is no satisfaction in a relationship which could end at any time when fickle moods and interests change.  And there is no freedom when a woman cannot just be herself as a female bodied-person. 

The new pill is a good example of the limits to technology.  We can develop new generations of pills which suppress fertility with an iron grip.  But we don’t have a clue about the correct use of this technology.  We can’t explain how and why these new contraceptives will make us 1) become nobler persons, 2) make us more capable of offering the total gift of ourselves to the one we love, or 3) satisfy our deeper hungers for bonding and intimacy. 

Cordially yours, 

Fr. Matthew Habiger OSB