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Responsible parenthood

29/03/09

By Doctor Maciej Barczentewicz.

The natural approach to fertility is something of a song of the past for today’s man of “the West.” The civilization, including the development in medicine, especially since the end of the 19th century has brought about in our culture an anti-natalistic mentality to our homes. Our great-great-grandmothers and great-grandmothers gave birth 8 or 11 times, accepting the natural rhythm of fertility in marriage with complete openness to the coming life. In the period between the two World Wars (1918-1939), the situation began to change when talk started about conscious maternity, which meant limiting the number of births. It was the time of such progressives as Tadeusz Boy-Żeleński and various types of eugenics. In intellectual circles (including many families of doctors), abortion was accepted as a “treatment” for conscious family planning. Problem was seen only in unprofessionally performed abortions (done with no medical experts involved) which put the mother’s life in danger. Until this day it is one of the arguments put forth by the proponents of allowing to kill the unborn. It was also advised to popularize the knowledge and availability of contraceptives. These started to wreak havoc especially in the 1950s and 60s, the time of the sexual revolution, strengthened by the introduction of the easily available hormonal contraceptive pills, the legalization of abortion in a growing number of countries, and the universally present pornography, demoralizing and destructive to the experience of sexuality. Additionally, the myth of overpopulation was spread, alongside the ecological and “global-warming” myths, which state that we should protect the soil, water, air, forests and all kinds of living creatures, except for man.
The teaching of the Church shows that the problem lies in removing the connection between sexual act, marriage and fertility:
“The sexual activity, in which husband and wife are intimately and chastely united with one another, through which human life is transmitted, is, as the recent Council recalled, ‘noble and worthy.’ It does not, moreover, cease to be legitimate even when, for reasons independent of their will, it is foreseen to be infertile. For its natural adaptation to the expression and strengthening of the union of husband and wife is not thereby suppressed. The fact is, as experience shows, that new life is not the result of each and every act of sexual intercourse. God has wisely ordered laws of nature and the incidence of fertility in such a way that successive births are already naturally spaced through the inherent operation of these laws. The Church, nevertheless, in urging men to the observance of the precepts of the natural law, which it interprets by its constant doctrine, teaches that each and every marital act must of necessity retain its intrinsic relationship to the procreation of human life.”
(“Humanae vitae” no. 11, 1968)
“This particular doctrine, often expounded by the magisterium of the Church, is based on the inseparable connection, established by God, which man on his own initiative may not break, between the unitive significance and the procreative significance which are both inherent to the marriage act. The reason is that the fundamental nature of the marriage act, while uniting husband and wife in the closest intimacy, also renders them capable of generating new life – and this as a result of laws written into the actual nature of man and of woman. And if each of these essential qualities, the unitive and the procreative, is preserved, the use of marriage fully retains its sense of true mutual love and its ordination to the supreme responsibility of parenthood to which man is called. We believe that our contemporaries are particularly capable of seeing that this teaching is in harmony with human reason.” (HV no. 12)
Without this connection, everything in the area of sexuality is possible. The sexual relation is only to give pleasure. It does not have to happen in a marriage. It does not even have to happen between a man and a woman. This leads in a simple way to the disintegration of marriage, increase in the number of divorces and children born outside of wedlock and a growing number of teenage pregnancies. The number of infections transmitted sexually grows like an epidemic. Many of these diseases, such as AIDS or chlamydial infections, the connection between HPV infection and cervical cancer came to light before our eyes. The venereal disease pandemic, abortions, contraception, xenoestrogens, pollution of the natural environment and putting off plans of having children until the fourth or fifth decade of one’s life all lead in a growing percentage to infertility. Infertility is a civilizational and social disease. This is when modern technology is expected to intervene. There is no more transmitting life or participating in God’s act of creation; procreation comes down to reproduction. Instead of treating a person, we have reproductive medicine. The effectiveness of methods used in animal breeding sets the goals and refuses the person’s right to conception in conditions appropriate to human dignity. There is no need to diagnose an illness and treat it, it is better to breed “in vitro.” The consequences are not important, the aim justifies the means.
We need to remember that the modern man has not invented any new sins. Already in the 5th century before Christ, doctors pledged in the Hippocratic Oath: “I will not give a woman a pessary to cause an abortion,” which of course means that such concept were known and used at that time. In early Christian texts (the Didache, the end of the 1st century), we read the following: “you shall not murder a child by abortion nor kill them when born.” Saint John Chrysostom (4th century AD) writes in a homily that for people who are overcome by greed “that which is sweet, and universally desirable, the having children, they esteem grievous and unwelcome: many at least with this view have even paid money to be childless, and have maimed their nature, not only by slaying their children after birth, but by not suffering them even to be born at all,” and in another homily: “Why sow where the ground makes it its care to destroy the fruit? where there are many efforts at abortion? where there is murder before the birth? for even the harlot thou dost not let continue a mere harlot, but makest her a murderess also. You see how drunkenness leads to whoredom, whoredom to adultery, adultery to murder; or rather to a something even worse than murder. For I have no name to give it, since it does not take off the thing born, but prevent its being born. Why then do you abuse the gift of God, and fight with His laws, and follow after what is a curse as if a blessing, and make the chamber of procreation a chamber for murder, and arm the woman that was given for childbearing unto slaughter? For with a view to drawing more money by being agreeable and an object of longing to her lovers, even this she is not backward to do, so heaping upon your head a greatpile of fire. For even if the daring deed be hers, yet the causing of it is yours.” Also the Epistle to Diogenetus (2nd century AD) describes the situation of Christians living in a pagan world, experiencing the same problems and difficulties as their pagan and Jewish neighbors and at the same time living differently: “[through] their ordinary every-day conduct, they display to us their wonderful and confessedly striking method of life.”
When a survey was carried out asking about the difference between today’s Christians and non-Christians, there were answers that these two groups should be different but are not. For this reason, children are not born in the Catholic Poland and the “doctors” who manipulate on the embryos and decide on a selective reduction of children in multiple pregnancies declare themselves to be practicing Catholics and do not experience the conflict of conscience. They say that Polish bishops are simply unreasonable and “impractical.” In truth, we also live in a lay, secularized, practically pagan society.
This year marks the 40th anniversary of Pope Paul VI’s Encyclical “Humanae vitae” which became a sign of protest for some people, and a blessing and a light for the life and specific choices for others. Pope Paul VI encouraged doctors and scientists to conduct research on human fertility and ascertain the possibilities resulting from this research on the methods of determining the fertile periods, so as to enable married couples, for specific, very important reasons, and discerning God’s will in the given situation, to use the periods of infertility to put off birth of their next children. At the same time, he emphasized that responsible parenthood is a fertile and generous parenthood, and that the first natural way of discerning God’s will is to welcome children as they come:
“With regard to physical, economic, psychological and social conditions, responsible parenthood is exercised by those who prudently and generously decide to have more children, and by those who, for serious reasons and with due respect to moral precepts, decide not to have additional children for either a certain or an indefinite period of time.” (HV no. 10)
Children come as the rising sun, man does not decide if the sun will rise today or not. The Lord God decides about life. The first commandment, the first word of God to man in the Book of Genesis is: “Be fertile and multiply.” Many marriages around the world experience God’s help in living their sexuality and fertility thanks to the teaching of the Catholic Church about marriage and transmitting life, thanks to “Humanae vitae” and the teaching of John Paul II, who developed it and commented on it in numerous documents and who promoted it throughout his entire pontificate.
Today, most people approach issues of fertility without much thought. The question about the last menstruation at the gynecologist’s office often causes dismay or even panic. Many women would like to shift the responsibility for their fertility on to the doctor, and many gynecologists want to deprive women of the connection with their fertility. Fertility is treated as a disease which needs to be countered with a whole range of mechanical, local, intrauterine, hormonal and emergency (“morning after”) contraceptives, and, finally, abortion. Just as with fertility, a “war is waged” with the conceived child. Coitus interruptus is generally regarded as a “natural” method of regulating births.
I would like to present the advantages of the awareness of one’s own fertility, the awareness that each marriage should obtain, learning the methods of discerning the fertile periods, also thanks to the help of the Church.
1.In gaining knowledge about human fertility,1 the spouses learn to recognize its symptoms and use this knowledge in their life, avoiding contraceptives when seeing the need to put off the conception of their next child. This helps to base their decisions on what is morally right, strengthens the bond and the mutual responsibility between them and helps them to grow in love, which is so often damaged in many ways through contraceptive mentality or pornography.
2.It increases health awareness; the conversation with the gynecologist becomes easier, and it is also easier to diagnose many conditions, such as irregular cycles (which do not always require treatment), painful menstruation and PMS, vaginal infections connected with abnormal discharge (leukorrhea), diagnosing early pregnancy and the danger of miscarriage or stillbirth. It is also very helpful to carry out observation during the premenopausal period when cycles become irregular and ovulation does not always appear, and when women often experience uncertainty about their fertility.
3.Using NaProTechnology (Creighton Model),2 it is possible to foresee the risk early and prevent miscarriage or premature birth. It makes it easier to find the cause of marital infertility, to treat it, and to obtain conception and full-term pregnancy. According to the data published by Professor Hilgers,3 up to 80% of the marriages coming in for infertility treatment, receive effective help. Dr. Phil Boyle,4 who works on treatment of infertility in Ireland, reports on many treated cases of people who have previously gone through multiple unsuccessful in vitro procedures. A marriage which has fertility problems should first use some method of observation, which will greatly reduce the need of using the ethically unacceptable, expensive and risky methods of treating infertility, such as in vitro fertilization.
4.The knowledge of fertility is passed on further, especially in a family – to the children, undoubtedly promoting fidelity and responsibility (premarital and marital chastity), which is a healthy approach to sexual life, also limiting the possibility of transmitting diseases sexually.

Let us remind what is proposed by “modern contraception.” Big pharmaceutical companies introduce newer and newer “contraceptive” preparations to the Polish market. After pills and intrauterine devices, they introduced patches, and now comes the time of hormonal vaginal rings. They can be used only once a week, or even once a month. They can be used at intervals or continuously, it is encouraged to use them with no intervals, even for several months, without menstruation. These are new forms, but the content is always the same. In English, the term “Oral contraception” is often replaced with “Birth control pill.” But a “contraceptive” pill does not always work before conception. Its mechanism described in any gynecology textbook includes: 1/ preventing ovulation 2/ affecting cervical mucus 3/ inhibiting peristaltic movement of the fallopian tubes 4/ preventing the development of the endometrium, anti-implantation activity – i.e. against the implantation of the embryo in the endometrium. The last two mechanisms act post-conceptually, after fertilization, which means that they regard the new life. Conception takes place in the fallopian tube, then for 5 to 6 days the embryo divides itself and migrates along the fallopian tube. At the stage of the blastocyste, that is 30 to 60 cells, the implantation of the embryo should take place. The pill inhibits the fallopian tube passage, thus the embryo can die inside the fallopian tube; the pill can also finally prevent implantation, in which case the embryo dies after reaching the uterus. Although this affects the new life, some people call it prevention of pregnancy, defining pregnancy as the state after implantation. This is also supposed to justify “diagnostics” and pre-implantation manipulations, arguing that there is still no pregnancy, that this is only the object of our “processing,” that it is material for research and production of stem cells. Such fallacies are intolerable to those who accept that Life begins at conception.

The colorful, professionally-printed promotional leaflets encourage women to use “the most modern” methods. The leaflets reassure especially about their “lightness,” that their hormone doses are low and the pills do not cause weight gain, that they have a miraculous effect on the skin, eliminate acne and give amazing possibilities for successful sex life. This can all be found on the front page. Further, on the back, in tiny font, there is a jammed, almost indecipherable text. It would be best to read it with a magnifying glass. If we look at the doses of hormonal substances, it does often prove to be a hundred times less than in the first preparations from the 1960s, but it is still also 40 to 60 times more than what is physiologically produced in the woman’s body, and moreover, these substances are chemically synthesized, with a different from natural, much stronger pharmacological effect.
The preparations are supposed to be used to prevent pregnancy, but gynecologists often use them for other purposes: to “regulate” the cycle, reduce heavy menstrual bleeding, eliminate PMS, remove functional ovarian cysts, treat acne or excessive hair growth in women, some of them even use it to treat infertility!!! From my experience, I know that there is no illness which would have to be treated with a contraceptive pill, “the pill” is not medicine, but a preparation which devastates health and fertility, which is a sign of health. Every gynecological problem can be dealt with without the use of contraceptive pills.
There are many contraindications to using hormonal contraception. First of all, they include problems with venous and arterial circulation and thrombosis. These may even lead to sudden death. Further problems concern liver, kidneys, their failure or tumors. Diagnosed or suspected cancerous states, hormone-related cancers, breast and reproductive cancer. Some studies say that before taking hormonal preparations, practically every woman should be tested for BRCA I and II gene, which is responsible for hereditary breast, ovarian and colon cancer, as the use of hormonal preparations is strictly contraindicated in carriers of this gene. The risk of cancer among its carriers is very high and additional cancer-causing factors in the patient’s history, e.g. abortion, taking hormonal pills (the so-called contraception or therapy during menopause) increase the risk much further. To be precise: in women who start taking the pill before they reach 20 years old, the risk of cervical cancer is even four times greater, depending also on the length of time when hormonal preparations were used. The risk of breast cancer is higher especially in women who did not give birth or breastfeed before starting to take contraceptives. The underdeveloped lobules of the mammary glands are especially sensitive to the effects of high concentrations of estrogens. Estrogens are officially recognized as a cancer-causing factor, they increase the risk of breast, ovarian and liver cancer.
And last but not least – effectiveness. Promotional leaflets and sponsored articles in newspapers for women and teenagers state that the effectiveness of “modern contraceptives” reaches 98-99%. Unfortunately, in light of medical research, this proves to be untrue. Research shows that in women who really used contraceptive methods over a period of 12 months, the most effective contraceptive methods were implants and intramuscular injections in the form of a bolus (which also caused the most complications) with 98-99% effectiveness, then hormonal pills at 92%, vaginal contraceptive inserts and diaphragms with 88%, condoms with 86%, coitus interruptus with 76% and spermicides with 74%.5 The effectiveness of the methods of natural planning, depending on a survey, reaches 98-99%.6 It needs to be emphasized that aside from abstaining from sexual intercourse altogether and surgically removing the uterus, ovaries or testicles in a man, there is no 100% effective method of birth control. God can always decide about new life. We can then decide about abortion, but God still gives eternal life.

We still need to remember that not only “artificial” methods of contraception have negative effects. The natural methods of planning a family can also prove to be harmful.
1.First of all, in the functioning of a marriage. One can use the natural method in a pharisaic fashion: I am OK, I abide by the law, but my plan for my life is what is most important. I planned to have two children and I have already given birth to these. When we come to the altar to enter into matrimony, the priest asks us in the name of the Church if we are willing to welcome the offspring which God will give us – because it is God who has the best plan for our lives and He knows how many children we need – whether it will be one child or ten children, and whether this gift is to be realized in a different form of fertility, e.g. adoption. This is a very significant dialogue of the married couple with the Lord, discernment of God’s will for our lives. Or to put it in other words: one time a patient came to my office saying that she regretted having learned to use the natural methods so well because if she had made some mistakes maybe she would have more children, but now it is too late… The married couples who do not do God’s will for their lives are not happy, they do not experience the fullness of unity and love. In extreme cases, after the woman’s first “open to life” cycle, if there was conception, then after giving birth to two children there are no more marital acts in the fertile period. And the whole biology and corporality gives favorable conditions to coming together in exactly this time. When we deprive ourselves of it, we do not experience what we most need in the sphere of marital sexuality. We learn how to love our whole lives, after 30 years of marriage our love is supposed to be better, fuller and stronger than at the beginning.
2.The natural methods are very effective, their use makes conception practically impossible, so the final effect can be the same as when using contraceptives (“you too do not have children”). Today those who proclaim the myth of overpopulation and, using all means possible (sterilization, anti-fertility vaccinations, contraception and abortion), want to limit the number of people on Earth, view natural methods as a natural ally in the fight with “overpopulation.”
3.Finally, in the biological sense, pregnancy is the time of a woman’s complete development, when she reaches full maturity. This concerns hormonal regulation, but also tissue maturity, e.g. of the lobules of the mammary glands. Not until the 3rd trimester of the first pregnancy does the tissue of the mammary glands reach the 3rd and 4th stage of development of the lobules. Only such lobules are resistant (in simple terms) to the high concentrations of estrogens which increase the risk of breast cancer. Also during pregnancy, a woman’s blood contains a greater number of stem cells – this enables many recovery and repair processes. Science asserts that in many aspects pregnancy has a positive effect on a woman’s health. HCG, the human chorionic gonadotropin produced by the tissues of the embryo, stimulates the ovary to produce inhibin, which is a peptide preventing the development of cancer and reversing cancerous changes in the mammary glands.
Concerning the risk of other cancers, many of them (including genetic risk factors) are connected with a woman’s so-called procreational history: for example, the risk of breast cancer increases in women who never gave birth, who gave birth few times or gave birth late in their lives (in their 30s), breast and endometrial cancers occur more often in women who started to menstruate early and reached menopause late. These are estrogen-dependent cancers, meaning that the more menstrual cycles and ovulations there are, the bigger the estrogen exposure and the greater the risk of developing cancer. Ovarian cancer is also often connected with childlessness, as the probable mechanism of carcinogenesis results from a large number of ovulations, which is a mechanical factor damaging the ovarian tunic and increasing the risk of epithelial cancers. Women who are pregnant or breastfeed ecologically (solely), do not menstruate or ovulate, therefore their exposure to estrogen is balanced by the protective influence of pregnancy. The greater the number of children, the more beneficial the effect. The age at which a woman becomes pregnant for the first time is also important; optimally, she should become pregnant before turning 24 years old. Until recently, the view persisted that pregnancy and breastfeeding affect the incidence of osteoporosis. In light of new research, it became clear, however, that the situation is entirely different. It is not true that pregnancy “ruins” teeth. In the 1980 Polish “Gynecology” textbook by R. Klimek there is a very long list of (medical and health) indications for terminating a pregnancy. According to today’s medical knowledge, there are no such indications. I am, nevertheless, far from wanting to substitute the word “pregnancy” with some type of euphemism, as some would like to have it. Pregnancy, especially the fourth, fifth and the next ones, really mean dying, giving one’s life. Just as giving birth. But although “when a woman is in labor, she is in anguish because her hour has arrived – when she has given birth to a child, she no longer remembers the pain because of her joy that a child has been born into the world” (Jn 16:21). This is a truly bright perspective. As when from the death – the cross – a new life comes, just as Jesus Christ’ death was necessary for life and resurrection.
According to the reports of the World Health Organization, currently about 42 million abortions are performed every year, 106 million women use intrauterine devices, about 100 million take hormonal pills. These last two birth control methods additionally assume the possibility of ending human life. It can easily be stated that every year a crime is committed, every year genocide is committed, impossible to compare with any other crime known in our history. In the name of various interests, for various reasons (so as to not lose a job or health, so that the living conditions would not worsen, so as to not take a break from school or studies) people decide to sentence their children to death, as it once happened in Canaan, where children were killed as sacrifice to the god Moloch. Today, the idols of this world are more important than children, these idols can be money, work, health, studies, career, sometimes the opinion of others, a good name, peace and quiet, comfort, and always the fear of suffering, which, as it seems to us, as satan tries to convince us, is brought with the coming of a new baby.
We read in the Book of Exodus that also the Pharaoh was afraid that the nation of slaves, the people of Israel are going to threaten the existence of Egyptians. For this reason, he ordered to kill all new-born Hebrew boys. Terrible infanticide followed. And one midrash (midrashes are Hebrew commentaries from the 1st and 2nd centuries AD meant to help children understand biblical teaching) tells the story that the Hebrews then decided not to unite with their wives and conceive children, who would be sentenced to sure death. They did as they decided. After some time, Moses’ elder sister Miriam came to her parents Amram and Jochebed, and told them: you are worse even than the Pharaoh. The Pharaoh kills only the new-born boys, you do not allow girls to be born either; the Pharaoh only takes away the boys’ earthly life, you do not even give them eternal life! Amram and Jochebed united anew and they conceived Moses, who later led his people out of the house of slavery. Responsible parenthood means giving one’s life for eternal life, even if it happens in hardships and suffering, because God knows better whom He needs and when is the best time and place for the new child.
The late Archbishop Kazimierz Majdanski, who has worked for many years as ordinary of the Szczecin-Kamień Pomorski diocese, and who was the founder of the Institute of Family Studies, wrote in 2007 in the introduction to his last text, entitled “To Listen to God in order to Live”: “The Catholic Poland has found itself in the top countries whose population is dying out. What does that mean? It means that there is a danger to the existence of the Nation previously unknown in our history and springing from the negation of the order established for eternity by the Lord – Creator. How does that happen?
1. Today we see large-scale depopulation of the earth, also of our Polish homeland, which is in opposition to God’s blessing “…fill the earth and subdue it” (Gen 1:16). Thus depopulation occurs for the price of sin, the price of opposing God’s plan.
2. Destruction is done by the civilization of death, which teaches fear of the child. Anything possible is thus done to prevent the child from being born, or even from being conceived. This goes against the joy which the Savior talked about: “joy that a child has been born into the world” (J 16:21). The parents’ fear of a baby is coupled with the fear of the hostile public opinion, opposed to a family wealthy in children.
3. For centuries we have been worthy of the name: Polonia semper fidelis. So it was from the time of the first ruler of Poland Mieszko I and his wife Dubrawka. But have we become a neomalthusian society? We are still overjoyed with the truly great number of priests and the fact that the Polish people go to confession more often than people in other countries. But a question arises: Is the sin of anti-parenthood still regarded by us as a sin? Do we listen to the voice of the Church about God’s law, especially to Pope Paul VI’s prophetic encyclical “Humanae vitae”? This is a constant teaching of the Church about God’s Order in transmitting human life, repeated recently with exceptional power, as the need for it is very strong in our time.
4. This is the scope of extremely serious responsibilities for both priests and lay people. There is a need for a clear presentation of God’s teaching in various forms of catechization, including the preparation to marriage as “the great sacrament.” There is a need for particular faithfulness in the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation, which requires a clear identification of sin and a true change of life: “Go, and from now on do not sin any more” (Jn 8:11).”
Let us then listen to God – in order to live. It is really worth to read this text.7