Arland Nichols

Good news for women as more Catholic physicians follow Church teaching

Arland Nichols
By Arland Nichols
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September 12, 2012 (CrisisMagazine.com) - A wave of excitement is gradually making its way through a small community of Catholics in Houston, Texas. Married couples who embrace the Church’s teaching in Humanae vitae and who use natural family planning have waited too long. Houston, which boasts one of the largest and most highly regarded medical systems in the world has, for twenty years, been without an OB/GYN who adheres to the principles of Catholic teaching and good medicine by declining to do abortions, perform sterilizations, prescribe contraception, or resort to immoral infertility “treatments.”

But the wait will soon be over and a buzz is in the air—an authentically Catholic OB/GYN practice is opening its doors this September. A young and energetic physician, Kathryn Karges and her staff are launching Caritas Complete Women’s Care, an apostolate rooted in a deep respect for the dignity of women and the best of medical practice, a common denominator in similar medical practices around the nation.

The exciting news out of Houston reveals a positive trend that is slowly but steadily making its way through the United States. But this steady growth did not happen overnight. It’s a sad and familiar story: Pope Paul VI’s landmark and prophetic encyclical, Humanae vitae, was met with widespread confusion and outright disobedience from many clergy and lay Catholics alike. Eventually the dissent against Paul VI’s affirmation of the Church’s consistent teaching about contraception, would leave the Catholic medical community nearly bereft of physicians practicing women’s health who did so in accord with Church teaching. Obstetric and gynecological care that did not routinely involve contraception and sterilization was virtually unheard of.

Perhaps most instrumental in challenging the contraceptive status quo among physicians is Dr. Thomas Hilgers, who read Humanae vitae as a young doctor and felt called by God to respond to the Holy Father’s words:

It is particularly desirable that, according to the wish already expressed by Pope Pius XII, medical science succeed in providing a sufficiently secure basis for a regulation of birth, founded on the observance of natural rhythms…. Let them persevere, therefore, in promoting on every occasion the discovery of solutions inspired by faith and right reason, let them strive to arouse this conviction and this respect in their associates. Let them also consider as their proper professional duty the task of acquiring all the knowledge needed in this delicate sector, so as to be able to give to those married persons who consult them wise counsel and healthy direction, such as they have a right to expect. (HV 24, 27)

In response to Paul VI’s exhortation, Hilgers developed the body of research that would become the Creighton Method and NaPro Technology (Natural Procreative Technology). Once all but alone in a sea of dissent, these days Hilgers is anything but. Physicians and practitioners young and old are following his lead, contributing invaluable research and providing the best medical care to women. Doctor Patrick Yeung at Saint Louis University is performing cutting-edge and minimally invasive surgery on women suffering from endometriosis. Ann Nolte, a family physician, directs the Gianna Center in New York, as she and her staff provide life- and marriage-affirming care to women of all ages. The Tepeyac Family Center in Northern Virginia boasts a practice of 5 physicians who follow the teaching of Humanae vitae. And now Kathryn Karges is opening Caritas Complete Women’s Care on the campus of Saint Joseph’s Hospital—a secular hospital in the Houston Medical Center.

These are only a few examples of a growing trend toward natural methods of family planning and solutions to infertility, an astounding accomplishment in today’s health care environment. Some 400 medical practices have now incorporated NaPro Technology into their practice and adhere to the Church’s teaching concerning reproductive health. Twelve surgeons have been formally trained through the fellowship program in medical and surgical NaPro Technology and five more will soon receive this state of the art training. Further, there are now 260 “FertilityCare” Centers where trained practitioners teach the Creighton Model which is at the heart of the medical practice. The American Academy of Fertility Care Professionals, which is a thriving and active professional organization dedicated to promoting and advancing the Creighton Model of Natural Family Planning and NaPro Technology, is impacting lives and marriages throughout our nation.

What makes NaPro Technology unique is that as a family planning system it is entirely integrated with a woman’s health and can be used to identify and successfully treat various unique health issues women face. Doctor Karges recently explained, “I am so happy that by practicing NaPro Technology I am able to treat the cause of a woman’s problems, rather than simply use a “band-aid” approach to providing medical care. It not only completely abides by the teachings of the Catholic Church, but it simply makes for good medicine.” NaPro Technology is effective in spacing children and helping couples achieve pregnancy—and, importantly, it is also usually more effective than immoral methods! As Doctor Hilgers recently wrote, it is “a new women’s health science that specializes in working cooperatively (as opposed to suppressively or destructively) with a woman’s menstrual and fertility cycle.” This is authentic and dignity-affirming health care for women.

Doctors Hilgers, Yeung, Nolte, and Karges are committed to stem the tide of the contraceptive culture that views a woman’s fertility as a disease and impediment to her dignity. For this reason, Caritas and other similar clinics are committed to following the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services and they do not perceive these ethical directives as an unwelcome burden nor abide by them begrudgingly because their Bishop is forcing them to do so. Rather they share the Church’s conviction that

Catholic health institutions may not promote or condone contraceptive practices but should provide, for married couples and the medical staff who counsel them, instructions both about the Church’s teaching on responsible parenthood and in methods of natural family planning…. A Catholic health care institution that provides treatment for infertility should offer not only technical assistance to infertile couples but also should help couples pursue other solutions. (ERD 42, 44)

Like so many of her peers, Doctor Karges notes that the Directives speak directly to her as a physician and call her to something higher than “simply providing medical care.” Physicians, she notes, also have a responsibility to follow and educate their patients in Church teaching. “It is important to understand the how and why behind these directives. They are not meant to be restrictive or prohibitive. Through our practice of medicine, we are protecting married love which is sacred and is designed to be open to the co-creation of new life with God.”

Ultimately, women and families are better served by solutions that firmly adhere to the Church’s moral teaching. The women who have been healed and the marriages that have been strengthened by the moral and medical solutions to their infertility, family planning needs, and various other women’s health issues, are a living testament to the complementarity between God’s law and the true flourishing of every human person.

Arland K. Nichols is the National Director of HLI America. He writes for the Truth and Charity Forum. This article appeared in Crisis Magazine and is reprinted with permission.

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Although it is widely believed that people with Down syndrome are doomed to a life of suffering, in one large survey 99% of respondents with Down syndrome described themselves as "happy." Shutterstock
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‘Sick and twisted’: Down’s advocates, pro-life leaders slam Richard Dawkins’ abortion remarks

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By Dustin Siggins

Advocates on behalf of individuals with Down syndrome, as well as pro-life leaders, are slamming famed atheist Richard Dawkins’ statements made on Twitter earlier today that parents have a moral responsibility to abort babies diagnosed in utero with Down’s.

During a shocking Twitter rant, Dawkins responded to questioners saying that it was "civilised" to abort Down Syndrome babies, and that it would be "immoral" to choose not to abort babies diagnosed with the condition.

He said that his goal is to "reduce suffering wherever you can," indicating that unborn children cannot suffer, and that unborn children don't "have human feelings."

In addition to being scientifically challenged - unborn children can feel both pain and emotions - Dawkins' comments drew criticism for his callousness towards children with disabilities.  

"A true civilization – a civilization of love – does not engage in such cold and ultimately suicidal calculus"

"It's sick and twisted for anyone to advocate for the killing of children with disabilities," Live Action President Lila Rose told LifeSiteNews. "Dawkins's ignorant comments serve only to further stigmatize people with Down syndrome.

"While many people with Down syndrome, their families, and advocacy groups are fighting discrimination on a daily basis, Dawkins calls for their murder before they are even born," she said. "Those with Down syndrome are human beings, with innate human dignity, and they, along with the whole human family, deserve our respect and protection."

Carol Boys, chief executive of the Down's Syndrome Association, told MailOnline that, contrary to Dawkins’ assertion, "People with Down’s syndrome can and do live full and rewarding lives, they also make a valuable contribution to our society."

A spokesperson for the UK disabilities charity Scope lamented that during the "difficult and confusing time" when parents find out they are expecting a child with disabilities, they often experience "negative attitudes."

"What parents really need at this time is sensitive and thorough advice and information," the spokesperson said.

Charlotte Lozier Institute president Chuck Donovan agreed with Rose’s assessment. "Advocates of abortion for those 'weaker' than others, or of less physical or intellectual dexterity, should remember that each of us is 'lesser' in some or most respects," he said.

According to Donovan, "we deliver a death sentence on all of humanity by such cruel logic."

"A true civilization – a civilization of love – does not engage in such cold and ultimately suicidal calculus" he said.

One family who has a child with Down syndrome said Dawkins was far from the mark when he suggested that aborting babies with Down syndrome is a good way to eliminate suffering.

Jan Lucas, whose son Kevin has Down syndrome, said that far from suffering, Kevin has brought enormous joy to the family, and "is so loving. He just has a million hugs."

She described how Kevin was asked to be an honorary deacon at the church they attend in New Jersey, "because he is so encouraging to everyone. At church, he asks people how their families are, says he'll pray for them, and follows up to let them know that he has been praying for them."

It's not just strangers for whom Kevin prays. "My husband and I were separated for a time, and Kevin kept asking people to pray for his dad," said Jan. "They didn't believe that Kevin's prayers would be answered. Kevin didn't lose hope, and asking people, and our marriage now is better than ever before. We attribute it to Kevin's prayers, and how he drew on the prayers of everyone."

"I don't know what we'd do without him," said Jan.

Speaking with LifeSiteNews, Kevin said that his favorite things to do are "spending time with my family, and keeping God in prayer." He said that he "always knows God," which helps him to "always keep praying for my friends."

"I love my church," said Kevin.

Although it is widely believed that people with Down syndrome are doomed to a life of suffering, in one large survey , 99% of respondents with Down syndrome described themselves as "happy." At the same time, 99% percent of parents said they loved their child with Down syndrome, and 97 percent said they were proud of them.

Only 4 percent of parents who responded said they regretted having their child.

Despite this, it is estimated that in many Western countries the abortion rate of children diagnosed in utero with Down syndrome is 90%, or even higher. The development of new and more accurate tests for the condition has raised concerns among Down syndrome advocates that that number could rise even higher. 

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President George Bush takes the ice bucket challenge in a video released this week.
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What’s wrong with the viral ‘ice bucket challenge’? A lot, say pro-life leaders

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By Dustin Siggins

Pro-life leaders in the U.S. are warning about ethical problems with the viral "Ice Bucket Challenge" that has raised over $15 million for research into Lou Gehrig’s Disease since late July, making its way to the top of American politics, and the entertainment and business worlds in the process.

In recent days, former president George W. Bush, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, TV hosts Oprah Winfrey and Jimmy Fallon, and Microsoft founder Bill Gates have all had ice-cold water dumped on their heads in support of the effort.

They have been joined by many thousands of everyday Americans eager to do their part to raise funds to find a cure for the fatal neurodegenerative disease.

However, pro-life leaders from Patheos blogger Father Michael Duffy to the American Life League (ALL) are all pointing out that the ALS Association, which is behind the wildly popular fundraising effort, funds and otherwise supports embryonic stem cell research.

Instead, they are urging that pro-life people who want to participate in the ice bucket challenge send their donations to other charities that don't have similar ethical issues.

Embryonic stem cell research requires the destruction of an unborn child. This is unlike adult and umbilical cord stem cell research, which are considered ethical.

A spokesperson from the ALS Association admitted to American Life League in an e-mail that while the organization "primarily funds adult stem cell research," they are "funding one study using embryonic stem cells (ESC)..."

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"It is noble to combat a deadly disease," Live Action president Lila Rose said in a statement provided to LifeSiteNews, but added that "it's such a shame that the ALS Association...chooses to support research that thrives from experimenting on and killing tiny, innocent human beings."

"Embryonic stem cell research, which requires the destruction of pre-born people, is inherently unethical and a violation of fundamental human rights, and even materialists must admit that promises of its benefits have failed to deliver," continued Rose. "There is no good reason to condone this practice; in fact, all it does is taint the ALS Association, whom I'd otherwise be happy to support."

In the email to American Life League, ALS Assocation Spokesperson Carrie Munk defended the organization, saying that the embryonic stem cell research is being funded by an outside donor, and "the stem cell line was established many years ago."

She added that "under very strict guidelines, The Association may fund embryonic stem cell research in the future," and that currently "donors may stipulate that their funds not be invested in this study or any stem cell project."

At least one Catholic archdiocese has spoken up about the problematic relationship between ALS Assocation and unethical research.

"We appreciate the compassion that has caused so many people to engage in the ice bucket challenge," said a spokesperson for the Archdiocese of Cincinnati. "But it's a well established moral principle that a good end is not enough. The means to that ends must be morally licit."

Both Fr. Duffy and the archdiocese have recommended money be sent to the John Paul II Medical Research Institute in Iowa City, Iowa. It is an organization that exclusively researches with adult stem cells. 

One D.C.-area Catholic, Robert Vega, wrote on Facebook that "in light of the absolute dignity of human life and necessity to defend it...I have taken down my Ice Bucket video, untagged myself from my nomination video, and encourage anyone to whom I may have spread the Challenge to do the same."

Embryonic stem cell research, which was a major controversy throughout the presidency of George W. Bush, has quietly, although decidedly, become less popular after many of the exalted promises of its proponents failed to materialize. As LifeSiteNews reported, in 2012 California and Maryland funded a fraction of the embryonic stem cell research projects that they did in 2007. Likewise, Maryland funded nearly twice as many stem cell research projects in 2012 as it had in the prior year -- but only one of the grants was done for an embryonic research project.

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Catholic couple fined $13,000 for refusing to host same-sex ‘wedding’ at their farm

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By Kirsten Anderson
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Robert and Cynthia Gifford

The New York State Division of Human Rights (DHR) has ruled that the Roman Catholic owners of an Albany-area farm violated the civil rights of a lesbian couple when they declined to host the couple’s same-sex “marriage” ceremony in 2012.

Robert and Cynthia Gifford, who own and operate Liberty Ridge Farm in Schaghticoke, were ordered by DHR Judge Migdalia Pares and Commissioner Helen Diane Foster to pay $10,000 in fines to the state and an additional $3,000 in damages to the lesbian couple, Jennie McCarthy and Melissa Erwin for “mental pain and suffering.” 

Additionally, the Giffords must provide sensitivity training to their staff, and prominently display a poster highlighting state anti-discrimination laws.

The Giffords’ attorney, Jim Trainor, told LifeSiteNews that the two-year-legal drama and resulting fines all stemmed from a single brief phone call in 2012 that caught his clients off guard.

“The entire interaction between the Complainants and the Giffords transpired during a two to three minute telephone conversation which, unknown to Mrs. Gifford, was being tape recorded,” Trainor said.

“After communicating the fact that they chose not to hold same-sex marriage ceremonies at the farm because to do so would violate the Giffords’ sincerely held beliefs (that God intended marriage to be between a man a woman only), Mrs. Gifford invited the couple to visit the farm to discuss handling their wedding reception, which the couple refused.” 

The Giffords draw a line, Trainor explained, between a ceremony that solemnizes a homosexual relationship and a reception that celebrates the union after the fact.  To participate in the former, they argue, would be a violation of their own religious beliefs, especially because marriage ceremonies on the farm typically take place in and around the couple’s home, where they live full-time and are raising their two children. 

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But the Giffords are willing to serve gay couples in other ways – for example, they allowed another lesbian couple to throw a birthday party for their adopted child on the farm.

Trainor said he believes the decision by DHR goes too far in that it seeks to regulate what the Giffords can or cannot do in their own private home, even though state law only requires “places of public accommodation” to adhere to anti-discrimination laws.

“They consider the farm their home,” Trainor said. “They live there, they work there, they raise their kids there.”

Trainor also said that the Judge and Commissioner should have taken into account the Supreme Court’s recent Hobby Lobby ruling, which came down weeks before the DHR notified the Giffords of their decision.

“We're disappointed that neither the Administrative Law Judge nor the Commissioner considered the Gifford's Constitutional (1st Amendment) rights, including the right not to be compelled to participate in a ‘marriage’ ceremony which violates their own religious beliefs,” Trainor said. 

Trainor said he and the Giffords are evaluating their options for further legal action.

The Giffords could simply ask the DHR to reconsider their decision, but Trainor said he doubts that approach would be successful. In order to formally appeal the ruling the couple would have to go to the New York State Supreme Court. 

But there is another option: The Giffords could file a fresh lawsuit in either state or federal court challenging the constitutionality of the DHR ruling.

While religious liberty has been a hot topic in federal court lately, Trainor said New York’s state constitution “actually offers a lot” of protection when it comes to religious freedom. “Many people view it as more expansive than the U.S. Constitution in terms of religious freedoms.”

However, Trainor emphasized that the Giffords have not yet decided which avenue, if any, they are planning to take in terms of pursuing further legal action.

In the meantime, the Giffords will continue hosting wedding ceremonies and receptions at the farm, Trainor said. However, they are considering hiring a dedicated employee to handle the ceremonies in order to avoid having to directly participate in any future same-sex “weddings.”

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