Friday, March 18, 2011


I feel I'm not Catholic enough for some people, but it doesn't really worry me since I've never been one to look for validation beyond very close friends and family.  I keep telling myself not to post my criticisms of the Church or Church policies, but I really can't leave well enough alone.  Besides, what's the point of being an American if you can't exercise your free speech and work for intelligent public discourse?

I'm a faithful Catholic, I attend Mass every Sunday, go to confession, support Catholic charities, adhere to the guidelines against contraception and other banned substances and fertility procedures.  I also can't stand by when religious and apologists make statements that are untrue.  I'm an activist myself and I know that when you believe in your position so strongly, it's tempting to polarize the issue by making the other side look patently evil and misrepresent them.  It happens with animal rights, gay rights, abortion, etc.

Quite a few of the stances I take in my own life might line up with Church teaching but a lot of them also make good sense.  I like rational decision making, I think it's good for people.  My decision not to use IVF is not because the Church says it's wrong, it's because it's not a rational procedure to submit to.  It's very expensive that most middle-class people cannot comfortably afford it.  I've read a fair number of couples go into debt (the dreaded credit card kind) to undergo an IVF cycle.  Bad decision.  When I first started this blog, I'd just finished reading The Baby Business.  It's not technically considered Lenten reading material, but I highly recommend it.  I wanted to understand assisted fertility as a business, because most everything in life is a business, sadly.

I've also learned that fertility drugs make me crazy and I have an inherent moral duty to be good for my husband.  Clomid makes me bad for him and that's unfair.  And why in the world would I go to a drug even more powerful?  A child couldn't exist without our marriage so why would I sacrifice it's goodness by submitting to medical treatment that might give me a baby but make him want to divorce me?

I'm not an apologist for the Creighton Method, and I've said so here before.

And I guess that gets me to my ultimate point for this post.  Christina posted in her last comment an article that I'd half read several months ago: Babies Deserve Better.  After she posted I link, I read the whole thing pretty carefully.  There are several serious errors (that I spotted) in the article.

  1.  According to the Pope Paul VI Institute, couples who have learned to chart effectively have a 76 percent chance of conceiving during their first cycle of use and a 98 percent pregnancy rate by their sixth cycle.
    1. Not true.  According to the Institute, this quoted success rate is only for couple with "normal fertility" and that is never defined.  My guess is you're considered normal if you've gotten pregnant within six months since that's very close to 100% in that study.
  2. The primary reason the Church opposes IUI and IVF is that these techniques frustrate the unitive aspect of the marital act.
    1. Partly true.  I'm not sure about the Church but the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops have neither approved nor disapproved IUI when the sperm is obtained through a natural act of intercourse.  Dr. Hilgers himself said the main reason the Church opposes IVF is that it's abortive in nature meaning many embryos are created in the process and some will die or be destroyed when the couple doesn't want them or need them.
  3. When you are infertile, every act of intercourse is pregnant with the hope that God will work a miracle. 
    1. Every act?  Not when you know you're an infertile in the infertile part of her cycle.  It's disingenuous to dismiss the fact that lovemaking when you're infertile is very stressful and heartbreakingly frustrating. 
  4. Ironically, many couples using IUI and IVF in their late twenties and mid-thirties were contracepting earlier in marriage. This is because IUI and IVF are the logical counterparts of the contraceptive mentality, which has as a fundamental tenet that women enjoy total control over their fertility.
    1. This is far from ironic.  The vast majority of sexual active adults use some form of contraception.  NFP is very rare.  "The contraceptive mentality" permeates the Western World, not just for people who use IVF.  I think most free people assume total control over most things in their life, not just as it comes to fertility.
There are certainly some very good points in the article and I think it's good to hear those things from a couple who is experiencing infertility themselves.  The article was written some years ago, I wonder if they ever were able to have their child.


  1. oops, but the comment was supposed to be on this post!

  2. Ok, trying again. I am in 100% agreement it would be extremely helpful if the Church had a little handbook for how to tackle the spiritual matters and support those suffering from sub/infertility. Like so many things, this infertility issue is more about HOW you say it than what you say. Every pamphlet I seem to pick up clarifies what treatment is and isn't moral and usually fails to express the deep compassion that I long to see, at least on an official level. While I'm sure many people need to know that information, and probably sound reasonable from a rational, fertile mind, from a infertile, emotional place these are SO hard to read. I've never been tempted to use ART but these pamphlets make me feel for the people who have because they do not reach them. And their Church is failing to reach them, which is worse.

  3. I have a feeling that maybe why Christina posted that article to you was the last section, an "Unexpected blessing" which from my view is like a spiritual direction home-run. Seriously, on my bad days I'll re-read this paragraph just to get pumped up again that I CAN HANDLE THIS:
    To use an analogy, the generosity of the couple who chooses to have a large family is like a brightly burning sun with beams that produce beautiful flowers that everyone can see and admire. While their love might shine just as brightly, the infertile family has no flowers of their own. Yet, as Fulton Sheen perceives: "There is no sign unless something happens contrary to nature. The brightness of the sun is no sign, but an eclipse is."

    That section is one of the best spiritual supports that goes beyond moral guidelines related to infertility that I've found. Its beautiful. More coming...

  4. I'm getting errors because I'm writing too much! wanted to address your points:
    1) This stat upsets me as well. I asked our Creighton instructor about this during our Intro I class and basically, 'normal fertility' is defined as if you get pregnant in 6 months so yes, its a circular argument. I hate that Creighton uses this as if CREIGHTON is superior for getting you pregnant, which clearly it is not because it can not do anything that any other method of NFP can in those first 6 months. Silly, silly stat that means NOTHING for sub-fertile couples.
    3.)Well then it would truly be a miracle to get pregnant then, right? Ha!

  5. 4.)I guess I do see it as irony when I read blogs of women saying ALL they've EVER WANTED was a baby when, well, that's just not true. I guess that's the irony they point to, that in one part of our life we are just hoping we don't get pregnant and at another we'd give anything to be. I think that's irony of the human condition and our limited perspectives.

    Ok, sorry for all the comments, clearly i find this very interesting!

  6. Just to clarify. My point in posting the link to the article was the "Unexpected Blessing" part. I understand that there are errors in the article...and to be honest it had been awhile since I had read it in its entirety. I wasn't trying to push Creighton back on you or convince you to keep trying. Maybe it is my extremely rational mind, but when I listen to all the stats and the compassion of the apologists on EWTN when they address this topic, I see the compassion the Church has for infertile couples...but yes, there is always more that they can do.

    And I am sure you are "Catholic enough" from what you describe.

  7. MMH, thanks for your comments. And thanks to Christina, too! I appreciate the clarification and others have spotted errors in the article too. I really enjoy both your blogs since they're so intelligent and you obviously care about the underlying meanings the Church is trying to convey.

    Most of our Catholic experiences come from our parish, not the diocese or even Rome and there can be vast differences in what messages individual pastors are presenting. Mine sucks, seriously. So, I get along the best I can with kindred spirits who are very sympathetic to our plight.

  8. ha ok, thanks for not thinking i'm a weirdo for spamming your post!
    and i wish we could take the priest who married us with us when we move...which is coincidentally, to California. i'm curious to know where you're at! you should email me :)

  9. I totally agree with your first "dispute." I am a Creighton Practitioner and every time I talk about that slide, I am uncomfortable. It can be incredibly misleading. Even though the slide itself does state that it refers to couples of "normal fertility," and I make a point of highlighting, I am left with 2 questions- First, how are they defining "normal fertility" and why isn't that definition included in the slide? And second, why don't they give statistics for the general population (including couples of sub- or infertility) alongside? I think I am going to look into this more... Thank you for highlighting it!

  10. I've been catching up on the last few posts. First, I'm way closer to 34 than I'd like to be and *When Harry Met Sally* is one of my all time favorites. Love it!

    I do see what you are saying and agree that our view of Catholic support (or lack thereof) can come from our local parish which can be a blessing or a curse depending on where you are. I know one blogger (Chasing Joy) was hoping to compile a kind of phamplet for Catholics dealing with infertility to address this very thing - both the medical and emotional side.

    Wishing you the best.