Catholic Medical Quarterly Volume 67(4) November 2017


Humanae Vitae: The Fallible Conscience

Dr Olive Duddy

Dr Flood poses an intriguing idea, the instinctive conscience or the informed conscience. We can ask ourselves, do we have full knowledge, is there grave matter and do we give our full consent? There is plenty of wriggle room here.

But when we reach the pearly gates, St Peter will ask the most important question. “Did you love God?” just as Jesus asked him, “Do you love me?” There will be no wriggle room.

Have we included Him in every aspect of our lives? Have we included Him in our married life or have we shut Him out of the bedroom?

Have we cared for the gifts he bestowed on us? The gift of fertility is God’s gift to us. Does contraception care for our fertility? The immediate return of a woman’s fertility on stopping hormonal contraception is only 57% and not all are fertile after a year.

At birth the female child has all the primordial follicles in her ovaries. In her teens she may start oral contraception for 10, or 20 or more years. In epigenetic terms what is the future effect on her male and female children. Do we know?

In the 1960s the choice was the unreliable calendar method of family regulation versus the ‘wonderful’ new hormonal pill, nothing quite like it for killing young women, strokes and heart attacks and increased risk of cancer.

In 2017 there is a method of family regulation more reliable than the hormonal pill, researched by the World Health Organisation and Professorial research teams on every continent. Even the RCOG have produced guidelines and are encouraging training courses.

It is Natural Family Planning updated in an acceptable format. The couple become proficient in three menstrual cycles. It is healthy and free.

The ecological groups are embracing it. Fertility Apps abound on i-phones. The Natural Family Planning Teacher Training Association is training new NFP teachers in many countries via the online course but the moral group are noticeably few. There is little encouragement from the hierarchy in ours as in many other countries. Cold feet springs is the phrase that comes to mind. But marriage statistics and mental health issues in the young should be a spur to action.

Pope Francis in Amoris Laetitiae, chapter 6 n.222 (quoting HV 11) says ‘couples should use natural methods based on the laws of nature and the incidence of fertility’. It is reported in the Catholic Herald that he has set up a Commission to review “Humanae Vitae” and recently has appointed two more members. Perhaps he will issue a further statement at the next World Meeting of Families in Dublin next August.

Yours sincerely

Dr Olive Duddy MB ChB MRCGP.
Tutor Natural Family Planning Teachers Association.