Question 124


Article: Florida Catholic to feature monthly Catholic medical column

 MARY ST. PIERRE  of the Florida Catholic staff

ORLANDO — In looking from an ethical perspective, today’s Catholics are faced with increasingly complicated issues related to health care decisions and the challenges of staying constant in their faith. Beginning with this edition, theFlorida Catholic hopes to help readers find a clear path in the medical maze with the introduction of “The Catholic Doctor is In,” a monthly column written by physician members of the Catholic Medical Association.

“There are people out there struggling to practice the ‘Culture of Life’ that we were exhorted to by Pope Paul VI in ‘Humanae Vitae’ (‘Of Human Life’) and Pope John Paul II in‘Evangelium Vitae’ (‘The Gospel of Life’),” said Dr. Rebecca Peck, a Catholic practitioner and member of Prince of Peace Parish in Ormond Beach. “Through this column, we want Catholics to be able to engage in open moral-ethical discussions, so they are able to come to peace with decisions they have to make, or have made.”

The Catholic Medical Association (CMA) is comprised of Catholic physicians of the United States and Canada who work to uphold the principles of the Catholic faith in the science and practice of medicine. As Catholic doctors and health care workers, members of CMA are well versed in the ethical and social teachings of the Church, and work to build up a culture of life.

On the medical front Peck and her CMA member colleagues hope to bring an educated understanding to many of the misconceptions Catholics have about medical treatments, research, pain management, end-of-life care, legislation, stem-cell research, the effects of artificial birth control, abortion, natural family planning, and other medical arenas. Readers are invited to submit questions or comments on material seen in the monthly column or questions relevant to health concerns and care.

One of the principles guiding Catholic health care is respect for the sanctity of human life from its beginning to its natural end, and not everyone respects this ethically grounded approach. Peck said that often, in the secular world today, the people receive medical information that is void of any terminology that includes God. This information gives the impression that the Catholic faith is opposed to or rejects proper scientific development. Quite the contrary, Peck emphasized, providing three examples of adult stem-cell research, conception and the effects of artificial birth control.

“The sanctity of life has become muddled in so many areas and we have to maintain an absolute consistency in our faith and in what is the truth under these pressures,” Peck said.

Looking at the misunderstood topic of abortion, which will be one of the focus areas of the column, thoughts can get scrambled. Peck referred to the ongoing secular debate as to when life begins. For Catholics, that has always been from the time of conception. Now, many pro-choice doctors and scientists will say it does not begin at conception, but rather at implantation into the wall of the uterus. Yet, Peck pointed out, even with the implantation theory, which occurs around six days after ovulation, most abortions happen much later.

“There is no rational argument to say an embryo of three days or seven weeks is pre-human, and at 16 weeks it becomes a human,” Peck said.

It’s often very challenging, Peck said, for Catholics to understand that the health care decisions and treatment they are providing their loved ones, is taking away from the objective of good health. Helping Catholics understand the moral side of medicine and fully understand the “fine print” in the choices they make will mean better mental, physical and spiritual health.

“If we look at Jesus, our divine physician, and remain congruent with our faith, we will have healthy families and live more successfully,” said Peck. “As individuals, we all want to live our Catholic faith so we can progress on our journey and become holier. We don’t want to make decisions based on something that is going to impair our journey to the ultimate sanctification.”

ENDNOTE: Readers are invited to submit questions for consideration to the Florida Catholic at


The Catholic Doctors Are In

Question: My husband and I are both Catholics. We know that we are not supposed to use artificial birth control, but we worry NFP (natural family planning) is not an effective method of preventing pregnancy. During this recession and money is so tight, we just can’t afford another child right now. As Catholic doctors, what would you advise? Sincerely, Married and Scared of Catholic Roulette

Dear Married and Scared,

Your question is a very important one to both of us. As married Catholic physicians and parents of five children, we too have struggled with this very same issue. As a young couple we knew the Church’s teaching on marriage and family, but were uncertain how it applied to us in our own personal and professional lives. We hate to admit it, but we were “cafeteria Catholics,” picking and choosing which teachings were acceptable to us. As we became more involved in parish life, we were challenged to learn more about our faith.  

As we studied the Catechism and the encyclical “Humanae Vitae,” our eyes were opened to the sad consequences of our contraceptive culture. The more we saw its applications in our own lives, the more we were struck by the frequency it was showing up in our own exam rooms. We saw so many families in crisis. It now dawned on us why couples who use birth control or were sterilized have divorce rates above 50 percent. It struck us to the core.

To help our practice’s brokenhearted adults and their children, we would have to show them a better way. Further study of Pope John Paul’s Theology of the Body convinced us contraception and sterilization goes against the very nature and language of our human bodies. Finally, we became convinced our wise Church had been right all the time. We immediately stopped prescribing contraceptives in our medical practice and resolved to learn as much as possible about the only Church-approved method of family planning — natural family planning (NFP). NFP encompasses a variety of modern methods of fertility awareness.

All methods of NFP allow a woman to confidently determine her fertility status. By daily observing easily identified changes in her body — such as temperature and/or cervical mucus — a woman can know if she is fertile or infertile on any particular day. She can then use this information to achieve or avoid a pregnancy. NFP is inexpensive, easy to learn and does not have any harmful side effects. Studies show that couples using NFP have much stronger marriages, with divorce rates less than 1 percent.  

In avoiding a pregnancy, NFP — in actual usage — is just as effective as the birth control pill. Great statistic, but they pale compared with our own experience in our medical practice. Our couples are using and enjoying NFP in their marriages. Their families are healthy and strong. These couples have the joy-filled marriages we all were intended to experience. NFP has enhanced our marriage — and those marriages in our practice — in so many ways. The ultimate vocation of marriage is to bring each other to mutual holiness and sanctification. We know that NFP has helped move us forward on this journey. Why would God want us to use anything else?

--Drs. Ben and Rebecca Peck, Peck’s Family Practice in Ormond Beach.

To learn more about Natural Family Planning, contact the Office of Family Life in your diocese for a complete listing of classes.

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Cordially yours,

Fr. Matthew Habiger OSB