Question 34


Dear Fr. Matthew,

As a recently baptized and confirmed Catholic gynecologist, I am trying my best to change my practice pattern as regards prescribing contraception. I am not overt however, about my conversion with my patients. They frequently ask about birth control pills and refills, and although I can talk a few of them out of using them, I cannot convince all, and so I do end up prescribing and refilling. I have talked about this to my priest and he says that as long as I am trying my best, the onus falls upon the patients, and I am not at fault, if I have to prescribe to some. What do you think? Is this a mortal sin? Again, please note that I try very hard to give them the other side, the medical side effects, the risks, alternatives such as nfp, etc. But some patients insist on their birth control.

Thank you, "Rita"

Dear Doctor Rita: 

Congratulations on your reception into the Catholic Church. 

Your concern about dispensing birth control pills for the purpose of contraception is commendable. The Holy Spirit must be enlightening you and nudging you to break away from this. 

The Church has consistently taught that contraception is intrinsically evil. Even non-Catholics seem to know this. That you instruct your patients not to engage is this behavior is indeed remarkable, but you must go a step further. Please do not concur in this evil by writing a prescription for these pills, even though you personally don't approve. If one should do this, moral theologians would label it as formal, implicit, proximate cooperation. Which, of course, is never permitted. So I think it erroneous to say that the onus is only on the patient. In this case it might be more on the doctor who should know better. Would a court of law exonerate one who knowingly writes a drug prescription for an addict? I don't think so. He/She could be charged for enabling and accountable for any possible injuries to the addict and others. It might even mean the loss of a medical license and jail time! 

A few other thoughts come to mind. Now that you are a Catholic, think of the scandal you might be giving to your peers, not to mention your patients. I believe this is the time to tactfully inform the staff where you stand on this matter. They will respect you for this even though they may not agree with your decision. You've just been Confirmed. Don't be afraid!! 

It is important, also, to consider the possible abortifacient consequences of the pill and the responsibility of one who facilitates its use. 

Dear Dr. Rita, many fine physicians have faced the same realization as you have and have chosen the narrow path; with God's help you will too. Should you wish, I could put you in touch with them. They might prove to be a great support for you at this time. 

If you'd like to discuss these issues at greater length please call me at 405-728-9644 or cell 405-823-2294. E-mail is all right also:

Be assured of a daily remembrance at the Altar and in prayer before the Divine Physician. 

Faithfully yours in Christ, 
Fr. Daniel McCaffrey 
Archdiocese of Oklahoma City 

PS You might want to read the "Humanae Vitae" by Pope Paul VI. It converted Dr. Thomas Hilgers in Omaha. Paragraph 27 is addressed to doctors.