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Countering the “Catholic Doctor” Deception

My husband and I had hit rock bottom. Our marriage was strained to the breaking point. We were expecting our seventh child, conceived unexpectedly while I was working to finish my bachelor’s degree after a fourteen-year hiatus from college. We had been too busy, we thought, to work through difficult communication problems. For several years we had slipped by on the lazy assumption that our communication problems would solve themselves with time. Things were okay while my husband’s National Guard unit was activated for a mission in Iraq. Once the intensity ended, however, we were expected to resume normal family life. We had no foundation left. Our marriage and our family were in crisis. I felt our convictions to avoid the use of contraception were fundamental to the trials we were experiencing.  I did not know how to reconcile my fidelity to Church teaching with the misery I was in.

Before our baby was conceived, I had been mentally planning to move out and take the kids with me. I would go to another city to pursue a graduate degree, surviving on welfare and student financial aid.  All that changed with a positive pregnancy test. I felt passionately that all my children deserved a stay-at-home mom during their baby years, so I felt trapped for at least three more years. The pregnancy had me feeling more depressed and desperate than I had ever been.  Despite having used midwives for previous pregnancies and births, I was having complications and needed a physician. I made arrangements with a Catholic OB/GYN, a doctor who was recommended to me as a devout Catholic and friendly to Natural Family Planning (NFP). At my first visit she told me she was discerning making her practice NFP-only, meaning she would no longer prescribe or recommend contraceptives and she would cease doing sterilizations. She was a practitioner of NFP herself. It made me feel safe and I confided my marital situation to her. I was grateful to have at least one safe haven in my stormy life.

As the pregnancy progressed, my appointments were more frequent and the doctor/patient relationship progressed. I asked the doctor about the abortifacient effects of the pill. She told me, “It doesn’t do that.” I brought her a scientific article provided by the Couple to Couple League that led her to admit the pill does cause early abortions. She gave no indication that she would make any changes to her practice. In fact, she talked about how the income generated from prescribing contraceptives was essential to the financial solvency of her practice.  As my body experienced the burdens of weight gain and a growing child in the womb, my marital problems compounded my stress level. An anti-depressant was suggested. My mental state was grave, so I was willing to try it. It was at this vulnerable time that my Catholic doctor asked me the first time, “Are you going to get your tubes tied?” She asked at least two more times before the baby was born.

Following that first incident the scales fell from my eyes and I stopped trusting her. I realized how duplicitous it is for a doctor to make token gestures about being a faithful Catholic, all the while being a cog in the machine of the culture of death. My doctor was an abortionist, just at a very early stage. She mutilated the reproductive capabilities of women, likely at the same rate as her non-Catholic peers. She was a professional who enabled fornication, adultery, objectification of women, and corrosive damage to marriages through the prescriptions she wrote. The fact that she was “NFP-friendly” did not matter. My doctor intentionally brandished a title which implies moral superiority and trustworthiness.  She used a “Catholic” smokescreen while she benefitted from the lucrative evil of the industry.

I have seen the same deception take other forms as well. A married acquaintance of mine who sees a different Catholic doctor is using an abortifacient, contraceptive drug to control prolonged bleeding associated with her menstrual cycle. She is convinced, by the testimony of her Catholic doctor, that use of the drug is morally licit. I have read about double effect and understand the moral implications. In the case of my acquaintance, the contraceptive effect would have to be an undesired and unavoidable effect of the treatment. She has not tried any sort of nutritional therapy or NaPro Technology to treat her problem, despite having local NFP-only doctors and other resources available to her.  She believes, on the testimony of her Catholic doctor, that she has found a backdoor to using contraception without sinning. I told her that she is risking the grave matter of mortal sin and that she should seek a spiritual director who can help her understand.

Within my own circles of association, the deception of my doctor has even infiltrated the Church. Recently I visited our diocesan office for Natural Family Planning to ask if they had information about the Marquette Method of NFP, a relatively new method that my husband and I have been using. While visiting with the diocesan resource person, I related how I avoid OB/GYN offices because I hate contraception.  I had to interrupt so I could tell my story before a supposedly-NFP-friendly doctor was recommended. The doctor with whom I had my bad experience is well-known and widely recommended locally. I said that a doctor who claims to be Catholic but defies Church teaching in practice is more dangerous than an atheist. At least with an atheist, a Catholic woman will be wary. Hopefully awareness has been raised at a key resource point in the diocese.

After my seventh child was born, I stopped seeing the “devout Catholic” doctor who is “friendly to NFP”. Acute postpartum depression set in and my husband’s kindness became my salvation. It was the beginning of the regrowth of our marriage. Today we have two more beautiful children, nine in all.  Our marriage is vibrant and joyful. Our oldest child and only girl is in a courtship with a wonderful man and doing well in her studies at an orthodox, Catholic university.  We have blissful hopes for grandchildren and visions of holiday family gatherings in the future.

Sometimes I wonder how my life would be different if I had succumbed to the abandonment of hope my doctor offered me in being sterilized. I honestly believe it would have created a discord in my marriage that would have led either to divorce or a lost joy that we could never recover. Our two youngest children are priceless treasures to my husband, to me, and to all their older siblings. It frightens and saddens me to think they might have never been conceived. Thank God for the teachings of the Church and for the brave and charitable souls who taught them to me.

Doctors who call themselves Catholic and practice in a manner that defies Catholic teaching are wolves in sheep’s clothing. Faithful Catholics need to be awake and vigilant any time they are under the care of a doctor.  I try to imagine how many children have not been born and how many marriages and families have been reduced to ruin because of Catholic doctors who believe that their judgments warrant an exception to Natural Law. Their arrogance and betrayal are particularly insidious now as the Church faces persecution from the federal government via the HHS Mandate. Let us pray for their conversion, give fraternal correction, and refuse to give financial patronage to their practices.

 Doctors who are committed to Catholic teaching and the sanctity of human life can be located through the ministry of One More Soul. Some areas also have regional Catholic medical associations faithful to the Magisterium of the Church. Readers might be surprised what resources are available in their area. Changing doctors or seeking an alternative healthcare provider (such as a Certified Professional Midwife for prenatal care and birth) is worth the inconvenience to avoid the near occasion of sin and to promote a culture of life. We must all do what we can to stop the deception and to minister to the deceived.

“Behold, I am sending you like sheep in the midst of wolves; so be shrewd as serpents and simple as doves.” –Matthew  10:16


Terri Kimmel loves open source learning online, walks two miles every day rain or shine, and is a hobby poet and fiction writer. She is a cradle Catholic who considers herself undergoing a continual conversion. She’s a sinner. She and her husband are discerning a lay vocation with the Society of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity (SOLT).


  • PrairieHawk

    I would love to find a reliably Catholic doctor for when my elderly provider retires. But they’re hard to find in the specialty I need. My current doctor and I have never discussed religion in 10 years but that’s probably a good sign. For the bad ones it always seems to come out – like the lapsed Catholic therapist I had for 4 years. The best provider I ever had was a woman Episcopalian therapist who gave good hugs. But a trustworthy, Catholic man or woman faithful to the Church? That’s a tough one, sorry to say. 🙁

    • Terri Kimmel

      I hear you, Prairie Hawk. Doctors faithful to Catholic teaching are needed for all stages of life–really even before conception. Married couples with fertility challenges need to be offered life-giving options, not IVF which kills many more newly-conceived children than it brings to birth.
      I’ve heard stories of people I know whose family members have been euthenized by deprivation of feeding and water at the end of life. The culture of death has penetrated deeply into our culture. It’s important that lay people demand moral and ethical medical care on our own behalf and for those who are dependent or helpless.
      Thanks for the comments.

  • kris8124

    Great post and great advice, Terri! My daughter is having trouble finding the support she needs for her pregnancy. She has learned to be assertive and up front about her expectations and her Catholic faith. It’s not easy.
    Check this out – OB/GYN opens her practice in Houston and is NFP-only , faithful to Catholic teaching.
    http://www.crisismagazine.com/2012/good-news-for-women-as-more-catholic-physicians-follow-church-teaching

    • Terri Kimmel

      I hope your daughter can find the support she needs. The predatory contraceptive practices of OB/GYN’s is one of the main reasons I sought prenatal and birth care through a certified professional midwife. I’ve used a midwife for four of my births. It’s not for everybody (high risk pregnancies in particular), but outcomes for babies and mothers are statistically actually much better than traditional hospital births. There are guidelines online for interviewing midwives and understanding their credentials.

      Because of our lifestyle, I’ve never had the same doctor twice for giving birth. The non-Catholic doctors, in retrospect, were much more respectful of my beliefs. They never offered me sterilization as a remedy for being very stressed, for instance.

      I keep praying we’ll get an NFP-only OB/GYN in our area.

      Thanks for your comments. I’ll pray for your daughter and grandchild.

  • Vanted

    Terri, thank you so much for this article. We are military too and unfortunately the only true devout Catholic OBGYN does not take my insurance……..but I’m am sure it is the other way around since he doesn’t prescribe birth control or sterilizations. I was able to relate deeply with the depression and unhappiness that you went through. Unfortunately, I did leave my husband, the Church, and went on my welfare “independent woman” spiral down hill. I didn’t have anyone to talk to that could relate. Especially any Catholic support from family and friends and I gave into “what makes you happy” pursuit. I became resentful of the Church for becoming pregnant over and over and over……5 kids in 5 yrs. I was 18 when I started so you can imagine the immaturity in life and in faith. I am happy and grateful to say that my husband and I are back together and have added 2 more to the bunch. I understand that the message in your article is not what I am pointing out but it resonated with me because many women are afraid to come out and say THIS IS HARD!! I had always felt that because I was Catholic that I was supposed to be immune to postpartum depression and be ecstatic with being pregnant over and over again. While we are now NFPracticing Catholics that have finally understood the true beauty and meaning of what being open to life is and the closeness that NFP brings, it was no easy road and many suffered.
    I wish that I had found this article 5 years ago. I hope that someone that may feel hopeless comes across this and finds inspiration to keep following the narrow yet fruitful road.

    • Terri Kimmel

      God bless you. I’m so glad you and your husband are back together and have added more children to the family. God can overcome anything.
      My husband and I just this year found a method of NFP that works for us, after trying two others. We primarily used ecological breastfeeding to space our babies until recently. It works, but it’s very limited.

      There have been some pretty hard-hitting articles of late on National Catholic Review about the challenges of using NFP. I’ve tried to share them within my circle of friends.
      Something that needs to be discussed more is when the wife is faithful to Church teaching, but her husband is not. It sets up a situation that lends itself to a kind of sexual slavery. I’ve heard this from several women and it’s not a subject I raise myself. Women talk when someone sympathetic is listening. My experience was that priests just don’t get it most of the time, either.

  • michael94

    I read your article out of interest as a Catholic doctor who doesnt prescribe the pill for contraception, encourage fornication, or encourage sterilizations. It is important for clarity to state that Catholic woman are permitted to take hormones/the pill to treat abnormal bleeding, PCOS, etc. Of course in such cases, these same women should then refrain from sexual activity while on such treatments. I certainly understand that husband and wife feel a need to be close physically, but at the same time, I find it almost laughable that the same couple are unable to give up sexual activity for the health of the wife. That said there are many couples I know personally that are very willing to give up the marital act for decades even so as to assure the health and well-being of one or the other. Its not as uncommon as people think. With all do respect, what is needed is not more good Catholic doctors (at least, thats not the primary need). What is needed is more solid catechesis of the laity on Christian chastity and the importance of adhering to Church teaching to gain eternal life. Catholic women should know this teaching well. They should know it and guard their purity by their own volition, and should not need another person, doctor or not, to tell them what is morally licit.

    • Terri Kimmel

      Dear Dr. Michael,
      Thanks for your comments. I think you might benefit from some personal reading on double effect. Be sure to read from a source that is in alignment with the magisterium of the Church. I found some things after doing a quick search on the Catholic Answers website. You might start there. A reliable, orthodox, spiritual director, which are not easy to find, can help you as well.
      Catholic women who have abnormal bleeding, PCOS, etc. should be directed by their physicians (especially Catholic ones) to treatments for their conditions, not drugs that mask them and compromise or destroy their gift of fertility. (I knew a lady whose fertility was destroyed by Norplant when she was in her mid-20’s. She already had three children born in rapid succession.) The pill and other abortifacient contraceptives are not appropriate treatments for these conditions. They’re popular defaults. (Corrupt influence of the pharmaceutical industry in women’s healthcare is fodder for another article.) Nevertheless, these drugs don’t treat what’s wrong, they just turn off a woman’s reproductive cycle. (I’m sure you know this. I’m expounding for the benefit of other readers.) I do believe in the possiblity of circumstances that warrant their use, but such measures should only be used as a stop-gap by women in desperate circumstances while she and her physician seek a true solution or at least mitigating treatment. Personally, I would rather have unusual bleeding all the time than be using an abortifacient drug to control it if I was sexually active. Honestly, with the associated breast cancer risks, I’d rather not use it even if I was not sexually active.
      The marital embrace is central to the gift of marriage. Couples should never unnecssarily refrain from it for extended periods of time. No doctor should ever recommend or imply that as an approach to problems associated with pregnancy except as an extreme last resort. I have friends who have abstained for long periods, but it’s because they couldn’t find a method of NFP that worked for them. Some reading about or directly from John Paul II’s Theology of the Body or commentary by Gregory Popcak, Ph.D or Christopher West might illuminate this concept for you. Also, all doctors, and in particular Catholic ones, who practice any kind of reproductive healthcare should be adequately familiar with every vetted method of Natural Family Planning so that they can make recommendations. For instance, mucus-based methods often don’t work for many women. In our household, taking a daily waking temperature at the same time wasn’t feasible for my husband and me.
      You’re certainly right that married couples need to understand their moral obligations regarding the transmission of life and guarding of their sexual dignity. However, I would also emphasize that a Catholic doctor should /never/, UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES, recommended a method of family planning that violates Natural Law, regardless of the religiousity (or lack thereof) of their patients. In fact, every human is subject to Natural Law, not just Catholic doctors. It’s the grave matter of mortal sin to participate in contraception and abortion on any level, regardless of the circumstances.
      Thanks again for the discussion. I hope it will benefit someone who reads it.

      • michael94

        Thanks for the extensive response. My original comment was prompted by the statement/intimation in your article that any gynecologic problems should be treated preferentially by natural means. I strongly disagree with this as a blanket statement; you might say I’m biased as a doctor, and you might be partially right in saying so. Doctors of a certain stripe do have exposure to various serious conditions that members of the public do not have exposure to. For example, in cases where serious, heavy uterine bleeding is occurring in the setting of other medical conditions, hormonal therapy may definitely be indicated and may need to be started in timely fashion. And in such conditions, to suggest that natural therapies be tried first so that sexual activity can continue is dangerous, and arguably counter to guarding the sanctity of life (of the woman who is not pregnant). Hormonal therapy/the pill may indeed act as an abortifacient in a sexually active woman. But these pills do not have abortifacient potential if a woman is not sexually active.

        Yes, sex that is open to life if a good and necessary thing in a marriage. But a fulfilling, holy marriage based on mutual love is still very possible if a man and wife have to abstain from the marital act for the good of the health of both spouses for a period of time, whether that be a few weeks, month, or even years. It is a rare thing, but I assure you, it does happen. I do agree that learning the various methods of NFP is quite useful for doctors and for all married couples. I would also add that Catholic doctors should be familiar with JP2s theology of the body, papal encyclicals including Envagelium Vitae, Veritatis Splendor, and Fides et Ratio, and should pay attention to CDF statements on ethics. With knowledge based in sound catholic teaching, and with a good active prayer life, a Catholic doctor can treat a whole person, body and soul, and not just a disease.

        • Terri Kimmel

          Thanks for your further comments and clarifications. This issue needs to be discussed more in public forums. I’m grateful for your taking the time to explain your perspective. God bless.

        • another doc

          i agree – i do not see good alternatives to OCPs in the setting of multiple admissions due to menstural pain and bleeding requiring blood transfusions or opiates… however, i wonder.. why must the couple abstain if the OCP is prescribed for a medical condition? NSAIDs can be abortafacients, but are couples encouraged to abstain if the woman is on scheduled NSAiDs?

          • StephC

            For Dr.Michael & Another Doc: are you familiar with the work of Dr.Thomas Hilgers at the Pope Paul VI Institute? Please look into this, and become familiar with NaProTechnology (Natural, Procreative Technology.) He and his NaPro-trained doctors are actually healing women and not just treating their symptoms. I hope that you both will learn from him and be inspired; you sound like good men.

          • another doc

            I know of Dr. Hilgers.but not very familiar with his work. i work with adolescents in emergent type settings so sometimes we must address the symptoms which are life-threatening before hunting down the cause.. which many times we do not do in a hospital setting. also..not many gyn-pediatric docs in the area anyway. Just not sure it’d be practical to refer them to Nebraska especially if they are on govt-insurance, etc. and.. I’m not a man! 🙂

          • Terri Kimmel

            I do hope you’ll do some further reading on the subject, Ms. Doc. :0) Women deserve to be healed, especially young women. If you could familiarize yourself with Dr. Hilgers’ methods, you could become a source in your locale.
            A member of my family was on oral contraceptives for years for severe menstrual pain and heavy bleeding. I sent her information on Marilyn Shannon’s book Fertility, Cycles and Nutrition. She was able to go off the pill and manage her symptoms with nutritional supplements. Ironically, she is a nutritionist but didn’t have the information for treating herself.

    • scragsmatemp

      I was with you until the last few sentences. Yes, we need more solid catechisis on chastity and obedience. But why are your last two sentences addressed to what Catholic WOMEN should know and do? This kind of thing really irks me, and I see it all the time. Chastity, purity, modesty – they’re not just necessary for one gender, nor even for one gender more than the other.

      • michael94

        It goes without saying, yes, these virtues are for both genders. My comment specified women since they have the ability to bring children into the world. The beauty and success of marital chastity requires virtue practiced by both husband and wife.

  • Just three comments – I have had 5 of my 7 children with Certified Professional Midwives, and even though they cannot prescribe contraception or provide sterilizations or abortions, it does not mean that they do not favor such things. Be careful when choosing one. Another (briefly mentioned in a previous comment) is that when NFP is the choice of only one spouse it creates an extremely stressful situation, usually involving a lot of blame, guilt and depression. The third is that one of the caveats of NFP is that in order to use it in a morally licit fashion, it is understood that in an underlying manner you are “open to life”; abstinace is the only morally accepable sollution if you are not “open to life”. You may ask, when would that be? It would be when pregnancy would truely endanger the life of the mother or child, as in the case of some type of termanal illness, like cancer; where the chemotherapy or radiation can cause serious complications.

    • Terri Kimmel

      Catherine,
      Good points about midwives. Very true. Thanks!
      Regarding just reasons for postponing pregnancy, your comments are not in alignment with Church teaching. There are lost of legitimate reasons that are not “grave”.
      The theology behind NFP is what makes it beautiful. I hope every Catholic couple will learn the theology as well as find a method that works for them.
      catholic.com/quickquestions/what-are-some-reasons-that-justify-avoiding-pregnancy

  • Great article, very encouraging and very inspiring, I would point out however that one can’t use NFP just because one want’s to, Ven. Pope Pius XII teaches quite clearly that one can only use due to ‘grave reasons’ in other circumstances it will be gravely illicit.

    • Terri Kimmel

      Lucas,
      Thanks for the comment. It’s true that couples must prayerfully discern the use of NFP within the context of a properly formed conscience. However, it’s important to note that the term “gravely” was a bad translation. Please see my comment to Catherine below.