Dr Philippe Schepens: Humanae Vitae – a medical doctor’s testimony
9 November 2017
By Dr Philippe Schepens
This talk was delivered at “Humanae Vitae at 50: Setting the Context”, Pontifical University of St Thomas Aquinas, Rome, 28 Oct 2017
After all the fantastic contributions from previous speakers regarding the brilliance, inspired by the Holy Spirit, of the Encyclical Humanae Vitae, I would like to share with you my experience as a hospital doctor, former head of a surgical department in a hospital with more than 500 beds.
It all began when I was a medical student at the then Catholic University of Louvain (Belgium). When I was taking a second doctorate (in the fifth year of my studies) in 1960, I attended a lecture given by Professor Ferin, a gynaecologist, on what he termed the discovery of the century, namely hormonal contraception. This, according to this professor of gynaecology, would “finally” solve the problem of human overpopulation of the planet and allow women to become mistresses of their own fertility. This was high tribute to the work of Pincus and his experiments with steroid hormones on humans, in this case the young women of Puerto Rico. Some thirty years later, a sad chance led me to spend an evening in the United States with an elderly general practitioner from Puerto Rico, who described in detail the awful fate of these the Puertorican guinea-pigs. He was very happy to be able to recount the story in Spanish, as he still feared to do so in English in view of the risk of repercussions if our conversation, in a small restaurant, was overheard by someone with ill intent.
However, after Professor Ferin’s lecture, I immediately reflected on questions on the matter of the so-called “medical revolution of the century”. Firstly, several professors teaching us in the doctorate had already recommended caution with regard to the importance of the follow-up of patients who had been given steroid hormones because, they said, these products are not without risk and we do not yet know the long-term effects of these medicines, which certainly influence the development of cancer, the integrity of the cardiovascular system, etc. For this reason, they should be administered in serious cases only where there is no other alternative. I also considered it rash to give these high-risk products to women who are not ill, and therefore in good health, to resolve a problem, birth control, which is not even of a medical nature.
Furthermore, and this is a striking detail, similar steroid hormones have been administered to livestock to produce more meat and fatten cows, a practice rightly prohibited in a number of States in view of the risk of indirect transmission of the drug to the meat consumer. What is banned for livestock is recommended for women. It is scandalous! Hence, 8 years before Humanae Vitae, I already found myself, as a medical student, among the objectors to oral contraception, primarily for purely medical reasons. I must add that, given that I was in the third generation of my family in the medical profession and there were at least a dozen doctors, even a professor of medicine, in my immediate family, I discussed the matter with my father, who shared my ideas in this field.
When the Encyclical Humanae Vitae appeared in the Belgian press in 1968, I was a young doctor fulfilling my military service as a medical assessor of prospective recruits at the military selection centre in Brussels. In total we numbered 20 young doctors. At lunchtime, there was immediate lively discussion of the Encyclical. Of the 20 or so doctors present, half were Catholics, but only two of us defended Humanae Vitae. It is enough to say that the mindsets in question, even those of Catholic doctors, had already been seriously distorted with regard to hormonal contraception.
I then sought the opinion of my father-in-law, a Catholic gynaecologist in Holland and a great expert in detection of the causes of conjugal sterility. His answer was: “Everyone is saying that Pope Paul VI has taken a step backwards, but in my opinion he has taken two steps forward, and almost no one realises this”.
I was not even in need of the immense support which is Humanae Vitae in order to challenge the use of steroid hormones to avoid having children, given that the multiple medical risks were known and have been confirmed over the years. Moreover, anyone can read about these risks in the leaflets included in boxes of these hormonal contraceptive pills, and indeed on the internet, hence removing the necessity to buy these high-risk products in order to read about the risks, thereby directly contributing to the fabulous enrichment of the pharmaceutical industry which manufactures them. For full details of the well-known adverse effects of oral and other contraception, I refer you to Dr Antun Lisec’s work, included in note form in my presentation and in my own work, when published. The key fact to be remembered, over and above the fact that contraceptive methods can result in the death of the woman, is that these methods can also be abortive, frequently preventing the human embryo, already an individual distinct from its father and its mother and in fact a human person, from implanting in the wall of the uterus. In addition, contraception renders the woman entirely available to the desires of her husband. But the respect due to the sexual act should be immense, because it is a procreative act, hence an act in which man joins with the Creator in the creation of a new human being.
However, the support I have received from Humanae Vitae is the fact that this Encyclical explains with great clarity the true and ultimate purposes of the human sexual relationship. Unlike in the animal kingdom, in addition to the procreative purpose, the human sexual relationship is intended to keep alive the conjugal love between husband and wife through mutual giving. This is why the total separation of the procreative purpose from the purpose of love between husband and wife is contrary to the mission of man on this planet and hence becomes the source of multiple disorders. This is also typical of a decadent society and, mutandis mutatis, comparable to the practice of gastronomis in the time of ancient Rome. In fact, at that time the Romans entirely separated gastronomy from nutrition, through use of the vomitorium. This enabled them to continue to eat without overloading the stomach. By the same token, the practice of hormonal contraception followed by abortion in the case of error, due either to the method or the user, entirely separates the sexual act from procreation, which is indeed its primary aim as intended by the Creator, in the same way as nutrition is the primary aim of gastronomy. The difference is that abortion is far worse than use of the vomitorium because it deliberately kills a living human being, hence a person, depriving it of the comfort of its parents after birth. It is not I who have said that abortion is in fact an integral part of contraception, but Dr Alan Guttmacher, founder of the medical/scientific division of the IPPF (International Planned Parenthood Federation). He has declared that “there cannot be valid contraception without back-up abortion”. The Guttmacher Institute has also found that “Fifty-four percent of women who have abortions had used a contraceptive method (usually the condom or the pill) during the month they became pregnant and only 8% had never used contraceptives”.
Going back to the evening I spent with the Puertorican doctor, in addition to explaining all kinds of technical details of the experiments conducted by Pincus, he gave me a staggering account of the suffering of thousands of young women subjected to scandalous experiments, comparable to those conducted by Dr Mengele in Auschwitz. Because Pincus required an accurate assessment of the risks, he therefore administered hormonal doses more than a thousand times greater than the present dosage. The results were more than “convincing”, because hundreds of women suffered the complications indicated in the leaflets in the “pill” boxes. I will spare you the details, but death was regularly one of these complications, not to mention lifelong disabilities resulting from cerebrovascular accidents. “Science without conscience is but the ruin of the soul” wrote François Rabelais, a 16th century physician and writer. It was also the ruin of the body for the many women of Puerto Rico, who lost their lives or were left disabled for the rest of their days.
Although practising medicine for many years as head of a surgical department, I have over the years encountered, professionally and otherwise, a significant number of young women suffering from permanent disabilities as a result of a cerebrovascular accident, the cause of which was contraceptive steroid hormones. To render a healthy person disabled as a result of the administration of steroid hormones is the very negation of medicine. “Primum non nocere”, (“first do no harm”) has been a fundamental principle of medicine since ancient times. In addition, the administration of a high-risk product to a woman in good health to solve a problem which, in almost all cases, is non-medical, is also not medicine because the physician is then placing himself at the service of the person, not at the service of the health of the person. This is a veritable return of the surgeon to the profession of barber, a return to medicine as it was before Hippocrates, who lived in the fourth century before Jesus Christ.
This opinion was shared by members of the Directorate of the World Federation of Doctors who respect Human Life, an organisation of which I am Secretary-General, with over 400, 000 members in over 70 countries.
Yet the worst of the perversion consists not so much of the actions of the doctors and the persons in good health who ask them to deviate from the very essence of their profession, which is to cure the sick. The worst of the perversion is the fact that a significant proportion of the clergy, including some bishops and cardinals, have objected to the, albeit clear, teaching of the doctrine of the Church promulgated by Pope Paul VI in his Encyclical Humanae Vitae. Corruptio optimorum pessima (corruption of the best is the worst of all). Decadence has affected the Church as it has Western civilisation. Now is the time to react. Of the least known reactions, I cite that of a clergyman in my own country who lives in a religious community in Syria. Father Daniel Maes of the Order of the Premonstratensions or Norbertines, the same order as that of the famous Father Werenfried van Straaten, the founder of Aid to the Church in Need.
From his Syrian hermitage, Father Daniel Maes wrote about his vision on Humanae Vitae in a work extending to 400 pages, alas to date available only in the Dutch language, entitled “How a Pope is finally right” and subtitled “New perspectives after a half-century of contraception” (Hoe een Paus gelijk kreeg- Nieuwe perspectieven na een halve eeuw contraceptie- Uitgeverij De Blauwe Tijger”). This is a comprehensive work on the truly false road taken by both medicine and society, into which too many of the clergy have unfortunately strayed.
The alternative offered by Humanae Vitae to couples is, finally, the method of natural birth control. The Encyclical rightly upholds the viewpoint of the prohibition of artificial separation of the sexual act from procreation. This does not prohibit sexual acts outside the woman’s fertile period (a maximum of 6-7 days per month), but reasserts the dignity of the woman, who then has a say in the practice of the sexual act.
But the West, in particular decadent Europe, will pay dearly for this. The reason is that contraception deprives it of its future by rendering couples and other adults irresponsible, not only for their bodies (poisoned by steroid hormones), but as a result of the total separation of the sexual act from procreation, thereby transforming it into a mere act of pleasure without responsibility. Indeed, to guarantee a stable population with a normal age pyramid, the generations which leave us must be replaced with new generations to be born. However, all demographers will tell you that, for this to be achieved, it is necessary for all couples to have at least 2.1 children. Yet the European average is only 1.4 and in Mediterranean Europe even ranges from 1.1 to 1.2. We do not notice this so much because the total population of European countries has remained stable or increased slightly. This is due to the higher individual life expectancy of the elderly and, in particular, immigration from Africa and the Middle East.
I leave you to guess what the European population will be in fifty years time.
In conclusion, I would like to extend my gratitude to the various popes who have tackled the matter of conjugal life in Encyclicals and other works, from the 19th century onwards. I think in particular of Paul VI and Saint John Paul II, not forgetting my wife, who has given me fifty years of happiness, among other things thanks to Humanae Vitae, and Evangelium Vitae.
Dr Philippe Schepens
Rome, 28 October 2017
Extracts from the writings of Dr Antun Lisec:
* The intrauterine device (IUD) kills children. While using the IUD, fertilization occurs, but the IUD does not allow the child to get “implanted” in the womb and the child usually dies in the first days of its life. The absence of menstrual bleeding means that the child survived and implanted itself. Abortion is not justified or permissible in such cases either.
The IUD causes a healthy woman to become sick (bleeding, the pain, anaemia, suppuration-purulence in the uterus, in the Fallopian tubes and in the abdomen…).
* The Pill is also the cause of many serious diseases such as breast cancer, cancer of the womb, heart attacks, strokes, phlebitis, embolisms etc. While taking each kind of Pill, ovulation and conception still often occurs. However, the baby usually dies from starvation because the Pill dehydrates the glands and decreases the food supply (glycogen) in the endometrium (the lining of the womb). If, while the mother was on the Pill, missed her period, it is an indication the child survived. Remember, abortion is never allowed.
* While taking Depo-Provera, implants, different post-coital means, etc., fertilization also occurs and these methods automatically kill babies. Jesus said: “Truly, I say to you: whenever you did this to one of the least, of these my brothers, you did it to Me.” (Matthew 25:40). The life of a human being starts at the moment of conception. These tiny newly-conceived babies are the “least” of our brothers and sisters, what we do to them is what we do to Jesus.
* Do not forget that contraception, sterilization, the killing of the unborn children and artificial fertilization when conception takes place without a specific act of conjugal love of his parents (artificial insemination and in vitro fertilization) are mortal sins. It is very rare that children conceived in vitro survive. Most of them are killed or kept alive but frozen in the refrigerators.
Sins are never allowed! Sins are not a solution for any problem, they only bring new problems.
Do not allow and do not participate in early amniocentesis nor in the other prenatal diagnostic procedure which aim at hunting down and killing sick children.
* The Holy Father Pope Pius XI in the Encyclical “Casti Conubii”, in 1930 wrote:
“…56. Since, therefore, openly departing from the uninterrupted Christian tradition some recently have judged it possible solemnly to declare another doctrine regarding this question, the Catholic Church, to whom God has entrusted the defence of the integrity and purity of morals, standing erect in the midst of the moral ruin which surrounds her, in order that she may preserve the chastity of the nuptial union from being defiled by this foul stain, raises her voice in token of her divine ambassadorship and through Our mouth proclaims anew: any use whatsoever of matrimony exercised in such a way that the act is deliberately frustrated in its natural power to generate life is an offense against the law of God and of nature, and those who indulge in such are branded with the guilt of a grave sin.
57. We admonish, therefore priests who hear confessions and others who have the care of souls, in virtue of Our supreme authority and in Our solicitude for the salvation of souls, not to allow the faithful entrusted to them to err regarding this most grave law of God; much more, that they keep themselves immune from such false opinions, in no way conniving in them. If any confessor of pastor of souls, which may God forbid, lead the faithful entrusted to him into these errors, or should at least confirm them by approval or by guilty silence, let him be mindful of the fact that he must render a strict account to God, the Supreme Judge, for the betrayal of his sacred trust, and let him take to himself the words of Christ: ‘They are blind and leaders of the blind: and if the blind lead the blind, both fall into the pit. (Mt 15,14) …’”
* These who produce, distribute and advertise the condom, are guilty because of their help in the performance of different sins, such as fornication, adultery, contraception etc. At the same time, they have been offering a false safety that infection will not happen. It’s confirmed that in spite of the use of the condom the transmission of diseases like AIDS, Human Papyloma Virus causing cancer of the uterus, Chlamydia Trachomatis, Herpes Genitalis, Syphilis, Hepatitis and different other diseases still happens.
* The Pontifical Council for the Family’s Document, The Truth and the Meaning of Human Sexuality, from 1995, says in paragraph 139: “… In this situation, parents must also reject the promotion of so-called “safe sex” or “safer sex”, a dangerous and immoral policy based on the deluded theory that the condom can provide adequate protection against AIDS. Parents must insist on continence outside marriage and fidelity in marriage as the only true and secure education for the prevention of this contagious disease”.
* Let us respect the fact that human sexuality may not be used outside of a marriage blessed by God, which is indissoluble.
When there is a serious and justifiable reason to avoid conception, there is a solution without sin. There are natural methods which requires abstinence during the fertile part of a woman’s cycle (the Billings or Sympto-Thermal methods).
Pray to God to show us what more we can do to protect endangered lives and moral values.