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Archive for September, 2011

Selling Identity

Friday, September 9th, 2011

by Vicki ThornWhile on a field trip today to a bookstore, I got lost in the magazine section. I must admit it was an eye-opening experience as I took the time to look through three teen magazines.All three magazines were publications that have been around for some time. Seventeen caught my eye, its cover promising “823 Fashion & Beauty Ideas” and “The Best Fall Clothes for your Body.” I was stuck by the huge number of ads: Out of the 222 pages, close to 100 were paid advertizing, not counting the sections devoted to fashion items and where to buy them. What a tsunami of stuff that will make you more beautiful, better dressed, more attractive! Teen Vogue also oozed fashions —“386 looks you’ll love,” to be specific. Even Girl’s Life, which aims for a slightly younger audience, had “382 ways to look fab for fall.”According to a 1999 study done by the Kaiser Family Foundation, teens aged 15 to 18 spend an average of 13 minutes per day reading magazines. Media studies show that readers of teen magazines turn to them as a “valued source of advice about their personal lives.” Perhaps most disturbing were the in-depth interviews with 12 and 13-year-old girls who regularly read teen magazines. The interviews revealed that the girls “used the magazines to formulate their concepts of femininity and relied heavily on articles that featured boys’ opinions about how to gain male approval and act in relationships with males.”A few years ago, the American Psychological Association published an insightful article entitled “Driving teen egos—and buying—through ‘branding.’” It was on how “a glut of marketing messages encourages teens to tie brand choices to their personal identity.”According to the APA article, teen girls spend over $9 million on makeup and skin products alone. In 2004, companies marketing to adolescents and kids spent $15 billion to influence over $600 billion’s worth of spending. One can only wonder how much more is being spent now.“Comparing the marketing of today with the marketing of yesteryear is like comparing a BB gun to a smart bomb,” said Susan Linn, Ed.D., of Harvard  Medical School. “It’s enhanced by technology, honed by child psychologists and brought to us by billion(s) of dollars.”She continued, “In the new millennium, marketing executives are insinuating their brands into the fabric of children’s lives. They want – to use industry terms – ‘cradle to grave’ brand loyalty and to ‘own’ children.”Then there are the articles on sex and relationships.One piece grabbed attention with the headlines “Scary Sex Rumors! Deadly shots! Pills that can hurt you! Is everything you’re hearing true? Get the facts right here.” The questions deal with Gardasil, the HPV vaccine; and whether the Plan B “morning after” pill is comparable to having an abortion. (The authors say it isn’t, and go on to tell girls how to get the pill over the counter if they are over 17, or at a Planned Parenthood clinic or doctor’s office if they are younger – all confidentially.) Talking about Pap smears, the article states that girls don’t need the check until age 21, as cervical cancer is extremely rare among teen girls – despite the Center for Disease Control’s advice that Pap smears begin at 21 or within three years of the onset of sexual activity.  If a girl begins to have sex at 16 or 17, 21 does not coincide with the CDC recommendation.The article does suggest going to the gynecologist for STD tests or prescriptions for birth control in order to prevent pregnancy or help with painful periods. However, what I found most troublesome is that the piece went on to advise girls how to get around their shyness of being open to their mothers about sex.“If you are afraid your mom will think you’re having sex, if you ask to go the gyno, just say you have questions about your period or want help for your cramps,” the article suggests. As a mother, I resent a magazine telling my daughter how to get around me.The article continues: “If you’re having sex, you should be on birth control pills (they’re more effective) and use a condom to protect against STDs.” Nowhere does it suggest that girls should be tested by their doctor to see if they have a blood clotting factor that would indicate they should not use the Pill. Nor does it tell girls that if they shouldn’t be on the Pill if they smoke – and according to the CDC, nearly a quarter of teens do smoke.Another article in the “Real Love” section recounted how “I fell in love with my best friend” – a 17 year old’s story of suddenly becoming attracted to her female friend after sneaking a drink from a parent’s supply. Though they kissed, the young woman said, the “love didn’t last.” And yet: “It helped me reveal a part of myself I’d tried to hide. Realizing that I’m bi(sexual) was like opening a door to a new side of me …”And we wonder why there is such confusion amongst our teens.(The views expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the positions of Headline Bistro or the Knights of Columbus.)http://www.headlinebistro.com/en/columnists/thorn/082410.html

New Business: Eggs for Sale

Friday, September 9th, 2011

by Vicki ThornA recent article from The Sunday Times in the United Kingdom caught my eye. The headline read, “IVF doctors to raffle human egg.” The raffle, sponsored by a fertility clinic in London last month, was meant to promote the clinic’s new “baby profiling” service.Notably, the actual treatment would be done in America with eggs from American donors: British law prohibits for-profit payment to egg donors. This means a British woman would receive no more than £250 pounds for her donation – and that egg donors are in short supply.So, off to America, where college campus paper advertisements solicit young, educated women. “$10,000 to $50,000 to become an egg donor!” What a temptation to a struggling college student – it seems like such a noble thing to do for such a lot of money.An article in the Wall Street Journal Health Blog from March 24, 2010 says that, according to guidelines from the American Society of Reproductive Medicine, payments for an ovum donation are not to exceed $10,000. However, the guidelines are simply suggestions at best.In her book “The Baby Business: How Money, Science and Politics Drive the Commerce of Conception,” Debra Spar discusses the business of finding the perfect donor and paying well for that service. She cites a 1999 ad posted in Ivy League campus papers offering $50,000 for the egg of a donor who “had to be at least 5’10,” with an SAT score of 1400 and no family medical problems.” A more recent ad from the same high-end service promised $100,000 “to a Caucasian woman ‘with proven college level athletic ability.’”According to Spar, American firms specializing in egg donation have risen to the “top of the global egg trade” because commercial donation is “illegal in most other industrialized countries.” 30% of one center’s business came from abroad. One wonders why other countries have made it illegal?One program on the West Coast says the following in its ad:Our egg donor clinic has the most beautiful and accomplished donors in the country. Our egg donor center is also known for its extensive database of Superdonors, which includes hundreds of women from many diverse ethnic backgrounds. For over 15 years we have specialized in matching couples with exquisite young women whose motivations are heartfelt.”How could someone resist the description, either as someone looking for an egg donor or as a woman seeking to donate? Most certainly I’d be flattered to be considered an exquisite young woman with heartfelt motivations. The site is in English, Italian, French, Spanish and Chinese. There are lovely photos of possible donors to be seen along with descriptions of aptitudes and attributes.Additionally, this center also tells the donor women that besides the financial compensation, they deserve “some instant gratification” and lists the gifts that they may receive, including an iPod Nano, video camera, Starbucks card, flowers, silver necklace and the list goes on. All the testimonial letters are glowing, with the donors say how much they like the gifts.Clearly there is money to be made here! If the donor is paid this much, what are the others involved in this process making?One site lays out the costs to egg recepients this way:• Agency fee: $3500• Donor fee: $5000-$7500• Legal fees: up to $1200• Short-term insurance: $400• Psychological screening: $300-$800• Medical screening: $2000-$3000• Donor medications: $2500-$3000• And additionally, hotel, travel and per diem costs if the donor isn’t local.Clearly, lots of people are benefiting financially for this event. And clearly, those seeking to be parents are paying dearly for the opportunity.There is a book called “The Confessions of a Serial Egg Donor” by Julia Derek, who donated 12 times over ten years for a total of $50,000. A Newsweek  article reviews Derek’s observations on the physical risks to donors – something rarely thought of by a young undergraduate grabbed by an advertisement in her campus paper. From the article:Donors not only make a lengthy time commitment – difficult enough when juggling classes and surgery – but may also face medical complications. Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome occurs in one percent of all donation cases and can cause a life-threatening build-up of fluid around the heart and lungs. Donors also risk infection and adverse reactions to the anesthesia. Other may experience significant discomfort.“The majority of egg donors can breeze through this,” said Dr. Mark V. Sauer, director of the Center for Women’s Reproductive Care and professor at the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons. “But some people are going to have these complications and not everybody, especially younger women, thinks of this. A lot of programs don’t define who pays the bills if something goes wrong.”The state of New York publishes a booklet entitled “Thinking of Becoming an Egg Donor?” which lays out the possible health risks in detail: The donor’s future fertility can be compromised. There can be internal damage done to organs during ovum retrieval. There is a chance of infection. The list goes on.Then there is the issue of what really happens to the eggs: They may be discarded or used for research, they may go to more than one recipient, or the ones left over may be frozen and never used again. There is no guarantee that your ovum will go to one family and result in a baby. In cases where multiple pregnancies result, the doctor and family may choose “fetal reduction,” “where a lethal chemical is injected into one or more fetuses to lower the number that continue to develop and decrease the risk that the entire pregnancy will be lost or end prematurely.”Once again, something that seems to be wonderful and altruistic has many faces. In a world where infertility is increasing, more and more businesses will step into the breach in the guise of compassionate care. More young women will be enticed by a situation that seems to be a win-win, only to discover that it is not what they expected and can in fact radically change their life forever. Donor beware!pastedGraphic.pdf(The views expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the positions of Headline Bistro or the Knights of Columbus.)http://www.headlinebistro.com/en/columnists/thorn/041410.html

Male Contraceptive Pills – Coming to a Pharmacy Near You?

Friday, September 9th, 2011

What price will men be willing to pay for sex without consequences?by Gerard M. Nadal, Ph.D.In the treacherous cross-currents of gender politics, scientific investigation, and pharmaceutics, far too many human beings have succumbed to the roiling and unforgiving forces that are driven by ideology and greed. Countless millions have paid with their health, and many with their lives. A new tributary has opened recently into this swirling vortex, as news comes from the Wall Street Journal that it is man’s turn to consume chemical contraceptives, now in development. (See the story here).Of the several methods being reported, of most concern is one under development at Columbia University involving a chemical compound that blocks Vitamin A, which is essential in the production of sperm. Presumably, this is done by the chemical compound binding to the sites in a cell that are responsible for binding Vitamin A.Think of Vitamin A as a key that fits into a certain lock within the cell, and then turns on a certain biochemical pathway, much the same as the car key fits the lock on the ignition system. Now imagine someone getting a key that roughly fits into the ignition lock, but can’t turn on the engine, and crazy-gluing it in place. That’s the basic idea here.To the layperson, it seems simple and elegant. Why not, if it’s so simple? Of course, the answer is that nothing dealing with the human body is ever so simple.In truth, there are receptors for Vitamin A all over the body, and we are still discovering them. These receptors turn on different functions in different cells. Jamming the lock in one jams the lock in all, and therein lies the danger.As word comes out about this male contraceptive, a paper in the prestigious Journal of Biological Chemistry (which should be viewed as a cautionary work) was named “Paper of the Week,” which goes to little more than 50 papers of the 6,600 papers published by the journal annually. In this paper a team from the Van Andel Research Institute discuss the importance of a newly identified Vitamin A receptor, TR4:“Our study found that Vitamin A itself is active for activating nuclear receptor TR4,” said VARI Research Scientist Edward Zhou, Ph.D. “Because TR4 plays roles in sperm cell production, lipid and lipoprotein regulation, the development of the central nervous system, and the regulation of hemoglobin production in the embryo, we can imagine that Vitamin A may play more important roles in human physiology than was previously believed.”An excellent Science Daily review of the paper may be found here.The understated aspect in that comment was the observation that Vitamin A may play a more important role in human physiology than previously believed. This is something that the layperson may not fully grasp when viewing the subject through the prism of gender politics and whose turn it is to bear the burden of contraception. The truth is that for all that we know in science and medicine, we know comparatively little, that’s why a single journal can publish over 6,600 pieces of scientific research per year.It is recklessly naïve to suppose that we can block Vitamin A receptors in the pursuit of halting sperm production, and think that we can do so without catastrophic events elsewhere. We know that Vitamin A is essential for vision, especially night vision. It is also essential for proper immune system function. Now comes word that Vitamin A plays a role in nervous system development.This is no small matter. Contrary to a century of neurological dogma; that we are born with all of the neurons we will ever have, research in the last decade has shown that we actually produce new neuron in the frontal lobes of the brain where personality and memory centers reside. What role Vitamin A plays in all of this is largely unresearched and unknown. The same goes for the ability of damaged nerves to regenerate in the peripheral nervous system.So, now it’s the men’s turn. The catastrophic side-effects of the birth control pill, including stroke and cancer has taught us nothing in fifty-one years. Gender politics looks at men and women solely through the prism of dominance and control, and not through the eyes of love and self-sacrifice. Rather than looking at the catastrophe that has engulfed women this past half-century, realizing that nature cannot be so easily manipulated, and backing away from that approach, we now expect men to subject their bodies to peril.It is an anthropology utterly devoid of love or reason.As more and more pharmaceutical companies back away from this approach to blocking vitamin A, we may be assured that the radical feminist voices will play the victim card, demanding that men take their turn. And the cries will become ever more strident.Not only should men run in terror from male chemical contraception, but we as men should be equally abhorrent of female chemical contraception. No real man, understanding the dangers of chemical contraception, would ever find it acceptable that his wife/partner consume poison in the name of sex without consequences. The trail of women cancer victims, of women stroke victims stands as a howling rebuke to such a fiction.Simply stated, there is no safe way to chemically, or mechanically contracept. There will always be the unknown, long-term sequellae that do not manifest during clinical trials. All we have is a series of trade-offs. Part of what’s sacrificed in that trade-off package is self-love, self-respect, love and respect of the other, and nothing less than our intrinsic human dignity. No orgasm is worth the trade.Dr. Nadal holds a Ph.D. in molecular microbiology. In addition to teaching for 16 years, he’s spent seven years working with homeless teens at Covenant House in Times Square, New York. He is currently pursuing an M.A. in theology through Franciscan University of Steubenville and blogs athttp://gerardnadal.com.pastedGraphic.pdfThe views expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the positions of Headline Bistro or the Knights of Columbus.http://www.headlinebistro.com/en/columnists/nadal/062211.html

Human Papillomavirus Infection-linked Cancers in Men

Friday, September 9th, 2011

By: “The Medical Institute” in Austin, TX.Human Papillomavirus (HPV) infection is the most common sexually transmitted infection (STI) – about 6.2 million people are infected every year in the United States . And since HPV infection often shows no symptoms, these infections are not caught in many men and women.1 To prevent complications of HPV infection, routine Pap tests for women are recommended to detect cervical changes caused by HPV infection. However, there are no standardized tests for HPV in men.  As a result of the lack of screening and testing guidelines, men may act as silent carriers of HPV infection.2 HPV most commonly causes genital warts, but some strains of the virus can cause cancer. The burden of HPV-related cancers is affecting not only women, but also men. HPV is known to cause cervical cancer in women and penile and anal cancers in men. Several studies have identified certain HPV types as cancer-causing strains in men.Few studies have examined the prevalence of HPV infection in men and risk factors associated with it. A recent study reported that 50% of men ages 18 to 70 years are infected with HPV. The study involved 1,159 men from the United States , Brazil and Mexico and reported that the frequency of a new genital HPV infection was 38.4 per 1,000 person months (95% CI 34.3-43.0). Furthermore, having more than one lifetime sexual partner increased the chance of a cancer-causing HPV infection 2.4 times.HPV is known to cause penile and anal cancers in men; commonly associated with HPV 16 and 18. About 40% of penile cancers are caused by HPV. Penile cancer is less prevalent than HPV-associated anal cancer, which affects both men and women.4 Condoms may offer some risk reduction for penile cancers. But, areas not covered by condoms such as the perineal/perianal site in men are still at risk of infection even if condoms are used every time.However, new research reveals the virus also causes cancers of the oral cavity, head and neck. In fact, cancers associated with HPV are on the rise, especially those of the tonsils and base of the tongue.5Cancers of the head and neck caused by HPV are not a new occurrence. The virus has been linked to oral cancer since 1983, when an association between the two was first reported.5 The National Cancer Institute estimates about 64% of cancers of the oral cavity, head and neck in the U.S. are caused by HPV. In the United States about 37,000 people were diagnosed with oral cancer in 2010. HPV surpasses alcohol and tobacco use as the leading cause of oral and throat cancers.6 But what exactly is causing the surge in oral HPV infections? The most common mode of transmission is oral sex. Many people, especially teens, believe oral sex has no consequences. Research reports that the more oral sex partners a person has, the higher their risk of infection. A person who has performed oral sex on six or more partners has an eight-fold increased risk for oral cancers caused by HPV as compared to someone who has never performed oral sex.7 The fact is that “oral sex” is sex and carries a risk of contracting STIs.Although the link between oral cancer and HPV is not a new one, the rising number of cases has become a recent problem. A Swedish study reported that HPV-positive tumors increased from 23% in the 1970s to 57% in the 1990s. By 2005, this number had increased to 93%.3 HPV-16 is the strain linked to more than 90% of HPV-related cancers of the head and neck. Only about 4% of men are infected with this strain,2 but other cancer causing strains of the virus do exist.So what can be done to prevent HPV infection and their consequences in men? Vaccination may provide partial protection. Vaccines such as Gardasil and Cervarix are strongly recommended for females ages 9-26 years. Men face the same risk of infection as women, and may unknowingly act as carriers of the virus and continue to spread it. The prevalence of HPV-related cancers is even more alarming when we consider that 50% of men have an HPV infection.2 Recently, the HPV vaccine has been approved for young males aged 9 to 26 years as well, although routine vaccination is not yet recommended.8 Vaccinating both men and women can be a way to combat the spread of HPV and HPV-related cancers, but it does not solve the problem.Since neither condoms nor vaccines can truly protect against HPV infection, men and women need to avoid risky sexual behaviors, including oral sex, to avoid HPV infection. Abstinence outside a committed long term relationship is the only way to protect oneself completely (emphasis added).References:1 Dunne EF, Nielson CM, Stone KM, Markowitz LE, Giuliano AR. Prevalence of HPV Infection among Men: A Systematic Review of the Literature. J Infect Dis. 2006; 194 (8):1044-1057.2 Vardas E, Giuliano AR, Goldstone S, et al. External Genital Human Papillomavirus Prevalence and Associated Factors Among Heterosexual Men on 5 Continents. J Infect Dis. 2011;203:58-65.6 D’Souza G, Kreimer AR, Viscidi R, et al. Case-Control Study of Human Papillomavirus and Oropharyngeal Cancer. New England Journal of Medicine. 2007:1944–1956.7 D’Souza G, Agrawal Y, Halpern J, Bodison S, Gillison ML. Oral sexual behaviors associated with prevalent oral human papillomavirus infection. J Infect Dis 2009;199:1263–1269.8 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). FDA licensure of quadrivalent human papillomavirus vaccine (HPV4, Gardasil) for use in males and guidance from the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP).MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2010 May 28;59(20):630-2.Fast Fact of the Month:Fast Fact of the MonthUntreated gonorrhea and chlamydia can result in pelvic inflammatory disease in women, a condition that can cause infertility. Each year, STDs cause at least 24,000 women in the U.S. to become infertile. Check your risk for STDs at www.stdwizard.org. Reference:CDC. 2009 Sexually Transmitted Diseases Surveillance. Trends in Sexually Transmitted Diseases in the United States: 2009 National Data for Gonorrhea, Chlamydia and Syphilis. Available online at: http://www.cdc.gov/std/stats09/trends.htm.

Gardasil Continues to Kill and Maim

Friday, September 9th, 2011

The Gardasil vaccine that is supposed to protect women from cervical cancer continues to ratchet up the deaths among young women. Judicial Watch, the watchdog organization released a special report in 2008 detailing almost 9,000 adverse events following reception of the vaccine including 18 deaths between 2006 and 2008. Other serious responses include Grand Mal seizures, coma, paralysis, outbreaks of warts, auto-immune diseases, etc. The Judicial Watch report outlines problems with the FDA procedures including the fact that Merck used an aluminum-based placebo in the trial that may have tainted the results.Spain removed Gardasil from the market in 2009 after two girls were hospitalized with serious reactions within hours of receiving the shot. Unfortunately, the suspension was related only to the involved batch of vaccine.In 2010 India suspended its program after 4 girls in a group of only 120 died following reception of the vaccine.Even a doctor who helped get the vaccine approved, Diane Harper, has criticized Merck’s aggressive program to administer it to children as young as eleven. In the same article, another doctor, Scott Rahner married to a physician, told CBS what happened to his daughter after she received the vaccine. “My daughter went from a varsity lacrosse player at Choate to a chronically ill, steroid-dependent patient with autoimmune myofasciitis. I’ve had to ask myself why I let my eldest of three daughters get an unproven vaccine against a few strains of a nonlethal virus that can be dealt with in more effective ways.”This is the story of big pharma these days. Vaccines like Gardasil are rushed to market with FDA approval, often gained through the intervention of those connected to pharmaceutical firms. Gardasil continues to result in serious complications including death. Since its approval 53 deaths have occurred following Gardasil vaccination. In some cases the CDC downplays the deaths as coincidence or unconfirmed because the reporting entity (sometimes Merck) sends in reports that don’t contain enough information to follow up. Clearly, however, death and serious reaction is the result for some recipients. That two U.S. governors tried to make this vaccine mandatory for all teenage girls is chilling. Just ask the mothers of girls who died or were seriously injured after receiving Gardasil.Think about it. If Ford had the same record with its cars, wouldn’t we see a massive recall?For more information visit the National Vaccination Information Centerhttp://lesfemmes-thetruth.blogspot.com/2010/10/gardasil-continues-to-kill-and-maim.html

Contraceptive Contradictions

Friday, September 9th, 2011

FATHER TADEUSZ PACHOLCZYKThe Catholic Church remains almost a lone voice in our age defending the view that contraceptive sexual activity in marriage is wrong.Many young Catholic couples either are not aware of this teaching, or simply choose to ignore it.When asked, few can explain the reasons behind it. Some venture to say that the Church opposes sex in general, and pleasure in particular. Others think that the Church wants everybody to have as many kids as possible. Some are even more cynical, and suggest that repressed, gray-haired celibates enjoy being able to stick their intrusive noses into people’s bedrooms.The reasons behind the Church’s position on contraception, however, are actually a far cry from any of these old clichés. Among the deeper reasons behind the teaching, the Church stresses especially how contraception forces us to speak a false and contradictory language to our spouse through our body and our sexuality.Because sex is a deeply interpersonal form of communication, we can consider some related examples of personal communication to see how the language of our own bodies is violated whenever we engage in contraceptive sex.Would it be normal, for example, for a wife to insert earplugs, while trying to listen attentively to, or carry on a conversation with her husband? The earplugs bespeak the view that, “I don’t really want to hear you and be with you,” and they disrupt the couple’s mutual communication.If a woman inserts a cervical diaphragm or a vaginal sponge while having intercourse, she is likewise employing a language that says she doesn’t really want to communicate openly and fully with her husband. She wants to keep part of who he is at a distance, at arm’s length; that is to say, she shuns his fertility and fruitfulness. In that moment, she is rejecting the paternal aspect of his masculinity, and refusing to share with him the deep maternal meaning of her femininity.We can further inquire whether it would it be normal to surgically excise healthy vocal cords, and then try to carry on a conversation with our spouse. Opting for a vasectomy and then pursuing sex involves a similar contradictory language of the body. When a husband puts on a condom during intercourse, he disrupts that intimate communication that is written right into the language of his body, much as if he had wrapped his mouth in cellophane before trying to have a verbal conversation with his wife. As Professor Bill May puts it,A person does not put on gloves to touch a beloved one tenderly, unless one thinks that some disease may be communicated. But is pregnancy a disease? And is not the use of condoms, diaphragms, spermicidal jellies, and the like similar to putting on gloves? Do husband and wife really become ‘one flesh’ if they must arm themselves with protective gear before ‘giving’ themselves to one another genitally?The problem here is clear: marital sexuality is actually all about loving someone totally and unreservedly, giving and receiving totally, and not holding back who we are for ourselves. It is a unique language of total self-giving.Contraception, on the other hand, allows marital sexuality to devolve into a kind of mutual masturbation where each pursues erotic satisfaction apart from the total gift of self, and apart from any openness to life. Because of contraception, marital sexual activity slips into a subtle mode of mutual exploitation – a lifeless, self-focused, needs-centered apparatus.Malcolm Muggeridge, the famous BBC correspondent who converted to Catholicism late in life, instinctively appreciated how the Church was resisting this trivializing of the gift of sex by its strong stance against contraception:It was the Catholic Church’s firm stand against contraception and abortion which finally made me decide to become a Catholic . . . As the Romans treated eating as an end in itself, making themselves sick in a vomitorium so as to enable them to return to the table and stuff themselves with more delicacies, so people now end up in a sort of sexual vomitorium. The Church’s stand is absolutely correct. It is to its eternal honor that it opposed contraception, even if the opposition failed. I think, historically, people will say it was a very gallant effort to prevent a moral disaster. The idea of serially eating and purging, in order to be able to eat and purge yet more, is a striking example of misusing our body in its most integral design. The one who dines in this way is seeking in a sense both to eat and not eat at the same time. Objectively speaking, he is engaging in damaging and contradictory behavior, violating the inner order and meaning of his own body, and cheapening the basic and quintessential human activity of eating. This destructive behavior crosses a real moral line insofar as a person freely and knowingly chooses to do it.Contraception involves this same sort of destructive and contradictory behavior. Unlike the case of the vomitorium, however, sex is an inherently relational activity involving two people. For that reason, the damage done by engaging in contraceptive sex as a couple will extend beyond the fabric of their individual persons and trigger damage at the heart of that delicate relationship which is their marriage.The choice to use a condom during sexual intimacy speaks the same contradictory language of the vomitorium: the language of trying to have sex, but not really have it; of trying to do it, without really doing it. One is militating directly against the sexual act itself, violating its inner order and harmony by actively flustering its obvious life-giving designs. Contraception, thus, always involves an objectively contradictory language, namely, that of not giving oneself totally to the other in the face of that innate language of sex which calls for a complete self-giving.The reasons behind the Church’s teaching thus run deep and flow from profound considerations regarding the integral design of human sexuality. Pope John Paul II put it well when he stressed how couples who use contraception in their marriage presume to, “act as ‘arbiters’ of the divine plan and they ‘manipulate’ and degrade human sexuality and with it themselves and their married partner by altering its value of ‘total’ self-giving.”pastedGraphic.pdf   ACKNOWLEDGEMENT Father Tadeusz Pacholczyk, Ph.D. “Contraceptive Contradictions.” Making Sense Out of Bioethics (July, 2007).Father Tad Pacholczyk, Ph.D. writes a monthly column, Making Sense Out of Bioethics, which appears in various diocesan newspapers across the country. This article is reprinted with permission of the author, Rev. Tadeusz Pacholczyk, Ph.D.The National Catholic Bioethics Center (NCBC) has a long history of addressing ethical issues in the life sciences and medicine. Established in 1972, the Center is engaged in education, research, consultation, and publishing to promote and safeguard the dignity of the human person in health care and the life sciences. The Center is unique among bioethics organizations in that its message derives from the official teaching of the Catholic Church: drawing on the unique Catholic moral tradition that acknowledges the unity of faith and reason and builds on the solid foundation of natural law. The Center publishes two journals (Ethics & Medics and The National Catholic Bioethics Quarterly) and at least one book annually on issues such as physician-assisted suicide, abortion, cloning, and embryonic stem cell research. Educational programs include the National Catholic Certification Program in Health Care Ethics and a variety of seminars and other events.Inspired by the harmony of faith and reason, the Quarterly unites faith in Christ to reasoned and rigorous reflection upon the findings of the empirical and experimental sciences. While the Quarterly is committed to publishing material that is consonant with the magisterium of the Catholic Church, it remains open to other faiths and to secular viewpoints in the spirit of informed dialogue.THE AUTHORFather Tadeusz Pacholczyk earned a Ph.D. in Neuroscience from Yale University. Father Tad did post-doctoral research at Massachusetts General Hospital/ Harvard Medical School. He subsequently studied in Rome where he did advanced studies in theology and in bioethics. He is a priest of the diocese of Fall River, MA, and serves as the Director of Education at The National Catholic Bioethics Center in Philadelphia. Father Tadeusz Pacholczyk is a member of the advisory board of the Catholic Education Resource Center.Copyright © 2011 Rev. Tadeusz Pacholczyk, Ph.D.

Condoms and Contraceptives: Are They Effective?

Friday, September 9th, 2011

Contraceptives have been touted as the optimal protection against unintended pregnancies. Some methods of contraception, especially barrier methods such as the male condom, have also been promoted as a protective device against sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Unfortunately, because contraceptives (hormonal or barrier) are not 100% effective, they cannot provide absolute protection against either pregnancy or STIs.Condom effectiveness is the reduction in pregnancy or disease that is attributable to the use of male condoms. For example, the estimated risk reduction offered by consistent condom use for human papillomavirus (HPV) infection is only at best 70%,1 and for HIV, 80%.2 Risk reduction estimates for the more common STIs, gonorrhea and chlamydia, are even lower – at 50%.3-5 Several studies show that condoms can partially reduce the risk of most STIs and pregnancy if used each and every time, but they cannot altogether eliminate the risk of STIs and pregnancy.5,6Even with 100% use, condoms do not completely eliminate the risk of STIs or pregnancy. Furthermore, inconsistent use appears to be the common practice among condom users, especially adolescents. Reported consistent condom use by adolescent females is only about 50%8,9 and by adolescent males, 63%.8 Very few individuals manage to continue consistent and correct use for any period of time. Even in couples in which one partner is known to be infected with HIV, consistent use is reported by only about half.10Besides consistent use, effectiveness rates of condoms also depend on correct use, i.e., user and method failure. Condom slippage and breakage rates range from 1-6%.5-7 In a study that evaluated method failure (failures over which the user has no control), about 2 in 10 men reported their condom had broken or slipped off during use.11Other available methods of contraception also show less than perfect effectiveness for pregnancy prevention and offer limited risk reduction for STIs. Cervical cap, that is  inserted as a mechanical barrier to sperm, has a failure rate in the range of 16%-32%.12 About one in five women who use the female condom become pregnant in the first year of use.12 The typical use failure rate for the diaphragm is 16%,12 and for spermicides, 29%.12  A common spermicide, Nonoxynol-9 may even increase the risk of HIV transmission in women.12 About 8% of women become pregnant in the first year while on the pill.13 Teens are however, far more likely to get pregnant while using any contraceptive method; with a 25% greater risk of pregnancy than in adult women.14 Eleven percent of women using emergency contraception (Plan B) become pregnant in the first year of use.15These data reinforce the fact that absolute protection from condoms and contraceptives against pregnancy and STIs is a myth. Risk avoidance (abstaining from sexual intercourse) until in a long term mutually monogamous relationship with an uninfected partner still remains the only 100% effective means of eliminating the risk of STIs and pregnancy.References:1. Winer RL, Hughes JP, Feng Q et al. Condom use and the risk of genital human papillomavirus infection in young women. N Engl J Med. 2006; 354(25):2645-2654.2. Weller SC, Davis-Beaty K. Condom effectiveness in reducing heterosexual HIV transmission. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2007, Issue 4. Art. No.: CD003255.3. Ahmed S, Lutalo T, Wawer M, et al. HIV incidence and sexually transmitted disease prevalence associated with condom use: a population study in Rakai, Uganda. AIDS. 2001; 15(16):2171-2179.4. Warner L, Stone KM, Macaluso M, Buehler JW, Austin HD. Condom use and risk of gonorrhea and chlamydia: A systematic review of design and measurement factors assessed in epidemiologic studies. Sex Transm Dis 2006; 33(1):36-51.5. National Institutes of Health. Workshop Summary: Scientific Evidence on Condom Effectiveness for Sexually Transmitted Disease Prevention. Bethesda, MD: National Institutes of Health, US Dept of Health and Human Services; 2001. Available at: http://www.niaid.nih.gov/about/organization/dmid/Documents/condomreport.pdf. Accessed May 18, 2011.6. Steiner MJ, Dominik R, Rountree RW, Nanda K, Dorflinger LJ. Contraceptive effectiveness of a polyurethane condom and a latex condom: a randomized controlled trial. Obstet Gynecol. 2003; 101(3):539-547.7. Warner L, Steiner MJ. Male condoms. In: Hatcher RA, Trussell J, Nelson AL, Cates W, Jr., Stewart FH, Kowal D, eds. Contraceptive Technology. New York, NY: Ardent Media, Inc; 2007:297-316.8. Crosby RA, DiClemente RJ, Wingood GM, Lang D, Harrington KF. Value of consistent condom use: A study of sexually transmitted disease prevention among African American adolescent females. Am J Public Health. 2003; 93(6):901-902.9. Manlove J, Ryan S, Franzetta K. Contraceptive use and consistency in U.S teenagers’ most recent sexual relationships. Perspect Sex Rep Health. 2004; 36(6):265–275.10. Buchacz K, van der Straten A, Saul J, Shiboski SC, Gomez CA, Padian N. Sociodemographic, behavioral, and clinical correlates of inconsistent condom use in HIV-serodiscordant heterosexual couples. J Acquir Immune Defic Syndr. 2001; 28:289–297.11. Crosby R, Yarber WL, Sanders SA, Graham CA, Arno JN. Slips, breaks and ‘falls’: condom errors and problems reported by men attending an STD clinic. Int J STD AIDS. 2008; 19:90–93.12. Cates W, Raymond EG. Vaginal Barriers and Spermicides. In: Hatcher RA, Trussell J, Stewart F, et al, eds. Contraceptive Technology. 19th rev. ed. New York, NY: Ardent Media; 2007:317-335.13. Nelson AL.. Combined Oral Contraceptives. In:Hatcher RA, Trussell J, Stewart F, et al, eds. Contraceptive Technology. 19th rev. ed. New York, NY: Ardent Media; 2007:193-270.14. Blanc AK, Tsui AO, Croft TN, Trevitt JL. Patterns and trends in adolescents’ contraceptive use and discontinuation in developing countries and comparisons with adult women. Int Perspect Sex Reprod Health 2009; 35(2):63-71.15. Stewart F, Trussell J, Van Look PFA. Emergency contraception. In: Hatcher RA, Trussell J, Stewart F, et al, eds. Contraceptive Technology. 19th rev. ed. New York, NY: Ardent Media; 2007:87-116.Fast Fact of the Month:The two most commonly reported infectious diseases in the United States are chlamydia and gonorrhea. In 2009 alone, more than 1.5 million total cases of chlamydia and gonorrhea were reported to the CDC. Females aged 15 to 24 years remain the worst hit demographic for both diseases.1Reference:Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Sexually Transmitted Disease Surveillance, 2009. Atlanta, GA: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; 2010. Available at http://www.cdc.gov/std/stats09/surv2009-Complete.pdf . Accessed: 19 May 2011

Another Health Care Concern

Friday, September 9th, 2011

by Vicki ThornI think we have to include another awareness in our thinking on health care. I have heard little discussion of euthanasia and yet, when we begin to rethink health care coverage and the costs, this issue is going to be front and center in decisions.The Boomers are aging! According to an old U.S. Census statistic, the estimated number of baby boomers in July 2005 was 78.2 million. 7,918 people were turning 60 each day in 2006, approximately 330 per hour. The projection is that there will be 57.8 million Baby Boomers aged 66-84 living in 2030, with 54.9 percent being female.As American society transitions through our newly minted health care system overhaul, how will this demographics challenge affect our ability to provide medical care?After all, it’s clear that this topic of the march of the Baby Boomers into old age has been on people’s minds for a while. Back in 1984, then-Governor Richard Lamm of Colorado said that elderly, terminally ill patients have a “duty to die and get out of the way” instead of have their lives prolonged by artificial means.“Let the other society, our kids, build a reasonable life,” he had told a meeting of the Colorado Health Lawyers Association.According to a Rand report four years ago, Americans’ life span has nearly doubled over the last century, from barely 49 years in 1900 to nearly 80 years in 2000. The implications? “Americans today can expect longer and healthier lives, but most of them will spend their last few years living with disabilities or chronic illnesses.”The report continued, “These changes are straining the U.S. health care system, which did not develop in the context of needing to serve large numbers of chronically ill and disabled individuals.”The same year as the Rand report, a USA Today article reported that over a quarter of Medicare’s annual $327 billion budget was going to care for patients in their final year of life.The article continued, “While not the major factor driving health care spending, costs involved in sustaining patients in their final days are likely to get a closer look by both Medicare and private insurers as health costs continue to spiral and the population ages.”Looking forward, who will make the judgement calls about what consitutes care for the elderly  especially those with dementia, diabetes, kidney disease or other debilitating diseases? Will families have a say? Or will it all be about “cost-benefit analysis” based on the individual’s “quality of life”?What about children who are born prematurely or with disabilities that slip through the net of prenatal testing, or who develop a problem shortly after birth? Their care is considerable and costly. Addressing such a scenario, Princeton’s utilitarian ethicist Peter Singer takes the “quality of  life” argument to the extreme, as he suggests euthanizing disabled infants not only to relieve their suffering, but also their parents’.“The difference between killing disabled and normal infants lies not in any supposed right to life that the latter has and the former lacks, but in other considerations about killing, Singer wrote in Practical Ethics. “Birth abnormalities vary, of course. Some are trivial and have little effect on the child or its parents; but others turn the normally joyful event of birth into a threat to the happiness of the parents, and any other children they may have.”“Parents may, with good reason, regret that a disabled child was ever born,” he concluded. “In that event the effect that the death of the child will have on its parents can be a reason for, rather than against killing.”You need only search the internet briefly to find more recent discussions of the economic cost of treating the most vulnerable in our hospitals. A January article from Politics Daily began, “Should the U.S. continue to spend ‘whatever it takes’ to help a premature infant survive? Is it cost-effective to give a 99-year-old woman a pacemaker? Answering these questions is not easy, as one person’s wasteful expenses are another person’s essential expenses.”It continued with an analysis of premature birthrates in America – and their cost to the health care system:How much does it cost to care for those half-million premature babies born each year in the United States? Business Week reported the National Academy of Sciences’ calculation: about $26 billion.What is the economic benefit? That’s difficult to say, but in a study published a decade ago, economists David Cutler and Ellen Meara estimated that technological advances added 12 years in life expectancy for each low-birth-weight baby. Thus, although neonatal technology is expensive, the authors calculated that the rate of return in these cases exceeds 500 percent. (The study excluded extremely low-birth-weight infants.)The value of the human person may soon carry a price tag!In the age of health care reform, we are going to be faced with questions that we never anticipated having to deal with. Who is qualified to determine which lives have value and which do not? We must remain vigilant and involved in the protection of all life … life of the unborn, life of the newly born and life of those who are frail and elderly.pastedGraphic.pdf(The views expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the positions of Headline Bistro or the Knights of Columbus.)http://www.headlinebistro.com/en/columnists/thorn/032310.html

Who Am I, and Who Exactly Are You? A New Lexicon for the Family

Friday, September 9th, 2011

by Vicki ThornOnce upon a time, for eons and eons around the world, babies were conceived by two people through sexual intimacy, who in most cases were married to and in love with each other.Babies came in to a family with grandmas and grandpas, aunts and uncles, cousins, brothers and sisters, along with a mother and a father. Most of the time, these people were all genetically related. The exception to this was when a child was orphaned or abandoned and in the old times, often raised by extended family members. Cinderella reminds us that there were sometimes step relationships. Others were placed for adoption, and sometimes the adoptee was able to find the birth family. Overall, it was taken for granted that the child was conceived naturally.In the really old days, we knew about 450 people in our lifetime. They lived in our community and we knew who was related to whom! Everyone knew what the words meant and what the relationships were.There seems to be an inherent need to know who we are and how we fit into our families. Artificial Reproductive Technology (ART) has changed all of that. This new means of reproduction, which separates reproduction from love and sexual intercourse, has led to a need for a new vocabulary of relationship.Today we have stepped over the edge into a Brave New World. We have “intended mothers” (the woman who will actually raise the child); “genetic mothers,” or “choice mothers” (the woman who donates her ovum to another woman) and “surrogate mothers” (the woman who carries the baby in her body and then surrenders it to another woman).We have “donor fathers” (sperm donors who are usually unknown other than by a number and a description at the sperm bank) and “birth others” (those who are somehow involved but might not be the genetic parents or who could also be an ovum donor or sperm donor).What do we call the half siblings of those conceived by a donor donation – either insemination or ovum donation, and in some cases both? How do we define who those people are to us? They are biological relatives but do not fit into our traditional family system.Why is this problematic? Let me address just one level. It has been discovered that everyone in the world carries exclusively their mothers’ mitochondria. (In this case, “mother” would be defined as the ovum donor.) Mitochondria are the energy bodies contained in the cells, and in his book “The Seven Daughters of Eve,” Brian Sykes discusses this phenomena. With his research and now through an ongoing National Geographic study called the Genographic Project, we can discover the lineage of our maternal line, and it is also possible for men to explore their Y lineage. Sykes lays out this research in “Adam’s Curse: A Future without Men.”As I read this research something made sense to me. I could never appreciate the section in Scripture of who begat who begat who. I mean, really, who cares? But after reading this research I realized that God cares – He made us to have this continuity of connection. And despite the anonymity of artificial reproductive technology, we’re hardwired to seek it, too.There are a plethora of web sites where those involved in artificial reproduction are speaking up. What they are saying is unsettling. One blog is called “Confessions of a Cryokid,” a reference to the cryopreservation process of freezing eggs and sperm for future use via in vitro fertilization.“Cryokid” writes the following as an introduction to the blog site: “What happens when artificially created bundles of joy begin to speak for themselves? Revolt! I am the product of an anonymous sperm donor and now that I’m an adult, I’m searching for answers and I am speaking out.”These young adults are looking for their fathers and siblings. They are searching for who they are.Wendy Kramer, the mother of a donor-conceived son, established the Donor Sibling Registry to help these searchers find their family members. Her son Ryan has discovered that he has nine half siblings. One member of the registry has found 65 half siblings.In 2005, a New York Times article delved into this whole new world of “family” reunions. Some of the registrants on Kramer’s site say that they call their biological father “donor” as a way to differentiate the social function of a father from the biological one. Women who have used the same donor also seek each other out on the registry because they “feel bonded by the half-blood relations of their children, and perhaps a vaguely biological urge that led them all to choose” the same donor. They seem “eager to create a patchwork family for themselves and their children.” But who are these people to each other, really?The need for a new set of terms continues. There is a blog of a “Dad to Donor Insemination Kids.” These are referred to as DI kids. There is a group calling themselves PCVAI: People Conceived via Artificial Insemination. Here are whole new categories of people that never existed before.Who is who in the California case from 2004, when a woman gave birth to twins conceived using her lesbian partner’s eggs and was declared the sole legal parent of the twins? The donating woman was required by the hospital to sign a consent form, including a waiver of parental rights to the resulting offspring.Who is who in the Toledo, Ohio fiasco reported nationally just this fall? A couple wanted to conceive and carry their own child, but the woman was implanted with the wrong embryo. The real, biological parents feared that the pregnant woman would choose abortion and end their chance to give their young twin girls a sibling. In the end, the surrogate mother gave up the child to its biological parents: What did her own children, who watched their mother carry “their” baby brother for nine months, make of seeing him given up to strangers? And it doesn’t end there: Now, the woman who generously carried out this pregnancy to term is unable to carry any more children, so – in hopes of a fourth baby – she is planning to hire her own surrogate.The New York Times article ends by recounting a story of a young man who was introducing his new found family of five half-siblings to his friends. He did so in a “self-styled sing-song,” saying, “This is my sister from another mother, and this is my brother from another mother, this is my other sister from another mother.”Perhaps that is about as good we can do at this time.(The views expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the positions of Headline Bistro or the Knights of Columbus.)http://www.headlinebistro.com/en/columnists/thorn/120309.html

Too Much Communication?

Friday, September 9th, 2011

by Vicki ThornThe world isn’t what it used to be!There was a time when communication happened with a pen and paper, required an envelope and a stamp and was carried by horse, train or truck to be delivered to your door by the mailman. It was then up to you to write a response and send it back the same way. Communication took weeks to happen. You looked forward to the response with anticipation. Getting mail was exciting! People kept letters!Communication within our family and community often happened face to face, as we walked to school or hung up clothes to dry. We learned to listen to others and read body language.Once the telephone came into existence, you talked to the operator, who would connect you to the person you wanted to speak to. The cost of long distance calling was expensive, and conversations were not undertaken in a frivolous manner. One had to be at home or in an office to access a telephone, which was connected to a wall. College kids did not call home frequently, and parents did not call constantly.Technology blossomed. Telephones became portable and could be carried around. We were no longer tethered by communication. With cell phones, we could speak to anyone, anywhere, at any time.Computer technology moved out of the lab, into the home and then into the laptop and the iPhone and Blackberry. There was constant access to everything. All technology, all the time – at what cost?Then came the advent of social networking. Facebook, MySpace and other groups exploded. We had friends we had never met, people on the other side of the country or even the other side of the world. We could share our personal lives in cyberspace. Sometimes we were exposed to or exposed too much information. Twitter went a step further, allowing us to follow celebrities or friends every second of the day.Constant information, constant communication day and night. There is the impression of intimacy, but it is pseudo-intimacy. Bluetooth technology becomes an ear appendage, and we are suddenly never alone.All this has led many to live in a virtual world. They have 400 friends on Facebook, a good many of whom they would not recognize if they ran into them on the street. They play virtual games with virtual strangers but engage in warfare and lovemaking as though it was real.A newspaper story in Canada a few months ago recounted the sad tale of a couple seeking a divorce. They had met in an online social game and had dated and bedded each other in their virtual world. They decided to meet and got married. Later, she discovered that he was still playing and had been unfaithful in the game with another woman. Virtual relationship or real, she now wanted a divorce because of his online infidelity.High school students will text someone they are with instead of speaking to them. Schools have begun to limit cell use because they are disruptive in classrooms, can be used to cheat on tests and can tie up communication channels in the event of an emergency. Parents try to stay in constant contact and at the same time inhibit their ability to know what is happening with their child.In September, Hope Witsell, age 13, committed suicide after a sexting message (a nude photo sent from cell phone to cell phone) she’d sent her boyfriend was forwarded on. She was the second known suicide after such an event. The first was 18-year-old Jesse Logan in Cincinatti, who tried to tackle the issue head on in the media but could finally no longer stand the harassment from her peers who called her names, threw drinks on her and threw her out of a prom party.One in four teens admits to having participated in sexting.Social networking sites can fuel a sense of popularity, yet they reveal a lack of real connection. Abuses and tragedies are exploding.Prosecutors say Lori Drew, 49, along with her daughter and an assistant, used the social network MySpace to pretend to be a 16-year-old boy named “Josh” who befriended, flirted with and ultimately rejected Megan Meier, a 13-year-old who lived down the street (Nov. 20, 2008, ABC News).Megan killed herself. The case is raising issues of cyberbullying. The woman charged closed her online account when she learned what had happened. Prosecutors report that she allegedly said, “It’s not like I pulled the trigger.”The next day another story broke about a Florida teen who had been talking about suicide on various blogs. He was egged on by other bloggers and ultimately committed suicide – captured online with a live video stream – as he overdosed on prescription pills. How awful to be crying out for help and encouraged to kill yourself! The story observed that the “internet provides an outlet to suffer in public” (Nov. 21, 2008, ABC News).The Times Online carried a story in January of seven suicides in South Wales. It was observed that the phenomena of the copycat suicide may be exacerbated by social networking sites and the possibility of notoriety gained from a memorial website.Recently, The Times of India reported plans for another mass suicide on December 21 – again, promoted by an online social networking group. Authorities are trying to find those responsible.It is time to address the dark side of today’s social communications pseudo-community. The Roman Catholic archbishop of Westminster, Archbishop Nichols, spoke out this summer on the very subject, asserting that the Internet and cell phones are “dehumanizing” community life. While they do build community, he said, it is not well-rounded, creating “transient relationships” and placing too much of an emphasis on popularity.Young people “throw themselves into a friendship or network of friendships, and then it collapses and they’re desolate,” he warned, urging them instead to seek a community that emphasizes “a genuine growing together and a mutual sharing in an interest that is of some significance.”Thank you, archbishop, for having the courage to begin the conversation! Are we listening? pastedGraphic.pdf(The views expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the positions of Headline Bistro or the Knights of Columbus.)http://www.headlinebistro.com/en/columnists/thorn/121509.html