- 2 years ago
My (non-Catholic but Christian) fiancé and I just completed our Catholic Marriage Prep/Pre-Cana course this weekend. We signed up for a course run in the city where we currently live but are unfamiliar with the specific church or priest; we’re both grad students, so I try to attend Mass on campus, and we are getting married in another state in my home town. We chose to do a local course because it was not possible for us to make the out-of-state course at my home church and our priest encouraged us to do it in person as opposed to online. All of this is to say is, I don’t know if some of the things that happened this weekend are particular to this parish or not. I do not know anyone who has recently gone through Pre-Cana training to compare notes.
As a lifelong Catholic and a vetern of 15 years of Catholic school education, I knew what to expect in regards to Catholic moral teachings. What was surprising and really disheartening, however, was how this priest decided to go about discussing oral contraceptives. Instead of relying on the Church’s moral teachings on married sexual intimacy and being open to children, he decided to additionally demonize OC/BCP by misrepresenting medical statistics related to BCP and cancer (specifically breast cancer). Now, this was irresponsible and offensive for a couple of reasons. First, the statistics were all out-of-date and not supported by the most recent medical literature. So this was the uninformed presentation of inaccurate information at best, or the deliberate presentation of known-to-be false information at worst, used as a scare tactic and a way to get Catholics to fall in line with Church teaching. Secondly, the way the information was presented seemed to then blame women who have used BCP and then later were diagnosed with breast cancer for their own cancer. This element of blame was picked up both by me and my fiancé. I felt like the priest was saying (and by saying, I mean literally saying in his lecture as well echoed by the written words in his PowerPoint presentation) that because BCP contains chemicals, and chemicals are toxins, that these women should then not have been surprised to get cancer when they chose to introduce toxins into their bodies. My fiancé felt that he was going even further as to say that the breast cancer was then God’s punishment for disobeying the Church’s ban on birth control. Not only was this message extremely distasteful, I felt myself growing livid, as my mother was diagnosed with a form of breast cancer almost two years ago. The delivery was very insensitive and disconnected from the realities of women’s health decisions related to their fertility and menstruation.
Even worse, the priest’s initial morality “instruction” lecture, which was our first activity of the day, lasted about an hour, when it was slated in the schedule to be 10-15 minutes. This meant that the entire day was late. The other married couples who were participating in the weekend and had their own stories on various topics to share all then had to drastically reduce their presentations so that we had the alotted time to fill out our workbooks. The lost time was only caught up when it came for our Natural Family Planning instruction, so that we only watched 15 minutes of the whole video we were meant to see. Now, I was not upset by this, because the video began, again, by showing the following words on the screen: “The International Agency for Reseach on Cancer classifies oral contraceptives under Group 1: Carcinogenic to Humans.” This video was produced by the Diocese of Phoenix and is purportedly on NFP; however, their first message is on birth control causing cancer. More fear mongering as opposed to positive instruction. To me, this is an outright admission by the Church that they are aware that they lost the hearts and minds on birth control a long time ago and can only motivate people to utilize NFP out of fear.
Now, while sitting through these presentations, I knew that the information on cancer was incorrect because of my mother’s recent diagnosis. She had talked with me about birth control, and so I decided to do my due diligence and look for recent research on any possible connection between BCP and breast cancer specifically. The most recent studies suggest a possible link between women who are considered higher risk for breast cancer (family history, etc.) and the use of BCP with heighetened levels of the hormone progesterone. Across the board, however, their is no conclusive connection. Additionally, the IARC rating of carcinogenic is based on findings that seemed to link the use of BCP again with high hormone levels and incidence of a type of liver cancer – NOT breast cancer. Studies have also seemed to link positive uses of long-term BCP use with lower risk for endometrial and ovarian cancer. But this priest and this NFP video decided to report repeatedly and falsely that BCP has a cancer link, especially breast cancer, among women.
As I mentioned above, I am extremely disheartened by this tactic. I cannot get over the feeling of being manipulated and lied to, and it did nothing to help win my fiancé over the side of the Church. I do not know if this misinformation is common in Pre-Cana or in NFP instruction, but I was completely surprised. Catholic women deserve better.