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Q & A with Dr. Thomas Hilgers

Q: How did the birth control pill’s introduction in 1960 foster a cultural revolution that has eroded sexual morality and led to today’s culture of death? 

The oral contraceptive of course made getting pregnant with an act of intercourse a rarity. It was the first time that they had developed a treatment that would treat healthy people, but actually create a dysfunction, in this case, an ovulatory dysfunction. And so, because the woman wasn’t ovulating, she wouldn’t get pregnant.
 
The doctors then used that as a tool to be able to prescribe contraception to anybody, literally. And when you remove the life component of an act of intercourse, then you have a situation that we’re deeply into at this point, a very promiscuous type of sexuality.
 
And it’s created enormous problems. I’m just finishing writing a book called “Blinders.” The book traces the downstream impact of contraception, abortion and in-vitro fertilization and it’s incredible what’s happened. It’s everything from out-of-wedlock pregnancies to increased divorce rates to maltreatment of women. There’s a whole list of things that have just fallen like a set of dominoes. And it all started with a couple of things – one, birth control pills. The other part of it was the Hugh Hefner philosophy, and the Helen Gurley Brown philosophy; the first one, sex without love, the other, sex without kids. It just proliferated. 
 
 
Q: How has Pope Paul VI’s encyclical “Humanae Vitae” proven to be prophetic?
 
As an interesting side issue, perhaps, to “Humanae Vitae,” one of the reasons that many theologians dissented from it is because Paul VI predicted – forecast if you will – the destruction of the family, increased divorce rates, the effects on children and so forth. 
 
The people who dissented said that the pope shouldn’t have said those things. He has no evidence that will be the case. And of course, it might be something called insight that somebody like a pope might have after hearing lots of confessions. I would think he’d have a little bit of an idea what might happen. 
 
But dissidents rejected that, saying he had no evidence. Everything that Paul VI said was correct, but the theologians spoke so much against it. In fact, the dissenting theologians in 1968 are in a grave way at fault for what’s happened. Because they took people away from the main message of “Humanae Vitae,” which is really a connection between love and life. And everybody quoted the theologians instead of Pope Paul VI.
 
 
Q: What are some of those things that dissenters thought, “Oh, these things could never happen,” but they did?
 
He talked about how women would not be respected and would be used more as tools than anything else. He talked about the effects on marriage and family in terms of divorce rates and that sort of thing. 
 
The divorce rate has been out of sight for a long time. The effect it has on children is well known. The out-of-wedlock birth rate, the birth rate to women who are not married, is now 45 percent of all births in the United States. When the birth control pill came out it was 5 percent. So it’s up by a factor of nine. And it’s gone up every year just about since 1960. 
 
You can go into other areas like crime rates and juveniles being referred to court cases and so forth. Along with maltreatment of women and children, of course, you’ve got to put abortion in there because even to this day, they say we need more and more contraception to prevent abortion. But all the data we have says that contraception leads to abortion. And yet people still take the position that contraception avoids abortion. It’s not the case. 
 
 
Q: Would you say that some of that might be due to the failure of contraception to be absolutely effective, and hence, leading to more abortions?
 
No, it’s much more related to the promiscuity that goes with contraception. The promiscuous sexuality that came as a result of what was happening in the late ’50s and early ’60s, and then continued onward from there, is mainly what leads to the pregnancies. And then of course, they like to call them unwanted pregnancies and those pregnancies are without any value and so they terminate them with abortion. 
 
 
Q: How does “Humanae Vitae” express the truth of God’s plan for fertility and for the family? 
 
Pope Paul VI in “Humanae Vitae,” on the one hand, condemned contraception, but on the other hand, suggested that there were means of family planning which were responsible and built into the way that the body of a woman and the body of a man work. And in the pastoral directives section of the encyclical he addressed seven different groups. This included priests and bishops, and included government. He also included men of science and physicians and health care professionals. 
 
I was a fourth year medical student when it came out, and I got a copy of it and read it. I actually thought the church probably was going to change its position from the things that I had been reading. But once I read “Humanae Vitae,” I realized that it was saying things that I had not heard before and certainly wasn’t in any of the national news media. 
 
So, when I found that he challenged young people, like myself at the time, to get involved in this, I became involved as a fourth year medical student, did my first research project. 
 
We’ve developed the Pope Paul VI Institute because of those pastoral directives. And we’ve had patients from every state in the union come to visit us. We’ve had patients from five continents come to visit us. 
 
Paul VI died on Aug. 6, 1978, and that’s when my wife and I literally turned to each other and said, we need to establish the Pope Paul VI Institute for the study of human reproduction so that the work that he asked to be done could continue to go forward. Unfortunately, not much publicity has been given to this effort. And I’ll take some of the blame for that because I’ve been very busy being in a full-time practicing position, while at the same time doing a lot of research, taking a lot of time and effort to put this all together, to perfect it. 
 
And so, I wasn’t out there, I’m not a natural person for the marketing of this sort of thing. But in spite of that, we’ve had a number of people who’ve benefited from it in a really big way. Our success rates for infertility patients, for example, are better than the in-vitro fertilization programs. 
 
There’s a whole lot of other medical issues that, because of our understanding of the natural phases of fertility and infertility, we’re able to treat in ways that the typical obstetrician-gynecologist is not able to at the present time. They would be if they would be interested in the natural part of it, but they’re not. They’ve all been raised and trained in contraception, abortion, sterilization and in-vitro fertilization, so this is really radical to them, which it really isn’t. But that’s the way they approach it. 
 
 
Q: And what about the effect of artificial contraception on the marital relationship itself – the unitive bond between a man and a woman? 
 
The divorce rate, for example, in 1960 was about 5 or 10 percent. Thirty years later, it was up to 50 percent. And now, it’s referred to as the divorce-to-marriage ratio, that is the percentage of couples who get divorced versus those who are married. But the marriage rate’s gone down too, which is another side effect, because now the big thing is cohabitation.
 
There are just so many issues that go with these relatively uncommitted relationships that are only compounded when they start having babies. And so, these are just factors that people don’t like to look at. They like to rationalize their way around it. And it’s sad, because its impact is enormous – millions and millions of people in this country adversely affected. 
 
 
Q: Finally, how do you feel the Catholic Church can help reverse some of the negative trends that artificial contraception has created and to get a handle on these issues?
 
Pope John Paul II wrote an encyclical letter, “Evangelium Vitae,” which is “The Gospel of Life.” In about six or seven places there, he called upon the development of centers of excellence for the further evaluation and development of the natural methods of family planning. In addition, he called for the training and availability of more and more people who can teach these methods effectively and with competence. 
 
But, in both of these areas, the church has not been very active. There are individual archbishops and cardinals who are very supportive, but don’t get down to the nitty gritty, where it’s like, we need more services available. We need more, not only availability of those services, but also the marketing. I mentioned earlier, the ability to get the word out to the public that these are available, that they’re very effective and can be very helpful to one’s marriage.
 
There was a recent study just published that’s not the most perfect study of all, but it shows that there was a significant decrease in the divorce rate among couples using a natural method versus those using artificial methods.
 
Just one final comment – we’re lucky in Omaha, because we’ve worked with three archbishops since we’ve been here. They’ve all been very supportive of our work and I’m really, really grateful for that. But that’s not the case every place. There’s a lot of work to be done to develop and expand the availability of these services for the couples who need them. 
 
 
 
 

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