40 Years of "Humanae Vitae" (Part 2)
Interview With Dr. Thomas Hilgers
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By Robert Conkling
Dr. Thomas Hilgers is the co-founder of the Pope Paul VI Institute, located in Omaha, Nebraska. He is also the co-developer of the Creighton Model FertilityCare System and author of "The Medical and Surgical Applications of NaProTechnology."
In honor of the 40th anniversary of the publication of the encyclical "Humanae Vitae," July 25, 1968, the American Academy of FertilityCare Professionals held their annual meeting in Rome last month.
In this interview with ZENIT, Hilgers speaks of the next 40 years of "Humanae Vitae."
Part 1 of this interview appeared Thursday.
Q: What do you envision in the next 40 years and what role might the Holy Spirit play in the future of Creighton Model FertilityCare and NaProTechnology?
Hilgers: That is an interesting question. I have often wondered and hoped to have been a little bird in the room where Pope Paul VI was discerning the Holy Spirit.
At our conference in Rome Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, who gave the keynote address. Cardinal Re worked for six years in the Vatican Secretariat of State during Paul VI’s pontificate.
One thing Cardinal Re quotes is not from "Humanae Vitae," but from an address Paul VI gave a few days or a week after the encyclical was published. The cardinal said the Pontiff affirmed "that he put his trust in the Holy Spirit, so that he could be a voice for truth.”
When you think about it, that is really remarkable. In a way, that is as it should be because he was all by himself at the time. There were some supporters, I suppose, at the Vatican, but he had everybody against him. And it is the perfect place for the Holy Spirit to work.
As far as the future of this work is concerned, I do not know exactly. I do think the Creighton Model system itself and NaProTechnology definitely has a role to play in that future and we have to continually work to make FertilityCare services more and more available and that more people become aware of them.
Just take the United States. Probably 99% of women have never heard of any of this. It is a huge gap in terms of reaching people. So some of what our work in the next 10 years at the Pope Paul VI Institute will be to find ways to reach larger groups of women and men as well.
In the United States alone we have about 200 FertilityCare centers. We need about 3,000-4,000 to give you an idea of where we have to go. It is going to take a while to get there, but we have a lot of the components of that structure already put together.
In a lot of ways, the hard work has been done. Even the development of the American Academy of FertilityCare Professionals was a part in the overall development of the Creighton Model System. It was founded in 1981 specifically because there was no organization geared toward the professional demands of these new Creighton Model teachers, and now physicians are coming along.
All of that foundational work has been done and now it needs to continue to be fed, grow and develop. There are going to be advances. One of the things I would like to see is really a cure for infertility. NaProTechnology holds some hope for that.
What the mainstream dominant professionals in obstetrics and gynecology are up to, in-vitro fertilization, flat out does not have a future. They couldn't care less about what is wrong with a couple's fertility, so they are not interested in underlying causes. But we are interested.
I think that if we can make a few major steps forward, so that we can truly outstrip the in-vitro programs, we can put them out of business. And I would like to see that happen. It has done horrible things to women, to doctors and to the profession itself.
As far as the birth control business, I do not think we can put them out of business. All we can hope for is to compete with it. And we have really good things to build on. But it is like a blank wall. There is no convincing the birth control industry. On an individual personal basis you can convince people. The Margaret Sangers of the world have a philosophy 180 degrees opposite to what we are doing and what the Church is talking about.
Pope John Paul II said in pretty straightforward terms that the difference between a natural method and a contraceptive are two irreconcilable views of the human person. So ultimately, the debate is there. And that is really where the debate on the abortion issue is. The Supreme Court rules that the child in the womb is a nonperson, that was done before over 150 years ago with black people. We know that did not work very well. So we are hoping to compete on that level as well because abortion is another thing that has to be eliminated.
Q: How can contraception be eliminated?
Hilgers: I am not in any way favorable to contraception, but contraception is a tough one to battle and I would much sooner build our programs and be competitive, because I think you can change a whole way a nation thinks if you can get a sizable number thinking the same on these kinds of issues.
It is sort of like vaccination. You do not have to immunize 100% of the people to eliminate a disease. If we can get 30%, or 40%, or 50% of American people, or the world, using a natural method, you will see a lot of change in attitude in how we make decisions today.
Q: Are you anticipating that one day Paul VI may be canonized?
Hilgers: I think he is already a saint. I think he absolutely should be considered for beatification, sainthood and canonization. At the time he was elected, Paul VI was legitimately considered a liberal. He was the archbishop of Milan, Italy, and he had worked vigorously in support of the poverty-stricken people in that area. So he had this reputation that if you work for the poor, you are a liberal. Of course we know now that is not necessarily true.
So there he was making a decision on "Humanae Vitae" and he left it to the Holy Spirit. That is really remarkable. That one moment in making the decision to write "Humanae Vitae," that one moment, is all we need from him to be a saint.
As difficult as it was been since "Humanae Vitae" was released, to have taken this position, it is absolutely a miracle. That miracle on its own is enough to canonize him. He was a very, very holy, person and he made probably one of the toughest decisions, if not the toughest, in the 20th century. But it was the right one. I hope his canonization happens.
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