I am only a few pages into Laudato Si, but I am already loving it! Our beloved Pope Francis truly has the heart of St. Francis. He is a poet. He is also challenging me in ways I did not expect.
We have a child with severe food allergies, and from the moment of her diagnosis just about everything in our life changed. There’s nothing like a crisis to instigate change. We had to rethink everything we did, from cooking to bathing and everything in-between. We gained a new vocabulary, learned to decipher nutrition labels, and gained new skills. It took at least a year, if not two, to accumulate an arsenal of new recipes and familiarity with cooking new foods. We removed all allergens from our home, shopped the organic aisle, developed rules about encounters with friends and family, rules about traveling, and in the meantime learned more about natural health. Let me tell you, it was a challenge. Nowadays much of this is routine, but it was a big learning curve.
Reading this encyclical feels kind of like being diagnosed with food allergies again. We have just been diagnosed with major life changing news, but in this case the diagnosis includes everyone on the planet. Pope Francis, while expounding a bit on the theology of creation and our role as caretakers of our Brother Earth, describes the dire state in which our world lies. We have misused our resources and are placing the planet, and all lives, in jeopardy. He is calling for change and to take responsibilty for the problem. But will others understand his message and the crisis he depicts enough to change?
I recently read an article from the National Catholic Register entitled Birth Control in Drinking Water: A Fertility Catastrophe in the Making? It seemed rather appropriate that it was published around the release of Laudato Si. It cites a recent report by the U. S. Geological Survey (USGS) that has found evidence that some fish have been dramatically affected by excreted birth control hormones contained in drinking water. The effects on the fish included reduced fertility (up to the third generation even when not directly exposed), reduced fertilization rates, impaired embryo survival rates (miscarriage), and the drugs’ ability to “feminize” male fish. Sound familiar? As a NFP teacher perhaps my ears are attuned to the numerous stories of couples who are struggling to conceive or who have suffered from miscarriage. How much of this is due to contaminants in drinking water and food? The USGS study, says the article, “adds to a growing body of evidence that man-made endocrine-disrupting chemicals — those that affect hormone systems and numerous body functions, including conception — are damaging wildlife, wreaking havoc on reproductive, immunological and nervous systems.” But this information is being shrugged off and ignored. Something the Pope warns about in this new encyclical.
Reading both this article and the encyclical reignites my passion for promoting NFP. How can people, especially doctors, justify prescribing birth control (and unnecessary medication in general) when scientific research supports that it negatively impacts wildlife, and ignore the logical respective repercussions for humanity? Especially when NFP is just as effective as a means of regulating birth, if not more so. NFP is not simply a moral and religious question, it is a clear-cut solution to the environmental dilemma our world is facing.
Our family is already familiar with label-reading and organic food, but it needs to be taken to a new level. Now we need to think in terms of how all we do and consume impacts the planet. Everything, from shampoos to detergents to medicine, it all weighs upon our common home, and we have a responsibility to take measures to care for and protect it for all to enjoy. This includes NFP and the need to promote it vigorously. We are one family, and all of our efforts, big and small, make a difference.
I hope you will join us.