The following is an address by retired Archbishop Alfred Hughes of New Orleans to the Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Fertility Care Professionals (AAFCP) and the first Seminar on the Culture of Life in Medical Practice.
The AAFCP is a professional organization dedicated to furthering natural methods of fertility regulation and Natural Procreative Technology. Their annual meeting was held last week in New Orleans.
This and other presentations will soon be available at the AAFCP website.
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May I presume to speak in the name of Archbishop Aymond as well as in my own in expressing a very warm welcome to all of you who are participating in the Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Fertility Care Professionals and to those of you who have come especially today for the Seminar on the Culture of Life in Medical Practice. We, Archbishop Aymond and I, recognize, applaud and encourage you in the extraordinarily significant efforts in which you are engaged. I realize that, although a number of you are Catholic, many others are not. The issues you are addressing go far beyond specific Catholic teaching to touch universal realities, respecting the dignity and integrity of human nature, and the best in human health care.
From March to July of this year, the Archdiocese of New Orleans and the New Orleans Museum of Art co-hosted a remarkable exhibition – “John Paul II: A Portrait of Faith.” It focused on many artifacts, works of art, and photographs commemorating Pope John Paul II’s visit to New Orleans 25 years ago.
For me, the most striking gift of Karol Wojtyla who became Pope John Paul II was his uncanny ability to perceive early on in his life the weaknesses in the Marxism that was mandated education in Poland and then to develop an alternate vision in a competent, attractive manner. He proposed Christian solidarity in the face of atheistic socialism. He proposed a Church committed to human rights as an alternative to a totalitarian state. He proposed an understanding of the human body, rooted in God’s creation while remaining realistic about the original fall from grace, but renewed and elevated by redemption in the face of materialistic and hedonistic treatment of the body. Eventually, this alternative vision, founded in truth, contributed to the collapse of communism in Poland and Eastern Europe.
May I suggest that your efforts to professionalize natural methodologies and technologies for fertility care offer a similar competent, attractive, and persuasive alternative in fertility medicine to the prevailing approaches to fertility services which neither respect the dignity of human life nor the nobility of human sexuality. What you are developing, exploring, refining, and promoting is radical in the best sense of this term. The word “radical” comes from the Latin word “radix”, root. You are respecting the very root of good health care by respecting nature, healing wounded nature, and enhancing imperfect nature.
Science and technology serve us best when they respect nature…and then assist nature to realize its potential. This is true with regard to the wider world of nature. Environmentalists, for instance, serve us best when they encourage us to be responsible stewards of God’s gifts in nature rather than espousing theories, policies, or practices of dubious scientific origin. So also, in the area of fertility, stewardship of the gifts of nature and enhancing their potential is the soundest basis of good healthcare and therapeutic intervention. NaPro Technology is a superb expression of this effort.
I thank Doctors John and Evelyn Billings for their pioneering work in developing a reliable approach to natural family planning through the scientific monitoring of female ovulation. I commend Doctor Thomas Hilgers, who with his nurse wife Susan, has developed NaPro Technology in service to human fertility. I commend all of you who are offering significant leadership in this critically important work. Here in Louisiana are Doctors Rob Chasuk and Kim Hardey, as well as Susan Mire, Shannon Eaton, and Helen Blitsch and the Women’s New Life Center.
I encourage those of you who are here to learn about the ground breaking work of NaPro Technology that presents an alternative vision of fertility services that respects the dignity of human life and the nobility of human sexuality. May God bless you, this conference and ultimately those whom you seek to serve.