BY KATHY SCHMUGGE
GREENVILLE — The story of human sexuality begins in the first book of the Bible: “God created man in his image; in the divine im-age he created him; male and female he created them. God blessed them, saying: ‘Be fertile and multiply’ ” (Gen 1:27-28).
According to renowned bio-ethicist Franciscan Sister Renee Mirkes, Ph.D., this passage reveals procreation as one aspect of the marital act. The nun conducted a seminar, “The Truth about Love, Life and Marriage,” at St. Mary Church Feb. 12.
Sister Mirkes moved to the second chapter of Genesis, where God reveals the other side of the coin, the unitive component: “That is why a man leaves his father and mother and clings to his wife, and the two of them become one body” (Gen 2:24).
Sister Mirkes made a strong case to support the idea that much of the immoral activity of today can be traced to the moment when it was considered acceptable to purposely separate the unitive and procreative meaning of marital relations. She used marital rape as an example of disregarding the unitive component of the marital act, and contraception and in vitro fertilization as examples of rejecting the procreative component, thus defacing the value of the act.
Sister Mirkes used the domino theory to illustrate how contraception was the first domino to fall, causing “the collapse of a whole series of related moral dominos,” from abortion, incest, pedophilia and bestiality to cloning. Once separated from life, sexual activity can become selfish, destructive, and meaningless.
She explained that not every marital embrace must or can bring forth children, for children are a gift from God, not a marital right. When both spouses agree to abstain from the marital act during fertile times, they do not devalue the gift but hold it to its highest value. In contrast, the birth control pill suppresses the love in the marital act, allowing the couple to grab the gift, rejecting from God its life giving component. Although these two actions may have the same outcome, the way it is achieved determines whether it is moral or not.
“He (Jesus) speaks that when the one-flesh union is lived out in marriage, sexuality becomes the sign of the coming of the reign of God. The supreme gift of marriage is a child, a personal gift of the couple,” Sister Mirkes said.
She believes that the church has a positive message on responsible parenthood and family planning, and that when people hear the truth, the truth convicts and leads couples to make the right choices.
“They just need to be led,” she said. She also made a plea to church leadership to spread this message that will restore the health of marriage and the health of the family.
David T. Hottinger, associate to the pastor, agreed with Sister Mirkes about spreading the message and said that is why St. Mary Church opened the talk to people from other areas.
“We want to help teach the truth about reproductive issues, particularly [to]Catholics. We want to make it more accessible to people,” he said.
Sister Mirkes discussed the ethics of in vitro fertilization, comparing it to NaProTechnology (NPT), the first system to combine family planning with reproductive and gynecologic health monitoring and maintenance.
Unlike in vitro fertilization, NPT is compatible with the church’s teachings and results in less multiple births, a risk for both mother and child. By studying the woman’s menstrual and fertility cycles, NPT provides concrete evidence about the woman’s reproductive health. It uses the Creighton Model FertilityCare System, one of three medically sound methods of natural family planning taught in the Diocese of Charleston.
In addition to family planning, NPT can also be used to evaluate and treat reproductive disorders such as infertility, abnormal bleeding, premenstrual syndrome (PMS), hormonal imbalances, and ovarian cysts.
“I was amazed to hear the things that can be done to help with PMS that have fewer risks than what is normally prescribed by doctors who think it is ‘all in your head,’” said Karen Miller, who traveled from Hickory, N.C., with her husband, Dr. Doug Miller, and daughters Anna and Meg.
The nun’s last talk was on Pope John Paul II’s “Theology of the Body,” summarized in the quote, “Any use of human sexuality which treats the other as an object to be used rather than a subject to be loved violates the language of the body as the complete self-giving of the whole person.”
She believes that Pope John Paul II’s willingness to explain the church’s teaching on human sexuality using tradition and Scripture will benefit more than the Catholic community.
“I would like to see the medical community embrace NaProTechnology,” said Dr. Mark A. O’Rourke, oncologist and leading right-to-life expert in the Upstate. Presently the diocese has five regional practitioners and only one known medical consultant in the FertilityCare System.
“It (natural family planning) should become part of church life and family life, but it will take leadership from the bishop and our pastors for this to happen,” O’Rourke said.
For more information
For more on the Fertility Care System or other methods of NFP in South Carolina, visit www.catholic-doc.org and go to the Diocesan Department of Family Life.