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Father Peter Damian Fehlner, S.T.D. Weighs in on Plan B in Connecticut

By October 9, 2007March 2nd, 2019Fr. Peter Fehlner, News, Pro-Life, Religious Liberty

Fr. Peter writes:

The reflection of Fr. Euteneuer is far and away the best commentary on the recent statement of the Connecticut bishops permitting the use of Plan B in Catholic hospitals. Effectively, the bishops have allowed the State of Connecticut to determine moral questions for the Church in a manner contrary to the teaching of Christ.

Fr. Euteneuer’s introductory considerations are particularly pertinent for anyone generally concerned with authentic confession and life of faith. We must respect our bishops and support them in their trials. Nonetheless, we must not fail in our duty to call their attention to grievously mistaken policy decisions. The Connecticut bishops acquiescence in permitting Plan B to be implemented in health care facilities under the direction of the Church, rather than close these facilities, is merely in instance of such a policy decision, one with dangerous consequences for the faith and for the Church, not only in Connecticut, but throughout North America.

As Fr. Euteneuer notes, the decision rests on errors of principle and fact. So called “emergency contraception,?? billed as morally permissible in circumstances such as rape, is without the slightest doubt an abortifacient, and its use in any circumstances where an abortion may result, including rape, is therefore grievously sinful, according to the teachings of the Church.

This being the case, the circumvention of the episcopal statement to rationalize what to most people must seem an about face in the traditional teaching of the Church on contraception and abortion is simply an exercise in obfuscation. The fact is, if we have any doubt about whether a given action would directly risk someone’s life, entail a violation of justice or threaten the salvation of a soul, we may not act on the basis of a scientific probability. That means even if the pill in Plan B is only “dubiously?? abortive, we simply may not use it at all.

There remain two other issues raised in this statement not yet mentioned in any reactions to date, yet also highly important.

The first is the phrase “emergency contraception?? which appears more than once in bishops’ brief statement. Is there any difference between this and any other contraception, namely, the use of the act of intercourse in such wise as to render it closed to procreation of a third person. It is one thing to decide not to have children and so abstain from intercourse, this is not itself contraception and should not be described as such. It is quite another to engage in intercourse, even unwillingly, and use contraceptive instruments, for example, IUD or a chemical agent such as the pill to “redefine?? the act as non-procreative. Apart from intention and circumstances such a use is objectively evil and grievously so, because it is an act which strikes not at the life of an individual, but at the very continued existence of the human family. There is no such thing as an “emergency contraception?? which is morally licit in certain circumstances. To use it in the case of rape to deal with an “emergency?? implies that in any other emergency it might also be licit.

One might object that the Church has permitted a woman who has been raped to seek a remedy to her violation through what theologians term the lotio or flushing, by which the rapist’s seed is washed from her body. It is one thing to resist forced intercourse it is another thing to change the nature of the intercourse. In the Church’s view, since neither party has a right to the marriage act and since the woman did not consent, the man has effectively spilled his seed. The sin is his. The woman who has been so violated may continue to resist that violation by rejecting the insemination through the lotio. However, it does not follow that she would be justified to deliberately render herself infertile in order to avoid conception. That would simply be contraception, which is intrinsically evil. The end of both the lotio and “emergency contraception?? may be the same, but the means are quite different.

This raises a second question. In what sense should the conception of a child as a consequence of rape be described as an “emergency?? permitting the use of a means to prevent conception otherwise immoral? The “emergency?? consists in the need, not to prevent conception, but to prevent forced intercourse. Should this not be possible the resulting conception of a child, like every conception, in itself is a blessing, not an evil to be prevented even by the use of chemical contraceptives which have so far all been shown also to “contracept?? via abortion.

Fr Angelo

Author Fr Angelo

I am Franciscan Friar of the Immaculate, and a priest for more than twenty years. I am now studying in Rome for my licentiate in Theology.

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Join the discussion 12 Comments

  • Set All Afire says:

    As a Catholic I find myself torn between the teachings of the Catholic Church, not to use contraception, and to honor and follow our “Sheppard’s???. To use a term loosely, we must call a spade, a spade, and make contact with our Bishop’s and tell them by supporting this, they are letting Satan into our diocese. Even if it is the “law??? of the land to permit an abortification to be used, or a contraceptive to be used, in a “Catholic??? hospital they should not permit it, and threaten to close down the hospitals if they are forced by law to provide such treatments. The Catholic Church does provide an alternative to these treatments, and that must be used. I can honestly say I did not know about the lotio treatment. I found this posting to be very informative, and I plan on writing Bishop Cote, asking him to fight for Our Lady and Christ’s Bride.

  • Extra Frate says:

    “When a man has been given much, much will be expected of him; and the more a man might have had entrusted to him, the more e could be required to repay. God has given me not only a vocation, but He enriched it with opportunities and gifts, which means that He will expect me to pay a high income tax on the Final Day.” -Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen.

    If only we had more bishops like Fulton Sheen. Contraception, emergency or otherwise, is playing with the levers of life.

    God bless you Father Peter for this elucidative article. I pray for these and all bishops called to the episcopate that they may serve our Holy Father, the Church and God for they are called to be closer to God and of them much is expected.

  • ROY S. TENN says:

    Thanks Fra. Roderic,

    Iam just seeing this for the first time and am glad Fr. Peter is on the case regarding the implications which this action will bring about in the Church.

    Ave Maria!


  • Duane says:

    I agree with Fr Peter that the policy decision of the Connecticut Bishops to allow plan B in hospitals is mistaken. It can be noted that Thomas A. Szyszkiewicz wrote in the November 2005 Catholic World Report that in 2003 the Catholic Medical Association passed a resolution that said, “’Emergency contraception’ [EC] is a misnomer as it does not consistently prevent fertilization’ and that since it ‘has the potential to prevent implantation . . . it cannot be ethically employed by a Catholic physician or administered in a Catholic hospital in cases of rape.’??? Mr. Szyszkiewicz also mentions that William May, a well-regarded moral theologian, says of EC that one “‘cannot exclude’ the possibility that this can result in abortion … ‘You may not intend evil,’ he said, but ‘here you are conditionally intending abortion.’??? Thus whenever there is reasonable doubt about whether some form of EC will not be abortive, prudence calls for not using that EC so as to not risk causing an abortion.

    Fr Peter also says that a rape victim would not be “justified to deliberately render herself infertile in order to avoid conception. That would simply be contraception, which is intrinsically evil.??? But my belief is that that is not what bishops and theologians in general teach about this matter.

    Kara A. Crawford has a paper on EC at the Christendom Awake web page under Dr William May’s page. She writes as follows: “the administration of contraception following rape or sexual assault … is not prohibited by natural law or by the Church [provided that the contraceptive used is not potentially abortive]. The use of contraception is licit because its object is not to impede procreation or to contracept (an intrinsically evil act as defined by Humane vitae), but rather to protect the woman from further violence at the hands of the rapist.???

    Again she writes: “in the area of rape protocol, several documents have been put forward by national and state bishops’ conferences in the United States in order to specify the appropriate Catholic response to these situations. As was noted earlier, the [USCCB] 1994 Ethical and Religious Directives for Health Care Services states clearly,

    “‘A female who has been raped should able to defend herself against a potential conception from the sexual assault. If after appropriate testing, there is no evidence that conception has occurred already, she may be treated with medications that would prevent ovulation, sperm capacitation, or fertilization. It is not permissible, however, to initiate or recommend treatments that have as their purpose or direct effect the removal, destruction, or interference with the implantation of a fertilized ovum.’

    “The Pennsylvania Catholic Conference of Bishops has also issued a detailed statement entitled the ‘Guidelines for Catholic Hospitals Treating Victims of Sexual Assault,’ … These documents are at the core of Church teaching regarding this issue, and seem to state fairly clearly what is and is not acceptable for the care of victims. However, their application has been skewed by competing interpretations and by continued uncertainty as to the methods by which EC achieves its end.???

    I would add that the Code of Canon Law at 753 states that although the bishops “individually or joined together in conferences of bishops or in particular councils, do not possess infallibility of teaching??? religious submission of mind is to be given to their authentic teaching on faith or morals. Obviously a bishop’s specific teaching on faith or morals ought to be regarded as authoritative only insofar as his particular teaching doesn’t contradict some official catholic teaching. Still it could happen that a bishop’s authoritative teaching might be able to be questioned in some case. The traditional theological manuals recognize that someone, with expertise re the matter taught authoritatively by a bishop, may find himself unable to assent to that particular teaching because of apparent valid objections to the contrary. Such a person should see if his objections really are valid by consulting reliable theologians or the magisterium of the Church. It can be also noted that Pope John Paul II explained in Apostolos Suos (May 21, 1998) Paragraph 22 that “when the doctrinal declarations of Episcopal Conferences are approved unanimously, they may certainly be issued in the name of the Conferences themselves, and the faithful are obliged to adhere with a sense of religious respect to that authentic magisterium of their own Bishops. However, if this unanimity is lacking, a majority alone of the Bishops of a Conference cannot issue a declaration as authentic teaching of the Conference to which all the faithful of the territory would have to adhere, unless it obtains the recognitio of the Apostolic See, which will not give it if the majority requesting it is not substantial.???

  • Timothy O'Rourke says:

    Father Peter: Ava Maria! Thank you for your needed elucidation on this vital issue. I am hoping that you can address more thoroughly the principle when forming a practically certain conscience if there is a necessary attainment an end, i.e., valid matter for a sacrament, a right of another, or the safety of another, one must choose the path that is more certain if one cannot dispel the theoretical doubt or choose the opinion according to which the child would certainly be protected from harm.

    Excluding contraption being intrinsically evil, which I know that it is, I believe that there is too much practical doubt to ever have a practically certain moral conscience in administering Plan B in the way to which our Fathers have decided.

    I am currently arguing the point that we should not act not because there is not absolute certainty but because we cannot dispel the theoretical doubt that would even enable us to form anything close to practical moral certainty to act by administering the drug without the ovulation test.

    It does not matter that not to give an ovulation test before administering Plan B is not intrinsically evil, since we do not know for sure the effects of Plan B, as our Fathers claim. The fact that we do not know for sure the effects of Plan B are precisely what forbid us from not administering it without an ovulation test. A clear explanation of why this is true would be of great benefit to explaining to our Fathers why they cannot employ one of the criterions of the Principle of Double Effect in this way, as I suspect they are, because it is not permissible to do so because we are dealing with a necessary attainment of an end: fife and allowing the possible Baptism for eternal salvation of those to whom it could be denied if the test was not administered.

    Also, our Fathers seem to employing the Principle of Double Effect, or maybe the moral system of Probabilism, when they state that they have made a prudential judgment to keep the hospitals open “for the good of the catholic hospital and those they serve???. How can these things even be considered to be more important than doing all we can to save life or not being complicit with destroying it?

    Thank you Father Peter,


  • Solange Miller says:

    Thank you Father Peter.

    The demographic winter is here.

    Aging workforce in the US.

    Website with good information on the subject.

    Have a nice day.

    Solange Miller

  • Steve says:

    Mark Shea has posted a link to this on his blog…

  • I’m curious if the CONN Bishops are relying on an old minority opinion that says something to the effect that “lethal force may be used to repel an aggressor who seeks to kill you, rape you, or drive you insane.” and in that regard the innocent child so conceived “may be” (according to that theory) “considered an aggressor”. There is something to this as having to bear a child as the result of rape can continue to force the woman to relive the nightmare (and thereby threaten her sanity). I suspect this argument comes from the “property rights of the male husband to his wife” rather than from Christian teaching. But many woman (of the tiny percent who do conceive by rape) bear the child and raise a healthy happy child in spite of it all, respecting God’s gift of life to that innocent victim. Even when there is a buildup to ovulation, the trauma of a rape reverses this; only where ovulation has occurred would you have pregnancy if I understand Dr. Tom Hilger, MD. of Omaha’s Pope Paul VI Clinic correctly. Would you care to comment on this “child as aggressor” argument? Whoever advised the Bishops was totally and completely uninformed or just caved like the Bishops under Henry VIII?

  • mary tim crowley says:

    dear fr.fehler, THANK YOU THANK YOU. truth is so important and we hear so little of it especially so fearlessly. in God we trust. Mary tim