COLUMBUS, Ohio — Mariely de Gessler thought she and her husband, Ben, would be kicked out of their obstetrician's office.
Pregnant with their second child, the couple was evangelizing their Catholic doctor about natural family planning (NFP). At each appointment, Mariely gave him an NFP brochure, which he simply tucked into his lab coat.
In regard to the doctor's contraceptive and sterilization practice, Ben de Gessler, who works for the Ohio Right to Life Society, finally said, “You really need to stop this right now.”
Dr. Michael Parker did not kick them out. The de Gesslers had their baby with him, and then another. Mariely prayed for him and sent all her friends to him, especially those from her FAMILIA group of Regnum Christi. Parker started listening and thinking he better learn about NFP to serve all his new patients who practiced it.
‘One More Soul’
Back when they were dating, the de Gesslers knew peace of mind from their decision to use natural family planning when they got married. They appreciate the mutual dependence NFP affords and the openness to God's will for them. Mariely does not feel used, as she might by taking birth-control pills. “My husband respects me,” she said. The problem was, when they became pregnant the first time, there was no NFP physician in Columbus, Ohio, where they lived.
Mariely, originally from Mexico City, followed her mother-in-law's advice and called One More Soul, the Dayton, Ohio, organization that maintains a directory of NFP-only physicians throughout the United States and Canada on its Web site, http://www.omsoul.com.
One More Soul is a lay apostolate formed to educate people that children are wonderful blessings from God and contraception is harmful, especially to women and marriage, and thus to the Church and society. Founders Steve Koob and Mary Ann Walsh believe the creation of “one more soul” is so awesome that it is more important than the creation of the entire material universe. They conceived One More Soul from the insight that contraception leads to abortion — that the contraceptive lifestyle is the driving force behind the abortion juggernaut and the whole “culture of death.”
As long as millions of couples were making their relationship, career, education and other important decisions in reliance on contraceptives, they concluded, those same couples would see abortion as essential, especially when the contraceptives fail. They promote NFP as a positive alternative.
Koob advised the de Gesslers that there were no NFP-only obstetricians in the state of Ohio, but there was an NFP family-practice doctor. The catch was that he practiced more than two hours away. The de Gesslers made the trip. Mariely recalls that he was a wonderful doctor, but she had a long and difficult delivery and should have had a cesarean section, which this doctor could not perform.
When expecting their second baby, she called One More Soul again. Koob told her there still were no NFP-only obstetricians in Ohio. But knowing the de Gesslers were so firm in their faith, he encouraged them to evangelize a doctor. This was not something they had in mind.
However, they found Dr. Michael Parker. He was Catholic, had five children and practiced NFP in his marriage: a good candidate. Ben and Mariely de Gessler went to work. They started out low-key, giving him brochures. They referred their friends. Mariely gave him a book, Physicians Healed, edited by One More Soul's Cleta Hartman. And she was praying. “I prayed hard for him, from my heart,” she said.
She could see the Holy Spirit working in him. He especially changed after reading the book about the conversions of doctors who stopped prescribing birth control. Finally, a spiritual letter-writing campaign from de Gessler's FAMILIA group moved him enough to train in the Creighton method at the Pope Paul VI Institute in Omaha, Neb., and become certified as an NFP Medical Consultant.
Today, Parker promotes the “great social value” of natural family planning to his patients. “I try to talk as many people into it as I can,” he said. He said he does this for a selfish reason: Both of his parents died within the last few years. “When I became the next generation, I started thinking, ‘Am I doing the right thing to make it to heaven?’” He also likes the medical benefits of avoiding synthetic hormones and IUDs. He's had great success with infertility patients using the Creighton model.
Parker believes that couples who practice NFP produce children with a deep respect for God, life and human nature. “Society will change in the future in its attitudes toward life. Our kids will be counterculture,” he said. “You can't do NFP without respect for your partner. I'm not saying it's easy, but if couples work at it, it's rewarding.”
Dr. Kim Hardey, a natural family planning OB-GYN in Lafayette, La., has been an NFP-only obstetriciangynecologist since 1995. His practice has been “fairly successful,” and he believes God has led patients to him. However, he wants to encourage Catholics to support hospitals, doctors and other medical personnel who choose to follow the Catholic Church's teaching.
Koob of One More Soul sees the current crisis in the Church as larger than the crisis of a few priests having abused minors. It is a crisis in sexual morality teaching created by the failure of Church teaching.
“We're at a time in our Church history that I call a moment of grace. It's a wonderful opportunity,” he said, “to establish a culture of life through healthy human sexuality, which includes chastity, fertility awareness and natural family planning.”
Laurie Buckeye writes from Minneapolis.