Dr. Paul Hayes
He was a self-described pagan for nearly 20 years. He not only came back to the Church, but also gave up a growing obstetrics-gynecology practice in Florida to help establish Holy Family Medical Specialties in Lincoln, Neb., which now serves more than 7,300 patients. He recently spoke about his no-contraceptives practice with Register Features Correspondent Tim Drake.
Drake: Tell me about your upbringing and your journey away from the Church.
Dr. Paul Hayes: I was baptized a Catholic and raised in a nominally Catholic home. My upbringing by my parents was inconsistent. I attended my grandmother's Serbian church each weekend in Kansas City, Kan. I nurtured a strong desire to be a priest. At the age of 15, I got involved with drugs and started looking for the truth I could not seem to find in traditional Christianity. I started practicing Transcendental Meditation in 1972 as a way to get out of drugs, and ended up practicing it for 20 years. Interestingly, I practiced meditation in front of a picture of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
What brought you back to the Church?
In 1978, when our first child was born, I started to see cracks in the TM theology and realized that there had to be some absolute truth. In 1993, after seeing a billboard about praying the rosary I began praying the rosary daily. Also, at about this time, while channel surfing, I ran across an EWTN show about the dangers of New Age. About a month later, while praying in front of the crucifix I heard in my heart a woman say twice, “Look what he has done for you.” It was a very powerful emotional experience and I cried. For the first time I realized what the crucifix meant to me.
I fell head over heels in love with Mary and realized that I couldn't have her without having her Son. I began studying everything ... Church doctrine, apologetics, theology, Marian apparitions. I had been hoodwinked by TM for 20 years and I did not want to be hoodwinked again. I had to be able to defend my decision to the hilt and know absolutely that it was indeed the truth.
It culminated with my wife's search for a church. We found ourselves going to our local Catholic parish in Florida. The Friday before we had our marriage blessed, my wife showed me a Catholic Answers article about Church teaching prohibiting contraception and sterilization. On Saturday, our marriage was blessed, and on the following Monday all of my patients received a letter stating that I could no longer offer contraception or sterilization, but could offer natural family planning.
What impact did this decision have upon your practice?
The immediate impact was that my production was reduced by 50% — $30,000 per month walked out of my practice. What many people, and many doctors, do not realize is that birth control has become synonymous with women's health care. Everything an OB-GYN does revolves around birth control. If a woman bleeds heavily or irregularly, if a woman has painful periods, or if a woman has ovarian cysts or PMS the doctor prescribes the birth control pill. It is the treatment for everything. If an OB-GYN doesn't offer patients who do not want to get pregnant again birth control or tubal ligations, the patients won't come to you to have their babies.
In October of 1993, we adopted Mary Elizabeth. In June 1994, I sold my Florida practice and moved to study natural family planning under Dr. [Thomas] Hilgers at the Pope Paul VI Institute in Omaha. I had to give up everything that I was taught in residency and spent the next 18 months with Dr. Hilgers.
In October of 1995, Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz asked me to come to Lincoln. I did not feel I could refuse an apostolic request.
Your wife had a tubal ligation. Explain the result of having it reversed.
JoLynn was frustrated because when she would go to confession the priest would tell her that she had confessed this before and that it was forgiven, forgotten, and done. But, for her, it wasn't. We were still living with this “break” in our love. She finally recognized that the only way to correct that “break” was to fix it.
She had the tubal ligation reversed in July 1996, and the very next day I looked at my wife completely differently. It was, and continues to be, very dramatic. It's hard to imagine that a couple can put an obstacle like that in their way and not recognize how their behavior is influenced. Having it reversed restored a normal relationship in that intimate area which had earlier been disrupted. It greatly affected how I looked at and treated JoLynn.
There is the misconception that a reversal is difficult, unsuccessful or expensive. It is no more so than having the tubal ligation done in the first place. We wanted to correct the wrong and restore, as best we could, that aspect of our relationship with one another and with God. Our penance has been that we have been unable to have more children since the reversal.
How did you come to start Holy Family Medical Specialties?
A colleague had asked me to join in praying the rosary with their group every Wednesday evening. It was out of this group that Holy Family Medical Specialties was born. In June 1996 we began talking about trends in medicine and our concern for medical care in Lincoln. I was probably more vocal about it. As an OB-GYN you are on the front line ... you are clearly either with the Church or against it. If you are even slightly askew you are running away from Church teaching.
We all had individual practices, but as a group we recognized that something more was being asked of us. Women and their children had no place to go where everyone involved would be on the same page with them in their respect for life and advocating Catholic Church teaching. Holy Family Medical Specialties started in 1997.
How are you now able to make your faith a part of your work?
When you are surrounded by an environment that is physically edifying, you find yourself continually spiritually influenced. Our practice is truly Catholic. We have a crucifix in every room. There are holy water fonts throughout the building, paintings of the Holy Family on the walls, magazines of faith sitting in the waiting area, and books about the Saints. We have a conference room dedicated to reading and silent prayer. Our staff starts each day with morning prayer.
Such an environment enables a physician to quickly and easily reference Scripture and the support of our Lord and our Lady in counseling patients. Many non-Catholic patients have said that they appreciate the environment because it is full of faith and they feel protected by that. The practice becomes its own witness.
Every aspect of our practice is timed with NFP [natural family planning]. For example, timing surgery so that it will not disrupt a woman's cycle, or helping couples to understand that a miscarriage is the loss of a baby. It is a practice which affirms patients with pregnancies in any situation.
When Dr. Timothy Fischer joined us he was not sure if his patients would follow him. He had a large, established and well-known practice. Most followed him. He has said that what he has found most edifying is that his patients are now comfortable sharing with him about their faith, something which they had never shared with him before. It's a twoway street. The physician probably gains more than the patient.
What do you see as the future for Catholic medicine?
Couples see doctors who practice morally aberrant methods of family planning because they choose to. The face of Catholic medicine would change overnight if Catholics would exclusively patronize Catholic physicians who adhere to the teachings of the Church.
Yet, there are all kinds of reasons why patients will not switch. Many Catholics do not value what the Church teaches in this area. Only 2-4% of Catholics practice natural family planning. Those who do have access to NFP-only physicians, do not avail themselves of them. Some do so perhaps out of personal guilt.
Others will say that they are “evangelizing their doctor through their witness.” My response to that is that the only thing you are evangelizing is that this truth is so unimportant to you that you will not switch doctors because of it. All this tells the doctor is that if they make the change to an NFP-only practice it won't make a difference to anybody.
What about the future of natural family planning?
An NFP-only practice works in cooperation with a patient's beliefs and cycle. It is a practice which educates and empowers women. Sooner or later, many will recognize that the contraceptive mentality treats them as objects and they will flock to NFP. They will hold the physicians who did not tell them the truth accountable, and those doctors will be left behind.
I see more patients who have discontinued oral contraceptives because of a desire for a more natural approach rather than for moral reasons. We see many young women who reject contraception because of the side effects, and many menopausal women who are looking for natural hormone replacement. Natural medicine has been catching on in all areas but reproduction. It is just a matter of time.