After retiring from a 30-year career as a military physician in the U.S. Air Force, Dr. William Germann of Dayton, Ohio, has no plans to take it easy. He remains ready to do battle — for life.
Earlier this year, the erstwhile brigadier general joined the board of Dayton-based One More Soul — which distributes resources promoting the joys of marriage and family, and warns against the harms of artificial contraception — and initiated its Physician Encouragement Campaign. The program’s aim is to educate Catholic physicians about the Church’s teachings on fertility in marriage.
Germann sent letters to the more than 500 physicians in One More Soul’s directory who identify themselves as “NFP only” (the only birth control they prescribe is natural family planning). He included a two part-request. First, he asked them to identify other Catholic physicians whom they knew had NFP-only practices and were not in One More Soul’s directory. Then he asked the current NFP-only doctors to serve as mentors for any Catholic physician who would like to convert his or her practice to a NFP-only model.
According to Germann, the response has been slow — but he remains hopeful. “There are thousands of Catholic physicians, and most of them could benefit from solid truth about their faith on these matters,” he says. “Even if it is one at a time, there is much to be done and much potential good to be realized.”
Early in his career, Germann says, he lacked understanding about the Church’s teachings on sexuality. It was due to a lack of good formation, he adds, that he saw no problems prescribing birth control and performing vasectomy operations.
“I honestly do not remember hearing from anyone about the rights and wrongs of contraception for Catholic couples or physicians,” he notes. “It was never mentioned in homilies and, since I knew no better, I allowed myself to get sucked into secular medicine and all its practices. I began prescribing birth control and performing vasectomies in residency and continued doing so for over 10 years.”
That changed in the late 1990s, when his wife asked him if he prescribed birth control. “I responded, ‘Yes’ — and realized I was doing wrong,” he recalls. “We had young kids at the time, and we wanted them to be raised in the truth.”
Let God Decide
When Dr. Cary Leverett, a urologist who practices in the Austin, Texas, area, received the Physician Encouragement Campaign mailing, he recognized it as a chance to take a stand on a very important issue.
“The battle for life is the most important issue in the world,” says Leverett, who has 35 years of medical experience. “It is where the rubber meets the road.”
Leverett is not a Catholic. However, his reading of Humanae Vitae (The Regulation of Birth), along with a deep, Christian conviction that God should be in control of fertility, prompted him to stop performing vasectomies in his general medical practice in 1987. A year later, he limited his practice to vasectomy reversals only — at a discounted price.
He has performed 3,500 of these operations. “I see this as a ministry, not a business,” says Leverett. His website, Reversals.com, contains pages of testimonies and baby pictures from couples whose lives have been blessed with children after a vasectomy reversal. He says most men come to him after going through some type of conversion experience.
“Their hearts have been changed on the number of kids they want to have,” he explains. “In some cases, they want to make reparation for damage they’ve done in the eyes of God.”
Hearts Can Change
Steve Koob is the cofounder of One More Soul. He and fellow pro-lifer Mary Ann Walsh began the organization in 1993. When Germann approached Koob with the idea of the Physicians Encouragement Campaign, Koob saw a perfect fit.
Koob says he hopes the program will double the names on One More Soul’s NFP-only physician list — and spread the pro-life message well beyond doctors’ offices.
“The similarity between Catholic physicians who prescribe unnatural birth control and Catholic politicians who support the killing of the preborn children is very strong,” says Koob. “Both groups want to be accepted as Catholic in their parishes and dioceses, but they are both objectively in the state of serious sin by their support for the twin intrinsic evils of abortion and unnatural birth control.”
According to a number of polls and studies over the years, a large majority of married Catholic couples use artificial birth control. Yet, Koob believes attitudes are changing. He points to an increased interest in the Church’s teaching on human sexuality, especially in light of the 40th anniversary of Humanae Vitae this past summer.
Like Germann, Koob is aware that it takes time to change hearts and convert minds. “If the tide is changing, it is still very slow,” says Koob. “I wish the signs of hope were more common.”
If Germann’s Physician Encouragement Campaign has anything to do with it, Koob will eventually get his wish.
Eddie O’Neill writes from
Green Bay, Wisconsin.
One More Soul(800) 307-7685