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March 2011

Book Review

WHO'S AT THE CENTRE OF YOUR MARRIAGE... THE PILL OR JESUS CHRIST? Contraception's Disintegrating Effect on Marital Harmony by Patrick McCrystal, HLI (Ireland), 2009, pp. 176. Available from Human Life International, Guadalupe Centre, Main Street, Knock, Co. Mayo, Republic of Ireland (


Almost sixty years after the venerable Pope Pius XII's Allocution to Italian midwives, and just over forty years since Humanae Vitae, the Irish section of the organisation founded by the great Benedictine Father Paul Marx, Human Life International, has published this study on contraception and its effects on marriage.

This is a reader-friendly book! From the outset the sheer enthusiasm for love and marriage of the author is evident. And on the first page of his text he makes absolutely clear the purpose of his book, i.e. to "lay out the evidence to show that you ABSOLUTELY NEED to avoid contraception if you wish to maximise your chances of a joy-filled marriage."

And while exposing the harmful effects of contraception, this book above all focuses on the joy and fulfilment to be found by married couples who shun such practice. Indeed, the author's wife writes the preface to this study, in which she states:

There is one comment that drives me mad. It is the common complaint 'Just who does the Church think it is to get into the bedroom of married couples and dictate what they should do regarding children?'

... I offer the correction that the Church never dictates, she proposes. And secondly 'she' is not an 'it.' She is a Mother. The Church has been given the task, by Christ, to help raise and guide the children of God through their life's journey on earth.

... I'll go with the Mother who cares for me, who cares for my soul, who has the wisdom and experience of guiding billions of souls. On a lot of issues I've tried it my way and it does not work. She does know best. She cares the most. Most guys in the local pharmacies aren't that concerned about how I am as a person. They act as if my fertility were a sickness that needs a pill.

A pleasure to read

It was that realisation (that fertility is not a sickness!) that caused the author, while a practising pharmacist in 1993, to cease dispensing contraceptives. The decision cost him his job and for three years he was without work. Eventually he became Director of Human Life International in Ireland (from 1997 till 2004).

This is his second book on contraception. And it is written in an easily-readable style, almost quite American 'folksy' which practically guarantees that it can be read, understood and enjoyed by people of all different backgrounds. While presenting plenty of evidence to support his case, there are enough quotations from real people who formerly used, and then rejected contraception, to make it interesting on a completely 'human interest' level. The use of short, well-titled, sections, readable lists, little illustrations and pull-out quotes make it easy on the eye and a pleasure to read.

Each section leads you seamlessly onto the next. Each chapter makes you want to turn the page to the next one. While exposing the harmful effects of contraception, it avoids the temptation to be preachy and it also has periodical reminders that the Mercy of God is available if one has failed in the past.

To illustrate the positive enthusiastic aspect of this work, consider:

"Perfect love casts out fear" (1Jn, 4:18) the scriptures remind us. Fear of children has no part in a Catholic or Christian marriage. God want us to enjoy a life of marital intimacy free from crippling fears of unwanted children. He promises to set us free from such fear.

And again,

God knows the perfect family size for your marriage. He is the Author of Life. Our job is to make sure we are faithful to His plan. When God sends us a child in our marriage, he is bestowing us with treasures from his storehouse. Parents, do not allow yourselves to be sold short of even one treasure!

Anti-Christian roots 

In outlining the history of contraception, McCrystal draws on the sterling work of Elasah Drogin and begins with a telling quote from Margaret Sanger:

"Birth control appeals to the advanced radical because it is calculated to undermine the authority of the Christian Churches. I look forward to seeing humanity free someday of the tyranny of Christianity..."

Having access to immense amounts of money from her marriages, Sanger embarked on a worldwide mission with militant, evangelistic zeal to promote what she termed her 'religion' of birth control through international conferences and meetings.

... Her work culminated in the establishment of International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) in 1952, with Sanger herself as joint President.

(This was one reason why the late great Fr Paul Marx embarked on a project of bringing pro-lifers together in local, regional and international conferences from the very start of his Human Life International in 1981.)

Malthus, the Eugenics movement, Sanger... so it continues. Just the other week one witnessed on BBC's flagship interview programme Hardtalk a character from the Optimum Population Trust given free rein to expound his weak pathetic case. He made no bones about the fact that THE enemy in their ongoing attempts to limit the number of humans allowed to be born and live on Planet Earth is the Roman Catholic Church.

Abortion-contraception nexus

And yet this expose of Malthusianism and Sangerian anti-Semitic, anti-Catholic racism is not screamed out so as to cause panic, but briefly and clearly explained so that any half-intelligent couple might read and understand and move on to the next well laid-out chapter on the consequences of contraception and the contraceptive mentality.

"The statistical evidence indeed reveals that the majority of babies who are aborted were conceived during contraceptive intercourse. This is outlined in Appendix Three of this book. Abortion and contraception are closely connected as 'fruits of the same tree' (Evangelium Vitae)." Evangelium Vitae also points out that "Abortion becomes the only decisive response to failed contraception."

A short concise chapter explains the abortifacient nature of many contraceptive drugs. A key figure in continually exposing this fact in the UK was the late defensor humanae vitae, Fr James Morrow.

Life-saving obedience

As part of the easily-readable style of this book, there is good use of analogy, such as in Chapter Seven, on The Catholic Church and Procreation: 

Obedience Means Life. Our son Francis, when he was four, was almost killed by a car one day when out with his mum and sisters. They were crossing the road when suddenly a car appeared out of a 'blind spot' from behind another vehicle. My wife screamed: "Francis STOP" to Francis, who hadn't seen the car. At that instant, four years of discipline and instruction to obey mum and dad stopped him in his tracks, and the car sped past. At that critical moment Francis's life depended entirely on his obedience to his mother. He obeyed – and lived. (...) When the Church teaches "No" or "Stop" in its moral teaching, it's not being a killjoy or trying to thwart our freedom. It is saving us from harm and bringing us life.

Testimonies and effects 

A couple of chapters outline the rotten 'fruits' of contraception in marriage. Some sincere testimonies from couples who had turned to contraception, and a clearly expounded list of effects of contraceptive intercourse from a psychotherapist, leads inevitably to the conclusion given in Pope Paul VI's encyclical Humanae Vitae, and which we see all around us today; the loss of respect for women.

It is also to be feared that the man, growing used to the employment of anticonceptive practices, may finally lose respect for the woman and, no longer caring for her physical and psychological equilibrium, may come to the point of considering her as a mere instrument of selfish enjoyment, and no longer as his respected and beloved companion (HV, n.17).

McCrystal quite clearly challenges his readers, from married couples to fellow pharmacists to medical personnel:

A key question to consider; Has the Catholic Church truly been divinely appointed by Christ to be THE authentic interpreter of the Creator's laws in matters of faith and morals? Does the evidence we are now examining concur with its claim that it speaks with 'the mind of Christ'? (Catechism of the Catholic Church n.389).

Living the Truth: fruitful witness

This book is absolutely recommended reading for couples preparing for marriage – and thus by extension for priests, religious and laity instructing or helping couples prepare for marriage.

To couples who are already living their married life according to the Truth this book can be a comfort and confirmation. And just living the Truth in our own lives can bear fruit for others. We read of one example:

Tom and Mary's marriage had reached rock bottom during contraceptive use.

A few days after Mary cried out in desperation to God for help, a neighbouring married couple and their children called in for a few moments with a Christmas card and chocolates.

MARY: "The married couple invited us up to their home the following week for coffee. Their visit made us believe somebody cared."

TOM: "The day I visited their home, I was very keen to have a vasectomy. I was due to have it a few days later and was totally comfortable about the idea. However, at that house something happened. God touched me. I saw that what I was about to do (the imminent vasectomy) was offending God. It wasn't anything they said – it was just being there.

"I walked out of that house a changed man. After that, there was no more contraception for myself or my wife. We went to the sacrament of confession and a thousand ton weight was lifted off our shoulders. I felt free and close to God again. There was no barrier between me and God anymore."

Choose Life!

McCrystal also admits that Natural Family Planning can be misused and quotes John Paul II to that effect, while also giving the testimony of a married couple having "no peace whilst practising NFP." And while acknowledging that the changeover from contraception is not easy, he gives "A Hot Tip" and a few sound personal recommendations.

After a clear, sound, logical, informative, readable and sometimes touching account of contraception and why it should be avoided, the reader is left with one final challenge in conclusion: "See, I set before you life or death, blessing or curse. Choose life that you and your descendants might live" (Deuteronomy 30:19).


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