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Expert Answer Forum

by Catherine Frakas 24 Oct 2001

Hormone replacement therapy QUESTION from Stephanie Pyle September 9, 2000 Dear Father,
My physician has prescribed HRT(Hormone Replacement Therapy) for me. I am 49 and in the perimenopausal stage of life. HRT, in these cases, is used to regualte a woman's cycle by replacing depleting female hormones.It also eases the emotional mood swings, helps heart health, bone density and some other issues.
However, when I told him I was a Catholic and are these birth control pills, he said that they were, although a very low dosage.
I've asked my pastor, who is faithful to the Majesterium, the Holy Father adn teachings of the Church and he said as long as I was not intending them for contraception then all was ok.
I believe him, but I just want to double check.
Thank you. Mrs. Stephanie Pyle
ANSWER by John-Paul Ignatius, O.L.S.M. on November 20, 2000 Dear Mrs. Pyle:
Thanks for the promotion :-).... I'm just a lowly Brother and not ordained priest.
The Principle involved in situations like this is called THE PRINCIPLE OF DOUBLE EFFECT. Quoting and paraphrasing from the Catholic Dictionary compiled by Father John Hardon, SJ, arguably the top theologian in the U.S., this principle says it is morally allowable to perform an act that has at least two effects, one good and one bad.
The conditions under which an act may qualify under Double Effect are:
the act to be done must be good in itself or least morally indifferent; by the act to be done is meant the deed itself taken independently of the consequences.

the good effect must not be obtained by means of the evil effect; the evil must be only an incidental by-product and not an actual factor in the accomplishment of the good.

the evil effect must not be intended for itself but only permitted; all bad will must be excluded from the act

there must be a proportionately grave reason for permitting the evil effect. At least the good and evil effects should be nearly equivalent.
All four conditions MUST be fulfilled. If even one of the above conditions is not satisfied, then the act is morally wrong.
Thus the question becomes whether or not your situation meets all four of these conditions.
Condition 1: the action of prescribing medicine for the hormone therapy is a good action designed to treat a medical condition. It is not evil in itself. (though I would ask if there is any other medication that will have the same benefit) CONDITION PASSED.
Condition 2: the evil effect, the prevention of conceived babies from implanting in the womb, is not the cause of the good effect (it does not cause the positive effect of the hormone therapy), but only incidental to the positive benefit of the hormone therapy. CONDITION PASSED.
Condition 3: The intent is to deal with medical problems relating to hormone therapy for whatever medical condition you have. There is NO intention in preventing conception. CONDITION PASSED.
Condition 4: is there a GRAVE reason for permitting the evil effect or are the evil and good effect at least equivalent?
I can't answer the fourth condition since I do not know the specific details of your condition. You'll need to ask yourself if the need of this particular medicine is great enough to allow the death of an unborn baby. Certainly I would ask if there is another medication that could be used, and if so, that would be the better course.
We should remind the audience that most, if not all, birth control pills DO NOT prevent conception, they only prevent the implantation of the baby in the womb. Thus birth control pills are abortifacients, so this is not a matter of preventing conception, it is a matter of the life or death of a baby who has been conceived.
So the issue here is: whether the medical treatment you need is serious enough to warrant the possibility of the death of a baby you might conceive while on the medication.
This is a tough call. We will be in prayer for you.
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