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Friday, February 22, 2013

Peoria's Pea-brain Protocol

I was recently asked about the role of emergency contraception in cases of rape. Can a Catholic accept such a thing? The answer is a resounding "NO!", although the USCCB is rather confused on the issue.

As website says:

Here's what the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Institutions (ERDs) from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops say about it:
"A female who has been raped should be able to defend herself against a potential conception from the sexual assault. If, after appropriate testing, there is no evidence that conception has occurred already, she may be treated with medications that would prevent ovulation, sperm capacitation, or fertilization. It is not permissible, however, to initiate or to recommend treatments that have as their purpose or direct effect the removal, destruction, or interference with the implantation of a fertilized ovum."
A hospital in the Diocese of Peoria, Illinois, developed a protocol for Catholic hospitals that face this situation. Called (appropriately enough) the Peoria Protocol, it was put together by the staff at OSF St. Francis Medical Center and theologians in the diocese working under then-Bishop John J. Myers. 
According to this theory, then, since the woman hasn't ovulated yet, the man's sperm can be considered an attacker, like bacteria. Since you can take prophylactic antibiotics, you can take anti-spermicide or anti-ovulatory agents. According to this theory, it isn't considered contraception since the sperm is in "attack" mode - I guess they have little green berets on or something.
The whole argument is absurd, and the monsignor who was instrumental in developing it (I knew him and worked with him on the chancery staff a few years after the protocol was developed), apparently neglected to consider the theology involved.
The only way a human life comes into existence is through God creating and infusing a human soul. If He doesn't do that, it doesn't matter how many sperm make it to the egg - no fertilization, no new life, will exist. Human life is the combination of soul and body. No soul, no human life, no embryonic growth, no way to implant, yada, yada, yada.
Now consider what would happen if no spermicide or anti-ovulatory agent is used and God never got around to creating and infusing the human soul. What would be the result? There would be no result. The sperm would do no harm to the woman. None. They would just curl up, die and disappear. They might make it to the egg, but without a human soul, what difference would that make? None. The sperm couldn't fertilize the egg in such a way that a new human life would appear. 
So, you can certainly say the rapist or whoever is attacking the woman. You can certainly try to prevent that attack. But you can NEVER say the sperm is attacking anything, because the sperm is not capable of causing any damage. The worst it does, in conjunction with God, is cause a human life to begin.
And if we're going to call the creation of a new human soul and a new human life an attack, then God is a serial rapist.
So, the Peoria protocol is complete crap, as I said. Human life is always a gift, unless you get in front of this particular monsignor and the bishops foolish enough to follow him, in which case human life is sometimes the combination of an embryo and God gang-raping a woman. 
But this is what passes for high-falutin' theological scholarship nowadays, don'tcha'know.


Steve "scotju" Dalton said...

I'm from Peoria, and this embarrasses me. I hope Bp. Jenky junked this idiocy when he took office.

Steve Kellmeyer said...

Nope. Still in effect. Bishops like it because it gives them an "out" when the media comes calling.

Dawn Eden said...

You're right. Grisez's faulty reasoning re the "Congo nuns" unfortunately facilitated this mess ...

Steve Kellmeyer said...

God bless Grisez for what good he has managed to do, but he's essentially a nut.

He denies the hierarchy of good, and you can't do that for very long before it starts to show up in your theology.

He can't tell the difference between the good of defense against rape and the good of a human life.

Jordanes551 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jordanes551 said...

As I recall from a conference on Catholic medical ethics that I attended a few years ago, the so-called Peoria Protocol was drawn up when the Democratic People's Republic of Illinois tyrannically decreed that all hospitals must give "emergency contraception" to all rape victims whether the victim wants it or not. As you said, the Peoria diocese and ethics staff of OSF Saint Francis Medical Center and diocesan theologians came up with the protocol to try to find a way to reconcile their obligations under divine law with the decrees of the Ruling Party in Chicago and Springfield. One thing you didn't mention, however, is the significant role of the Philadelphia, Pa.-based National Catholic Bioethics Center and their president John Haas in assisting the diocese to come up with the protocol (so I would think that monsignor you mention may not have been quite as instrumental as your words suggest, though of course he certainly was involved). Haas was the main speaker at the conference I attended, and it is my recollections of his talks that day that I am passing along. To my recollection, pretty much everything Haas said (I can't say everything he said) that day made sense, and his thought was solidly grounded in Thomist philosophy.

He did say something, however, that indicates that he and the NCBC are aware of one pretty serious flaw in the thinking behind the Peoria Protocol -- I believe he portrayed it as a potential flaw, but I think it's more than just potential: and that is whether or not "emergency contraception" is really contraception, or is rather abortifacient. If it's abortifacient -- and it clearly is -- then it doesn't matter whether the poison is being administered as an act of self-defense against a rapist or not. Haas said that it was then disputed whether or not the drug was abortifacient, or rather that it acted by suppressing ovulation and thus making conception impossible. But what we know of female fertility and conception tosses all of his rationale into the dumper -- because if a woman is fertile, if she has ovulated, then it takes only a few seconds for her to get pregnant; but if she has not ovulated, then she cannot get pregnant no matter how many sperm of a rapist are attempting to unite with her ovum. By the time a rape victim has made it to the E.R. to get her "emergency contraception," she is either already pregnant or else she isn't. If she is pregnant, then the dose of "emergency contraception" is actually an attack on a human life. If she is not, then there is no need for "emergency contraception," and thus no need to do any pregnancy test prior to giving her a carcinogenic drug that can have no possible therapeutic benefit.

Therefore, by Haas' own principles and reasoning, the Peoria Protocol is erroneous and incompatible with medical ethics and Catholic moral teaching. For he admitted at the conference that if the drug acts as an abortifacient, then there is no other recourse for a Catholic hospital but to resist and defy the unjust law requiring them to dispense contraceptives to rape victims.

Steve Kellmeyer said...

Haas and the NCBC has been theologically nuts for years, so I'm not surprised to find he was involved in the development of this thing.

Anonymous said...

Hello Steve,

When you write that a Catholic cannot accept emergency contraception in cases of rape, do you mean that, in principle, a Catholic cannot? Or do you mean that, in practice, a Catholic cannot because of, for example, the potential abortifacient effect of typically administered measures?

What I am getting at, I suppose, is whether you perceive a contraceptive act or an abortifacient one as that which informs your evaluation.

Thanks for clarifying this for me if time permits you.

Steve Kellmeyer said...


That's right.
Catholics cannot accept emergency contraception in case of rape, either in principle or in fact.

Contraception and abortion are both mortal sins. Both are prohibited.

Anonymous said...

Hello Steve,

Thank you for clarifying your opinion for me.

Are you open to further conversation or, because of when your post first appeared, would you prefer to leave things as they are?

Steve Kellmeyer said...

Whichever way you want.
Makes no difference to me.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

Thanks Steve.

I can’t commit to more than about one comment a day, but I am willing to see where this goes.

On the matter of whether, in principle, one can administer an emergency contraceptive measure, I don’t think that, in principle, the use of an emergency contraceptive (by a victim of sexual violence aiming to prevent the possibility of pregnancy) falls within the scope of the norm prohibiting artificial methods of regulating birth.

The reflection of our Catholic moral tradition, when surrounding artificial methods of regulating birth, is informed by the conviction that sexual acts within marriage include both a unitive and a procreative dimension and that neither may rightly be separated from the other (Humanae vitae, 12).

The context of a victim of sexual violence makes our identification of what specifically she is doing, entirely different. Perhaps parallel exists in a victim pushing her aggressor off of her, and her not being guilty of coitus interruptus if the aggressor then ejaculates on the ground.

Steve Kellmeyer said...

Ok, well, you haven't brought up any objection that I didn't deal with above, so I'm waiting for you to provide a "new" insight that would cause the above analysis to NOT apply.

What would the new insight be?
For instance, how is it the case that God does not create and infuse the soul? Or, to put it another way, how is it the case that the new human life in the womb does not depend on God creating and infusing the new human soul?

Anonymous said...

Hi Steve,

On your questions ("How is it the case that God does not create and infuse the soul" or, in different words, "how is it the case that the new human life in the womb does not depend on God creating and infusing the new human soul?") I am having trouble discovering their relevance to whether, in principle, emergency contraception can be administered.

As I concluded my previous comment, the context of a victim of sexual violence makes our identification of what specifically she is doing, entirely different than what a person does who, within the context of a married sexual act, divorces the unitive from the procreative. I offered a potential parallel as perhaps existing in a victim pushing her aggressor off of her, and her not being guilty of coitus interruptus if the aggressor then ejaculates on the ground. Those are two very different acts aren't they?

If you are able, can you explain more specifically how what I have written in this comment (12:48 PM, April 15, 2013) has been answered by you already.

Steve Kellmeyer said...

James, read the essay again, slowly.

The only reason to use contraception, emergency or otherwise, is to prevent conception.

Why would anyone want to prevent conception? The only reason to prevent conception is to prevent a human person from coming into existence.

In the case of rape, the woman is trying to prevent her own child from being conceived because she doesn't like the way the father treated her.

Her line of reasoning is illegitimate.

That sums it up as clearly as I can do it.

Anonymous said...

Hello Steve,

I have mentioned “coitus interruptus”. A woman being assaulted would not be guilty of coitus interruptus (right?) were her aggressor to ejaculate on the ground after she had pushed him off of her.


Similarly, in principle, aiming to prevent conception resulting from sexual violence is an act of self-defense and does not fall within that which is articulated in Humanae vitae.

We are talking here about a proper identification of a human act, and since some deficit appears in your understanding, might we retreat to more basic principles if, as you say, you've explained your understanding as best you can.

Steve Kellmeyer said...

James, did you actually READ the essay?

I said she could do anything UP TO THE POINT of ejaculation. Once the man ejaculates, she is done.

Coitus interruptus doesn't even make sense in this context. The man is the one who is ejaculating, the man is the one who performs coitus interruptus, not the woman.

It's like asking what the woman should do with her erection. The woman doesn't HAVE an erection, so there's no answer to the question because it's nonsensical. You might as well ask if God can make a square circle.

You strung a lot of words together to make a valid sentence according to the rules of grammar, but that doesn't mean your sentence makes any sense.

Alright, James, you want to say she is protecting herself from the ejaculate. What harm does the sperm do to her?

Name it.
What is she defending against?

Anonymous said...

Hello Steve,

What is she protecting herself from? In being administered an emergency contraceptive measure, she is protecting herself from one possible consequence of being sexually assaulted. Pregnancy.

What harm does the sperm do to her? Since the sperm has been unjustly deposited in her, and since forcibly impregnating another is wrong, to defend oneself against this exists along the horizon of self-defense. The sperm --- it's obvious, isn't it? --- if certain conditions exist, makes possible pregnancy.

Part of my curiosity about your position stems from its eccentricity. I have neither met nor read nor heard of there existing a Catholic moral theologian who suggests that, in principle, a victim of sexual violence does not have the right to defend against the sperm of her attacker. Debate which exists surrounds particular measures but not the principle.

(If you do know one moral theologian who believes a woman may not, in principle, self-defend in such a way, please refer me to his or her material).

The reason the act of an assaulted woman is interpreted in the way it is (and the ERD follows this) is because persons recognize that the action being preformed does not fall within the scope of the norm prohibiting artificial methods of regulating birth. The context is entirely different. The victim, for example, has hardly separated the unitive dimension from the procreative one in a sexual act (which is what HV condemns).

Steve Kellmeyer said...

Alright, James, she's protecting herself from pregnancy. Very good.

Now, if God does not create and infuse a human soul into the conceptus, how on earth is she going to get pregnant?

Anonymous said...

I don’t understand the impact of the consideration, Steve.

What does what you are talking about have to do with seeking to inhibit ovulation, which, in turn prevents the release of an egg which, in turn, leaves nothing for a sperm to fertilize?

Steve Kellmeyer said...

Ok, James, let's think about this.

Is pregnancy evil?

Given what you've written so far, I have to believe you will answer "Yes, in cases of rape it is evil."

If so, how does pregnancy resulting from rape harm the woman?

Spell it out for me.

Anonymous said...

I don't see pregnancy as evil. However, we are not talking about an already existing pregnancy. We are talking about consent & the extent to which a woman may defend against potential results of a sexual imposition.

Why, I ask you, does a woman not have the right to defend against a sperm, unjustly deposited in her, from fertilizing one of her released eggs?

Can you cite me a conciliar, papal, episcopal or curial text which you have echoed in forbidding a female victim of sexual violence from acting against the possibility of pregnancy? A moral theologian, perhaps?

You appear to misunderstand the scope of the norm prohibiting artificial methods of regulating birth. I see this as resulting from your failure to differentiate between objects in an act. Thus you have drawn the conclusion you have.

Steve Kellmeyer said...

Ok, if pregnancy isn't evil then why does she need protection against it?

You said she has a right to defend against the sperm.

I asked you to name the harm the sperm does to her.

The only thing you named is pregnancy.

So, is pregnancy the harm that sperm does or is it not?

If it isn't, then name the harm.

Steve Kellmeyer said...

OK, well, James seems to be having a little trouble naming what is harmful about the rapist's sperm apart from it's impregnating power.

Notice that he insists the woman has a right to "defend against the attacker", but the methods recommended for doing that DO NOT defend against the attacker. Nothing is done to stop the sperm. Instead, the recommended methods launch chemical warfare on the womb of the woman.

So, apparently, physical rape is to be followed up by chemical rape.

Now, he also asked for some authoritative support. Most modern moral theologians are incapable of providing any authoritative support because they haven't clearly thought through the issue. So, we have to go to the Church Fathers.

"Because of its divine institution for the propagation of man, the seed is not to be vainly ejaculated, nor is it to be damaged, nor is it to be wasted" Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor of Children 2:10:91:2 (A.D. 191) - no spermicides or anti-ovulatories.

"Why do you sow where the field is eager to destroy the fruit, where there are medicines of sterility [oral contraceptives], where there is murder before birth? You do not even let a harlot remain only a harlot, but you make her a murderess as well…Indeed, it is something worse than murder, and I do not know what to call it; for she does not kill what is formed but prevents its formation. What then? Do you condemn the gift of God and fight with his [natural] laws?…Yet such turpitude…the matter still seems indifferent to many men—even to many men having wives. In this indifference of the married men there is greater evil filth; for then poisons are prepared, not against the womb of a prostitute, but against your injured wife. Against her are these innumerable tricks." John Chrysostom, Homilies on Romans 24 (A.D. 391).

Notice that Chrysostom condemns ANY woman who attempts to prevent a life not yet formed, then goes on to make special condemnation of the married.

"Who is he who cannot warn that no woman may take a potion so that she is unable to conceive or condemns in herself the nature which God willed to be fecund? As often as she could have conceived or given birth, of that many homicides she will be held guilty, and, unless she undergoes suitable penance, she will be damned by eternal death in hell. If a woman does not wish to have children, let her enter into a religious agreement with her husband; for chastity is the sole sterility of a Christian woman." Caesarius of Arles, Sermons 1:12 (A.D. 522).

No exceptions to his rule.

Contraception used in the case of rape is still contraception. It is not permitted.

God is the Lord and Giver of Life. Pregnancy only happens if He engenders life. Thus, to act against the possibility of pregnancy is to act against God's life-giving power. It's His decision, not ours.

Anonymous said...

Steve, I apologize for the delay in responding. My last few weeks have been busier than I anticipated.

When last we exchanged words I wondered whether you could provide me a conciliar, papal, episcopal or curial text (or moral theologian) which you have echoed in forbidding a female victim of sexual violence from acting against the possibility of pregnancy. The truth is that I know of none (hence my request).

Further, you asked me if, since pregnancy is not evil, why a woman might need to be protected against it. My answer is rather simple, and though probably implied in previous responses, I don’t mind repeating it: A woman has the right to determine the conditions in which she will become pregnant. When she is imposed upon by a rapist, she lacks consent. The ERD states that she thus has the right to defend against potential results of the rape but at the point of which a second victim (like an unborn child) has his or her dignity violated a second unacceptable act has occurred.

Your more recent comment reinforces my sense that your opposition to emergency contraception stems from your belief that if falls under the norm prohibiting artificial methods of regulating birth. This misunderstands the scope of the teaching of the Church but, at least, clarifies where we disagree.

As a side note, we were discussing the “principle” of self-defense (and/or of contraception), and by introducing the language of chemical warfare, you extend our conversation beyond what is its very narrow scope.

Thank you for the three references from the early Church. I’ll search out their larger context when time permits, and reflect upon how their words impact this conversation. I wonder, thought, about the impact you attribute to such words.

Steve Kellmeyer said...


You don't understand the theological biology here.

You actually think the rapist causes pregnancy, or the rapist's sperm causes pregnancy.

He doesn't.
It doesn't.

God causes pregnancy.
Unless God creates and infuses a soul, there will be no pregnancy.

So, when you say, "When she is imposed upon by a rapist, she lacks consent", you are saying that when a woman gets pregnant, God cooperates with the rapist, not the woman.

If your position were accurate, then God is a rapist, because the Holy Spirit is the Lord and Giver of life.

The quotes I gave you do not indicate ANY exceptions. The taking of any chemical or potion which prevents pregnancy is a contraceptive, REGARDLESS of how the sperm got into the vagina.

Why? Because GOD is the one who creates the life that is pregnancy.

Not the rapist.

Anonymous said...

Steve, surrounding exceptions to what the Church teaches about artificial methods of regulating birth, there are no exceptions that the Church affords.

The question is, however, what the Church’s teaching encompasses. Catholic moral tradition, surrounding artificial methods of regulating birth, is informed by the conviction that when sexual acts within marriage can include both a unitive and a procreative dimension, neither may rightly be separated from the other (Humanae vitae, paragraph 12). When, in 1997, the Pontifical Council for the Family issued the Vademecum for Confessors Concerning Some Aspects of the Morality of Conjugal Life, listen to their language: “The Church has always taught the intrinsic evil of contraception, that is, of every marital act intentionally rendered unfruitful”

That’s the scope. Those operating within the framework of this tradition are thus able to say what the Ethical and Religious Directives have in Directive 36.

Yours is a different perspective, hence my interest in you providing me a conciliar, papal, episcopal or curial text (or moral theologian) which you have echoed in forbidding a female victim of sexual violence from acting against the possibility of pregnancy? Where does the Church say (or where does a moral theologian say) that those administered an emergency contraceptive measure operate within the context of what is prohibited?

I don’t know if you are finding conversation with me here a valuable endeavor. We appear to have very different frames of reference, and I don’t know that I have been able to bridge some of those differences in the short time we have engaged here. Nonetheless, I thank you for the opportunity, and am content to return to silence.

I repeat my original assertion: You appear to misunderstand the scope of the Church’s teaching surrounding artificial methods of regulating birth and, as such, you misunderstand why the Ethical and Religious Directives permit what it does, and why bishops have perceived Directive 36 to be in keeping with Catholic moral tradition.

Be well.

Steve Kellmeyer said...

Oh, for heaven's sake.

Are you trying to argue that it is only sex - and therefore only contraception - if the genital union takes place within the context of marriage vows?

Are you arguing that rape isn't sex, so contraception isn't contraception?

Because that argument has already been refuted. Read through the essays. You'll see that the CDF disagrees with such a position.

Answer my question, James.
If the human soul is immediately created and infused by God AND if the human embryo can neither exist nor grow except it is united to a human soul, THEN how can you stop God being a rapist when the human rapist's sperm unites with the woman's egg and she becomes pregnant (i.e., God enlivens the gamete union) without her giving consent?

If you are correct, then you have to explain why God isn't a rapist when a raped woman gets pregnant.

Steve Kellmeyer said...

Look, I'll make it easy on you James. If you can't answer the question about God as rapist, try this one.

Two rapists. Rapist A has HIV. Rapist B does not.

Rapist A wears a condom so as not to transmit HIV to his victim.

Rapist B refuses to wear a condom, because he intends to get his victim pregnant.

Obviously, both rapists commit mortal sin by the fact that they rape their respective female victims.

Although the means is reprehensible, which rapist has chosen an objectively superior moral end?

The answer: Rapist B has chosen a superior moral end. A disease is only a temporal and temporary good while a human person is an immortal good.

Now, given that Rapist B's choice is morally superior, what does that make the priest who tells the woman she should take a post-coital contraceptive?

Correct - that makes the priest a cooperator with Satan, for he chooses to help the woman destroy the greatest possible good that might come of the evil of rape.

Anonymous said...


The Ethical and Religious Directives are issued by the USCCB, and your opening post acknowledges the existence of Directive 36 which runs counter to your position here.

I have requested several times that you cite a conciliar, papal, episcopal or curial text (or moral theologian) which you have echoed in forbidding a female victim of sexual violence from acting against the possibility of pregnancy, and you have not been able to do so.

Since I have not succeeded in helping you overcome your misunderstandings, and since I do not have optimism about my ability to deepen your understanding of why the Church advocates the practice it does, allow me to excuse myself from this conversation.

The Introduction to the ERD states that the directives will be reviewed periodically, and so while I have no difficulty with an individual believing a particular directive needs tweaked, you do not yet evidence the theological grounding necessary to be considered a voice within that particular conversation.

I will check in periodically in case you are able to meet my request. All the best.

Anything more I could say would just be repeating what I already have. I am content to let my defense of the USCCB stand as is.

Steve Kellmeyer said...


You are unable to answer basic theological questions, the first of which is a quote from any Magisterial document which names pregnancy as an evil against which protection is needed.

Since the Church doesn't consider pregnancy an evil, I can hardly produce a document in which the Church says a woman needs to be protected against it.

It's like asking me to produce a Church document which allows a victim of antibiotic treatments to be protected against the possibility of recovering their health. The question assumes that which the Church already denies in numerous other documents.

Prove to me that the Church considers pregnancy evil, using any conciliar, papal or other document, and I will seriously consider your request. As it is, your request is theologically insane.

Furthermore, since USCCB documents are not Magisterial, you have provided no Magisterial support for your position.

I have provided support for mine.

But you seem unable to recognize this.

I will check in periodically to see if you have grown any in your understanding of Catholic theology.

RebeccaPeck said...

And the really sad thing is that research provides evidence that Plan B is a poor anovulant (it doesn't even prevent ovulation), and this research has been in existence for many years now, and the Peoria Protocol still exists, and the Bishops still won't change their mind on this, despite many of us who have attempted to show them the evidence, through our published research. We must balance compassion for the woman raped with an equal respect for the dignity of this newly created life. Plan B does not impede sperm, prevent fertilization or prevent ovulation, yet when used in the pre-ovulatory period, it prevents pregnancy 100% of the time. The research shows that it does not act as a "contraceptive". It must be interfering with the early life of the embryo in some fashion which remains to be more fully elucidated. Please pray that the Bishops will listen.