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Catholic Pharmacists
Question from Marie on 3/21/2001:

> Can a Catholic pharmacist morally dispense birth > control pills or sell condoms or other birth control > devices to non-Catholic and Catholic patients? > > I've decided it is best to answer your question > privately, as follows: > > You need to elaborate more on your question. > "Dispense?" Hand them out? Have them on the shelf in > his pharamacy? Please clarify if you wish. > > Fr. Stephen F. Torraco

******************************************************* Dear Fr. Torraco, All of the above apply. A pharmacists duties entail filling the birth control or other anti-contraception prescriptions, handing the filled prescriptions to the customer, as well as consulting with the customer on the medications such as birth control to let them know how best to take the medications, what other medications will reduce the efficacy of its intended purpose, etc.

In a retail pharmacy, condoms, foams, etc. are in stock for sale to customers for which the pharmacist will need to either make the sale or may be questioned by the customer for consultation on which over the counter anti-contraception product is recommended for use based on the pharmacists expertise. It is known that not only Non-Catholics, but Catholics, seek birth control measures. This is evident as you look around any congregation at any Catholic church. No longer do you see large families as in my grandparents day. My father came from 8 children and my mother from 11 children. Families now are usually managed to have less children.

My question is, what is the role of a Catholic pharmacist, if any, in this matter? Is there any difference if the patient receiving the anti-contraception product is Non-Catholic?

Thank you for your reply.

Answer by Fr.Stephen F. Torraco on 3/21/2001:

I will assume that you are speaking about a Catholic pharmacist who owns his own store and is therefore ultimately responsible for the policies and products of the pharmacy. The position of THAT pharmacist , on this question, can be morally distinct from that of the Catholic pharmacist who works for someone else or for a company. This second Catholic pharmacist could easily find himself working for a pharmacy that actively promotes contraceptives for any and all purposes. The actual nature of that pharmacist's work in the pharmacy and his own concrete circumstances would determine whether his degree of material cooperation with evil is morally permissible.

In the case of the first Catholic pharmacist, on the one hand, it would not be morally wrong for him to have chemical contraceptives in stock, as these are often prescribed for medical, as distinct from contraceptive, purposes; and such prescriptions are morally permissible, even if they unavoidably and unintentionally have an abortifacient effect. On the other hand, it would not be morally wrong for him NOT to have such chemical contraceptives in stock so as to prevent their contraceptive use and abortifacient effect. Those patients whose physicians prescribe them for medical purposes could easily find another pharmacy where they are available.

In any case, this Catholic pharmacist ought not to have any other contraceptive devices available. Instead, and in order to be pro-active about it, he ought to actively promote the most medically advanced approach to health care for women, namely, NaProTechnology (Natural Procreative Technology), established and developed by the Pope Paul VI Institute in Omaha, Nebraska, from its Creighton Model of fertility care.

Like natural family planning, NaProTechnology is based on the principle of "listening to nature," NaProTechnology is gynecological health care cooperating with the natural procreative mechanisms and functions in such a way as to preserve the woman's procreative potential. When these mechanisms are working properly, NaProTechnology works cooperatively with them. When these mechanisms are functioning abnormally, NaProTechnology cooperates with the procreative mechanisms in producing a form of treatment which corrects the condition, maintains the human ecology and sustains the procreative potential. Applications of NaProTechnology include: family planning, chronic discharges, targeted hormone evaluation, targeted hormone replacement, identification of ovarian cysts, the effects of stress, premenstrual syndrome, abnormal bleeding, dating pregnancy, psychosexual understanding, miscarriages, and infertility.

From reading this description of NaProTechnology, you can easily see that its promotion would also impact upon the prescribing of chemical contraceptives for medical purposes. Unfortunately, knowledge of this advanced medical technology is not very widespread. For this reason, having chemical contraceptives available for medical purposes is morally permissible.

My response to your question clearly presupposes that a Catholic pharmacist cannot resign himself to being a neutral dispenser of whatever the physician prescribes. In the culture of death that surrounds us, a Catholic pharmacist needs to be actively involved in promoting a culture of life.

I refer you to the web site of Pharmacists for Life International for further information. Their address is http://www.pfli.org/

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