In defense of Pharmacy and Catholic Pharmacists was written during the 2012 U.S. presidential campaign. This was not written for publication but for my own piece of mind, to justify my own career.

At that time pharmacy, was under attack, recently the attack has been renewed. I have been a Catholic all my life and a pharmacists for over forty years. The use of birth control medications has, until recently, been a private and professional medical decision. Holy-mother-church may not have approved of contraception but she did respect the doctor patient relationship.

In October 2011, presidential candidate Rick Santorum gave an interview with Shane Vander Hart, in which he said contraception is “not okay,” and that this would be a public policy issue he would address as President. In an interview with Jake Tapper on ABC News, Senator Santorum reiterated his opposition to the Supreme Court’s 1965 ruling that prevented Connecticut from banning contraception.

Santorum, and many social conservatives, believe that the states should have the right to outlaw birth control without the interference of the Supreme Court. Candidate Santorum, a Catholic, stated I'm reflecting the views of the church that I believe in. If you read this, you will see that Science and Religion do not mix. As thinking beings we want to experience cause-and-effect because we want to maintain control, but some things just don’t have clear answers.

Contraception is one of these areas. “May...God ...give you a Spirit of wisdom and revelation resulting in knowledge of Him. May the eyes of your hearts be enlightened, that you may know what is the hope that belongs to His call...” (EPH 1:17-18) St. Paul was not talking about Science. It is apparent that Paul did understand human nature, that we are creatures of causality.

Paul wants us to open our hearts, not conduct a science experiment in our brains. We have grown up to expect effects to have causes, we fear the unknown. Paul is asking us to have Faith. Faith or the journey to Faith has given rise to many sleepless nights for both believers and non-believers. In defense of Pharmacy and Catholic Pharmacists in relation to Roman Catholic teaching on contraception. Despite what you may think, this is not an attack on the official Sanctity of Life doctrine of the Catholic Church.

This is not a scholarly discussion by another man concerning women and their reproductive rights. As a Pharmacist and a Catholic I have been thrust into a metaphysical and theological abortion battle for the last forty years. How do I justify my position in the Doctor - Patient - Pharmacist relationship triangle of modern health care specifically birth control and contraception? How do I stand before my God and justify my lifes work?

As a Catholic I sincerely believe that humans beings are created in the image of God and they are created to participate supernaturally and eternally in the life of God. "I knew you before I formed you in your mother’s womb..." Jeremiah 1:5 I face a second dilemma, I have nine children, I have guided eight into adulthood and they have been a great joy to me, I have one child that was lost in miscarriage. If ensoulment takes place sometimes after conception I will never know this last child in this life or the next. If ensoulment occurs at conception then I will get to know this child in the next life but I can justly stand accused of causing the abortions of thousands of children over the last forty years.

Saint Thomas Aquinas (1225 - 1274) believed in and wrote about late human ensoulment, often referred to as ‘delayed hominization.’ [1] The morality of contraception turns on one important set of issues, the metaphysical, concerning the beginnings of human life, the creation of a new soul and the specific status of the embryo. Can the reasons for Aquinas’s position that human ensoulment occurs some time after conception have validity today once it is freed from his erroneous embryological assumptions of nine centuries ago? Saint Thomas Aquinas held that late human ensoulment was based on four points, three embryological and one metaphysical. [2]

The metaphysical is based on the development of the embryo, a body sufficiently organized to receive a human soul. His argument for ensoulment is quite long, the general metaphysical point as expressed by Aquinas as follows: “Now it belongs to the natural order that a thing is gradually brought from potency to act. And therefore in those things which are generated we find that at first each is imperfect and afterwards is perfected.”

Modern theological writers concede that Aquinas’ general metaphysical principle is demonstrably true. Had Aquinas ended his argument for ensolement here we might not be having this discussion. In 1999 Stephen Gould put forward the idea of NOMA, Non Overlapping MAgisteria where science and religion occupy two separate realms of human experience. “The magisterium of science covers the empirical realm: what the Universe is made of (fact) and why does it work in this way (theory). The Magisterium of religion extends over questions of ultimate meaning and moral value. These two magisteria do not overlap...” [3] St. Thomas tried to use his knowledge of the science of his day to support his metaphysical position.

All three of the Aquinas’ embryological beliefs, however, are known to be false. Those supporting the Catholic Church’s view argue that if Aquinas had known the facts of embryology he would have held that the human soul is present from conception. Unfortunately “embryology” is a science. Science is defined as a systematic enterprise that builds and organizes knowledge in the form of testable explanations. Scientific theory is empirical and always open to review and falsification if new evidence is presented. The principle factor effecting a change in the Church’s teaching about the nature of the sinfulness of contraception (early abortion) was the development of knowledge of human embryology.

Holy Mother Church is mixing theology and science in a dangerous way. The Church dose not want her science challenged but that denies the nature of science as testable. Writing down authoritative religious texts freezes their content. If religious text contain science as a component or argument then as science changes, so arise the need to interpret the meaning of authoritative traditions in the light of new realities.

This is what justified the reevaluation of Saint Thomas Aquinas’ writings, this is still valid today with current Church teaching [4] as long as she links religion to science. Modern embryology shows that the female provides a gamete (the ovum) which is already a highly organized living cell, containing highly complex, specific information, in the genetic structure of the nuclear chromosomes. This information (together with that provided by the genetic structure in the chromosomes of the male sperm) helps guide the development of the new living organism formed by the fusion of the sperm and the ovum.

From this union life can go beautifully right or very wrong. Under ideal conditions the fertilized ovum (embryo) can grow to a human being that we sincerely believe is created in the image of God and is created to participate eternally in the life of God. One of the more beautiful twists and turns of life that Holy Mother Church may not have considered is the process of twinning, the division of a single fertilized embryo into two or even four identical embryos. This is asexual reproduction, no contribution from a father or mother but division of an existing embryo. Holy Mother Church has stated that life, and ensoulment, begins at conception. “Twinning however, proves that an individual’s existence does not absolutely begin at conception. In the case of identical twins, one of the individual’s existence begins 24 to 72 hours later when the fertilized embryo divides in two. Thus, the church’s (mis)knowledge of embryology may stand in contradiction to its stated beliefs.” [5]

When twinning occurs, and an embryo divides into two or four identical embryos, do they share a common soul or does each new embryo now receive its own soul? More metaphysical questions. Under less ideal conditions the fertilized ovum can go drastically wrong. Miscarriage or spontaneous abortion is fatal to the new life of the embryo. Many miscarriages happen very early in the pregnancy, before a woman may know she is pregnant. Most clinically apparent miscarriages, two thirds to three-quarters in various studies, occur during the first trimester. [6] [7]

Applying Aquinas’s metaphysical principles to the embryological facts uncovered by modern science leads to the conclusion that God’s grand plans are better served by late human ensoulment. Prospective studies using very sensitive early pregnancy tests have found that 25% of pregnancies are miscarried by the sixth week since the woman’s Last Menstrual Period. [8] [9] However, other reports suggest higher rates. One fact sheet from the University of Ottawa states, "The incidence of spontaneous abortion is estimated to be 50% of all pregnancies, based on the assumption that many pregnancies abort spontaneously with no clinical recognition.” [10] The NIH reports, “It is estimated that up to half of all fertilized eggs die and are lost (aborted) spontaneously, usually before the woman knows she is pregnant.” [11] The risk of miscarriage decreases sharply after the 10th week, i.e. when the fetal stage begins. [12] Loss is “virtually complete by the end of the embryonic period.” [13]

This begs the question, are we really seeing the loss of half of the human souls created by conception? Unfortunately the embryological facts cited by those that support Holy-Mother-Church leave out some serious issues that bear on the case for late ensoulment. For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Jeremiah 29:11 "I knew you before I formed you in your mother’s womb..." Lord, why couldn’t you have been more specific about when this occurs? Is there sinfulness in participating as a health care professional in contraception and to what degree? Certainly there is the issue of respect for human life, life that is without doubt started at conception. Does contraception rise to the level of terminating a life with a soul and a purpose known only to God?

Morality has an essentially theological character, it consists of the deliberate ordering of human acts. Acts that will be judged by God, the supreme good and ultimate end. Will we be judged on our understanding and application of the knowledge of our times? We may believe that previous concepts and knowledge were foolishly erroneous, but as human knowledge and science grows, our perspectives improve, altering our sense of what is right. “It is necessary to provide another, and, we believe, more credible account of the issue of when human life begins, as this may be determined on the basis of known empirical facts and Aquinas’s metaphysics, and a more accurate representation of how (and how extensively) this issue has been treated.” [14] “And the dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit returns to God who gave it.”

Ecclasiastes 12:7 References [1] This is not a concept unique to Christianity. Islam, one of the three theologies that spring from the God of Abraham has similar beliefs. Hussain Arif Abdul identifies ways in which philosophical ideas of personhood influence rulings concerning abortion. The terms ‘life,’ ’soul’ and ‘spirit’ are clarified through a comparative study of authoritive Shea text. There is a consensus that ensoulment occurs at four months, when the spirit causes the emergence of potentiality for rational thought. This stage marks a significant change in the status of the fetus. Judaism, the original theology of Abraham, does not universally accept the existence of a soul. In Judaism, life begins with the drawing of the first breath. [2]

Using the term “metaphysical” is an attempt to link the views of St. Thomas Aquinas with Aristotle. Do not be deceived by this argument. “Summa Theologica..... is St. Thomas’ greatest work, his last and most important contribution to Christian theology and philosophy. For, though the work is entitled Summa Theologica, and is, in fact, a summary of Catholic theology, it is also a summary of philosophy. It begins with the question of the existence of God, treats of the attributes of God, traces the process of things from God, and the return of man to God through Christ by means of the sacraments which Christ instituted....” History of Philosophy, William Turner, S.T.D., Ginn and Company, Boston, 1929. p. 346. [3] Gould, Stephen Jay (2002). Rocks of Ages: Science and Religion in the Fullness of Life. New York: Ballantine Books. ISBN 034545050X I do not like using this reference because Gould is condescending when he speaks of believers in any theology, but his observations about the separation of Science and Religion are accurate. [4]

Arguments from scripture and tradition are in themes The Sacred Congregation recalls the teachings found in the Declaration on Procured Abortion: "From the time that the ovum is fertilized, a new life is begun which is neither that of the father nor of the mother: it is rather the life of a new human being with his own growth....” . . . This teaching remains valid and is further confirmed, if confirmation were needed, by recent findings of human biological science which recognize that in the zygote resulting from fertilization the biological identity of a new human individual is already constituted. Subsequent Church documents have consolidated this position. Allowing that there may be some indeterminacy in best current accounts of when exactly a new human being begins to exist, the Church nevertheless teaches that this should be deemed to occur at conception.

The point is stated clearly in a later declaration of the Sacred Congregation, Donum Vitae ‘The Gift of Life’ - more prosaically described as an ‘Instruction on Respect for Human Life In its Origin and the Dignity of Procreation: Replies to Certain Questions of the Day.’ Aquinas on Human Ensoulment, Abortion and the Value of Life, John Haldane and Patrick Lee. from: Philosophy 78 (2003), 255-278 [5] Discussion written by my friend and fellow pharmacist, Tom Roll. April 2012 [6] - Rosenthal, M. Sara (1999). "The Second Trimester." The Gynecological Sourcebook, WebMD. Retrieved 18 December 2006. [7] - Francis O (1959). "an analysis of 1150 cases of abortions from the Government R.S.R.M. Lying-in Hospital, Madras." J Obstet Gynecol India 10 (1): 62-70. PMID 12336441. [8] - Wilcox AJ, Baird DD, Weinberg CR (1999). "Time of implantation of the conceptus and loss of pregnancy." New England Journal of Medicine 340 (23): 1796-1799. doi:10.1056/NEJM199906103402304. PMID 10362823 [9] - Wang X, Chen C, Wang L, Chen D, Guang W, French J (2003). "Conception, early pregnancy loss, and time to clinical pregnancy: a population-based prospective study." Fertil Steril 79 (3): 577-84. doi:10.1016/S0015-0282(02)04694-0, PMID 12620443. [10] - [11] - [12] - Q&A: Miscarriage. (August 6, 2002), BBC News. Retrieved January 17, 2007. Also see Lennart Nilsson, A Child is Born 91 (1990)(At eight weeks, "the danger of miscarriage...diminishes sharply.") [13] - Rodeck, Charles; Whittle, Martin. Fetal Medicine: Basic Science and Clinical Practice (Elsevier Health Sciences 1999). page 835. [14] - ibid. Haldane and Lee.

I posted this on a Science web site, not a Theology web site. I would like to hear your comments on the science behind my thoughts. I would like you to be objective and comment without bias. Unfortunately this is probably not possible. Before you comment, consider what Robert Trivers, an evolutionary biologist at Rutgers University has to say about objectivity.

“Our sensory systems are organized to give us a detailed and accurate view of reality....but once this information arrives in our brains, it is often distorted and biased to our conscious minds.” In his book, The Folly of Fools: The Logic of Deceit and Self-Deception in Human Life, Professor Trivers presented a theory. We often deceive ourselves because it then becomes easier to deceive others. In his book, he notes that one way we lie to ourselves is by selective perception. Researchers demonstrated selective perception by gathering a group of test subjects who strongly supported or opposed capital punishment. Everyone was presented with the same facts supporting both positions.

The results indicated that the test subjects became even more convinced of the accuracy of their views. While each person thought they were evaluating the information objectively, they were not. Each test subject distorted the information to align with their prior beliefs. Can you do any better? Did I do any better?