WORLD GREETS PAPAL DECISION ON PAINLESS CHILDBIRTH
Positive moral achievements through abolition of fear
WORLD-WIDE interest and satisfaction has greeted the Holy Father's declaration in an address to some 700 doctors and midwives in the Vatican on Sunday that there is no moral or scriptural objection to a new technique to render childbirth painless to the mother.
His Holiness pointed out that "it is a question here of natural, painless childbirth, in which no artificial means are used, but the natural forces of the mother alone are called into action."
It is called the psycho-prophylactic method. Hypnosis is not involved : the mother is fully conscious throughout.
Pain is avoided through the absence of fear and the mother's own trained physical responses, including relaxation of tension, with the help and constant supervision of trained medical attendants.
His Holiness analysed the theory and practice of the Russian researchers, and said:
" For his part the Englishman Grantly Dick Read has perfected a theory and technique which are analogous in a certain number of points. In his philosophical and metaphysical postulates, however, he differs substantially, because his are not based, like theirs, on a materialist concept."
The Holy Father remarked that if the method can avoid or diminish pain, it " can lead to positive moral achievements.
" If pain and fear are successfully eliminated from childbirth, that very fact," said His Holiness, " frequently diminishes an induce• ment to commit immoral acts in the use of marriage rights."
The Holy Father made it clear that he was passing judgment on the psycho-prophylactic method from the moral and religious point of view.
" The method," said His Holiness," unquestionably has elements that must be considered as scientifically established; others that have only a high probability, and still others which remain as yet (at least for the present) of a problematic nature."
The Pope turned to the moral aspects and said: " Is this method morally irreproachable?
" The answer, which must take into account the object, end and motive of the method, is enunciated briefly: " ' Considered in itself, it contains nothing that can be criticised from the moral point of view.'
" The method is a natural elevating influence, protecting the mother from superficiality and levity; it influences her personality in a positive manner, so that at the very important moment of childbirth she may manifest the firmness and solidity of her character."
Having made it clear that the methods are in themselves morally neutral, the Holy Father explained that they should be undertaken with the highest purposes in mind. He listed three such purposes:
1. " The interest presented by a purely scientific fact.
2. " The natural and noble sentiment which creates esteem and love for the human person of the
mother, wishing to do her good and to help her.
3. A deep religious and Christian feeling. inspired by the ideals of a living Christianity."
If, said the Pope, the methods are undertaken with intentions that are immoral, then it is the personal action of the agent which is to be judged wrong.
" The immoral motive does not change something that is good into something that is bad, at any rate as far as its objective nature is concerned, any more than the Fondness of a thing in itself can justify a had motive or furnish a proof of its goodness."
His Holiness next dealt with the theological evaluation, saying: "The new method is often presented in the context of a materialistic philosophy and culture and in opposition to Holy Scripture and Christianity. . . .
"The ideology of a researcher and of a scholar is not in itself a proof of the truth and the value of what he has discovered and expounded. . .
" Even a materialistic researcher can make a real and valid scientific discovery: but this contribution does not in any way constitute an argument in favour of his materialistic ideas. . . .
" The laws, the theory and the technique of natural childbirth, without pain, are undoubtedly valid, but they have been elaborated by scholars who, to a great extent, profess an ideology belonging to a materialistic culture; these latter are not true, simply because the scientific results mentioned above arc. . . . "The convinced Christian finds nothing in his philosophical ideas and his culture that prevents him from occupying himself seriously, in theory and in practice, with the psycho-prophylactic method; he knows as a general rule that reality and truth are not identical with their interpretation, subsumption or systematisation, and that, consequently, it is possible at the same time to accept the one entirely and reject the other altogether."
The Holy Father then considered the method in relation to Holy Scripture.
Quoting the words of Genesis, " In pain shall you bring forth children," His Holiness said that it is necessary to understand this in its whole context.
" In inflicting this punishment on our first parents and their descendants, God did not wish to forbid and did not forbid men to seek after and make use of all the riches of creation; to make progress step by step in culture; to make life in this world more bearable and better; to lighten the burden of work and fatigue. pain, sickness and death, in a word, to subdue the earth (Gen. 1, 28).
" Similarly, in punishing Eve, God did not wish to forbid—nor did He forbid—mothers to make use of means which render childbirth easier and less painful.
" One must not seek subterfuges for the words of Sacred Scripture: they remain true in the sense intended and expressed by the Creator, namely: motherhood will give the mother much suffering to bear.
" In what precise manner did God conceive this chastisement and how will He carry it out? Sacred Scripture does not say. " There are some who allege that originally childbirth was entirely painless, and that it became painful only at a later date (perhaps due to an erroneous interpretation of the judgment of God) as a result of auto-suggestion and heterosuggestion. arbitrary associations, conditioned reflexes, and because of faulty behaviour of mothers in labour.
" So far, however. these assertions on the whole have not been proven. " On the other hand, it could he true that an incorrect behaviour, psychic or physical, on the part of those in labour is capable of increasing considerably the difficulties of delivery, and has in reality increased them.
" Science and technique can, therefore, use the conclusions of experimental psychology, of physiology and of gynacology (as in the psycho-prophylactic method) in order to eliminate the sources of error and painful conditioned reflexes and to render childbirth as painless as possible; Sacred Scripture does not forbid it."
In his concluding remarks the Holy Father said: "Christianity does not interpret suffering and the Cross in a merely negative fashion. If the new technique spares her the sufferings of childbirth, the mother can accept it without any scruple of conscience; but she is not obliged to do so.
" In the case of partial success or failure, she knows that suffering can be a source of good, if she bears it with God and in obedience to His Will. . . .
" Christian thought and life, and therefore Christian obstetrics, do not attribute an absolute value to the progress of science and the perfection of technique. . . . "Although the Christian applauds new scientific discoveries and makes use of them, he rejects all material• ism's exaggerated glorification of science and culture.
" He knows that these occupy a place on the scale of objective values. but that; while they are not the lowest. neither are they the highest. " In their regard. too, he repeats to-day as ever and always: Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His justice ' (Matt. 6, 33). "The highest, the ultimate value for man is to he found, not in science or its technical capabilities, but in the love of God and devotion to His service.
" For these reasons. when faced with scientific discovery of painless childbirth, the Christian is careful not to admire it unreservedly and not to use it with exaggerated haste: he judges it in a positive manner and with reflection, in the light of sane natural reason and in the more vivid light of the faith and love which emanate from God and from the cross of Christ."