Francis Phillips reviews, Who's at the Centre of
Who’s at the Centre of your Marriage ... the Pill or Jesus Christ? By Patrick McCrystal (not for sale: donation to HLI)
Patrick McCrystal is the Chairman of Human Life International (Ireland). As an organisation HLI is at the forefront of the battle against the fiercely secularist policies of the West with regard to ‘sexual health’ and ‘women’s rights’. The author himself was drawn into the pro-life struggle when he left his job as a pharmacist in Belfast in 1993, having decided in conscience that he could not dispense the pill and other contraceptives. He describes how during prayer a verse of Scripture entered his mind: “See, I set before you life or death, blessing or curse; choose life that you and your descendants may live.”
MycCrystal interpreted this as a sign from God, giving him the choice either to continue his work, knowing it to be tainted with a ‘curse’, or to stop it and be led to a ‘blessing’. Giving up his job entailed sacrifice: “No-one wanted to employ a pharmacist who wouldn’t dispense the pill.” He was unemployed for three years before being offered employment in the pro-life movement in the Republic of Ireland.
Doing research on the pill McCrystal came to the conclusion that it was not only the so-called ‘morning-after pill’ that was abortifacient: all oral contraceptives had the potential, to a greater or lesser extent, to destroy life soon after conception. In Appendix 2 at the end of this book he provides clear information on why this is the case. Indeed, the book contains a wealth of information on related issues, such as the harmful side-effects of the pill, its link with surgical abortion and the benefits for couples of using natural family planning.
The central theme of the book is McCrystal’s belief, supported by statistics, that marriage is happier and holier when couples give up contraception of all kinds and put Christ at the centre of their marriage. He himself prayed for a wife who would share his views; he was led to Therese who shares in the work of HLI and with whom he has eight children: four living and four lost through miscarriage.
Couples sometimes do not count their miscarried children among their family members. The McCrystals do so because, as Patrick points out in his book, these pre-born children are made in the image of God; when people contracept or abort, they lose irreplaceable members of their family and society at large loses the contribution such children would have made.
The book also includes many personal statements from couples whose marriages fell into severe difficulties, then were turned around by a joint decision to trust God as to the number of children they should accept. One man confesses that in using contraceptives “our sexual relationship changed from an act of marital union to lust-filled activity...I no longer saw my wife as a person I lost respect for her...”
The author draws on the experience of Mgr Cormac Burke’s book, “Covenanted Happiness; Love and Commitment in Marriage”: Mgr Burke writes that “In my work at the Roman Rota, I not infrequently come across petitions of annulment of what clearly are perfectly genuine marriages of couples who married out of love, but whose marriages collapsed fundamentally because they deliberately delayed having children and thus deprived their mutual love of its natural support.” In other words, having children and making sacrifices for them brings out the best in couples and makes it easier to overcome the normal difficulties in marriage they will inevitably experience.
McCrystal provides a brief history of the birth control movement, started by Margaret Sanger, who opened her first clinic in Brooklyn in 1916. This deeply unpleasant woman targeted ‘ill-favoured’ or ‘dysgenic’ races such as “Blacks, Hispanics, Amerinds, Fundamentalists and Catholics” and declared that birth control “appeals to the advanced radical because it is calculated to undermine the authority of the Christian Churches. I look forward to seeing humanity free someday of the tyranny of Christianity.”
This is a wise book, written with humour and passion, by someone whose own life witnesses to the providence of God towards those who “follow the Maker’s instructions.” Read it and pass it on.
© 2010 Francis Phillips
Theotokos Catholic Books - Book Reviews Section - www.theotokos.org.uk