Pastoral Conversation # 1 (4 hours in length)
Participants: Martin and Tricia (names changed to protect the privacy of those involved)
Subject: Martin is sterile, and the couple is considering artificial insemination
Martin and Tricia are an old couple and have been part of the local church community for several years after they moved here from Illinois. They are your stereotypical Christian couple and met via an online dating website that specifically catered to Christians. Their greatest wish is to start a family; however, after several years of trying, their doctor has discovered that Martin is sterile.
This has created a considerable amount of friction in their marriage and has even caused Martin to feel depressed due to his apparent “inadequacy.” The couple came to me seeking advice on what they should do and have even brought up that they have considered using artificial insemination with semen coming from an anonymous donor. The following is a summary of the conversation that I had with Martin and Tricia on the issue and the advice I gave them to help resolve it.
Tricia: Due to Martin’s “problem” we thought that there might be something else we could do to have kids. I did some research online, and one of the potential ways that we could go about this would be artificial insemination. Yes, it is pricey, but the clinic’s website says that they only take sperm from the best possible candidates and that the process is pretty straightforward.
Me: I understand that your greatest wish is to start a family and that Martin’s infertility is a severe blow to this dream, but have you given much thought to choosing artificial insemination and how this process may not be the most ideal? Martin, what is your perspective on this? Do you think that artificial insemination is the best route that you and your wife should take?
Martin: I….understand that this may be an unusual approach that most couples do not go through, but we believe that this seems like the best route to take. I feel that it is my responsibility to make things right and if there is a way that it can be done, for us to start having a family, then I will choose the option that will make it a reality.
Me: Yes, starting a family is a wonderful gift, but have you considered the potential psychological effects that this would have on you? You would be, in effect, raising someone else’s child. While this may not be an issue for you early on, there is still the potential that some resentment may arise. Would an innocent child deserve to be resented for something that was out of their control?
Martin: There is no way that I would ever resent the child! I want to be a father; I want to be someone that a child can look up to, respect and consider as someone to emulate. I want to be there to help them through their first steps, their baptism, communion and all other important life events.
Me: Alright, I understand that being a father is important for you and that you feel that having a child to raise is not only an important milestone but something that you want to do. However, there is a reason that the current perspective of many Christian ministries is that artificial insemination is not the way to go. The first problem stems from the artificial nature of the practice. The use of commercial and scientific methods to create a means for conception violates the respect and dignity associated with the act of creating life. You are, in effect, putting a price tag on a human life which is an unethical and immoral thing to do. [“Write my essay for me?” Get help here.]
You also have to consider that the process creates several viable zygotes and since you are likely to only use one or two, what happens to the rest? They are destroyed which would make you complicit in the act of killing several potentially very happy children. Lastly, you need to consider that IVF procedures subvert the unity of marriage and the natural development of familial relationships. Yes, I know that you desperately want to have children but do you want your pregnancy to be tainted by the sin of murder? You may think that this is an exaggeration, but that is exactly what will happen should you choose to go through with this.
Tricia: I….just want to have a child to call my own, to raise them and love them and give them a life that would make them happy. Is that too much to ask when that is all we want?
Me: It is not but the process that you are choosing to go through is simply not the best way to go, at least from the perspective of the church. One of greatest miracles is the way in which the current generation is gifted with the capacity to usher in a new one to take over once we have passed. Through each successive generation, the grace of God is passed on and is even improved as we learn from our mistakes and strive towards a better tomorrow.
That is why it is so important to prevent the commercialization of the creation of human life. Instead of the miraculous, you are using the artificial and at significant cost, not only in a financial sense but an ethical and moral one as well. It is an unfortunate set of circumstances that you have been denied the opportunity to have a child naturally, but this does not mean that all options have been denied to you. Have you considered that adoption could be one of the paths to starting a family?
Tricia: We did think of adoption, at first, but we want a child that had, at least, one part of us with them. I know it sounds silly, but I always thought that having a family meant having children that had a biological connection to at least one of the parents.
Me: Yes, that sort of notion is understandable and is quite prevalent among many people that are looking to start a family. However, bringing an innocent young child into your home that has lost their family through one circumstance or another is one of the greatest acts of love that you can accomplish within your lifetime.
While the child may not be your true flesh and blood, they can still be the recipient of your love and support. Family is at times more than the blood that flows in your veins; it is the shared moments, memories and feelings that bind people together that truly creates a family. There are thousands of children within the foster care system who are looking for people that they can call their parents. Many of them are truly beautiful inside and out. If you give them a chance to, they can show you that they can be the child that you always wanted to have.
Tricia: Could you…..give us some time to think about this? Its just an idea that we are not used to and need some time to think about.
Me: Of course, take your time and please come back and talk to me once you have made a decision.
Pastoral Conversation # 2 (3 hours in length)
Subject: Andrew has developed an addiction to Oxycontin, and it has slowly started to affect his life
Andrew has been a member of the local church community since he was a child and has been an active contributor to many of the church’s fundraising activities. Lately, he has been looking haggard and seems to have lost a considerable amount of weight within a short period. He came to me a few days ago and revealed that he had developed an addiction to Oxycontin, a type of painkiller, that was prescribed to him to help with this back pain after he underwent surgery to correct his scoliosis. Unfortunately, he has continued to use Oxycontin even after the pain in his back went away. It has developed into an addiction that is causing him severe distress since it has affected his behavior and interactions with people.
Andrew: I do not know what to do, it started out simple enough, I took the pills to help ease the pain in my back and everything seemed fine during the first few weeks. However, the more I took the pills, the better I felt, and it reached a point where I kept on taking them regardless of whether my back was hurting me or not.
It is not like I am taking them every hour, maybe two or three times a day, but it has already been a month since my operation was over, and my back is fully healed. I cannot seem to stop taking the pills because whenever I do, I feel awful.
Me: Andrew, I am glad that you came to me with this problem, admitting that you have a problem is the first step to recovery. However, I have to ask, where do you think the need to take the pills is coming from?
Yes, Oxycontin can become addictive over time, but people usually start becoming dependent on them if they are experiencing events that cause the need to arise. Are you going through any personal experiences that make you feel sad, angry or particularly vexed? You may be using the pills to help deal with this situation and as long as it is not resolved the need will not disappear.
Andrew: Actually, I have been going through some personal problems lately. I broke up with my girlfriend a few weeks ago; she was cheating on me. That, and the surgery, just made everything so painful that I wanted just to escape from it all. You will not believe how painful it was to realize that the woman I loved was cheating on me.
She did not even have the decency to tell me, I found out through a mutual friend and had to confront her about it before she even confessed that she did not love me anymore and was trying to find a way to break up with me. I was devastated and just felt so unhappy with everything. I guess that is when I started taking the pills a lot more than I should have. Look, I know I messed up in more ways than one, but I just felt so much pain and needed anything to help.
Me: Andrew, I am not accusing you of anything, and I realize that you were in a situation that required you to find some means of feeling happiness, no matter the source. Break ups and betrayals are some of the saddest and most painful experiences that a person can go through. They can eat away at your heart and make you feel hollow and life pointless.
However, I would like to remind you that choosing one misery over another is not the way to resolve your problem. You may feel fine now, and the pills are “working” as you say, but eventually you will develop a resistance to the dosages you are taking and will start to take larger and stronger doses. Eventually, it will come to the point that taking the pills and feeling the temporary relief that comes with them will dominate all aspects of your life. Do you honestly want that to happen to you? To become a shell of your former self, that depends on pills to feel normal?[Need an essay writing service? Find help here]
Andrew: No, of course not, that is why I came to you after all. I need help dealing with this. I cannot keep this up and need some way of figuring out what to do. The church has always been there for me in the past and if there is some way that it can help me when I need it the most I would be incredibly grateful.
Me: There are a few church programs that I can contact to see if they have a slot available for you. Do note though that these programs only work if you actively cooperate with them and not resist what they are trying to do. Remember Andrew; addiction is a slippery slope, and if you fail to overcome it early enough, it can ruin the rest of your life.
Andrew: I understand, I will give the program a chance and keep you updated.
Me: Thank you.
Pastoral Conversation # 3 (3 hours)
Participants: Allen and Monica
Subject: Feeling of emptiness in their marriage
Allen and Monica have been married for the past five years and, on the surface, everything seemed to be fine. Unfortunately, when they came to me, they said that the “spark” in their marriage had gone out and that they are simply going through the motions and not experiencing anything that can be considered as love.
Me: I know it was not easy coming to me for this conversation and I am here to help as best as I can. Before we proceed, I would like to know a few more details regarding your current problem. When did you notice that your marriage felt empty or that your actions were forced rather than coming from love?
Monica: It started three years after we were married. Everything seemed fine, but it is just that we feel less passion, not as much excitement and marriage just seems like a job rather than a genuinely loving relationship.
Allen: It just looks like we are going through the motions of greeting each other and being together rather than loving one another. We do not know where things went wrong but that it just feels like we are two people living together rather than two people who are in love.
Me: Surprisingly enough, your problem is not that rare among Catholic couples and can happen from time to time. You see, while marriage is a blessed union supported by God, it is not something that you place on a shelf and only admire. Think of it the same way you would a sapling. It may seem small and helpless right now, but the more care and attention it receives the stronger and taller it grows until it reaches a point that it can stand on its own.
Your marriage is like that sapling; you need to work on it everyday through simple actions that contribute to the marriage as a whole. Learn what your partner’s likes, and dislikes are, try enticing them into activities that the both of you will enjoy, learn to look at your partner in a new way every day and work towards making your marriage a great one. The reason why your marriage feels empty is because you have not been actively trying to fill it up with love. You are expecting the marriage to do all the work for you when in reality it needs all the care and assistance it needs during its early years. I know that this may seem like a daunting task, but little by little you can do it.
Try small acts of love every day and build upon that. You do not need grandiose gestures or expensive holidays to make a marriage work; you can do things slowly and at your own pace. What is important is that you try to make things work instead of just expecting they would function without active effort. Know that the Lord our God loves you and would not have joined you both together in holy matrimony if you were not meant for each other.
Monica: We have been trying things like that, but they do not seem to work. Allen has been very sweet in a lot of things, and I cannot help but think that he is one of the best people I know, but nothing seems to be working out that well.[Click Essay Writer to order your essay]
Me: These things take time, you need to understand that there is not such thing as a “one size fits all” solution when it comes to the problems people experience in a marriage. There are some things that would not work for one couple but would work for another. You and Allen need to find what works for you and focus on that. It can be anything such as a shared hobby or even the desire for community service. Whatever it is, you need to find it for yourselves since I am simply here to guide you and not work out your marriage for you.