Saturday, August 4, 2012

Stories of Cooperation in Evil

During an IUD insertion the other day, I may have assisted without my will. I placed gel on the physician's fingers as she performed a pelvic exam before the insertion. It was almost robotic; I'd worked with her for weeks and placed gel on her fingers during almost every exam she'd done in that time. When she held out her gloved first two fingers, I reached for the gel and squirted some on obediently. Then I came to my senses: what had I done?!

Almost immediately, I felt relief, because a pelvic exam is not part of the insertion; it was just this physician preparing herself for the particular patient.

But today I read in the informational leaflet about Paragard that this, in fact, the first step of proper insertion technique.

Thinking back on this now, I can't remember whether the medical assistant, to whom I'd explained my beliefs, was in the room with her back turned to the doctor (doing something else, like looking in the cupboards for a speculum), or whether she was out of the room briefly.

I abstained from Communion for the intervening days before I asked a priest to hear my confession after morning Mass. (He was a young priest, just ordained not less than a month ago, so all his moral theology was still fresh!) I explained that I thought I had materially but immediately assisted and described everything. He said that he thought this might be remote and that he "wouldn't hold that against me," and I felt much better, because he speaks for Jesus!

It reminds me of when I worked in a pharmacy in college. The pharmacy filled birth control prescriptions, and I, not thinking of this, one day began to ring up a young woman for her prescription at the check-out counter. I could tell that the prescription bag had no pill-bottle in it, but only a small, flat package. As is mandatory, I slipped the contents out of the bag to make sure the patient's name matched the name on the medication.

Then I saw that the medication was a birth control pill. Flustered and having already nearly completed the transaction, I finished. I went back to the College that night and immediately cornered a chaplain while he was praying before the Tabernacle in the Chapel. "Father," I whispered, "would you hear my confession?"

The priest was an older Jesuit, and shuffled (perhaps a teensy bit annoyed) into the boxy confessional. I explained the situation. He told me that I'd done nothing wrong, but that I could ask not to check out birth control in the future. I did this, and always felt like a nuisance for the year that I worked there.

Darn all these occasions for cooperating in evil! Why do they have to exist?! I feel like they're open graves, open bear traps for me to walk into...who would have thought that checking someone out at a pharmacy counter or putting gel on a physician's fingers--in the settings most disposed to healing and ministry--could help someone in sin?? And, to top this off, academies want to take away my right to avoid the traps. Heaven help us.


  1. Did any of them tell you it sounds like a teensy bit of scrupulosity? I really hope you don't beat yourself up out of proportion to minor incidents.

  2. I don't think this is being overly scrupulous. Evaluating our level of cooperation with immoral acts is important, especially for someone in the medical field. Cooperating in contraceptive sex or distributing possibly abortifacient drugs is grave matter, not minor. Good job in being honest in your reflection. Would that all physicians were as "scrupulous"!

  3. Thank you for your comments! Enness, I do sometimes wonder whether I am being scrupulous, but seeing the vast unscrupulous cadre of my future colleagues, I figure I can actually help by thinking about these actions a lot (as long as I avoid worrying over the future of my soul). Mr. Mayer, I appreciate the encouragement.