“The message is we need to reduce insecticide exposure in order to ensure men who are planning a family or want to conceive children are able to do that without interference,” she said.
Are these pesticides ‘immoral’?
Phil Cerroni, an associate ethicist at the National Catholic Bioethics Center, said Catholic ethics dictate both positive and negative moral duties, including that we are bound to “protect our physical and functional integrity” and that we “shouldn’t do anything that directly suppresses or impedes physical or functional integrity.”
“Similarly, we need to protect workers,” he said. “We shouldn’t do anything that directly places them in any harm. I think the question there becomes, with the use of these pesticides, is it a direct harm or indirect harm?”
Cerroni said the issue is likely one of a “double effect.”
On the one hand, he said, a “high-pesticide method of agriculture” offers a “basic good for the world’s population” — arguably a more abundant food supply. Yet the potential harm to workers, he said, could outweigh that benefit.
“The question would be, is there proportionality?” he said. “As a general rule, you can’t achieve a small or moderate good through a means that also causes a great evil.”
“I think the proportionality hinges on whether it’s immediately morally problematic,” he said of the potential effects of pesticides. “If this is the only reasonable means of producing enough food to provide for people’s basic goods or basic needs, then it’s not immoral,” he said, adding that “we still have a moral duty to try to develop processes and techniques that don’t have these bad effects, that aren’t harmful to workers, and that don’t cause harm, either to workers or the people who are eating it,” he added.
Infertility’s effect on marriage ‘profound’
Mary-Rose Verret, who along with her husband, Ryan, founded the marriage renewal and preparation initiative called Witness to Love, said there are “definitely more couples struggling to conceive.”
“A lot of times it has to do with the fact that people are getting married a lot later,” she said. “A lot of them have never heard of the Church’s teaching on this topic. If you’ve been on contraceptives since 12, and now you’re 27 and you want to get married, you can’t just flip a switch and expect everything to go back to normal.”
(Story continues below)
Subscribe to our daily newsletter
Verret said extended contraception use by women can mask a whole host of fertility problems in addition to those potentially stemming from pesticide use.
“It’s not just pesticides,” she said. “It’s the one-size-fits-all system where contraceptives are the only thing being thrown at anyone with any cycle issues. Instead of looking at hormones, or thyroids, or doing blood work, they’re not getting that treated.”
The Verrets’ ministry has a fertility awareness course for Church leaders, she said. “Unfortunately, right now, there’s not much being done in that area,” she said.
Ann Koshute, the co-founder of the Catholic infertility ministry Springs in the Desert, said that the effect of infertility on marriage is “profound,” including spiritual and emotional impacts.
“Since we founded Springs in 2019, the CDC stats on infertility have been adjusted upward, from 1 in 8 couples to now 1 in 5,” she said.
“The conversation about infertility and pregnancy loss, thanks at least in part to social media, seems to be coming more into the open, which means that more people are comfortable sharing about their experiences.”