The worldwide COVID-19 phenomenon has been nothing if not enlightening, showing forth realities that we more or less guessed a few years ago, converting strong suspicions about the state of international, Church, American, and even family affairs into undeniable facts. A veil has dropped. Indeed, so many veils have dropped it’s starting to look like the lost and found box at a Latin Mass parish.
Just one example of this awakened understanding is the recognition of the broken trust we have with the medical-pharmaceutical industrial complex (MPIC). We’ve seen safe, low-cost, effective treatments for COVID banned for political reasons. We’ve seen people denied the comfort of their loved ones’ presence at the hour of death. We’ve learned the extent to which the tissues and organs of aborted babies are trafficked, with horrifying precision, so that medical research may be advanced. And we’ve been pressured to take (and give our children) an experimental injection derived from such research.
For many people, the biggest revelation of the bunch is the extent to which medical/pharmaceutical research relies on abortion-derived fetal tissue. Faithful Catholics do not wish to benefit from abortion, whether or not Vatican statements call doing so licit. The fact that the fetal tissue research industry is even more extensive and more awful than we realized only strengthens in us the desire to separate ourselves from it.
Orthodox. Faithful. Free.
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But how? Fr. Matthew Schneider nearly had a multitude of Catholics throwing their hands up in despair when he argued that practically every medication on the market has links to abortion similar to those of the COVID vaccines. He was wrong, but not by a terribly wide margin. He attempted to liken the COVID vaccines, which relied on baby Johanna’s cells for their initial development, to drugs like Tylenol and aspirin, which, decades after their development, are being tested using the cells of Johanna and others in order to investigate potential new applications or mechanisms of action.
While there is a distinction between these two forms of violation of Johanna’s integrity, the similarities are disturbingly evident. Fr. Schneider still seems to think these similarities mean that we should forget all our objections and comply with the diktats of the MPIC and the world’s governments. The sensus fidelium, however, says otherwise. Fr. Schneider went fishing but he didn’t get what he wanted. Instead, aghast Catholics began asking which of their medications had ties to abortion, in hopes of figuring out how to reject them.
That’s a good, well-formed impulse, not only because of the abortion connection but also because of the loss of trust mentioned earlier. Who today truly feels that the MPIC has his best interest at heart? Yet people argue that it’s wrong to condemn the healthcare industry: many providers truly care and some pharmaceutical products are life-giving and free of abortion-taint. But these factors don’t breathe life into a system that is broken, a system that has wandered (run?) far from its purpose of being the earthly hands of the Divine Physician.
For many people, however, the task of unchaining their health from the MPIC—particularly all its pharmaceutical products—seems insurmountable.
There are alternatives that can help free us, but let’s name the bonds first: the health insurance industry; the medical establishment; the pharmaceutical industry (and the government’s polygamous marriage to all three).
Of all the steps we can take to unchain our health, leaving health insurance behind should be the first, and, believe it or not, it is the easiest. Ask around about medical cost sharing plans like Samaritan Ministries and Medi-Share and you will quickly hear their praises. My own experience: My family has saved thousands of dollars over the last five years by going this route; we’ve had more control over our health care choices; we’ve never had to pay health insurance dollars that in turn bought contraception or abortion for others; we’ve simply had a more human experience versus dealing with insurance companies.
The chain with which insurance companies bind us comes by way of the doctors of the medical establishment, the second chain, who have become programmed to follow certain courses of treatment for certain conditions, often with little regard for the unique situation of each patient. Doctors are incentivized to categorize people and conditions; insurance companies benefit from this kind of pigeon-holing. You do not.
Many people are chained to certain doctors because they have to use one who accepts their insurance. Free yourself from insurance and that becomes a relic of the past. How would you like it if when you shopped for a car, your dollars could only pay for certain brands? You have to choose only between Chevrolet and Toyota because your car money isn’t accepted by Ford, Honda, or any other brand. We would not accept that situation in car-buying so why on earth do we accept it with our health care?
Some of the most open-minded health care providers don’t accept insurance at all—and those are the ones you should get to know. This has been my goal over the last few years, and there have been some ups and downs. Like finding an “integrative” doctor in 2019 who jumped on the COVID bandwagon in 2020. On the other hand I’ve found a fantastic holistic pediatrician (she doesn’t accept insurance). A teen daughter who detested “all doctors” was won over: “She actually listened to me.” Recently I stopped by a naturopathic doctor’s office to pick up some supplements. He invited me to chat and we sat down for an hour getting to know each other. When’s the last time you had that experience with a doctor who’s chained to the insurance industry?
Another trend to explore is Direct Primary Care (DPC). If you live in or near even a mid-sized American city, you can probably find a DPC practice in your area. This is health care designed for human beings, not insurance and pharmaceutical companies. In this model, consumers pay doctors directly for their services. Fees are listed simply; usually a monthly subscription rate is an option. Most DPC doctors use email and apps to communicate with their clients directly, answering questions that come up in day-to-day life that don’t call for an in-person visit. Revolutionary, isn’t it?
All these transitions will help you with the third bond: the pharmaceutical industry. This is a tough one. It requires a mindset shift that takes time, like a conversion. Most of us adults in the US call ourselves healthy as long as we make it through the year without any major illnesses or hospitalizations. We accept as normal that aches and pains are part of aging and that as we age we need more and more prescription medications, but as Melody Lyons pointed out recently, “The ongoing science experiment on consumers using lab-developed molecules has reached a point of diminishing returns. We are no longer healthy communities supporting the sick; we are the chronically ill living on pharmaceuticals and addictions to ‘get by.’”
We think seemingly minor problems like seasonal allergies or digestive troubles or itchy skin are just part of life. There are pills for these things that make them go away, right? But Zyrtec doesn’t cure seasonal allergies; Tums doesn’t cure poor digestion; hydrocortisone doesn’t cure itchy skin. These conditions are (sometimes) alleviated by pharmaceuticals, but the root causes remain.
The modern mindset says we must accept that; the natural mindset says that the deeper causes of these conditions can often be discovered and that your body has the capacity to heal itself from many of them; sometimes it just needs a nudge or two in the right direction.
In my local holistic health community new members often ask questions like “what herbal remedy can I take to get rid of this headache?” or “I’m getting sick but I can’t miss work tomorrow—what natural remedies should I try?” This is the pharmaceutical mindset seeking a natural cure. Instead, we need to shift to a natural mindset. We’re not used to asking why we have a headache before popping a Tylenol, but this question is important if we’re seeking more freedom from pharmaceuticals. The natural mindset requires us (with the help of those who are well-versed) to look for patterns (every time I eat cheese I get a headache), structural issues (I have bad posture), and root causes (my sinuses aren’t draining).
The reason that this natural approach is generally not practiced in conventional medicine is that there is little monetary benefit from it to pharmaceutical companies, and therefore to doctors. No one makes money when you quit eating cheese, or start power walking, or get more sleep. There is little money to be made in your discovery that making a hot infusion of ginger root and lemon to drink each day keeps your sinuses clear. The other side of this coin is that not eating cheese, exercising, getting more sleep, or drinking something that curls your hair a bit is not as convenient as taking a capsule from the drugstore. It requires us to pay attention and make a sacrifice or two for our own health, and we’re just not used to doing that.
One thing you’ll invariably run up against as you seek to leave conventional health care behind is the wide world of nutrition. When I mention that I’m studying for a nutrition degree what I hear from most people is some variation of “Oh, so what’s bad for you this week?” To say Americans are a little jaded about nutrition advice is as understated as saying we’re a little distrustful of the election process. First fat was evil, then it was good, but wait, only certain fats. Carbs were good, then they were bad, and then as long as you harvested and ground the grains yourself they were fine, but not on Tuesdays. I get it.
So start with something simple. Try to eat less of the stuff from the middle aisles at the grocery store. Eat foods that are able to spoil, and fewer things that are kept in your pantry. Look at your eating habits and change one thing, for a couple weeks. Then change something else, too. Quit drinking soda. After a few weeks, start eating a vegetable at lunch time. It really isn’t too complicated to start doing better—you probably know where your own problems lie.
Lastly, learn about fasting. If you’re not sure you can change your eating habits very much, and even if you can, spend some time not eating. Fast intermittently, fast for extended periods, or both. This is one of the most historically Catholic, proven things we can do for our health. No one makes money from it. But our spiritual and physical benefits are immense.
Space prevents me from giving more than this tiny peek into the world of natural medicine, so I encourage you to take this as a starting point for your own learning. It’s time for Catholics to get serious about breaking our ties with the industry that says it’s fine to scalp live babies in the womb and graft their skin onto mice to benefit the living, don’t you think? We can’t do it all at once, but in good conscience we can’t refuse to begin.
[Image Credit: Unsplash]