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  • Mary Shivanandan

Decisions About Sex and Romance

Updated: Feb 12, 2019



As this month, we celebrate St Valentine’s Day, it seems appropriate to focus on the love between a man and a woman, especially the romantic love that leads to marriage. As Dr. Pat Fagan has written in a previous blog, the decisions a teenager makes about sex and God have a profound effect on his future well-being and happiness. One, who has spent most of her Ob-Gyn career helping teens to discover who they are, is Hanna Klaus, MMSS, MD. FACOG.


I have had the privilege of speaking about St John Paul II’s theology of the body at her TeenSTAR (STAR stands for Sexuality Teaching in the context of Adult Responsibility) teacher training sessions. St John Paul II was concerned, from the beginning of his pontificate, to elucidate the Church’s teachings on love and life. His approach was primarily Scriptural and Theological but he recognized the importance of experiential knowledge of the body in women learning their fertility signs through natural family planning. He made it a point of recommending to the medical profession research into the development of these natural methods, which are in accord with the teaching of the Church. Among those who took up the challenge is Dr. Klaus, a Harvard-trained physician, who converted to Christianity from Judaism and later joined the Medical Mission Sisters, serving first in Pakistan.


Most of the following is taken from an article she wrote, entitled, “Allowing the Body to Speak: The Power of fertility Education,” which appeared in the online Journal, Humanum Review 2015 Issue Three. With several others, Dr. Klaus started a Billings Ovulation Method Center in St Louis, MO in 1973. Most clients came out of obedience to Church teaching or from fear of side effects of the hormonal contraceptive pill. When focus groups of the women were held, some expressed fear of failure of the method or concern of refusing the husband conjugal intercourse if another child was not desired. A study found that pregnancies were confined to those “who took chances” with the method; also that husbands were happy to learn about their joint fertility. It was discovered that a pro-active strategy for reluctant husbands was to invite them first and encourage them to bring their wives to class.


Eventually USAID funded programs in Kenya. It is worth quoting directly from the article what was found in a sociological study conducted at the time –

"The most significant change was the woman’s role in sex interest in marriage. Prior to the program, the most important function of coitus was to have children. A year later it was the sharing of love.
The most important achievement of the Billings method was not so much child spacing, but raising the status of the wife to one of full equality with her husband."

In 1978 Dr. Klaus was asked by Dr. John Billings to concentrate on teenagers. With support from the Kennedy Foundation in the United States she began to teach fertility monitoring to 15-17 year-olds. First, she obtained permission from their parents. Dr. Klaus has found that parents fear such knowledge of the fertility cycle will lead to experimentation. Of the 200 girls enrolled, half of the 20 who were sexually active stopped, and three began sexual activity; two experimented one time and one achieved a desired pregnancy. Similar outcomes have been found in Ethiopia, Uganda, Chile, France and Poland. The current program is for boys as well as girls. Dr. Klaus concludes that teens are empowered by experiential knowledge of their fertility to make decisions that respect their own person and that of the opposite sex.


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