Dr. Thomas W. Hilgers began researching natural fertility regulation after reading Pope Paul VI’s encyclical Humane Vitae. He spoke Sunday, June 24, at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. (Advance photos)

By Christopher M. Riggs
The use by the medical profession of in vitro fertilization as a treatment for infertile couples is a tragedy according to Dr. Thomas W. Hilgers, the founder and director of the Pope Paul VI Institute for the Study of Human Reproduction in Omaha, Nebraska.
“The tragedy is a woman goes to an IVF doctor and has a 25 and 30 percent chance of getting pregnant but loses a number of embryos in the process and does not get her endometriosis treated, does not get her hormones treated, does not get her ovulation defects treated – all the things that are causing her to be infertile to begin with are both left undiagnosed and untreated.”
Dr. Hilgers spoke Sunday, June 24, at a dinner held after the Humane Vitae 50th Anniversary Celebration Mass at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Wichita. Humanae Vitae is a papal encyclical written in 1968 by Blessed Pope Paul VI that teaches about God’s plan for married love and the transmission of life.
He opened his talk by recalling the outright rejection of the encyclical by some Catholic theologians – who had never read Humanae Vitae – and by many of the faithful who called the church cold-hearted by adhering to ancient church teaching.
“I had developed a sort of negative view of the media at that point, “ he said. “I wasn’t sure they were giving us the whole story.”
Because it was decades before the internet, Dr. Hilgers said he had to write for a copy of Humanae Vitae.
“I got to about the 11th paragraph and I knew why they (the church) had to have this position,” he said. “It was things we were told and taught in other ways. I recognized them and I believed in them.”
The document isn’t long, Dr. Hilgers said, and takes about 30 minutes at the most to read.
“So, I got through those first few paragraphs. I realized that there was something here that I wasn’t hearing in the media,” he said. “Pope Paul VI also predicted that there would be long-term repercussions of the widespread use of contraception.”
Humanae Vitae has been and continues to be the target of a culture that has rejected an openness to life, Dr. Hilgers said.
He also talked about his medical education and how he became interested in reproductive health, in infertility and its treatment, and the founding of the Pope Paul VI Institute for the Study of Human Reproduction, which uses Natural Procreative Technology.
The institute is moving from a 17,000 square foot facility to a 58,000 square foot facility and how that new complex will be able to help infertile couples conceive in a manner that adheres to church teaching.

John and Mary Anne Schibi were the gift bearers at the Humanae Vitae 50th Anniversary Celebration Mass Sunday, June 24, at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Wichita.