Pope urged to put nuns on the pill

2011-12-08 13:36

Sydney - The Catholic Church should pay for nuns to go on contraceptive pills to cut the extra cancer risk that comes with a life of celibacy, Australian cancer experts said on Thursday.

The world's 94 790 nuns "pay a terrible price for their chastity" because of the increased risk of breast, ovarian and uterine cancers among women who do not get pregnant, have children and breastfeed, they said.

Roger Short, a reproductive biologist at Melbourne University, said it was incumbent on the pope not just to permit nuns to take the pill but be out there lobbying for them to do so.

"He should say something to see that something gets done," the professor said. "It would be expensive for any nunnery to get the pills, and the Catholic Church should be paying for that."

Short and cancer researcher Kara Britt from Monash University in Melbourne recently published a paper in the medical journal The Lancet detailing the extra cancer risk that nuns have borne through the ages.


The first reference to their higher mortality came in 1713 from Italian physician Bernadino Ramazzini.

Because nuns do not get pregnant, bear children or breastfeed, they have far more periods over their lifetimes and forego a certain level of protection from breast, ovarian and uterine cancer compared with other women.

Short accepted that the church does not ban the use of the pill for non-contraceptive purposes, but argued that it does not give the encouragement it could.

"I've never met a Catholic priest who has thought that there are health benefits to taking the pill," Short said.

In response, Father Brian Lucas, general secretary of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, said there was no real need to go from permitting the pill's use to encouraging it.

"That's a false distinction," Lucas said. It was more important to distinguish "between whether it's being used for contraceptive purposes or it's for medical purposes", he said.

Lucas also noted that there were downside health risks from contraceptive pill, such as blood clots. "These are medical issues, not moral issues," he said.

  • Colbert - 2011-12-08 15:08

    lol this is so funny. I Guess nuns should be having sex instead its better for their health.

      Eric - 2011-12-08 16:34

      poaul. It is a tiny amount of priests that have molested children. do not make all priests out to be molesters. There are far more child molesters not belonging to the Catholic church and yes I am a Proud Catholic

      poaul - 2011-12-08 23:09

      @Eric: Proud? Of what? Torturing and murdering scientists throughout the centuries (or anybody else that disagreed for that matter)? Spreading AIDS through anti-condom sentiment and propaganda? Covering up child abuse and protecting perpetrators? Amassing vast treasures whilst their fellow mammals are starving? Blatant sexism? Now if that is something to be proud of I recommend counselling...

  • Irene - 2011-12-08 16:16

    Very sick religion.

      Eric - 2011-12-08 16:35

      Why would you say the Catholic church is a sick religion. What about your own??

  • Trevor Lovell - 2011-12-08 21:53

    So let's think about this: Not having kids leaves you more likely to develop the cancers mentioned in the article. What happens to women who are not nuns but who do not want children and who are also not married? Should the government pay for these women? Should lesbian women who choose not to have children also be compensated? And let's say the celibacy is scrapped, what are the risks if cervical cancer or STDs? And let's ask these scientists how long they've studied these women for and whether they have a control group who have been taking the pill for the same length of time, what are the possible side effects of a lifetime of hormonal pills? Any cancer possibilities? Lastly, let's give nuns the same benefit as other child bearing women who on average would have 2 kids. Let's give the nuns 18 months worth of pills. Please, publish an article that holds some water and not because you can put chastity and nun in the same headline.

      Mark - 2011-12-08 22:53

      I guess New24 couldn't resist the headline, which is eye-catching to say the least.

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