Vatican Science: Pope Blames Male Infertility on…the Pill

By Melissa Lafsky | January 6, 2009 5:13 pm

The PillRemember how all the Prozac we’ve been flushing through our systems (and our sewers) was entering the water supply and messing with the fish? Well, a new argument claims that this is precisely what’s going on with men who’re having a little trouble in the fertility department. And just who is making this rather dubious claim? None other than the Pope himself.

According to His Eminence, the demon birth control is finding its way from the urine of loose women into the otherwise-pure systems of unsuspecting males, robbing them of their baby-making mojo.

Pedro Jose Maria Simon Castellvi, president of the International Federation of Catholic Medical Associations, stated that the pill “has for some years had devastating effects on the environment by releasing tonnes of hormones into nature,” and as a result “[w]e have sufficient evidence to state that a non-negligible cause of male infertility in the West is the environmental pollution caused by the pill.”

Never mind that experts say the hormones in the Pill lose all their “feminine” effects after being metabolized by the (presumably female) Pill taker—this is Pope Science! The Holy See isn’t about to let small things like medical evidence stand in his way. Though, thankfully for mankind, the rest of us feel somewhat differently.

Disco: Prozac Ocean: Fish Absorb Our Drugs, and Suffer For It
RB: Drugonomics: Cash-Strapped Americans Taking Fewer Prescription Meds
RB: Does the Pill Keep You from Finding a Good Mate?

Image: iStockPhoto

MORE ABOUT: pope, religion, sex, the pill
  • Scott

    Too bad this didn’t do anything about the couple in Arkansas (I think) who are up to 18 kids now.

  • Alice

    One correction — he’s not “his eminence.” The Pope is “his holiness.” And Jesus would be ROFL if He came back to witness these publicans and their idiotic dogma.

    WHERE did Jesus tell us which medicines to take?

  • William

    Do you guys want to be objective or do you want to be prejudiced? Sounds like the latter. This isn’t the pope’s science; this was all over the news back in March and has been being investigated for years; the results of the scientific studies were reported in The Washington Post, carried by the AP, and commented on by NPR. No one accused them of being enclosed in their “idiotic dogma.” For those of you who actually ARE open-minded and don’t just claim to be, here’s a snippet from a study published by Florida’s State Department in Sept. 2007 ( Careful – it requires a higher reading level than a third grader’s:

    The estrogen, called 17α-ethinylestradiol, caused feminization of male fish,
    and altered DNA integrity, immune cell number and ability to breakdown
    pollutants. The study highlights the need for more research on the potential
    health effects of exposure to complex mixtures, such as wastewater effluent,
    as they may differ from effects of exposure to single compounds known to be
    in those mixtures.

    Context: Water flowing out of wastewater treatment plants carries estrogenic
    chemicals out into the environment. Over the past 15 years scientists have
    discovered natural and synthetic estrogenic chemicals in sewage water
    effluent, including 17α- ethinylestradiol (EE2) from birth control pills can
    affect reproduction and development of fish living in the waters downstream.

    They cause male fish to start producing egg yolk (measured by detection of a
    yolk protein, vitellogenin), change blood concentrations of hormones, alter
    the expression of genes important for synthesizing hormones, decrease the
    size of testes and alter secondary sex characters, including coloration and

  • Ian

    Sorry to turn this into an apologia for Catholic teaching but I’m afraid Alice is wrong.

    Firstly Alice, whilst Jesus did not tell us what medicines to take he did set the example of how to act in marriage through the model he established through his bride the Church (see Eph 5, and Revelation). He taught us also throughout his life to give ourselves freely – something contraception prevents.

    Also, Humanae Vitae, published in 1968, outlined what would happen if contraception was to be used – all four predictions have come true. So I guess the Church does know a thing or two about such matters. I also suggest you read Theology of the Body.

    In respect of the article itself – to call something “Pope Science” is very wrong. A few months ago this very magazine published an article about teaching the Pope Science. The Pontifical Academy of Sciences is one such platform where the Pope and the Church learn about these developments from … guess what … secular scientists! So this is not just what the Pope thinks or infers.

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  • Jill

    Sorry, William, but the studies you are quoting discuss the feminizing affects of sewage water effluent on FISH not humans. This may or may not have anything to do with HUMAN fertility.

  • CA Vasectomy Reversal

    I agree with you, Jill. This has nothing to do with human fertility, I suppose. Contraceptive pills may have effect on hormones in the body but do they really cause male infertility?


  • Rockne

    The hormones in plastics and pesticides’ are the main culprit in fish.
    As usual the Pope is misrepresenting the facts to fit his agenda. But what else would one expect from a good Hitler youth the things we learn in childhood stay with us for life eugenics anyone?

  • skeptic

    it is not just the pope. Buddhists who believe in cause and effect might also suspect something that has been added to the water. If you don’t care, go ahead a drink up but it is selfish to subject everyone else to it. By the way, telling someone to take a pill used to mean the doctor didn’t consider your problem bad enough to think harder about. today, it might means, take the pill, because you are so ugly no one wants to have kids who look like you. the media of course, also tells you you are ugly. so, both pharmacy and media agree.

  • skeptic

    the fertility clinic advert posted by “VAS REVERSAL” would gladly have you all take away your fertility, so that you can pay them later to get it back. their advice is very, very unprofessional.

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  • Ari

    In regard’s to William’s fish study, the article he cited was not actually a scientific paper… so I followed the link to the actual article, which linked to ANOTHER article which finally cited some actual scientific papers. After reading the abstracts to the studies it seems to suggest that a lot of the estrogen pollutants in the water may come from commercial livestock practices rather than purely human sources.

    While stretching the results of these studies to include humans is, of course, fairly absurd, (It’s difficult to transfer experimental results from rats to humans let alone fish to humans) it doesn’t mean that the issue of the effects estrogen is having on fish and other aquatic wildlife should be taken lightly. You may not consider a fish’s reproductive success to be as important as a human’s, but the reality is we’re all in this together (species-wise) so we should be taking care what goes into our waste water. This is not to say that getting rid of birth control is the answer, that’s the pope’s line of thought, I think. Perhaps urging pharmaceutical companies to create a more fully metabolized hormonal supplement for birth control and choosing to eat livestock that isn’t enhanced with steroids would help.

    Just a suggestion :)

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  • Christina Viering

    Way too much steroids in foods!

  • Laura

    why cant the Pope just zip his mouth if he has nothing better to say

  • Wallace

    I wish the Pope would talk about things he was knowledgeable about, which is? I will get back to you on that one…!

  • Deviled Egg

    I seriously doubt the Pope is right on this one.

  • James

    Err, articles in the L’Osservatore Romano are not even close to being official pronouncements of the Catholic Church. It’s just some editorial; it’s probably never even been read by the pope, let alone attributable to him. So the title is very misleading.

  • Kendrick Barkus

    Thanks for a very interesting website. What else may I get that type of info written in such a perfect means? I’ve a project that I’m just now working on, and I’ve been at the look out for such info.


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