Sexual Wisdom: A Tribute to Richard Wetzel, M.D.
By Judie Brown
According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, chastity “includes an apprenticeship in self-mastery which is a training in human freedom. The alternative is clear: either man governs his passions and finds peace, or he lets himself be dominated by them and becomes unhappy.”
Richard Wetzel, M.D. (1958-2010) was a dear friend and a physician who did so much to focus attention on why today’s attitudes toward sex and human sexuality lead to death and personal sadness for so many.
His seminal book Sexual Wisdom: A Guide for Parents, Young Adults, Educators, and Physicians still impacts people today. In a recent article about the man, his family, and the book, author Jim Graves wrote: “For reasons he outlined in his book, he came to believe that contraception was harmful to a couple’s relationship and leads to many evils, such as abortion.”
Graves pointed out that, by 1989, Wetzel had refused to prescribe contraceptives to his patients while also studying the Catholic faith. “It wasn’t long before he wanted to share his newfound knowledge with others.” According to Graves:
[Dr. Wetzel’s] wife Dominique remarked, “Richard always wanted to save the world. He was a dreamer. He even thought about becoming a missionary.”
In his medical practice, Dr. Wetzel saw the harm sexual immorality had on his patients, not just in terms of disease, but in the effect it had on their relationships with others. So, he went to work on Sexual Wisdom to challenge the popular culture’s perspective on sex.
When American Life League celebrated Dr. Wetzel’s commitment to truth and his amazing impact, we noted that he spent his life teaching others about the true meaning of sexuality and the grave harm caused by disrespect for human sexuality and the human person. He wrote and spoke about the proof readily available that sexual immorality in our world today has serious ramifications, including dramatic increases in incurable sexually transmitted disease.
In addition, Wetzel wrote: “Some of us believe that sex can bring inordinate good into people’s lives. For example, as physicians we witness the tears of joy that often follow the diagnosis of pregnancy to a hopeful couple.”
In Sexual Wisdom, Dr. Wetzel devoted a portion of chapter 9 to the topic of abortion, and he shared a bit of timeless wisdom that is as true today as it was when he wrote it: “Popular wisdom often mistakenly isolates the issue of abortion from its antecedents. Just as so many people ignore the conspicuous psychological ramifications of contraception, so too many ignore the larger picture with abortion.”
Dr. Wetzel was a wise man who walked with God and grew in his faith right up to the time of his death. In 2011, Jim Graves wrote:
Dr. Wetzel’s spiritual life has deepened during the course of the illness. He has developed a devotion to the Blessed Mother. He cherishes an image of Our Lady of Guadalupe given to him by friends; Dominique remembers how on a trip to the Lourdes grotto in South Bend, Indiana, he insisted the family shiver outdoors in the snow while they prayed the rosary.
He has also realized the value of sufferings offered to God. According to Dominique, he offers his sufferings not only for his family, “but also that the Church’s message of chastity may be promoted throughout the world.”
Pope Paul VI witnessed to this truth in the encyclical Humanae Vitae in which he addressed the beauty of self-mastery between spouses in marriage: “Self-discipline of this kind is a shining witness to the chastity of husband and wife and, far from being a hindrance to their love of one another, transforms it by giving it a more truly human character.”
Dr. Wetzel’s wish that the virtue of chastity be promoted throughout the world has not fallen on deaf ears, at least not at American Life League. We recognize this his legacy continues to help parents, newly married couples, and young people learn the truth in order to live it in their daily lives.
We are thankful for Dr. Wetzel’s life, his work, and his example. His writings reflect the value of Catholic teaching and give testimony to the kind of sexual wisdom so badly needed in our culture today.
Learn how to teach these truths to your children and encourage their teachers to do likewise. American Life League’s Culture of Life Studies Program offers the way. On the subject of marriage and family, see our unit study entitled Defend Life: Marriage and Family.
Make sure to have Celebrate Life Magazine in your home. It also makes a wonderful gift for your doctor and your educator, not to mention your pastor.
Start rooting out the evil in your neighborhood by learning how to stop Planned Parenthood.
Please pray for America.