Married Couples Who Intentionally Chose Sterilization For Contraceptive Purposes And Lasting Repentance
by Monsignor Charles M. Mangan
A common theme that has resounded for over three decades is that many—if not most—Catholic married couples in Western countries are currently demonstrating in practice their rejection of the Church’s authoritative and binding teaching that proclaims that each occasion of sexual intercourse must be open to the transmission of human life. While one may dispute numbers and percentages of those Catholics involved, a fair judgment of the situation reveals that especially since the “Sexual Revolution” of the 1960s, a significant portion of Catholic married couples has used or is presently using some form of contraceptive.
As is increasingly well-known, there are some devices implanted, chemical formulae injected, and even other products taken orally that are routinely referred to as “contraceptives” but are in fact effective after conception has occurred, thereby making these abortion-inducing agents (“abortifacients”). Sadly, a large section of the public, cutting across boundaries of race, economic status, education and creed, are woefully ignorant about the abortifacient quality of Depo-Provera, RU-486, the Intrauterine Device, the “Morning-After Pill,” Norplant, the “emergency contraceptive” and in some cases the common “Pill.” Therefore, literally millions of persons throughout the world are “silently” aborting, thinking all the while that they are preventing conception when in fact they are unwittingly snuffing out the lives of preborn children.
But all is not lost. True sorrow, resolute amendment of life and deep awareness of the Truth, inspired by the Holy Spirit Who is the Lord and Giver of Life and the Master of the Truth, are possible. By yielding to God’s abundant grace, a married couple who are contracepting or aborting may humbly surrender to the Truth, acknowledge their sin and sincerely repent of their error. How? By stopping the process of contracepting or aborting. Authentic repentance demands the avoidance of any and every method of contraception and those forms that parade as contraceptives but are in reality abortifacients.
However, imagine a married couple who have done something permanent in order to prevent conception. The husband has undergone a vasectomy or the wife a tubal ligation. There immediately appears to be a substantial and ongoing problem. How can this couple show their genuine sorrow since the effect of the direct sterilization continues unabated? May they ever be really reconciled to their Creator, thereby shunning their sin and the prevailing ethos of the Culture of Death and assume their place in the Christian community as those who give good example to others and testify to the Truth, notwithstanding the not insignificant cost?
This essay offers guidance for married couples who deliberately selected sterilization to prevent conception. Although the teaching of the Catholic Church is the foundation for this article, the remarks herein are not limited to Catholic married couples who chose to be sterilized so as not to conceive but are germane to persons of all faiths and to those of no faith, because the doctrine of the Catholic Church is based on Sacred Scripture, the Apostolic Tradition and the Natural Law—the trio of sources expressing the One Truth that sustains and applies to everyone without exception.
It is hoped that all married couples who intentionally chose to be sterilized so as not to conceive but who seek forgiveness and a new beginning in Christ and those married couples in the same category but who have never thought much about the vital importance of rejecting the sin of direct sterilization and the subsequent urgent need of conversion will benefit from these brief reflections.
The Nature Of Sterilization
Germain G. Grisez and John F. Kippley—each a Catholic layman, husband and father—treat this issue and have provided excellent material for careful pondering.
As Grisez keenly and succinctly observes, sterilization intended as a means of birth control (often referred to as “direct,” “deliberate” or “intentional” sterilization) is intrinsically evil, for it fails to promote the good of the human person because of its adamant refusal to accept the inherent procreative (“life-giving”) dimension of the marital act as built into it by God. (The other inherent aspect of the marital act is the personalist [unitive]or “person-uniting” dimension.)
No benefit to the person as a whole can justify any procedure which brings about sterility and is chosen for that very purpose. In no way does sterility as such truly benefit anyone; it only facilitates sexual intercourse—the distinct act in and through which some benefit is expected—by excluding conception. Thus, the intention of choosing sterilization is contraceptive, and the sterilizing act is at ...
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