Married Couples Who Intentionally Chose Sterilization For Contraceptive Purposes And Lasting Repentance
best a bad means to a good ulterior end. Moreover, because sterilization involved bodily mutilation and is usually irreversible, it is, other things being equal, more seriously wrong than other methods of contraception.1
One here recalls the unfortunate circumstance of our era in which methods that actually kill an already conceived and developing child are cavalierly dismissed as “just another kind of birth control.” Certainly, abortifacient means are more sinful than any contraception, including sterilization, because the former extinguishes a life now begun, while the latter prevents a life from being started. But, as Grisez insists, among the purely contraceptive methods, sterilization is the most morally repugnant.
Kippley explains the “types” of sin that are involved in direct sterilization. One kind is the contraceptive quality and intention of the act of sterilization, in which one deliberately wills not to conceive a child. Kippley writes: Once a person has voluntarily had himself or herself sterilized for birth control purposes, each act of sexual intercourse is seriously stained; it objectively contradicts the meaning of the marriage act for it is a permanent way of saying, “I take you for pleasure but not for the imagined worse of pregnancy.”2
The second sin linked to intentional sterilization is that of mutilation (whether actual or attempted) of a healthy organ that has as its divinely-preordained purpose to participate and cooperate with God in the begetting of a new human life. The human body is to be loved and cherished. The “good” of human procreation as created by the Almighty is not respected when one purposely rejects the reproductive capacity of the human body and willingly alters the body with contraception in view.
Direct sterilization—indeed, all contraception—is grave matter, that is, it is intrinsically evil. (While this assertion may seem overly audacious today, it is to be recalled that before the dawn of the twentieth century, virtually everyone thought contraception of any stripe to be patently immoral—an utter abomination against God’s Eternal Law. All Christian denominations, for example, subscribed to this tenet until 1930.) Intentional sterilization in itself always fulfills the first condition required for the commission of a mortal sin—that offense which cuts one off from the Sanctifying Grace that is the very life of God Himself. Mortal sin—a repudiation of the Lord and His wise commands—may be described as the ugly chains of haughty disobedience that one prefers to the spotless garment of the Lamb. One who chooses the shackles of mortal sin will never attain the refreshing freedom earmarked for the legitimate sons and daughters of God who have been redeemed by the Precious Blood of the Savior.
Repenting Sterilization: If Possible, How?
Because the Almighty is, unquestionably, all-merciful, those married couples who have chosen direct sterilization to escape conception—regardless if the reason was one of fear, lack of trust or dissent from the Church’s doctrine—can turn back to Him, ask His pardon and be restored to a life replete with His joy and peace. The Sacrament of Penance (“Confession” or “Reconciliation”) is indispensable and unsurpassed for those who purposely selected sterilization; it is necessary before the reception of the Sacrament of the Most Holy Eucharist for those men and women who have knowingly (that is, were aware that intentional sterilization gravely offended God) and willingly (that is, totally) consented to the sin of direct sterilization. The supernatural rewards of the Sacrament of Penance and of the consequent eating and drinking of the Body and Blood of the Risen Lord Jesus Christ are vast and unlimited; they cannot be denied or circumscribed. The Sacraments, when received in the state of grace (that is, when one is free of mortal sin), conform one more closely to the Messiah and to His chaste Mother, Blessed Mary Ever-Virgin.
There are those who are convinced that the sin of direct sterilization presents no more difficulty than any other transgression regarding abiding repentance and true reconciliation to God. A Catholic couple in which one or both intentionally chose sterilization, so the argument goes, merely confess the sin of sterilization to the priest in the context of the Sacrament of Penance. Then, that metaphorical “bridge” spanning the abyss between one in mortal sin and the Creator has been crossed again. The wide gap has been closed; deep contentment within the soul once again reigns supreme.
Our two previously-cited authors disagree with this sentiment.
Grisez poses the quandary thus:
People with a legalistic mentality sometimes suppose there is an easy out for Catholic couples who accept the Church’s teaching on contraception, yet want no more children and do not wish to abstain during the fertile ...
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