Married Couples Who Intentionally Chose Sterilization For Contraceptive Purposes And Lasting Repentance
if not simply impossible, and the reversal surgery would not be morally required. In another case, reversal surgery might constitude a grave risk to health or life because of heart conditions, reaction to anesthesia, etc. Such cases would also constitute an extraordinary burden and would eliminate the moral obligation to have reversal surgery.9
Kippley holds that if a married couple who intentionally chose to be sterilized for the motive of contraception enjoy good health and the monetary resources that could withstand the financial strain of reversal surgery, then “there is a general moral obligation to have reversal surgery, but I would hesitate to call it a serious obligation (i.e., the grave matter of mortal sin) provided they practice periodic abstinence as noted below.”10 He further contends: “Perhaps the couple who are trying hard to do the right thing but have a general reclutance to undergo surgery might gain insight by asking this question: ‘If our existing family were wiped out and we wanted children, would we have reversal surgery in the effort to achieve pregnancy?’”11
It seems that an honest investigation of the possibility of reversal surgery, which includes a discussion with competent medical personnel regarding the physical implications and another with a priest concerning the moral ramifications, is the very least that would be expected, given the seriousness of the matter.
Thanks to the continual advances in medical technology and praxis, the surgical reversal of sterilization is sometimes not as perplexing as it once was. A higher success rate for the reversal and the possibility of performing this surgery at more medical centers means that the reversal surgery itself is surely not as remote as before in terms of availability and a reasonable likelihood of success. One anticipates the day when the reversal procedure will be considered as commonplace as sterilization—due to its efficacy, its inexpensive cost and its universal accessibility.
3. Periodic abstinence from the marital privilege. The Church stresses that a married couple who possess a just (some theologians maintain “serious”) rationale to postpone a pregnancy may limit marital intercourse to the wife’s infertile days during her cycle. Kippley submits that there is a specific link between this ecclesiastical declaration rooted in the Natural Law and the plight of intentionally sterilized couples.
The current knowledge about a woman’s alternating phases of fertility and infertility makes it possible for a repentant sterilized couple to restrict intercourse to those times when she is naturally infertile. In this way, they will not be taking advantage of their sterilized state, enjoying the fruits of their sin. Their behavior will be consistent with their present desire that they would not have had the sterilization in the first place . . . .12
By limiting intercourse to the infertile days of the wife, the married couple who purposely chose to be sterilized in order to avoid pregnancy are conducting themselves similarly to a non-sterilized couple who are employing Natural Family Planning (N.F.P.). In both instances, the couples engage in the marital privilege during that time when pregnancy is unlikely.
Hence, if a married couple who selected sterilization as a permanent contraceptive cannot have the sterilization surgically reversed, then they show their love for God, their commitment to each other rooted in generous sacrifice, their lament for their sin, and their accompanying good will by saving the marital embrace for the infertile period, thereby acting as if indeed they were still fertile. It is then clear that this purposely sterilized but now repentant couple respect, appreciate and are grateful for the God-given fertility-dimension of intercourse and want that affectionate act of “self-donation” to be pleasing to their benevolent Creator.
Shepherds of Souls
A word to confessors and spiritual directors. May the foregoing comments be valuable in your challenging work to spread far and wide the entire Holy Gospel of Christ, even those sections that are roundly repudiated in our era.
Married couples who chose to be sterilized to prohibit conception may need assistance in concluding that what they have done is immoral. Why? Because the “modern climate” of much of society is not conducive to fostering an understanding of the nature and beauty of the human body, much less the marital privilege. True, the Natural Law ensures that one may come to the realization—even without the gift of faith—that the deliberate frustration of one of the “ends” of intercourse, namely procreation, is gravely evil; however, given the falsities in our world that counter the Truth at every turn, one need not be surprised that other voices attempt—in the end, unsuccessfully—day and night to submerge the Truth.
Kindness, clarity and a desire “to obey God rather than man” will do much for spiritual directors and confessors as they strive to adore the Living Lord and save souls, including their own.
One must be attentive when encouraging the use of N.F.P., especially to those couples that intentionally chose sterilization as a preventative against pregnancy, that N.F.P. does not come across as being “odious” or “burdensome.” N.F.P. is to be a joyful exercise in heeding God’s commands and sharing love with one’s spouse. It is not to be seen as a continual punishment for one’s sin that already has been confessed and forgiven in the Sacrament of Penance. As it always should be, N.F.P. is the vehicle by which one expresses his love for the Lord and for his spouse while simultaneously upholding God’s immutable Law. And here it is to be recalled that postponing pregnancy for a significant reason and, therefore, having recourse to the infertile days of the cycle is to be the “exception.” As one familiar with the contemporary scene quipped, “the option is to be for children.” God expects His married sons and daughters to be generous in bringing forth new life, in such wise preparing souls for the Everlasting Kingdom.
Since the massive prevalence of intentional sterilization, not to mention other contraceptives, has never been witnessed on the grand scale that we experience in our time, we do not yet know what, if any, guilt and sorrow for the sin of direct sterilization will be manifested by the transgressors as they age and draw nearer to their Particular Judgment. Perhaps in the twenty-first century, a resurgence in comprehension of the sin of deliberate sterilization will surface specifically in the West, thereby meaning that more than ever, both men and women will seek forgiveness for their error from Emmanuel—“God-with-us.” Let us pray!
Meanwhile, those charged with the care of souls should now preach and teach—both in public and private settings—the reasonableness of the Church’s teaching on the procreative dimension of the marital embrace, the splendor of God’s forgiveness to all when they fall and the real chance of being made whole in the Lord once again.
Undoubtedly, a sterilized married couple who chose the aforementioned procedure with a contraceptive purpose and who are now contrite will be forgiven by God of their sin. On what condition? That they implore His unceasing compassion, cast aside that contraceptive intent and display their love for each other in marital intercourse as God planned. To that end, the couple should, if possible, seek a reversal of the sterilization. If that cannot be accomplished, then the couple could consign the marital privilege to the normally infertile time. Then, they will illustrate their fervent desire to obey God and readily heed His life-bestowing—and life-changing—Law.
1. Germain G. Grisez, The Way of the Lord Jesus: Living a Christian Life Volume II (Quincy, Illinois: Franciscan Press, 1993), 544.
2. John F. Kippley, Sex and the Marriage Covenant: A Basis for Morality (Cincinnati, Ohio: The Couple to Couple League International, 1991), 208-209.
3. Grisez, 544-545.
4. Kippley, 209-210.
5. Grisez, 545.
6. Kippley, 210.
7. Grisez, 545.
9. Kippley, 211.
11. Kippley, 211-212.
12. Kippley, 212.
http://www.catholic.org , VA
Monsignor Charles M. Mangan - Official, 390 66616-1125
Natural Family Planning; Direct Sterilization
Rate This Article
Leave a Comment
More Featured Today
- Monaco & The Vatican: Monaco's Grace Kelly Exhibit to Rome--A Review of Monegasque-Holy See Diplomatic History
- My Dad
- A Royal Betrayal: Catholic Monaco Liberalizes Abortion
- John Paul II as an Apostle of Mercy
- Embrace every moment as sacred time
- A Recession Antidote
- The Why of Jesus' Death: A Pauline Perspective
- Father Lombardi's Address on Catholic Media
- Pope's Words to Pontifical Latin American College
- Prelate: Genetics Needs a Conscience