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Married Couples Who Intentionally Chose Sterilization For Contraceptive Purposes And Lasting Repentance

1/25/2004 - 6:49 AM PST

(Page 4 of 4)

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.
8. Ibid.
9. Kippley, 211.
10. Ibid.
11. Kippley, 211-212.
12. Kippley, 212.

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Mary's Field  , VA
Monsignor Charles M. Mangan - Official, 390 66616-1125



Natural Family Planning; Direct Sterilization

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1 - 5 of 5 Comments

  1. Bebe Phillips
    3 years ago

    The Egyptians used birth control thousands of years ago. There is nothing wrong with a couple deciding when they feel they can have childen and how many they can handle, financially and emotionally. Much better than the abuse and poverty we too often see. This article is unbelievable and I totally disagree with it. I thankfully left the Catholic church as have two of my children. My husband, who was a seminarian, had a vasectomy and feels absolutely no guilt about it. It seems you want women to be barefoot and pregnant. The church should address the majority of Catholics who use birth control and priests should tell them in Sunday sermons that they are terrible sinners and must repent or leave the church. I am sure the pews would not be filled the next Sunday and contributions would be few.

  2. Lisa
    3 years ago

    I was not raised Catholic. I was raised in the post modern contraceptive age. Every message of my life from childhood onward. From my parents, my grandparents, the media, the school ... Everywhere I turned the message was reinforced ... That led to a multitude of sins .. which culminated in choosing a tubal ligation at the age of 27; 6 months after the birth of our second child. We were in a financial distress, my mother had died at the age of 46 of breast cancer (I later learned she'd had 3 abortions in her life) and I was terrified beyond all reason at the thought of having another child we couldn't "afford."

    IT WAS BY FAR THE WORST AND MOST HORRIBLE DECISION I'VE EVER MADE. It's ruined my life, the lives of my kids (they have been deprived of siblings) and especially permanently (how that word seemed benign at one time) damaged my marriage. I will never enjoy true trust and intimacy with my H. I have repented of this sin, and yet will pay the price into old age ... Because it can never be undone, I can never truly turn from this sin and live a life filled with joy and peace.

    Please, everyone reading this: do not take this action. And tell everyone you know not to do this ever! Spread the word that this is monstrous thing that is happening and it's ruining people's lives and our culture.

  3. Margaret Johnson
    4 years ago

    I just read this comment today - 10-8-10 - seeing how the archbishop of our archdiocese has taken so much into his own hands to spread things about other groups in our society. I wondered what he would do if I went to communion with a sign saying I had a tubal done the morning after our last child was born. After having 5 pregnancies, my health seriously compromised, I decided to do this with the Dr.'s advice. My husband and I both agreed it was the best thing so I could be here to raise our two beautiful children we had worked so hard to get. Why would God almighty judge me for this? Are you stating it would be better for me to die than be here to raise our children and see our grandchildren? I've never had one bit of remorse about this procedure and yes, I did it intentionally. I don't believe God judged me for that and no amount of talk will convince me otherwise. Would I be denied communion like the gays and lesbians are from Neinstadt? I'd just go elsewhere and have my own personal communion of our Lord. Everyone is entitled to this - a group of men appointed by the boys club does not have the right to do this or portray those of us as sinners. Let them be the first to cast a stone.

  4. Rene Paez
    5 years ago

    Does the Church permit sterilization under any circumstance; especially women?
    Was watching documentary on Mozambique - where doctors are in short supply. They are training mid-wives to take on responsibility of birthing and
    C-section. Then, assigning them
    to rural areas. A mid-wife delivered a still-born and then took it upon herself to sterilize the mother because she felt that another pregnancy would kill her. This is why I'm asking. Also, this country is a former Portuguese colony, and although not mentioned in documentary - some of these mid-wives are Catholic.

  5. Roxanne
    5 years ago

    I'm sterilized for 6 years and loving it. I'd do it all over again in an instant! I guess Catholic clergy doesn't have to worry about this issue, huh?

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