Vasectomy and the Catholic Church: Search Engine Q&A

This blog’s platform provides access to some basic statistics regarding traffic on qmbarque.com. One of the more interesting features (to the voyeur) is that you can see some of the search strings that people enter into search engines that bring them here.

It seems, based upon the frequency of searches related to the Church and vasectomies, that this is an issue for some folks. There are questions that my original post on the topic did not cover.

Vasectomy-catholicQuestion #1: “Can Catholics get vasectomies?” Answer: Well, “can” is a loaded word. I’m Catholic. If I go to a doctor for a vasectomy, I can do that in the sense that no one is going to prevent me from doing it.

But the Church is clear: faithful Catholics are bound to follow Church teaching. The intended outcome of vasectomies and tubal ligations is to render a person permanently infertile. It is an objective sin, and likely an actual mortal sin for anyone with a well-formed conscience. In the context of marriage, where sex between husband and wife is promoted as a positive good, vasectomy constitutes the removal of the life-giving capacity of sexual expression, which is an essential element of God’s plan for marriage, and sex.

Vasectomy-wifeQuestion #2: “Wife won’t be intimate unless I get vasectomy, but Catholic faith forbids it.” Answer: If you have this question, your conscience is sufficiently well-formed such that you already know you shouldn’t get a vasectomy. Without knowing a wife’s specific reasons for wanting a husband to get a vasectomy, we are confined to the most common issues that cause married couples to seek this option.

There’s the money. Kids are expensive. Sometimes, depending on your financial circumstances, they are oppressively expensive. Perhaps, even bankruptcy expensive. In any case, it may feel this way.

There’s the stress. Kids cause a lot of stress. You have to worry about them. You have to take care of them (I wonder how many wives want their husbands to get vasectomies in part because the husband doesn’t help very much with childrearing; if this is the case, you need to step it up, husband!).

There’s everything else. Contracepting sex is a hassle, and not fool-proof. After a couple kids, you need a new car. A three-bedroom house only holds so many. People keep asking if you’re done already. They eat all your food. They break your stuff. They cry and whine during mass. Diapers. And diapers. And diapers. Poop and pee. Crust all over surfaces. And snot and vomit.

All of these things are what the world says should matter, but they don’t matter to God. None of this is insurmountable when we place our trust in God. He works miracles, and He will do so here if you permit Him. 

Bottom line answer: Be a man. Educate yourself and take responsibility. A wife who wants a husband to get a vasetomy is essentially saying, “For whatever reason, I don’t trust God (or you) in this matter.” She either doesn’t realize (or doesn’t care about) what comes from intentionally removing the life-giving potential of marriage and how it will harm the relationship of husband and wife. She thinks life would be better without more of her offspring walking around. Ask God to help you be what she needs so she can feel safe to trust that His will be done.

Vasectomy-acceptedQuestion #3: “Can I still be accepted as a Catholic through RCIA if I had a vasectomy years ago?” Answer: Yes. Everyone sins. Whether or not we’ve made poor decisions in our past is not in itself something that prevents us from becoming Catholic. In choosing to follow Christ, we must repent of our past lives and resolve not to sin in the future, with Christ’s help. If you’ve already been baptized in another Christian denomination when you enter the Church, then you need to go to confession before being received and receiving communion for the first time. If you’ve never been baptized, then the fact that you had a vasectomy in the past is forgiven along with all of your other sins.

Vasectomy-confessQuestion #4: “If a vasectomy is confessed is it okay to have sex with wife?” Answer: Ask your confessor. The answer is likely yes, but I can’t say so absolutely, because you and your confessor would need to look at the circumstances of your particular situation.

If we’ve learned anything from Pope Francis, it’s that the Church should be about mercy, and the Sacrament of Reconciliation is the sacrament of mercy. The Church has the right, for our own good, to regulate the requirements for dispensing mercy, but it does not withhold mercy or make obtaining it highly impracticable or impossible.

For example, if you honestly and truly did not know that it is an objective sin to undergo a vasectomy, then in confessing it and receiving absolution, you would not automatically be bound to abstain from sex with your wife.

I have heard confessors assign as penance that a couple abstain from sex during what would have been the “fertile” days of the month, according to the wife’s cycle. This is something you learn to do as a matter of course in Natural Family Planning.

According to the circumstances, your confessor might assign a heavier penance. Perhaps it’s possible for you to attempt to reverse the vasectomy, if it is within your budget and not exceedingly risky to your life or health. A confessor might suggest this to you, but likely would not insist upon it as penance, unless there were a specific reason.

Just go to confession and do the penance, which will be much easier than living with a mortal sin on the soul. After all, a penance does not “make it all right”; only God does that, for us, through our Lord Jesus Christ. And look into NFP.

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24 thoughts on “Vasectomy and the Catholic Church: Search Engine Q&A

  1. Vasectomies can and should be reversed. Confess the sin, yes. Barring a serious medical obstacle to the contrary (build up of sperm antibodies, for example), the surgery should be reversed. Exceptions to the contrary duly noted, reversal is the right and merciful (because a person’s soul is at risk) thing to do.

  2. My husband had his vasectomy reversed. Just a few months later, we conceived a son, and named him after John Paul the Great. My husband looks at all of our children with love, but the ones that we had after the reversal, make his eyes fill with tears of gratitude.

  3. The theory in my family is that if an all powerful and great G-d, wants the my vasectomy to be reversed he will do it himself. And we will rejoice at that time.

    • I have a friend who thinks exactly the same way. She says God can make a miracle. Of course He can! But He designed us to receive the blessing of children in a particular way and by having a vasectomy you are saying “no” to God. One shouldn’t put God to the test.

    • Do not test the Lord your God. The achievement of His will happens not simply through direct acts of Providence–God does not suspend His laws without due reason. He more often acts through the intermediate agents (such as highly-skilled surgeons) which He has provided for the purpose.

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  5. Pete’s comment reminds me of the joke about the man in a flood and a truck, a boat, and then a helicopter comes by to save him and he refuses the assistance of all saying to each ” No thanks, God will provide”. Eventually he succumbs and when he gets to heaven he questions why a God did not help him and a God says “Well I did send you a truck, a boat, and then a helicopter”.

    • Yes, except Pete’s situation is even worse than the man in the flood, because Pete chose the vasectomy. The man in the flood didn’t do anything to start the predicament.

  6. “Educate yourself and take responsibility…Ask God to help you be what she needs so she can feel safe to trust that His will be done.”

    Nice try. Real world: pushing the issue leads to divorce. Oops. Now the vasectomy doesn’t matter because you are stuck living a life of involuntary celibacy and see your kids part time. At least you are not sinning, right?

    • In being called to marriage, and all that the life-long commitment entails, husband and wife take vows to be open to the gift of children. Anyone prudently living in the real world would want to know what a future spouse intends regarding children before getting married. If the intention changes after marriage, something has likely occurred in the marriage, and I’d bet a fairly common reason is the perception that the other spouse hasn’t lived up to his (or her) own vows in some way. Certainly other reasons exist, but a wife who won’t have sex with her husband unless he is sterile isn’t saying no to more kids, she’s saying no to more of her husband’s kids. How about Option C, to wit: retain the means to be a father to one’s kids by remaining in the marriage and *voluntarily* remaining celibate, so that wife can see that some things matter more than sniping about involuntary celibacy. Maybe in the *real* world, wife throws him out anyway?

      I’m sorry to be so blunt, but I’m serious about being the man here. There are no good excuses, only sad reasons.

    • Don’t see where the poster recommended pushing the issue. Praying for guidance and trying to be more loving hardly sounds like being pushy. In the case described the wife wasn’t threatening divorce. All husband would need to do is agree to go along with wife’s desire (which was to abstain). Solution there is very simple: follow wife’s desire and abstain. Abstinence is never a sin.

      Harder dilemma would be where the wife insisted on taking the Pill or getting tubes tied and then demanded intimacy. That’s a much more tricky case morally, since contraceptive intercourse is a sin. And in that case husband would be facing the dilemma of do I go along with wife’s desire or do i refuse and risk her escalating to a divorce. I’ve seen some workarounds that respect Catholic teaching, but am not prepared to explain them – but bottom line is even in this harder case, noncontracepting spouse need not despair but should consult best orthodox moral theology on the topic.

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  10. It always gets a little under my skin when there is only one method referenced in a mention about NFP. My husband and I use the Marquette Method. We’ve tried two others and they just weren’t a good fit. Married couples need to know that there are several vetted NFP methods available and that they need to keep trying until they find the one that suits them best.

  11. I stumbled upon this when a friend emailed me this post. I’m sorry, but I was under the impression that the decision to undergo a vasectomy reversal was left entirely up to the couple? I can understand an orthodox priest encouraging it, but I have never heard of it as a required penance. I thought once it has been confessed and absolution is given they are free to continue marital relations. There is no other “ask your confessor” or looking for additional penance. A man should confess this sin as soon as he is educated as to why the church views it as such. If he then decides to reverse it, that will be his decision to make and his soul will not be jeopardized.

  12. I had a vecetemy when I was 21 yrs old, I married a lady with 2 children who’s husband was killed In an auto accident , we had a child before I decided to do this, I come from a family of 11 , it was deficult growing up, we were poor, I told myself I would only have 3 children if I would ever get married so when I did I knew in my heart if I was ever going to make it in life I should get this operation, I’m am feeling regret after all this time, I didn’t know it was a grave sin against God, I have ask for forgiveness every day because of my decision, God has punished me I know, I would recommended anyone thinking about this procedure to know you are committing Abortion which is the gravest Sin against God our creator. We live in difficult times, pray for wisdom for the rest of your life.

  13. Pingback: Another Vasectomy Question | Quartermaster of the Barque

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