There seems to be a lot of interest in Catholic s-e-x despite the sad reality that few practicing Catholics are actually, um, practicing what is preached (or what too frequently isn’t preached in far too many parishes around the world.) So on the heels of this wildly popular instructable on how to ‘do’ birth control as a Catholic (hint: don’t) I thought we could talk about something else really fun and totally appropriate to discuss on the internet with strangers: vasectomies.
Okay, maybe we’ll talk about tubal ligations, too.
Fun fact: I was actually offered a tubal at the ‘catholic’ hospital we delivered John Paul Francis in (oh the irony) when he was about, oh, 4 hours old. It wasn’t the first birth control option they threw out there for me to consider but the fact that it was even on the table when I, at age 29, had just popped out my second healthy child was, quite frankly, baffling. I mean sure, I bled a little more than was polite in the final stage of labor but come on, you want to spay me after two kids? I hadn’t even ‘gotten’ my girl yet. Sheesh, people.
Anyway, back to the riveting topic du jour: bodily mutilation. For that, gentle reader, is precisely what takes place when a section of woman’s fallopian tubes or a man’s vas deferens are either cauterized/removed/severed. First off I’d like to give a big old shout out to GROSS because hi, when I have parts of my body cauterized, it usually means something has gone very, very wrong.
Secondly, does anyone find it curious that in a culture where infertility is such a mysterious billion dollar industry where few medical professionals care to take the time to examine the root causes, we’re more than happy to snip, clip, or remove those perfectly healthy, properly functioning parts once a couple/individual has decided “welp, we’re all done using that. So long, bodily system.”
I mean, can you imagine if any other piece of the complex puzzle of the human anatomy was simply removed for ‘working too well’? I know, I know, spleens…and appendixes. But come on, those are always taken in times of disease or illness. Can anyone name one other instance in which we attack a healthy body part and dispose of it because we’re tired of it functioning properly?
So I digress, because that’s not the reason the Church opposes sterilization as a form of contraception. I mean sure, it’s a part of it, the whole ‘your body is a temple’ concept and the human person being created in the image and likeness of God, but really, the practice of sterilization is condemned for the same reason any other means of contraception is: it fundamentally damages the relationship between the created human person and the Creator.
It’s the same, tired, ages old attempt of man to try to “know better” than God. And in so doing, in trying to ‘know,’ he ends up self-harming.
Harming his body, harming his relationship to his spouse, and harming his relationship to his God.
Contraception is simply another effort in the long, tired litany of “I will not serves” that seeks to wrest control over life from God’s hands into our own.
But another baby would kill me. We can’t afford to have any more kids. I have a chronic, pregnancy-exacerbated disease. My husband is cheating on me. I’m not married.
I’m a college student. And to all those valid, troubling, serious protestations, there is but one possible answer:
Don’t have sex.
Seriously, that’s the answer.
If there is some condition or circumstance so absolutely grave that to bring a child into it would be disastrous, then the only conceivable answer is to avoid the act which creates children. Because as with any other form of contraception, things can – and very often do – go wrong. Condoms break. Sperm get through. Pills fail to dispense enough estrogen. And sometimes, yes, even sometimes when surgical measures have been taken…life finds a way.
Life’s like that, you know? Miraculous, sometimes. And utterly confounding. And the only realistic answer to the problem of “we definitely can’t conceive right now” is “You definitely shouldn’t be having sex right now.” Because you know what must be available when people who ‘definitely shouldn’t get pregnant right now’ get pregnant? Abortion. Abortion must be available to back up failed contraception. Maybe not for you personally, but for somebody. For a lot of somebodies.
This is a hard teaching. Almost impossible, by our current culture’s standards. Lots of Christianity is hard, though. The Eucharist. Immortality. A God made man, dwelling among us.
It’s all had to swallow.
But what’s the alternative?
Our culture would have us believe that sex is paramount to all other human experiences, that children are the ultimate inconvenience, that the body is the end all and be all of our existence, and that the only real path to happiness is paved with shiny toys.
And you know what? Our culture is effing miserable. Divorces. Broken marriages and broken families. Kids killing themselves, each other, their parents. Parents killing their kids. Spouses cheating on each other, sometimes with the explicit permission of the other spouse. And on and on.
Ain’t none of what our culture’s dishing making anybody truly happy. So why take sex advice from such a source?
Just because something is common doesn’t make it normal. And just because something is popular doesn’t make it right.
For more reading on this topic check out Humanae Vitae for yourself. Seriously. Even if you’re not Catholic. Even if you’ve read it before. Read it again. Then look at the time stamp and let your jaw drop when you do the math.
(A little post script: Some couples have pursued sterilization without full knowledge of the gravity of their actions — maybe they weren’t properly instructed in their faith, maybe their doctors gave them an ultimatum (sadly common) and maybe their own pastors urged them to take the step (even sadder), and, if this is the case, there is always room for reconciliation with God and with the Church. Even if the procedure is irreversible – which is not always the case! never hurts to ask – the human heart is, amazingly, always capable of true contrition and repentance. So please do not feel condemned by this information. Find a good confessor, make things right, and begin the path to rebuilding your relationship with your Father and with your spouse. It’s NEVER too late to make things right.)