Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Sterilization: Is it getting "fixed" or getting broken?

I've promised a contraception post for a long time.

For the moment, let's forget about condoms, diaphragms, spermicides, birth control pills, birth control patches, birth control rings, birth control sponges, birth control implants, birth control injections, IUDs... and whatever other contraceptives I am forgetting (I am sure the scientists are working on more ways to thwart fertility as we speak!).

Let's start with an easy one: Surgical sterilization.

Specifically, vasectomies and tubal ligations.

First, some background. When my husband and I were first married, we wanted approximately two children. Maybe three, but that was pushing it. We liked the first two so much that I talked him into number three (and quickly at that, so that we could be free to "have fun and travel in our forties" -- ha ha ha!).

After number three, it was time to get serious about getting sterile. My husband and I had agreed that he would get a vasectomy. I joked to friends that I surely wouldn't be the one getting sterilized because "it was against my religion [Catholic] but not his [agnostic Jew]!" As a lapsed Catholic at the time, I guess I thought that was pretty clever.

But a funny thing happened on the way to our "planned barrenhood": We both had profound conversions of heart. And one of the easiest things to see when we took the secular blinders off was the immorality of surgical sterilization. What once seemed responsible now seemed perverse.

Think about what surgical sterilization is: It's the deliberate mutilation of healthy organs.

Even from a secular standpoint, the very concept should be repellent: Paying a doctor (a healer!) to cut up, burn, disconnect, or otherwise destroy healthy organs, for the express purpose of destroying their normal, healthy functioning. In other words, there is nothing wrong with Jane's reproductive organs; in fact, they are working as designed (this is called "health"). But Jane will pay someone to go in to surgically mutilate her organs so that they don't work as they are intended to work. From a Natural Law standpoint, this is clearly disordered.

What an irony that we call this getting "fixed" when we're literally getting broken.

Now, this is a bit more painful, but let's look at it from a Christian standpoint: We know that our bodies are "fearfully and wonderfully made" by the Lord, and that we are temples of the Holy Spirit. The gift and blessing of fertility is mind-boggling in its goodness. In giving us the gift and blessing of our fertility, God has designed us to bring forth His children. What an unspeakable honor, of which we are not and could never be worthy! And yet instead of being awestruck with gratitude or even trembling in reverence for the gift and blessing of fertility, most Christians see no problem with taking this most precious gift and destroying it without a thought. (As one now regretful Christian told me, "I had a tubal without batting an eye.")

Please understand.... I don't think that most Christians intend to throw the gift of fertility back in God's face when they sterilize themselves, and I could never weigh in on the culpability of any individual. Our culture long ago replaced the Judeo-Christian view of sexuality with the Planned Parenthood view, so the confusion is understandable, if tragic.

But if we step back and give it a moment's thought, the truth should hit each Christian like a ton of bricks. God did not make a mistake when He designed our bodies. His design for our bodies, and for bringing His children to life, was perfect and deliberate. To reject it, to take a healthy body and willfully destroy its most incredible function, should be unthinkable.






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187 comments:

  1. I agree with all you have said. I would just add my own sadness when I hear someone loudly proclaim that they have "given their lives to Christ" or "God is in charge" and at the same time are contracepting or have been sterilized.

    The message is clear. They will trust God with anything except their fertility. It is all His unless it could actually change their lives.

    Sterilization and contraception are sure signs of self-deification. I know because I was there. We make of ourselves gods who control life or the lack of it. We do great harm to our bodies, our health and our relationships with God and our spouses in the name of self-determination.

    I could wrote a book, but it boils down to this..either you trust God or you don't.

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  2. *ugh...that should be "write" not "wrote" Please excuse my poor grammar.

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  3. Even before I was Christian, I didn't understand sterilization. I felt like it would take away something from marriage... some kind of wonder or mystery or creative aspect. I just couldn't imagine closing all doors to procreation. Then again, I was pretty feminist and hated the idea of feeling pressure to altar my natural fertility in any way. I felt disrespected with such a suggestion. It doesn't seem like a lot of my peers felt that way though.

    I think the struggle I see with most Christians is this feeling that God made us "stewards" of our family planning. I agree with this concept, but I definitely don't agree with how it is often practiced. Too often, instead of partnering with God, we err on cutting God out of the picture entirely.

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  4. aka the Mom, my thoughts exactly. This is so true of so many people: "It is all His unless it could actually change their lives." Today, Christians can hunt for a church which agrees with them on hard sayings, rather than have to conform their lives to what God is asking. Don't they ever think that's a bit too easy, though? I would.

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  5. Sarah, I agree.

    And, it's interesting that you bring up the feminist perspective. The feminists should be all over this, but they aren't. They should be asking, "What is so wrong with women's body's that we are paying people to destroy our feminine parts?" Unfortunately, feminists have long ago declared war on their own biology, feeling that it oppresses them. That's a whole post in the making...

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  6. I want to point out (because I know it will come up) that Catholics don't necessarily subscribe to a "quiverfull" philosophy. That is, it's not Catholic teaching that every couple must try to conceive during every cycle, or even have the intention of conception with every marital act. (They do, however, have to be open to the possibility of conception with every marital act.)

    Some Catholics may feel called to be completely open, and that's what discernment is for. Sometimes others sometimes discern that, for serious and/or just reasons, it may be best to use the natural fertility cycles that God gave us to abstain from intercourse at the time when we might be most fertile.

    This is another use of our gift of fertility, and that's why God designed our bodies to work the way they do. He could have easily have made women fertile 24/7 the way that men are, but He did not.

    A little tangental, but I know from experience that whenever this topic comes up, there's always at least one person who seems to think that Catholic teaching says that couples have to have 10+ kids or else be castigated as sinners. :)

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  7. Great point, JoAnna! I always try to keep the posts short, and then I figure you guys will point out the other stuff that is so important to know!! Thank you!

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  8. It strikes me as contrary when I hear Christians say that they can do all things through Christ who strengthens them (via St. Paul in Philippians)--be a missionary in another country, run a marathon, start a business, tithe regularly, go on a diet--yet they cannot have more than two or three children. It is counterintuitive.

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  9. Reasons are simple.

    If someone wants to have a certain bodily function cease, and understands the consequences, then the body part that performs this function may be removed.

    --Sam

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  10. Women should have the same rights to disable body parts as men have.

    --Sam

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  11. Sam, what doctor could ethically make me deaf or blind if I asked him?

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  12. [Leila: Sam, what doctor could ethically make me deaf or blind if I asked him?]

    At this point in time, very few. This act would be against their medical code, and against the law. Most doctors would consider actions against law and code to be immoral.

    Some doctors challenge this code and law, by killing patients who want to die. Death would render both the patient's eyes and ears useless.

    These doctors consider causing the death of some patients to be ethical.

    --Sam

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  13. [Leila: What do you think is ethical, Sam?]

    Are you asking me what my ethics is, or are you asking me what I think is ethical in this situation?

    --Sam

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  14. I feel like nearly everyday someone close to me is talking about their husbands getting "snipped." no one even thinks twices about it anymore. It's almost as if it's just expected.

    My MIL had a similar approach to contraception as you mention. They were married for 9 years before having my husbands brother and another 3 before having K. During those 9 years and then those additional 3 my MIL said to me recently that my FIL used condoms because he wasn't Catholic at the time (hemconverted some time later). She sort of chuckled about it. Then she told me that my FIL later had a vasectomy because again, he wasn't the Catholic one. I just remember thinking "Are you trying to pull a fast one on God?" I don't thing it works that ways. But then again I shouldn't be surprised as this is the same woman who was so excited about this new iud her friend told her about and thought I would be interested after the baby is born. She wanted to be sure we were "smart" and didn't have children to close together. Ugh!

    Now that I've taken up your whole comment box I'll just say that this is a great post! :) I wish more people could understand fertility from this point of view and realize what a gift it is.

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  15. [Leila: What do you think is ethical, Sam?]

    If someone wants to have a certain bodily function cease, and understands the consequences, then the body part that performs this function may be removed.

    This is acceptable if both patient and doctor believe it is acceptable.

    --Sam

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  16. "Unfortunately, feminists have long ago declared war on their own biology, feeling that it oppresses them." Well-said. And perplexing.

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  17. I understand both sides because I grew up with "family planning" and the idea that it was responsible. It's just after experience with being "open to life" I understand why such a thing isn't wise or ethical...and Leila covered it. It's fundamentally opposed to faith and purpose.

    Thanks for the informative post!

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  18. I found out on a recent visit to my parents' house that most of the adults on my mother's side are sterlized. My grandma and all the other adults present sounded super cheerful about it, but I was horrified. She even said that they got "fixed". I cannot stand that term, it makes me think of spaying and neutering animals or something. Ugh. Anyway, it wasn't the time to say anything, but I hope to someday!

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  19. Great post, Leila! I'd like to hear more about your conversion. How did that come about?

    I've always found the idea of getting "fixed" ironic. How are you fixing something by breaking it? Are we lowering ourselves to the level of animals?

    Great point, Joanna, on the quiver-full mentality. Love that Evangelicals are coming around on this topic. Wait 'til they see that we've got the balanced approach! (and always have!) :)

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  20. [Sam: If someone wants to have a certain bodily function cease, and understands the consequences, then the body part that performs this function may be removed.

    This is acceptable if both patient and doctor believe it is acceptable.]

    But is it ethical?

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  21. God alone Suffices (or anyone):
    Do you think it is acceptable with pets and other animals or is that also fixing something that is not broken and taking away God gifted fertility?

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  22. [JoAnna: But is it ethical if both patient and doctor believe it is acceptable.]

    It is ethically acceptable.

    --Sam

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  23. Joy,

    Animals are not rational beings (that is, they must obey their instincts, unlike humans who can exert control over their instincts and impulses) so the same rules of morality don't apply to them as they do to humans.

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  24. Sam,

    So to clarify, you believe it would be ethically acceptable for a doctor to mutilate a woman's eardrums if she wished to be deaf?

    Also, do you believe Nadya Suleman ("Octomom") and her doctor were acting ethically when he performed fertility treatments to impregnate her with multiple embryos?

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  25. [JoAnna: you believe it would be ethically acceptable for a doctor to mutilate a woman's eardrums if she wished to be deaf?]

    No.

    It would be ethically acceptable for a doctor to mutilate a woman's eardrums if she wanted to be deaf, understood the other consequences of said manipulation, and if both she and the doctor believed such an action were moral.

    [JoAnna: Also, do you believe Nadya Suleman ("Octomom") and her doctor were acting ethically when he performed fertility treatments to impregnate her with multiple embryos?]

    This question does not relate to the topic because it does not involve the voluntary destruction of body parts.

    --Sam

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  26. What does God think about me damaging my hair follicles with electrolysis so that hair doesn't grow out of my chin any more? Does he think that I'm damaging my body to become prettier?

    I'm not necessarily equating prettiness with reproduction, I'd just like to get God's view on my damaging that part of my body.

    For that matter, what does he think of me coloring my hair? Or having laser eye surgery? Is he ok with me changing my body as long as I think it is an improvement?

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  27. Mai, since you are not a believer in God, can we not talk about what God thinks for a minute, and can you tell me if you think it's okay for a doctor to surgically mutilate a healthy organ to make it malfunction? Is that ethical?

    I'll answer your questions, but can you start with your own views, first? Thanks!

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  28. I think it is ethical for my electrolycist to mutilate my healthy hair follicles, so that they malfunction, so that I am prettier.

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  29. Mai, great, I totally understand your position on hair follicles. Now let's go further, even beyond cosmetic considerations. Do you think it's ethical for a doctor to surgically mutilate your healthy organs in order for them to malfunction?

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  30. Sam said: If someone wants to have a certain bodily function cease, and understands the consequences, then the body part that performs this function may be removed.

    This is acceptable if both patient and doctor believe it is acceptable.


    I am going to assume that you don't believe a doctor should start with the premise of "do no harm" and that he can go beyond "healing" and "health" (which I guess is evident, in that you are okay with abortion)?

    Is there anything that you don't believe that a doctor can ethically do to a patient, even if it's agreed to mutually?)

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  31. you're rocking the blog posts!! ALso... can I steal your Mystical Rose pic? It sort of has significance for me and MM....
    miss you!
    your tip jar is cute :)

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  32. [Leila: Is there anything that you don't believe that a doctor can ethically do to a patient, even if it's agreed to mutually?]

    Nothing comes to mind.

    If it is agreed to mutually, and if the patient understands the consequences.

    --Sam

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  33. Sam, so you don't believe that a doctor's vocation is fundamentally about healing?

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  34. and the Catholic Church's official stance on circumcision is?

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  35. [Leila: Sam, so you don't believe that a doctor's vocation is fundamentally about healing?]

    Substitute fundamentally -> necessary, vocation -> job, remove negation, make explicit:

    [New Question: Sam, do you believe that every aspect of a doctor's job necessarily involves healing?]

    No.

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  36. Good point in circumcision, I thought about using it, but the penis still functions, mostly.

    Leila, I had my tonsils removed when I was 14, they were doing what they were supposed to be doing, which gave me infections every once in a while. The doctor removed them, surgically. They weren't just mutilated, they were removed.

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  37. My husband had his sinuses completely cleared out, tissue scraped out, because he snored and had apnea. They were doing what they were supposed to be doing.

    My mother had her very large breasts reduced after she finished having children, they were doing what they were supposed to be doing but they were so large as to be uncomfortable. The doctor surgically mutilated them.

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  38. Mai, pathologies and medical problems are fair game. If a uterus is diseased, it may licitly be operated on and even removed. Medicine is about healing. Recurrent infections are problematic in tonsils. Sinusitis is a nasty, painful, debilitating thing (I've had it), and scraping can be a wonderful healing for that problem. Snoring and apnea are signs of medical problems and pathologies. Abnormally large breasts can cause serious back and mobility problems. The Church has no problem with restoring people to health.

    Healthy fertility can cause.... babies. Not a pathology. Do you see the distinction?

    Are you fine with taking a HEALTHY (not diseased, not infected, not oversized), functioning organ and destroying it? It's okay if you are; I'm not trying to make you believe something you don't believe. But if you are okay with destroying healthy organs, and having a doctor be the agent of that, then do you agree with Sam's premise about blinding and deafening a willing patient? Is that ethical?

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  39. The Church doesn't take a stand on circumcision, other than that it's not necessary for salvation. Removing the foreskin does not change the function of the penis, which is for sexual intercourse, reproduction, and urination.

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  40. [New Question: Sam, do you believe that every aspect of a doctor's job necessarily involves healing?]

    No.


    Since you've formulated a new question for yourself rather than answer mine, I will go with it: What do the other aspects of a doctor's job involve?

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  41. http://dontfixit.org/

    Just in case there are any lurkers who want info about vasectomy issues.

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  42. Her breasts were uncomfortable, they weren't causing back pain. It's the same thing as having more babies makes me uncomfortable, and having more babies makes me poor. I see no difference.

    Also, tonsilectomies are not generally done any more, for the infections that I had. Most doctors nowdays say that the tonsils are doing what they are supposed to be doing. It was more cosmetic (don't want to have more inconvenient infections) than medical.

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  43. I agree that it sounds ridiculous to damage healthy organs and prevent fertility permanently...until I think of the people that keep having kids and shouldn't. Drug addicts, criminals, etc. Then I don't Really think they are using their gift responsibly. It seems to happen so often. As far as marriage I see your point although don't necessarily agree. Each individual relationship will have to decide what they can handle. -chrissy

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  44. [Leila: you've formulated a new question for yourself rather than answer mine]

    How is the new question different from your old question?

    [Leila: What do the other aspects of a doctor's job involve?]

    One good example would be the subject of your post.

    --Sam

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  45. How about botox? Injecting botulism to have a smooth forehead? Is that frowned upon by the church?

    You still haven't answered my questions about electrolysis.

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  46. A tubal ligation is a procedure in which a cut is made to the fallopian tubes (or they are tied together, or a surgical block inside the tube is inserted). This prevents the egg from successfully meeting with sperm and traveling to the uterus.

    The fallopian tube is not destroyed.

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  47. No, but it is essentially rendered useless. It ceases to perform its biologically determined purpose.

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  48. Mai, botox, electrolysis, etc. are cosmetic procedures. Cosmetic procedures are not prohibited. Too much of it all may point to some serious vanity issues, as you can imagine. :)

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  49. Anonymous (please give yourself a name),

    If you cut the fallopian tube, it is a mutilation of the tube. Many times the ends are cauterized as well. As I said, it takes a healthy, functioning body part and derails its function. A cut tube is a destroyed tube, for all intents and purposes, as Hebrews points out. The tube only exists for fertility. What use or purpose does it have when it's cut? Sometimes, the procedure can be successfully reversed. It's sometimes the case that we can fix things we have destroyed.

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  50. Chrissy, believe it or not, my emotions are with you... I would actually like to do WORSE things than sterilization to drug addicts and criminals or anyone who harms children. However, my brain and my faith tell me it's not a good idea, for many reasons. So, I have to go with my brain and my faith. But I totally get where you are coming from!

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  51. Mai, if you could answer this, from earlier:

    Are you fine with taking a HEALTHY (not diseased, not infected, not oversized), functioning organ and destroying it? It's okay if you are; I'm not trying to make you believe something you don't believe. But if you are okay with destroying healthy organs, and having a doctor be the agent of that, then do you agree with Sam's premise about blinding and deafening a willing patient? Is that ethical?

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  52. And Mai, there are plenty of ways not to have a baby if it will make you "uncomfortable" or "poor" (what a way to look at the gift of a child! But that is another subject). And those ways of not having babies don't involve surgical mutilation of body parts so they cannot function as designed.

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  53. Not Oversized? You're putting that in there? When God MADE it that way? How can you say that oversized is bad when God made it that way! Did he make a mistake then? It *is* healthy! It was functioning perfectly! After the surgery, she wouldn't be able to nurse if she wanted to. It doesn't function any more. Why are you making these distinctions? What happened to "offer up your suffering"? SHouldn't my mom have suffered through her oversized breasts?

    Blinding and deafening is functionally different than a vasectomy. The reason people have a vasectomy is to prevent having more babies, which leads to, among other things,

    a) harm to a woman's body by over-reproducing
    b) poverty
    c) inability to provide enough attention to existing babies

    However, you are opposed to vasectomies, and are not opposed to breast reduction surgery or cosmetic procedures. I fail to see how blindness and deafness are more related to vasectomies than breast reduction surgeries are. In blindness and deafness, a serious, functional, day-to-day necessity will be missing. More babies is not a serious, functional, day-to-day necessity. These are not comparable, Leila.

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  54. Mai, none of the circumstances that you listed are unethical at all. I will defer to Leila on the whys because I don't have time at the moment to type a complete answer.

    Leila, great post! Bill and I are friends with a couple in their forties, and they are wonderful evangelical Christians. They have a beautiful marriage, and we look up to them and have a great deal of respect for them. They have five children and have been married for 30 years!
    Then, one night over dinner, they were joking about how after their fifth child was born they had considered having more, but then decided to have him "get snipped."

    Bill and I were stunned. I don't know why... it only makes sense in our culture... We still love them, but there was a big part of us that felt so sad that they had done that. They deserve so much better! Their marriage deserves so much better!

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  55. Not that anyone asked for my opinion but...I feel like cosmetic surgery and reconstructive surgery are very different things. Reconstructive surgery (such as breast reduction because of oversized breasts that cause back issues which lead to other issues) IS a health issue. A doctor would be fixing the problem in a sense. Cosmetic surgery is breaking something that is perfectly healthy (i.e. small breasts) for pure vanity. Which btw, I don't believe in.
    -Chrissy.

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  56. Oh, yes, Mai, I am putting that in there. My nephew had oversized tonsils. They caused trouble with breathing and sleeping. A close female relative of mine also had oversized breasts, which caused great discomfort and pain. She had a reduction, to make her healthier. If her uterus was oversized and causing significant health problems, then that would be a licit reason to remove a uterus. So, yes, OVERSIZED.

    Like I said before, there are other licit ways to "not have babies" besides destroying your organs. Cutting tubes or the vas deferens does not cause the body to become healthier; it cures no pathology and eases no pain. All it does is destroy organs and render the body infertile. (How is this "health"?)

    Sight and hearing are "necessities"? Tell that to the deaf and blind who are living happy lives.

    Anyway, I agree that sight and hearing are serious functions of the body which should be respected and not destroyed. Do you not think fertility is a serious function of the body which should be respected as well?

    As for "over-reproduction".... I have to laugh, as the mother of eight! ;) Actually, there are a lot of health benefits to having many children.

    Did having one more child ever "lead" someone to poverty? Or, are you thinking of families that were poverty-stricken to begin with? And, the whole "cause of poverty" thing is a different post. We disagree on the causes of human poverty.

    And as for 'c', really? In America people have vasectomies after two kids (or less!). Do you think all those couples really are unable to "provide enough attention to existing babies"? I think I will just refer people to the "Is Having Eight Kids 'Sketchy'?" post:

    http://littlecatholicbubble.blogspot.com/2010/10/is-having-eight-kids-sketchy.html

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  57. Chrissy, your opinions are always welcome here, so never hesitate to jump right in!

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  58. For any lurkers out there wondering about the Catholic position on circumcision, I recommend visitng the website catholicsagainstcircumcision.org

    It's a good place to start to make a prayerful, informed decision about circumcision.

    Great discussion!

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  59. So, I think there are plenty of valid reasons why a person would want to not have babies, and would choose to modify their bodies so that they don't. You don't agree with any of the reasons, and think I'm illogical.

    I'll point out a quote from Leila from a few posts ago:

    Mai: ....we must accept that dissenters may be correct....

    Leila: No, I have to categorically reject that statement.

    That pretty much sums up this discussion as well.

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  60. Thanks Leila. =). This is random but I'm going for it. There is a book called Geek Love by Katherine Dunn. I wouldn't recommend it, it's REALLY bizarre but something Sam said made me think of it.
    "If someone wants to have a certain bodily function cease, and understands the consequences, then the body part that performs this function may be removed.--Sam "
    In this book, they talk about followers of this guy: Arty, who convinces a group of people to amputate their legs (to look like Arty). Obviously this is a stretch to this conversation, but it does go to show that just because you KNOW the consequences doesn't mean it's a great idea. ;). - Chrissy

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  61. Mai, I am fine with the fact that you categorically reject my beliefs. It's fine, and I think I knew that going in. Again, I am under no illusion that I will convince you of anything. This dialogue is about the lurker getting a chance to evaluate both sides, and to help Catholics understand their faith better.

    But my question still remains: If someone wanted a doctor to blind or deafen them, is this ethical?

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  62. Chrissy, I continue to really enjoy your contributions! :)

    And, thanks to everyone else, too! I want to respond to everyone's comments, but I can't always... Please forgive me but know that I so appreciate every single comment!!

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  63. Praise God! I know of families who have had sterilizations and were blessed to have had successful reversals - there are people out there who are willing to do these reversals for cost because they understand the significance of openness to life. I also know people who are considering this or have done this, and it breaks my heart. I'm going to link, if you don't mind. Thanks so much!!

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  64. Katie, of course you can link! I, too, know so many amazing stories of grace and reversal! Including Jay Groft, the singer whose Christmas CD was the Grand Prize in the last Doctrinal Quiz Show!

    And, I am going to borrow this from your blog, just because I love it so much:

    The Church's teaching on marriage:

    Marriage, then, is far from being the effect of chance or the result of the blind evolution of natural forces. It is in reality the wise and provident institution of God the Creator, whose purpose was to effect in man His loving design. As a consequence, husband and wife, through that mutual gift of themselves, which is specific and exclusive to them alone, develop that union of two persons in which they perfect one another, cooperating with God in the generation and rearing of new lives.

    "Marriage and conjugal love are by their nature ordained toward the procreation and education of children. Children are really the supreme gift of marriage and contribute in the highest degree to their parents' welfare."

    -Humanae Vitae, Encyclical Letter of Pope Paul VI

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  65. Oh, no, I am not categorically rejecting your beliefs. I didn't say that, at all, I think you mis-read. I'm quoting you, categorically rejecting that dissenting opinions must be considered. I actually consider that there may be a God. I read up on it, rather a fair amount. I evaluate proof. I don't see evidence yet. I'm not categorically rejecting it, at all. Also, I can see how someone may choose not to have a vasectomy or have 20 children. I don't think it is sketchy at all, and have never said as much.

    But my question still remains: If someone wanted a doctor to blind or deafen them, is this ethical?

    This has nothing to do with the discussion at hand, as I said in my post at 6:50. I fail to see how making someone blind and deaf is related to an elective procedure to prevent a sperm from meeting an egg.

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  66. Thanks, Leila! Many blessings to you as you share the fullness of the truths of the Faith! It is an undertaking that I wish I had the words for!

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  67. I agree with Mai in that I don't particularly see the connection between voluntarily blinding oneself and voluntarily sterilizing oneself.

    I will say, though, that if there was evidence to support the fact that a voluntarily blinding would allow me to better raise my children, maintain a healthier relationship with my husband, and put less stress on my body in the future, I could see how somebody would make that choice for themselves.

    I think it comes down to the fact that many people have thought long and hard about it and have come to the conclusion that a voluntary sterilization is what would be best for their family. I think it's completely moral to give people this option.

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  68. Okay, Mai, I understand.

    And I hope you understand that when I said that I do categorically reject the notion that dissenters in the Church may be right, it's synonymous to saying that I reject heresy and schism. I've already tested (and lived) heresy and schism, and yes, I have rejected them. (In my case, I thought my way out of them.)

    As to the blinding and deafening question, it has everything to do with the discussion at hand. You don't need sight or deafness to stay alive, but they are serious organs doing serious work with serious purpose. Making someone blind, making someone deaf, making someone sterile, all pretty serious things to those who respect the integrity of the body and the person. We could say that cutting the optic nerve is "simply an elective procedure to prevent the light from hitting the retina" (if I got my science right... but you get the point).

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  69. Mrs. M, there are other ways to postpone pregnancy besides cutting up one's reproductive organs. Perhaps those avenues should be the ones we access?

    I will tell you honestly that if I were an atheist, I would not care one whit about messing up my internal organs. If a man is a pig is a dog, then if we can neuter dogs, then why not myself or my husband? So, it is not hard for me to imagine that you and Mai take the position you do. It does transgress Natural Law, but it all goes "poof" one day anyway, so ultimately it doesn't matter.

    My question still stands: If both doctor and patient are in agreement, is there anything in medicine which could be unethical? And, do you reject that the fundamental vocation of a doctor is healing? If you reject that, then what else is his function?

    ReplyDelete
  70. [Leila: do you reject that the fundamental vocation of a doctor is healing?]

    What is the difference between this question and the question I asked myself?

    [Leila: If both doctor and patient are in agreement, is there anything in medicine which could be unethical?]

    What would be the worst case for a consenting patient to agree to undergo?

    I cannot think of a case that would be unethical.

    --Sam

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  71. I agree. Sterilization is a great tragedy to our relationship wtih God as well as our society.

    I feel strongly that when we throw away God's gifts to us, then there is a fallout.

    In my opinion, sterilization has lead to some of the increase in the divorce rate in our country. It takes away the natural consequence of sex (children) so in the back of one's mind (who is sterilized), he or she would get away with adultury.

    Another thought, I feel more respected by my husband because he is not sterilized or contracepting and respects my fertility. We are willing to share all of ourselves with each other.
    Just my humble opinion.

    ReplyDelete
  72. Sam you wrote:

    [Leila: you've formulated a new question for yourself rather than answer mine]

    How is the new question different from your old question?


    Well, Sam, you changed three words of my very short question. If the question was no different before and after, then why did you change three words? You could have left it as is. Next time, just answer mine instead of formulating your own.

    [Leila: What do the other aspects of a doctor's job involve?]

    One good example would be the subject of your post.


    You mean surgical mutilation of healthy organs so that they no longer work? That is another aspect of a doctor's job?

    ReplyDelete
  73. [Leila: If both doctor and patient are in agreement, is there anything in medicine which could be unethical?]

    What would be the worst case for a consenting patient to agree to undergo?

    I cannot think of a case that would be unethical.


    Sam, there is not limit to the depravity of some minds, so I can imagine many things that are immoral and unethical. However, if you cannot think of a thing, then I will take your answer. Nothing that two people can conjure up (one being a surgeon) could be unethical in your eyes. Okay.

    ReplyDelete
  74. Sam, what is the role of a doctor in a society? Thanks.

    ReplyDelete
  75. [Leila: If the question was no different before and after, then why did you change three words?]

    I wanted to see if I understood your question. The changes I made were supposed to preserve meaning, and improve clarity.

    If the changes also changed the meaning of the question, then I do not understand the question.

    If I do not understand the question, then explaining your terms will help clarify your question, and will help determine what I do not understand.

    [Leila: Next time, just answer mine instead of formulating your own.]

    Your question lacked clarity. I am not sure I understand it.

    [Leila: You mean surgical mutilation of healthy organs so that they no longer work? That is another aspect of a doctor's job?]

    For some doctors, it is.

    --Sam

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  76. Do I understand your question?

    --Sam

    ReplyDelete
  77. Leila: What is the role of a doctor in a society?]

    To apply biological knowledge to address human needs and wants.

    --Sam

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  78. Sam, this is the only question I really want answered by you, and I think it's clear:

    What is the role of a doctor in a society?

    Thanks!

    ReplyDelete
  79. Mrs. M, there are other ways to postpone pregnancy besides cutting up one's reproductive organs. Perhaps those avenues should be the ones we access?

    I can say quite definitively that neither my husband nor myself will be "cutting up [our] reproductive organs" in the future, mostly because I could never make a decision that final for my family (What if I decide I want another baby??). So yes, we would access other avenues (such as hormonal or barrier methods of birth control) to postpone pregnancy.

    To answer your question about a doctor's purpose in society: I think a doctor helps us make our bodies function the way we would like them to, since we often do not have the expertise to do so ourselves.

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  80. [Leila: Nothing that two people can conjure up (one being a surgeon) could be unethical in your eyes.]

    Nothing I can imagine.

    --Sam

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  81. Sam, so nothing about "healing" in the very definition of the role? Mostly they are like a Santa Claus of sorts?

    I think we have very different views of what a doctor's role is. That is why in some areas of life, there can never be consensus. Your view of a doctor is incompatible with mine.

    Anyway, I think I understand you clearly. Nothing unethical is possible between consenting doctor and patient, in your view; not even one thing can you imagine. I understand that that is your worldview. It stands in stark opposition to mine.

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  82. Mrs. M, you said: To answer your question about a doctor's purpose in society: I think a doctor helps us make our bodies function the way we would like them to, since we often do not have the expertise to do so ourselves.

    So, it's not that a doctor helps make our bodies function the way that they should function or were designed to function, but rather how we wish they would function? I'm just trying to be extra clear.

    As a follow-up, could you give me your definition of what "health" means? In a physical sense.

    Thanks!

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  83. You have attained clarity on this issue.

    I agree: there cannot be consensus.

    [Leila: Mostly they are like a Santa Claus of sorts?]

    If it makes sense to you to compare the role of doctors stated above with Santa Claus, then it is a good comparison for you.

    The comparison makes no sense to me. Santa is fictional. If he were real, he would not be paid money for his work.

    Doctors are real, and doctors make money.

    --Sam

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  84. Sam, why don't you just ask Leila to clarify particular words for you instead of rephrasing her questions? I know I'm interjecting here, but as a reader, I find the way you respond to questions to be somewhat frustrating.

    Just to clarify what Kaitlin @ More Like Mary wrote, the Catholic Church does not have a stance for or against circumcision (her post made it sound like the Church is against it). It is amoral; people may choose to circumcise, or not to.

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  85. [Complicated Life: why don't you just ask Leila to clarify particular words for you instead of rephrasing her questions?]

    This may be a good approach. If someone asks a question, and anything in the question is unclear, I simply state: "The question is unclear" or " is unclear."

    I will attempt this in the future.

    --Sam

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  86. I do think it would help. And it would help solve the problem if you fleshed out for them the portion that is unclear (for example, what she means by the word "fundamental" or whatever). Then the conversation can move forward. :)

    ReplyDelete
  87. Health: a mental or physical state in which the body is functioning in the most desirable way

    I don't think our bodies necessarily have to function the way they were "designed" to function (when I use the term designed, I mean evolutionarily, obviously not by a divine creator) in order to be healthy.

    I would love to be able to have permanently hairless legs. My legs are "designed" to have hair, as it offers my species protection from the elements. I do not see the need for this hair, so I purposefully remove it monthly by waxing it all off ("mutilating" my hair follicles, if you will). I still consider myself healthy though I do not have the hair my body was designed to have.

    I know you find a distinction between this example and yours as you think mine is too cosmetic to discuss, but just trying to offer more clarity.

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  88. Thanks, Mrs. M. I don't think that anyone has ever argued that having or not having leg hair falls under the banner of health. It's more about beauty or cosmetic considerations. But I know you admitted that it's cosmetic. If you can talk about an example that is more substantial and more about bodily health, that would help me understand your point better.

    For example, would "healthy eyesight" ever mean "blindness" in your mind? I want to see how destroying reproductive function falls under "reproductive health" considerations.

    And, if bodies don't have to function (or don't function best) the way they were designed to function, then what is the standard for health?

    Sorry, if I am not understanding you.

    ReplyDelete
  89. Sam, one last clarifying question: Is it unethical for a doctor to prescribe prescription drugs to a (consenting) patient who is an addict? Is that something you can imagine happening?

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  90. [Leila: Is it unethical for a doctor to prescribe prescription drugs to a (consenting) patient who is an addict?]

    Addicts cannot consent to use the substance of addiction. Consent requires autonomy.

    If a person were to consent in this case, then the person would have autonomy, and would not be an addict.

    Addicts often do not understand the consequences of their actions.

    Ignoring the above, consider the alcoholic. He can purchase alcohol without restriction, even though he is addicted to it.

    Your question seems to reduce to:

    [Should the sale of any substance be illegal?]

    No.

    --Sam

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  91. [EDIT: Should the sale of any recreational drug be illegal?]

    No.

    --Sam

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  92. What if a patient has depression, and asks the doctor for a tubal ligation. Would her mental condition equal a lack of consent?

    Here's another thing that is very, very common: A doctor asks a woman if she wants a tubal ligation at her most vulnerable moment, after a C-section, when she is utterly exhausted, drugged, sick of being pregnant, emotional and hormonal, hungry, perhaps not even thinking past the next moments. Is it ethical for the doctor to ask her in that state if she wants a tubal ligation, then sterilize her if she says yes?

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  93. I commented on a prev post as Anon 11:11.

    I'm an ICU nurse, so I work with physicians daily. The term "health" has vast gray areas. I see meds ordered and procedures done daily on patients, and they might make the patient "healthier" in one way, but hurt their health in another. Also, the patient has to consent to everything. Some patients refuse life saving meds or procedures. Is that unethical? What I'm getting at is that the entire subject of "health" and "care providers' roles" is so complicated, it can't be simplified to the point that you can say X is unethical because of Y simple reason.

    I also worked in Labor and Delivery, and it was a strict policy that women had to consent to their tubals at least 4 weeks before delivery. I saw many doctors refuse to perform tubals if the woman asked for one just before or during surgery.

    I understand that you feel strongly opposed to sterilization, and I respect that, but the "destruction of healthy organs is always unethical" is a weak argument in my opinion.

    But to play along, I can think of many ways in which sterilization could protect someone's health. If she historically has a difficult time with pregnancy such as GD, preeclampsia, eclampsia, HELLP, repeated c sections, mental illness, addiction ect.

    What if a future pregnancy would be life threatening for a woman?

    You have said that it's fine to avoid pregnancy in other ways (NFP), but I find that to be kind of inconsistant. If I am in my fertile phase, and my husband and I both have the desire to be intimate and choose not to be specifically to avoid pregnancy, how is that not saying "no" to God?

    These are just some of my initial thoughts.

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  94. Anon 11:11 again, I forgot something. This whole notion of birth control contributing to adultery because there's "no reason not to if you're not afraid of getting pregnant" is pretty sad. I am faithful to my husband for many better reasons than the fact that I'm "afraid" of getting pregnant by another man.

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  95. Give me a break! You are very ridiculous and self satisfied. Boy, you are so lucky that God spoke to you on the way to Planned Parenthood. Is that really where your husband was going to get his vasectomy? Some people aren't so 'blessed' as you and they go through with it. Boy, they should feel terrible about that. Thank God God is judging up there and not you.

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  96. This is to the second Anonymous (not 11:11)....

    Ummm, no. You missed the point. We weren't literally on our way to anywhere. And I would not have stepped foot in Planned Parenthood at that point in my life. "Planned barrenhood" was a funny little joke because we were planning to make ourselves barren, get it? Kind of a joke, but a true statement, nonetheless, as that is where we were headed.

    Self-satisfied, no. Humble and awestruck to this day, 17 years after my reversion? Yes.

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  97. Hi anon 11:11! Welcome back!

    You are missing my point. If you work in the ICU, then you are working with people who are sick and looking for health. People with healthy fertility are not sick. They just want to make their healthy organs not work anymore. I hope you can see the distinction.

    I am happy to hear that not all doctors are asking patients about the tubals when they are in a vulnerable state. I still think that four weeks before delivery, the last thing a woman is thinking about is having more children, so it's still an unfortunate time to ask about permanent sterilization, in my opinion. But at least it's not on the operating table.

    To be continued...

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  98. Anon 11:11, what other healthy working organs of the body would it be okay to go to and surgically destroy? And what is physical "health" in your opinion?

    Also, did you ever notice that it is always around the issues of sex and reproduction that we find a million ways to excuse any action we choose to take regarding it? It should be the one area that is most sacred, and which we approach with the most reverence. But that's another post.

    Anyway, as to your NFP question and saying "no" to God: That would only make sense if it was wrong to postpone or avoid a pregnancy. But the Church does not say that it's wrong. For an action to be moral, the means and the ends have to be moral. It's moral to say "I need to avoid a pregnancy this month" but you'd have to do so via moral means. Now, that is a whole other post (why is NFP moral and artificial contraception immoral). You'll have to stay tuned for that.

    As for desiring intimacy and choosing not to during the fertile times, that's simply called self-control. Is it a big deal to abstain a few days out of the month? For some couples it truly might be. If it is, then what a great opportunity to learn patience and temperance and other virtues. And I know many couples who use those days to "court" each other again, and do a lot of verbal communication that sometimes gets lost otherwise. When the days of abstaining are over, it's like a honeymoon all over again. It's really lovely, actually. And of course, you are free to be physically intimate for the bulk of the month. :)

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  99. This whole notion of birth control contributing to adultery because there's "no reason not to if you're not afraid of getting pregnant" is pretty sad. I am faithful to my husband for many better reasons than the fact that I'm "afraid" of getting pregnant by another man.

    I don't doubt that you are. That is laudable, but it's beside the point. The fact is, one huge deterrent for those who are tempted to be unfaithful (and there are MANY in every age) was removed when women started walking around chemically sterilized. You might not take advantage of that fact, and neither might your husband, but there are plenty of men and women who do. The fear of a scandalous, illicit pregnancy kept a lot of people home with their spouses in days gone by.

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  100. Boy, you are so lucky that God spoke to you on the way to Planned Parenthood.

    Note: I edited that part of the story in the post so that no one is confused.

    ReplyDelete
  101. Anon 11:11 here.

    First, with respect, I think you missed one of my points. When I referenced my job, it was not to use the ICU population, but to say that as a memeber of the health care team, nothing is so black and white as you argue.

    My definition of health is probably: existing in a state of optimum physical and mental functioning. But it's a net thing. Having a tubal (aka destroying the optimum functioning of reproductive organs) may absolutely contribute to the woman's health in another way such that there is a net gain in health as a result of the tubal.

    The argument of health seems kind of peripheral, though. Is the Church's opposition to tubals based on destruction of healthy organs? I though it was based on the overall opposition to contraception. Please correct me if I'm wrong.

    Your second point made me chuckle. I often think to myself "it is always around the subject of sex and reproduction that Catholics find a million ways to try to control other peoples' lives". (This is meant in good fun, I promise :))

    I look forward to a future post on "moral" ways to avoid pregnancy, but it still doesn't make sense to me because if my husband and I are avoiding sex to avoid pregnancy, it's still US deciding when a baby comes instead of GOD deciding. I thought the whole point of not using contraception was so that GOD decided when the babies come.

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  102. Well, I agree with everything here, except the idea that a foreskin removal is only cosmetic. Circumcision removes a functioning organ (the prepuce) from a boy, and is often done even without pain medication. There are no health benefits to its removal from a newborn. Rarely, an older boy or adult may need to have his foreskin removed or modified for medical reasons, in the same way someone may need to have any misfunctioning organ modified or removed.

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  103. Agree with Anon 11:11:

    I understand that you feel strongly opposed to sterilization, and I respect that, but the "destruction of healthy organs is always unethical" is a weak argument in my opinion."

    It is this sort of argumentation that makes me very frustrated on this blog, from Leila:

    "Nothing unethical is possible between consenting doctor and patient, in your view; not even one thing can you imagine."

    The argument seems to be: There should be limits on what doctors can do to their patients. Therefore, sterilization is wrong. What?

    There is certainly a code of ethics for doctors. For example, a doctor and a patient should not have sex, but if both agree, according to Sam's answers, that would be fine. No, it's not fine. But we're not talking about that here. We are talking about sterilization to prevent pregnancy.

    Why, oh why, is the most extreme case of anything used to "prove" a very less extreme case?

    A recent illustration of my frustration, from the NYT: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/12/11/opinion/11collins.html, and the money quote:

    Bauer said in a phone interview that he was not suggesting that trying to blow up downtown Portland and secularizing the tree lighting were equivalent.

    “To me, it was just a nice rhetorical way to get people to read the column,” he said.

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  104. But the Church does not say that [avoiding a pregnancy] is wrong. For an action to be moral, the means and the ends have to be moral. It's moral to say "I need to avoid a pregnancy this month" but you'd have to do so via moral means. Now, that is a whole other post (why is NFP moral and artificial contraception immoral).

    I absolutely cannot wait for this explanation.

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  105. [Leila: {Describing a C-Section} Is it ethical for the doctor to ask her in that state if she wants a tubal ligation, then sterilize her if she says yes?]

    People are asked to consent to medical procedures while in a severe state of discomfort. It is generally agreed that consent and understanding of consequences are both possible in these circumstances.

    Some people disagree. These people should hire a doula.

    [Leila: What if a patient has depression, and asks the doctor for a tubal ligation. Would her mental condition equal a lack of consent?]

    I am not a psychologist. I do not know the effects of depression on decision-making.

    --Sam

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  106. [MaiZeke: For example, a doctor and a patient should not have sex, but if both agree, according to Sam's answers, that would be fine. No, it's not fine.]

    This is not one of the situations I imagined.

    Why would consensual sex be bad in this situation, if the doctor's code were different?

    --Sam

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  107. Sam- I totally disagree that consent and understanding of consequences are possible in these circumstances (physical and mental duress). Can you site any source for this? I think perhaps what you mean is that, in life threatening situations, it is assumed that a patient in duress can give consent to procedures to save his or her life, and then consent is accepted. But asking for consent to a non-necessary procedure while under duress is not ethical. I think evidence backs me up on this- look at what people consent to and confess to while under extreme stress, especially physical.

    And as a doula, I think it is ridiculous that women who do not want unnecessary medical procedures foisted on them while they are under stress should be required to hire a doula. In reality, a doula does occasionally act as an advocate for her client, but the fact remains that this advocacy should not be necessary if doctors were acting ethically and according to best medical practice. (But let's not open the can of worms on birth)

    Also, I think your argumentation is weak. You cannot IMAGINE a situation in which a consenting doctor/patient pair cannot do what they wish, then a moment later, you are not a psychologist, and therefore can't evaluate if depression is an indicator for inability to consent. So your argument boils down to: "I cannot imagine, if both doctor and patient consent (a word which has no clear definition, but does not include addiction, may include depression, does include under physical and mental strain) then they should do what they wish." So I'm asking- please define the word "consent" as you use it. Because you seem to be unsure of the definition yourself.

    And since my imagination is possibly better than yours, I would ask if doctors have the ethical right to inject their consenting patients with highly contagious diseases, if the patient chooses? Just curious.

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  108. [Monica: Can you site any source for this?]

    Any time a patient is expected to sign for a procedure with some serious risk, even if it is not life-threatening, that signature is considered to be a valid act of consent to the procedure.

    Signatures can be given at times when a patient is in great discomfort. Therefore the common understanding among lawyers and doctors is that informed consent is possible in these circumstances.

    You disagree with this assessment. Therefore, if you are in these circumstances, you should hire a doula. You may also advocate to change the law.

    [Monica: please define the word "consent"]

    Informed Consent (n.) permission granted in the knowledge of the possible consequences, typically that which is given by a patient to a doctor for treatment with full knowledge of the possible risks and benefits. (Oxford Dictionary Online)

    [Monica: Do doctors have the ethical right to inject their consenting patients with highly contagious diseases, if the patient chooses?]

    No.

    --Sam

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  109. Thank you for the definition of informed consent. I am happy to see that my imagination has come up with a scenario in which doctors have an ethical limit for you. Do you feel doctors should not be required to swear the Hippocratic oath? (First, do no harm.) Or do you feel the definition of the word harm is totally subjective, and therefore elective mutilations and such are only harmful (or not) according to the patient?

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  110. [Monica: I am happy to see that my imagination has come up with a scenario in which doctors have an ethical limit for you.]

    There are many situations in which doctors have ethical limits. Your proposed situation does not meet the requirements of informed consent. You can only consent to something you have authority over. You do not have authority over the health of others.

    [Monica: Do you feel doctors should not be required to swear the Hippocratic oath?]

    My feelings are irrelevant.

    The Hippocratic oath can be modified.

    --Sam

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  111. I assume you meant to say that you do not have authority over the health of others unless they are in your womb. Is that correct?

    Since Hippocrates is dead, I don't think his oath can be modified.

    Should doctors who have sworn the Hippocratic oath be allowed to then perform surgeries that are harmful (such as the elective amputation of a healthy organ), or would this be a violation of that oath?

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  112. [Monica: I assume you meant to say that you do not have authority over the health of others unless they are in your womb. Is that correct?]

    If there is any human inside of another person, that person decides whether the human is a person.

    [Monica: Since Hippocrates is dead, I don't think his oath can be modified.]

    The oath has already been modified. It is because Hippocrates is dead that the oath can be modified without his permission.

    [Monica: Should doctors who have sworn the Hippocratic oath be allowed to then perform surgeries that are harmful (such as the elective amputation of a healthy organ), or would this be a violation of that oath?]

    There are two questions:



    There are cases where surgeries that damage or destroy an organ are acceptable.



    Yes. This is why it may be wise to modify the oath.

    --Sam

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  113. EDIT

    There are two questions:

    [Are there cases where surgeries that damage or destroy an organ are acceptable?]

    Yes.

    [Does this violate the oath?]

    Yes. This is why it may be wise to modify the oath.

    --Sam

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  114. The current modern version of the Hippocratic Oath is:

    "

    I swear to fulfill, to the best of my ability and judgment, this covenant:

    I will respect the hard-won scientific gains of those physicians in whose steps I walk, and gladly share such knowledge as is mine with those who are to follow.

    I will apply, for the benefit of the sick, all measures [that] are required, avoiding those twin traps of overtreatment and therapeutic nihilism.

    I will remember that there is art to medicine as well as science, and that warmth, sympathy, and understanding may outweigh the surgeon's knife or the chemist's drug.

    I will not be ashamed to say "I know not," nor will I fail to call in my colleagues when the skills of another are needed for a patient's recovery.

    I will respect the privacy of my patients, for their problems are not disclosed to me that the world may know. Most especially must I tread with care in matters of life and death. If it is given me to save a life, all thanks. But it may also be within my power to take a life; this awesome responsibility must be faced with great humbleness and awareness of my own frailty. Above all, I must not play at God.

    I will remember that I do not treat a fever chart, a cancerous growth, but a sick human being, whose illness may affect the person's family and economic stability. My responsibility includes these related problems, if I am to care adequately for the sick.

    I will prevent disease whenever I can, for prevention is preferable to cure.

    I will remember that I remain a member of society, with special obligations to all my fellow human beings, those sound of mind and body as well as the infirm.

    If I do not violate this oath, may I enjoy life and art, respected while I live and remembered with affection thereafter. May I always act so as to preserve the finest traditions of my calling and may I long experience the joy of healing those who seek my help."

    The phrase "do no harm" does not occur in the modern Hippocratic oath. The oath may still need further modification from its current form.

    --Sam

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  115. Anon, you said:
    First, with respect, I think you missed one of my points. When I referenced my job, it was not to use the ICU population, but to say that as a memeber of the health care team, nothing is so black and white as you argue.

    I did miss your point. I assumed since you worked in ICU, you were dealing with and talking about sick people. By the way, I am from a medical family, so I am aware of medical things. My dad is a surgeon, my mother is an R.N. My uncle is also a surgeon and another uncle is a pharmacist.

    You said: The argument of health seems kind of peripheral, though. Is the Church's opposition to tubals based on destruction of healthy organs? I though it was based on the overall opposition to contraception. Please correct me if I'm wrong.

    Well, I actually used a secular argument, based on Natural Law. The idea that anyone can understand that you don't mess with bodily integrity. That healthy, working organs constitute "health" and should not be destroyed or derailed. You are right that Church teaching goes deeper than that, absolutely.

    Your second point made me chuckle. I often think to myself "it is always around the subject of sex and reproduction that Catholics find a million ways to try to control other peoples' lives". (This is meant in good fun, I promise :))

    I guess it would be funnier if the Church had actually ever changed any teachings since 20 Centuries ago. Since the Church has never changed her principles on human sexuality, then I don't know how she is "finding a million ways to control other peoples' lives". I'm guessing you and society (so far) don't have a problem with the Church's "life controlling" teachings on stealing, right? ;)

    Just as her teachings on theft have been the same for 20 centuries (and will be for the next 20), so have her teachings on the truth and meaning of human sexuality.

    If it's "controlling" to stick to one's principles whether they are popular or not, then I'll take that label, I guess. But I prefer to call it integrity.

    :)

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  116. Thanks Sam, I think you've made your points about medical ethics relatively clear to me.

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  117. Anon 11:11 you said: I look forward to a future post on "moral" ways to avoid pregnancy, but it still doesn't make sense to me because if my husband and I are avoiding sex to avoid pregnancy, it's still US deciding when a baby comes instead of GOD deciding. I thought the whole point of not using contraception was so that GOD decided when the babies come.

    No, not exactly. If that were so, then the Church would teach that using NFP to avoid a pregnancy was immoral, right? And yet she doesn't teach that. So, you are a little bit misinformed on that. I am trying for some down time today, so I don't have time to do a whole post on it. It's coming down the pike, though. :)

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  118. Anon, if you can't wait, here are two explanations that might clear it up for you. The first by someone who was as skeptical as you:

    http://soimarriedacatholic.wordpress.com/2009/12/15/isnt-nfp-just-another-birth-control/

    And this, more academic, if you will:

    http://www.priestsforlife.org/articles/nfpdifferences.html

    As Pope John Paul II has explained, the difference really rests on a person's answers to some very basic questions like, "What is marriage?" What is sex? What is the human body? What is love?"

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  119. Mai said: I absolutely cannot wait for this explanation.

    Then don't wait for me; there is plenty of information on this. You can start with the two links I provided Anon 11:11 just above. But there is much, much more out there. It's not a secret. But if you'd prefer to wait for me, then I am sorry it might take some more time. I need to step away from the computer a bit today... ack! Even the comments take a lot of time, as you know, but to start a post and finish it just isn't in the cards today.

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  120. Mai, you said: The argument seems to be: There should be limits on what doctors can do to their patients. Therefore, sterilization is wrong. What?

    No, that's not the argument. I asked about limits because I'm curious where your "stop" is. We've established that you don't mind mutilating healthy organs to stop procreation, but I'm trying to figure out why that is the only major organ system you are okay with destroying?

    Why, oh why, is the most extreme case of anything used to "prove" a very less extreme case?

    I often ask myself this when the discussion of abortion is mired in the cases of the 10-year-old rape victim impregnated by her father and who is now carrying a defective fetus.

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  121. Mai, you asked: Why do you even bother to debate me, if you know you are correct? Why even listen to what I have to say? You know I'm wrong anyway.

    Mai, I am sorry. I thought I had explained this. I am not still trying to figure out what is true (secular or Christian). I already did that work, and I came down on the side of Christianity. I still think there are benefits to discussing ideas in the public forum. It helps me clarify my thoughts, it helps others who are reading to evaluate the difference between the two positions and come to their own conclusions, it helps me understand your thought process better (how you or other liberals/atheists arrive at ideas that I cannot reconcile), and ultimately I believe that "truth comes with graces attached". So, I like to talk about truth.

    As Mrs. M said, she had never even thought about "truth" before this forum. That is tragic to me, but it's the state of our nation and our education system. If this blog and these dialogues can motivate even one person to seek truth as the basis of all intellectual activity, then I am satisfied.

    Does that help?

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  122. Anon11:11 (& Mai) - here is another great link regarding the morality of NFP in a Catholic context:

    http://becomewhatyouare.wordpress.com/2010/06/08/nfp-licit-or-illicit/

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  123. I'm going to go out on a limb and say that I think health can be subjective.

    A deaf person (one who was born deaf and is a member of the very active deaf community) would consider himself healthy and would be very offended if you tried to tell him he was anything other than that.

    While I, a hearing person, might want to place a judgment on the deaf man (he can't hear so he can't be healthy), I think it's perfectly fine for him to consider himself 100% healthy if he wants to.

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  124. Are there cases where surgeries that damage or destroy an organ are acceptable?

    Yes tumor removal ~ sometimes the least destructive way to access and remove brain tumors is by the ear canal. Even if the ear is healthy, some loss of hearing might be the least 'harmful' approach.

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  125. Also,

    Monica: I would ask if doctors have the ethical right to inject their consenting patients with highly contagious diseases, if the patient chooses? Just curious.

    Vaccines are injections of contagious diseases, and I find it perfectly ethical for a consenting doctor to inject a consenting patient with that syringe.

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  126. Mrs. M, I'm not sure if health can be subjective in a scientific context.

    Do a deaf man's eardrums work as they are intended to? No, even if the deaf man himself doesn't know what he's missing or cares to have the deficiency repaired.

    It's an interesting question, though, if it would be licit (morally or ethically) for two deaf parents with a hearing child to request that a physician mutilate their child's eardrums so that s/he is also deaf. (Not saying you asked this question, but it occurred to me as I read your post.)

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  127. Mrs. M, I am going to assume that Monica was not talking about vaccines, but another scenario entirely.

    JoAnna, great question about requesting deafness for a child. Or, maybe even a spouse wants to request deafness or blindness to "match" his deaf or blind spouse? Should a doctor do this?

    Speaking of deaf people who think that their deafness is good.... It's interesting that being deaf has apparently become very political. To the point that many in the deaf community will think another deaf person a traitor or sell-out if they try to learn to speak and lip-read instead of sign. And, there are many deaf folks who lash out angrily at the idea of cochlear (sp) implants. I have a dear friend whose son was born mostly deaf. They were finally able to get him $10,000 worth of hearing devices which insurance DOES NOT COVER. Why won't insurance cover a device for a deaf child to restore his hearing? Because the deaf lobby has successfully claimed that deafness is not a disorder! So, if you ever have a deaf child who wants to hear, be sure to have a healthy bank account.

    (Insurance won't cover hearing devices for the deaf, but they will cover sterilization, which destroys working organs. Both are political issues, so what is "healthy" or "ordered" in our bodies no longer applies.)

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  128. Are there cases where surgeries that damage or destroy an organ are acceptable?

    Yes tumor removal ~ sometimes the least destructive way to access and remove brain tumors is by the ear canal. Even if the ear is healthy, some loss of hearing might be the least 'harmful' approach.


    Joy, but the intent here is not to destroy the healthy hearing. It is to access and fix a pathology. The destruction of the hearing is an unintended (if foreseen) consequence of removing a tumor. That's called the Principle of Double Effect. Big distinction, morally. In your scenario, no one went in and decided to destroy hearing because they didn't want to hear anymore. Not even close.

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  129. JoAnna, I agree with you. In a scientific context, a woman who has undergone a tubal ligation does not have functioning fallopian tubes. I wouldn't try to question that. However, I do think she could continue to consider herself healthy.


    There's a lot of interesting debate in the deaf community regarding cochlear implants; hearing parents of deaf children want to give the implants to their kids, but the deaf community is outraged by it. The surgery actually involves removing/converting a portion of the eardrum and rerouting the sounds to an electrical stimulus device (if I remember correctly, someone who wants to research it: feel free) so it's pretty complicated.

    The deaf community feels as though hearing parents who force their deaf infants to undergo surgery receive cochlear implants are putting their child under major surgery simply so that there is a very small chance they can hear--kind of the opposite of your scenario, but it's an interesting debate nonetheless.

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  130. Joy, forgive me if I thought you were arguing for sterilization. Bottom line, I agree with you that in the case you present, the destruction of the ear would be licit, for the reasons I stated above.

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  131. It is unfortunate that health care has that has to have a definite "yes, we cover it" or "no, we don't cover it" system, because I can see how it would be frustrating for someone who doesn't believe in sterilization to have that be covered, but not a cochlear implant (should that be something they want).

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  132. Mrs M- Vaccines are either dead viruses, live mutated viruses, or otherwise engineered viruses which cause an immune reaction for future protection. They don't cause the illness (in theory), and they certainly aren't contagious. And, we assume doctors inject us with them to preserve our health, not to take it away.

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  133. Mrs. M, I hear what you are saying about deaf people being "healthy". Yes, they are healthy. But their hearing is not. It's like Terri Schiavo. She was healthy. But her brain was not. She was not dying, and her body was functioning just like the rest of us. But her brain was damaged. So, with sterilized people, they are healthy. But their reproductive system is not. It's damaged (to the point of non-functioning). So, they are healthy like deaf people and like Terri Schiavo, (not disease, no terminal illness), but certain of their organs are not functioning correctly.

    With sterilization, unlike brain damage or deafness, the health and functionality of the system is removed on purpose.

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  134. Leila: No worries, the question kept coming up and so I tried to answer it. I definitely was not arguing towards sterilization.

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  135. Thanks, Joy! And thanks for catching a question that I didn't reply to. I like the collaboration in the Bubble. I rely on you guys to help me out and catch my mistakes! :)

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  136. [Sam: She was healthy. But her brain was not. She was not dying, and her body was functioning just like the rest of us. But her brain was damaged.]

    If I have congestive heart failure, my heart is damaged. Does this mean that I am healthy, but my heart is not?

    What fraction of a person's body must be negatively affected for a person to be unhealthy?

    --Sam

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  137. Sam, there is a difference between someone having an injury and someone having a progressive disease or illness.

    Terri's lifespan and general health was not affected by her brain injury. She was not ill, and she would have lived a normal lifespan if her death had not been ordered by her estranged husband and the courts.

    Someone with congestive heart failure is ill, even gravely so.

    I certainly hope you can see the distinction between an illness and an injury. If not, then I really don't know what to say at this point.

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  138. If someone stabs me in the heart, my heart is damaged. Does this mean that I am healthy, but my heart is not?

    How many organs would need to be stabbed before I would be unhealthy?

    --Sam

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  139. Well, Sam, if someone stabs you in the heart and you are bleeding to death, then you are dying.

    If someone stabbed Terri Schiavo in the brain (or heart, or stomach) and she were bleeding to death, then she would be dying, too.

    Of course, she was not dying, and at no risk to die.

    A stab in the heart might be a life-threatening injury. A stab in the eyeball might not. If the injury is like Terri Schiavo's I would have to say, based on her situation, that such an injury was non-life-threatening.

    Sam, can you admit that Terri Schiavo was not dying or even ill?

    Also, could you (personally) ever say that a blind person is in good health? Or a deaf person? Or a learning disabled person? Or a person who is missing a limb? Can these people have "good health" or are they, by your reckoning, unhealthy people?

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  140. So far, one question remains unanswered:

    How many organs would need to be stabbed before I would be unhealthy?

    If you desire to alter the question, it could be asked:

    How many organs would need to be disabled before I would be unhealthy?

    [Leila: Sam, can you admit that Terri Schiavo was not dying or even ill?]

    I do not know enough about the case to confirm or deny that Terri was dying.

    Does your answer mean that a person is unhealthy only when that person is dying?

    [could you (personally) ever say...?]

    In each incidence, yes.

    A standard definition for "health" is:

    health (n.) the state of being free from illness or injury.

    By this definition, Terri was not healthy, because she was injured.

    How do you define "health"?

    --Sam

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  141. Another question:

    An obese person is not dying. An obese person's organs may all operate without serious deficiency.

    Would it be fair to say that an obese person is healthy, but an obese person's body is not healthy?

    --Sam

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  142. Sam, I currently have a small cut on my finger, an injury. The rest of me is healthy. So, am I healthy? Do I possess health? Or am I unhealthy?

    Is it possible to be healthy and yet have an injured body part?

    In your opinion, what size does the injury have to be to make someone unhealthy?

    I am glad that you admit that blind people and deaf people and people without limbs can be healthy.

    Terri's injury to the brain was many years in the past. She lived with the effects of it. (Much like an amputee lives with the effects of a past injury.)

    It is public record (and no one disputes) that Terri was in good general health and had a normal lifespan ahead. Everyone on both sides understands that Terri only started dying when she was starved and dehydrated (bodies tend to do that when they are cut off from nutrition and hydration). She was not hooked up to a single machine and had no illnesses. She was not even bed-ridden, as she enjoyed being in her wheelchair. She was not ill and not dying.

    health (n.) the state of being free from illness or injury.

    By this definition, Terri was not healthy, because she was injured.


    But Sam, an amputee has an injury in his past, just like Terri. So, by your definition, an amputee cannot possess health. And yet you just said that you could personally describe an amputee as being in "good health". Unless I misunderstood? Clarify, please.

    How many organs would need to be stabbed before I would be unhealthy?

    Sam, it wouldn't be a number. It would be the effect that the injuries caused. For example, I might have both eyes stabbed, and an eardrum, and the brain. At the moment of the injury, I have an injury. If the injuries are severe enough, then the rest of the body might start to shut down or falter. This could lead to my death. However, if the injuries are not severe (or if the severe injuries can be treated), then the "ill health" is overcome as soon as the injuries have healed. Health is restored to the body, systemically. However, I may have lost sight, or hearing, or part of my brain function. Evidence of the past injury may remain, it is true, but you said that wouldn't disqualify someone from possessing health, right?

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  143. Obesity is unhealthy, as it is a systemic issue which puts undue strain on the organs of the body and is also linked to many other adverse health effects. It is well-known that obesity can lead to an early death. But of course, there may be some overweight folks who are relatively healthy. It's an individual thing.

    Brain injuries such as Terri's do not lead to early death, and are not a risk factor for other health problems. She was a healthy, though brain-injured, woman. She was expected to have a normal lifespan.

    Now, remind me what this has to do with the topic of sterilization? I'm not remembering. Thanks!

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  144. For me the majority acceptance of contraception today boils down to our laws: Are laws that allow the free use of contaception defending the common good or not?
    For a thorough discussion leading the reader to a concrete answer to this question, which although centred around euthanasia equally applies to contraception and abortion, which are however touched on, read Craig Paterson's "The Contribution of Natural Law Therory to Moral and Legal Debate Concerning Suicide, Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia".
    The author has left theology aside, not discounting it, rather coming from a secular standpoint in which all people can relate.
    Mary

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  145. Anon 11:11 here.

    Leila, during your discussion with Sam, you just argued that "relative health" is an "individual thing", and that someone can be healthy even with an injury.

    I find that applies nicely to my argument that I may have a tubal because I believe that procedure will contribute to my future health. I would also be healthy after my tubal.

    You never answered my question: Is it ok for a woman to have a tubal if future pregnancies would threaten her life? (given a history of eclampsia, multiple c sections, ect.)

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  146. Anon 11:11

    Hard though this sounds to secular ears the answer is no. It is not acceptable for a woman to have a tubal ligation to prevent pregnancy even if she believes future pregnancies would be dangerous.

    Now - she is not obligated to get pregnant. Those sorts of health issues would certainly constitute a reason to avoid pregnancy. But pregnancy must be avoided by moral means. That means by cooperating with the body’s natural systems and not having intercourse at a time of fertility. I know the knee jerk reaction to this among most Americans is negative. But modern NFP methods have repeatedly had success rates in studies throughout the world of 98-99%.

    Here’s the real shocker – if she was unwilling to practice NFP she could (horrors) forgo sexual activity. I know there is modern American belief that you will curl up and die without sex- but it actually isn’t true.

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  147. To add to Elizabeth's answer - a woman may certainly have her Fallopian tubes or uterus removed if the organs themselves have become diseased or damaged. But there are moral means to avoid pregnancy (abstinence, NFP) that don't involve mutilating a healthy organ.

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  148. Isn't that great to hear Anon 11:11? In the face of a serious health complication due to pregnancy, a woman would be advised to practice NFP. Nevermind that her cycles might not be regular or that her fertility signs might not be distinguishable one month or that she might be a very fertile woman. Rather than the peace of mind knowing she can have her tubes tied and continue to enjoy sex, she will live her life under the constant fear of unintended pregnancy and in turn, life threatening complications. Nevermind if her insurance won't cover the medical bills and she goes into debt, nevermind if abstaining ruins her relationships/marriage, and nevermind if she does in fact die, leaving behind family and possibly other children.

    -Another Anon

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  149. Could the anonymous Anons of the world please be so courteous as to give yourselves an identifying name? Otherwise, I may start insisting that contributors have a google account (still private and untraceable) and sign in with a name.

    Anon 11:11... JoAnna and Elisabeth have stated it well. There is a licit and moral means to avoid pregnancy if the woman's health is an issue.

    Another Anon (give yourself a name please): Perhaps you don't know of doctors and patients who only live under this paradigm? We do. We have NFP-only OB/gyns and patients who are advised that pregnancy might be difficult if they conceive again. I know several women, devout Catholic, who have encountered that situation. It can be handled. It is handled.

    Is living a virtuous life easy? No. Is it easy and comfortable to do the morally right thing instead of the convenient or popular thing? No, on this and about a thousand other issues. But is it always worth it? Yes... it's always worth it. :)

    Now, the caveat for me would be that if I were an atheist, I wouldn't care what I did to my body, since it really doesn't matter anyway. But I am not an atheist, I am a Christian. And being a Christian means respecting with reverence God's awesome design of the human body, working with God's plan for transmitting life. I understand that the culture today has a Planned Parenthood mentality regarding sex and babies, so it is hard to get past that. Believe me, I understand that. I was once a (very young) client of Planned Parenthood. More on that one day....

    By the way, my husband is on the board of the diocese's NFP office, and I can tell you that NFP can be used whether cycles are irregular or not. It's a science that is quite sound, and incredibly impressive. It is only people ignorant of the different methods of NFP who claim that it cannot be used effectively to postpone or avoid a pregnancy.

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  150. Anon 11:11, regarding health being individual,

    "I find that applies nicely to my argument that I may have a tubal because I believe that procedure will contribute to my future health. I would also be healthy after my tubal."

    One clarification. It's actually the not becoming pregnant which would contribute to your future health (assuming a pregnancy would be unhealthy for you). Now there are many means to get to that end. Some are moral, some are not. So, one can get to that end (no more pregnancies, for future health), but one must use moral means to get there.

    I hope that helps clarify the Catholic position.

    Mind you, I know that I have not even explained the beauty and truth of Catholic teaching on human sexuality yet, so I have probably done things backwards here, and that's my fault. I need to get a post on that, soon. May I ask specifically if you are a Christian, Anon 11:11?

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  151. Two points from me:

    First, this sentence by Leila: "Now, the caveat for me would be that if I were an atheist, I wouldn't care what I did to my body, since it really doesn't matter anyway."

    I don't know how Leila would act if she were an atheist, but this comes dangerously close to assuming that atheists in general do not care about what happens to their bodies. I am an atheist and I have a great deal of care for what happens to my body. Making sure it doesn't get pregnant again (after I make that choice) is one of those cares.

    Second, a few articles I've seen recently:

    1. Looking up natural family planning statistics. The most interesting article was that NFP very likely kills more embryos than condoms. http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/05/060526180749.htm. It's from a few years ago, so there are probably a lot of responses from Catholics, but I thought it was interesting.

    2. The European Union recently said that the Irish abortion ban "violated women's rights" http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-11342247 The European Union also agrees with the US in that the rights of the woman carrying the mass of cells is more important than the mass of cells.

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  152. Mai, I was very specifically talking about myself and only myself when I talked about if I were an atheist. I would do whatever the heck made me "happy" and comfortable. That's just me.

    I don't need to look at your "NFP kills more embryos" link. If a husband and a wife make love and conceive a child, they are not "killing" anything if the baby does not survive past a few days. Lovemaking and conception by a husband and wife are natural, moral and normal acts. There is not moral concern about a husband and wife using sex to create a child. That is good and normal. If the child is miscarried (as many are), that is not a "killing"... that is a natural miscarriage. The child dies by natural causes, not by any action of the parents.

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  153. Leila:

    I was very specifically talking about myself and only myself when I talked about if I were an atheist. I would do whatever the heck made me "happy" and comfortable. That's just me.

    I'm trying to be rational here, really. But that statement is like me saying: If I were a Catholic, I wouldn't think much about my decisions, and I'd let the church make them for me.

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  154. Mai, you're not far off. I don't totally disagree with you. I would put it way:

    Once I determine that the Catholic Church was my legitimate authority on faith and morals, I don't have to wonder what is right or wrong or true, because I have Christ's Church to guide me.

    It does make life very beautiful. :) Not easy (oh, it is NOT easy to do the right thing), but beautiful.

    Also, there is one big difference between atheism and Catholicism with regards to my thoughts on making my life "comfortable" and doing whatever the heck I wanted: Catholicism admits to eternal consequences for our actions and choices, unlike atheism, where we just go "poof".

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  155. Sorry for my bad grammar/syntax. I am editing on an unfamiliar computer.

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  156. Another Anon - I do not have regular cycles, and am "very fertile." My husband and I have been using NFP to both avoid and achieve pregnancy since 2003. There are various methods available, so a woman should be able to find one that works for her specific situation. (For example, a woman who has irregular fertility signs or has trouble reading them could use the Marquette Method, which employs a fertility monitor to test hormone levels in urine.)

    NFP has user and method failure rates that are comparable to barrier methods and hormonal contraception, without the nasty side effects. I used to take the Pill (I was on it from 2001-2003, prior to my conversion) and hated it. I much prefer NFP. If I was in a situation where I needed to avoid pregnancy due to a serious health condition, I would still use NFP.

    Incidentally, I had a friend in high school whose youngest brother was born about two years after his mother had a tubal ligation. So, no method (except abstinence) is foolproof.

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  157. I'm trying to be rational here, really. But that statement is like me saying: If I were a Catholic, I wouldn't think much about my decisions, and I'd let the church make them for me.

    Mai, I think you're inferring something from Leila's words that aren't there. I think when she says "If I were atheist, I'd do what would make me happy," she means, "I'd do what I think would best ensure the happiness of me and my family according to my own beliefs," as opposed to, "I'd do whatever I want regardless of who it hurts."

    I think you're inferring the latter and Leila means the former.

    Leila, am I misinterpreting your intent?

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  158. JoAnna, I wish I could say that you are correct, but I am afraid my selfish nature makes me one of those (many) folks who would probably put myself over others in many situations. I did that often before I had my reversion. So, if I were an atheist, and there really were no eternal consequences? Well, I am a "pleasure-seeker" by nature, so I am glad I am not an atheist.

    Thank goodness, in addition to being a natural "pleasure-seeker" I am also a natural "truth-seeker" and my intellect has been able to rule over my will, thank God.

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  159. Mai- I realize your example was purposely inflammatory to illustarate how Leila's statement about atheists made you feel. However, I think the sentiment you expressed is one held by many- that Catholics blindly follow the Vatican, and never use their brains.

    Once a person accepts certain premises that then draws him or her to the Church, they do not cease to think for themselves. However, let's take human sexuality for an example, once I accept the premises that lead me to the Church, the Church's view of human sexuality is infinitely logical and well-reasoned. Even difficult teachings, such as those on sterilization for women who risk their lives during pregnancy, or the teaching that gays must remain celibate, fit perfectly with the tapestry of life that the Church teaches. It doesn't make them easy teachings, but their "ease" is totally unrelated to their "reasonableness" or "truthfulness".

    And when those premises are accepted, and a person then hears another Catholic teaching, they don't think to themselves, "Well, that makes no sense, but I'll follow blindly." They hear it, and they think, "Yes, this fits. Another piece of the puzzle that fits perfectly." And if a member of the Catholic clergy starts spouting nonsense, well, then a thinking Catholic will call him on it. This happens regularly.

    Because of the absolute consistency in Catholic teaching, it is nice to be able to look up the answers in the back of the book, so to speak. But as someone who has gone through (hopefully) a thorough catechism, a Catholic realizes they aren't answers pulled out of thin air, they are well-reasoned under the premises of Christianity. And so, when a question like the infamous "trolley car switch" comes up, we might do a quick google search on Catholic Answers and feel pretty confident with the answer and reasoning provided.

    I am not a moralist or a theologian, and so I let the experts do what they are meant to do- look at situations like tubal pregnancies, euthanasia, etc, and reason it out. I am smart enough to then follow their logical explanation and agree that it's logical. In the same way, I agree to let oncologists treat a cancer, because they are the experts. But if a doc suddenly tells me I need to sleep with a quartz crystal under my pillow, I would sense a logical problem and do a bit more digging. I hope that comparison makes sense.

    But again, this is a disagreement in premise, as it seems you believe morality is defined within oneself, and a Catholic believes morality is defined outside of one's self.

    Now, I realize that you don't accept the premises which would lead someone to Catholicism, so you may reject the consequences of these premises as false, but they are not conflicting or contradictory from the Catholic point of view of human sexuality. You don't accept premises such as the existence of God, the unchangeable nature of morality, or absolute truth outside of human opinion. So why are you here, in what is supposed to be a teaching post addressed to Catholics, trying to argue your position, when you are starting from vastly different premises? Considering the HUGE differences in starting positions, what is the point? I'm not saying to leave, I'm just wondering what your goal is within a "teaching post".

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  160. Monica,

    Perhaps you are not reading Leila's blog very closely (need new glasses?). She uses her blog as a "teaching blog" and to get her fundamentalist point across, calls on atheists and liberals and non-Catholics to comment. Many times, her posts have ended with "any liberals care to comment?" (I'm paraphrasing here). What generates all the comments on Leila's posts are the opposing viewpoints. By encouraging comments from opposing ends of the spectrum, Leila is able to make her own fundamentalist arguments crystal clear for her devoted, mostly Catholic readership. I'm surprised you don't see this. Mai is a pleasant beacon of rational, atheist thought and dialogue.

    -Another Anonymous named Ann

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  161. P.S. I would also hazard a guess that one of the reasons people with differing beliefs/opinions comment here is because of the presentation of skewed ideas about secular arguments, atheists and liberals.

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  162. Anonymous Ann,
    Perhaps you are misreading *me*. (And on a side note, I'm actually approaching legal blindness with a degenerative eye disease, so you comment made me giggle. No, really)

    I like Mai's presence- what I am curious about are her motives. Why comment on a post which states a certain teaching that clearly begins with Christian premises? What is her goal? It is an honest question. I don't think Leila has misrepresented, or even stated, in her original post, a secular view of the topic. I imagine the secular view on the topic is that women should have no moral or ethical barriers to controlling their fertility through scientific advances. Honestly, I am curious why any of the secular crowd comments on the purely Christian posts. And I'm curious why Leila asks them to (she doesn't generaly ask them on these types of posts, though obviously she is very open to it). On the posts which are clearly aimed at a wide audience, I definitely understand. I'm just wondering what the "point" is. It's a question I could ask Leila as well, though I think she has already answered that she simply wants clarity, and two sides so that lurkers can make their own choices. Is this Mai's goal as well? Is there something wrong with me asking the quesion?

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  163. Also, while I'm here, this would have been such a pleasant exchange if you had simply left your second comment- that is, one possible explanation for why seculars comment on religious teaching posts, rather than starting off with a sarcastic ad hominem attack. But alas, such is the nature of anonymity and online debate.

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  164. Thanks Monica! You stated my position so well on how we "think for ourselves" within the context of the Church. That's exactly the process. :)

    I will clarify that the Natural Law can be accessed by the secular. So, it would normally make sense to any conscience (secular or religious) that we don't go in and cut up healthy body organs so that they fail to perform their vital function. So, in that sense, this post can apply to secular and religious folks. The truth that sterilization is wrong is not simply a rule for Catholics, but it is a truth for all people at all times (Natural Law).

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  165. I don't see Anonymous Ann's post. Did I miss it?

    In an earlier post, Leila asked us for topics to discuss. I contributed discussion topics. Also, Leila asked for thoughts on this one, at the end - I gave my thoughts. Also, Leila said she was using a secular argument in her comment in this post on December 15, 2010 9:34 AM.

    Finally, since she wants clarity so both sides can state their case so lurkers can decide, I felt the need to correct what I thought was her (incorrect) categorization of the atheist viewpoint. One of my previously stated goals for being here is to show that atheists are not monsters, they are people who care about living in a good society.

    Even you say "I imagine the secular view on the topic is that women should have no moral or ethical barriers to controlling their fertility through scientific advances."

    This is incorrect as well, so I'm here trying to correct misconceptions like this. There are a huge host of ethical questions surrounding donor eggs, surrogate mothering, sperm donors, and the like. Just because something can be done doesn't mean that there are considerations for the people (most importantly the children) involved. There are plenty of moral and ethical barriers that atheists have. We just come to the conclusion in a different manner.

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  166. If the secular in question understands and accepts Natural Law as an ethical system of truths. I think while many seculars may see certain logical paths in Natural Law, they also tend to support "exceptions" to the law, for particular cases. For example, a secular might even agree that tubal ligation for convenience is a no-no according to Natural Law, but a tubal ligation to prevent pregnancies in a woman who becomes seriously ill with pregnancy is acceptable.

    This stands in contrast to Catholic teaching which generally does play the exceptions game.

    But I would hate to misrepresent any seculars who follow natural law, so I hope one of them IS reading this, and does speak up in the goal of clearing misconceptions.

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  167. One of my posts seems to have gone missing, and it had shown up at one point. Leila, could you put your email address out here again? I know you put it on an earlier post, but searching this blog doesn't seem to work any more either.

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  168. Ok Mai, thanks for your response, as this is a great summary of why you comment on these posts.

    At this point I really do hope you know that no one has called you a monster, and no one thinks you are one (or any other run-of-the-mill atheist or secular). We just think you're badly mistaken in your premises- a mutual feeling, I'm sure. I no more consider you a monster than I consider myself to have been one 5 years ago.

    You seem to support your position from a generally humanitarian point of view- that is, you believe your position is one that brings good to the world. There is nothing monstrous about this, even if I disagree with your conclusions. Monsters are people who like abortion because killing babies brings them pleasure, money, and power.

    Bedtime in Europe followed by vacation, but I've enjoyed this post and comment thread and hope to catch up in a few days.

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  169. This is funny- it looks like I'm talking to myself. Mai- your posts are coming to my inbox since I'm subscribed, but they must be going to Leila's spam. She'll catch it soon, I'm sure.

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  170. Monica, fantastic post re: how Catholics do indeed use their brains. Bravo!

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  171. Soooo sorry about the spam comments! Ack! I don't know why it does that on occasion.

    Mai, my email is allthemillers@cox.net. It should also be available by clicking on my profile.

    I agree with Monica. I have never thought of atheists as "monsters". There are some atheists with better morals and ethics than some purported Christians. I think atheists are wrong, but not monsters. My goodness, I have family and friends who are atheists. Dennis Prager categorizes it this way: There are two types of people. The decent and the indecent.

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  172. Anonymous Ann,

    Why do you call Leila a "fundamentalist"? That is, what is your definition of the term?

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  173. Well thanks, Anonymous Ann! My husband now has a new nickname for me. He used to call me his "peerless flower of spotless purity" from the book Ex Libris by Anne Fadiman*. Now he calls me his "positive beacon of rational, atheist thought".

    * Ex Libris is a collection of essays by an avid reader. She was reading a book on how to be a good wife, called the Mirror of True Womanhood. The quote: Once, when looking up from a passage on the ideal wife, I asked George [her husband], "Do you consider me a peerless flower of spotless purity which has been laid upon your bosom?" George responded with a neutral, peace-preserving, but not quite affirmative grunt.

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  174. Anon 11:11 here.

    I've been away from the computer for several days, but I wanted to answer Leila's question about my religion. I am a Christian, and have a very strong faith. I love God and accept Jesus Christ as my Savior. I grew up Catholic, and went to Catholic school through highschool. I was an altar server. I received the sacraments through Confirmation. (I'm married, but my husband and I eloped in a park with a JD, which I think makes it notsomuch a sacrament.) There were always teachings of the Church that didn't feel right to me, so I guess I "left" the Church in my early 20s. Also, the pedophile priest business sealed the deal for me. I live in New England, and personally know several men who were abused in the most unthinkable ways. I watched how poorly the Church handled that whole situation, and knew I could never go back.


    I just wanted to comment on one more point you made, Leila:
    "So, it would normally make sense to any conscience (secular or religious) that we don't go in and cut up healthy body organs so that they fail to perform their vital function."

    I think the opposing view has made a strong, and even logical, case for why someone would "cut up" healthy organs. If you don't want them to perform their function, because you believe their function to to be harmful to your health, you take measures to make them stop. I know I'm not going to change your mind, but that statement accuses me of not being "normal"? Or not having a conscience?

    Is it your opinion that people who don't agree with you are abnormal or without conscience?

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  175. Anon 11:11,

    I think the norm in today's society is to accept the Planned Parenthood view of human sexuality. So, it's more "normal" to believe in contraception, sterilization, pre-marital sex, even abortion, homosexuality, etc. than to hold the traditional Christian understanding of sexuality.

    So we all (you and me and anyone under 60) pretty much grew up in an era where our consciences were not properly formed regarding sexuality. The culture we live in, and also our churches (even the Catholic churches) didn't form our consciences on this issue. There is a huge difference between having a misinformed conscience and "not having a conscience". Huge distinction.

    I think that professed Christians who are okay with sterilization are either ignoring or are unfamiliar with 2,000 years of Christian teaching on the subject of sexuality and fertility. Up until a few decades ago, all Protestant denominations condemned it in strongest terms. Where they wrong for 500 years, and Christianity for 2,000 years?

    Let me ask you another question: What level of gift do you think fertility is? (Meaning, is it one of the biggest gifts God gave us, or just a minor thing that is not of much consequence?) Or do you see it as a gift at all (maybe you don't)?

    I went to school in New England. It's a rough place to be an orthodox Catholic (I wasn't orthodox when I went there... I was clueless... but even I could see that my "Catholic" college was not full of virtue).

    You might have read my reversion story (at the top menu). Usually Catholics of the post-Vatican II generation can relate to it. We were all so poorly catechized. Even though you left, you will probably still relate to a lot of it.

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  176. Anon 11:11,

    I hope I answered your question. I will add this: If we were not so trained to believe what we do about our fertility ("when are you getting fixed?" "You aren't having more children, are you?" "Sterilization is the responsible thing to do", etc.), we would naturally be open to how God made us. Even Freud and Gandhi had very "Catholic" things to say about sex and contraception.... and many Protestants are starting to go back to Christian teaching on the whole subject. It's an interesting thing, to leave the cultural messages out of it, and get away from the "noise" ... and just see what God has to say about it. Both biblically, and in prayer.

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  177. Anon 11:11 here.

    I keep coming back to this thread because it takes me some time to mull over your questions.

    First, I do think fertility is a gift to many people much of the time. It can also be a burden. Of course I love my children, but I am one of those "superfertiles", and can see a time when my fertility will be burdensome to me, and at some point DH will have a V or I will get a tubal. It's a gift like a horse is a gift. Some people, who are able to care for a horse, would LOVE the gift of a horse. For people who don't have a barn or the tons of money it takes to keep a horse, they'd probably say "thanks, but I'd really rather you hadn't given me a horse". (Please don't jump down my throat for comparing a child to a horse, it's just an analogy that jumped to mind logistics-wise.)

    And, on the whole Christian thought of 2000 years can't be wrong? Well, I don't think that's a good argument. There are many examples in history where a long held belief has been laid to rest, and rightfully so. You often to throw out the slavery example in the abortion debate, well, that's only been outlawed in this country for 145 years, and it's still practised in some places in the world. So, just because sterilization is a relatively newly accepted concept, and is rejected in some places by some people, doesn't prove to me that I am wrong and they are right.

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  178. Anon 11:11, take your time, I understand.

    Regarding your first paragraph: You talk about "fertility" becoming a "burden" to you one day. Can we speak openly and admit that it's a "burden" because it produces children? Can you tell me of any part of the Bible which even hints that children are a burden in marriage to be avoided, and that sterilization would be the responsible thing for a married couple to do? I'm assuming the Bible is your sole rule of faith as a non-Catholic Christian.

    You say, "I do think fertility is a gift to many people much of the time." Fertility is not always a gift? We Catholics think of fertility (the mechanism by which God brings new souls into existence!) as a sacred and holy gift, one that is always breathtaking. It is to be treated with the utmost reverence and respect, never violated. Are you absolutely positive that you are seeing fertility from God's eyes, and not from our culture's warped perspective of it? Can you give me something in Scripture to back up such a view?

    As to your second point: If 20 centuries of Christian belief is not "a good argument" then what is? The Bible says, "Woe to those who call good evil, and evil good." If Christianity called sterilization evil for 2,000 years, and now calls it "good" then what can we know is true of Christianity? Can you be sure, then, of Jesus' Resurrection? Or even the New Testament itself? Or anything that the Church has taught, unbroken, for its entire history? Is it all up for grabs?

    Slavery has been around since the beginning of time and continues to this day, indeed. As has murder, as has thievery, as has adultery, as had idolatry, etc. But what does that have to do with the question about Christian teaching on sterilization, which has always been wrong?

    If twenty centuries of unbroken Christian teaching doesn't "prove to you that you are wrong and they are right" then what would? I'm truly curious.

    Thanks.

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  179. I found you on FaceBook via LifeSite News. I just loved that article! I also love your blog! We may not see eye-to-eye theologically, but I am with you however 100% on your views of children being blessings from our gracious Lord! Thank you so much for this post! WONDERFUL!!!

    I'd also like to include 2 stories of mine to share with you also on this subject...if you don't mind.

    http://acalltomotherhood.blogspot.com/2010/03/are-you-guys-done-yet.html

    http://acalltomotherhood.blogspot.com/2010/06/heres-some-news-for-ya.html

    God Bless...And, may the Lord bless your efforts for His glory!!! :o)

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  180. I just found your blog and was very interested in this post. I am Catholic. I went to Church every Sunday and attended Catholic school. However, my mom did not discourage birth control or any type of sterilization. It was the norm for society. I never thought twice about it. After I was married, I still didn't question it. It wasn't until my first pregnancy and miscarriage did I look into it. I learned that I miscarried due to my many years on the pill. I was devasted to learn that I had caused my baby to die at 13 weeks. I went on and had a beautiful baby boy and then a baby girl 16 month after him. I am one of those women that can get pregnant even while nursing fulltime. After the birth of my son, I knew I wanted more kids 4 or 5, whatever God planned. Sadly, my husband who is not Catholic, was against that. He didn't feel we could afford more than 2 and he was afraid that I would continue to get pregnant every year. I tried to explain the NFP method that I remembered learning about in school, but he wouldn't listen. He scheduled and had his vasectomy when my daughter was 2 weeks old. It almost ruined our marriage. I was resentful and hurting inside. I would cry myself to sleep. It took me years to not blame him anymore. I do believe that society and the lack of religion has affected how people view children. The are a true gift from God. I thank God every day for my 2 children here on earth and my 1 sweet baby 1 Heaven. I still pray for a miracle. Maybe one day he will change his mind or God will bless us with another little miracle.
    Thank you for you words. I hope someday more people will realize how important children really are.

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  181. Monique, that is so sad. I hate stories like that, and they are so common. Even my friend, who is a pro-"choice" liberal Jewish lady was devastated when her husband decided against her wishes to get sterilized. She told me that she thought she would always hold that against him. It really does get in between a husband and a wife, and I am so glad that you were able to forgive your own husband. That is heroic charity on your part, and you are an amazing woman of God.
    I will pray for his change of heart one day! I know two friends whose husbands had reversals, and they have more children now.

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  182. I just found this post. I wish I had read it years ago, it would have prevented two and half years of pain. I am so happy to have gotten a reversal, and to be open again to God's gifts. It has made a world of difference in our marriage in the past two years since the reversal. We had started to drift apart, and now we are so much closer. Thank you for your blog

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  183. Just found this post as well. I've been thinking about these issues a lot recently and I can't come up with any answers - only that I'm disillusioned with feminism because it keeps making these wild utopian claims that we're all free and have 'control over our own bodies' and that the 'evil' church hates us and wants to turn us into 'baby-making machines', but the RC position also seems a bit unrealistic. Here are my disconnected thoughts ...

    1) My mum had a failed sterilization which resulted in my younger sister. I will always love my mum because she had the baby (who she loves by the way) and told us she was a gift from God. But my mum suffered a lot of depression and anxiety.

    2) When I asked in class what the failure rate of contraception was everybody laughed at me and the teacher changed the subject. Why? Everybody knew my mum had just had a baby - who plans that big a gap? Shouldn't education give you all the facts?

    3) My husband was very against me going on the pill when we got married because he said it would mess up my body. I'd just assumed I'd go on the pill for a few years like everyone else, but when researching infertility I found that hormonal contraception is one of the most common causes of an anovulatory cycle (http://www.babyhopes.com/articles/anovulation.html). I have single friends who've been on hormonal contracptives for years 'just in case' they meet a guy. They tell me they're 'in control of their own body' and there are loads of health benefits, but prolonged use raises the likelihood of infertility.

    4) As I've come to understand the concept of being 'open to life' I wonder if my mum would have been so depressed if her expectations hadn't been raised that she could completely control the planning of her family. But if she hadn't used contraception at all she'd have had far too many children to pyschologically cope with. (The doctors tied her tubes right after the birth and did it right this time)

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