1 Cor 7 & vasectomies


#1

OK. . . as the story indicates below, I’ve been thinking deeply about this for years. I’ve tried to be brief, but it is still long. You may want to go to the bottom and read my question first. Then if you want come back and read the background info. Thanks for your help.

Background: When my wife and I met, I was non-religious and she was a lapsed Catholic. I had been baptized previously, so we arranged to get married in the Catholic Church to please her parents. After our second child, I had a vasectomy in 2000. At the time, I remember telling her, “I don’t care if I go through with this, but you do know this is against your religion, right?” Her answer was something along the lines of, “Yeah, so let’s get it done now, in case you convert and can’t do it later.”

Sure enough, in 2003 I joined the Church. About a year after that, I began to really learn and understand more about the Church’s teaching on sexuality and why contraception is evil. Since that time, I have struggled with living with a vasectomy. My wife, however, won’t even discuss the issue or try to understand what I am feeling. I have talked to two priests about it. One said not to worry about it - that it’s over, repented, and forgiven. The other said that while the operation may be over, I am still living my life every day. As such, I should do my best to convince my wife to allow having the vasectomy reversed or, at a minimum, use NFP as a way of acting as though this had not happened - sort of a combination of penance and just doing what we should have been doing anyway.

I have tried to justify our sex life in a number of ways. . . “It is better to submit to my wife and save my marriage than to be insistent and drive her away.” “A husband does not have authority over his body, but rather his wife. (1 Cor 7:4)” “The sin has been confessed and forgiven - I should stop being scrupulous about it.” etc. I even went to the diocese psychiatrist/psychologist (I’m not sure which, or what the difference is) for 1 session, but I could tell immediately that I wasn’t going to get any trustworthy advice from her. Now, after ~5 years, I have never felt 100% at ease about how we’ve been living.

In recent months, I have heard/read several things that brought the issue to a head. . . (1) “Although God does want us to evangelize/convert others, of primary importance is our own relationship with God. We should work on our own holiness first before we say anything to others about how they should change. (‘Remove the beam from your own eye first. . .’)” (2) “We cannot do evil so that good may result. The ends do not justify the means.” and (3) “One’s enemies will be those of his own household. Whoever loves father or mother [or spouse?] more than me, is not worthy of me. (Matt 10:37)”

**
Present Problem: **In the end, I became convinced that we needed to do one of three things - either reverse the vasectomy, live as though I didn’t have the vasectomy, or stop having sex. I decided last night to try talking to my wife about this. Based on her attitude during prior conversations on this, I didn’t expect the conversation to go well, but you can’t just stop having sex without explaining why. So I went for it. . . Her responses were immediate and adamant. . . “That is the most asinine thing I’ve ever heard. . . Why would I want more kids, I didn’t even want the ones I got. . . NFP is just as unnatural as contraception. . . Go ahead and reverse the vasectomy, but I’m getting fixed. There’s no way I’m having any more kids. [to which I replied that I wouldn’t consent to sex if she did that] . . . What’s the point of being married if you can’t have sex. . . Tomorrow I’m filing for divorce.”

By coincidence (providence?) I was reading 1 Corinthians 7 this morning. Verses 12 & 15 state, “If any brother has a wife who is an unbeliever, and she is willing to go on living with him, he should not divorce her. . . If the unbeliever separates, however, let [her] separate. The brother or sister is not bound in such cases.” I don’t mean to call my wife an “unbeliever,” but at least on the subject of sexual morality she has strong opinions in opposition to Church teaching. Based on this, I thought that maybe I should just let her go instead of trying to convince her to stay.

But then further on in verses 17-20 Paul goes on, “Everyone should live. . . just as God called each one. . . Was someone called after he had been circumcised? He should not try to undo his circumcision. . . Everyone should remain in the state in which he was called.” Reading this makes me think that I really should consider the matter resolved and over and stop trying to undo the past.

Any suggestions?


#2

You messed up when you had the vasectomy. You, over the years, have come to know and understand that this was a HORRIBLE thing that you did. You went to confession and were forgiven. NOW… you are refusing to let it go (as though you do not truly believe that it is within God’s power to forgive you) and you are jeopardizing your entire family! I am sorry. I would give my right arm to have my wife back and you appear to be willing to have yours leave because you can’t accept the fact that you have been forgiven. I will say this… if you don’t put this guilt behind you and grab a hold of your wife and children (apologizing to your wife) and you allow them to separate from you, you will be feeling a guilt and loneliness that you cannot begin to imagine! Don’t let this happen. I’ll pray for all of you. God bless.


#3

It is not so much that I refuse to let go of guilt for a past act for which I’ve been forgiven. It is more that each marital act seems to be another offense - if not for myself, then for my wife. If it were any other situation, would it be allowable to encourage someone else’s sin, dissent, and rebellion?


#4

It sounds like your wife has shown some true colors, I can’t believe she said she didn’t want her own kids! Maybe that was just in the heat of an argument. I hope so.

The Church does not require you to reverse the vasectomy. Don’t put more on your shoulders than the Church requires or asks of you.

The first priest gave you good advice. The second priest’s advice might be good if he had given it to you as a couple, and both of you were seeking such advice. But, your wife has no interest in practicing NFP or reversing the vasectomy. The priest should not have put such a burden on you when it is not your decision alone.

I know in your heart you want to reverse the vasectomy. But, I think your kids and your marriage are important. If your wife is willing to live with you in peace (and hopefully even in love) then put this issue to bed.

Keep living the faith as an example to your family. Do your best to raise your kids with faith and love for God. Pray for your wife. Don’t shut her out or alienate her over this.

You don’t have anything to feel guilty about. At the time you did this, you didn’t even believe in the Catholic Church’s truth. You didn’t know it was wrong. And your wife clearly has some problems. So, try to lead her to the truth gently and over time. Don’t make your sexual intimacy the battle ground. There is nothing immoral about your intimacy. You are not doing anything wrong. If you continue to have guilty feelings and trouble with this, seek out a Catholic counselor through Catholic Charities.


#5

I totally understand your struggle. But take the Lord’s forgiveness and the forgiveness you received in the confessional.

I was told – this past weekend – (in the confessional by the priest) that I could NOT be forgiven; he refused to give me absolution for my husband’s vasectomy and told me that my marriage was invalid as well. I am devastated to say the least. Not sure where to go from here.

Just a little background, we are both converts, and didn’t truly understand the gravity of what we did; when it occurred to us (in the meaningful way that it did) what we did, we decided to go to confession and talk to the priest about it. We do already have 7 children, and the reason we decided to do what we did was because of my heart condition which is life-threatening during pregnancy; add to that I am in my 40s and my husand in his 50’s, we thought it was “okay” to be open to life through foster/adoptive care in its place. We have a much better understanding now of the marriage relationship in terms of sexuality, but we never thought of ourselves as “closed” to life. Our grief and sorrow is deep.

We were “remarried” in the church after his vasectomy - and after our 7 children. So now what do I do? We are told no forgiveness, no absolution, no marriage, nothing - I have never felt so grief-stricken and hopeless. His only advice was to look into having it reversed, but he said in the meantime, my marriage is null and I am in a state of mortal sin.

So take the Lord’s forgiveness – HE gave it to you. And for the record - your struggle is an obvious love for the Lord and your personal relationship with Him supercedes anything or anybody. He knows you love Him above all else or you wouldn’t be willing to do whatever it takes within your own family - remember Abraham and his son? After he raised his arms to kill his son, the Lord stopped him - God already knew where Abraham’s greatest love was.

Peace to you and I will pray for you. I hope you will do the same for me.


#6

I do not wish to hijack the thread; however, PLEASE contact another priest within the diocese that you live in and make an appointment to see him with your husband. This matter needs to be worked out immediately. I do not understand how one Priest can take it upon himself to declare a marriage null without a Tribunnal. As for your confessional situation and absolution, I would bring this up as well. God bless and I’ll be saying a prayer for you and your family.


#7

No, but we’re not speaking of other situations. We’re speaking of your situation. I am suggesting (and perhaps I am misunderstanding or mistaken) that you are attempting to in some way correct that which has been broken. You must see that your absolution has already done that and that you are in fact NOT continuing to sin just because you are having sexual relations with your wife while having had a vasectomy. If, that were in fact the case, the Church would require all husbands who have had the procedure to have it reversed. The Church DOES NOT require that, nor does the Church require that a husband and wife abstain from relations if a vasectomy has taken place. You may offer unto God a sacrifice of abstinence IF BOTH YOU AND YOUR WIFE agree to do so; but there is NO requirement for you to do so. PLEASE… I am begging you and I don’t even know you… DO NOT let this happen. Neither God nor the Church wishes to see your marriage go this route. Reconcile and make peace with your wife and yourself over this issue.


#8

I suggest you talk to someone else. All sins can be forgiven when there is repentance-- so the priest was wrong in refusing you absolution for your part in the decision to get a vasectomy (obviously he cannot absolve you for your husband’s sin, only for your part in the sin). But, also, if you were not aware or did not understand what you were doing was wrong-- then you didn’t commit a sin. Sins are things you do on purpose, knowing they are wrong. It doesn’t sound like you knew this was wrong at the time you did it.

And the priest had NO business telling you your marriage was “invalid.” He cannot know that. ALL marriages are presumed valid until **proven **otherwise.

Again, there is sin requires knowledge/understanding of what one is doing.

What do you mean you were “remarried” in the Church? You need to explain this. If you were validly married before you converted (no prior marriages or impediments) then you were married, period.

Do you mean that there was some problem with your marriage and you had to have it convalidated?

You go to visit a priest during office hours, by appointment. Not in the confessional. You explain everything and ask for his advice.

You ARE married. You CAN be forgiven. Frankly this priest who you went to confession with sounds a few french fries short on his happy meal.


#9

Stop trying to undo the past. As the Priest said it’s done, repented and forgiven.

Unlike our parents or most other humans, forgiven from God’s standpoint is forgotten. Washed clean :slight_smile:

The Church doesn’t require people to have a vasectomies reversed for this reason. Be with an love your wife, let this go and focus on how you guys can serve the Lord by taking care of the blessings you have been given by raising them in a good loving and happy Catholic home.

Joe


#10

Yeah. Just because someone is a priest does not mean they can’t lose their mind, act selfishly upon their own agenda, or do wrong.

The Church accepted you as is. So you have to accept you as is. Not only would I suggest you find another priest to help you, I would report the one that told you your marriage is invalid to the diocese. He does not have the authority to tell anyone that without a Tribunal’s finding… he needs to be stopped.


#11

I think I may hear a little more in this than some of you are hearing. First of all, of course he’s been forgiven. I read his words and he knows that too. Forgiveness is not the issue; moral responsibility is.

Let’s say I was a thief. I broke into people’s houses and stole their goods. After a time, however, I saw the light and came to salvation. As part of my conversion, I understand that my past sins are forgiven - yet the temporal effects are not.

Would I, as a now-reformed thief, not have an obligation to attempt restitution? I may sell all my goods and give the proceeds to any victims I could identify, even if I did so without telling them who I was or what I had done. I would not be looking for their forgiveness, just some attempt to make right a wrong. Very few would criticize me for that. I could not live off the ill-gains with a clear conscience.

Now, let’s say I have a wife and children as well, and my actions make us destitute. Here, I am hurting my family so as to make “right” my victims. Even though my family struggles, perhaps I must do this. Maybe my example will keep my children from becoming theives. Maybe my wife will be able to respect me after a time. Restitution is a powerful thing.

So, back to the OP. If you give him the thief anology (he stole from God and his wife when he did that vasectomy) does he now have some reason to make good what he has done, even if it causes his family pain?

By leading his wife this way, is he not trying to be the spiritual leader and take on a role he never did before?

I’m not Catholic, so ABC is not the same issue for me that it is for some, yet, I will say that my wife and I never even used NFP when we were having children. I believe that God chooses when to bless and when to withhold. So, I’m not advocating ABC at all.

I think he may have a moral issue that he needs to deal with just telling him “he’s forgiven, move on” is more akin to Once-Saved-Always-Saved easy-cheeesy doctrines found at many non-Catholic establishments.


#12

In response to why we were “remarried” in the church, it was because my husband and I had been married outside the church (by a minister, but in the civil setting). We were free to marry inside the church, so were remarried in our own parish by our priest with our children present. Being converts, it’s not easy to grasp the gravity of the various things – we thought “open to life” meant that we were open to bringing life out of our marriage; having 7 children already, we thought we met the definition. In fact, the priest didn’t ask us anything about birth control prior to marrying us.

I appreciate very much your various responses - it has made me feel much better and able to seek out additional help. God bless you all.


#13

Go talk to a different Priest, the one you did seems to have some unresolved issues himself. Remember they are still men. The teachings of the Church do not support his actions.


#14

You could, but you aren’t required to, you did your “time” in a sense. And you should not do so by neglecting your family and breaking up a sacramental marriage.


#15

I agree nothing is required. I’m not advocating he run to the doc and get it reversed. I’m just saying, he has a point to ponder and no one should dismiss that lightly.

If you and I are walkng down the street and see a beggar, neither of us is obligated to give him $10. If, however, I feel like I am being called - somehow, perhaps some nebulous feeling that could even be the remnants of last’s night pot roast - to do so, I may need to to keep from sinning while you are absolutely free to keep walking.

We are each called to different things. Unless he is advocating doing something sinful, which does not seem to be the case, his points should be considered carefully. I applaud him for taking the time to search his conscience. He needs to consider the wishes of his wife, but that cannot be the overriding concern.

As for breaking up a sacramental marriage, she is the one talking about leaving.


#16

You are lacking a vital piece of information in your considerations here: the fact that vasectomy is not 100%.
*Children can be and have been fathered by men who have undergone a vasectomy that was previously proven to have been 100% complete and successful. * The fact is, that in some cases, the ends of the vas deferens regrow and reconnect sufficiently, all on their own, and so you’re good to father a child again.

If you do not believe me, you can easily find stories of completely unexpected “post successful vasectomy” pregnancies on the internet.
The truth is that vasectomy is not 100% when it comes to not having children.
The doctor made sure that my husband clearly understood this medical fact.

My husband underwent vasectomy when the doctors told him that I had *zero *chance of ever surviving another pregnancy, and so they slowly and clearly explained to him that his choices were either total abstinence for the rest of his life or vasectomy (because they certainly were not willing to try any tubal ligation surgery on me after what I had gone through), and that although vasectomy was the best solution that medical science had to offer him, it was certainly not a 100% guarantee of pregnancy prevention.

I had birthed my 5th child far beyond the point of any safe cesearaen, completely face up, with no anesthesia whatsoever (the 8 surgeons witnessing concluded that if they had given me any anesthesia whatsoever or a cesearan there was absolutely no doubt that I would have been dead). Basically they used the old fashioned “rack” method where they grab your hip bones and pull you apart as hard as they can so that the baby can clear if you’re lucky and if you’re not they figure you’re dead already. There is nothing they can do about it because it’s much too late for a cesarean. Ever seen the movie “Braveheart”? It was just like that. The baby cleared and was born completely face up, healthy and beautiful with no problems whatsoever, but I internally tore and bled to the point of what they call a “near death experience” but hey, I’m just fine. You would never know that I ever almost died in front of Husband, 8 surgeons, half the floor of the big Catholic teaching hospital, and one nurse they threatened to slap for hysterically repeatedly asking “what’s she staring at? what’s she staring at?” because she had never seen anybody die on the table (like Braveheart) completely conscious and aware and not drugged into oblivion before. I had a 160 lb. midwife slam all her strength, sheer force of will, and body weight on my uterus to try to get it to stop hemorrhaging my life away in a gigantic flood of blood: "Don’t you DARE die! Don’t you DARE die on me! NOBODY DIES ON ME! SO YOU STOP THAT RIGHT NOW! YOU STOP THAT!!!
It must have taken at least an hour for them to sew me all back together as best they could, all the while ordering me not to move a single muscle or I’d be dead for sure, but I did manage to talk to my husband and reassure him that I was just fine, not to worry. They had tried to escort him from the room much earlier, then thought the better of it and just planted him in a railed chair where he was and couldn’t pass out and fall anywhere but into my bed rail at the head of my bed.

That is what a high risk childbirth actually looks like. It is important for you to realize just what a high risk childbirth can look like and entail. I am a documented extraordinary case of survival, and I was much younger than your wife. That is exactly what your WIFE is looking at here, that she would be an extremely high risk childbirth and that she has got 2 kids to raise who are apparently pretty overwhelming for her now as it is, and so she and they would be better off divorcing you than risking death or permanent disability from a high risk childbirth.

Meanwhile what on earth are YOU looking at? What are YOU worried about? Your WIFE? Your CHILDREN? Her health and sanity? Their education? Their problems at school? Their future career plans? No. None of that. You are overwhelmingly concerned with exactly how holy your holy genitalia is.
You are in fact so overwhelmingly preoccupied with trying to figure out the holiness of your own genitalia on your own little stairway to heaven, that you don’t even have sufficient faith in God to realize that you, mere mortal man, DO NOT HAVE THE POWER TO LIMIT GOD IN ANY WAY.

If GOD INTENDS FOR YOU TO HAVE CHILDREN, YOU WILL HAVE CHILDREN. It doesn’t matter to God if you have had a vasectomy, God can work right through your body irregardless (and medical science has documented cases). Your relatives could get hit by a bus and leave you their children now as your own. (Ted Kennedy ended up with what, 16 children, when his brothers died?) Your wife could get hit by a bus and you could end up married to another woman with children to raise. You could end up like my childless sister with the job of having 500 children to raise as the *principal of a school *and have children coming out of your ears more than you ever thought possible! It seems that she and her husband cannot have children. GOD HAS GIVEN THEM 500 CHILDREN.
It is ignorance and arrogance to believe that you could limit the workings of God.

God gave you 2 children. I’d suggest the appropriateness of getting off your holy rear and attending seriously to raising them. That is what God is going to grade you on, not the holiness of your holy genitalia.


#17

Because he yanked the rug out from under her. To her, he just threw down a completely unexpected and unreasonable gauntlet.

While his zeal to get right with God is laudable, it’s unecessary, as he is already right with God if he has received absolution. He does not need to destroy his marriage. I think he should apologize to his wife, explain that his convert “on fire” got a little out of hand, and explain that his understanding of the matter has changed.

Anonymous, even if you still feel you would like to abstain, practice NFP “as if,” or have the vasectomy reversed, but know you can’t because it would destroy your marriage and it’s not required, you can offer up your regret and the suffering it causes you as an offering to God. That requires nothing of your wife, but you are doing something special and spiritual yourself.

P.S. I think this story also demonstrates extremely well and vividly the danger of lifting single verses or passages out of the Bible and trying to privately interpret them.


#18

#19

I see you have met my former assistant pastor and that he still has the audacity to believe that he is somehow singularly qualified to judge and NOT FORGIVE IN THE NAME OF GOD what he knows absolutely nothing about whatsoever (healthy sexuality, maintaining a marriage, having children, complications of pregnancy, and raising children).
A whole lot of people have not been sure where to go after having dealt with him and have gone on to become former Catholics.


#20

Sounds like me and my wife. I remember being where you are, reading the same exact verse, and thinking the same exact thing. Just pray, you know you love her. Not always easy, but you do love her. Love her like Christ loves His Church. Thats how were supposed to love our wives. You’ve received absolution, it is not sinful for sterile people to engage in martial relations.(What I’ve read here on CAF) Plus you never know, it is not 100% effective.


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