Another vasectomy question


#1

I’m new to the forum. I thank you for reading this ahead of time and will greatily appreciate your comments and advice.

The question is whether or not I can get a permission for a vasectomy. Let me give some background.

I have been married for 7 years and have 3 happy children. Three children is what we planned on having before marriage and so far it seems God has agreed. We did NFP properly, although it was difficult with my wife’s menses occuring irregularly between 28 and 42 days apart; but we managed and had our three children. With our first delivery we had to convert to c-section for arrest of descent (baby too big to make it out) and non reassuring fetal heart tracing (baby getting squashed and didn’t like it). Given that my wife couldn’t dilate more than 4cm, we opted to have repeat sections with our other children. Recently we had our third happy baby. After making the primary incisions, the surgeons informed us that my wife’s uterus was on the verge of rupturing. People heal and respond to surgery differently and my wife’s uterus healed by replacing the muscular uterus with an excess of fibrous connective tissue that does not stretch or contract but tears. The surgeons tell us at that time that my wife will likely not survive another pregnancy without rupturing her uterus and they recommended a tubal ligation. I’m a physician and understand that a ruptured uterus is more than life threatening so I can’t bear to risk my wife’s life. And here is our quandry (sp?) Medically speaking, we can’t risk another pregnancy because I’m convinced something would go terribly wrong (I personally know the ObGyn surgeons well and heed their suggestions).

To add to this, with each subsequent pregnancy, my wife’s menses have become more and more irregular. At this point, 10 months post partum, my wife has not had one menstral cycle. NFP, as far as I understand it, will not work without mensrual cycles as my wife can ovulate at any time without any signs/symptoms (temp rises the day of ovulation and so can’t be predicted).

So, is there any statute that would allow me to get a vasectomy? My wife has been through 3 c-sections, a D&C after a miscarriage, and a laparoscopy to rule out an ectopic (which was negative, thank God). I’m not keen on having my wife undergo another surgery.

Anyway, it has been a long 10 or so months without normal “relations” and that’s getting old :wink: :o . I appreciate yall’s thoughts on the matter as I have not been able to find anything that deals with these types of situations.

Yours in Christ

Martin


#2

Being a physician and a Catholic–you know the score on both sides: the Church is going to be “officially” opposed to any ABC or sterilization, yet in many other arenas views medical science as a life-saving and enhancing gift from God that often involves anything but “natural” intervention for the sake of curing disease and malfuction and preserving human life. (Spare me the lectures on the reasons why the church opposes separating the marital act from it procreative purpose, I understand them, fully.) In this case further procreation is impossible as a very practical matter and the question really is how best to avoid/prevent it.

Basically–balancing the moral issues and making a decision is up to you. As a mother, there is no way…were I facing circumstances such as yours…that I would be playing Russian roulette with my life and risking pregnancy. I’m sure we will see all sorts of posts about the reliability of NFP, and for some that is true. But with your wife’s irregular cycles, history of surgery, and prognosis on future pregnancies, I believe risking another conception is nothing short of suicidal and thus insane–particularly given her responsibilities to her existing children.

I also don’t believe life-long celibacy is something that is good for the couple, thus not something God intends–though again–there will be many who disagree or who offer anecdotes of how it can be done. You are clearly not operating out of selfishness, convenience or even a lack of trust. You are taking a cold, hard look at the facts of a medical challenge and finding a reasonable medical solution. There are plenty who will advise this is not within your purview or forever endangers your mortal soul. I am not among them.
(let the rotten tomatoes fly)


#3

Would a hysterectomy help your wife? If her uterus is badly damaged and causing her health problems, it could be removed for that reason–because it isn’t intended to be a direct means of sterilization. That’s what I’d do if I were her, anyway.

If you have any doubts or need any other counseling do talk to your priest. He isn’t merely the warder of Church teaching–he is the pastor of your souls and wants to help you in your situation all he can. God bless you!


#4

I appreciate the responses so far. I must say that I was expecting the worst and was ready for the cold shoulder. It is such a relief to get such a warm response.

Della, I have considered the hysterectomy because, as you point out, it would appear justified morally. However, as having assisted in a TAH (total abdominal hysterectomy) after prior abdominal surgeries, I know that it is extremely difficult to do without injuring the bladder/bowel; all the organs are stuck together with no plains to do disection. For this same reason a vaginal hysterectomy would be contraindicated. But, as a rule, we hesitate to do hysterectomies except with intractable bleeding, fibroids that bleed/cause pain, cancer. The surgery has too many side effects and complications to perform for contraception. I appreciate, whole heartedly, your concern and suggestion.

Island oak, I tend to agree with you. It is tough to make that decision not being sure of the moral ground it stands on. I try not the type to commit a mortal sin and say, “Well, I’ll just go to confession.” (I obviously fail at times :stuck_out_tongue: ) I’m hoping (this may be a last cause) that there is such thing as an “official permission” thing I could get before acting. What are your thoughts?

Martin


#5

FrOg, the official answer, as you probably suspect, is that the vasectomy is not permitted and that complete abstinence would be the only permitted solution.

I honestly don’t know what I’d do in your situation. I know that I couldn’t tell someone to abstain for several decades until the better half hits menopause.


#6

[quote=FrOg]…I’m hoping (this may be a last cause) that there is such thing as an “official permission” thing I could get before acting. What are your thoughts?Martin
[/quote]

Certainly worth asking the question of your priest. I would absolutely start there. You may well get referred to higher authorities, or you may get shut down entirely. You may also hear condemnation coming from those who reject “permission” or “exceptions” offered by (in their view) wayward priests who are violating the letter of the law of the Church. IMHO, legalism, carried to an extreme that fails to make any allowance for our imperfect, human condition can be as evil and destructive to our relationship with God as rank disobedience. No matter what the clergy offer or deny, the ultimate decision will be yours (and your wife’s) to find peace with and live with. Best wishes in your search for an answer to this very challenging circumstance. You are far from alone in facing it.


#7

I think you should speak with your parish priest and explain the situation with him. He will give you spiritual guidance and maybe shed a better light on your problem.


#8

[quote=FrOg]I’m new to the forum. I thank you for reading this ahead of time and will greatily appreciate your comments and advice.

The question is whether or not I can get a permission for a vasectomy. Let me give some background.

I have been married for 7 years and have 3 happy children. …The surgeons tell us at that time that my wife will likely not survive another pregnancy without rupturing her uterus and they recommended a tubal ligation. I’m a physician and understand that a ruptured uterus is more than life threatening so I can’t bear to risk my wife’s life. And here is our quandry (sp?) Medically speaking, **we can’t risk another pregnancy because I’m convinced something would go terribly wrong ** (I personally know the ObGyn surgeons well and heed their suggestions).

So, is there any statute that would allow me to get a vasectomy?

I appreciate yall’s thoughts on the matter as I have not been able to find anything that deals with these types of situations.

Yours in Christ

Martin
[/quote]

Your’s is a very serious medical concern for you and your wife. This poses a very challenging situation to do what is moral for your marrriage. There answer to your question is not easy. I will not offer you my personal opinion or thoughts as it is solely for the Church to determine morality. I will offer you authoritative Church documents and statements that address the very specific issue of what are a couple’s moral options if it has been assessed that a potential future pregnancy poses a serious life threatening health risk to the mother.

There is much misunderstanding and misplaced compassion (laity and clergy “pastoral solutions”) that offer “medical exceptions” for sterilization, where none exists.

In response to its query on sterilization, the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith’s statement of March 13, 1975 replied to the United States National Conference of Catholic Bishops as follows:

“Any sterilization, that is, of its own nature and condition, has the sole immediate effect of rendering the generative faculty incapable of procreation, is to be considered direct sterilization, as the term is understood in the declarations of the pontifical magisterium, especially of Pius XII. Therefore, **notwithstanding and subjectivity right intention of those whose actions are prompted by the care of prevention of physical ** or mental illness which is foreseen or feared as the result of pregnancy, such sterilization remains absolutely forbidden to the doctrine of the church. And indeed the sterilization of the faculty itself is forbidden for an ever graver reason than the sterilization of individual acts, since it induces a state of sterility in the person which is almost always irreversible.”

and……………

**The effort to justify contraceptive sterilization on the grounds of the principle of totality ** (the argument that some hoped for-good-to-come about can justify the deliberate intention to act directly against a good here and now) was explicitly rejected by the National Conference of Catholic Bishops in their July 9, 1980 “Statement on Tubal Ligation”, Hospital Progress, 61.9 (1980), 39.

and …

In his address to the Congress of Urology on October 8, 1953, **Pope Pius XII outlined the specific conditions under which sterilization ** (or amputation, for that matter) may be performed:

Three things condition the moral permission of surgical operation requiring an anatomical or functional mutilation;

  1. that the preservation or functioning of a particular organ provokes a serious damage or constitutes a threat to the complete organism [that is the principle of totality];
  1. that this damage cannot be avoided, or at least notably diminished, except by the amputation in question and that its efficacy is well assured; and
  1. that it can be reasonably foreseen that the negative effect, namely, the mutilation and its consequences, will be compensated by the positive effect: exclusion of a damage to the whole organism, mitigation of the pain, etc.

[As far as sterilization is concerned], the conditions which would justify disposing of a part in favor of the whole in virtue of the principle of totality are lacking. It is not therefore morally permissible to operate on healthy oviducts if the life or (physical) health of the mother in not threatened by their continued existence.

ewtn.net/library/PROLENC/ENCYC102.HTM


#9

I don’t understand, if you’ve used nfp in the past, why you can’t continue. Mucous, for most women, is obvious enough to let you know when ovulation is occuring (though I prefer STM which works fine for irregular periods, I know since I have them). I’d suggest checking out:
Billings boma-usa.org
or Creighton /www.creightonmodel.com
or even the Couple to Couple League ccli.org
for further indepth training and medical info.
Also the book “Fertility Cycles and Nutrition” by Marilyn Shannon to help get your wife’s cycles more regular through nutrition and vitamins. Also, a second opinion about your wife’s uterus could be called for, esp from a prolife dr. omsoul.com

There certainly are priests and people on this forum who will tell you exactly what you want to hear, however, the Church can’t/won’t allow a vas. in any case, even if a priest says it’s okay. That’s the teaching whether you (or anyone choosing to not follow the church’s teaching) like it or not.The Church cannot make exceptions when it’s a matter of moral teaching. Additionally, many people come to mourn their choice of sterilization. omsoul.com/sterilization-reversal.php

This is not a decision to make lightly and esp not ignoring centuries of Church teaching. Pray and pray some more, get more info and pray some more.

God bless you
Jennifer


#10

[quote=Island Oak] You are taking a cold, hard look at the facts of a medical challenge and finding a reasonable medical solution. There are plenty who will advise this is not within your purview or forever endangers your mortal soul. I am not among them.
[/quote]

(let the rotten tomatoes fly)
No rotten tomatoes. It is obvious that you are quite aware that a “reasonable medical solution” is not always a morally licit choice. I believe that this is what this poster is inquiring about: What medical options are morally allowable, not what are the reasonable medical solutions.

“The regulation of births represents one of the aspects of responsible fatherhood and motherhood. Legitimate intentions on the part of the spouses do not justify recourse to morally unacceptable means (for example, direct sterilization or contraception).” (*Catechism of the Catholic Church * 2399)


#11

Is your wife nursing? Then 10 months pp is not that long to go without cycles, if she is. I really think you need to read up on NFP!!! You can chart while breastfeeding and know when you are fertile. It doesn’t have to be a guessing game and you don’t have to choose a morally illicit medical procedure or abstain forever. Please, please, please contact one of the many NFP groups for more info!!!
God bless,
Jennifer


#12

I’m sure the doctor is aware of how NFP works. NFP just doesn’t provide enough guarantees in this case.


#13

[quote=FrOg]Della, I have considered the hysterectomy because, as you point out, it would appear justified morally. However, as having assisted in a TAH (total abdominal hysterectomy) after prior abdominal surgeries, I know that it is extremely difficult to do without injuring the bladder/bowel; all the organs are stuck together with no plains to do disection. For this same reason a vaginal hysterectomy would be contraindicated. But, as a rule, we hesitate to do hysterectomies except with intractable bleeding, fibroids that bleed/cause pain, cancer. The surgery has too many side effects and complications to perform for contraception. I appreciate, whole heartedly, your concern and suggestion.

Martin
[/quote]

In that case, I’d recommend contacting the Pope Paul VI Institute which deals with these sorts of difficulties in line with the teachings of the Church. Do check it out.


#14

[quote=Benedictus]I’m sure the doctor is aware of how NFP works. NFP just doesn’t provide enough guarantees in this case.
[/quote]

Actually, just because he’s a dr doesn’t mean diddly. He stated:
<<To add to this, with each subsequent pregnancy, my wife’s menses have become more and more irregular. At this point, 10 months post partum, my wife has not had one menstral cycle. NFP, as far as I understand it, will not work without mensrual cycles as my wife can ovulate at any time without any signs/symptoms (temp rises the day of ovulation and so can’t be predicted>>
which is not true. He doesn’t know enough about NFP from this statement. Mucus gives as much info as temps. She could also be checking her cervix for further info. It is effective and he needs more info. If China and 3rd world countries can teach this info, why can’t people in the US get a clue…
I second Della’s suggestion of the Pope Paul VI Institute!

Jennifer


#15

My husband and I just went through the Creighton model NFP. It address breast feeding and irregular cycles.
Pray, pray, pray. From one who has been there a vasectomy is a huge mistake!! It damages your marriage.You will regret it.
Also see if your wife can find a doctor trained by Pope Paul VI institute.They will go over your charting with you and help you to know the signs of ovulation.
God bless you and continue to pray.


#16

[quote=Jennifer J]Is your wife nursing? Then 10 months pp is not that long to go without cycles, if she is. I really think you need to read up on NFP!!! You can chart while breastfeeding and know when you are fertile. It doesn’t have to be a guessing game and you don’t have to choose a morally illicit medical procedure or abstain forever. Please, please, please contact one of the many NFP groups for more info!!!
God bless,
Jennifer
[/quote]

The problem with NFP groups is that they are as biased as ppl pushing sterilization. They seem not to understand that checking mucous is not a strong enough test to place my wife’s or child’s life on; “enough for most women” is not reassuring, you must admit. It’s the gravity of the situation that changes the argument; we are no longer “family planning”, we are trying to keep the family (my wife specifically) safe.

Setter, I appreciate the 1953 quote from Pius XII. It sheds light on the situation and gives specific criteria that must be met. I’ll read up on that more.

Thx yall

Martin


#17

[quote=Jennifer J]Actually, just because he’s a dr doesn’t mean diddly. He stated:

[/quote]

Regular cycles are a sine qua non for the mucus method, JJ (as I understand it). How does a woman know when her mucus signals ovulation? Is it not different for every woman? How are you to compare thick mucus with thin mucus if you aren’t in a cycle that gives you both? If you haven’t done the mucous testing in the past, how are you to begin without a regular cycle to base it on?

Martin


#18

I read this post yesterday when there were no posts, and I must say I’m relieved at the number of compassionate and reasonable answers. Doc, I feel really deeply for you and your wife in this situation. You’ve persisted as much as you could through three c-sections, and have brought three beautiful children into the world. God Bless you for that. No one can say your hearts are not in it, and you in no way compare to the contraceptive-pill-poppers who drive mum to the abortion clinic in the Range Rover with little Nathan and Caitlyn in the back seat, because another kid would mean delaying doing the house extensions. There’s the spirit of the law, and there’s the letter of the law. I’m sure you’d welcome another child if you could…but that ain’t the reason. Your wife (AND the child) would probably die. There’s no acceptable risk you can take in this situation. I picture MY wife in the same situation, and there’s no way I’d risk her life for “the rules”. The rules are about being open to fertility. You CAN’T be. You have been in the past. Just not anymore.

Maybe I’m leaving myself open to rotten tomatoes here, but I’ll say what I think regardless. Whilst I accept the reasons for the Church’s rules on contraception and sterilisation, I think basic intelligence tells you it doesn’t apply in your situation. I don’t go running off to priests everytime I’m in a moral dilemna. I believe in prayer, and (as the Church does) I believe in private revelation. God communicates with me through my conscience, and I’m sure He does the same with you. God gave authority to the Church, but let’s credit Him with a reasonable level of lateral-thinking-ability. He is NOT going to want you to risk your wife’s life, nor is He wanting you both to ruin your marital union by sending you off to seperate bedrooms. If he’s going to punish you for doing the intelligent thing in the situation, then let Him punish ME for encouraging you! (That’s how confident I am that you wouldn’t be.)


#19

[quote=JeffAustralia]I read this post yesterday when there were no posts, and I must say I’m relieved at the number of compassionate and reasonable answers. MY wife in the same situation, and there’s no way I’d risk her life for “the rules”. The rules are about being open to fertility. You CAN’T be. You have been in the past. Just not anymore.

Maybe I’m leaving myself open to rotten tomatoes here, but I’ll say what I think regardless. Whilst I accept the reasons for the Church’s rules on contraception and sterilisation, I think basic intelligence tells you it doesn’t apply in your situation. I don’t go running off to priests everytime I’m in a moral dilemna. I believe in prayer, and (as the Church does) I believe in private revelation. God communicates with me through my conscience, and I’m sure He does the same with you. God gave authority to the Church, but let’s credit Him with a reasonable level of lateral-thinking-ability. **He is NOT going to want you to risk your wife’s life, nor is He wanting you both to ruin your marital union by sending you off to seperate bedrooms. If he’s going to punish you for doing the intelligent thing in the situation, then let Him punish ME for encouraging you! ** (That’s how confident I am that you wouldn’t be.)
[/quote]

This is your conscience speaking … :wink: Your’s is a very tempting and common way to rationalize a grave sin. It appeals to human reasonableness – God surely would not expect and demand such a sacrifice (very limited frequency to possibly no marital intercourse until post-menopause) of one whom He loves as a son or daughter. Right? Wrong.

I will be a blunt wet blanket here – It is not about doing the intelligent or reasonable thing, it is all about doing the moral thing. It sometimes requires the utmost of intellectual honesty and heroic virtue to choose to do the right thing versus the reasonable thing. Moral dilemna, reality, the cross …the stakes are high, personally, emotionally, interpersonally, and spiritually.

Conscience must be informed and moral judgment enlightened. A well-formed conscience is upright and truthful. It formulates its judgments according to reason, in conformity with the true good willed by the wisdom of the Creator. The education of conscience is indispensable for human beings who are subjected to negative influences and tempted by sin to prefer their own judgment and to reject authoritative teachings. (*Catechism of the Catholic Church * 1783)


#20

*It is not about doing the intelligent or reasonable thing, it is all about doing the moral thing. *

Sorry, but my conscience and intelligence tells me otherwise. You DO realise what a single act of intercourse could lead to? You’d do this yourself? You’d either risk the consequences, or you’d do nothing but shake hands with your wife for the next maybe thirty years, and you’d be 100% sure that this was what God wanted?


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