Circumcision anathema?


On another website, someone posted the statement that the Church has declared circumcision is “anathema.”

I challenged him to prove it by citing Canon Law. He has not responded.

Has anyone heard of that before?


I cant’ speak to your specific question, but there is an organization of Catholics who are against genital cutting:


Those Catholics should mind there own business and go about practising there own faith and loyalty to the Magisterium instead of putting there nose into other religions and there practices, circumcision was commanded by God for the Jewish people. Full Stop.


When a Catholic - a Christian has their son circumcised it is not for religious reasons -but would be a medical -moral question. They are not doing so if for religious reasons.


What was condemned was the belief in circumcision as having saving value. This was, as I recall, in a papal document from some centuries ago. No relationship to the medical practice of circumcision today, regarding which the church has no official position. This has been discussed here before and you could find prior discussions via searching.


Religion is not a legitimate reason to deny someone of their bodily integrity, especially a helpless newborn. Full stop.


Regarding Old Testament usage:

When a Catholic - a Christian has their son circumcised it is not for religious reasons -but would be a medical -moral question. They are not doing so if for religious reasons.


I believe it goes way back … in the Epistle of St Paul to the Galatians, he uses (as characteristic of St Paul) very strong language re circumcision:

Stand fast and be not held again under the yoke of bondage. Behold I Paul tell you, that if you be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing. And I testify again to every man circumcising himself that he is a debtor to do the whole law. You are made void of Christ, you who are justified in the law; you are fallen from grace.

So, despite being part of the covenant with Abraham, circumcision is not a Christian custom (though it may be performed for non-religious reasons).


Can it be anathema? yes is the short answer

The Church only allows circumcision on medical grounds, it does not condemn someone that was circumcidized as part of that person’s previous religion in the case of converts from Judaims for example.

It does condemn someone who is Catholic and intends to practice it as a means to conform to what was the practice and custom to enter into the covenant of Abraham.

We as Catholics are in the ultimate covenant with God through His Son Jesus the Christ.

All previous covenants are/were imperfect, this is clear from the fact that Jesus Himself showed us that no soul could enter the gates of heaven, all the just souls were awaiting the reedemer to be freed from their prison.


Yes, the Church has definitely condemned male genital mutilation in the past. The person may have been referring to the Council of Florence:

“Therefore [the Church] strictly orders all who glory in the name of Christian, not to practise circumcision either before or after baptism, since whether or not they place their hope in it, it cannot possibly be observed without loss of eternal salvation.”


Circumcision by Catholics is permitted for health reasons but it is not permitted for religious reasons.


Ok. Circ for religious reasons: No.

Circ for medical reasons: Yes

I got it now. Thank you.

What about cultural reasons? Many Americans have their newborn sons circ’ed because everyone else does. Neither medical nor religious.


The cultural reasons tend to be groupthink at its worst. Often followed by cognitive dissonance after one learns the benefits of the foreskin.


While this is an ongoing debated topic it seems clear to me at least that in general there are definite health benefits to circumcision that outweigh any risks.

What are the benefits of circumcision?

There is some evidence that circumcision has health benefits, including:

A decreased risk of urinary tract infections.
A reduced risk of sexually transmitted diseases in men.
Protection against penile cancer and a reduced risk of cervical cancer in female sex partners.
Prevention of balanitis (inflammation of the glans) and balanoposthitis (inflammation of the glans and foreskin).
Prevention of phimosis (the inability to retract the foreskin) and paraphimosis (the inability to return the foreskin to its original location).
Circumcision also makes it easier to keep the end of the penis clean.

What are the risks of circumcision?

Like any surgical procedure, there are risks associated with circumcision. However, this risk is low. Problems associated with circumcision include:

Risk of bleeding and infection at the site of the circumcision
Irritation of the glans
Increased risk of meatitis (inflammation of the opening of the penis)
Risk of injury to the penis


The perceived benefits of genital cutting may be clear to you. But the better question is what are the functions and benefits of having foreskin? And once these benefits are learned, an individual is much more likely to see this as a human rights issue.

Many people are unaware that the foreskin represents approximately 50% of the total skin of the penis, or roughly 15 square inches. It is there for a reason.

This forum is not the place to dispense medical advice, so your above post may not meet forum guidelines. There are, however, many external websites that go into great detail about the functions and benefits of foreskin. I encourage anyone who is seeking more information on this topic to search out these websites.


It was not my intent to spark a debate about circumcision. I was interested in knowing what the Church’s position was. Thank you for your answers.


The only reason I made my post is because you implied or said it was better not to be circumcised for health reasons. I could not leave that unanswered because while the debate goes on the general consensus is that it is healthier to be circumcised.


No, there is no general consensus on genital cutting for health reasons. In many industrialized countries, the rate of genital cutting is extremely low. And it is becoming less and less common in the USA as well. Those in the medical profession who benefit financially as a result of genital cutting would like you to believe there are health benefits. Many of their claims, however, have been debunked. The better question, as I have previously posted, is “what are the functions and benefits of foreskin?” Once those are learned, it is easy to understand why bodily integrity is important.


I don’t happen to agree with you. There has been no debunking of circumcision benefits.I’ve googled articles about what you said and it is more compelling to be circumcised than not.



Just as the eyelid protects the eye, the foreskin protects the glans, keeping its surface soft, moist, warm and sensitive. It also maintains optimal warmth, pH balance, and cleanliness. The glans itself contains no sebaceous glands – glands that produce the moisturizing oil that our skin needs to stay healthy.(2) The foreskin produces the moisturizer that keeps the surface of the glans glistening, smooth, soft, and a deep healthy red or purple color.

The foreskin will protect the entire penis when accidents happen, such as contusions, abrasions, lacerations, and burns. The foreskin is the first layer – a double layer – of defense from injury to the rest of the penis.

Self-Cleansing Function

The intact penis is naturally clean. The common view of the penis or the foreskin as ‘dirty’ is unscientific and irrational. The penis, however, does provide an entry point into the body, and it is exposed to foreign microbes every day, especially during sexual intercourse. The immunological functions of the foreskin and the self-cleansing functions of the penis protect the body from harm.

Every time a genitally intact male urinates, the urine stream flushes out the urethra and foreskin of foreign microbes that may have strayed inside. In healthy individuals, urine is sterile and has a disinfectant quality. Researchers have demonstrated that the swirling action of urine as it rushes through the foreskin flushes it out effortlessly and naturally.(3) This function is especially efficient when the foreskin is long and the preputial orifice is narrow.

Though urine passes through the foreskin every day, the inner foreskin is remarkably free of urea – a by-product of liver metabolism that is secreted in the urine. Studies demonstrate that washings from the foreskin are rich in fructose, acid phosphatase, and mucin, but never urea. It appears that the secretions of seminal vesicles, prostate, and urethral mucous glands, collectively or individually, keep the foreskin clear and clean as well. (4) These self-cleansing functions of the penis are analogous to the self-cleansing functions of the eye, which similarly maintains its cleanliness through fluid washings (tears) and mucus secretion. Therefore, you never need to worry about the foreskin being ‘unclean.’

Self-Protecting Functions

The urinary meatus (the opening of the glans through which urine and semen flow), is an entry point into the body. From infancy to adulthood, the foreskin ensures optimal protection of the glans and urinary meatus from contaminants of all kinds. During childhood, the foreskin is also usually firmly attached to the glans to prevent contaminants from invading the urethra. The neck of the foreskin places the vulnerable urinary meatus at a distance from the external environment and defends it against invading contaminants. The fusion of the foreskin and glans and the nonexpandability of the preputial orifice in the child’s penis are therefore necessary for the health of the child. Even after the foreskin separates from the glans and becomes retractable, it continues throughout life to cover the glans and meatus in order to protect these delicate structures from dirty, contamination, abrasion, or bacterial invasion.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit