In some anti-circumcision discussions on the internet, I saw a reference that the Church once prohibited circumcision. I traced the reference back to the Bull of Union with the Copts, from the Ecuminical Council of Florence (1438-1445) , which says
It firmly believes, professes and teaches that the legal prescriptions of the old Testament or the Mosaic law, which are divided into ceremonies, holy sacrifices and sacraments, because they were instituted to signify something in the future, although they were adequate for the divine cult of that age, once our lord Jesus Christ who was signified by them had come, came to an end and the sacraments of the new Testament had their beginning. Whoever, after the passion, places his hope in the legal prescriptions and submits himself to them as necessary for salvation and as if faith in Christ without them could not save, sins mortally. It does not deny that from Christ’s passion until the promulgation of the gospel they could have been retained, provided they were in no way believed to be necessary for salvation. But it asserts that after the promulgation of the gospel they cannot be observed without loss of eternal salvation. Therefore it denounces all who after that time observe circumcision, the sabbath and other legal prescriptions as strangers to the faith of Christ and unable to share in eternal salvation, unless they recoil at some time from these errors. Therefore it 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.
As I understand it, current Church teaching is that circumcision is unnecessary, but not forbidden. However, from a quick search of the Catechism, I don’t see any reference to this. The closest is in regards to “mutilation”, which is permissible when there is medical reason (a point on which people differ for circumcision, and a point that I don’t want to get into).
I would have thought that if anything, the teaching would be that doing it for the purposes of salvation might be wrong, but by a strict reading of the quoted text above, the Church at one point ordered Christians not to do so, because it could not “be observed” without loss of eternal salvation. I have trouble reading “be observed” as other than “be performed.” It’s vague as to whether the one losing salvation is the one performing or the one having the operation, but I’d presume it’s the ones involved in the decision. It seems there are three possibilities here: 1) it’s a matter of Christian morality that the Church couldn’t change, of which the Church is warning, implying that it’s for all time 2) it’s a matter of binding and loosing, in which case it would be in effect until the Church changed the teaching 3) it’s not Church teaching at all.
If 2), does anyone know of a specific subsequent teaching?
If 3), can anyone offer a reason? Bad translation? Not universal? Not ex cathedra?