Some family friends of ours have a severely retarded adult daughter who has been institutionalized from time to time in a co-ed mental health facility. She has a whole welter of problems — possible autism, severe anger issues that are managed with potent medication, a history of violent outbursts, and overall, the mentality of a five- or six-year-old child. She is home with her family now, but she is in and out of facilities and probably always will be. She’s a lovely woman and it is a very tragic situation.
Would it be morally licit for the family to have her sterilized? As I said, she has been in a co-ed facility and may return there. She could very easily be raped, or otherwise coerced into sexual activity. She probably has not attained the age of reason and never will, so obviously she could not be blamed for anything that might happen. But if she fell pregnant, you would then have a child who could never be cared for, and it’s possible the potent medication she takes could damage the child in utero. It’s also worth noting that she is able to muster enough intelligence to access social media, and she has a “boyfriend” of sorts — he once came to our door demanding to know how he might be able to see her (we live close by). The family environment is not the best.
If it would not be morally licit to have her sterilized, would it be morally licit for her to be put on non-abortifacient contraception (implants, etc.)? And if so, what is the difference? Either way, she is rendered sterile. Is there a distinction to be made between permanent, irreversible sterilization, and temporary, reversible sterilization, and if so, why?
As anyone who reads this forum regularly knows, I absolutely accept the Church’s teaching on contraception with no exceptions and no appeals to “conscience”. But this is an extreme situation where there is no question of the girl ever being able to render free willful consent to sexual activity, and sadly, she will never marry. She just stays home, watches television, and uses the computer all day, and that’s all she will ever be capable of doing. I pray mightily for her and her family.