Vasectomy (always forbidden?)


Hi, all.
I just wanted to address an issue that was raised in the “Ask an Apologist” forum recently. (In the style of that forum, no responses were allowed, so I raise it here):

A man wanted a vasectomy on the grounds that his wife’s health would suffer if further pregnancies occurred (natural planning had been attempted, without much success–that is, they could conceive using NFP, but had trouble avoiding pregnancy using that method). The man asked whether he was justified in getting a vasectomy in this case, and cited a priest as saying it was allowable.

The Apologist replied that “It is a matter of basic moral theology that no one may deliberately and directly sterilize himself or herself for any reason whatsoever.” (emphasis mine)

It’s the “for any reason whatsoever” I wish to address.

I found myself recalling the case a good Catholic friend who had testicular cancer at the age of 30, and had to have both testicles removed in order to save his own life. In this case, he had deliberately and directly sterilized himself.
Does the church hold that one must let cancer take its course, and that death is the price to be paid by some men, from time to time? (Insert ovarian/cervical cancer here, if you like.)

Well, what’s the ruling on emergency, total sterilizations to save one’s own life?


Thread to which this post refers:
Are there any provisions for Catholics to get a vasectomy?

Relevant response from Apologist Peggy Frye can be found here.

Lawful Therapeutic Means

  1. On the other hand, the Church does not consider at all illicit the use of those therapeutic means necessary to cure bodily diseases, even if a foreseeable impediment to procreation should result there from—provided such impediment is not directly intended for any motive whatsoever. (19)

Source: Humanae Vitae

Since the intention of getting a vasectomy in this example is not to prevent conception but rather to “cure bodily disease” I’d assume this applies.


That was not intentional sterilization . That was a surgical procedure to remove a diseased organ. Very different than someone who is surgically damaging an organ to prevent a pregnancy. This also works with a womans body. If a tubal pregnancy is damaging the woman’s tube it may be removed although it will result in at least partial sterilization. If she has cancer or some other disease of the uterus or ovary and the medical treatment is removal then that is ok. The intent is a medical treatment.


Both testicles removed is not a vasectomy. I think you’re saying that the result is the same, that both would cause sterilization. There are many procedures that would result in sterilization and we know that if they are medically necessary that is ok - but is there ever a medically necessary reason for a vasectomy?


Thanks for those replies, which seem to settle the matter satisfactorily.


An issue that wasn’t addressed is whether sterilizing yourself to protect your wife is the same as sterilizing yourself because you just don’t like children.

It still wouldn’t be okay, but it wouldn’t be as bad.

As an example take suicide, it’s a sin. But when someone who is mentally ill commits suicide or someone commits suicide to avoid torture, there are mitigating factors that make the sin less severe.


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