What is the moral difference between a Vasectomy and remarriage?

I called to talk to Tim Staples about this on the radio today, but we got cut off so I wanted to follow up here.

What is the difference morally and in Church teaching between the following scenarios:

  1. A catholic couple who decides with full knowledge to contracept by Vasectomy and after a while and feeling convicted, they confess this sin and are forgiven with no penalty or requirement to change the vasectomy back. They go on living in a state of permanent contraception without any sort of penalty from the church (i.e.: barred from communion)

  2. A protestant couple is brought into a second marriage in a protestant church. The marriage is blessed and condoned and it is taught to them that they are free to divorce and remarry. They had no kids in their brief first marriages. 4 kids later they decide to convert to Catholicism only to find out they are barred from the sacraments because they are in a permanent state of adultery. For whatever reason an annulment is not granted to them.

Why is it that the first couple, can go on their way as if nothing had happened even though they were fully culpable and clearly engaging in mortal sin, and the second couple had absolutely zero culpability in the act of remarriage, and now they have to live as brother and sister, divide their family up, or not receive the sacraments.

It seems to me I am either missing a major moral principle, or the second couple should have some other recourse than the Catholic who knowingly engages in mortal sin by remarriage.

Also, I am fully aware of church teaching and am not trying to promote a change in that. I humbly submit to the church and her teaching authority. I just really want to understand why these things are different.

Tim, started to tell me that the first couple is open to life even if they are sterile, I guess their attitude is now open to life.

But it seems the second couple could be judged similarly on their motivations and knowledge to remarry in the first place.

Thanks for your help!

Jon

I think the difference lies in the fact that the first couple is no longer performing any sinful actions. However, since the second couple is not validly married any time they engaged in sexual acts they would be sinning and you can’t condone sinful behavior. Does that make any more sense?

Can you elaborate why the first couples contraceptive sex is not sinful?

I’m sorry. I might be wrong. But cannot the Protestant couple have their first marriage(s) anulled because they were not married in the Church, and have this second marriage done in the Church? Irrelevant, maybe.

Anyways, I’m not sure what you would like the priest to do in the first scenario. There’s no going back from that except by a miracle. If there was anything that could be done to reverse the situation, I am sure they would be obligated to do it.

Whereas in the second situation, it is something that can be stopped, reversed, fixed and so it should be. They don’t have to “undo” the marriage, as you said, but stop the ongoing sin.

Like homicide. You can’t reverse homicide, but you are obviously expected to stop. You cannot bring back the people you’ve killed, but that doesn’t give you licence to kill more. You are not expected to reverse what cannot be reversed, but you are expected to stop what can be stopped. If that makes any sense.

Because it is no longer contraceptive sex. It is sex while infertile, which is not sinful. The act of getting a vasectomy was a sinful act of contraception, and having an attitude that is selfishly closed to children is sinful, but having marital relations while infertile is not sinful.

Actually it can be reversed, through a really risky surgery though. But the Church doesn’t require that. And I think that’s the OP’s point.

Only baptized Catholics are required to marry in the Catholic Church. The Church recognizes the marriages of non-Catholics as valid. Because of this there is no gaurantee at all that they would be able to receive an annulment. They can look into it and see if there was some other reason that might merit an annulment (lack of full consent etc) but lack of form only applies to baptized Catholics as the Church discipline to follow the form of marriage set out by the Church only applies to them.

Anyways, I’m not sure what you would like the priest to do in the first scenario. There’s no going back from that except by a miracle. If there was anything that could be done to reverse the situation, I am sure they would be obligated to do it.

It actually is possible to have a vasectomy reversal. I do not know the cost or what the success rate is, but I do know that despite the fact that there is a way to reverse the process the Church does not require a vasectomy reversal.

Whereas in the second situation, it is something that can be stopped, reversed, fixed and so it should be. They don’t have to “undo” the marriage, as you said, but stop the ongoing sin.

Like homicide. You can’t reverse homicide, but you are obviously expected to stop. You cannot bring back the people you’ve killed, but that doesn’t give you licence to kill more. You are not expected to reverse what cannot be reversed, but you are expected to stop what can be stopped. If that makes any sense.

The sin of getting a vasectomy happened at a point in time; it’s not an ongoing sin. The sterility is a consequence of the sin but it’s not sinful itself.

In the case of the divorced and remarried, the divorce happened at a point in time and it can be forgiven (if the party was the one at fault). Even the contracting of a second marriage can be forgiven. The relations of the couple outside of the original marriage can be forgiven. But the priest can’t forgive ahead of time a sin that the couple intends to continue.

That makes sense to me.

Still, the situation the OP brought up is hard, because the couple entered innocently and unknowingly into the situation. They were mislead by their church. So I find it hard to blame them for something they couldn’t have known.

On the other hand, it still is objectively adultery.

That’s tough. I hope the synod this October addresses situations like these.

Not necessarily. Pope Benedict, several years ago, explored the notion that – since the particular judgments of prelates deciding annulments could be out of line with God’s norms for marriage – some people might be validly married despite the Church not officially recognizing that marriage.

Hmm interesting. I didn’t know that.

See chiesa.espresso.repubblica.it/articolo/1350098?eng=y

Any mortal sin can be forgiven and full communion can be restored.

In the case of vasectomy, sacramental reconciliation is required but not reversal. This is due to expense, risk and efficacy of the procedure. Once confession is completed, full communion is regained.

If one is in a remarriage, sacramental reconciliation takes place within the context of an annulment process. Once completed, full communion is regained.

Thank you everyone for the insights.

I guess my question ends up, if the church does not require vasectomy reversal due to expense, risk, and efficacy,

Why then require the innocently remarried to reverse their situation in light of the risk, expense, and efficacy ?

I think our Orthodox brothers might be more open to some alternative to special circumstances like this , but I’m not sure. If they are perhaps it’s worth investigating.

I truly understand the doctrine regarding marriage and I fully buy into it.

After reading a lot of threads and hearing a lot of stories, I can’t help but wonder if the discipline regarding remarriage is unevenly distributed and keeping converts from the church.

It seems a Catholic who knows better and violates the church’s teaching anyway, gets the same discipline as someone who was completely not culpable for the sin of remarriage.

I don’t know the answer, perhaps it just is what it is.

Was that on Catholic Answers Live?

Yes I called in but it was the end of the show. They basically just said people can be open to life and sterile but our enemy the clock butted in!

the other option a remarried-without-annullment couple has is to live as brother and sister. The pastor would then either allow them to receive communion or forbid it for fear of causing scandal.

The sin of remarriage is in engaging in sexual acts with someone who is still presumed or adjudged to be married to another person (the first, now-divorced spouse). No sex, no sin.

I think there is a misunderstanding here. It is not a cruelty to bar someone from the sacraments when they are living in adultery. Someone elsewhere on the forums quite rightly compared being “merciful” to them and admitting them to the sacraments is like being “merciful” to your diabetic son by giving him sugary desserts every night.

The person who had the vasectomy is not contracepting anew every time he enters into the marital embrace, but the couple who is invalidly married does commit adultery anew when they do. If you admit them to the sacraments in such a state of public grave sin they do not receive grace, but rather are deprived of it the more; to this is added the sin of scandal which might lead others to do the same themselves or to turn against the church or accuse her of being unfair. Better that a millstone be tied about their neck and cast into the sea.

The fact is that the Gospel is not easy and for some it is much harder than others, but those who love mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, children, husbands and wives more than Christ are not worthy of him. No doubt the devil rejoices in such a situation because he can extract far more sin out of it than if they were merely single folks sleeping around. The thing to do, the right thing not the easy thing, is to seek an annulment and if it cannot be had then to separate. I can fully see how difficult this reality can be, but this is where it becomes like the couple who with full knowledge had the vasectomy, because they both have full knowledge of right and wrong and the test before them. How great is their reward in heaven if they do what is right, and how terrible to contemplate the alternative. Better to lose your love on earth for a time than to lose all love and happiness for eternity.

I agree with all you said…except the bolded part above, which is maybe my Hangup. I don’t see how you can say they aren’t contracepting.

It seems the church should tell them that if they are truly repentant they will reverse it or live as brother and sister.

I guess if you can share more of why this is not necessary. I guess I still see a discrepancy. And I am willing to say that those with vasectomy should do the above as opposed to saying the remarried should receive communion.

Because they don’t apply.
[LIST]
*]Risk: There is no bodily risk involved in the annulment process like there is in any surgery.
*]Expense: Although it costs $500-$1000 to pay for the Tribunal’s cost, this is adjusted or even excused based upon your ability to pay.
*]Efficacy: The surgery does not always restore potency, but the annulment process always restores Grace.
[/LIST]

It seems a Catholic who knows better and violates the church’s teaching anyway, gets the same discipline as someone who was completely not culpable for the sin of remarriage.

This isn’t about the remarriage. It is about the divorce. If they had a valid marriage then it is adultery in the Church. But, it is unlikely that an annulment will be rejected. Among other things the Church wishes to encourage reconciliation and conversion. Their Protestant understanding of marriage might be judged as necessarily flawed.

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