What is the moral difference between 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.

Thanks for your help!


Hi Jon,

We’re dealing with apples and oranges here. The issue is not the morality of vasectomies and remarriages. In the first case, the couple is validly married. After receiving absolution from their mortal sins, they remain in the state of grace insofar as they are not committing any new mortal sins.

In the second case, they are not validly married. This is not the Church’s fault. The Church cannot change reality. The Catholic Church recognizes marriage between non-Catholics as valid unless there is proof that they it is not. The process is the same as it would be for a Catholic couple. If there is no proof that the marriage is invalid, then the person cannot contract a valid marriage with someone else while still being validly married. That would be bigamy. There is a lot of it going around these days, but the Church cannot condone or initiate it.

Incidentally,this couple didn’t just decide to become Catholics; the Lord Himself called them to His Church, knowing full well, their situation. There are many couples in such a situation and accept this as God’s will for them and live celibately because they recognize that He has called them to it and He is worth such sacrificial love. This is the kind of love He demonstrated for all of us on Good Friday. As St. John reminds us, He loved us first.

Fr. Vincent Serpa, O.P.

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