Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith: Response to a question on the liceity of a hysterectomy in certain cases
On July 31, 1993, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the faith published Responses to Questions Proposed Concerning “Uterine Isolation” and Related Matters. These responses, which retain all of their validity, consider the removal of the uterus to be morally licit when there is a grave and present danger to the life or health of the mother, and hold as illicit, insofar as they are methods of direct sterilization, the removal of the uterus and tubal ligation (uterine isolation) with the intention of making impossible an eventual pregnancy which can pose some risk for the mother.
As the fiftieth anniversary of Blessed Paul VI’s encyclical Humanae Vitae draws near, I have thought it useful to draw some reflections on the document. I have a vision of that great text as if resting upon three great pillars.
The first pillar treats human life as a great gift from God. Can anyone create himself (a self-made man?)? Indeed, can anyone maintain himself in being? Or create beauty and life from nothing?
A substantial and non-incidental part of the gift of life is the possibility of procreating, of collaborating in the work of Creation. The physiological bases of human procreation are well known, and an essential part of them are woman’s rhythms of fertility–non-fertility. Those rhythms, which can be perfectly known, form part of women’s health. They are there for some reason. I would say that they form a substantial part of the human being. To alter them is to alter the substance of man. It is to head for post- or trans-humanism. The finite and imperfect human seeking to amend the unfathomable divine Wisdom.
Woman’s ovulation rhythms form part of the divine gift of life and cannot be altered. God has reserved for himself the design of the human being. It is true that we collaborate towards the conservation and development of Creation (¨Look after the garden, and fill the Earth!”). There are many very diverse and interesting things that we humans can do with ourselves, with nature or with society. We dress ourselves, build, develop thought and science to surprising limits, such as interconnectivity, space travel or the knowledge of our genetic language. We can boost our natural gifts to such limits as it is difficult to imagine. We doctors should and must help couples by repairing what is ill in the event of sickness or disorders. However, we CANNOT change human essence. Neither fertility nor children are an illness.
The second pillar rests on the great gift of sexuality by which the spouses help one another, complement each other and grow together (“it is not good for man to be alone”).
The gift of children adds fecundity to the fecundity of a healthy carnal love. And there is indeed a healthy carnal love and a devious one. We all see it in our interior and exterior. It is the fallout of the great fall.
The third pillar seeks to indicate to the human being where the Creator’s criterion heads for and where not.
Married love helps spouses to overcome concupiscence or the shady area of the sexuality of the fallen man. This shady area threatens even governments, influencers and other organisations seeking to twist a nuclear aspect of the created human being.
I sincerely believe, as did Catalan Blessed Dr Pere Tarrés, that each and everyone of us should seek/ask for the gift of purity, which pleases God so much and so much peace offers to the resting human. Without this repairing gift it is impossible to fight against sexual abuse to children, or the trafficking especially in women, or the plague of pornography or the abuse of one human over another in all orders of life. Blessed Paul VI had a clear vision of this and was courageous to the end exposing the divine-natural truth.
The American College of Pediatricians urges healthcare professionals, educators and legislators to reject all policies that condition children to accept as normal a life of chemical and surgical impersonation of the opposite sex. Facts – not ideology – determine reality.
As many as 500 scholars affirm that the Catholic Church’s teachings on the gift of sexuality, on marriage, and on contraception are true and defensible on many grounds, among them the truths of reason and revelation concerning the dignity of the human person. Scholarly support for the Church’s teachings on the gift of sexuality, on marriage, and on contraception has burgeoned in recent decades. Moreover, institutes and programs supporting that teaching have been established all over the world. Even some secular feminists and secular programs have begun to acknowledge the harms of contraception.
Questions related to sexuality and gender bear on some of the most intimate and personal aspects of human life. In recent years they have also vexed American politics. The New Atlantis offers this report — written by Dr. Lawrence S. Mayer, an epidemiologist trained in psychiatry, and Dr. Paul R. McHugh, arguably the most important American psychiatrist of the last half-century — in the hope of improving public understanding of these questions. Examining research from the biological, psychological, and social sciences, this report shows that some of the most frequently heard claims about sexuality and gender are not supported by scientific evidence. The report has a special focus on the higher rates of mental health problems among LGBT populations, and it questions the scientific basis of trends in the treatment of children who do not identify with their biological sex. More effort is called for to provide these people with the understanding, care, and support they need to lead healthy, flourishing lives.
The Ascomb Bioethics Center (UK) has announced the publication of The Ethics of Pregnancy, Abortion and Childbirth: Exploring Moral Choices in Childbearing by Dr Helen Watt, Senior Research Fellow at the center. This book addresses the unique moral questions raised by pregnancy and its intimate bodily nature. From assisted reproduction to abortion and ‘vital conflict’ resolution to more everyday concerns of the pregnant woman, the book argues for pregnancy as a close human relationship with the woman as guardian or custodian. If the status of the fetus is conclusive for at least some moral questions raised by pregnancy, so too are facts about its bodily relationship with, and presence in, the woman who supports it. The pregnant woman is not a mere ‘neighbor’ or helpful stranger to the fetus but is rather already in a real familial relationship bringing real familial rights and obligations.
§ 80. Marriage is firstly an “intimate partnership of life and love” which is a good for the spouses themselves, while sexuality is “ordered to the conjugal love of man and woman”. It follows that “spouses to whom God has not granted children can have a conjugal life full of meaning, in both human and Christian terms”. Nonetheless, the conjugal union is ordered to procreation “by its very nature”. The child who is born “does not come from outside as something added on to the mutual love of the spouses, but springs from the very heart of that mutual giving, as its fruit and fulfilment”. He or she does not appear at the end of a process, but is present from the beginning of love as an essential feature, one that cannot be denied without disfiguring that love itself. From the outset, love refuses every impulse to close in on itself; it is open to a fruitfulness that draws it beyond itself. Hence no genital act of husband and wife can refuse this meaning, even when for various reasons it may not always in fact beget a new life.