“Ask a Priest: Why Aren’t Vasectomy Reversals Required?”

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Q: My husband had a vasectomy 27 years ago. We have both confessed the sin, but I struggle with intimacy — I think maybe due to the sin. I understand the Church says he does not need to undergo a reversal. Why not!? It seems to me that the condition of a firm purpose of amendment isn’t satisfied. This leads me to wonder why divorced and remarried Catholics cannot receive absolution and begin receiving Our Lord in the Eucharist again. Aren’t the two situations similar, in that the act of marital intimacy will continue — in the case of vasectomy it’s OK, but in the case of divorced-and-remarried it’s not? -S.

Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC

A: The Church in its wisdom doesn’t demand a reversal of a vasectomy, probably because any surgery is an invasive procedure, and no one should be forced to undergo it against his wishes.

It is laudable if a person decides to undergo such a reversal, but that is a personal decision. (The effectiveness of reversals for achieving pregnancy, by the way, varies; the more time that lapses between the first operation and the second, the less success is reported.)

From the Church’s standpoint it’s enough that someone is repentant for the initial vasectomy. (Some moralists suggest as a penance that the one who had the operation should not take the initiative to ask for sex, as a way of not abusing the “advantage” of being infertile, but this is only an opinion.)

Couples should, however, proceed as if they are open to conceiving — in part because vasectomies are sometimes, if rarely, known to have not achieved their original goal.

You might consider speaking with your husband about your own concerns in this area. Talking through things, maybe even in the presence of a pastoral counselor, could open up some deeper levels of emotional and spiritual intimacy that will benefit your relationship and give glory to God.

In the case of divorced and remarried folks, they are deliberately engaging in marital relations where there is no valid marriage recognized by the Church. This goes against God’s plans. The couple needs to separate and to seek an annulment for any prior unions.

This requirement of continence doesn’t infringe on their bodily integrity as would a surgical procedure. The call to live chastely reflects divine law and to an extent natural law.

I hope this helps. God bless.

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