Good Morals Make For Good Families

Anthony Zimmerman
To Homiletic and Pastoral Review
November 1990
Reproduced with Permission

Editor: The beautiful family and truly orthodox Catholic couple with five children (Fr. Farraher, May, 1990), ought not be messed up by a hysterectomy for contraceptive purposes. All of us, by this time, know the heart-break of dealing with divorced couples - after he or she was sterilized. The same could happen to this family if they go through with a hysterectomy to prevent pregnancy.

As the case states, she is not now suffering or in danger because of a damaged uterus. Husband now accepts wife as she is, with life-giving powers. By sterilization, he would reject her life giving powers, but expect to salvage the rest of her. Like so many others, he will experience a tragic illusion. Sterilization to prevent a pregnancy inevitably opens up a chasm - a great abyss - between husband and wife. They can no longer cross the abyss to meet each other as before. Sterilized couples, drowning in their misery, know that. Millions know that from experience. Pastors, relatives, neighbors know it too. Must the illusion be repeated a million times before we become wise?

Fr. Farraher's discourse is unusually long this time. Is it a sign of his unease with his "borrowed" solution? Call the hysterectomy what you wish - indirect sterilization, or nuanced direct - labels don't change contents. The operation deprives her unduly - unnecessarily and before the time - of the power to give life. Like original sin, it deprives her of something vital which is due to her by right. The deprivation alters the marriage relationship profoundly; it may prove mortal to the marriage Their conjugal relations are rendered trivial by this willful act. Intercourse is no longer true love with God assisting, is no longer a renewal of the sacrament of Matrimony, but is the brutal lie of every contraceptive act. Sterilization is terrorism run amuck in formerly happy families.

Don't remove that uterus which does not cause trouble if there is no pregnancy. Instead use periodic abstinence; to be sure, wait until the temperature is up 4-5 days, or wait until 7 days before the expected menstruation. Many couples do, and are reasonably happy. If she becomes pregnant nevertheless, that is not a tragedy today. Manage it by complete bed rest at home, or at the hospital. Get a good doctor who cares.

Heroic virtue - you say? Sometimes God asks that of us. The martyrs responded as they ought. They show us the way.

Directive n. 31 of Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Hospitals used in the 1950's is timeless in value:

Procedures that induce sterility whether permanent or temporary, are permitted when: (a) they are immediately directed to the cure, diminution, or prevention of a serious pathological condition; (b) a simpler treatment is not reasonably available; and (c) the sterility itself is an unintended and, in the circumstances, an unavoidable effect.

Good morals make for good families. Let's keep it that way.