Troubled by Past Vasectomy

Question

My husband and I were married in the Church 26 years ago. I had converted beforehand, more so for him than for myself.
We were blessed with four sons, but my husband felt strongly that we could not continue having children for many reasons (one being post-partum depression on my part). He was compelled to have a vasectomy. We were not living our faith fully (obviously) at that point. The vasectomy felt wrong to me, but I went along with it.

After our youngest was born (and after the vasectomy), we experienced a sort of revival in our faith. In fact, our entire family has become very devout in our Catholic faith, and as you can probably understand, this issue with the vasectomy has caused quite a bit of confusion and disdain in me. My husband has since confessed it, and received absolution, but I never did. I guess I didn’t feel as if it was “my” sin. I realize I, too, need to confess it now. I’ve been pondering for years whether it would be the right thing to do for him to undergo a reversal.

Two years ago, I had to undergo a hysterectomy, which would seem to nullify the need for my husband to undergo a reversal, but it all still sits very uneasily with me. I have questions about whether our marital relations are incorrect, as there is no possibility of procreation. Should we have become celibate after realizing the vasectomy was a grave sin? Should we become celibate now? Should he undergo a reversal even though I am incapable of becoming pregnant?

As you can see, I am conflicted in many, many ways, and am in need of some counsel. I would appreciate any guidance you can offer me.

Thank you.

Christy

Answer

Dear Christy,

Thank you for your faithfulness and your desire to live the marriage sacrament to the fullest. Please know that whenever a Catholic confesses truthfully his or her sins in the Sacrament of Confession and the priest gives Absolution, those sins are forgiven.

I would not recommend that both you and your husband practice permanent abstinence from marital relations unless you really felt that God might be calling you to do so. (In the history of the Church and in the lives of the saints, I imagine this has been done before, but I would think it would be rather rare.) Nor would I recommend that your husband undergo a reversal. With your having had to undergo a hysterectomy, it would not serve a purpose for your husband to have a reversal. You would not be able to conceive in any case.

Nonetheless, if you felt that God was calling both of you to this—and this is a big “if” and both of you would need to be on board—you could certainly practice periodic abstinence during the rest of your fertile years. Again, you would only choose to do this if you felt called to it by God and if it was a practice that would enrich your spiritual lives and your marriage.

In a recent article in the CANFP newsletter, I wrote that couples who had voluntarily decided to be sterilized (which is not really your case) could decide to practice abstinence during the times of the menstrual cycle when the wife would be fertile. As I explained: “In any case, the invitation to practice periodic abstinence would be simply that, an invitation. I would make it clear that I would not be proposing it as a penance, but only as something that [the spouses] might prayerfully consider and that the couple would agree to do together because it would help them to grow closer to God and to each other.”

Christy, I hope these words are helpful to you and your husband.

Fr. Blaise R. Berg

Answered By:

Fr. Blaise Berg, STD
Rev. Blaise Berg, STD, President and Treasurer of the CANFP Executive Board, is Assistant Professor of Dogmatics at St. Patrick’s Seminary, Menlo Park, CA. Fr. Berg earned a BA from the University of San Francisco, an MBA from California Polytechnic University, a Baccalaureate degree in Sacred Theology, S.T.B at the Pontifical Gregorian University Rome, a Licentiate Degree in Sacred Theology, S.T.L. from the JPII Institute for Studies on Marriage and the Family, Pontifical Lateran University, Rome. and a Doctoral Degree in Sacred Theology, S.T.D. from Pontifical Lateran University, Rome. He has served on the CANFP Board since 2003.

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