Vasectomies Are History
February 3, 2008 § 81 Comments
I’ve done some additional research into the sex-after-vasectomy issue, which we most recently discussed here. (I was going to wait until I had some Latin translation done before posting, but then I figured what the heck, this is just a blog). The most pertinent factual material in a nutshell:
In 1587 Pope Sixtus V (saying “Pope Sixtus Five” out loud is kind of fun) issued the brief Cum Frequenter in response to a question arising out of Spain. In summary, the brief prohibited marriage on the part of “eunechi et spadoni” (without distinguishing between intentional and unintentional sterilization), saying that it was “manifest” that the “humor semini similis” of sterilized men, contrasted to the “verum semen” of the unsterilized, renders them incapable of contracting marriage. It was a very, uh, brief document (YOW!) and did not define those terms.
For centuries – up until 1977 – the tribunals routinely annulled the marriages of, and prohibited marriage of, men who had had vasectomies (an operation apparently known and practiced in a way at least similar to the modern form during and before the pontificate of Sixtus), or any other (accidental or intentional) impediment ruling out the production of semen which includes the products of at least one testicle.
In the 20th century the marriages of a significant number of men many of whom had been sterilized against their will by tyrannical governments were being routinely denied/annulled, as had been the juridical practice since Cum Frequenter. Then in 1977 the CDF issued a decree which was verbally approved by the Pope (Paul VI) in an audience. That decree answered two very specific questions:
“1. Whether the impotence which invalidates marriage consists in the incapacity, both antecedent and perpetual, whether absolute or relative, of completing conjugal intercourse.
2. If affirmative, whether the ejaculation of semen produced in the testicles is necessarily required for conjugal intercourse.
To the first question, the answer is affirmative; to the second, negative”
This is the only Magisterial statement (of which I am presently aware) which backs up the contention that sex after a vasectomy is morally licit as long as the person regrets the vasectomy. This strikes me as odd, because it doesn’t really address the question at all, issued as it was in the context of the annulment of marriages where the man had been sterilized against his will, and not addressing the issue of morally licit sexual acts at all. Presumably a marital act when the woman has an IUD in place or is on the Pill does consummate the marriage; but that doesn’t make it morally licit. In general liciety and consummation of marriage seem to be different considerations.
I haven’t found an English translation of Cum Frequenter yet (though I have access to a number of partial paraphrases), and I don’t speak Latin. But it seems to me that a great deal has to be assumed to get from the 1977 decree to the result “repentance is sufficient to render intentionally-vasectomized sexual acts morally licit as chosen behaviors.” Certainly the 1977 CDF decree does not directly say this or even directly imply it: we are left to reason our way to the right answer in the context of the many Magisterial statements which indirectly touch on the subject matter.
UPDATE: I corrected “Germany” to “Spain” in the post above, and I’ve posted the full Latin text of Cum Frequenter in the comments.