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Although the teaching of the Catholic Church is the foundation for this article, the remarks herein are not limited to Catholic married couples who chose to be sterilized so as not to conceive but are germane to persons of all faiths and to those of no faith, because the doctrine of the Catholic Church is based on Sacred Scripture, the Apostolic Tradition and the Natural Law--the trio of sources expressing the One Truth that sustains and applies to everyone without exception. Kippley--each a Catholic layman, husband and father--treat this issue and have provided excellent material for careful pondering.
It is hoped that all married couples who intentionally chose to be sterilized so as not to conceive but who seek forgiveness and a new beginning in Christ and those married couples in the same category but who have never thought much about the vital importance of rejecting the sin of direct sterilization and the subsequent urgent need of conversion will benefit from these brief reflections. As Grisez keenly and succinctly observes, sterilization intended as a means of birth control (often referred to as "direct," "deliberate" or "intentional" sterilization) is intrinsically evil, for it fails to promote the good of the human person because of its adamant refusal to accept the inherent procreative ("life-giving") dimension of the marital act as built into it by God.
Thus, the intention of choosing sterilization is contraceptive, and the sterilizing act is at best a bad means to a good ulterior end.
Moreover, because sterilization involved bodily mutilation and is usually irreversible, it is, other things being equal, more seriously wrong than other methods of contraception.1 One here recalls the unfortunate circumstance of our era in which methods that actually kill an already conceived and developing child are cavalierly dismissed as "just another kind of birth control." Certainly, abortifacient means are more sinful than any contraception, including sterilization, because the former extinguishes a life now begun, while the latter prevents a life from being started.
Our two previously-cited authors disagree with this sentiment.
Grisez poses the quandary thus: People with a legalistic mentality sometimes suppose there is an easy out for Catholic couples who accept the Church's teaching on contraception, yet want no more children and do not wish to abstain during the fertile period: let one spouse be sterilized and that spouse (or both) confess the sin; then the couple can engage in intercourse whenever they please without worrying about pregnancy or feeling guilty about contraception.
One kind is the contraceptive quality and intention of the act of sterilization, in which one deliberately wills not to conceive a child.
Kippley writes: Once a person has voluntarily had himself or herself sterilized for birth control purposes, each act of sexual intercourse is seriously stained; it objectively contradicts the meaning of the marriage act for it is a permanent way of saying, "I take you for pleasure but not for the imagined worse of pregnancy."2 The second sin linked to intentional sterilization is that of mutilation (whether actual or attempted) of a healthy organ that has as its divinely-preordained purpose to participate and cooperate with God in the begetting of a new human life. The "good" of human procreation as created by the Almighty is not respected when one purposely rejects the reproductive capacity of the human body and willingly alters the body with contraception in view.
A Catholic couple in which one or both intentionally chose sterilization, so the argument goes, merely confess the sin of sterilization to the priest in the context of the Sacrament of Penance.
Then, that metaphorical "bridge" spanning the abyss between one in mortal sin and the Creator has been crossed again.
The wide gap has been closed; deep contentment within the soul once again reigns supreme.
May they ever be really reconciled to their Creator, thereby shunning their sin and the prevailing ethos of the Culture of Death and assume their place in the Christian community as those who give good example to others and testify to the Truth, notwithstanding the not insignificant cost?
This essay offers guidance for married couples who deliberately selected sterilization to prevent conception.