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What is a Catholic Vasectomy?

By J. Leach
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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A Catholic vasectomy is supposedly a male sterilization procedure that is sanctioned by the Catholic Church, but it does not really exist. In a vasectomy, a man’s vas deferens is cut and cauterized to prevent sperm from being ejaculated during sexual intercourse. If a man’s life is in danger, however, he may seek out a procedure that could render him sterile, and some people refer to this as a Catholic vasectomy because it is believed to be condoned by the church.

With the advent of technologies to better control human fertility — like prophylactic barrier methods, such as condoms and vaginal sponges; surgical procedures, like tubal ligations and vasectomies; and the birth control pill — the Catholic Church had to re-evaluate its stance on procreation. The church’s stance had always tended to be one that emphasized sexual intercourse as solely a means for procreation. In 1968, Pope Paul VI issued an encyclical called Humanae Vitae or “On the Regulation of Birth”.

An encyclical is a letter issued by the papacy, for wide circulation, that deals with a particular issue. This one dealt with conjugal issues between married partners. It also detailed when it is acceptable to use birth control or undergo what some call a Catholic vasectomy.

The encyclical states that partners should exercise responsible parenthood, and are encouraged to practice natural family planning. This uses the rhythm method and fertility awareness as means for controlling when a couple conceives a child. In the rhythm method, the couple abstains from intercourse when it is believed that the woman is at her most fertile, based on when she last menstruated. The fertility awareness method actually tracks the woman’s basal body temperature to more accurately predict when it is not safe, in terms of birth control, to have intercourse.

While the encyclical does affirm that sex between married partners is a beautiful expression of their love for each other, that can be had without the intent of procreation, it explicitly declares it to be unacceptable to interrupt natural fertility. In other words, it goes against God's design to interfere with conception by using chemicals, condoms, or surgical procedures. If a man gets a vasectomy and goes against this design, then it is believed to be a mortal sin. A mortal sin is an act that, unless it is absolved, the perpetrator will be consigned to Hell in the afterlife.

The Catholic Church does make allowances for birth control and sterilization for life-threatening conditions, and this is where the idea of a Catholic vasectomy comes from. For example, a man cannot have his testicles removed or have his vas deferens severed unless he has a medical condition, like cancer, that directly threatens his life. The chances of having what some call a Catholic vasectomy are very small. If a man has had the procedure in the past, but wishes to be active within the church, it is recommended that he seek to have the procedure reversed. In such cases, he may also be advised to get counseling from his priest.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
By anon950888 — On May 13, 2014

There comes a point when you have to be an adult and make decisions that are best for you and your family. I don't harm anyone, I go to church every week, I try to live a good life. But we do not want any more kids. I'm almost 40, my wife is 35 and any pregnancy is high risk for her due to age, health, weight. Our kids need a mother more than a sibling.

My procedure is in two weeks and I am not backing out. If the Church puts me in the same category as murderers, that is absurd!

By anon358396 — On Dec 10, 2013

You need to look into Natural Family Planning. Talk to your parish priest about it. This article does not do NFP justice. Believe it or not, when practiced correctly, Natural Family Planning is just as effective as any form of birth control.

Most parishes offer NFP classes several times a year. If your parish is not offering it now, chances are a neighboring parish is. I believe all Dioceses now require all engaged couples to complete NFP classes before they are allowed to marry in the Church.

This should not frustrate people or drive them from the Church. This is a matter of people choosing not to learn about and understand the Church's teaching with regard to the nature of sex and marriage and most importantly not just that the Church teaches against contraception and sterilization, but why the Church teaches against these things.

By anon354586 — On Nov 09, 2013

Our family attends mass every Sunday. My kids go to Catholic grade school. I was about to have a vasectomy until my wife found out it was a mortal sin. We cannot afford another child. Because of the fear of having another child due to finances, we do not have sex at all. I am so frustrated. These are the things that drive people from the church. It just does not make any sense.

By anon304280 — On Nov 19, 2012

Barbaric and delusional. Welcome to Catholicism.

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