The following comes from an Aug. 17 posting on the blogsite of the New Theological Movement.
Recently, I had a discussion about proper administration of the sacrament of Penance regarding a man who confesses having had a vasectomy. This is the question: must the man who receives a vasectomy, in order to receive absolution validly seek a reversal of the vasectomy?
The simple answer – “Is a reversal required for absolution?” – “No, a reversal is not always required, but YES it is often required as following from true sorrow for the sin.” However, there is much to consider.
In answering this question, we will also answer the related question: Can I be forgiven for having a tubal ligation?
Before discussing the question of whether a reversal is required for the absolution of a vasectomy, we must note that sterility (whether by nature, by force, or by choice) is not an impediment to marriage….
If a man is perpetually impotent, he cannot contract marriage. This is an impediment which cannot be lifted by the Church, i.e. there is no dispensation which can be granted to allow a man who is truly and perpetually impotent to marry.
If a man is merely sterile, he can contract marriage. In fact, he does not even need any dispensation at all. It is only required that, if he knows of his condition, he inform his future wife (can. 1098).
In a subsequent article, we will consider the history of the development of the Church’s teaching on sterilization, but for now it will suffice to state that a vasectomy (and clearly also a tubal ligation) causes sterility and not impotence. For impotence is the inability either to effect penetration, or even with penetration to complete the act with the emission of semen.
Now, the general consensus of theologians is that the emission which occurs after a vasectomy suffices for a “potent” marital act, even though it lacks spermatozoa – hence, the man is not impotent by virtue of a vasectomy….
What then is necessary in order to be forgiven for a vasectomy? Repentance. True sorrow is the sole absolute requirement.
However, we do maintain that there are many cases in which a reversal is at least highly recommended and (on a moral level) even required….
If a man is truly sorry for having committed a vasectomy, and if he is easily able to get it reversed, then he will clearly get it reversed. Indeed, if a man could easily get a reversal but refuses, we must ask the question: Why not get a reversal? Is it because he enjoys having sex which has no hope of procreation? If so, then he is clearly not repentant for having obtained the vasectomy in the first place – and then he cannot be absolved, since he lacks contrition.
Nevertheless, if there is some good and just reason why a reversal cannot easily be obtained, then there is no need to get a reversal in order to receive absolution.
What is clearly not permissible is for a man to get a vasectomy and then fain sorrow thereafter so as to receive absolution – there are no “loopholes” into heaven. If a man is sorry for his sin, he tries to rectify the situation, and (if the procedure is safe and easy) this would mean a reversal of the vasectomy….
To read the entire posting, click here.