Sunday, February 13, 2011

Catholics who Circumcised, Do not Despair

I've posted frequently about Catholic teaching and how circumcision is strongly condemned and opposed by the Catholic Church.

Unfortunately, due to a myriad of cultural reasons, many American Catholics were raised to believe that circumcision was either inconsequential to their faith, or even a necessary practice of their faith.

Upon discovering that circumcision is considered "gravely immoral" many Catholic parents email me with great anxiety about the spiritual ramifications of circumcising their sons.

Remember, for a sin to be mortal, three conditions must be present:

1) It must be a grave act
2) The person must know it is grave
3) The person must freely and deliberately do it

These three conditions are probably rarely present within the context of routine circumcision. I rarely meet parents who are fully informed about routine circumcision and still freely consent to it for their children. Either they do not know what circumcision is and choose it, or they do know and are coerced into it due to an abusive spouse or other complex situation (pressuring doctor, lying family members, threats, etc).

It is therefore imperative that parents privately examine their own consciences and look at these three conditions, and their own situations when they chose circumcision, to determine the fullness of their knowledge and participation in it. This should be done privately in a quiet area, perhaps during Eucharistic Adoration at church.

Care should be taken to remember the infinite mercy and love that Christ has for us, and that no matter what we have done, He is always waiting for us with open arms. He is not here to condemn us and to push us away, but to welcome us joyfully. Recall that the great sin of Despair is a twisted blade of arrogance, in that it claims the person has sinned beyond God's ability to forgive. Do not fall into despair; do not make your sin out to be so mighty that it cannot be forgiven.

Remember also that we are called to practice mercy, forgiveness and love. If God can forgive us, we can forgive ourselves, too. Do not hold the anxiety and despair of circumcising in your heart and soul. It will darken your soul. Release this heavy burden, accept God's grace and move forward.

The Catholic Church advises that when a person is unsure if she has sinned or not, it is prudent to simply mention it during the sacrament of Penance. This can also bring a lovely feeling of relief and joy at being given a new beginning. In turn, the grace and energy from a good confession can compel us to find our voice and speak out against routine circumcision and to share information with our Catholic brothers and sisters.

"Few souls understand what God would accomplish in them if they were to abandon themselves unreservedly to Him and if they were to allow His grace to mold them accordingly." -- St. Ignatius Loyola


Catholic mothers in particular might find solace through meditation on Mary's pain and grief at seeing her Son circumcised and later crucified to fulfill the covenant. Her heart was pierced by a sword. She knows intimately what it feels like to see her child suffering at the hands of a violent society.

And for those who advocate against genital cutting, remember that although we must steadfastly condemn the violation of routine circumcision, it is not our place to judge the hearts and souls of those who have participated in this grave situation. In fact, due to our culture of death and the stronghold of the medical industry, in many cases the parents are victims in their own way. Mercy and truth will set them free. Be there to support them and love them as brothers and sisters in Christ.

Additional Resources:

Catholic teaching and scriptures on circumcision:

Religion and Circumcision Condensed:

What is the foreskin, what is circumcision, what are the complications and other issues?

© Guggie Daly

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for this post. This is an excellent reminder for introspection and prayer during Lent.

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