I was baptized in the Catholic faith, but my family stops practicing the Catholic faith when I was a child. I am now 31 years old and have recently returned to the church.
Five years ago, after having two wonderful children, my wife and I agreed that it was in our best interest that I had a vasectomy. I did this without feelings of guilt or the slightest notion that I was doing anything wrong.
When I returned to the church almost a year ago, I thought that it was OK that I didn't agree with the Church's teachings about contraception, after all, "everbody" does it these days. In the past couple of months, I have done a lot of reading and thinking (and praying) and I finally realize the reasons for the Church's opposition to contraception and I fully embrace them. Much of my change of heart came about due to material I read on your website (thank you!).
I have not yet confessed this sin, though I go to confession about one a month. I will do this soon, but I would like to know if you could tell me what the church will expect from me with regard to rectifying the situation. If it were a matter of throwing away the condoms or having my wife stop taking the pill, this would be easy. Is it sufficient that I confess and repent having the surgery? If I don't have the surgery reversed would
having sexual relations with my wife be sinful?
Actually, my wife and I are currently abstaining because we do not have a sacramental marriage, so there are lots of unusual issues regarding our relationship other than contraception. We plan on being married in the church soon.
Any advice or words of encouragement?
Good to hear from you. I am so happy to hear about your return to the Church and will pray for you and your wife. I know it cannot be easy refraining from relations till your marriage can be convalidated, but also know from a few couples in my parish that it made them very receptive to the graces of the sacrament.
About the vasectomy question, I would have got back to you sooner, but wanted to consult with someone more knowledgeable than myself. Without entering into the intimacy of the confessional - it is so important you lay all this before a confessor you have confidence in - I would make some general recommendations:
After talking with your wife, and of course your confessor, I would recommend seeking a reversal if it is medically feasible and does not impose an excessive financial burden. You are young and certainly your family would be enriched by giving your children the best gift - a new brother or sister.
About whether your sexual relations would be sinful if you did not attempt to reverse the sterilization: John Kippley devotes a section of Sex and the Marriage Covenant, A Basis for Morality to that precise question. He argues for a via media between an absolute "yes" or "no." I think what he says makes a lot of sense - but only when a couple has grasped the profound meaning of fertility in marriage. Rather than try to explain it myself, I would encourage you to get the book. It is published by the Couple to Couple League of Cincinnati. It might be a good thing to share with your confessor.
Again my prayers. God bless,
Fr. Phil Bloom
Couple to Couple League Sexuality and Theology Books
Surviving as a Catholic Family (Archbishop Charles Chaput reflects on the difference between Birth Control and Natural Family Planning)