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Why not sterilize the inconvenient?

I don’t know Jason Negri personally, and until his post on Friday I’ve had no reason to think that he isn’t a faithful Catholic.  Maybe he was just playing devil’s advocate or being provocative; but for someone who, according to his Inside Catholic profile, is “Assistant Director for the International Task Force on Euthanasia & Assisted Suicide,” he shows a scandalous indifference to the dignity of human life.  Here’s what he said when commenting on a story about the marriage of a high-functioning Down syndrome couple:

My conservative view of child rearing is usually “if you’re not going to take care of your kids, don’t have them”, and for a Catholic, this means don’t have sexual intercourse to begin with.  But it’s hard in cases like these, where a couple is developmentally challenged and might not be able to care for children of their own, but have the need and ability for sexual intimacy.  Forced sterilization?  No.  But voluntary?  Why not?

Voluntary sterilization. . . “Why not?”

Let’s set aside the question of whether or not mentally disabled people ought to be marrying, and let’s focus like a laser on what Negri is implying about the people themselves.  He is implying that, because of their disability, they are not bound and protected by the same principles as the rest of us.

If you can sterilize them, what other assaults on his human dignity might be permissible?  If their bodies aren’t inviolable like the bodies of us Normals, why not keep them as house slaves?  Kind of a win-win situation, by Negri’s logic:  everyone gets taken care of, everyone’s happy according to his capacity, and no one has to shoulder an unfair burden.  Sure, slavery is clearly against Church teaching, but come on — they’re just retards, they don’t really count.

If you are going to start making exceptions to Church teaching based on purely practical terms, then why not voluntary sterilization of the poor, since they need  food stamps or childcare, and “might not be able to care for children on their own”?  Or of people with heart disease, since they might not be around to see their child’s 18th birthday?  Or people with histories of depression?  Or people whose husbands are in the military?  They might need help!  Sterilize ‘em now, before things get messy.

I do not envy the parents of the Down syndrome couple in the original story.  I can imagine how much they want their children to be happy, and how much they fear having to care not only for their disabled children, but an innocent grandchild, too.  But for Negri to suggest an exception to the Church’s law — saying, “Well, maybe in a situation like this, how bad could it be to just bypass the whole fertility problem?” — that’s not compassion.  That’s condescension to a hellish degree.  That’s reducing the human person to biology vs. desire:  Self-sufficiency as the highest good on one hand, personal satisfaction as the highest good on the other hand.

What’s so terrible about that construct?  It leaves out God entirely.  It leaves out the Incarnate God, who has something to tell us about suffering and sacrifice in the service of love.

The Church’s teaching on sterilization is not a prohibition — it’s a protection.  It’s a humble acknowledgment that man is made in the image of God, and you don’t mess with that.

The Church’s law is there to uphold the dignity of human life.  Not attractive human life, not convenient human life, not self-sufficient human life:  every human life.  When we begin to think of mankind as a two-tiered system, in which only the top tier is fully human in God’s sight — then we are on the road to Hell.

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  • Bob

    Why stop at sterilization when you can neuter? This has the added benefit of rendering the subjects more manageable by simultaneously eliminating “the need and ability for sexual intimacy.”

    Forced neutering? No. But voluntary? Why not?

  • The Jerk

    Check your news stand for this exciting new comic!

    [b]“Outside Catholics In Action”[/b]

    Issue #1 – Be thrilled as Jason drives a busload of “undesirables” to the sterilization clinic while reciting his favorite passages from ATLAS SHRUGGED!

  • http://www.kathleenbasi.com Kathleen

    Thank you, Simcha!

    I have a daughter with DS, and as much as I passionately defend her right to exist, I am terrified of her ever having a child. It’s horrible, but I have to be honest. I am one of those parents who is absolutely in the situation you are talking about: I want my child to live as close to a normal existence as she possibly can, and who’s to say she won’t inherit a desperate longing for motherhood from me, her mother? It’s a very difficult question and one that I dread having to deal with in reality.

    However, men with DS are virtually all infertile, so Jason’s off base anyway; there isn’t a need for sterilization in this case.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/simchafisher Simcha Fisher

      Thank you, Kathleen. I was in dread that I was saying something that would hurt real mothers in this situation, so I’m glad that it came across in the right way. God bless you and your daughter.

  • AM

    I know you want to leave it aside, but I want to pick on the assumption the simple must be unfit parents. If they can live independently, why not?

    I once sat on the subway in front of a mentally handicapped couple headed home from work. They were unself-consciously discussing their plans for the weekend – all the errands they needed to do for the first family Thanksgiving at their place, and how they were going to manage the logistics and expenses.

    At some point the husband said something like, “You know, we have a good life. If you go to work and can pay your bills and have the family over, that’s doing good.”

    It was the nicest conversation I ever heard on the subway. They seemed more fit to me than the bottle blonds all around discussing their latest night out or their next manicure on their cellphones.

    But I agree with your point too – if contraceptive sex is an abuse of a person, it is so for everybody, Down Syndrome or no.

  • http://www.kathleenbasi.com Kathleen

    That whole comment looks so insensitive as I read back over it. I just wanted to say, really, that I empathize with the struggle–that it is one I, as a faithful Catholic, anticipate wrestling with a lot in the years to come. My apologies for sounding as awful as I think I did. I don’t know what the solution is. I wish I did.

    • Tonia

      I didn’t think you sounded insensitive. You sounded worried.

    • Abby

      Not at all, Kathleen. Living as a faithful Catholic doesn’t mean pretending everything’s easy! In fact, people who think that to be a good witness, they have to pretend that nothing’s a struggle aren’t doing the rest of us any favors. We need to know that struggling doesn’t mean in itself that we’re failing.

  • Eileen

    I hope he’s trying to be provocative. Either way, he’s just not that deep a thinker, no matter how many times he’s read the Hobbit. Mr. Negri may want to double check his own results against the pass/fail number on the IQ test that suddenly renders it ok to opt in to sterilization.

    • Eileen

      Perhaps my nastiness in the above comment is an emotional overreaction – I am literally sobbing now. Last summer, we lost our DS baby boy (heart issues). Everytime I reread Mr. Negri’s piece, I come to the same conclusion – he is likening adults with DS to dogs in heat. And I am pretty sure if Jason Negri were standing here in my kitchen, I’d punch him in the nose.

      • http://remnantofremnant.blogspot.com priest’s wife

        Eileen- I am so sorry for your loss- life isn’t fair! I know a few DS kids that are nice and healthy- sorry you have had to live through this great loss. The absolute only consolation is that you have a sweet saint in heaven (but you already know that and would prefer him here….)

      • http://www.kathleenbasi.com Kathleen

        Oh, Eileen, I can’t even imagine. We had a couple of close calls with my daughter, and it was awful. Hugs.

      • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/simchafisher Simcha Fisher

        Eileen, I’m so sorry for the loss of your dear baby. I think that high emotion is entirely appropriate. I am sorry if this post caused you distress, and I will pray for your family.

      • Eileen

        Thanks ladies, for all the prayers and kind words. Grief is a funny thing. Sometimes it sneaks up and taps me on the shoulder, and other times, like this morning, it just bludgeons me over the head.

  • http://www.havingleftthealtar.com/ Katherine

    If you make sterilization “voluntary” who is to say when it is voluntary and when it isn’t? If they aren’t capable of caring for children, are they responsible enough to understand and make such a decision? And if they aren’t, who would make it for them? Is it still voluntary? If voluntary sterilization became acceptable, who would decide what makes it “voluntary” and what doesn’t?

    Also, if the rest of us use NFP, why can’t they be taught to? Is he suggesting because they have a physical need for intimacy that they are incapable of controlling it?

  • http://www.martinfamilymoments.blogspot.com Colleen

    Amen! And what is the point of marriage unless we receive children graciously from the Lord? I know you didn’t want to focus on the marraige part of this story, but really the problem is that we need to be preparing them for marriage. If they are capable enough to be married and live independently, then they should be able to learn NFP or have children.

  • Sue

    My sister is a high functioning adult with Down Syndrome. My observation of her, and only her, is that she does not have the capacity to consent to marriage or a sexual encounter.

    • PonyPam

      For some with DS, that is very true. Some people do not have the capacity to consent to either marriage or a sexual encounter. But then that probably also means they do not have the capacity to consent to being sterilized, either. Yet even lacking the capacity to make all of these decisions, it does not change that fact that WE do not lack the capacity to afford them all the dignity that we would afford any other person.

      I miss working in group homes sometimes.

      • Sue

        Agreed. I was not making any argument for sterilization. I thought Simcha was excellent in making that point.

        In NJ in the 1990′s (I pray that it has changed,) state run group homes maintained that every disabled person had the right to engage in sexual relationships and should be taught to do so. I am happy to see a person with your outlook had worked in group homes at one time.

  • http://causa-nostrae-laetitiae..blogspot.com Leticia Velasquez

    Kathleen, we are both moms of young girls with Ds, and I didn’t find your comment insensitive, in fact it mirrored my own ambivalent feelings about my daughter’s future.

    Although I support the idea of marriage for Ds couples who are capable of it, where to draw the line of competence is a thorny issue.

    I can’t help but thank God for the fact that you mentioned; most men and about half the women with Ds are sterile.

    This may be His way of helping us with this issue, don’t you think?

  • http://moss-place.stblogs.org Peony Moss

    I was shocked to read that as well. It’s a difficult issue, but mutilation is not the answer.

  • http://remnantofremnant.blogspot.com priest’s wife

    I haven’t read the original article yet- I am just shocked to see Jason Negri’s name connected to it. I guess times have really changed and people change.

  • M. Christi

    “Thanks for reminding me why I’m not a conservative anymore.”

    Why are you insinuating the author is espousing a “conservative” viewpoint about sterilizing someone with D.S.? Or are you making this statement because IC is considered a “conservative” Catholic website, and therefore guilty by association? Anyway, I hope this doesn’t mean you are now a “liberal”, because liberals are more than happy to abort their D.S. babies…

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/simchafisher Simcha Fisher

      Yeah, that was written quickly without much thought. I originally wrote about why Negri’s argument encompassed the worst of both worlds, extreme conservatism and liberalism.

      I have heard other conservatives arguing for such things (mandating Norplant for welfare recipients, etc.), but I should not have assumed that that was where Negri was coming from. It was a red herring, so I took it out of my post.

      I guess it drives me a little crazy that liberals and conservatives grow to resemble each other more and more. Whether it’s conservatives making self-sufficience the prime good, or liberals making personal satisfaction the prime good, they both lead to dehumanization of the person.

      • M. Christi

        Okay got it, thanks.

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  • A Girl

    So its pretty straightforward to be against sterilization of so called ‘Not Normals’. Slippery slope.

    But the elephant in the room is this: the idea that some DS adults may not having the capacity to consent to marriage, sex and childbearing. This may in part explain the ambivalence of parents with DS kids regarding their future there.

    In fact, there’ve been a few comments here that have voiced what sounds like relief that many with DS are already naturally sterile. “God’s way of helping”, so to speak.

    It might be easy to come down hard on Mr. Negri, but its not like he isn’t bringing up a legitimately thorny problem, one that really puts teaching to the test.

    • http://www.kathleenbasi.com Kathleen

      This is very true.

    • PonyPam

      But looking at this from the marriage-as-sacrament POV, would a couple who cannot consent to marriage be allowed to be married (in the Catholic Church)? No. Regardless of the reasons for the inability to consent, it’s pretty much a given: a couple must both be free and able to consent in order to get married.

      The only reason this then becomes a problem is when marriage becomes viewed as an inalienable right that cannot be denied anyone for any reason. (Or can be denied, but for a very few reasons limited by civil law.) And, it becomes a problem when people cannot formulate a reason for unmarried people to refrain from having sex.

  • Denise

    It is a thorny issue. I’m so glad for all the viewpoints that gave me much to think about, and Simcha’s article that prompted it all. I agree that “voluntary” sterilization is always an evil, and we (per the Church) can never do evil even when we believe good will come of it.

    Re: caring for a child of a DS couple, please always keep in mind the option of an open adoption. We’ve been struggling with discernment considering adoption, and at least in our area there is quite a wait-list; and I’ve seen a couple of articles about wait-lists for disabled babies as well. So even if the couple does have children, there’s no need for it to be a burden on the grandparents; and in many adoptions the grandparents remain involved in the children’s lives.

    • http://www.kathleenbasi.com Kathleen

      True, but OTOH I can say that as a mother of a child with DS, if my daughter had a child with DS, that child would be part & parcel of our family, and I think that we would be unable to consider giving it into someone else’s care; it would feel like a rejection of our own blood. Does that make sense?

      • Denise

        Oh, it makes absolute sense!

        In Simcha’s article there was a mention of the parents of a DS child possibly worrying that they’d have to take care of a grandchild because a married disabled couple would not be able to do so. But to me they have the same options as any birth mom who can’t care for her own child. And it was clear from my adoption classes that even if grandparents couldn’t take care of the child for whatever reason(s), they could still be grandparents.

        I just wanted to point out that there’s no grave reason for a possible child to be a source of concern re: sexual relations of a DS/disabled couple. I hope that makes sense, and you don’t think I’m saying that you HAVE to give up a grandchild!

  • gussie

    I had not seen this, I am glad to see your response Simcha. I especially appreciated the prohibition/protection point. If only we could get around God’s mean rules, then we’d be happy!

    I’m surprised this is on Inside Catholic, seems pretty outside Catholic to me. Negri may be one of those Catholic intellectuals who has graduated from Church teaching and sees a better way. Gotta think outside the box. A fresh take on that whole “dignity of the person” thing. So novel, so edgy! After all, he’s a guy on a blog–he just might be smarter than the pope and 2000 years of Catholic thought.

    Of course it’s a thorny issue, life is so full of thorny issues it’s nauseating. And in our human weakness we often find a “solution” which is in fact harmful. Church teaching is pretty clear on this, and makes sense, although it seems to leave our problem unsolved. That’s the way life is. Negri just offers eugenics-lite with Catholic flavor added.

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  • http://blairandsteven.blogspot.com Blair

    Okay, this has been at the forefront of my mind the past week. I have a cousin who is about 30 and we just found out she is pregnant and due any day with her 3rd baby. The first two were adopted by a distant family member. Cousin has multiple physical and mental issues; she is deaf, bipolar, schizophrenic, mentally disabled, etc. She floats from state group home, to homeless shelter, to the streets.

    No family members are able to care for her because of her behaviors; she has pulled out all her teeth, was caught in front of the police station with no clothing on last week, and she does other dangerous things that keep her from being able to stay with family members or in a home for disabled persons. But when she is put in a psychiatric hospital, she seems to be able to act normal enough for them to let her out.

    This time she and a boyfriend are wanting to keep the baby. I’m not sure what the mental state of the boyfriend is. But this is so concerning! I’m not sure what the appropriate place is for my cousin, but I know she would be unable to care for a newborn. During her last delivery, they found her in a bathtub full of blood at the home where she was living…she didn’t know what was going on.

    What kind of solution would you all offer for someone like this? She comes from a Catholic family, but my aunt and uncle are divorced and everyone has their own set of issues. It’s so sad…

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/simchafisher Simcha Fisher

      Blair — that’s just awful, and I’m so sorry your family is going through this. It seems like someone so out-of-control, who is a danger to herself and others (her children), ought to be in a psychiatric hospital, and obviously the system is failing somewhere, if she has been released in the past.

      I know it’s tempting to say, “The heck with what the Church teaches — this woman’s life is a wreck anyway, and sterilization is just pure damage control.” I don’t know what the solution is, but the old saying “hard cases make bad law” is certainly still true. A wealthy country like ours ought to be able to keep such people safe without resorting to sterilization. I wish I knew of a better answer. Maybe someone among the readers has some experience about how to deal with this?

      • http://blairandsteven.blogspot.com Blair

        Yes, it’s tempting to think that sterilization would be the solution in this type of situation, especially since it continues to be an issue with her 3rd pregnancy. I truly hope and pray (and ask for prayers) that they are able to find a safe home both long-term for my cousin, and also for the baby. It’s hard when people are left for “the system” to deal with. I feel like we as her family have failed her as well, but I’m not sure how to mend that with the way things are right now.

        • Margaret

          Blair– that is dreadful! But I think it’s pretty clear that your cousin’s third pregnancy is just the symptom of a much larger problem– that she isn’t being given the systematic, probably life-time care that she needs. Treating the “symptom” by sterilizing her ain’t gonna fix much of anything…

      • Danby

        If she’s really incapable of caring for a child (and it sounds like she is), then the state may have to intervene. It is possible to have her legally declared an unfit mother and have her parental rights abrogated BEFORE the child is born.

        I mean it, for the baby’s sake, contact your state’s child welfare division.

  • BC

    “when a Catholic writing for a Catholic website questions established teaching, I think that more than a casual “Why not?”

    Isn’t that the truth.

    But in order for things to go well, the editors have to take their role seriously. The role of an editor, in addition to everything else, is a teaching role. When your authors submit things for publication, a Catholic editor checks the content (in addition to grammar and syntax) and intuitively knows what to do to help the author understand his or her faith more completely, help them recalibrate the content so that both the author gets greater insight into their faith and when the article is published, readers get greater insight.

    The alternative is to let somebody like Jason, who is actually on fire for the Lord, get out there and say something that he is going to get hammered for and that fire he has diminishes.

    This is one of the regrettable consequences of the immaturity of a mission statement that reads something like you believe you can throw all kinds of ideas out there because you believe the truth will win in the end.

    The reality is, you have to be in a state of grace for the truth to win and when you are trying to reach a broad audience, people’s faith can actually get scandalized. Your own apostolate can get undermined and neutralized and people who are growing in their faith like Jason wind up discouraged from taking the brunt of righteous criticism that could easily have been headed off.

    They’ve got some great writers over there but unless and until they employ a spiritually mature editor, they’re going to keep ticking offending and ticking off the audience they want to draw in.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/simchafisher Simcha Fisher

      BC, I don’t know how fair it is to blame the editors. Jason Negri’s essay was a blog post, not an article. I sometimes post for Inside Catholic, and the bloggers post directly onto the site – they do not submit their pieces to an editor first.

  • BC

    Simcha,

    Thank you. I hope that my comments come across as trying to be helpful in presenting a resolution and not something that is mean-spirited.

    In general, the content of their links, articles and blog posts has been very good but there are too many times when other links, articles and posts are somewhat of a theological rollercoaster (Commonweal and America Magazine on their blog roll).

    It’s an not a site with a group of shmoes who have regular jobs or vocations (including motherhood) and are doing some amateur or semi-professional blogging on the side. It is a site that supposed to be a professional and faithful internet website setting a standard.

    I don’t know what the answer is – I guess I can understand why they would let you or Mark and others who are seasoned post directly to the blog – but there should be some kind of different protocol for less seasoned bloggers?

    There is no ill will intended in saying they need to tighten things up over there – that is what we do every day with our opinions about the USCCB, etc!

  • http://remnantofremnant.blogspot.com priest’s wife

    I finally read the article in question- don’t like it at all. I think if a DS couple are able to be married (high-functioning, etc)- they should be taught about the consequences and risks with pregnancy- if the husband is even fertile- and taught NFP.

    What if a ‘normal’ couple were carriers for something really serious like Cystic fibrosis or other diseases- should they be able to sterilize themselves? I think a strong catholic couple would prayerfully discern the situation, get a solid spiritual director to help them and mostly use NFP to avoid a pregnancy in trust that if a baby did come from their marriage, God’s grace would get them through the challenges.

    I hope I am making sense…There is a girl with DS in my big girls’ home school drama class- it makes me angry that ‘good Catholics’ like Negri are writing things like this…but that’s just me.

  • http://stmonicasbridge.wordpress.com Kristen

    My daughter is on the lower-functioning end of the autism spectrum. I fear her future as an adult and honestly cannot allow myself to dwell upon it. There is no easy answer. The saying (for autism) goes, if you’ve met one person with autism, you’ve met one person with autism. No two situations are identical. Just a few weeks ago, the normally-functioning father in a family in my parents’ parish killed his four-year-old son and attempted to kill his two older children and himself. Should he be sterilized if he is found not guilty of murdering his son? These are the ethical questions we don’t want to answer. I cannot imagine a situation ever in which my daughter would be able to care for herself independently much less a child, but I would never be in favor of sterilizing her.

    • Margaret

      Kristen– my oldest son is an Aspie. He is quite “high-functioning” in the sense of taking demanding mainstream academic classes (senior in high school.) But nowhere near high-functioning enough to go away to college next year.

      Part of my understanding (someone please correct me if I’m wrong) of the capacity to contract a Catholic marriage would include the capacity to raise a child. As it stands now, I don’t know that my son will ever have that capacity, hence in my book that would make him unsuitable marriage material.

  • Nina

    This subject may not be complicated theologically and morally, but, nevertheless, it IS emotionally complicated. We are human beings, not gods, and we wrestle with things, oftentimes wrestle *greatly*. I, as someone, who DOES understand the struggle and the questions, ask you to please give this writer and soul the benefit of the doubt….. that he made a mistake of “thinking out loud” through the internet (which is easy to do nowadays, haven’t we all made some hasty mistakes through writing or speaking?)—-posted without maybe really thinking through the prudence of it—-but he does not intend to be undermining the faith or sabotaging or scandalizing, but perhaps is just truly wrestling, and searching for answers and asking the questions. He needs to be encouraged to find the truth and take it to heart in a very personal way, but he must do it for himself, and we do know what journey he is on. Let us be patient with one another….

    I have a brother who is severely impaired and completely incapable of taking responsibility for a child, let alone himself, due to his afflictions—-he is schizophrenic, an addict, and wears a prosthetic leg from the damage that was done when he fell on his leg in an attempt to end his life. His life is hell. But he is a Brown University graduate, once considered harder to get into than Yale or Harvard. He is incredibly handsome and smart and a faithful Catholic, was an A student, and on the Varsity Swim Team. He once dreamed of intimacy and a family. He is extremely lonely and lives day to day. My family does all that they can. Believe me, it is not a simple governmental solution or about a psychiatric hospital—-.

    I have two children with Cystic Fibrosis, and my husband’s brother died at 13 after a life of constant suffering.

    I have 9 children, have never been sterlilized, and am not on contraception.

    I am telling you that I have struggled with this.

    There may be an answer: Trust in God. Obey the Church. But I am telling you that it is not simple to live it out. Let’s give this writer the benefit of the doubt for his weaknesses and struggles. I would want you to do the same for me. Peace.

  • Nina

    I meant to say above: We do NOT know the journey he is on…..it is his own and in God’s own time.

    • gussie

      Nina I agree with you, but his post and its place on the web give an impression of being “Catholic thought,” or at least thought within a Catholic framework. IC is not just his personal blog. Readers might be unfamiliar with Church teaching and accept this suggestion (for it is a suggestion, that sterilization of certain individuals might be acceptable) as a valid option. I’m afraid I was a little nasty in my earlier comment, right after reading his post–that is my reaction to his suggestion and his tone. His tone was not in the spirit of humble, faith-seeking-understanding of such a hard subject. At the very least, here is a blogger who hasn’t thought through his subject. Simcha’s response was very much in order, given the misunderstandings that could result from his suggestion.

      It’s a slippery slope. Voluntary becomes involuntary. The definition of “unfit” expands to include more and more. This is all old stuff, not new territory for any Catholic who has read a few books. Nazis, Margaret Sanger, eugenics in America (look up sterilization laws), I’m no theologian but this is pretty basic. I don’t mean to be condescending or make light of difficult situations, I just expect more from a blog called “Inside Catholic.”

      • gussie

        Oh and I didn’t mean to leave that at just the slippery slope argument. As Simcha and many others point out, sterilization is wrong in itself, not because of a slippery slope effect. And yes, I understand it is still a thorny issue, but this is where trust comes in. We can’t clean up all the mess in this world but we must respect the dignity of the person, even if he is disabled or drug-addicted or criminal or whatever. God is still in charge.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/simchafisher Simcha Fisher

    Yes, thank you, Gussie, that’s exactly what I think. I’m not judging his soul, just his public words.

    Furthermore, I emailed the guy the night before to warn him that I was planning to respond to his post, and told him when my post would go up, so that if he wanted to get ahead of it and clarify or expand what he meant, he had a chance.

  • Nina

    Right. I think because we are talking about a marginalized, afflicted, possibly discriminated-against group versus the “average person” (i.e. can function at a determined level of health or independence), the assumption is that they will be taken advantage of due to their weakness, and there is potential abuse. But I think I’m looking at it in broader terms here, including those whose health would be greatly compromised if not threatened (like a woman with CF undergoing the rigors of pregnancy or other life-threatening illnesses….St. Gianna, pray for us!), or in my case, someone at risk of great depression, anxiety, and inability to carry out present and future duties and responsibilites inherent in and associated with the caring for ones with very high-needs and also a large family. Am I making sense? I heard him more looking at it from an angle of “should there be exceptions to this rule for very special cases”? Not as discriminating against the handicapped.

  • The Jerk

    I’m not saying we should force the men who write for Inside Catholic to be sterilized. Voluntary sterilization? Why not?

    • http://remnantofremnant.blogspot.com priest’s wife

      ha

    • Abby

      I dunno–some of my favorite people are jerks, and they have really wonderful children. I wouldn’t want to deprive the world.

    • Sarah S

      So much for maintaining the charitable tone which Simcha lobbied for so eloquently in the IC comments.

      • http://datelineapocalypse.wordpress.com The Jerk

        That wasn’t really uncharitable, per se, as it was a crappy thing to say. So, I am sorry for being crappy.

        • Sarah S

          You’re forgiven. ;-)

  • Nina

    I guess we cross-posted, Gussie! Yes, I get the gist of what you are explaining re. dignity of person, and appreciate your sensitivity to the whole issue. It is a cross that is unfathomable to understand for those who long for intimacy and yet, for these very reasons, are not able to marry at all. His condition only increases his need for companionship and family, and the isolating effect of these illnesses is devastating.

    I find it interesting that this couple is capable of marriage; yes, I agree, that they are probably then capable of figuring the reproductive side out, managing it, and understanding it’s responsibilities. How blessed for them to have this consolation!

    I also appreciate that you are not judging his eternal soul, Simcha, but his words, and poor judgement in expressing in what appears to be a casual manner, such a serious topic. I apologize if I inferred that. I meant it in the way that one would speak of “a searching soul” meaning a searching individual……

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/simchafisher Simcha Fisher

      Well, I actually worried a lot over whether I was being too hard on him – but what makes the difference is that, as Gussie said, he was writing in a context where there was a real danger that his view might be mistaken for legitimate Catholic thought. If it had been his personal blog, I wouldn’t have said anything.

      Many, many faithful Catholics are tempted to turn to sterilization in awful circumstances. But there is a time and a place and a manner to talk about such things, and he got all of them wrong.

      Nina, I meant to say that I’m terribly sorry for all of the suffering in your family. You sound like a kind, honest, and steadfast person, which I admire very much.

    • gussie

      Nina, I am sorry for your suffering. I appreciate your comments and respect your thoughtful treatment of this issue. I know it isn’t enough to say life is hard, just trust in God–I hope I don’t come across as having that attitude. I don’t have answers to these dilemmas, but I believe in the Church’s guidance, and that God will bless you for your faithfulness. I will pray for consolation and help for you and your family, and those in similar situations.

  • M. Christi

    Not to go to far off topic, but I thought you all would like to know about this order of sisters in France:

    The Little Sisters Disciples of the Lamb are a contemplative community that enables girls with Down’s syndrome to respond to a religious vocation. Check it:

    http://exlaodicea.wordpress.com/2010/01/11/little-sisters-disciples-of-the-lamb/#

    God bless these sisters.

    • http://www.kathleenbasi.com Kathleen

      Wow!!! I am going to be keeping that in mind. I pray for God to call one or more of my children to a religious vocation, but I wondered if Julianna could be accommodated. This is SO WONDERFUL to know! (Excuse my enthusiasm, and sheesh, what am I thinking, they’re in France! But still!)

      • http://remnantofremnant.blogspot.com priest’s wife

        Kathleen- I looked at the website- so much English…maybe they are a bi-lingual community? France is a very nice place to visit if this community is in your daughter’s future.

        • http://exlaodicea.wordpress.com berenike

          Which website was this? !

      • M. Christi

        Kathleen,

        I have a younger sister in her 40s who has DS. I think how wonderful it would have been to have a community of sisters like this for her here in America, she loved going to Mass. As it is, we are fortunate to have her in a nice residential/farming community for the mentally challenged just outside our city of Houston.

  • Nina

    Thank you so much for your kind words and prayers. I would be most grateful for prayers! God bless.

  • elizabeth

    Thankyou once again Simcha for helping clarify things! I am a nurse and, speaking of consent, there is NO WAY I would be able to co-sign a consent form for birth control or sterilization of a Down’s Syndrome couple. I don’t arrive at this as a Catholic (though I am Catholic) but from a position of common sense. For even a highly functional adult with Down’s Syndrome, from my experience working with this population, they could not possibly give an informed consent. Good grief, it is hard for me to even wrap my head around the ramifications of these drugs/procedures, and they are myriad, not just the prevention of birth. Individuals with Down’s are vulnerable and are easily manipulated even if it be by “do-gooders”. It is also really sad to see Christians trying to control suffering instead of turning to Christ, Himself. Paul Claudel said it the best, “Christ did not come to do away with suffering, He did not come to explain it, He came to fill it with His presence.”

  • http://mydailydiatribes.blogspot.com/ Caroline

    Wonderfully put!

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  • Susan

    Picture, if you will, the following scenario. A mildly retarded woman married to a bipolar husband who bears her up on a regular basis and spends more time in jail than out. She has a baby boy, gets pregnant when he is only 4 months old and, beat up again, goes to a women’s shelter where she is caught slapping her infant son for blowing spit bubbles. Surely it would be better off to abort the current pregnancy since she can’t even handle the child she has. Even better to encourage her to be sterilized, too. That is the only rational, reasonable, well thought choice.

    Except for one thing: the baby you’re talking about aborting is my son, who we adopted, along the little boy she slapped. And one other, our darling daughter, who would never have been conceived if two pretty messed up people had been sterilized. While it true that neither of them could not care for these gifts, they did have enough sense and decency to let them be born. God took care of the rest.

  • Susan

    Note, in the first lines it should have said “beats her up.” I doubt he very often bore her up.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/mary.rascher Mary Kobeski Rascher

    I was privileged to witness a mentally disabled couple get married and have children. I say fortunate because of what I witnessed in the community. They were not perfect parents, none of us are. In fact, they made many mistakes. But what was so wonderful and miraculous was how our community came together to help them. When they brought their newborn into where I was a waitress and attempted to feed their baby an ice cold bottle that looked disgustingly dirty, we offered to clean and warm the bottle, explaining that it was healthier for the baby. They were grateful students. When the child got to be a bit much for the father to handle and his temper got the best of him, we taught him how to handle a toddler… that is all I know, I moved away. But what I do know, is that my friends were determined to help teach them for the sake of the child. I was proud to be a part of that group. I felt good when I showed the couple how to test a bottle to make sure it was the right temperature. I was exhilarated when my friend diffused the frustration of the father… The truth is, getting out of ourselves and helping others even with simple things, is how community works, how we feel worthwhile. If we actually put ourselves in the position to help others, we find our worth; and that my dear friends is irreplaceable….