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Should Christians Circumcise?

Circumcision. The topic comes up and things get emotional and even heated. It's an incredibly sensitive topic and rightly so. We are talking about something that quite literally cuts into the most sensitive places of who we are and how we care for our children; it is bound and even appropriate for it to be an emotional and sensitive subject.

Our goal in this post is to examine the practice of routine circumcision from a Christian and specifically Catholic perspective. We invite the reader to pause before reading, take a deep breath, and try to see this issue clearly and objectively, doing as best as possible to read centered in the Holy Spirit and truth, not in emotion, past experiences or decisions, cultural bias, or from a posture of defensiveness.

An American Practice

To begin, it's first important for American parents especially to note that routine infant circumcision for those who are not Jewish or Muslim is a modern practice begun in the mid 19th century and now a uniquely American one. When the topic gets brought up in an international audience, those outside of the United States are often incredulous that it is routinely done by Americans outside those two faiths. Many Americans are just as surprised to learn that other cultures do NOT do this routinely. They're also surprised to learn that it is a relatively modern practice from a secular perspective.

The infant circumcision rates in the United States have been steadily decreasing for the last few decades as well. Percentage varies quite significantly by region. This data from different states shows anywhere from 10% to 91%! It seems as though the overall current national average rate hovers just above 50%.

Even just the recognition that it is not a universal practice is informative in the decision. It prompts the American parent, and should especially prompt the Christian parent, to question WHY it is done and whether those reasons are good, right, and just and whether following the culture in this practice is as well. When it comes to something as serious as surgical intervention on a healthy newborn baby, our children's dignity at the very least demands a pause to question, and better yet, a very prayer-filled and thoughtful discernment before considering it.

Modern Medical Circumcision Is Not Jewish Circumcision

In this discussion it's critical to recognize that the modern practice of circumcision done in the hospital or medical offices is quite different than the religious rite that was prescribed by God in the Old Testament. Many are not aware that the two procedures are, in fact, not equal in severity nor method. To ignore this would be a gigantic disservice to the discussion on religious aspects as well as the discernment process. When modern American parents are choosing medical circumcision at the hospital or from the pediatrician they are not choosing the same procedure or physiological result as the original Abrahamic people. See this link for more discussion on that topic.

The ancient and original Jewish rite involves removing much less of the foreskin than what is now routinely removed in modern medical circumcisions. As an adult, the foreskin is about 15 square inches of skin (about the size of an index card), meaning that circumcised males are missing that substantial amount of what would have been their penile tissue. The Jewish law also commanded that it be done on the eighth day of life while American boys are routinely having it done long before that, sometimes before they are even a day old. So not only is it substantially different in method from what God required in the original rite of the Old Covenant, it is not even following when He required it.

The History of Routine Circumcision in the United States

Many are also not aware that this more severe routine circumcision for non-religious reasons was not introduced by the medical industry until the latter part of the 19th century and it was for a few shocking and completely unsubstantiated reasons. Circumcision - both male and female - was promoted by some Victorian doctors as preventing masturbation and even as a cure for “hysteria” in women. They believed that removing the complete foreskin would lower or remove the temptation for the boy to masturbate when he was older.

From The Circumcision Debate:

"Some Victorian doctors went beyond the masturbation argument – claiming that circumcision prevented or cured conditions ranging from syphilis to epilepsy to mental retardation. As organized medicine evolved, circumcision was adopted by English-speaking countries in the 19th century. Since then, Britain, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand have all but eliminated it. However, in the United States it survives as a custom passed down from generation to generation." (See here.)

We clearly know that not only did it not work to prevent masturbation, if anything we could argue from what we see culturally and in research that for males it correlates to the opposite. Perhaps permanently exposing some of the most sensitive parts of the penis to any and all daily environmental stimulation that would otherwise be tempered by the presence of a foreskin could actually increase the stimulation and provocation to masturbate.

For more on the history of and reasoning behind the adoption of routine circumcision in the United States see the following links:

and a philosophical interpretation" by Jonathan D. Cohen (2011). College of Liberal Arts & Social Sciences Theses and Dissertations, DePaul University

The Theological Perspective

For most of Christendom it was taken for granted that Christians did not circumcise. Both from Scripture and Tradition it is abundantly clear that it is not a Christian rite or practice. Poor catechesis and a deficient understanding of Scripture, Tradition, and the teachings of the Faith, however, have caused many modern American Christians to take up the practice, often from a medical or cultural perspective, but also some from a distorted theological understanding. We've even heard the argument that, "Well, Jesus was circumcised so therefore our sons should be, too." This directly opposes both the early and later Church teaching and reveals a misunderstanding of the Christian doctrine of salvation and justification. For that reason, it's necessary to give a brief summary of the theological perspective so there is undeniable clarity.


The New Testament writings determine unequivocally that circumcision is no longer a requirement to enter into God's covenant. This, in fact, was one of the main arguments of the first Church council, the Council of Jerusalem, described in Acts! Whether the newly converted Gentiles needed to abide by the Jewish traditions and law in order to enter the new Way of Christ was the topic of much discussion, most especially between St. Peter, the first pope, and St. Paul. The young Church was at odds and debating whether they needed to still be keeping the Jewish law as well as what the requirements should be for the non-Jewish converts to the new Christian way.

We read in Acts 15:

"Then certain individuals came down from Judea and were teaching the brothers, “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.” And after Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and debate with them, Paul and Barnabas and some of the others were appointed to go up to Jerusalem to discuss this question with the apostles and the elders. So they were sent on their way by the church, and as they passed through both Phoenicia and Samaria, they reported the conversion of the Gentiles, and brought great joy to all the believers. When they came to Jerusalem, they were welcomed by the church and the apostles and the elders, and they reported all that God had done with them.

But some believers who belonged to the sect of the Pharisees stood up and said, “It is necessary for them to be circumcised and ordered to keep the law of Moses.”

The apostles and the elders met together to consider this matter.

After there had been much debate, Peter stood up and said to them, “My brothers, you know that in the early days God made a choice among you, that I should be the one through whom the Gentiles would hear the message of the good news and become believers. And God, who knows the human heart, testified to them by giving them the Holy Spirit, just as he did to us; and in cleansing their hearts by faith he has made no distinction between them and us.

Now therefore why are you putting God to the test by placing on the neck of the disciples a yoke that neither our ancestors nor we have been able to bear? On the contrary, we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will.

Acts 15:1-11

It goes on to say several verses later:

"Therefore I have reached the decision that we should not trouble those Gentiles who are turning to God, but we should write to them to abstain only from things polluted by idols and from fornication and from whatever has been strangled and from blood."

Acts 15:19-20

It closes out the description of that council's decision by stating:

"For it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to impose on you no further burden than these essentials: that you abstain from what has been sacrificed to idols and from blood and from what is strangled and from fornication. If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well. Farewell.”

Acts 15:28-29

The matter is decisive and clear straight from the first pope himself. Circumcision is not required as a matter of faith or a sign of the covenant with God. The work of Christ fulfilled the requirements of the law of the Old Covenant and established the New Covenant

St. Paul speaks with authority in his letters about circumcision many times. In fact, it is one of his most oft-chosen topics because it was of such importance to the Jewish people and the topic was of great concern.

In Galatians 5 he even boldly and directly proclaims,

"I, Paul, am telling you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no benefit to you. Once again I testify to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is obliged to obey the entire law. You who want to be justified by the law have cut yourselves off from Christ; you have fallen away from grace. For through the Spirit, by faith, we eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything; the only thing that counts is faith working through love"

Galatians 5:2-6.

"For neither circumcision nor uncircumcision is anything; but a new creation is everything!"

Galatians 6:15

In Philippians, he even goes so far as to use the word "mutilate" in reference to circumcision:

"Beware of the dogs, beware of the evil workers, beware of those who mutilate the flesh! For it is we who are the circumcision, who worship in the Spirit of God and boast in Christ Jesus and have no confidence in the flesh— even though I, too, have reason for confidence in the flesh. If anyone else has reason to be confident in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, a member of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew born of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless"

Philippians 3:2-6.

Romans, most especially the third chapter, also explains that while circumcision did have tremendous value in the Old Covenant, it is no longer necessary for justification.

As circumcision was for the Abrahamic religions the physical sign of his covenant relationship with God outlined in Genesis, baptism now replaces that. The Sacrament of Baptism becomes the sign for the Christian of their entrance into the New Covenant established by Christ. Paul writes, In Him also you were circumcised with a spiritual circumcision, by the removal of the body of the flesh in the circumcision of Christ; when you were buried with Him in baptism, you were also raised with Him through faith in the power of God, who raised Him from the dead" (Colossians 2:11-12). This is also a defense for the baptism of infants! If baptism is now the new entrance into the Covenant replacing circumcision, then it is completely appropriate and GOOD to bring even our youngest babies into that covenant as well, just as the Jewish infants were circumcised on the eighth day.

To summarize, Scripture clearly teaches that circumcision is now of no value for the Christian and it is no longer a divine requirement. In fact, it even says that should it be done as an act of faith that the person is now bound to the entire Jewish law. That's a very serious statement to make!

The Christian believes that through the Paschal Mystery of Christ, the New Covenant is now established and we enter into that covenant through baptism, not circumcision. Christ's Sacrifice and His Precious Blood was spilled, fulfilling the precepts of the Law and giving us complete justification through faith in Him. We as Christians, perhaps especially the men, should be exulting in and thanking God even more earnestly for the fact that something as intense as circumcision is no longer spiritually necessary!

What Has the Church Said?

The Council of Jerusalem described above from the book of Acts is the first official Church Council and taught authoritatively that circumcision is not required.

Later, Pope Eugene stated in the Council of Florence (1442) that:

"It (the Catholic Church) firmly believes, professes and teaches that the legal prescriptions of the old Testament or the Mosaic law, which are divided into ceremonies, holy sacrifices and sacraments, because they were instituted to signify something in the future, although they were adequate for the divine cult of that age, once our lord Jesus Christ who was signified by them had come, came to an end and the sacraments of the new Testament had their beginning. Whoever, after the passion, places his hope in the legal prescriptions and submits himself to them as necessary for salvation and as if faith in Christ without them could not save, sins mortally. It does not deny that from Christ’s passion until the promulgation of the gospel they could have been retained, provided they were in no way believed to be necessary for salvation. But it asserts that after the promulgation of the gospel they cannot be observed without loss of eternal salvation.

Therefore it denounces all who after that time observe circumcision, the sabbath and other legal prescriptions as strangers to the faith of Christ and unable to share in eternal salvation, unless they recoil at some time from these errors.


Therefore it strictly orders all who glory in the name of Christian, not to practice circumcision either before or after baptism, since whether or not they place their hope in it, it cannot possibly be observed without loss of eternal salvation." (Entire text of the Council can be read here.)

Those are strong but real words and an abundantly clear denouncement of circumcision for the Christian. It's possible to posit that the Pope here is only referring to circumcision done for spiritual/theological reasons since the medical institutionalized circumcision we see today was not yet in vogue at this time. However, we hesitate to make that claim since it does qualify, "whether or not they place their hope in it".

The Catechism of the Catholic Church includes this teaching in its section on the fifth commandment:

"Except when performed for strictly therapeutic medical reasons, directly intended amputations, mutilations, and sterilizations performed on innocent persons are against the moral law" (CCC, 2297).

The surgical removal of a healthy, living, and functional part of the body without direct medical need is an amputation violating this teaching. Our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit to be treated with dignity and worth. Considering that God designed the normal healthy penis to include the foreskin, it can also be considered a mutilation if done for cosmetic purposes or because one has a disordered understanding of the dignity of the body, determining that the foreskin is unnecessary, "gross", "dirty", or simply unwanted. We will talk in a moment whether routine circumcision can be considered "therapeutic" and therefore claim the exception within this teaching.

"All persons served by Catholic health care have the right and duty to protect and preserve their bodily and functional integrity. The functional integrity of the person may be sacrificed to maintain the health or life of the person when no other morally permissible means is available" (ERDs, 29).

It later states that any therapeutic procedure that causes harm to a patient can be justified only if the benefits outweigh the burdens:

"The well-being of the whole person must be taken into account in deciding about any therapeutic intervention or use of technology. Therapeutic procedures that are likely to cause harm or undesirable side-effects can be justified only by a proportionate benefit to the patient" (ERDs, 33).

From the Council of Trent:

"In Christ Jesus neither circumcision, availeth anything, nor uncircumcision, but faith which worketh by charity. This faith, Catechumen’s beg of the Church-agreeably to a tradition of the apostles-previously to the sacrament of Baptism; when they beg for the faith which bestows life everlasting, which, without hope and charity, faith cannot bestow: whence also do they immediately hear that word of Christ; If thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments." (Sixth Session, Chapter 7).

The Human Body is GOOD.

Across the board and throughout history, the Catholic Church has emphasized the dignity of the physical body and remained steadfast in its teaching that it is good and intentionally designed by God. The Catechism says this: "The human body shares in the dignity of "the image of God": it is a human body precisely because it is animated by a spiritual soul, and it is the whole human person that is intended to become, in the body of Christ, a temple of the Spirit" (CCC, 364).

Gaudium et Spes taught: "Through his bodily composition he gathers to himself the elements of the material world; thus they reach their crown through him, and through him raise their voice in free praise of the Creator. For this reason man is not allowed to despise his bodily life, rather he is obliged to regard his body as good and honorable since God has created it and will raise it up on the last day" (GS, 14).

The sexual organs can be even more highly esteemed and respected parts of the body as they are more closely tied to our ability to participate in the life-giving process, cooperating with God in creation of human life (ref. 1 Cor. 12). To intentionally disfigure them, quite literally cutting a part of them off, for the sake of poor science, cultural norms, or wrongheaded theology violates the dignity of the body and the dignity of the person to whom it occurs. We must ask ourselves what message it sends to the world (and to our child!) about the goodness and dignity of the body and the wisdom of God when we intentionally cut a healthy and living piece of a baby's genitals off within days of birth because it is supposedly "cleaner" that way or because society simply says it's expected? What impact does it have upon his psyche when one of his first interactions with the world is to have him restrained and one of the most sensitive and intimate parts of his body removed?

In summary, the Catholic cannot rightly opt for this surgery for themselves or their baby from a theological perspective. Circumcision is only permitted for truly therapeutic medical reasons.

So What About those "Therapeutic Reasons"?

The discussion now turns to whether we can consider routine circumcision "therapeutic" or appropriate for medical reasons. While in the past it was thought (and parents were persuaded) that circumcision was "healthier" or "more hygienic" for the male, we now know that is not true.

Oxford defines therapeutic as "helping to cure a disease or improve your health."

The American Heritage Dictionary defines it as:

  1. Having or exhibiting healing powers.

  2. Of or relating to the medical treatment of a disease or condition.

  3. Of or pertaining to the healing art; concerned in discovering and applying remedies for diseases; curative.

From this we can see that routinely removing the foreskin from a healthy male is not therapeutic. It does not cure a disease nor improve his health. It can, in fact, do the opposite, introducing infection and disease to an otherwise healthy baby. Routine circumcision does not have healing powers (a healthy and whole body is not diseased and does not need healing) nor does it directly treat a disease or condition. The intact penis is not an accident or mistake. It is the male body as God beautifully and intentionally designed.

Routine (and we emphasize here the word routine) circumcision can be defended as therapeutic only if one can say it is healing a disease or improving health. However, the natural male body is not a disease to be cured. The healthy and whole male body, including his penis, is part of being made in the image and likeness of God and should be respected as such. To say otherwise is to risk believing that God made a mistake when He designed us male and female, full genitalia included. Our full reproductive systems are part of our healthy and functioning human bodies, male or female. We can not intentionally render them dysfunctional or significantly alter them from the natural design without repercussion.

Foreskin serves a function for the male both in protecting the glans of the penis and in sexual health and satisfaction with his wife in marriage. For her, it can also mean fuller satisfaction and enjoyment of the sexual relationship as well. It was designed to be part of the complete marital act. God did not make a mistake when He created a foreskin as part of the male body and we should only remove it with grave and clear medical justification.

Circumcision CAN be considered therapeutic if it is directly addressing an illness, pathology, or disorder. If the boy or man begins to have a health problem and removing the foreskin can reasonably be seen to resolve that, then it would be morally permissible as therapeutic. But with that circumstance, we'd argue that it should still be seen as a serious intervention and not be done before also considering other causes of the pathology and other available and less severe options of treatment.

For many decades it was purported that circumcision reduced the risk of urinary tract infections and sexually transmitted infections later in life. For an in depth analysis on that topic, please read the Evidence Based Birth article linked here.

Part of their summary statement:

"After an extensive review of the literature, we’ve concluded that there is no compelling evidence to justify routine male infant circumcision on medical grounds.

Most of the evidence for risks and benefits is still highly disputed in the research, and the GRADE strength of the recommendation for practice is mostly weak. There are zero randomized trials on routine male newborn circumcision to support the proposed benefits.

The evidence from randomized trials on benefits for HIV, HPV, and HSV comes only from adult male circumcision in African countries. This evidence cannot be applied to newborn male circumcisions, nor can it be generalized to lower risk populations."

We call to mind again that routine circumcision for non-religious reasons is only done in America. Other countries do not have an issue with rampant urinary tract infections and many of our sexually transmitted infection rates are higher than countries that do not routinely circumcise.

EVEN IF we could argue that a boy may have less infections should he be circumcised, that still does not automatically justify the surgical removal of a healthy and functioning body part prophylactically. Consider for a moment that we don't routinely remove the appendix because someday it might get infected. We would not consider putting ear tubes in every newborn because they might someday be prone to ear infections. We don't remove everyone's tonsils in infancy because someday they might cause an issue. We would rightly be repulsed at the idea of routinely removing breast tissue from newborn girls because it "might" reduce their chance of having breast cancer some day.

Should we not also apply that to the idea of circumcision? It does not make sense to routinely cut off a large percentage of such a sensitive and intrinsic organ because someday it "might" have an infection. Nearly every part of the body can someday be infected. We treat the infection, we don't remove the body part just in case. This is even more obvious when we know that preventing and treating such infections is usually relatively simple. It also does not make medical sense to INTRODUCE the risk of surgery to a healthy baby (one of those risks actually BEING infection) in order to theoretically reduce the later risk of infection.

When it comes to sexually transmitted infections, we know that they are behavioral. There is an ethical consideration to make when we are performing surgery on newborn babies with our reasoning being to attempt to reduce the risk of diseases that are promulgated primarily through sexual activity, something that is hopefully not even a possible risk until the baby is far older and can make these decisions for himself.

In response to the American Academy of Pediatrics, a heavily lobbied organization that spoke about the possible benefits of routine circumcision, representatives from over 20 other medical associations offered this response: "There is growing consensus among physicians, including those in the United States, that physicians should discourage parents from circumcising their healthy infant boys because nontherapeutic circumcision of underage boys in Western societies has no compelling health benefits, causes postoperative pain, can have serious long-term consequences, constitutes a violation of the United Nations’ Declaration of the Rights of the Child, and conflicts with the Hippocratic oath: primum non nocere: First, do no harm." (Source)

The Risks to Your Baby of Circumcision

The known risks to circumcision include but are not limited to:




Meatal stenosis


Penile adhesions

Inclusion cysts





Cosmetic/Functional damage to the penis (may not appear until after puberty)

Surgical site infection

Penile amputation

Adult sexual/erectile dysfunction

Urethrocutaneous Fistula

Necrosis of the Penis




We also know some babies struggle breastfeeding afterwards which in those first significant days of life can have a cascade effect on mother's supply, the nursing relationship, and therefore, even the baby's lifelong health.

Many adult men also regret having been circumcised. While it's not something that is going to be discussed all that openly (though a simple Google search reveals much), we must think about the lifelong repercussions of making this choice as well as the message it sends to your son about his body. Making this decision for your child, one that will affect the appearance and function of his genitals for the rest of his life, affect his beliefs about his body, and affect his future sexual intimacy and marriage, is not to be taken lightly.

Looking at all the factors we've described thus far - research, theology, and other cultures' practices - we're left with the remaining purpose of routine circumcision as cosmetic. The parent simply prefers that the penis look differently than the original design he was born with, whether that's to "match" or because of cultural or family pressure or personal bias. Is that justifiable? If we were discussing other cosmetic surgery on a brand new baby, would it be acceptable? Should we be permanently altering our children's natural genitalia because we simply don't like how they appear (and how God designed)? What would our response be to someone suggesting trimming a daughter's labia because they think it should "match" mom or because it was "gross" as is? Perhaps instead of altering our babies to fit cultural norms, we should be purifying our belief systems and better aligning them to the mind and design of God. On a broader level, when we consider that the majority of the world doesn't do it and circumcision rates in the United States are rapidly decreasing, it will soon be the circumcised boys who are in the minority and who don't "match".

We can't recommend enough that if you are considering or intent on circumcision of your son's penis that you watch a video or look at pictures of the procedure itself. Some can be found here. It stands to conscience and ethical informed consent that if you are going to agree to this surgery, that you fully understand what will be happening to your child and take responsibility for any complications, immediate or lifelong, that may result.

If unsure about the decision, remember, too: One can always choose to circumcise at a later point but one can't undo a circumcision that they regret. Because it is not medically necessary, there is no urgency to the decision and if unsure, it is wise to simply wait.

Parents are often told the risk is low or perhaps not even told at all about the risks of circumcision to their baby. The studies that are available vary on actual percentages of each of these complications. However one defines "low", a subjective term and one that can only be truly decided by the one taking the risk, it must be understood that in choosing circumcision, one is choosing to take on those risks, both known and unknown. When we consider that it is neither religiously necessary nor is it directly addressing a pathology, the parent must ask themselves why they would even take on any risk at all?

Other Important Things to Consider

What does the hospital do with the foreskins of baby boys that they have cut off? While often they are thrown into "medical waste", we also know that they are actually quite valuable to both research and cosmetics companies and they are sometimes sold for profit by the hospital to these companies. The abundance of fibroblast cells within the foreskin makes them coveted for both anti-aging skin creams and for their vast research potential in biomedical applications. (A good overall article looking into this practice can be found here.) How many parents are told this will happen? How many sign a full consent that they agree to part of their son's penis being sold to be used in expensive skin creams or for research that they may or may not find worthy and ethical? Shouldn't the Christian parent concern themselves with whether their child's body part may be being used in this way? Shouldn't the Christian oppose the idea of selling body parts especially without consent? Shouldn't they ensure that the research is truly ethical? Even if the research it is used for is for a good intention, the Church would say that people should give full consent before it is done.

We also cannot pretend to be ignorant to the fact that circumcision generates profit for the doctor and for the hospital. They make money off this procedure, both the procedure itself and possibly by selling the foreskin. It's wise to remember that when considering their advice and recommendations concerning it.

Why Don't We Hear Priests Addressing This?

If this is such a big deal from a theological and moral perspective wouldn't we hear more priests talking about it? While we can't speak for them, the following are a few thoughts on that. First, in the vast majority of the Christian world, this is a moot point. The only people circumcising are Jewish or Muslim. There is no need for those priests or spiritual leaders to address it with their followers because it is not happening! However, some priests have spoken out in other parts of the world where female genital cutting is culturally accepted just as male genital cutting is accepted here.

In the United States, we think that the reason many priests don't address it is because, quite simply, they don't think about it, either because it is not a decision they have to make or because they have taken it as a cultural norm without any critical thought. Consider when most people first begin to think about and research decisions such as vaccination, birth choices, or other controversial parenting topics. It's almost always when they become pregnant and parents themselves. Before then, how many of us, especially men, can say that it is something we ever thought about, let alone questioned? The same goes for circumcision. Because most priests will never be married and are never confronted with the need to make these decisions, perhaps it's not even on their radar. We'd posit that many just don't even think about it.

If by chance it is on their radar, there's also the reality that this just isn't a pleasant or comfortable topic to think about, discuss, let alone preach in public about. That doesn't, however, mean that they shouldn't and we pray that as more awareness grows about the harm of routine circumcision - physical, emotional, and spiritual - many will begin to develop the courage and fortitude to do so.

Final Thoughts

In closing, we can summarize the matter no better than Fr. Peter A. Clark, SJ, Ph.D. in his phenomenal article "To Circumcise or Not to Circumcise?" published by the Catholic Health Association of the United States. (We strongly encourage you to read through his whole article linked here.)

"The Catholic Church teaches that God created us in God's image and likeness (Gn 1:27-28). It follows then that God created males with normal, healthy foreskins for the purpose of protecting the glans, providing natural lubrication to prevent dryness, and contributing significantly to the sexual response of the intact male. To surgically remove the foreskin for hygienic reasons, and/or to obtain other questionable benefits that absorb medical resources costing over $200 million a year is not only ethically unjustifiable but morally irresponsible, especially when such procedures can lead to serious injury and even death. Besides the possible harm the procedure can inflict on a child which violates the basic tenet of Catholic health care of treating every person with dignity and respect it also violates Catholic health care's mandate to be responsible stewards of medical resources. When millions of people in the United States and around the world lack basic health care, the provision of a nontherapeutic procedure especially one that is unnecessary, costly, and in some cases fatal is irresponsible and a violation of the moral law. Therefore, it is unethical and immoral for Catholic health care institutions to continue to allow neonatal male circumcisions, except out of respect for religious practices of other faith traditions. Respecting the religious beliefs and practices of other faiths is confirmed in the ERDs.

Culture Is No Excuse

Some ethicists have tried to justify neonatal male circumcision under the principle of totality for cultural reasons. The practice may have a powerful cultural value for many people. But the fact that something is culturally valued does not mean that it is also morally acceptable. History is full of examples of cultural traditions that run the gamut from the detrimental to the morally reprehensible foot binding and widow burning are but two examples. As the Benatars have noted, "It is all too easy (and common) to privilege those cultural ways to which one is accustomed on account of their familiarity. There is value in stepping back from one's cultural assumptions. When one views male circumcision from another cultural perspective, one can only wonder what possessed ancient people to first think of removing the foreskin."

To justify male circumcision for cultural reasons could be seen as a precedent that supports the justification of female circumcision for cultural reasons. To justify one of these practices because of its cultural acceptance is to start down the slippery slope toward justifying the other as socially acceptable.

Barring religious obligation, there is little to recommend routine neonatal male circumcision. If promoting the dignity and respect of every human person is a priority for the United States and for Catholic health care, then it is time to better educate the public about this issue and protect those who are the most vulnerable in our society. Doing so is not only a social responsibility; it is a moral imperative as well."

May God bring each one of us and our entire culture to a deeper understanding of the dignity of His design, our bodies, and our children every day that we can better glorify Him in every decision and moment of our lives.

Resources at a Glance:

We recommend the following sites or articles for more research and information on this topic of routine circumcision:

The Evidence and Ethics of Circumcision from Evidence Based Birth

To Circumcise or Not to Circumcise? by Fr. Peter A. Clark, SJ, Ph.D. published by Journal of the Catholic Health Association of the United States Circumcision in America by Anthony Losquadro

Catholics Against Circumcision (Many more articles are listed on that page.)

As always, please note that recommending a resource does not necessarily imply endorsement of every thing published by or included in that resource.


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