Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Circumcision ... still wanna talk about it?

I got into a debate on Facebook the other day. It wasn't meant as a debate; I was sharing a link that I had found helpful and thought others might, too. But pretty soon, as often happens in moms' groups, people got emotional and offended and then before you knew it, every other comment included a "SHAME ON YOU." So ... that conversation has jumped the shark, and it's over.

But it did occur to me that maybe some people might still want to talk about it, or to find information. So I'm going to put a few links here, and if anyone wants to say anything, they can comment.

The advantage, though, is that, since this is my "house," I decide what goes. And what goes is any respectful debate. I don't mind if you disagree with me. But if you think I shouldn't be talking about this at all, you can go somewhere where they're not talking about it.

To me, circumcision isn't a HUGE deal. It isn't the be-all end-all of parenthood, and if you made a different decision than I did, it doesn't mean you're a bad parent, a sinner, or not my friend anymore. But it is a biggish deal, in that we're doing surgery on our newborn boys, and we really ought to give it some thought first. It will affect that boy for the rest of his life, one way or another, and the least we can do is do a little research before signing a consent form. Find out that it's not just a skin tag that's being cut off, and find out what the Church says, if you are Catholic. Here is my previous post that contains a bunch more links.

So, speak your mind, if you've a mind to.


JenniC10 said...

Hi! You probably knew I'd be here. :) I don't even so much want to talk about circumcision as I'd like to talk about what happened during the discussion. I truly don't understand what people found so offensive. I don't think that anyone said anything out of line. (I wonder if all the pro-circ moms are feeling guilty?) And now that I've said it, I really hope that this actually is a place where we can speak frankly (and of course respectfully) without the fear that people are going to jump on the offended bandwagon and take their ball and go home. I mean, geeze! I got blasted for merely stating that the babies experience trauma while being circumcised. It's not an emotional statement at all! And it's undeniable. That's not passing judgment, right? Too many hormones in that roon, if you ask me. If only they could see what I *wanted* to say.
Okay, so on circumcision: there is not a medical cmmunity in the WORLD that recommends it for medical reasons. As far as I know, the US is the only country that still performs this unnecessary procedure routinely, and at that the rates have fallen drastically to 50%. So if we're not talking about a medical necessity (or even simply a medical benefit), then we are talking about cosmetics and cultural issues, correct? On the cosmetics, how about we teach our boys that God made them the way they are supposed to be? That there's no extra foreskin that shouldn't be there? That the foreskin actually serves a purpose?
And as far as the cultural aspect, like I said, 50% percent of boys are circumcised these days--that leaves 50% that AREN'T. So a boy born today will fall into one of these groups regardless of what his parents decide to do. How about we teach our boys not to succomb to the idea that they have to look like everybody else? And seriously, are guys *actually* checking out each other penises in the locker rooms? I get so sick of hearing that argument.
Sheila, the point that you (and I and a few other rational moms) were making regarding the morality of the issue I think is what was infuriating everyone. Which is so weird. Merely stating that there is morality involved is not passing judgment on anyone! I mean, why would ANYONE put her son through the procedure at all if she didn't believe it to be morally right?
As for the ridiculous argument that we might as well remove the foreskin now before it becomes a problem later, well, why don't we just go ahead and remove ALL nonessential organs? Ridiculous.
Oh, one more thing that bugged me--the argument that dad gets to make the decision becaue he's the one that has a penis. Well, one does not have to have a penis in order to have an opinion on the matter. That's a lot like saying that a man doesn't get to have an opinion on abortion or pregnancy in general because he doesn't have a uterus. Furthermore, how about we ask a man with an intact penis what he thinks? Hmm? If you want to defer to your husband because you're submitting to him in a biblical way, that's one thing, but you ARE allowed to have an opinion on the son that YOU carried in your uterus (or adopted) and then will raise in your home.
Ugh! I'm just so unbelievably frustrated at the hypersensitivity of some of these women. I felt like no matter what I said they were going to take it the wrong way, because they had already decided to do so. How many of these pro-circ moms do you think will come over here? I hope I haven't turned your blog into another battleground. I probably have more to say, but that's enough for now. Thank you SO much for the place to express myself without having to tiptoe around irrational, hormonal eggshells.

Allison said...

Well, I don't have a boy, so I can't really comment emotionally on this or anything.

If we did have a boy, I would really not want him to be circumcised. I see it as unnecessary. But there are people who do it, and I don't look down on them either.

It's like any parenting decision, everyone gets so heated because they feel strongly about their choice.

And as a side, depending on the sport, yes, I do believe guys honestly do check out each other's penises, and comment. My husband played hockey from childhood and through college. While I don't know what all goes on, I do know that guys do compare.

So if your son will play sports, and is uncircumcised, I suggest eventually talking with him about it and perhaps helping him come up with some comebacks so he doesn't feel "different".

Although it also depends on where you live. Here in the Midwest, circing is still pretty common place, so he would feel more different. Out on the coasts, non-circ is more common, so it may not be as big of an issue to boys.

Sheila said...

Jenni, I agree with you 100%. I expected people to disagree with me, and that doesn't bother me a bit. What bothered me was the easy taking of offense where none was meant, the extreme umbrage at the idea that morality enters into the question, and the refusal to talk about it. That happened a lot in college: some topic would come up, it would get heated, and then all of a sudden we couldn't talk about it anymore. I think we should be able to use our God-given reason to discuss issues without letting our emotions run away with us and shut us down! If it were an abstract issue, it would be easier, I guess, but when it comes to parenting decisions, no one wants to hear that someone thinks they made the wrong one. As for myself, I tend to be confident in my choices and not mind if others disagree, but other people are different, I guess.

Personally, I think circumcision here in the US is an odd custom that is likely to die out within a few generations, because there is no point to it. I wish it would die out sooner rather than later ... why cut babies to no purpose?

Allison, I doubt my son will run into any problems in locker rooms, but I definitely will tell him about circumcision and explain that he's not the only one who isn't.

Fidelio said...

Sheila, the only thing I would say about your post (and thanks for the links--very helpful and informative! We have family on both sides of the question, and your posts and links have framed the pros/cons better than most people I know) is that too many well-meaning moms are tossing around words that they simple haven’t defined well.

To say something is a “moral decision” means that there is a right and a wrong answer. If you're right, you're golden. If you're wrong, then you're sinning. Also, you were mistaken on the discussion group to say that those who sin “in ignorance” are not sinning. First of all, ignorance is not part of intent at all, it is circumstantial to an act. If someone acts immorally but in ignorance, their act is very much still sinful—it is only culpability that may be eliminated or lessened by ignorance. A sin is a sin is a sin. To say otherwise is to tread dangerous ground, wherein intent can change the morality of an act. Only circumstances can alter our culpability.

So, for those who correctly understand the terminology that moms on the discussion board were using, telling them (us?) that the decision to circumcise is moral means by definition that, if you come down on the wrong side of the question, you are sinning. I think that was the straw that broke the mommies’ backs.

A question that can be debated, a question that has more than one viable option or answer, would be much better defined as either “neutral,” “prudential,” or even “indifferent.” All of these words much better describe a situation where, while one option is possibly better that the other, none of the options are inherently evil, sinful, or immoral. Katherine H. was quite right in saying that circumcision for religious reasons is immoral and clearly defined as such by the Church, but I don’t think that clarification was made early on in the discussion, and it most certainly was not made in the blog post that you linked. As a result, much chaos ensued.

Fidelio said...

(Blogger made me split my epistle into two parts!!)

The question of whether or not circumcision constituted mutilation, I imagine, would be the final frontier on which you stand, as far as telling people that circumcision is or is not moral. If the Catechism forbids mutilation, and circumcision is mutilation, then clearly we have a moral situation, and coming down on the wrong side of the question is (again) sinful. So now we’re back to the beginning. Either it is a moral question, or it is not. If it is a moral question, then somebody in the room is on the highway to hell. In fact, 50% of parents in the US are. If it isn’t a moral question, then clearly the Catechism is being misused when we apply the passages on mutilation to the question of circumcision. We’d be much better to leave families alone with their prudential decision and leave irrelevant documents and ambiguous passages out of it.

I would stand with the several ladies on the group who argued that, if it really was a moral question, the Church would speak clearly and loudly on whether circumcision were permissible or not. After all, half the people in the country doing something wrong is a lot of people—enough people that a 500 year old Church Council would not be the only unambiguous authority to which one could appeal. (Besides, all of the many proclamations cited in the blog and by moms on the discussion group were specifically written to combat “Judeaizers,” or those heretics who were adopting Jewish customs and practices as efficacious means to merit salvation. But I’ll let that rest. Those who quote the councils are often making the simple but deadly mistake of anachronizing ancient or medieval texts into the modern era and leaving their proper context far behind. Just never mind all that.) That’s my personal opinion. Also my personal opinion is that the husband very much has more of a “weighty” say in the question of circumcision than the mother—just as mom would have more of a say than dad, if their daughters ever got their ears pierced.

Anyway. I wanted to clarify what I think the big stink was on the discussion group, and point out what irked me about the use of technical terminology in a (frankly) sloppy and haphazard way. Many other moms very much felt that the blog post was a judgment on those who circumcised, as did I, and it’s frustrating to hear what appears to be talking out of both sides of someone’s mouth. If you think it’s a moral question, then use the term properly and tell the wrongdoer to stop sinning. If you think there can be two admissible opinions on the matter, then for heaven’s sake quit using the term “moral” and find a better suited word.

Sheila said...

I understand what they were saying, but I still disagree. It isn't a mistake of terminology. I DO think it is a moral question, like the death penalty, or torture, or whether it's a sin to break the speed limit, one to which there's a right and a wrong answer. Sure, it's ambiguous and the Church hasn't spoken *quite* clearly enough to end all debate. I shared all the quotes I had with John, who I think is an intelligent man, and he still didn't agree with me. So there are two possible opinions, but ONE of them must be right. If circumcision counts as an amputation, as I believe it does (the American Academy of Pediatrics defines it as such), and there is no medical necessity to do it, the current teaching on the issue is sufficient to show it is immoral. If not, it could be moral.

True, the Pope hasn't come out and said anything lately, but at least one theologian (Fr. Edwin F. Healy, S.J., in 1956, in his theology textbook "Medical Ethics") has condemned routine circumcision using principles already known in moral theology.

So, all of the saying that "it's a moral question if you're against it and not if you're for it," or, "It's an absolutely neutral action because there is no specific law about it" doesn't make sense to me. Just because something is a moral issue doesn't mean it is clearly defined in Church teaching. Instead, it means we have to use our God-given reason and our knowledge of revealed moral principles to discern which course of action is the right one.

And if I have determined that it seems clearly immoral, don't you think it makes sense for me to want to share this information -- not to judge past actions but to encourage people who are doing an immoral action to stop doing it? And don't they have the responsibility to educate themselves and get rid of their vincible ignorance?

As far as the husband/wife issue, I think the husband has the stronger say because he is the head of the household, not because of his anatomy. In the final say, if the spouses cannot agree, it would be the husband's decision. Luckily we could agree. I didn't hesitate to share any information I had to try to convince him, but if I could not convince him, I would have had to let him make the decision on his own.

Fidelio said...

Look, I don't know how else to put it. When you tell people something is a moral issue, you're telling them that if they make a wrong decision, THEY ARE SINNING. I’m trying to make clear the insane duality of comments made by anti-circumcision moms on the discussion board. A group of adult women had to have someone come in and take away a forum because tension rocketed through the roof—and those who fomented the discussion are sitting around saying innocently, “I don’t know what all the fuss was about!”

Perhaps my censure is really directed at the entire "camp" of moms who oppose circumcision, because it was a group effort creating the confusion and ratcheting up the stress on the board, but you've opened up your blog as a forum and you're telling us to speak our minds, so here it is.

If you couple "it's a moral decision" with "I don't judge people who circumcise," it sends a mixed message. It’s especially evident that your side is slightly less than rational when the group you're addressing is an educated, rational group of conservative Catholics—we aren’t stupid, and we can see how the two statements don’t mesh. Period. I don't necessarily disagree with you that it's a moral issue, I don't even necessarily disagree with you about the reasons not to circumcise! But you have to understand what it was that sparked all the fuss on the board.

Several people were saying "I don't know what all the fuss was, I'm just sharing information!" That's horse stuff. If you tell people that the irreversible (and informed!!) decision they made about their child's entire lifetime was a wrong decision, you're bound to get a pretty strong reaction. Saying “I don’t know why people reacted like that!!” is childish.

Also, I never said “it’s a moral issue if you’re against it but not if you’re for it,” so don’t make me look stupid by saying so. I said It’s EITHER a moral issue, or it is NOT. If it is moral, there’s no time for debate, but instead instruction for the ignorant and counsel for the sinner. If it’s merely prudential, then we can all debate in peace and harmony.

If you think it’s a moral issue, then you should have put it out front, plain and simple. “This is a moral issue. Those who continue to support circumcision must, by the evidence given at this blog and in other sources, be considered in error and grave danger of sin should they persist.” Is that really what you think? And you really think that the Church, in all Her wisdom and with the many, many, many, many different avenues through which the ordinary Magisterium could be exercised, would have utterly failed to clearly and continuously condemn such a widespread practice? Ok. That’s what you think. No problem, I’m ok you’re ok, and we can walk away peacefully.

My only soapbox here, is defending the poor mothers on the group who feel strongly about their decision, or are uncertain and thus made to feel incredibly guilty about their decision, or were merely confused and put out of sorts by the fast-paced and poorly defined discussion. The instant and vehement reaction to your posting could only be expected, especially if you had seen how the discussion about circumcision went down on the board a few months ago. And no, I’m not going to “take my ball and go home.”  I can roll with the punches, too.

But I’m not even going to touch the husbands and wives thing.

Sheila said...

I didn't say you said that (about it being a moral issue for some but not others), but someone on the thread did. I thought it was a ridiculous thing to say, but it was said.

So, basically what you're saying is that instead of trying to instruct the ignorant in a kind, non-confrontational way, because I *know* these people mean well and are trying to do their best, but instead leap on and say, "This is a moral issue. Those who continue to support circumcision must, by the evidence given at this blog and in other sources, be considered in error and grave danger of sin should they persist." And there is something wrong with my saying instead, "I think this is a moral issue; here are my sources; what do you think?" And then, "Yes, talk to your priest about it." I want to provide information for people to instruct themselves, not take the role of their conscience and berate them as if I thought I were better than them. Like I said, it's not a clearly defined issue, so I can't be 100% sure I'm right. I assumed that these adult, Catholic women can tell the difference between a moral issue and a doctrinal issue.

As far as not being sensitive *enough,* well, we tried. Jenni's already apologized for her remarks that were taken as inflammatory. I kept trying to assure people that I wasn't out to get them, but no one would believe me. I *know* this is a sensitive issue; I have very strong feelings about it myself. The very *idea* of anyone cutting teeny tiny pieces off of my baby makes me feel ill. But if it makes others upset, too, the solution seems to me to be not doing it anymore ... not lashing out at anyone who suggests it was wrong.

I have always maintained that no one can *make* anyone else feel guilty. If you know you did the right thing, you will not feel guilty. If you know you did the wrong thing, change. I think you're doing the pro-circumcision camp a disservice, anyway. Most of the moms didn't seem guilty or agonized -- they seemed annoyed that I disagreed with them and quite convinced that I was wrong.

And, of course, I did NOT see the post on the topic months ago, because I wasn't a member then. If I had, do you honestly think I would have brought this up again? I was hoping to make people think about what they were doing, not start World War III. I hate drama as much or more as the next person.

Fidelio said...

Ok, sorry, I thought you were somehow quoting me. Thanks for clarifying.

And yes, if you feel strongly that it’s a moral issue and that people need to be given as much opportunity to correct their wrong decision, I wouldn’t be surprised at all to find you bringing up an old subject or reiterating information. And I didn’t know when you joined the group (I thought we pretty much all became part of it at the same time).

Moving backwards through your response, saying “Yes, talk to your priest” and then, later on, saying “What, you can only find some moral theologian and not a real Church document to support your decision? Hmmm….that probably isn’t sufficient grounds to cut your son!” is a little two-faced. If the advice of a theologian or priest is sufficient, then there must be two answers that are acceptable. It would be an “open question” as far as moral theology is concerned. Calling it “moral” is confusing and distressing to people. And yes, many moms were definitely irritated (as opposed to be agonized or upset). You’re telling them that it’s a moral matter, once by which incorrect action will result in sin. And they disagree. It’s irritating to be told both “talk to your priest” (Maybe they did! I did!) and also “This is a moral matter which, if you educate yourself about it, you’re sinning if you continue.” It’s irritating to be argued with using a two-sided coin. And it’s extremely irritating to have all that going on, then people says “I don’t know what all the fuss is about!” That’s the most irritating thing of all.

Finally (to your first point), despite what you might have said about not wanting to be confrontational, the link you provided was very confrontational, and the meaning of the information and your arguments was/is very confrontational. That’s what I’ve been saying all along, that you aren’t understanding. These are not stupid women. They heard what you said, but they understood that, whether you realized it or not, the actual meaning behind the words was much deeper than merely “here’s some information.”

Sheila said...

Don't you think it's possible to have a moral question that's also an open question? And don't you think the other ladies know that too? Like you said, these are not stupid women. They are surely aware that there are things they shouldn't do that aren't SPECIFICALLY condemned by some magisterial statement. That's why we inform our consciences, because discerning moral matters can occasionally be sticky and not as easy as looking something up in the Catechism.

As far as misquoting goes, I never said "A moral theologian's say-so is not sufficient grounds to cut your son." I said, "Your quote is just 'an apologist.' Which one, and what are his sources? I would like to know." I was trying to dig a little deeper, because I'm sure you can find apologists on either side of the issue, but I'd like to hear the justifications for what they say. A moral theologian or a priest would be a better source, BUT I didn't say that was a sure thing either ... just that discussing the matter with one of them would probably be a good idea.

By the way, I DO know what the fuss is all about. I shared information which would be helpful for making a decision, and people who had made the opposite decision didn't like it because it said they were wrong. I expected them to be able to argue rationally about it anyway instead of trying to shut down the whole conversation because they were offended. I was wrong about that.

JenniC10 said...

"I have always maintained that no one can *make* anyone else feel guilty. If you know you did the right thing, you will not feel guilty. If you know you did the wrong thing, change."---->AMEN!
And STILL no one can refute the arguments against circumcision! Where is the evidence that this IS the right thing to do? All anybody can come up with is "it's cleaner," which it isn't, "I don't want my son to feel too different," and "It's a decision that should be made by every family individually."
It IS a moral issue, because there IS a right or wrong answer. We're not talking "Should I buy the red car or the blue?" We're talking "Should I have my son's penis permanently mutilated without his consent or shouldn't I?" Come on! You can't say there is no morality at stake here. Now, if a parent can back up his decision to circumcise with what he or she feels is enough of a compelling argument, then maybe he or she is on the right side of morality. I personally do not think that there is any reason to circumcise and would therefore think that this parent has made the wrong decision, but that is not the same thing as passing judgment. Passing judgment would be coming right out and saying "You are wrong." Being able to have an opinion yet still being open to honest, adult conversation and the mind to change that opinion after looking at good, hard, convincing evidence is the more mature, more intellectual, and more spiritual way to handle things.
Don't tell me that there is no one in your life that is doing something that you disagree with. If you disagree, does that mean you are passing judgment?
To be fair, I do think that it's a sin to circumcise someone's son. If I'm judgmental, then sobeit. I can't fathom doing that to either one of my children, and I absolutely see no difference in circumcising a boy and circumcising a girl. I don't even see any difference in cutting off my son's foreskin and cutting off one of his toes. Just my opinion, and I would NEVER have said that in the FB group, because it absolutely is not the place. But I still hold that no one said anything offensive during the whole conversation. If the pro-circ moms got their feelings hurt, I think there is something else going on entirely.

JenniC10 said...

One more thing--I've made mistakes with my kids. I can admit that. I've done lots of things that I have since realized were not the right thing. I can imagine that there will be many more things that I will regret. But I can admit it, and maybe I feel bad about having made the wrong choice in the past, but I can still grow and learn. There is nothing wrong with a parent who has circumcised his or her son taking a look at the arguments against circumcision and being open to admitting it was wrong, or even strengthening the decision. That's why I don't understand why this got to flipping personal for the pro-circ moms like it did. You know, if we had replaced the topic of circumcision with vaccinations, I'm sure there would have been a HUGE wave of pro-vax moms flaming me for not vaccinating my kids. But I can honestly tell you (from experience) that it would not have bothered me in the least. Because I feel in my heart, after all the research that my husband and I have done, that we have made the right decision. Maybe we haven't, but who knows? All we can do is do the best we can with what we've got.
All that Sheila was doing was presenting some information that might help some mothers make a better informed decision. I completely support her for posting the article, and I think it's pathetic that women felt the need to leave the group.

Unknown said...

I wrote something and it did not appear to post so if this ends up being doubled I apologize.
First: I will not argue the circumcision question with you. I already know your arguments and do not find them convincing while you have heard rebuttals to your arguments and do not find them convincing. Unless one of us comes up with something new it would be fruitless.
Second: I was not, nor do I think were many, offending by your original post. I found it though provoking and in the end not compelling because I feel that to say Mutilation is wrong, Circumcision is mutilation, therefore circumcision is wrong to beg the question on whether it is or is not mutilation. Also, out of curiousity and I will not be offended. My daughter, as was I, was born with extra fingers. They were removed. Is this mutilation? Clearly this is not the same as a foreskin as one is natural to all males and one is an aberation so it is not an argument against your point. Anyway, point being you had every right to make your initial post and to post it here of course.
Third: If you cannot see how the tone of some of those anti-circumcision was needlessly inflammatory again I cannot hope to convince you otherwise. And it is not, in my opinion, the fact you consider the matter serious or or moral weight to be offensive. Of course you do and I respect that while disagreeing.
Fourth: What I do feel I must say is twofold. One is that whatever the original point of this post was it has now devolved into a discussion or your impressions of the women who disagreed with you. Are they secretly guilt-ridden? Are the childish? None of your business. I say this not so much to you as to some of your commentators here. Whether you understand or do not understand their hurt feelings to sit and sneer and those is uncharitable. Furthermore it has no bearing on convincing anybody of anything about circumcision. It gives them impression, which I hope is unwarranted, that you would like to pat each other on the back for your level of enlightenment at the expense of those who purposefully or not, you have hurt.

JenniC10 said...

Michael, the thing is that no one has actually presented a single argument for circumcision that holds any water. There just isn't any evidence to support that it is necessary or even beneficial.
I said I was sorry on the group discussion for comments that people took offense to. I realize that I have been much more forthcoming with my opinions here, but this being a completely different venue, I feel that I can be a little more frank with the discussion. You're right--it's not my business whether these women secretly feel guilty about having chosen to circumcise their sons. It's only a question I have, given that still no one can have an adult conversation on the matter. It's just impossible to say something completely emotionally neutral and to have to keep worrying that it's somehow offensive. I thought we were all grown women.
Has anyone else noticed that not a single pro-circ mom has stated that she finds the issue to indeed be a moral one yet still made the decision to circumcise? Does that mean that there are parents choosing to circumcise without regard to whether it's the right thing for their sons? That's what I don't get.

Unknown said...

"I said I was sorry on the group discussion for comments that people took offense to. I realize that I have been much more forthcoming with my opinions here, but this being a completely different venue, I feel that I can be a little more frank with the discussion." In elementary school we called that: It's easier to talk behind someone's back than to their face.

"no one can have an adult conversation on the matter." If your definition of adult is to agree with you you will find it hard to have many conversations. I was quite logical in my previous post and you simply ignore or disagree with my opinions. That's find but it doesn't make me less than a grown woman.

"Has anyone else noticed that not a single pro-circ mom has stated that she finds the issue to indeed be a moral one yet still made the decision to circumcise? Does that mean that there are parents choosing to circumcise without regard to whether it's the right thing for their sons?" The problem is that you're talking from a moral standpoint because that is where you see the issue. the other side is not. There IS no moral NEED for circumcision and the medical reasons are certainly a matter of taste more than anything else. Those of us who are pro-circ have informed ourselves and believe it is a choice of NO moral character but of culture, family tradition, ease of hygiene etc. You will probably never find a pro-circ non-Jewish mom that sees a moral need to circumcise. You will find all pro-circ moms believe it is not morally wrong to do it. Of course we're not blithely cutting things off our kids without consideration. We find it is morally neutral. And no I don't need to hear why that is despicable to you, you've already explained that numerous times.

JenniC10 said...

Sheila, I'm sorry if I seemed to have made your blog my own personal battleground. Sometimes I don't know when to stop. I didn't start out so passionate about this discussion, but somehow, the more it goes on, the more irritated I get.
Yes, I feel for these babies. Not only for the momentary pain they endure while being circumcised, not only for the pain they'll endure for days afterward while they heal, not only for the loss of sexual pleasure later in life, but also for the messages that we are sending to our sons with this kind of "welcome to the world"--the messages about body image and peer pressure. And while I feel for these little guys, what is irritating me beyond belief is that this whole conversation has been almost entirely about "My feelings are hurt" and "You're offending me" and wa wa wa. We've spent such little time actually studying the issue and looking at what God has to say about it--which is what your original post was intended for. And somehow it's the anti-circ commentors that are blamed for this loss of focus!
I'm going to stop now. I have no doubt that I've offended a number of people here. I didn't mean to. I just can't tiptoe around it anymore. Thanks again for your post and for bringing the converation over here to your blog.

Unknown said...

" I realize that I have been much more forthcoming with my opinions here, but this being a completely different venue, I feel that I can be a little more frank with the discussion...."My feelings are hurt" and "You're offending me" and wa wa wa." In elementary school we called this talking behind someone's back. And why continuously apologize when you obviously don't care if you DO hurt people. That's fine to be straightup with your opinions but stop hiding behind false apologies.

"We've spent such little time actually studying the issue and looking at what God has to say about it--which is what your original post was intended for." Actually there has been much talk of whether or not it is a moral issue and whether or not we are obeying or disobeying God. You simply refuse to acknowledge the arguments of those who disagree with you as valid. Fair enough, I think yours are full of holes too but I don't pretend you haven't MADE them. We have argued at length about whether it is or is not mutilation and whether the reasons of the church fathers are applicable today. We simply disagree. That doesn't render us juvenile.

"Has anyone else noticed that not a single pro-circ mom has stated that she finds the issue to indeed be a moral one yet still made the decision to circumcise?" We can't say that we find the issue to indeed be a moral one when we DON'T. As has frequently been stated to you, we do not believe it is on that plain at all. We believe that it does not meet the criteria for mutilation, that judaization is not a fear applicable to our times, and that while not medically necessary the practice is not medically unacceptable. Having informed ourselves on these issues (because of course we have and are not blithely subjecting our children to procedures without careful consideration), we have determined that lesser issues of culture, family tradition, ease of hygiene or whatever, while clearly not enough to supersede moral or medical issues, are weighty enough when those other issues are considered neutral. You disagree and feel these are superficial, that issue is a moral one and that the procedure is traumatic. We believe it is not any more traumatic than the childbirth they experienced the day before and just as unlikely to scar them or be remembered. We are in disagreement and I don't expect to change that. However you ought to acknowledge that several people have given you reasoned arguments that have nothing to do with their feelings.

"I didn't start out so passionate about this discussion, but somehow, the more it goes on, the more irritated I get." So you are allowed to be passionate and irritated because you are in the right and those you see as in the wrong are not entitled to have and emotional reaction? It's a passionate issue. On either side. We are each entitled to our feelings and well as our measured opinions. I won't demean yours but you do not grant the same curtesy.

Fidelio said...

I've talked to RNs, MDs, priests, chaplains, theologians, hospital corpsmen, monks, philosophers, and parents. Most would contend that the preventative benefits (cleanliness over the man's lifetime) are sufficient to recommend the surgery to parents. The rest most certainly consider the issue neutral.

I most certainly do not believe that circumcision is mutilation, any more than ear piercing, gastric bypass surgery, tonsillectomy, adenoid removal, tooth extraction (for cosmetic reasons, often as not), or any other of the myriad, traumatic minor surgeries we put ourselves and our children through.

And my husband is totally grossed out by how much a group of women seem to enjoy discussion this subject, so I'm done now. Thanks for the good discussion!

Sheila said...

I actually wrote TWO very long replies ... one was eaten by my computer, and the other disappeared when the (sick, grumpy) baby smashed the keyboard and crashed my browser. So I'm giving up on the long, in-depth reply I had in mind, and instead I'll direct you here: http:// The third article down on the page, "The Ethics of Mutilation" has a good reasoning for what constitutes mutilation and what does not. Fr. Healy's opinion (which I agree with) is that anything that destroys or hinders a function of the body is mutilation. Since the foreskin does have an immunological and sexual role (see, I believe that circumcision hampers the body's function and therefore is mutilation -- not to be done without medical cause.

As far as the respect-and-politeness issue goes, I really am doing my best and trying to assume that all of you are, too. Rather than go over and over what each person said and why, I'll just say that I do believe everyone in this discussion is trying to make the right decision for their kids. I am not in the least offended by anything anyone was said, and I hope that I will be pardoned for anything I said that caused offense. It was not my intent.

Veronica said...

The nature of the link/post was where the issue was. The fact that some random person did some research, interpreted it as Catholic doctrine, and assigned a moral stance on circumcision is what started the problem.

The blog post, by it's very name, assumed that parents were willy-nilly making immoral choices without researching and forming their consciences accordingly. (Catholics and Circumcision...Do you know your faith?)

The "Shame on you"s and the "How dare you"s were directed at those who chose to at least imply judgement on the morality of the actions of others, NOT the nature of the subject matter being shared.

The post & comment thread were deleted because it was not the appropriate venue for a morality discussion. Surviving Motherhood: From Moms to Moms is a support/advice group for practical questions of parenting NOT a morality discussion group. As a moderator, I am charged with assisting the founder in seeing that the basic principles reason of the group is maintained. There are several non-Catholic mother's who are apart of the SM:FMtM group and from the private messages I recieved the article and corresponding discussion were disturbing to individuals of all walks: PRO-INTACT, PRO-CIRC, Catholic and non-Catholic. The basic message from the PMs was that this discussion did not belong on this group. Which is true.

To Be Continued....

Anonymous said...

If circumcision is mutilation, I don't think God would have commanded the Jews to do it! (I know we are in a different group.) St. Paul encouraged St. Timothy to be circumcised because he was half Jewish, even though he was also Christian. (I Timothy 4:14; II Timothy 1:6)

Guggie Daly said...

The application of Church teaching on morals is correct, but the premise upon which it is based is wrong.

Biblical circumcision was not mutilation. The entire prepuce was not removed. Rather, they made a small slit or blunted the end to draw blood. This is why Jews were able to "pull down the foreskin" to cover their glans and enter Greek bath houses.

God never commanded His people to mutilate their children. That was a practice that became popular during the puritan movement in America, when people believed complete circumcision would stop boys from masturbating.

The CCC is quite clear in regards to secular (currently practiced) circumcision:

Item 2297: Respect for bodily integrity

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

"Therapeutic medical reasons" does not mean "future hypothetical benefits." It means a required repair. A TREATMENT that heals an EXISTING medical condition.

Secular, routine infant circumcision does not TREAT an EXISTING medical condition. It amputates the ENTIRE, HEALTHY, FUNCTIONING prepuce organ.

That is the exact definition of mutilation and it is clearly violating the right to bodily integrity for innocent persons.

Definition of mutilation:

The "foreskin" (or clitoral hood for girls) is called the prepuce organ. It serves many functions, including sexual, hygienic and immunological functions. On infants/toddlers/young children, it protects the penis and keep it clean. It houses immune cells to fight off invading bacteria/viruses and as an adult it plays an integral part in facilitating smooth, pleasurable intercourse.

The prepuce organ, including the frenulum, ridged band, corpuscles, langerhans cells, nerves, blood vessels, etc are removed in routine, non-therapeutic circumcision at birth.

No medical organisation in the world views routine infant circumcision as a "therapeutic medical procedure." In fact, even our American medical organisations call it non-therapeutic.

The Canadian Paediatric Society says that male neonatal circumcision should not routinely (i.e., in the absence of medical indication) be performed.33 The American Medical Association calls male neonatal circumcision a non-therapeutic procedure.34 The American Academy of Family Physicians equates male neonatal circumcision to a "cosmetic procedure."35 Male neonatal circumcision now is regarded as a non-therapeutic procedure that is totally unnecessary for a child's health and well-being. Furthermore, male neonatal non-therapeutic circumcision has significant risks and complications.36 Circumcision increases infant mortality because some babies die from complications of circumcision.37 Studies show that intact boys have better penile health during the first three years of life.39,40 Other drawbacks and disadvantages include psychological and sexual problems in adult life.40

Sheila said...

"I don't use my real name," sorry your comment did not post earlier. Blogger mistakenly marked it as spam.

I certainly agree that, as a moderator, you have the right to remove posts that you feel are harmful to your group. That's why I brought the discussion over here, so that those people who wanted to discuss the issue could do so without getting in the way of what you intend your own group to be for.

I do stand by the article; I did not find it offensive in tone or incorrect in its conclusions. But if you don't want it posted on your forum, that's your call.

Guggie, I agree with you, and would add that even the Jewish method of circumcision, which is much less drastic, has been replaced by baptism. We who are Gentile converts (not born into Judaism) were told NOT to be circumcised at the council of Jerusalem.

Sarah Faith said...

I was pro-circ when my first son was born. If I should have any more sons they will definitely be left intact. In the first place I come from a culture of circumcision. (Jewish Protestant Christian) I was against hospital circ at 1-2 days old, but felt that it should be done on the 8th day as God said b/c He must have had a reason for it. Could not understand how, even though not mandated anymore now that baptism was the new sign & seal, it could actually be *bad* for a boy to be circ'ed.

Fastforward to my conversion and realizing that the Church was against it so we decided then and there no more circs. What truly convinced me though was finding out that the original circ mandated by God was actually a tiny little snip and not a complete removal!! I had no idea. And I am sad that I made that mistake on my first son.

But I am not by any means an intactivist nor do I really want to talk about it much. I unsubscribed to peaceful parenting blog b/c it was just way too much circ talk. :)

Anonymous said...

I realize circumcision has been done away with by baptism. I hope you see that my point rather was that God would not have, even in the Old Testament, commanded mutilation. The immorality of mutilation would seem to be a natural law matter, that wouldn't have changed, even though the Mosaic law has been rendered obsolete.
I did not know current techniques of circumcision differed from the method used by the Jews in biblical times. I am curious if Jewish people do it today. I would also be curious if Messianic or Hebrew Catholics would circumcise today. I do not believe they would be required to, but would they, for custom's sake?

Anonymous said...

I agree that it's important that Moms start talking about this. It's also important that people understand that it's impossible to talk about WHY you are against something without it sounding like you are against it. It's not making a judgement call about others, unless it is specifically directed at others.

I have a (Jewish, obviously) friend who had a doctor/moel do her son's bris. She told me if she had known more, she would have used someone who was ONLY a moel - because they have to be fast and good or they have no profession. But she had to attend a lot more of these ceremonies to learn that, because no one TALKED about it.

Another friend (non-religious) said "Yes' when asked at the hospital because she just thought it was "normal." She later told me that she would NEVER do that again, that she had NO REAL IDEA what she was agreeing to until she witnessed it.

It's easy enough to say everyone should educate themselves, but if Moms never talk about it, it's also easy to think it's no big deal.

By the time our sons are grown, I hope this has largely become a non-issue. If my boys want this done when they are grown, that's their business. But I sure am not going to make the decision for them.

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