Q. 1. What does the Catholic Church teach regarding circumcision? Should it be practiced?
A. 1. From the document, "Cantate Domino" (A.D. 1442), signed by Pope Eugene IV, from the 11th session of the Council of Florence (A.D. 1439, a continuation of the Council of Basle, A.D. 1431, and the Council of Ferrara, A.D. 1438), we learn the following:
[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 [Jewish] 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."
Some Catholics and web masters of Catholic web sites, to support their distortion of the aforementioned proclamation, state that the Catholic Church has condemned circumcision. In truth, the aforementioned proclamation of the Catholic Church was written in condemnation of those who continued to practice the Mosaic Law. Note the following parts of the Proclamation:
1. Identifies what is condemned: "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.."
2. Identifies when it came to an end: "came to an end and the sacraments of the new Testament had their beginning..."
3. Identifies the Jewish tradition: "Therefore it denounces all who after that time observe circumcision, the [Jewish] sabbath and other legal prescriptions as strangers to the faith of Christ..." (Not just circumcision alone, but other practices alongside of it.)
4. Condemns the association of the Jewish tradition with the Christian faith: "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."
In summary, no one is saved by the practice of circumcision. No Christian is saved by practicing the Mosaic Law. This truth is supported by passages that are found in the Holy Bible where it says, "For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything; the only thing that counts is faith working through love." [Gal. 5:6] "Was anyone at the time of his call already circumcised? Let him not seek to remove the marks of circumcision. Was anyone at the time of his call uncircumcised? Let him not seek circumcision. Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing; but obeying the commandments of God is everything." [1 Cor. 7:18-9]
Chapter 15 of the Acts of the Apostles tells us that when certain individuals came down from Judea, they were teaching the brothers, 'Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.' [Acts 15:1] On that subject, the Church proclaimed: "Therefore I have reached the decision that we should not trouble those Gentiles [regarding the necessity of circumcision] who are turning to God..." [Acts 15:19]
Today, most Christian denominations, including the Roman Catholic Church, are neutral about biblical male circumcision, neither requiring it, nor forbidding it. It is known that the Jews, the Moslems and some African tribes practice circumcision for religious reasons. Some physicians recommend circumcision for reasons of health and cleanliness. But the fact remains, the Catholic Church does not prohibit circumcision providing it is not performed as a condition of becoming a Catholic.
So why is circumcision practiced? Some do it for religious reasons (necessity for salvation), such being condemned by the Catholic Church and the Holy Bible. Some do it because it is a cultural practice. Some do it because it is part of their tradition, the sons being circumcised as their fathers were circumcised. Some practice it for medical reasons.
Then there are some who practice circumcision for cosmetic reasons, such being condemned by the Catholic Church because it implies mutulation.
So should you have your son circumcised or not? Provided that you are not having your son circumcised with the belief that it is necessary for his salvation, you are free to do as you please.
There are some who will tell you horror stories regarding the practice of circumcision in order to influence you not to practice it. Such persons includes doctors and members of the clergy who have sexual hang ups. These individuals are not the type of individuals that you should be consulting for a second opinion if you are uncertain as to what you should do. In conclusion, it should be stated that as a means to end the practice of circumcision, some have alleged that there are no medical benefits to it. The latest research has proven that there are preventive health benefits to circumcision. So the choice is yours!
August 27, 2012 update from http://www.ctvnews.ca.
Title: Circumcision benefits outweigh risks, say U.S. pediatricians
The health benefits of circumcision in newborn boys outweigh the risks, says the American Academy of Pediatrics in its strongest statement yet in favour of the procedure.
In guidelines issued Monday, the influential physicians’ group says the latest scientific evidence shows that circumcision can reduce the risk of urinary tract infections in infants and cut the risk of sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV, syphilis, and human papillomavirus or HPV, which causes cervical cancer in females as well as some oral cancers. As well, the procedure can also reduce the risk of penile cancer, the group said.
This new statement, published in the journal Pediatrics, comes down firmly in favour of the procedure, saying circumcision’s health benefits "justify access to this procedure for families who choose it."
It concludes that while the circumcision carries some risks of bleeding and infection, those complications are rare. As well, the procedure does not appear to adversely affect penile sexual function, sensitivity of the penis or sexual satisfaction later in life, the group concludes.
On March 4, 2013, the Ottawa Citizen newspaper reported that "Canada's pediatricians are about to update their advice on whether baby boys should be circumcised, revising and softening their stand for the first time in 17 years. Their review comes as new Canadian research suggests half of expectant parents would consider circumcision if they had a son - and that the single most important factor is the circumcision "status" of the father."
"A new study found that the circumcision rates are heavily influenced by whether or not the father is circumcised. Overall, half - 56 per cent - said they would consider pursuing circumcision if they had a son. In cases where the father of the expected baby was circumcised, 82 per cent were in favour of circumcision, versus 15 per cent when the father wasn't circumcised.
The newspaper continues by stating, "But after a special task force reviewed more than 1,000 studies published over the past 15 years, the American doctors' group now says that circumcision provides protection against urinary tract infections, penile cancer and the transmission of some sexually transmitted infections, including HIV." If such is true, and if parents are truly concerned about the well-being of their sons, would they not practice circumcision as a health related preventive measure?
The bottom line is that if parents are not going to practice circumcision, then they have a responsibility to ensure that their son(s) practice proper hygiene. That means teaching them to pull back the foreskin and to clean their penis on a regular basis. Unfortunately the majority of parents do not do so because they find this too embarrassing to do as the child gets older.
As one Doctor puts it, "The most common causes of bad smell around the penis would be related to poor hygiene and skin infections. Uncircumcised (boys and) men need to pull their foreskin all the way back to wash the head of their penis once or twice a day with soapy water. If that is not done, then secretions and a substance called smegma can accumulate and cause a bad smell."
The above are the facts. The choice is yours, to circumcise or not to circumcise your son. Whatever decision you make, you will have to live with it.