Church Reaffirms Its Position on Hysterectomies

The prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), Cardinal Luis Ladaria, issued a statement in January confirming the church’s position that hysterectomies are allowable only in “extreme cases” wherein sterilization is not the procedure’s guiding objective. Such cases could include cancer and other instances in which “a grave and present danger” to a woman’s health is present. The procedure may also be performed when medical experts have determined that the uterus would be unable to sustain a healthy pregnancy that could produce a viable fetus. The Responsum also confirms the church’s position that a hysterectomy is illicit if its purpose is to prevent a pregnancy that would put a woman’s health at risk. Notably, the letter does not mention “women,” but instead refers solely to the health of the “mother,” even when discussing circumstances in which a woman has no children and is determined to be sterile. Cardinal Ladaria, the document’s author, was subpoenaed late last year to appear before the French court that tried Cardinal Philippe Barbarin, after prosecutors claimed that he directed Barbarin not to involve law enforcement in the abuse case of Lyon priest Bernard Preynat. The Holy See, however, refused the request, citing diplomatic immunity.

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