Fr. John's Letter Archives

Enjoy re-reading Fr. John's weekly bulletin letters for the past year.

Circumcising religious liberty from the culture - part 2

09-09-2012Fr. John LettersFr. John

A few weeks ago I wrote about how a Court in Cologne, Germany ruled that circumcision was a violation of the right of a child to “bodily integrity” and that it amounted to a form of religious child abuse with no therapeutic benefit therefore the Court outlawed the practice. Well recently the first rabbi, David Goldberg of Northern Bavaria was charged with performing circumcisions. Frankly this should chill your spine. Are these people that unaware and insensitive to the anti-Semitic overtones? (The ruling affects only one state in Germany. I don’t want to castigate all Germans.) And think of the arrogance of the Judge who bans a religious ritual that has been performed consistently for 4,000 years. The Judge joins the company of Pharaoh, Nebuchadnezzar, Antiochus Epiphanes, Titus and other oppressors of the Jews.

Sadly European anti-Semitism runs deeps and wide. The circumcision ban was argued in the language of human rights but right below the surface you can sense a deep hostility to Judaism as well as a point of view that sees religious rituals as archaic and superfluous. But the fact is that the ritual of circumcision has helped Jews maintain their identity despite not having a homeland for centuries nor all the things that normally help maintain ethnic and religious identity. Circumcision is hardly superfluous to Jews.

But help comes from unexpected sources: the American Academy of Pediatrics recently changed it position on circumcision from "neutral" to "pro". Years of research have clearly demonstrated that circumcision prevents "urinary tract infections, penile cancer, and transmission of some sexually transmitted infections" the AAP stated. Thus the benefits outweigh the risks. Now some are calling for HHS to issue a new mandate requiring "no cost circumcision" in insurance policies and Medicaid since the cost of circumcision can be more than some could afford thus making them chose between finances and health benefits. Interesting how things work out: HHS, which requires the contraception mandate that violates religious principles, may have to now uphold a religious practice! Additionally this proves once again that what God asks of us religiously is also good for us physically.

In the convoluted thinking of our age the same people who argue against this "removal of tissue" because of potential complications like bleeding, infection, pain or a slip of the Mohel's hand, have no problem with the possible potential deadly complications from a woman having "tissue" (a fetus) remove surgically from her body. This once again shows how the pleasure principle reigns supreme. Abortion assists in the pursuit of pleasure by eradicating a nasty side effect (pregnancy) while some make the unfounded claim that circumcision interferes with pleasure.

The upsurge in Jew-hatred seems to span both sides of the Atlantic. During the Olympics in London many called for a moment of silence to remember the members of the Israeli team that were massacred at the '72 Munich Olympics. Even this simple request stirred lots of controversy and the International Olympic Committee refused the request. Only the Italian team actually followed through. Also on the BBC website Israel was the only country listed without a capital as Jerusalem was listed as the "seat of government" and East Jerusalem was listed as the "future capital of a Palestinian state". Then at a Press Conference, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney repeatedly refused to answer the question: "What is the capital of Israel?" Obviously the IOC, BBC and White House make no attempt to hide their contempt for Israel and all things Jewish.

As Christians we do not see circumcision as necessary for salvation. For us baptism is the sign that marks us as members of the household of God. However, since circumcision has therapeutic benefits there is nothing intrinsically immoral with practicing it. So while Jews and Muslims practice it for religious reasons the Christian is free to practice it or not for medical reasons. Either way we as Christians need to remain in solidarity with the Jews in their exercise of their religious practices.

Parental rights are intertwined in this issue. Obviously a civilized society does not tolerate parental abuse and neglect of a child. However where is the line and who decides? Why are parents permitted to allow their daughters to have abortions or be sterilized and not have their boys circumcised? The answer to the question of parental rights depends greatly on a society's moral code. As we watch the Judeo-Christian moral code be supplanted by anything-but-Judeo-Christian-values we can be sure to witness a whole lot more of the scrubbing of religion from the public and private arenas.

They lay crafty plans against your people; they consult together against those you protect. They say, "Come, let us wipe them out as a nation; let the name of Israel be remembered no more." ~Psalm 83


Fr. John Bonavitacola