Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Attention Petrina Fadel!

The whole point of this post is to take a conversation from the comments thread of another blog over here. So, Petrina Fadel, if you'd care to extend our earlier exchange, I'll do my best to keep up. (I think you're probably able to post more than I am at the moment, judging from Amy's blog thread, so bear with me. It's a stressful time for me, work-wise, as you can guess from how often I've posted in October.)

In the interests of full disclosure (and perhaps risking my sons' privacy) we didn't have our boys circumcised. However, I'm not a Jew, so God didn't command for MY people to be circumcised. So there's that, for one.

But also, if I understand you correctly, you suggest that it is against official Catholic teaching to have one's children circumcised. I disagree. I think it's something about which Catholics are allowed to disagree. You've made a case - based on the fact that a Pope spoke negatively about circumcision at the Council of Florence (which I didn't know, so thank you); on the fact that the Catechism includes a proscription of gratuitous amputations and the AAP calls circumcision an "amputation; and on the fact that Paul says certain negative things about circumcision. I'm not saying that your case is bad, I'm just pointing out that its pertinence to the issue of whether contemporary Catholics should circumcise rests on interpretive leaps made by you.

Which is fine. Other people could argue other things -- and have, in (among other places) Catholic Answers, hardly a bastion of liberal cafeteria Catholicism. They could point to the fact that it makes no sense to believe that God commanded the chosen people to do something that was intrinsically a mutilation, let alone a violation of moral or natural law. Over at the other blog, another commenter and I both mentioned Paul's socio-cultural reasons for saying what he did about circumcision. And I could point to things that popes have said, especially post V2, about the dangers of supersessionism.

We could arrive at different conclusions, is what I'm saying. But my contention is that it's not (excuse the unfortunate pun) cut-and-dried, the way you initially seemed to make it out to be.


bon said...

OK... so this is very likely vastly off topic, but with the birth of our first and only boy eminent, I have had circumcision (whether or not) on my mind.

I was esp caught by the following...
"They could point to the fact that it makes no sense to believe that God commanded the chosen people to do something that was intrinsically a mutilation, let alone a violation of moral or natural law."

Does everything that God requires of His chosen ones have to make sense to us, especially given our limited understanding? Is it really wise to discount the Old Testament just because it doesn't fit with our current take on Deity's dealing with us? I guess I really lean toward the idea that while many of the covenants and dealings with the seed Of Abraham became fulfilled in Christ (i.e. animal sacrifice and burnt offerings)it in no way negates what was required of His people BEFORE the Saviour came. In other words, I am a little tripped out that anyone would want to debate whether or not he HAD commanded it of His covenant people or not, and I am unnerved that a faithful Catholic WOULD (that is, if I have not misunderstood). It smacks of questioning Gods commandments in general, simply because they don't fit with what makes sense to me.

Please tell me I HAVE misunderstood.

bon said...

And COMPLETELY off topic but in the same vein... I am tripped out that the Jews do not practice animal sacrifice today. I mean, I would think it was perhaps because of the disappearance of the Levites, but that didn't keep the, from practicing during Christ's time (long after the diaspora). I would think it was because they have no Temple... but again, that didn't stop them in Moses day. Do you happen to know what gives?

bon said...


"THEM", not "the,."

A Sarah said...

bon, I totally agree with you!! God chose Israel, as the kids say, for reals. When I wrote "it makes no sense that God commended the chosen people to do something that was intrinsically a mutilation," my thinking was more:

1. Hey, God really commanded the chosen people to circumcise.

2. God doesn't command things that are against moral or natural law; indeed, the very idea is incoherent.

3. Therefore, circumcision can't be against moral or natural law.

Reading it again, though, I see that it sounded like I was saying, instead, "Therefore, God can't have commanded it." Should I go back and edit, ya think? Would you tell on me? LOL. ;)

A Sarah said...

Also, when are you due, again? (Or maybe you're not being public about it.) I need to figure out how to subscribe to your blog so I get get the big announcement when he arrives!

bon said...

Ah! So you were using some sort of reverse psychology logic! Gotcha!

I think I would have understood if I had taken the argument to it's logical extreme rather than so very literally.

Plus... I am due on Dec. 6th, but if I make it that far I will get induced on either the 2nd or 3rd, depending on the doctors leisure. I have a sneaky feeling that it will not actually get that far. Or perhaps that is just mah FANTASY!

estherar said...


The Levites didn't DH is one, in fact.

The reason we don't have animal sacrifices these days is because, as you said, we don't have a Temple in Jerusalem. There was a Temple in Jesus's time (it was destroyed by the Romans in 70AD). In Moses' time and until Solomon's day, there was the Tabernacle.
Today, we use prayers instead.

There's a whole big Jewish theological debate whether when the third Temple will be built, we'll go back to animal sacrifices, but I figure that's one bridge to cross when we actually get there :) .

And Dec 6th is a great day to have a's my eldest's birthday :).

Hugh7 said...

A lot of this smacks of angels on pinheads to me, but if you believe that God commanded circumcision of the Jews (as a sign of a covenant with them), and you're not a Jew, then almost by definition, God did not command circumcision of you. Paul is very clear on why circumcision is not necessary for Christians, and in fact that seems to have been at the heart of the split between Christians and Jews. If you want to re-introduce circumcision for "health reasons", you should really leave religion out of it.

Catholics are not required to take the whole bible literally. (It is permissible to believe in evolution, which rather rules out Adam and Eve and the Flood, for example.) This suggests that Catholics are not required to believe in a literal Old Covenant involving circumcision. It's not in any of the Creeds, for example. The earliest known version of Torah, the Book of J, includes the covenant with Abraham and animal sacrifices (Gen 15), but no mention of circumcision.

Some people seem determined to circumcise for any reason or none. There's something very strange about circumcision that has this effect, and I think it has to do with the fact that it's done to babies who can't object, making it a fait accompli among men, who would die rather than admit that there is anything diminished about their genitals, when there patently is.

pinky said...

Off topic here. I read your post on AMy's blog about risk and where to live. My answer = Duxbury Massachusetts. 30-45 minutes south of Boston. Good school system. Very safe. Has all 4 seasons. Lots of surrounding colleges. Has hiking trails and a nice beach you can drive your suv over the sand. Just thought you may like to know that.

Kneelingwoman said...

Hi A. Sarah: I don't know any other way to be in touch with you: You posted on my new blog at Wild Goose? I lost your comment ( and mine in response to it ) while trying to do something else! I'm hoping that the Spirit will move you to check over here at some point soon. I hope you'll continue reading my blogs and please don't feel that you need to "lurk". I enjoy hearing from you and I felt really blessed that you came and were the first person to check out my new blog! Thanks. Michelle.