Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, Communication Concerning the Prohibition of Direct Sterilization, 2000.

The major superiors of women religious in the United States received the following communication from Cardinal Eduardo Martinez Somalo, Prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, through the Leadership Conference of Women Religious and the Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious. The communication addresses developments in the field of Catholic Health Care and reiterates the church’s teaching concerning the prohibition of direct sterilization.


Prot. n.

Dear Sister _________,

As you are aware, this Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, together with other Roman Dicasteries, continues to follow with interest developments in the field of Catholic Health care. One of the particularly sensitive issues in the United States societal context is that of sterilization.

Because this topic frequently arises and has become the topic of considerable discussion, we believe it would be useful to reiterate the Church’s constant teaching on this matter. To do so, we refer first to the

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statement of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, issued in 1975. (AAS 68 [1976] 738-40; CLD 8:924-927)

This document begins with the absolute prohibition of direct sterilization in Catholic hospitals; that is, sterilization which of its nature and condition has “the sole immediate effect of rendering the generative faculty incapable of pro-creation.” It is made clear, that a subjective right intention does not change this, nor do contrary theological opinions constitute a legitimate option.

More recently, during the Ad Limina Visit of the U.S. Bishops of Region 10, Pope John Paul II strongly reiterated this principle. The Church’s teaching that abortion, sterilization and euthanasia are always morally inadmissible is, he notes, a matter of universal moral law, binding in conscience. Addressing the Bishops as teachers of moral truth, the Holy Father stated: “As bishops, you must remind everyone involved – hospital administrations and medical personnel – that any failure to comply with this prohibition is both a grievous sin and a source of scandal.” (AAS 91 [1999] 202-205; Origins 20 [October 1, 1999] 282-284).

Religious superiors whose institutes are involved in this critical aspect of Christ’s mission, entrusted to the Church, are therefore urged to be diligent in seeing to the application of these principles in their hospitals, and to collaborate in extending this important message. We will be grateful for your cooperation in communicating this letter to them.

With personal best wishes and prayer for God’s blessings, I remain

Yours Sincerely in Christ,

Eduardo Card. Martinez Somalo


Most Rev. Piergiorgio Silvano Nesti, C.P.


RRAO (2000): 24-25.