Saturday, February 18, 2012

SLOVENIA: Catholic Church Defies the Whole of Western Medicine, the Law, Itself

Earlier this month, the Human Rights Ombudsman in Slovenia published his opinion that circumcision for non-medical reasons was a violation of children's rights. He based it purely on preexisting laws and maxims of medicine, but speaking ill of the non-medical circumcision of children has outraged Jews and Muslims in Slovenia.

The following is an excerpt translated from the original article linked above:
A complainant asked the Ombudsman to assess whether circumcision of boys is interference with the rights of the child, especially if it is done only for religious reasons and not justified on health grounds. The complainant considered that such interference by the Slovenian doctors is harmful, but he did not know all the negative consequences (prejudice, subconscious trauma, impotence, infection, etc..).

Before preparing the opinion, available scientific literature on the issues was examined, particularly the article by Damian Korošec, published in the magazine Lawyer, Volume 50 (1995) entitled [Circumcision - pointless] banality of surgery. Inquiries were sent to the College of Experts on General Surgery, the National Medical Ethics Commission of the Slovenian Republic and the Health Insurance Institute of Slovenia.

... The expanded expert committee for surgery ... concluded that the circumcision of boys for non-medical reasons is not medically justified. Indications for professional intervention are listed in the professional urological literature.

The Office of the Commission for Medical Ethics has given a long answer, which is summarized in its opinion of principle: "ritual circumcision of boys for religious reasons in our country, for legal and ethical reasons is unacceptable, and doctors should not perform it." In addition to the unacceptability of circumcision from an ethical point of view, the Commission also points out that it is unacceptable to falsify medical documentation by recording a ritual circumcision as medically indicated.

The Health Insurance Institute of Slovenia was asked for information concerning payment for circumcision (annual number of interventions, the price of services) and how the issue of payment is arranged, if medical intervention is not indicated, but is carried out only at the request of the individual or his legal representatives. The Institute replied that they have no information on the annual number of interventions; the delivery price that society pays health care providers is €34.88.

When intervention is not medically indicated, service is not covered by the compulsory health insurance, the patient or his agents must pay for the intervention.

...We decided to examine the situation with regard to some important issues of human rights and especially children's rights. The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child obliges States Parties to take all appropriate legislative, administrative, social and educational measures to protect the child from all forms of physical or mental violence, injury and abuse, while in the care of parents, legal guardians or any other person who care for him (article 19 CRC).

The Constitution of the Republic of Slovenia in the 56th Article grants the child special protection and care under the 35th Article as everyone is guaranteed the inviolability of physical and mental integrity. These provisions clearly show that any intervention in the physical integrity of children is limited and justifiable only for medical reasons. If there is a medical indication, which is to protect the health of the child, circumcision may be performed; such intervention is a legitimate and legal, and the permission of a parent who has responsibility for the child's development is required or allowed. (Reader: Note this is usually the way it works for ANY OTHER medically indicated surgery, not just circumcision.) If for any reason parents would not allow an indicated medical intervention, the competent authorities may determine possible dereliction of duty in caring for the child and take the necessary measures provided by law.

However, if medical circumcision of the child is not indicated, but is only a result of his parents' beliefs (religious or otherwise), such intervention has no legal basis. This is so whether or not the child is explicitly opposed to the intervention. Interference with the physical integrity of a child solely because of the desire of his legal representatives or guardians, therefore, constitutes an inadmissible interference in his body and is in our opinion the evidence of criminal behavior.

The Patients Rights Act (Official Gazette. 15/08) in section 26 stipulates that a patient who is capable of making prior free and informed consent is not permitted to undergo medical procedure or medical care, without such consent except in cases provided by law. For children, the Patients' Rights Act provides that, generally over 15 is the ability to consent, unless the physician, according to their maturity assesses that it is not able. A child before the age of 15 but under the law generally is not able to consent, with the doctor in these cases, estimated to be in this position. The Act specifically provides that a child's opinion regarding the treatment takes into account the extent possible, if it is able to express an opinion and if he understands the significance and consequences.

The Constitution recognizes the right of parents, in accordance with their beliefs, to provide their children with religious and moral education. ... Guidance on religious education, in our opinion does not include the right of parents due to mere religious belief to choose to intervene in the child's body. We therefore believe that circumcision, for reasons other than medical, is not permitted and constitutes unlawful interference with the child's body and thus violates his rights.

... Parents are primarily responsible for the development of children's health, but also they must in all cases take into account the child's interest as a guide in decision making. Also, in deciding their rights they are limited by the rights of others, in this case, therefore, their children, ... The right to religious freedom does not justify interference with the right to physical integrity of another, so we believe that circumcision for non-medical reasons, may only be [with] the child's consent, subject to the conditions provided for by law on patients' rights, therefore, usually after 15 years of age.

The Whole of Western Medicine Agrees
The trend of opinion on routine male circumcision is overwhelmingly negative in industrialized nations. No respected medical board recommends the circumcision of infants, not even in the name of HIV prevention. They must all point to the risks, and they must all state that there is no convincing evidence that the benefits outweigh these risks. To do otherwise would be to take an unfounded position against the best medical authorities of the West.

"The British Medical Association has a longstanding recommendation that circumcision should be performed only for medical reasons... Recent policy statements issued by professional societies representing Australian, Canadian, and American pediatricians do not recommend routine circumcision of male newborns".
"...benefits are not sufficient for the American Academy of Pediatrics to recommend that all infant boys be circumcised."
"...the association between having a sexually transmitted disease (STD) - excluding human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and being circumcised are inconclusive... most of the studies [of the effect of circumcision on HIV] ...have been conducted in developing countries, particularly those in Africa. Because of the challenges with maintaining good hygiene and access to condoms, these results are probably not generalizable to the U.S. population".
"Current understanding of the benefits, risks and potential harm of this procedure no longer supports this practice for prophylactic health benefit. Routine infant male circumcision performed on a healthy infant is now considered a non-therapeutic and medically unnecessary intervention."
~College of Physicians and Surgeons of British Columbia 
"[We] do not support recommending circumcision as a routine procedure for newborns."
"The BMA considers that the evidence concerning health benefits from non-therapeutic circumcision is insufficient for this alone to be a justification for doing it."
~The British Medical Association
"...the level of protection offered by circumcision and complication rate of circumcision do not warrant a recommendation of universal circumcision for newborn and infant males in an Australian and New Zealand context."
"The official viewpoint of KNMG (The Royal Dutch Medical Association) and other related medical/scientific organizations is that non-therapeutic circumcision of male minors is a violation of children’s rights to autonomy and physical integrity. Contrary to popular belief, circumcision can cause complications – bleeding, infection, urethral stricture and panic attacks are particularly common. KNMG is therefore urging a strong policy of deterrence. KNMG is calling upon doctors to actively and insistently inform parents who are considering the procedure of the absence of medical benefits and the danger of complications."
The Catholic Church Intervenes

The Human Rights Ombudsman in Slovania would have local, international law, and standard medical practice on his side, much to the chagrin of Jews and Muslims who have expressed outrage against him.

And yet, despite the clarity of the law, local and international, despite the consonance of Western medicine regarding the issue, the Catholic Church has impertinently decided to intervene on behalf of the Jewish and Muslim communities who see the circumcision of children as their "religious right."

According to the Slovenian Times:

[The Justice and Peace Commission of Slovenian Bishops] stressed today that the Ombudsman's statement, which had already been rejected by the Jewish and Muslim communities last week, was in violation of both Slovenian legislation and human rights, considering it a public call for disrespecting identities of at least two Slovenian religious communities.

The president of the commission, Maribor Archbishop Marjan Turnšek, moreover said in the press release that this was not in line with the Constitution and the religious freedoms act, as well as "a violation of human rights and fundamental freedoms".

Odd... I'm pretty sure he made quite sure his statement was in line concerning Slovenian legislation and human rights (see above).

Turnšek claimed that the Ombudsman did not prove that circumcision would harm the children's health, and that it was not justified that religious circumcision had elements of a criminal act.

The opinion "limits religious freedom and the right to religious education of children" of Muslim and Jewish parents, according to him.

And here, it looks as if the Catholic Church is now acting as some sort of medical authority. This wouldn't be the first time the Catholic Church made a medical value judgement; in the past, the Pope condemned the use of condoms as a means to stop HIV transmission.

The circumcision of healthy, non-consenting minors defies the standard of care for therapeutic surgery, which requires that the medical benefits of the surgery far outweigh the medical risks and harms, or for the surgery to correct a congenital abnormality. Standard medicine dictates that unnecessarily invasive procedures should not be used where alternative, less invasive techniques, are equally efficient and available. The most basic maxims of medicine tell us that it is unethical and inappropriate to perform surgery for therapeutic reasons where medical research has shown there to be other techniques to be at least as effective and less invasive.

Continues the article:
Turnšek added that the Ombudsman acted in violation of the religious freedoms act because it did not consult religious communities and churches before releasing its opinion.

Oh? Is it some sort of requirement that churches and synagogues must be consulted before the ombudsman can issue a statement on the medical validity of a surgical procedure? Since when?

The article concludes:
The commission also said that circumcision for religious reasons was not forbidden in virtually any developed and secular country.

It called on all relevant state bodies to reject the biased opinion, which had been published by the Ombudsman at the beginning of the month.

And why, precisely, should medical bodies ever listen to religious institutions regarding the validity of a surgical procedure is beyond me...


As if defying local and international law, and  further still taking an unfounded position against the best medical authorities in the West weren't enough, Maribor Archbishop Marjan Turnšek seems to be oblivious to his own faith:
"… Except when performed for strictly therapeutic medical reasons, directly intended amputations, mutilations, and sterilizations performed on innocent persons are against the moral law."
~The Catholic Catechism (Item 2297: Respect for bodily integrity)

"…the amputation of any part of the human body is never legal, except when the entire body cannot be saved from destruction by any other method."
~Pope Benedict XIV (1740-58)

"From a moral point of view, circumcision is permissible if, in accordance with therapeutic principles, it prevents a disease that cannot be countered in any other way."
~Pope Pius XII 
More an what the Catholic Church has to say on circumcision here.

So WHY Did the Catholic Church Do This?
It is quite clear that this was nothing more than a PR tactic to pay lip service to the Jews and Muslims who have expressed outrage, and it has absolutely nothing to do with peace and justice.

So how far does the Catholic Church advocate "religious freedom?"

It is a Muslim religious custom in some countries, to slash their children's heads on the day of Ashura.

What if Muslims started practicing this in Slovenia? And what if Slovenian authorities condemned it? Would the Catholic Church intervene then?

It some countries, female circumcision is seen as a religious requirement for Islam.

Does the Catholic Church defend "religious freedom" here too?

How far does the Catholic Church defend "religious freedom?"

How far must medical organizations keep quiet about "religious customs?"

Or is this limited to male circumcision?

The Bottom Line
The foreskin is not a birth defect. Neither is it a congenital deformity or genetic anomaly akin to a 6th finger or a cleft. Neither is it a medical condition like a ruptured appendix or diseased gall bladder. Neither is it a dead part of the body, like the umbilical cord, hair, or fingernails. The foreskin is normal, natural, healthy, FUNCTIONING tissue, with which all boys are born.

Unless there is a medical or clinical indication, the circumcision of healthy, non-consenting individuals is a deliberate wound; it is the destruction of normal, healthy tissue, the permanent disfigurement of normal, healthy organs, and by very definition, infant genital mutilation, and a violation of the most basic of human rights.

The Ombudsman is to be commended for standing up for what is right, according to local and international law, and according to the most basic maxims of medicine, in the face of religious fanatics.

The Justice and Peace Commission ought to be ashamed of itself for sacrificing the most basic of human rights on the altar of political gain.


  1. I really can't understand why a person could ever think it makes sense to argue for his or her religious right to cut up the penis of somebody else, let alone a completely healthy child.

    I mean, besides all of the other rights and principles and morals that are clearly violated by forcibly cutting up the penis of a completely healthy person, such cutting also has the very real potential to be viewed by the victim as a violation of that victim's own "religious rights". How can this fact be consistently disregarded in just about every single one of these debates over "religious rights"?

    The insanity is overwhelming. IT IS OVERWHELMING. How can you reason with people who derive their worldview from unreasonable axioms? You can't. You can only hope to change their children's perspective through constant education (or wage a violent war to purge these mangled brains from existence)...

  2. Bravo to Joseph for presenting this. Of course, because the Roman Catholic Church has had such a rocky and shaky relationship with Jews over the centuries (despite recent efforts to improve these), those running the Church are terrified of Jews who always control and vigorously protect fraudulent "medical" and non-medical infant male sexual mutilation. If the RC Church were to rightly condemn so-called religious sexual mutilations (and concomitant torture) of helpless, healthy baby boys (and of older, healthy, hapless boys born to Muslims) the full fury of world Jewry would again be unleashed against the RC Church. As long as the RC Church leaders fail to strongly and clearly denounce
    "religious" and non-medical infant circumcision as the atrocity and fraud that it is, then Jews (and their hated brothers the Muslims) will continue their trampling of the human rights of healthy helpless and hapless boys. Here in the
    US, the non-Jews in US medicine are terrified of the Jews in and outside of US medicine and this same, dreadful state of being terrified of Jews exists in the non-Jewish US public (which is so religion-damaged as it is). The control of
    infant male sexual mutilation (and concomitant torture) in the secular and "religious" worlds is held by Jews who fiercely protect it and ensure its continuation. Too few (who are themselves religion-damaged) are aware of this and fewer seem to be able to appreciate this major menacing obstacle in the struggle to gain human rights for children, children who must be allowed to be free of and protected from this notable crime against humanity.

  3. In truth the arguments of "religious freedom" and "parental choice" no longer work as alibis. This is the reason why Jews and Muslims alike must inevitably make the conversation about "medical benefits." Somehow they've managed to convince themselves, and their captive audience, that if they can produce enough "studies" that "prove" that circumcision has "benefits," then what they do in the name of their god is OK.

    The problem with this line of thinking is that it is unique and exclusive to the practice of male circumcision, particularly infant male circumcision. With no other body part does this fallacious thinking work. You could never produce enough "benefits" to justify female circumcision. There isn't a number of diseases prevented that would ever bring foot binding back. This is nothing more than a case of special pleading. This is nothing more than religious tradition trying to masquerade as medicine, but that's a topic for another blog post...

  4. For centuries, the Roman Catholic Church abetted or failed to resist antisemitism in continental Europe. Pius XII knew about the Holocaust but did not condemn it. The Church, while reluctant to admit to past mistakes, now feels obligated to bend over backward to defend Jewish beliefs and rituals. Thus the Archbishop of San Francisco criticised the Schofield Initiative. One must never forget that for Roman Catholics, Genesis 17 is part of the Word of God. Thanks to many arguments of Paul of Tarsus, circumcision plays no part in Christianity, and the Catholic Church is fully on board with that. But for modern Catholics, there is a second religion that is almost as valid as Roman Catholicism: Judaism, and the Church freely grants that Jews are under a religious obligation to circumcise. Catholicism nowadays clearly acknowledges the exceptional status of Jews and Judaism.

    It is difficult for the Church to strike a balance between bodily integrity and nonviolence, and semitophilia, perhaps because the many latent homosexuals among church leaders and theologians have trouble thinking objectively and rationally about the tip of the penis.

    Incidentally, the texts that underlie the Hannukah story are not recognised as canonical by either Jews or Protestants, but only by Roman Catholics (the Books of Maccabees). An important theme of those books is the right of Jews to circumcise their children. I have attended a public lecture by a Reform rabbi who said that he was deeply grateful to the Church for having cherished the story of the Maccabeean revolt.

    The Catholic church dreams of a reconciliation with Islam, one putting an end to 15 centuries of enmity. The Church wants recognition of the human rights of Christian minorities in Islamic societies. This wish would have no credibility if the Church does not recognise the rights of Moslem minorities in Christian societies.

    The Catholic position is, frankly, that it is immoral for those who are neither Jews nor Moslems to circumcise, but those two faiths have an absolute right to continue circumcising their children for reasons of faith.

  5. ¡All religion is silly mumbo jumbo!

  6. Thanks, Joseph, for an excellent discussion of an issue that should trouble the intactivist community. The bishops of the Roman Catholic Church have come to believe they can buy goodwill from the Muslim world and from the Jews by saying nice things about circumcision. They seem to have forgotten the moral aspect, namely, that the price for the goodwill is paid not by the Church itself but by little boys.

    I have reasons to suspect that this policy must have been sanctioned by the pope himself, because exactly the same thing has happened in Norway, where I live. In Norway, a Protestant country, boys are left intact. However, due to the growing number of Muslim migrants, circumcision is causing conflict in the government. It is argued that only experts should perform circumcisions, and that the procedure should be free. This proposition has been met with strong resistance. Children’s Ombudsman Reidar Hjermann takes the brave position that there should be an age restriction on circumcising boys. Hjermann has therefore been branded an anti-Semite.

    The Catholics form a tiny minority in Norway. Nevertheless, the Catholic bishop of Oslo, Bernt Eidsvig, has been asked for his opinion on this matter. In his answer, available online, the bishop argues that an age restriction would violate the religious freedom of Jews and Muslims, and that he is worried about the Ombudsman, whom he accuses of ignorance. By alluding to a now deleted paragraph in the original version of the Norwegian Constitution, according to which Jews should not live in Norway, the bishop seems to be suggesting that the Ombudsman is an anti-Semite:

    The inevitable conclusion is that, in Slovenia as well as in Norway, the Roman Catholic Church, which itself does not require circumcision, has established itself as a strong defender of Jewish and Muslim circumcision. The Roman Catholic Church is not a democracy, and it would be folly to expect that this position can be negotiated within the Church. The decision has probably been taken by the pope.

  7. I mention this in my blog, but why religious clergy should be consulted on matters of medicine, and why anybody should listen is beyond me.

    What's next; will doctors be obliged to perform a "ritual nick" in girls to appease the Muslim immigrants too?

  8. In regards to the subject of Catholicism and circumcision, it strikes me as relevant that, in 2009, Robert Mugabe was planning a program to circumcise all male citizens in Zimbabwe to combat HIV/Aids:

    Mugabe is a devout Roman Catholic. Born at a Catholic mission station in British-ruled Southern Rhodesia, he studied in schools run by the Little Brothers of Mary and by Jesuits. It is a shameful situation that the Vatican has tended to give Mugabe, a murderous bastard, a free pass. James Kirchick is understating the case in saying that, "given the role that religion obviously plays in Mugabe's self-image, it would be nice if the Church stopped treating him like a legitimate head of state."

    Mugabe attests to the unfortunate fact that, when it comes to choosing between condoms and circumcision, the Catholic Church prefers circumcision. The bottom line is that Catholics are not allowed to use condoms as a form of contraception.

    Early Christian writers despised circumcision as a form of mutilation (cf. Philippians 3:2). However, that was 1800 years ago. The Church's negative view of modern contraception overturns whatever doctrinal reasons the Pauline authors of the New Testament epistles might have had for rejecting circumcision. In this respect, Mugabe's pro-circumcision policy is perfectly in line with the official Catholic view.

  9. The supposed crucifixion of Christ also happened about 2,000 years ago. I think this just goes to show you the Catholic Church quotes and ignores scripture as it is convenient. (This doesn't seem to be too different than any other religion with holy writ...)

  10. That is not a MUSLIM !!! Take mote of this, they're SHIA'. They said they're a part of Islam but the truth is, Islam didn't teach us about cut or hurting our body... It's totally prohibited !!! They actually hate Islam, they real Muslim is Sunnah Wal Jamaah ! Everybody, please read this...