Thursday, June 19, 2014

Circumcision Q&A: A follow-up to “Why Not”

In THIS article, my wife and I gave some background on our own journey through making the decision whether or not to circumcise our future boys. In addition to some feedback and discussion in that post, there have been some more questions and discussion points come up and I feel like these present a great opportunity for discussing this seeming “hot topic” in a way that isn’t contentious. The following are paraphrased from actual questions and comments, with answers and open-ended questions to encourage further dialog and consideration.

“What about emergency circumcisions? Wouldn’t boys/men who have to have these emergency procedures have been better off if they had been circumcised at birth? We could spare them this medical trauma later in life by circumcising them now.”

Do you really think that sparing them from a “potential” medical trauma later justifies putting them through a certain medical trauma now? Are you aware of how traumatic circumcision is to an infant? Have you witnessed or read about the process of stripping the membrane that attaches the foreskin to the head of the glans?* What about the fact that circumcision is the only surgery in which the post-op “bandage” is a urine-soaked and feces-filled diaper?

And what about the actual function of the foreskin? Are you saying that it’s better to deprive a man the function of his foreskin so that he can be spared a theoretical trauma that he is almost certainly never going to experience, and if he does, can be treated non-surgically?

While I empathize with the theoretical cases, there are no studies which show that circumcision is actually necessary to treat any condition of the penis. The conditions you will find related to the penis involve infections due to poor hygiene, unwarranted retraction of foreskin that is not ready to be retracted, and the like. What you will also find is that these conditions can be treated with topical ointments or antibiotics, or can be prevented by proper hygiene and education about proper foreskin care. And wouldn’t you agree that the rare instances of these traumas (what percent of the male population are we talking about annually, after all…with cited source please) don’t really justify the routine circumcision of nearly 40% of the boys born in the US today (more than that, according to some websites which advocate FOR circumcision)? Don’t you agree that it would be better to teach Americans about proper penis care so that we can help prevent these rare traumas in the first place? Don’t you also agree that the lack of problems in other countries with an overwhelming percentage of intact males indicates that this is just an American problem and that we need to find a more effective way to deal with it?

It is frivolous at best, and harmful and inhumane in reality, to “pre-treat” such a large number of people for a medical condition they will likely never experience, and for a condition which could be treated or prevented by other, non-surgical, means. Yet you are proposing to traumatize the general population of male infants in order to prevent a miniscule number of them from going through a supposed future trauma which can be prevented by proper hygiene or treated non-surgically. By leaving them intact, we can spare the infants this trauma now, and treat them humanely later if they need any treatment. Doesn’t that sound like the better option?

“Many sources say that infants are sent home within 24 hours after the procedure. This means that they are pretty much healed, right?”

Most of the research I’ve looked at suggests 5-10 days for healing, despite sending the child home after 24 hours, and many of the young boys I know of who were circumcised at or near birth took even longer than that to heal. Here are some pro-circumcision and neutral sites that I grabbed in order of appearance during a random google-search for “circumcision healing time”: - “5-7days” “a week” (pro-circ doctor advertising his services) “10 – 14 days” or “three to seven [depending on the procedure]” ( pro-circ site) “about a week… up to three weeks [for older children]” “5-7 days…7-10 days…up to 3 weeks”

Being sent home from the hospital doesn’t mean the wound is healed. The wound takes several days to heal, and during that time the child is in pain, with no anesthetic to stop the pain. And what is this child suffering for? For an “aesthetic” reason in which he had no say? To “pre-treat” a medical condition that he was likely never going to experience in the first place, and could have been treated with cortisone cream, or that can be prevented by proper hygiene? What’s the purpose?

“Infants are given anesthesia for the procedure, so they don’t feel the pain as much, even if it is somewhat painful. In light of those who would have to be circumcised later in life due to emergencies, doesn’t it seem appropriate to do a preventative procedure that has the benefit of anesthesia?”

Are you assuming that all circumcised boys receive anesthesia? Some doctors don't give it unless the parents request it. Though I would hope this would be the exception.

Again, there is no male "who would have to be circumcised later in life due to emergencies". If urine can exit the penis, there is no emergency. The rare so-called “emergency” conditions related to the penis, for which circumcision is being suggested as a "treatment", are typically treated with topical ointments, antibiotics, and proper hygiene. If these conditions can be treated non-surgically, it makes me wonder why any doctor would recommend circumcision. Don't you think it seems strange that a doctor would resort to removal of the foreskin when it could be treated otherwise? Why do you suppose a doctor would do such a thing? My guess is that it's the same reason a doctor might schedule a c-section for a baby who could just as well be born naturally, even though it may take a few extra hours of labor.

The anesthetics that numb the pain don’t block it out completely. If you have doubts about this, please do an internet search for “videos of circumcision” and tell me whether you think those baby boys are feeling some pain. I believe you will come away with a new perspective about that.

The anesthetics also don’t last very long. So, while the baby is at home healing for up to 3 weeks, he is still feeling pain, yet has no anesthetic for pain relief other than what mom or dad can find over the counter (which aren’t very effective in my experience). I would guess that this is why baby boys cry when their parents are cleaning the wound and changing diapers. Wouldn’t you agree that, even if all pain was completely blocked out, this is not a justification for cutting off every newborn boy’s foreskin? Wouldn’t you agree that, since no studies show circumcision to be necessary, it would be redundant at best, or harmful at worst to force the procedure on ANY baby boy? If only a small fraction* of the male population will have a medical condition related to his penis, and the recommended treatments for such conditions are topical ointments, antibiotics, or proper hygiene, then why are we wanting to circumcise all of them?

*For perspective, one of the more common diseases that the medical world felt worthy of being published was the average incidence of UTI’s in intact boys in the 1980’s**. Despite the numbers being skewed and the fact that the evidence proved that NOT circumcising would REDUCE the incidence of infant UTI’s, the number was still only about 0.2%. So what percent of the male population is having these medical emergencies that supposedly "require circumcision" as the primary treatment/cure of the condition, where non-surgical treatments, hygiene or proper penis care would not have worked? I bet it is less than 0.2%.
** Circumstitions: Circumcision and UTI's

“My young boy was thankful for having been circumcised after we explained to him what the foreskin is and explained/showed what a penis looks like with foreskin. He was glad he didn’t look like that.”

My own son is happy to have his foreskin and glad that we didn’t cut off part of his penis. But neither of these personal testimonies serves as justification for any medical procedure, one way or the other, don’t you agree? I highly doubt that any child would respond with gratitude after learning that the natural antibiotic and lubricating function of his penis had been needlessly removed, unless these things had been portrayed to him in anything other than a positive way.

Doesn’t it make sense that our children will take cues from their parents in how they view themselves and others? Perhaps if we give our children ALL the facts and allow them to make a decision about their bodies when they are mature enough to comprehend those things, we might surprise ourselves. In the meantime, I don’t see how a young boy can look at his own penis and come to a conclusion that he is happy to have part of it removed unless his parents have taught him to see that part of it in a negative way. Or do you think that children are pre-programmed to make objective observations about themselves that would lead them to see part of themselves as being ugly or useless or disposable? I find that hard to believe given the number of children that want to even keep their “nose-nuggetss”, scabs, nail trimmings, baby teeth, etc… My experience and observation with children is that they see EVERY part of them as being a valuable part of them, unless someone has told them otherwise.

“Since STD’s are occurring more in men with foreskin, and we live in a promiscuous society, it makes sense to have males circumcised at birth. After all, they are just going to have sex anyway.”

The whole STD argument is a red-herring and a non sequitur. It's a red-herring because foreskin is not a cause of STD's, nor is circumcision a potential cure or effective means of preventing the spread of STD's. It's a non-sequitur because it does not follow that keeping or removing the foreskin will have any effect on STD's or on the acutal cause of the spread of STD's. I don’t see this as being any different from when someone tried to pin UTI’s on intact males…which turned out to prove the exact opposite of what that person intended (see **link above).

The data on STD’s and intact-ness, if any of it can be relied upon, is skewed in light of the recent trend upwards in intact males along with simultaneous trend upwards in a sexually promiscuous society. Circumcision will not prevent STD’s.* If you think it will, I challenge you to research the rates of STD’s in circumcised males. The fact is, if you find ANY circumcised males with STD’s, you have just proven the opposite of what you intended to claim. Circumcision does not prevent STD’s (but abstinence and marital chastity can!).
*Circumcision and Sexually Transmitted Diseases

Does it really make sense to try and solve the sexual promiscuity problem by removing a boy’s foreskin? Why would anyone remove the foreskin in some “effort” to prevent STD’s when the cause of STD’s is extra-marital sex? Does circumcision reduce the incidence of extra-marital sex? I would love to see a study that looks at that, but I don’t think such a study exists.

Extra-marital sex is what leads to STD’s. So wouldn’t it make more sense to teach our children not to have extramarital sex? Doesn’t it make more sense to teach our children not to be promiscuous and expect them to exercise self-control? Or should we simply accept that humans no longer have the ability to control themselves and therefore should not be held accountable for their choices? I don’t believe that for one moment…and I don’t think you do either, am I right?

In summary, there is no good reason for a general circumcision of all baby boys. It's a painful and needless procedure that has no logical basis when put under scrutiny. It isn’t “necessary” in the religious perspective unless you are Jewish or Muslim.

It isn’t medically necessary, not even for the minuscule percentage of males who experience "emergency conditions", because those cases could either be treated by topical ointments/antibiotics or could have been prevented by proper hygiene and proper penis-care/education. Even in some of those remote instances, circumcised males experience the same conditions just as often (balanitis, for example, which is attributed to poor hygiene).

The superficial reasons, such as “aesthetics”, are subjective and certainly don’t justify a general mass-circumcision and don’t take into account what the child would want, otherwise the procedure would be postponed until the child is old enough to make that decision for himself.

And the arguments that circumcision is not an amputation or impairment of an organ don’t hold up when talking about the current, modern procedure of circumcision.

There is simply no good reason for it that could not wait until the child matures enough to make that decision on his own.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

What Message are You Sending?

It's a pretty safe bet that most of us do things without thinking. We have our habits and our routines, our particular personalities that shine through in our words and actions, and our core beliefs which shape how we respond to things and direct us in our actions. We also have past experiences which have shaped the way we see things, affect who we are and can influence the way we live our lives. But how many of us take time to think about the message we are sending to others by our choices, actions, behaviors, responses, etc...?

I'll go out on a limb here and say that most of us don't think about it, and I'll be that first to raise my hand in shame. We all do things unconsciously that send a negative message to others that we don't intend to send. Worse yet, sometimes we do things intentionally to send a particular message, yet we don't realize it's a negative or wrong one, or don't realize what that message really says about us.

For example, when my wife asks me to help with something around the house, and I've got “something else” going on, an all-too-often response from me is to heave a great sigh, reluctantly listen to what she needs, and then reluctantly heed her request. I've even done it with the kids when they want a story read to them. It's unintentional, or course, but what message does it send? It sends the message that I am self-absorbed and that I think I am more “important” than they are, and that their “petty” concerns are not my problem. It says to them, “I don't value or appreciate you” and sends up a huge red flag that I am not letting God live through me as I should. Is that the message I really want to send to my wife and children? Of course not. My intentional response, the one I give when I an actually paying attention and have focused myself properly, would be to act as any Christian show my genuine care for my family and happily and eagerly address the needs that come up, and spend quality time with them. But when I am not paying attention to what I am doing, and have let my prayer life diminish, I give the subconscious and unintentional response.

Or what about work ethic? How many people intend to send the message to their employers that they need their jobs and enjoy having a source of income? My guess would be “pretty much everyone”, with few exceptions. But do we always send this message to our employers? How many people spend their work day grumbling about the amount of work they have to do, or moaning on about the dull atmosphere of the office (instead of trying to do something to make it more lively), or waste company time playing video games or chatting it up on social media when there is still work to be done? I've been guilty of these. What message does that send to my employer? It tells my employer that my job isn't really that important, or that I'm not as interested in getting my work done as I am in just hanging around the office earning a paycheck for nothing.

How about our appearances, and the way we present ourselves? Understandably, some of us may be in financial situations that preclude us from wearing the kinds of attire we'd like, but I believe that the average person, at least in America, is able to dress modestly enough such that their appearance doesn't shout “I want you to objectify me!”. We see it everywhere and hear it from the mouths of adults and children alike: “I want to look cute [for whomever]”, or “Does this make me look sexy?”, or “that's a really sexy outfit/expression/photo/etc...” as though being overly “sexy” in public were a good thing. Depending on what a person thinks makes them look “cute”, the intended message typically does not match the actual one. Instead of saying, “look at me, I'm cute as a button, but please focus on my countenance and treat me as a person”, the person says , “I want others to view me as a sex image-tool for their personal use”. So called “cute” outfits that I have seen, the majority of the time, are designed to objectify people...women in particular. The “cute” or “sexy” apparel and self-posed photographs or “flirtatious” glances tell guys “I am easy”, or “I want you to lust after my body, regardless of whether you respect me as a person”, or “I don't mind being treated like an object by you” or “I don't value myself enough to expect you to value me”. These could be unintentional messages, or intentional ones that the person doesn't realize are wrong to send out. (Why they are wrong could be a whole topic on its own, and has been since the dawn of time.)

And what about our Christian witness? I plead guilty here as well. Whether it be the reluctance to provide or receive charitable fraternal correction, or the over-driven monstrosity that leads us to harp on every little thing and accuse any Christian who doesn't view the Faith exactly the way we do of being “not Christian” on that basis alone, we send the wrong message. Out of fear or human respect, we might hold back from admonishing a fellow Christian who is taken up in some sin or another. The intended message there would be, “I like you so much that I don't want to hurt your feelings and make you feel bad.” But the actual message is, “I don't love you enough to tell you the Truth.” I've been guilty of this. On the flip side, we can get over-zealous and start correcting our brethren for things that aren't objectively wrong, or in matters where great variation is allowed for, or where the circumstances are important and can determine culpability or guilt. I've even witnessed someone raging against someone else for something that the other person wasn't even guilty of. We can scream to people “I love you SOOOOO much that I will hammer you for every single little thing you do and will not rest until I have brought you fully to Christ!!!!” while that person might just be hearing “ I'm scrupulous and a blow-hard and while I am quick to judge the actions of others, I tend to ignore my own faults, which makes me a hypocrite, and I only view things through my own lens which makes me my very own arbiter of Truth.

As Christians, we are called to give witness. We are called to correct each other, to pluck out the logs from our eyes so that we can remove the splinters from our neighbors', to spread the Good News of Christ, to love one another as ourselves, to express Truth and Charity without compromising either, and to love and serve God above all. How we dress, how we talk, the method with which we correct, our willingness to admit our own faults...all of these things send a message, a witness to people. What message are you sending?

Monday, June 2, 2014

Circumcision: Why Not? (with Briana Manthei)

Of course we are circumcising our son…the Bible says so!

If you’ve read the Bible much, especially the Acts of the Apostles or Paul’s letters to the Romans and Galatians, you know that this statement makes no sense. But if you are anything like me and didn’t pay attention in Sunday school as a child, or never really read much of the Scriptures growing up, or didn’t pay attention when your parents or pastors were reading Scriptures to you, then you might identify with that statement. I’ll never forget the day that I learned just how ignorant I was about circumcision and Scripture.

My wife and I were meeting with a Priest to talk about receiving the sacrament of Baptism for our soon-to-be-first-born baby. We had no idea if it was a boy or girl, and were preparing for either one. When my wife first asked me what I thought of circumcision, I expressed the same sentiment as in that first sentence. After all, the Bible could not be any clearer. God said:

This is my covenant, which you shall keep, between me and you and your offspring after you: Every male among you shall be circumcised. You shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskins, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and you. Throughout your generations every male among you shall be circumcised when he is eight days old, including the slave born in your house and the one bought with your money from any foreigner who is not of your offspring. Both the slave born in your house and the one bought with your money must be circumcised. So shall my covenant be in your flesh an everlasting covenant. Any uncircumcised male who is not circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin shall be cut off from his people; he has broken my covenant.” (Gen 17:10-14, cf. Judith 14:10)

My wife, a convert to Catholicism who had actually studied and learned the faith, quickly corrected me. She pointed out that in the New Testament we see that Christ gave us Baptism as the new covenant and that physical circumcision was no longer necessary (Col 2:11-12; Jn 3:5, 22; Mt 28:19-20; Gal 3:27; Acts chapter 10; Romans chapters 2-4; 1Cor 7:18-19; Gal 5:2-11, 6:12-15; Titus 1:10, etc…). But I still wanted to hear it from someone else, just to be certain. So, during our meeting with the Priest to discuss Baptism, I asked about circumcision.

If he wanted to jump out of his chair and choke the ignorance out of me, he didn’t show it. He calmly and sincerely explained exactly what my wife had already told me and spoke about the fulfillment of the Old Covenant and God’s New Covenant with us, referencing some of the passages I noted above along with others such as 1Cor 12:13; Acts 2:38-39, 22:16, and 1Pet 3:20-21. The Scripture could not be any clearer that we are not required to circumcise, and if we do circumcise for the purpose of obeying the Old Covenant Law in order to have that covenant with God, we thereby subject ourselves to the entirety of that old law…and woe unto us if we should fail to keep any part of it.

This brought up yet another topic: should we? This next question wasn’t quite as easy for us to answer as the first part. We both now knew and agreed that it wasn’t necessary, but we weren’t seeing eye-to-eye on whether we should circumcise or not. My position was that I wanted my son to look like his dad (if we did indeed have a boy). Her argument was that it was an unnecessary medical procedure that would be excruciatingly painful for a newborn baby. I had always heard that babies don’t feel the pain…after all, I don’t remember my own circumcision. I had also heard that if you don't cut the foreskin, it could lead to infection. Her point was that God didn’t make the penis with natural mistakes that we have to intervene and correct, and that when left alone, it’s rare for problems to result because of leaving a penis intact, the way God made it.

I’ll admit that I’m not the most stubborn person on most issues. If I’m presented with a reasonably sound argument that doesn’t conflict with any natural logic or Truth, I have no problems changing my mind. But I really wanted some answers to my questions. I wanted to know what the facts were. My wife was all too happy to oblige. Here are some of the talking points I wanted clarification on, followed by my wife's answers to me and the information we discovered together:

-I want my son to look like me.
Really? Are you going to stand there and compare penises with him? If his eyes aren't the same color as yours, are you going to gouge them out and replace them to match yours? This is a non-issue. Baby penises look VERY different from adult penises, intact or not.

Intact America responds to this common mentality by pointing out that “[c]hildren differ from their parents in many ways, including eye and hair color, body type, and (of course) size and sexual development. If a child asks why his penis looks different from that of his circumcised father (or brother), parents can say, "Daddy (or brother) had a part of his penis removed when he was a baby; now we know it’s not necessary and we decided not to let anyone do that to you."

-Won’t my son get made fun of for looking different?
75% of the world's men are intact, and in the United States, about 60% of boys being born today are left intact. So the question should be, won't my son get made fun of for looking different if we cut him? (

But I doubt even that question would be necessary to answer. We visited with parents who had both circumcised and uncircumcised boys who, even now into their teens, don't think anything of it. None of the boys have expressed any issues from public school friends one way or the other. I recall at least a couple friends in high-school who were not circumcised, and I don't ever recall anyone making fun, questioning, or ever bringing it up. It's simply a non-issue.

-What about infections/diseases associated with intact foreskin?
What about them? Key phrases to remember with the care of an intact baby are, “only clean what is seen” and “when intact, don't retract.” A child's foreskin should NEVER be retracted. Not by the parent, not by a physician, not by ANYONE. The only person who should ever do this is the child himself, when the foreskin naturally retracts, which often does not happen until puberty. Part of the foreskin's function is to keep germs out. When little boys are retracted, germs are introduced into an area where they should not be, and infections can result. LEAVE IT ALONE. (

Rarely, an intact boy may benefit from circumcision later in life for a medical reason. However, this is not a reason to circumcise every boy at birth. There are some articles that claim that STD's are more common now in uncircumcised men. I believe that data is skewed by the fact that more men are now uncircumcised, and simultaneously the rate of extra-marital sex has increased. Foreskin doesn't lead to STD's. Extra-marital sex leads to STD's. The best way to prevent STD's is to not have extra-marital sex, and to teach our children not to do that either.

-He won’t feel it anyway, so what’s the big deal?
According to Intact America, echoing the concerns of the Physicians for Genital Integrity, “Circumcision is painful. Babies are sensitive to pain, just like older children and adults. The analgesics used for circumcision only decrease pain; they do not eliminate it. Further, the open wound left by the removal of the foreskin will continue to cause the baby pain and discomfort for the 7-10 days it takes to heal.” (

Additionally, the infant's surgically altered penis will be constantly exposed to urine and feces during the body's attempts to heal it and form scar tissue, which is a risk for infection.

-There are health benefits to circumcision.
There is NO link between circumcision and better health. In fact, cutting a baby boy's genitals creates immediate health risks. The foreskin is actually an important and functional body part, protecting the head of the penis from injury and providing moisture and lubrication. Circumcision also diminishes sexual pleasure later in life . . . No professional medical association in the United States or anywhere else in the world recommends routine circumcision as medically necessary.

One thing that stuck out to me like a sore thumb was the fact that, throughout the world, Muslims, Jews, and Americans make up the overwhelming majority of all circumcised males. Muslims and Jews do it for religious reasons. Americans...well, we use the same excuses and mentality as what I had before we had our first child (who ended up being a girl). We are using the same reasons that, when presented with the facts, made this American step back and say, “you know what...I'm not convinced that I should cut off part of my son's penis. But when he grows up, if he feels like he wants to be circumcised for any of the reasons I previously had, he can make that decision for himself.”

For a Q&A follow-up to this post,that addresses even more arguments,
click HERE

To learn more, please visit:

Catechism of the Catholic Church 2297

Catholics Against Circumcision

Intact America

Peaceful Parenting

Physicians for Genital Integrity