Friday, May 27, 2011

Circumcision, San Francisco, and Getting a Grip

The idea of circumcision seems to get some folks upset. In a way, I can see why. Circumcision affects the appearance of male genitalia, what folks in America sometimes call our "privates."
"CIRCUMCISION: The rite prescribed in Judaism and other cultures which involves cutting off the foreskin of a male. Circumcision was a sign of the covenant between God and his people Israel and prefigured the rite of Christian initiation in Baptism. Jesus was circumcised eight days after his birth in accord with Jewish law (527)."
(C, Glossary, Catechism of the Catholic Church)
Quite a few folks have been circumcised, including my Lord,1 in obedience to the covenant.2

On a secular note, several years back I was told that doctors thought circumcision was 'hygienic.' Maybe that medical fashion has changed.

San Francisco's November 8 Election

This November, folks living in San Francisco will decide whether or not they'll allow Jews and Muslims to practice their religion within city limits.

A measure on the November ballot would ban circumcisions for anyone under age 18. I hope the measure would allow a Jewish family to go elsewhere to get their son circumcised.

There's no exemption for those religious people, by the way:
"...The initiative would ban circumcision for any male under 18 except in cases of medical necessity. It says that religious belief could not be used as an exception to the law and violators could be fined up to $1,000 and imprisoned for up to one year...."
(Archdiocese of San Francisco)
As I said, the idea of circumcision seems to get some folks upset.

The fellow who wants to ban circumcision explained why he pushed for the measure:
"...'Parents don't have a right to harm their child. They can only do what is in the best interest of their child. I can guarantee a child being held down and having their genitals mutilated is not a religiously uplifting experience for the child,' said Lloyd Schofield, the initiative's primary sponsor and part of a core committee of five working on the campaign.

"Schofield, who details arguments for the ban on the website, said men who want to undergo the procedure removing the penis' foreskin may do so after they turn 18.

"Neither parental rights nor religious freedom is more important than stopping the practice, said Schofield. He said he was raised Lutheran but practices no religion and has no children...."
(Archdiocese of San Francisco)
Let's see what a Lutheran who didn't stop going to church has to say:
"...The Rev. James DeLange, a Lutheran pastor and chair of the San Francisco Interfaith Council, said in a statement that the ban 'would turn back the clock on a right that is fundamental to the founding of this country – the right to the free exercise of religion.

" 'People of all religions, ethnicities, and cultural backgrounds have sought a new life in San Francisco to pursue religious liberty,' he said...."
(Archdiocese of San Francisco)

'My End of the Boat isn't Sinking'

I don't live in San Francisco. I'll be 60 this year. I'm a gentile.

In a way, whether or not San Francisco voters decide to ban circumcision makes no difference to me.

On the other hand, I'm a practicing Catholic. Which means that I have to support religious freedom. (Catechism, 2104-2109)

There's nothing I can do to directly affect San Francisco's November election. But I can add my voice to those who say that punishing folks for practicing their religion is a bad idea.

Related posts:

1 Circumcision of Jesus:
"Jesus' circumcision, on the eighth day after his birth,209 is the sign of his incorporation into Abraham's descendants, into the people of the covenant. It is the sign of his submission to the Law210 and his deputation to Israel's worship, in which he will participate throughout his life. This sign prefigures that 'circumcision of Christ' which is Baptism.211"
(Catechism of the Catholic Church, 527)
And see Luke 2:21.

2 Signs of the covenant:
"Signs of the covenant. The Chosen People received from God distinctive signs and symbols that marked its liturgical life. These are no longer solely celebrations of cosmic cycles and social gestures, but signs of the covenant, symbols of God's mighty deeds for his people. Among these liturgical signs from the Old Covenant are circumcision, anointing and consecration of kings and priests, laying on of hands, sacrifices, and above all the Passover. The Church sees in these signs a prefiguring of the sacraments of the New Covenant."
(Catechism, 1150)


Brigid said...

According to a high school level human biology textbook I read years back, at least, circumcision is a little more than hygienic. That foreskin can trap debris and trace amounts of urine leading to irritation and urinary tract infection. I would think that circumcision would be a relatively mild alternative. Probably not that much more traumatic than infant vaccinations.

But then, I'm a girl, so I don't need to worry about that sort of thing.

Brian Gill said...


Noted: and true enough. However, hygienic means "tending to promote or preserve health," (Princeton's WordNet) so I'm sticking with that term.

As for being traumatic: We don't remember what occurs in infancy, so it's an unknown factor. Possibly unknowable.

Finally: both sides of humanity have our own quirks and issues. Which helps prevent boredom, perhaps.

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