Is So-Called Chemical "Castration" for Sex Offenders Morally Licit? [UPDATED]
I don't know the answer (but tend to think perhaps not, while nevertheless remaining open to hearing the arguments either way), but Mark Shea seems to think the issue is a slam dunk "NO":
I eagerly await the finely parsed exegeses in my comboxes explaining, not only that castration is acceptable for rapists, but that hand amputations are suitable for thieves, tongue branding or removal is justice for slanderers, and foot removal is the due penalty for prison escapees.One thing we NEVER have to "eagerly anticipate" is sanctimony and moral preening from certain bloggers regarding what someone MIGHT say in a combox about an issue that doesn't seem to be as cut and dry as the blogger tries to make it out to be.
As usual, M.Z. offers the more level-headed take:
I don't think a reasonable request is to ask sex offender to castrate himself. While one can construe the chemical castration as voluntary, that would ignore the coercive elements of the act. I think we do a disservice to the quandry when we don't evaluate this.Now THERE'S a response that actually examines the moral issues involved without devolving into questioning the motives or moral judgment of those who might struggle with the moral and religious implications of a particular act (which don't seem so clearly defined as one might make them out to be).
You run into dangerous territory when you attempt to deem moral or immoral those acts related to an immoral act. A question often arises if it is worse for a boyfriend and girlfriend to have relations with a condom rather than without. Going deeper the question arises whether it is licit for two gay men to use a condom. The first question I would answer in the negative and the second I would answer in the negative, but there are those who would debate those answers, particularly the latter. There are any number of circumstances and qualifiers that would affect people's answers. And before someone mentions it, yes the acts remain objectively evil, but I was addressing subjective culpability. Such will never make an evil act righteous, but is can reduce the actor's culpability.
As to the general case over medical treatments that may cause a reduction in libido or impede procreation, HV makes clear one may do so as long as the intention is treatment of the medical condition and not contraceptive. I'm not aware - meaning that literature could indeed exist and be plentiful, you're reading this in a combox after all - of literature addressing psychotropic drugs that would reduce illicit desires. I'm not aware of literature addressing the liciety of hormone modification to lessen illicit desires.
I also think Blackadder's take is one that makes sense, even if I'm not yet prepared to agree:
Actually, I'd say the difference between chemical castration and physical castration is the difference between anti-psychotic drugs and a lobotomy. Does the fact that one is opposed to lobotomy require one to be opposed to the use of anti-psychotic drugs? I would think not.If we were talking about physically castrating someone, I'd be the first in line behind Mark in unequivocally condemning that act. But I'm not so secure in the superiority of my own moral reasoning that I can state unequivocally that the use of drugs in treating the sick compulsion of perverts by inhibiting libido (i.e. "chemical castration") is morally illicit.
Now I see that Mark's viewpoint is stated not (necessarily) from sanctimony but from ignorance of what the drugs involved actually do:
Anti-psychotic drugs correct an imbalance that should not be there. Lobotomies destroy healthy tissue that should be there. All legitimate medicine is about helping nature do what it is designed by God to do. Whacking of somebody's balls or zapping them with chemicals so they no longer work is not assisting nature, but thwarting nature [ED.: Apparently, it's "natural" for pervs to have a compulsion to use their equipment to rape little kids?]. I have no problem incarcerating a rapist. But chemically or physically destroying part of his body so that it does not function anymore is, I think, pretty hard to square with the tradition.(emphasis added)
Blackadder attempts to set Mark straight:
My understanding is that Depo-Provera works not by rendering men impotent, but by reducing the sex drive, along the lines of an appetite suppressant. So describing it as "destroying part of his body" isn't really accurate.Again, I'm NOT saying that "chemical castration" is morally licit. I've yet to be convinced, and believe it's perhaps not - at the very least, we ought to be putting up some big 'ol "CAUTION" and "DANGER" signs. Indeed, there are certainly moral and religious issues that are raised by this (as M.Z. points out). But I'm just not so cocksure (no pun intended) that it's a slam dunk from the perspective of Catholic teaching.
Besides, I'm all for locking up these pervs for the rest of their lives and throwing away the key (which makes "chemical castration" or whatever you wish to call it irrelevant).
An interesting addition to the discussion:
Perhaps its the term castration that is the problem. Perhaps hormone treatment would be less incidiary though might not satisfy everyone.(emphasis added)
The National Catholic Bioethics Center has 41 articles on the topic. I can't access them as I am not a member. However, it seems there might be some disagreement on the matter if there are 41 articles.
I, too, would be interested in knowing what the National Catholic Bioethics Center articles have to say on this topic, if anyone reading this has access to them.
Nevertheless, some are intent on demonizing (literally):
"Hormone treatment" sounds downright diabolical in its euphemism. It's not a "treatment." It's practically a mutilation.(emphasis added)
To which I answered:
Why? If it's a more accurate description than "chemical castration"?Although by using the term "cocksure" a second time, I suppose the pun has, at that point, become intended.
Perhaps it's "downright diabolical in its euphemism" if your intent is to sanctimoniously demonize or ascribe bad motives and/or poor moral judgment to those who might not be so cocksure (no pun intended) about the moral illicitness of administering these drugs.
I don't plan to update this post further, so let me conclude by saying that I am not at all comfortable with "chemical castration" or "hormone treatment" or whatever you wish to call it being used as a component of our penal system. I prefer the "lock-em-up-and-throw-away-the-key" model of dealing with sex crimes (especially of the variety involving children).
Nevertheless, I am unprepared to unequivocally condemn the use of these drugs as violating Catholic teaching until I have read something more definitive than a bunch of bloggers and combox mini-popes pontificating on the subject. I'd REALLY like to know what those 41 articles at the National Catholic Bioethics Center have to say.
UPDATE #5 (23 July)
Okay, one more update. But there's a late-breaking development of which you should be aware. Commenter "Phillip" has posted the text of 2 articles from the National Catholic Bioethics Center (the other 39 articles appear not to directly address the matter of chemical castration) beginning here.
While I'm not sure those articles are necessarily dispositive of the issue, they certainly change, in my view, the dynamic of the discussion from one that is "I'm right and all the rest of you on the rubber-hose right who disagree with me are bad Catholics" to one that is more open-ended.
Labels: Crime and Punishment