Let’s ramble together.

It’s been too many days. Blah, work, blah. More on this sometime this weekend. Moving on.

Many, many circumcision stories have popped through lately. I’m aiming for a quick hit to clear them out. First up:

“In our study we found gay men who were circumcised at infancy didn’t report having some kind of negative or positive impact on sexual dysfunction.

“However, nearly all men who were circumcised after infancy reported some sexual dysfunction, erectile problems or premature ejaculation, and one in five reported some complication as a result of the circumcision. …”

We all see the obvious flaw, I think. Didn’t report. Is it too difficult to extrapolate that self-reporting is subjective, and therefore inferior, to objective considerations. How about I theorize that all circumcision results in some form and degree of sexual dysfunction. Those circumcised at infancy just don’t realize it. I can’t (and won’t) say that’s true, but it’s no worse than the above.

Next, there was an international conference on HIV/AIDS in Mexico City recently. Of course all discussion of circumcision seemed to focus entirely on the allegedly miraculous power of circumcision. I encountered very little consideration of ethics. I found an example of this indifference in the New York Times, which is almost always reliably bad in this respect.

There was no question about the ethical need for an early stop of the trials. …

But there was a question about the ethical need to constrain the implementation of voluntary, adult circumcision to adults volunteering to undergo circumcision. Public health officials ignored that ethical need within six days. They’ve continued to ignore it since.

For example, in an article titled “Not such an unkind cut, after all”:

Modern techniques make the risks associated with circumcisions insignificant.

Insignificant according to whom? Not necessarily the person facing those risks, yet that gets ignored in favor of propaganda.

Brisbane doctor Terry Russell, who has performed about 19,000 circumcisions, says he has never had a case in which a blood transfusion was required, or a systemic infection ensued. “We see minor local infection in about 2 per cent of the boys that we do, but most are treated without putting them on antibiotics.”

Russell uses the PlastiBell for his procedures, which is a small ring that fits inside the foreskin, over the head of the penis. The foreskin is compressed between the ring on the inside, and a string which is tied to the outside of the foreskin. The clamping cuts off circulation in the area, reducing the risk of bleeding and infection. The PlastiBell accurately defines how much foreskin should be removed, “so you can’t take off too much or too little”, says Russell.

Too much or too little according to whom? Not necessarily the person losing the (functioning, healthy) foreskin, yet that gets ignored in favor of propaganda. And where there’s propaganda, we can almost always find one of our cadre of propagandists. This time, it’s Brian Morris:

An unequivocal advocate of circumcision, Morris notes that men who have the procedure enjoy better hygiene.”Just general, day-to-day, run-of-the-mill hygiene is so much better in circumcised males. This is something that washing with soap just can’t fix, because the bacteria return quite quickly in uncircumcised males,” he says.

And female genitals? Other parts?

… Morris claims that the medical benefits of circumcisions are such that the procedure should always be considered a direct medical need.

Morris needs a dictionary that will properly define need, preferably in a medical context.

Morris says one in three uncircumcised males will suffer an illness that will require medical assistance for a disease directly related to not getting circumcised. From this perspective, Morris argues, it is unethical not to routinely circumcise given the relatively simple and painless nature of the process and the harm that can be avoided.

Do women who get breast cancer suffer a disease directly related to not getting a mastectomy before cancer strikes? Morris is playing very loose with logic, yet he gets featured as if he’s the reasonable voice. The best¹ the reporter can apparently do to counter Morris is this:

That both pre-pubescent boys and adults can undergo circumcisions might support Mason’s contention that the matter should be left until the child can decide for themselves.

It’s not “now or never” for circumcision and all its allegedly wonderful benefits. That’s a large caveat in favor of considering ethics and human rights, no? And maybe it suggests a more vigorous examination of the bit where Morris equates potential benefits to direct medical need than the reporter attempted?

Finally, via Religion Clause, an article from World Net Daily about a lawsuit in Italy over infant baptism. This particular aspect stood out.

[Alliance Defense Fund senior counsel Joseph] Infranco said, “All parents have the right to raise their children in their religious tradition, which obviously includes participation in the historic rituals associated with that religion.”

We could discuss baptism, and I’d probably agree with this statement. But it’s far too broad. If we can judge psychological harm, then no, I won’t concede the point without a debate. If we can judge physical harm, then I will never concede the point. Historic or not, ritual or not, there is no defense for permitting parents to impose physical harm. Children have individual rights – particularly to their bodily integrity – that can’t be ignored in favor of imagined, non-existent rights to treat individuals as collective property.

I didn’t really stick with the quick hits, did I?

¹ For those who wish to mix issues and push for nationalized healthcare as a strategy to reduce infant circumcision, the reporter dropped this into its own paragraph as a defense for the clear intention of the article. I think America would see this emphasis on long-term costs more than an emphasis on short-term costs. Or rights.

Reducing the burden of diseases later in life would also save money in the already over-stretched health budget.

When the choice is between hubris and rights, central planners will always choose hubris.

5 thoughts on “Let’s ramble together.”

  1. Is seems as thought Morris also acts like there are no more conservative alternatives; consider HPV for example. Despite the fact that we now have not one but two vaccines which thwart the transmission of the type of HPV responsible for the large majority of cancers and genital warts by nearly 100% people still regularly cite HPV as a good reason to perform circumcision. Almost all other excuses are similarly foolish since they address very small numbers and/or otherwise treatable conditions. I just can’t figure out why they give this guy any voice.
    I saw you left a comment on the opposing views page, if you didn’t see it, Morris left another jem of a quote:

    “It amazes me that types like this can spend their time coming up with such fiction. Be very wary of such nonsense! For some of them there are hidden agendas, including the preference by pedophiles for boys with foreskins (‘uncut innosence’) and the need for foreskinned males for docking – a from of mutual masturbation by men who have sex with men (some of whom are doctors). NOT that I have anything against homosexuality as such.”
    – Dr Brian Morris
    Yes, that is the kind of person we are talking about. I think this speaks for itself. It was interesting that much of what he posted were ad hominems and personal attacks, especially in his replies to NOCIRC objections.

  2. Also to believe that circumcision confers some significant, particularly ‘day-to-day’ advantage as he asserts, you would have to presume that nature and evolution messed this part up. I find it hard to believe that nature would mess up a part so vital to the survival of the species.

  3. This article contains incorrect and misleading information regarding the activities of our association, and in the interests of fairness and accuracy we request that you publish the following rectification:
    – Your headline is erroneous and in fact a careful reading of account provided in your article fails to support your accusation. UAAR has never requested that the Italian government ban the rite of baptism.
    – Furthermore, UAAR has never requested that the government proscribe the baptism of infants specifically.
    – On the contrary, ten years ago UAAR did provide its support for a lawsuit filed by his former secretary seeking to establish that an adult who has been baptised as an infant (and who therefore is automatically considered by both the church and state to be a member of the church) can request to no longer be considered a member of the Catholic Church. As a result of this initiative, in 1999 the Garante italiano della privacy (the government office charged with protecting the information privacy of Italian citizens “in every sector of the social, economic and cultural spheres”) acknowledged this right.
    – At present, individuals who have been baptised can file a request with their bishop for a certificate recognizing their wish to no longer be considered as belonging to the Catholic Church. In practical terms – since baptism in the eyes of the Church is an act that, like marriage, cannot be annulled – this request simply signifies that the individual no longer considers him/herself a member of the Catholic Church and as such, should no longer be subject to canon law, whose jurisdiction in the civil sphere has been legally recognized by an Italian court.
    – Furthermore, the Garante recognized that this right pertains not only to atheists and agnostics, but also to members of other religions, including Christians who wish to obtain certification that they no longer belong to the Catholic Church.
    – UAAR is also seeking – but has not yet obtained – the right to have his/her certificate of baptism cancelled by his diocese. On the general principal that an adult should have the right to ask that an act undertaken on his behalf by others be cancelled, UAAR contends that persons of adult age who no longer consider themselves Catholic have the legitimate right to request the cancellation of an act that they do not recognize and which was imposed on them when they were minors. This position does not in any way imply a desire that the baptism of infants be proscribed. We instead ask that individuals – once they have reach maturity and if they no longer consider themselves Catholic – be allowed to request that their act of baptism be cancelled by the Church, likewise the Catholic marriage can be declared null by the Rota Romana.
    – On this point it is relevant to note that, in sentence no. 239/1984, the Constitutional Court of Italy established that an individual’s decision to join a religious community can only be considered valid if the decision was taken of the individual’s own free will.
    – It is also pertinent to note that the baptism of children is criticized by various Christian denominations. We are convinced that it would be preferable for parents to leave their children free to choose their faith when they reach maturity, but clearly this is a decision that must be left to the parents themselves.
    – It is obvious that, as non-believers, we do not believe in the spiritual effects of baptism. The rite nevertheless does have specific consequences in the eyes of Italian jurisprudence and affects the civil status of the individual. Baptised persons are considered to be subject to the ecclesiastical authorities; indeed, a sentence of the Appeals Court of Florence declared that they are subject specifically to the authority of their bishop. In Italian law, bishops have jurisdiction over the members of their diocese and can emit censures and condemnations based on the Code of Canon Law. This jurisdiction extends even to persons who no longer consider themselves to be Catholic (since the sacrament cannot be expunged). The only legal means for such individuals to remove themselves from this jurisdiction is through the formality of ‘de-baptism’.
    – The sole initiative undertaken by UAAR with regard to de-baptism was a case tried before a court eight years ago, in 2000, and we are not aware that any Christian organization – in America or Italy – took any interest or action in the affair.
    – Finally, that particular case was filed by an individual, our former secretary Lucian Franceschetti, and not by UAAR since in Italy such cases can only be brought by private citizens.
    Trusting in your wish to publish only accurate information, we respectfully request that you post this rectification on your site.
    Best regards
    Raffaele Carcano
    UAAR secretary (www.uaar.it)

  4. 1. “Let’s ramble together” is erroneous? I fail to see how it refers to infant baptism in even the most indirect manner. It meant nothing about anything, only that I had a collection of stories to discuss. I wrote many words when I hoped to write few. In other words, I rambled. And I sought to bring reads along for the journey. Hence, “let’s ramble together”.
    The only accusation I made, implicitly, was that parents do not have an absolute right to raise their children in their religious tradition. Where there is harm, and particularly physical harm, they have no such right. I chose not to stay on topic because I find the idea of a prohibition on infant baptism as silly as the idea of prohibiting a naming ceremony or any other such harmless, non-permanent ritual.
    2. I never suggested that UAAR requested anything from the government. Again, I used the infant baptism angle only as an entryway into parental non-rights with respect to ritual/routine child circumcision.
    3. Sticking to the topic I actually wrote about rather than the topic of the source article, an adult who has been circumcised as an infant can not become intact. Will an Italian court acknowledge a male’s right not to be circumcised as an infant just because his parents wish to circumcise him as part of their religious tradition?
    4. Same point as #3. An individual circumcised as an infant so that his parents could adhere to their own religious convictions can renounce his faith. He can never undo the loss of his foreskin. What is UAAR’s position on this?
    5. Individual human rights are not nuanced based on the religious faith of an individual’s parents.
    6. We seem to be repeating ourselves. The symbolism of baptism can be rejected by the individual. The symbolism of circumcision can be rejected by the individual. But baptism causes no physical harm. Circumcision does. That was my objection to the Alliance Defense Fund’s incorrect assertion that parents have the implied-as-absolute right to raise their children in their religious tradition.
    7. Ritual circumcision is valid only if the decision is made of the individual’s own free will. I’m getting the sense we’re on the same side.
    8. I’m in agreement, which suggests we’re on the same side. Of course each individual should choose his own religion or lack of religion. Until the child is old enough to decide, though, parents will raise their children in their own belief system. This is reasonable, but only to the extent that the results of the instruction and inclusion in the religion do not harm the child or leave the child incapable of exiting. I leave open the question of subjective harm. My point, that circumcision is impermissable physical harm, is based on strictly objective evaluations.
    9. Believing in the strict separation of church and state as generally understood in the principles of the Enlightment and the American founding, there should be no consequences for any individual’s belief or action regarding himself in any jurisprudence. Specifically, if that is the case in Italy, it is wrong. Alas, I have no power to change that. As I’ve demonstrated on my blog, I’m having enough trouble convincing my fellow citizens in America, to say nothing of how our courts and legislatures behave.
    10. I’m only going on what the WorldNetDaily posted. Since my interest was not based on their objections, I did not delve deeply into it. It’s also important to know that many refer to WorldNetDaily as WorldNutDaily. The moniker fits. They are not the most respected name in journalism or matters of faith not wrapped up in pathetic political manuevering.
    11. I have nothing here, other than I support individuals.
    You are correct that I wish to publish only accurate information. And your note is posted in the comments to the original article, as well as being linked here. But I’m not your target audience. Try to discriminate a bit in where you demand clarification.

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