The Bishop of Porto, D. Manuel Linda, does not refuse chemical castration as a solution to cases of sexual offenses, but makes it clear that this would only apply to “absolutely extreme cases of pathologies that cannot be cured otherwise”.
In statements reproduced by “Sic Notícias” The bishop says that Church doctrine does not refuse this option either.
Rather than defending the practice, the bishop proposes discussion of the subject. “I don't know if it will be the best and most urgent way, but anyway it cannot be denied that this issue of chemical castration in certain cases – I insist that only in absolutely extreme cases where there is no other possibility of intervention – does not I know if you can't argue that. Why not?
D. Manuel Linda's comments come shortly after harshly criticizing social and civil society institutions for their inaction before and after the murder and rape of Sister Maria Antónia in São João da Madeira.
Contacted by the Renaissance, the bishop said he preferred not to comment further, not to feed controversy, and that he maintains everything he said. In the "Sic Noticias" program it is mentioned that the only party that has this issue in its program is Chega !, but the bishop told the Renaissance to reject any political reading of his comments.
D. Manuel Linda also acknowledges that this is a complex moral issue, which is not exhausted in a short statement such as he made to the television station.
In fact, there is no consensus among church experts on the issue of chemical castration. In Ellio Sgreccia's “Manual of Bioethics” the subject is not explored, but in the chapter on “sterilization” it is read that “history has also known at all times the criminal or punitive castration used against prisoners and perpetrators of crimes. of particular gravity and recidivism, and moralists did not always agree on the lawfulness of this procedure when the penalty was applied by state courts. ”
The Catechism of the Catholic Church condemns voluntary or forced sterilization, but does not specifically address the issue of chemical castration in the criminal context.
Voluntary or involuntary?
Chemical castration is the administration of drugs that reduce the impulses and sexual desires of patients. Men are usually drugs that reduce or almost eliminate testosterone levels. Unlike surgical castration, chemical castration is reversible because the effects tend to disappear when drugs are stopped.
The practice of chemically castrating people convicted of crimes of a sexual nature already exists in several countries, but the solutions adopted vary. In some cases castration is punitive and imposed on the convicted, and in other cases it is used voluntarily by the convicted as a condition for their release.
The proposal found in the political program of Chega! It is clearly punitive, providing for the “introduction of legislation in the Penal Code on chemical castration as a means of punishing sexual offenders to any culprit of sexual offenses committed on persons under 16 years of age. In the first conviction, chemical castration is an option for those who apply the penalty, in the second will be mandatory. It can be cumulative with other penalties such as imprisonment and is applied when the perpetrator is on probation. ”
As you read in this excerpt, the will of the prisoner is never taken into account. If there is legitimate discussion within the Church about the use of chemical castration as a judicial expedient, there seems to be consensus on the illegality of its imposition against the will of the subject.
One of the strongest arguments against chemical castration is the side effects to the body, which include weakening of other organs and bone density, as well as anemia, cardiovascular problems and weight gain.
In some countries the Catholic Church was even a firm voice in opposing the introduction of legislation on chemical castration, as happened in Indonesia in 2016. At a seminar on the subject promoted by the Episcopal Conference at the time, priest and moral theologian Carolus Boromeus Kusmaryanto stated that chemical castration "violates human rights and the most basic Catholic morality." Citing the direct and side effects, he explained that "it is clear that chemical castration is an attempt to harm the health of the human body."
“The position of the Catholic Church is clear. Chemical castration is something that destroys God's creation and, worse, it is a form of revenge, responding to violence with violence, ”he concluded. The law in question in Indonesia, which was eventually passed, is punitive in nature and not voluntary.
With regard to voluntary castration the issue is more complex. Theologians and bioethics experts with whom the Renaissance spoke preferred not to comment, as it is very complicated to do so in general, as each case may have its specificities.
St. Thomas Aquinas condemns, in his reference work "Summa Theologica" self-mutilation, but makes it clear that in some cases it may be lawful to remove an organ or body function as long as it is necessary to defend the rest of the body. In this sense, and as D. Manuel Linda says, in very specific and extreme cases, it can be concluded that in some cases the only way to preserve a person's physical and mental health and to prevent them from being a risk to society is to administer medicines that reduce the risk of engaging in harmful or criminal practices, as is done in other health fields than just sexuality.
But does it work?
Another important issue to keep in the discussion about chemical castration is its efficiency.
Some critics of this solution argue that especially in cases of child abuse, what is at stake is not so much sex drive and desire, but the exercise of power over the weaker. In such cases sexual castration may not be an efficient solution.
Canadian David Byrne, a bioethics expert who has been thoroughly studying the issue of chemical castration and reintegration of people convicted of sex crimes, is very critical of this hypothesis.
"In my experience I consider that what chemical castration represents is not a firm response to sexual crimes, but the creation of scapegoats," write, arguing that the best way to prevent the recurrence of these people is to bet on restorative justice, betting on the reintegration of the prisoner in society.
Byrne also points to the lack of scientific studies that prove not only the effects on recurrence but also the long-term side effects, asking: “If we know so little about the effects of chemical castration, why are we using it as punishment for sex offenders? ”
Chemical castration currently exists as a punitive measure for prisoners in several Eastern European countries, as well as Indonesia and South Korea and some American states. Other countries and states allow voluntary chemical castration as a condition of freedom.