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MUTILATION

An action which deprives oneself or another of a bodily organ or its use. The mutilation may be either direct or indirect. Direct mutilation is a deliberately intended act that of its very nature can cause mutilation. If the effect is not directly intended, it is called indirect mutilation.

Mutilation belongs to the category of murder. The difference is that mutilation is partial destruction, whereas murder is the total destruction of a person's physical life. Moral law is concerned with mutilation because no one has absolute dominion over the body, and the violation of this principle is an offense against God's sovereignty.

Nevertheless, a person has the right to sacrifice one or more members of the body for the well-being of the whole body. Thus it is permitted to amputate any organ of the body in order to save one's life. However, lesser reasons than danger of death also justify mutilation.

The removal or suppressing the function of any organ of reproduction is in a moral category of its own. It is never permitted when the purpose is directly to prevent conception or pregnancy. (Etym. Latin mutilare, to cut off, to maim.)

All items in this dictionary are from Fr. John Hardon's Modern Catholic Dictionary, © Eternal Life. Used with permission.

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