Having such surgery out of vanity ‘is unethical,’ said Fr David Garcia.
Cosmetic surgery is ethically justified if used to restore or acquire a normal appearance for one’s gender and age that benefits normal social interaction.
However, if it is done out of vanity, it is considered immoral, Fr David Garcia told participants at an ethics and moral theology course on Aug 2.
The Dominican priest was speaking on the topic of cosmetic surgery as part of a moral theology programme titled The Personal Compass: Navigating Ethical Ambiguity. The yearlong course is organised by the Wonderfully Made! ministry and Singapore Pastoral Institute.
Highlighting examples such as the French woman who had a face transplant after being mauled by a dog, and those with cleft lips, Fr Garcia said that undergoing cosmetic surgery to fix something broken, to fit culturally within a certain society and to allow for social interaction, is fine.
Responding to CatholicNews queries, the moral theologian also said that cosmetic surgery could be justified in certain professions where looks are important, such as in the entertainment industry.
However, the priest cautioned that such surgery done out of vanity, such as the enhancement of sexual attractiveness or the concealment of normal aging, is considered immoral and a vice.
“If it [cosmetic surgery] fixes something that is wrong, it is good, if it is an act of vanity, vanity is a sin, it is something unethical,” he said.
During the evening’s session, Fr Garcia also touched on the topic of sex reassignment surgery.
He highlighted that sexual identity is about how one sees oneself and comprises many dimensions: chromosomal, genetic, physiological, anatomical, hormonal, psychological, sociological and cultural.
The problem of sexual identity might be psychological when a person does not accept his or her own sexual identity as male or female even though the person is anatomically normal.
In this situation, Fr Garcia said that one does not fix the psychological problem by fixing the body. Changing the sexual organs is not the solution.
The ethical problem arises for those who have ambiguous genitalia. Sex reassignment surgery is only ethical when the benefits outweigh the risks.
Fr Garcia also noted that there have been cases in which people have been unhappy with the result after such an operation.
By Darren Boon