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Cynthia wrote:

Hi, guys —

I stumbled on to your web site and want to thank you all for such a wonderful service that you provide. Sometimes it's much easier to write out a question rather than facing someone: face to face. I have a very embarrassing question and don't feel comfortable asking my parish priest. It's awkward for me to even write out the question.

I have been married to a wonderful man for 28 years. We have had a truly happy life together and we are blessed with one child. About 10 years ago, my husband suffered a massive heart attack. Since that time, we have been unable to have sex. At this point, he is impotent and has no desire for intimacy. I have been suffering in silence for the last 10 years and crave physical contact with my husband. At times, I will engage in masturbation. I don't do this often, but when I do, I ask permission from my husband. He encourages this, as he feels badly that he can't meet my needs. He is not even willing to hug and caress me. I feel so utterly unattractive and sad.

After I complete this act, I feel so extremely guilty and dirty. I would never go outside of my marriage as I love and respect my husband too much.

  • Could you please give me some advice?
  • Is this a mortal sin?
  • And, will I spend eternity in Hell because of it?

Thank you very much for any help you could offer me.

God Bless your ministry!


  { What if my husband, who has suffered from a heart attack, has no desire for intimacy with me? }

Mike replied:

Dear Cindy,

Thanks for the question and the very kind words about our work. I am blessed to have a strong team of knowledgeable people to assist me.

My colleagues may have different advice but here's my take.

Because we aren't Marriage counselors, we are limited in what we can advice, especially me, because I am single. I would recommend you find a good Marriage counselor along with a good spiritual director in your local diocese who can help your situation.

Your struggles with the flesh just tell me you are a normal person. The only time we won't have these struggles is when we are six feet under the ground. : )

One of my colleagues John has mentioned in the past that one of the problems some Catholics have is that their view of God is this mean, angry God, that just wishes to come down on us for the slightest sin. This is not true. Jesus, the author of our bodies, said:

The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak. (Matthew 26:41)

So He understands the struggle. He was a man like us in all things but sin. His Church understands the struggle.

[Though it was God's will to redeem us and all mankind from original sin, our souls are] still wounded in the natural powers proper to it, subject to ignorance, suffering and the dominion of death, and inclined to sin — an inclination to evil that is called concupiscence.

The first Protestant reformers, on the contrary, taught that original sin has radically perverted man and destroyed his freedom; they identified the sin inherited by each man with the tendency to evil (concupiscentia), which would be insurmountable. (CCC 405-406)

This allowed the Protestant reformers to rationalize sins of the flesh because it destroyed man's freedom and his sins were insurmountable.

As Catholics, we believe this sin is surmountable if we try the best we can with our free will. When we fall short we are blessed to have priests at our parishes every Saturday to hear our Confessions.

So my personal advice on this topic:

  • Do the best you can to stay pure by living a daily prayer and, if possible, sacramental life
  • If you come up short, just go to Confession.
    • A priest is there every Saturday, or
    • you may be able to call for an appointment
  • Don't do dumb thinks like receive Holy Communion of you are aware of unconfessed sins of the flesh, and
  • check out our FAQ section on this topic. Eric and I give our own personal suggestions: Under: Lust, sins of the flesh, concupiscence and similar issues related to illnesses

On mortal sin, the Catechism tell us:

1857 For a sin to be mortal, three conditions must together be met (together):

"Mortal sin is sin whose object is 1.) grave matter and which is also 2.) committed with full knowledge and 3.) deliberate consent.".

If one is missing, it is not a mortal sin.

Finally, as Eric has said in the past:

Remember that the Confessional is a tribunal of mercy and healing, not of judgment. The point is not to accuse you or impose guilt; the point is to relieve guilt and apply the balm of mercy to sins so that they might be healed.

A sin is like an injury, and the priest is like a doctor.

I hope this helps,


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