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Anonymous Woman wrote:

Hi, guys —

My husband was raised as a Catholic then decided to explore and adopt a different faith tradition as an adult. I met him when we were both attending a non-denominational church. We've gravitated to the Lutheran Church, Missouri Synod, where we've raised our children.

My question is of a personal nature, regarding masturbation. I was raised to acknowledge Jesus' teaching that when we fantasize about others, we lust with our minds, and can covet people other than our spouses. Thus, I've used masturbation since I was a teenage girl and throughout my life before I was married as a way to thank God for creating me as He has:

A healthy female with sexuality that couldn't be expressed otherwise until marriage.

I think our heavenly Father is a Merciful, Loving Genius for creating masturbation! How wonderful and loving of Him to make it possible for us to enjoy pleasure through our fearfully and wonderfully made bodies when marriage hasn't happened for us!

This, I know, is a blessing, and I also know, by my selfish or lustful or coveting mindset, when masturbation has crossed over into sin for me. It is at these times that I get on my knees and confess my sin to Christ, knowing that He loves, sees, understands, and forgives me completely of all of my sinfulness. My question, then, is this:

  • Does the Catholic Church regard masturbation a sin?
  • If so, then why did God create it?

It seems to me to be what a truly loving God would give to his children for exactly those countless times in our possibly long lives (married or not) when we don't have an available partner but our sex drives are strong. I am not asking for acceptance or a correction of my understanding of this subject rather I am wondering:

  • What the Catholic Church's stance is on this topic, and
  • How does it differ from my own understanding?

Sincere thanks!

Anonymous Woman

  { If the Catholic Church regards masturbation as a sin, why did God create it? }

Paul replied:

Dear Anonymous,

Thank you for writing.

You said:

  • Does the Catholic Church regard masturbation a sin?
  • If so, then why did God create it?

Yes, masturbation is the matter of serious sin, with fantasy or without. It directly violates human nature and contradicts the purpose of our sexual self. Your glorifying it seems like it may be an attempt at rationalization.

God did not create masturbation, nor any sin. We did. One should never claim God created what is objectively evil. We can see in Genesis 38:9-10 what God thinks of masturbation.

The desire for sexual union is natural, just like the desire for food. If the human race forgot about either we would die but the pleasure that comes from both is not an end itself but the benefit of acting naturally by eating or engaging in marital union, respectively. Masturbation in this respect is akin to bulimia: seeking pleasure divorced from its purpose. It is intrinsically disordered and objectively selfish.

Having said all that, one cannot avoid the fact that this is a common sin stemming from a common weakness — exacerbated by the modern world's preoccupation with sex, coupled with the ascending average marriage age which is now way past puberty. However, one cannot rationalize sin by recognizing the challenges that original sin and modern life have placed on us. Instead, we are called to love God above all things, including ourselves.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church # 2351 states:

Sexual pleasure is morally disordered when sought for itself, isolated from its procreative and unitive purposes.

This refers to the truth that sexual acts are made only for union with another (one's spouse) with an openness to its procreative possibility. All else violates our human nature as willed and designed by God.

In addition, the Catechism of the Catholic Church # 2352 states:

By masturbation is to be understood the deliberate stimulation of the genital organs in order to derive sexual pleasure.

Both the Magisterium of the Church, in the course of a constant tradition, and the moral sense of the faithful have been in no doubt and have firmly maintained that masturbation is an intrinsically and gravely disordered action.

(Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Persona humana [9/IX])

The deliberate use of the sexual faculty, for whatever reason, outside of marriage is essentially contrary to its purpose. For here sexual pleasure is sought outside of the sexual relationship which is demanded by the moral order and in which the total meaning of mutual self-giving and human procreation in the context of true love is achieved.

(Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Persona humana [9/IX])

To form an equitable judgment about the subjects' moral responsibility and to guide pastoral action, one must take into account the affective immaturity, force of acquired habit, conditions of anxiety or other psychological or social factors that lessen, if not even reduce to a minimum, moral culpability.

So to summarize, masturbation is the matter of grave sin. In order to judge the guilt of the person who engages in this, one must take into account the affective immaturity, force of acquired habit, conditions of anxiety or other psychological or social factors that lessen, if not even reduce to a minimum, moral culpability.

Only God can truly judge this with perfect accuracy. Nevertheless, it is very important to take measures that would lead to the overcoming of such a serious vice. For a Catholic, that would mean:

  • frequent visits to the wonderful sacrament of Confession
  • frequent reception of Our Lord in Holy Communion
  • prayer, and
  • practical steps that would lead one to overcome the habit.

Grace, and our cooperation with it, is the only formula to overcome this sin.

Peace,

Paul

Anonymous Woman replied:

Paul,

Thank you for your time and response.

Peace also to you.

Anonymous Woman

Mike replied:

Dear Anonymous Woman,

This is a common question; it's even in our searchable knowledge base.

There are a lot of quick answers there, so give it a try.

In addition to what my colleague Paul has said, I searched the knowledge base for you and found this web posting should help address the issue:

I like this posting because it gives the Christian a proper understanding of the hierarchy of pleasures and the rationale behind them.

Hope this helps,

Mike

Paul replied:

Dear Anonymous,

You're welcome

Paul

Please report any and all typos or grammatical errors.
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