I was touched by a letter from a young man, struggling with the issue of masturbation and Catholic teaching. The letter gives no indication of his sexual orientation, and there is no reason to think that he is gay (or that he is not). His concerns however, are applicable to all Catholics, especially when young and vulnerable.
With his permission, I publish below his full letter, leaving out his name and geographic location, followed by my full reply.
Hi My Name is ……… , I am a catholic teenager who is wondering if the act of masturbation is still considered to be a sin. Also is it really considered to be gravely disordered and always morally wrong. I am 18 years old and I am somewhat late going through changes physically. I do believe that it is a natural way to find out about ones body and how it can be used . I have heard that it is not a sin but a natural and healthy thing to do. I have also heard that it is a sin. I have heard mixed reviews I have heard that a vast majority of both boys and girls do it. I can understand if one does it while thinking about other people then it is a sin but if one is doing it to get rid of old stuff then does it count as a sin. I have done it recently and I am going through puberty .There are no thoughts, images or fantasies involved. I do think that it is better then having a nocturnal emission and having to clean your underpants and to hide it so no one think that i wet the bed. I also believe that it is better to masturbate rather than waking up to find a sticky mess in my underpants which has happened to me and it was not fun. I don’t want to have to go to bed worrying about a mess in the morning. I have also heard that it can help reduce the risk of prostate cancer. Is it normal to feel confused about it after doing it. I am planning to talk to my parents and a priest to see what they think of it. If my parents say that it is natural and a normal thing to do does that mean it is alright to do. The only tricky thing is that I am not entirely sure how to approach the subject with them. I have mentioned it to my mother and she doesn’t seem to be bothered by it. She said that it is better to do that than to be out having intercourse with girls. I haven t done it in 3 weeks and I feel conflicted over it I see both views on the issue and i am not sure.. I dont want to feel guilty for doing something that has been labelled natural and normal. I love and believe in god and want to know what the views are on it. I do not have any addiction whatsover I have very good control over myself . I am just a curious teenager wondering if masturbating is a sin or not .
(Where I live) the sexual education curriculum (for schools) mentions that masturbation is natural and normal. There is a part of me that really wants to do it as I feel it takes the edge off. I have heard that some catholic organizations are backing it. This leaves me confused if it is still considered to be a sin. I also believe that it is a crucial part of understanding how ones body works and learning about onself . I do find it a little hard to understand that we can somewhat accept the sexual orientation of people but people still consider touching ones genitals to be a sin.
Thank You God Bless
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.(2352)
Everyone, man and woman, should acknowledge and accept his sexual identity. (2333)
Chastity means the successful integration of sexuality within the person and thus the inner unity of man in his bodily and spiritual being.(2337)
- Krzysztof Charamsa, on masturbation
- Masturbation: Advice to a Catholic Teenager
- “Theological Endorsements of Masturbation”
- Let’s Talk About The Church’s Dirty Little Secret: Masturbation
- A Masturbation Conversation
- Sexual Ethics, Social Statistics, and the Sensus Fideii
- Pope Francis Promotes “Sensus Fideii”, Listening Church
- Pray, Don’t Pay, Disobey: The Catholic Revolution Has Begun.
- The Evolution of Catholic Teaching on Sex and Marriage.
- Catholic Sexual Ethics, Social Ethics, and Reality-Based Theology
- “So be it! Let’s talk about sex”