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Masturbation & the Conditions for Mortal Sin


Suppose a person masturbates even though he fully knows that it is regarded by the Church as a grave matter of sin.  Is it still a mortal sin if he were unaware as to the reason why masturbation is a sin?  Would it be reduced to a venial sin?


First, the definition of what constitutes “full consent” must be drawn out.

Second, culpability can never omit the subjective elements that impede free consent.

Fully understanding an act implies that (1) the person knows what he is doing, (2) he knows from moral authority that the action is right or wrong and (3) that he appreciates in conscience the moral or immoral nature of the act.

Free consent can be damaged by coercive factors like vice (bad habit), passion, external enticement or manipulation, emotional states, immaturity, fear, etc.

We can know from just moral authority (like the Church) or from divine positive law (Scripture) or from philosophical reflection (Natural Law) that certain activities are good and that others are bad. However, there is a difference between knowing something is wrong from a stark precept (as we often render to children) and from a truth that is explained and accepted in detail.

Your question seems to be asking the following: are we fully culpable for a sin if we do not understand WHY it is wrong?

We are obliged as believers to follow just authority, both civil and religious. This is a basic given of Catholic social teaching. A child may not know why he or she is obliged to do some things and to avoid others, but the obligation or duty remains. Our obedience honors parents and it honors God. The backdrop to all this is that the parents and God are legitimately communicating what is good and true. No parent or teacher can demand that a child do an immoral act. They would forfeit their overall authority. The danger here is that a child may be innocent and not know what is right or wrong apart from the parent. Similarly, religious people can be deceived by their clergy about the rightness or wrongness of acts. That is why the Catholic Church maintains exclusive claims since we feel that the Holy Spirit has preserved the Church in the truth. Other churches or ecclesial communities do not have such protection. This is also why the Church is often counter-cultural and argues that truth is objective and lasting, not capricious and vulnerable to the fads of the day and/or the accompanying legislation of politicians and rulings from the courts.

Returning to the immediacy of your question, full knowledge would also imply for adults a certain awareness of why masturbation is wrong. As to the gravity of the sin, that can only be known in conscience and between the person and almighty God. Mortal sin implies a lack of love or giving God and his Church their due— not just the benefit of a doubt but that of belief. If it stands to reason that God is right, even if we do not fully understand, then we are still obliged to obey. This is under pain of mortal sin. As we mature, our appreciation of our faith and values should also expand. This is what best fits the human condition.

Why is masturbation regarded as wrong and as a sin? Here is what the universal catechism says about the sin:

[CCC 2352] 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.” “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.” / 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 can lessen, if not even reduce to a minimum, moral culpability.

Intentional sexual self-gratification (sometimes termed as self-pollution) is contrary to the natural purpose for the human sexual power or act. The Church contends that sexual activity must always be in terms of congress between a man and woman within the holy covenant of matrimony. Outside of marriage— in masturbation, heterosexual fornication (according to nature) and homosexual acts (contrary to nature)— the activity is wrong and sinful. Sexual expression is directed toward marital intimacy and the act of propagation (non-contraceptive vaginal intercourse). Masturbation short-circuits the whole meaning of human sexuality. Instead of expressing love and unity with another person, a narcissistic self-absorption is pursued instead. Pleasure or gratification is targeted for its own sake instead of as an enticement to be shared in furthering the fidelity and unity of spouses. In contrast to the donation of self to another, masturbation or Onanism is inherently selfish. Masturbation can become an addictive behavior, turning one increasing in on oneself and away from healthy relationships and prospects for marriage and family. This is the very opposite of what true love is about. Young people, given immaturity and the changing hormones or body chemistry, frequently fall into masturbation in their teen years. Here it is most probably a venial sin. However, if left unchecked it can become habitual and/or mortal. What the body does has an effect upon the soul. Given how it feeds selfishness and self-absorption, this wrongful activity has an intrinsic gravity toward mortal sin. The heart becomes hardened. What should be good and wholesome becomes something bad and sordid. It can become a sickness of the soul.

Masturbation and sexual addiction has often been compared to alcoholism. It becomes difficult to stop. There is a sense of being evacuated of grace. The person will frequently feel a terrible weight of shame. This profound sense of guilt will either bring one to the sacrament of Penance (so that the work of healing can begin) or there will be a further turning away from virtue toward vice. The man or woman will rationalize actions and seek to justify his or her immoral and sexual license. The person denies to himself that he is doing anything wrong. This leads to the handmaid of masturbation, the use of pornography to fuel lustful fantasies. Our society has made this jump very easy and the media has attempted to make pornography mainstream on television and the internet. The high of sexual gratification in masturbation and pornography can poison relationships and create seeds for destruction in subsequent marriages. Not only is the sin of coveting another’s spouse violated, but pornography and sexual fantasies encourage virtual adultery. The bodies of others, most often those of women, are dehumanized and treated as meat for hungry dogs. There is a general loss of respect for persons and their bodies. Some have even noted correlations to physical and sexual abuse of others. Every man and woman is someone’s son or daughter. We are all children of God— not nameless flesh to appease the beast.

Finally, the marital act (the use of the sexual faculties in marriage) is rightly directed to the unity in the sacrament. Both fidelity of the spouses and the generation of new human life are at the heart of this wonderful gift of sexuality given by God to men and women. Masturbation by comparison is not life-giving. This should be the clearest natural indication that there is something wrong with it. As spiritual-corporeal composites, we are our bodies. The human body was never intended as a plaything. Indeed, it is so precious that the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity took to himself a full human nature and body in order to redeem us. As Catholics and Christians, we should never overlook this fact that with the incarnation our humanity is raised to a higher dignity. We should always honor this truth by how we treat our bodies and those of others.

Chastity is real and possible, both within and outside marriage. Modesty and purity should again be encouraged for teens and adults, men and women alike. It is no wonder that at a time when marriage as an institution is in trouble, that both virginity and celibacy find themselves ridiculed. If we are to reclaim our culture for Christ then we must not neglect the issue of human sexuality. We must also address the sense of alienation that growing numbers of modern men and women feel. Many fall prey to the sin discussed here because of loneliness. But like drinking, you cannot appease your thirst by drinking polluted water. We need the clean and refreshing water that Jesus offers from beside the well. If any should struggle with such sins, please do not despair. Invite God’s mercy and grace into your lives through frequent Confession and the reception of the Eucharist.

20 Responses

  1. Father Joe,
    I’m struggling with the sin of masturbation. I attend the Mass every Sunday to receive the Eucharist, pray daily the Rosary and read the Scriptures. My confessor told me to avoid triggers like social media which I did. However, almost every few weeks after confession I get the urges again and again. I’m doing my best to stop it sometimes in the middle of the act itself I would pray and it will go away. But oftentimes I fail to the temptation. I’m sorry for my habitual sin and I don’t want to offend God. It has been like this for every two weeks after making confession. Its becoming a cycle that I am beginning to get frustrated with myself. What should I do? Pray for me Father.

    FATHER JOE: As your priest says, seek to avoid temptation and the occasion of sin. The reason confession is offered again and again is because sin can be tenacious. Just do not give up. Trust divine mercy.

  2. Hello I’m writing because I have a problem with masturbation I started masturbating at a very young age but I’m older now and I still get the urge to do it I try my best to overcome it will just willpower but I still feel guilt for having lustful thoughts. I keep trying my best not to do it but I keep getting aroused by my thoughts or I get triggered when I look at women. Do you have any advice I’m trying my best to maintain discipline but the temptation gets harder the more I don’t do it.

    FATHER JOE: I cannot give a complete answer as I am unaware of your state-of-life. The sin of onanism is serious. While the matter is mortal, the subjective elements like addiction can mitigate the severity. The eroticism of our culture preys upon weaknesses of men and women, making addictions particularly difficult to overcome. Do the best you can. Avoid as best you can anything that is pornographic. Say your prayers, go to Mass and make recourse of the sacrament of penance. I suspect God discerns the difference between sins of weakness and those of malice. Trust the Divine Mercy.

  3. Honorable Mr. Joe article is CORRECT in stating that masturbation is a MORTAL SIN.

    Those who seek to argue with Honorable Mr. Joe prove the point of the Holy Spirit when “HE SPEAKS” expressly to the church saying “in latter times MANY will depart from the faith, giving need to seducing spirits and doctrines of devil’s”…

    It’s a doctrine of a devil that says “you can have illegal sex with yourself without dying in your sins”

    YEE FOOLS, haven’t you read the WARNING God gave Adam and Eve. “The DAY you sin you will SURELY DIE”

    The Apostle Paul preached that once sin is committed, it brings forth DEATH.

    As a preacher of the Gospel I speak from experience BEFORE I accepted the calling to preach God showed me that masturbation and sexual fantasies can damn to HELL in the lake of fire.

    I repented for 4 days crying and tormented for my sins and sought many christians to pray over me to NO AVAIL.

    God allowed me MY SOUL to feel like I was DAMNED to the LAKE OF FIRE for 4 agonizing days and nights. I was Soo terrified that I had to leave home and sleep on my parents couch across town.

    I cried when Jesus told me that “my case was before God’s throne and that God decided to forgive me FOR HIS OWN SAKE.

    From that scare, I have NEVER struggled with lust or masturbation since.


    If you honestly knew that your already damned, you would STOP IMMEDIATELY and beg Jesus to forgive you.

    Jesus warned that God (not the devil), God the Father destroys the SOUL and the BODY in HELL.

    Repent NOW TODAY of violation of God’s Holy Laws concerning your body

    And if you are divorced and remarried (LEAVE THE ADULTERY IMMEDIATELY) Jesus DOES NOT recognize remarried couples as married. 1 Corinthians 7 10 and 11 speaks about this.

    In closing I want to pray for you: “Father God, thank you for the truth you gave Honorable Mr. Joe, bless all those who read this article to REPENT from ALL SEXUAL SINS and be forgiven just as you forgave me and passed me from condemnation to eternal life through the washing of my sins by the blood of Jesus. I praise and honor you God and I will serve you for the rest of my life. Amen and Amen

  4. For more than 40 years I have struggled with sexual fantasies. Have confessed repeatedly and asked for guidance. Was told by one priest the fantasies and masturbation were not mortal sins. Was told by another to just do something else. I can’t stop the invading thoughts. How can I stop and am I committing a mortal sin if this is compulsive.

    FATHER JOE: I am not your confessor. While such sins are objectively judged as serious in matter, the subjective culpability can be affected by issues like maturity, habit, loneliness, and other psychological issues. Your local priest would best appreciate your situation and so I would urge trusting him.

  5. Father,

    Thank you for this excellent piece on why masturbation is wrong and evil. This offered a great deal of clarity.

    This on the surface, harmless sin, has proven to be devastating to my personal life, tarnished my soul, hurt my loved ones through my neglect and self-absorption and lead me into greater sin.

    It’s just taken me years to see how the devil uses it to ensnare us into mortal sin. Masturbation lead me into greater sin including cheating on my wife with prostitutes, neglecting her by becoming self-absorbed and ultimately hardening my heart, fathering a child out of wedlock with a married woman, and seeking solace in pornography and alcohol instead of fostering a relationship with the Holy Trinity and the Blessed Virgin Mary.

    It was the gateway which lead me into great despair. I hated looking at myself in the mirror.

    I’ve started praying the Rosary in hopes of purifying my heart and seeking intercession for pardon of my sins. It seems to be working minimizing the temptation and not making masturbation a relief when it really is just an express ticket into hell.

    Thank you again Father.

  6. Thank you Father.
    From your answer, I have learned a lot about why masturbation is wrong. I knew it wasn’t right but didn’t know exactly why. This new knowledge will help me to not do it anymore.

  7. Eternal torment in fire awaits you priest
    Disgusting [expletive deleted]

    FATHER JOE: I tried to answer your questions honestly and this is the thanks that I get. You commit calumny against me and you curse me. I have been faithful to my celibacy and ministry. You are evidently in the grips of something darker and more menacing than sexual sin… I will pray for your deliverance and that you will know the mercy of the Lord.

  8. Father Joe
    Please, I beg you, I need you ok…I am too shy and afraid to talk to my local priest at my Parish, yes I did try to shock you but I’m genuinely looking for answers
    I honestly felt rejected by you when you didn’t post my last comment…

    FATHER JOE: I already responded to your comment:

  9. Father Joe

    Thank you for taking the time to respond to my question
    I’m not going to lie to you or to myself, as I freely admit that my masturbation has become an addiction of sorts. My telling you that I’m.not prepared to give it up is more from an acknowledgment that I know that I can’t give it up, rather than a defiant or stubborn will. I’ve tried many times in the past and I always go back to it.

    FATHER JOE: We can do all things in Christ. It may not be resolved immediately, but God’s grace can break addictions and bring healing… if one is patient and really wants to change.

    But here’s my dilemma, I know that I’m not the only one who does it, and according to stats, 95% of all males masturbate so that means we’re all going to hell? That seems quite harsh to me and it leads me to despair

    FATHER JOE: God understands human weakness. While such sins constitute the matter of mortal sin, the subjective gravity can be mitigated by that which wounds freedom (i.e. immaturity, habit, depression, loneliness, passion, mental incapacity, etc.) That means that even those things that are grievous sins might be reduced to venial in certain cases. Those who suffer serious intellectual disabilities may not be culpable at all.

    I have 1 final question to ask you once you’ve got back to me on this one, as I don’t want to overwhelm you

  10. Edited for polite sensibilities…

    Very interesting exchange between you two. When aroused I cannot help but seek out the most explicit pornography for masturbation. I do this approximately four times a week. Have I committed a sin? Would I need to give it up? “And I know this sounds weird, but what will happen to me if I told you, that I will never give it up because it feels too good?”


    Only God can judge souls. But there are a number of things that can be said about your situation.

    First, I had to heavily edit your comments because of word-choices and because of the explicit details. Are you trying to shock me?

    Second, yes, masturbation is regarded as a matter of mortal sin. What you describe is a fatal self-absorption or narcissism. The sexual faculties are given men and women for marital fidelity and for the generation of children. When it comes to Christians, the marital act is central to our appreciation of matrimony as a sacrament. The union of man and woman consummates a marriage bond and it subsequently renews the covenant with each other and Christ. The surrender of the spouses to each other in marriage points to the sacrifice of Christ for his bride, the Church. Human sexuality should thus not be misdirected or corrupted because God made it as a holy element in spousal love and the development of the family.

    Third, masturbation can become an addiction that distorts the character of the person— treating as recreation a gift that is supposed to be expressive of identity and bonding with a helpmate and spousal companion. You need the grace of God to break the chains of slavery to sin. You have to acknowledge your bondage, repent and beseech help from the Lord.

    Fourth, the use of pornography defiles your appreciation of the dignity of persons. Indeed, the pornography wrongly facilitates adultery in the heart. Some even speak about it as virtual prostitution. You are vicariously taking delight in the denigration of others in profane sexual behavior. Do you look at the figures in pornography as someone’s sons and daughters or as children of God? No, instead they are devalued in your eyes as a commodities to consume. You want to use them but you do not love them or care about them. There is no prayer for their conversion. They are merely meat for your lower nature… for the wolves.

    I respond, somewhat at length, because what you describe is not one sin but many sins… and they are deadly to souls.

    Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take Christ’s members and make them the members of a prostitute? Of course not! [Or] do you not know that anyone who joins himself to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For “the two,” it says, “will become one flesh.” But whoever is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him. Avoid immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the immoral person sins against his own body. Do you not know that your body is a temple of the holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been purchased at a price. Therefore, glorify God in your body. (1 Corinthians 6:15-20)

  11. kryptonian51 states:

    As expected you are too much of a gutless coward, reeking of biblical ineptitude, and intellectual dishonesty to allow my last comment to be allowed on this discussion. This says more about you than about me. I bested you Father Joe, and I bested you good.


    It should be obvious at this point that your belligerence has gotten you banned from this site. For those wanting to know why, here are my final comments.

    I have decided to end this discussion for a number of reasons:

    First, we were arguing at cross-purposes since the supposed pundit operated from a variant sola scriptura hermeneutic that demanded an exact word proscription for sin which denied serious theological reflection.

    Second, there was a denial of any insertion of the natural law, preferring a stark deontology to a teleological view. In other words, he would demand a direct divine positive command of a law where transgression was measured as sinful. Wasted would be any discussion about the proper ends of sexual intimacy or operation as being strictly that of spousal fidelity and procreation.

    Third, his attitude toward me and the Church became increasing defiant and ugly. Indeed, it became apparent that he did not come to the blog for a friendly discussion with a priest but to mock and belittle due to an anti-Catholic bias. He states: “As expected you are too much of a gutless coward, reeking of biblical ineptitude, and intellectual dishonesty to allow my last comment to be allowed on this discussion. This says more about you than about me.” He is wrong, on both counts.

    Fourth, I should warn everyone that since this is the personal blog of a Catholic priest, I will have the last word. This infuriates the critic, who writes: “Holding all my comments for ‘moderation’ is just a cowardly way you can maintain control over those who might comment on your blogs and refute any particular doctrinal position you might have, by allowing YOU to take snippets of conversations and pick them apart out of context.” I try to be fair but this is my blog and there are other sites where the enemies of Christ’s Church can expound on their messages without upsetting matters here. I have a responsibility to the Catholic community that I will not shirk. His attacks in actuality are more against the Church than me. He writes: “YOU and your filthy corrupt Catholic Church [are] accountable for the untold damage you have done to people’s lives by lying about what the bible says on this topic.”

    The sources for doctrine come from Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition. While revelation ends with the death of the last apostle, there is an organic development of teaching over time under the protective influence of the Holy Spirit. This safeguard especially rests with the successor of St. Peter, the Pope, and those bishops who teach in union with him.

    Typical of fundamental literalism, the critic used these isolated proof texts:

    “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD” (Isaiah 55:8).

    “For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent” (1 Corinthians 1:19).

    “Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ” (Colossians 2:8).

    “For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall ADD unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book” (Rev. 22:18). [Note that many fundamentalist literalists apply this verse to the whole Bible even though it only directly refers to the Book of Revelation. After their collection and selection the bishops of the Catholic Church in 397 AD (Council of Carthage) declared which books of the Bible were canonical and inspired.]

    Such usage proves nothing because it is out of context. Often they could apply to either side of an argument. For instance, I could try to rebuke the critic by citing Colossians 1:21: “And you who once were alienated and hostile in mind because of evil deeds…” But not knowing the personal faith and the sinful addictions of the critic, it is most probably falsely applied.

    Rather than the view of a 2,000 year old Church and the Jews that came before that, these Scriptures are misused to rubber stamp the opinion or interpretation of an isolated critic apparently ill-equipped for such discussions. He makes himself essentially a pope who can discount alternative views. As with similar anti-Catholics, he repeats himself over and over again as if such constitutes a real argument. Word-play games were already mentioned. Truth is the victim of such enterprises.

    The critic rejects any reflection from the Church or her sacred tradition. While the commenter’s remarks were intact, he is offended that I extracted sections in order to make a proper response. He charges that I am “intellectually dishonest” and “duplicitous.” What he really means is that he is upset that any “coherent” response could be made. Almost like a child losing a game, he clamors repeatedly that he has “thoroughly bested” me. “I bested you Father Joe, and I bested you good!” He argues, “Either bring some solid scriptural proof texts to this discussion or admit you’ve been beat.”

    Next, citing Mark 7:9, he reveals his anti-Catholic bigotry by writing, “Once again, never before has Jesus’ words been more true of the Catholic Church and YOU.” He seems blind to the fact that the tradition targeted in the verse was the Mosaic Law. Christian traditions are in sync with the written tradition (Scripture) and the oral tradition based upon the life of Christ and the apostolic Church. We do not make up new belief. However, we do apply Christian principles to various or emerging new questions. We see this especially in matters like abortion, in vitro fertilization, cloning, etc. There are also teachings that develop from seeds regarding our equality in grace. Thus, while the Bible does not directly forbid slavery; ultimately the Christian kerygma was deemed incompatible with human bondage.

    I am incredibly surprised that a professed Christian would both argue that masturbation is not a sin, and then in the same breath brush aside the accompanying danger of lust and pornography. While I can make no direct judgment upon the person commenting, I had thought that most advocates for such things were restricted to miscreant libertines with no fear of God or man. Certain Christians, outside the Catholic ethical ethos, might argue for its place or neutrality in regard to juveniles or married couples; however, no such discrimination is shown here. He turns to cynicism in terms of the Catholic stance, jokingly asking, “Can one stimulate the genitals… with your eyes closed?” He even goes to the extreme in declaring that the Church’s prohibition against masturbation is a “wicked sin.” I suspect that most other “sola scriptura” believers would want to follow his reasoning down this rabbit hole. He wrongly (dare I say sinfully?) curses the Church, and I suppose me, by saying, “Woe unto those who call evil good and good evil.” As proof that he is an advocate and apologist for immorality, he writes: “The best that the church can do at this moment is to accept that they have lied to their followers, and harmed millions with guilt, and shame over something that was never a sin to begin with.”

    He rejects, at his own admission, critical “human reasoning” and the says that he “did not need to because the bible already defines what is a sin or not, and… there is no law mentioning masturbation….” When he argued that “you need to show me in the LAW where touching your genitals for pleasure is a sin” I knew it was time to end the discussion. He had ignored or rejected everything that I had previously brought to the conversation. He saw this discussion as a matter of winning a debate, not real dialogue or asking questions of a Catholic priest.

    At this point all I can do is keep the person in prayer. Blessings to all who followed this thread.

  12. kryptonian51 argues:

    The bible defines its own terms and it defines lust as to COVET, see Romans 7:7. Coveting is NOT the desire or attraction to something, or to want something; to covet is to take what belongs to someone else. The bible is very specific about that. The sin of covetousness is and always has been the desire to take something that belongs to someone else… wanting and desiring a 4,000 4K smart TV is not coveting or lusting, but wanting your neighbor’s 4,000 4K smart T.V is.

    Father Joe responds:

    You seem to be missing the point. Lust is not a victimless sin. Not only is one harmed as the sinner, but the person who is objectified is wrongly devalued. Our Lord emphasized evangelical poverty because he was well aware of the thin line between wanting things and wanting what another has. God would have us love in the proper way and to want or to desire what is beneficial or holy in his sight.

    Coveting is not immediately to take what belongs to another. Rather, it is to want what belongs to another. The Decalogue makes such a distinction between two commandments. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife and you shall not commit adultery. Coveting is a desire or attraction, either of persons or things (belonging to another). The lust that manifests itself in masturbation is immediately connected to desiring unlawful acts with a person or persons that does not belong to you as spouse. While I would not regard lust and covet as absolute synonyms there are cases when they seem to be connected, as in the citation from Matthew and in 1 Corinthians 10:6. Masturbation is often connected with a lust that covets others, leading to fornication, adultery or to an addiction with pornography. It is a proverbial “slippery slope” into the depths of sexual sin. Adultery in the heart, as with imaging someone’s spouse through sexual fantasies is a sin. How can you argue otherwise? One would be tempted to say that only moral reprobates would make such a case as to legitimate a practice that leaves one impure. Anything that compromises the will makes one more susceptible to ever greater sins.


    kryptonian51 argues:

    It’s not a sin to be aroused by a woman’s beauty, and it is not “lusting” to want to have sex with her. What Jesus is driving at here is it becomes sin if you have the INTENTION to do an act, not merely the desire to do that act. It has to involve INTENTION because adultery is always defined in the bible as taking another man’s property.

    Any attempt to semantically nitpick the word “lust” ultimately falls apart, for e.g., can therefore a blind man masturbate? What about the single? Single men can’t commit adultery, so what about them, are they exempt?
    To try and connect an incorrect definition of the word lust with masturbation will always lead to error because the foundation is wrong. Can women masturbate? They don’t need visual stimuli so therefore Matthew 5 could never apply to them? Do you see how ridiculous this gets when you try to force the scriptures to address something it was never intended for?

    Father Joe responds:

    Any argument you initially tried to make runs out of steam at this point. Maybe you wrote these comments late at night or when tired, but what you comment becomes increasing incoherent. Sexual lust is connected to masturbation just as the associated fantasies have given rise to the immense problem of pornography. That is just a matter of fact.

    We might admire a woman’s beauty and a person might have fleeting sexual thoughts, but prolonged fantasizing about sexual acts is inherently sinful, even outside of marriage.

    If a married person has adulterous thoughts about another, or if a single person has such imaginative ruminations for a married person— adultery in the heart has been committed. This is the case even if you do not immediately intend to pursue or to actualize the adulterous acts. President Carter, who is a Baptist deacon, bravely spoke about this at some length many years ago. Both men and women are susceptible to the whole array of sins remarked upon in this discussion, even the sin of self-sexual gratification.

    Because of length, I dissected your statements so as to make the response more ordered and to allow more time for reflection. I urge you to continue your study and to prayerfully focus upon your own impetus for challenging elements of Christian morality. God bless you!

  14. kryptonian51 argues:

    You will say to me, that, it is impossible to masturbate without lust, so therefore, since lust is a sin and accompanies masturbation, it therefore follows logically that masturbation must be a sin! Hang on a bit, before we get too far ahead of ourselves and think that you’ve got me; let me correct a fatal misunderstanding of the word lust. You have taken to mean, it’s sexual arousal and desire; but that’s NOT what then word lust means. What if I told you that Jesus Christ LUSTED? Blasphemy you say! No, check out Luke 22:15, “And he said unto them, With desire I have desired to eat this passover with you before I suffer.” Do you see those two words there, “desire” and earnestly desired”? They are the EXACT same words found in Matthew 5. It is ἐπιθυμία in Greek which in English is translated as follows, “With LUST, I have LUSTED to eat this passover with you” Now did Jesus sin by lusting? Of course not, as it can be seen from this context here. Lust is NOT necessarily sexual in nature and lust is NOT always sinful, otherwise we are admitting that the Savior sinned.

    Father Joe responds:

    We are talking about the close association of lust, masturbation and pornography. The precise definition of lust as sin is the one we are using, not more obscure secondary meanings. As for your translation of our Lord from Luke’s Gospel, what approved translation are you using? I doubt any credible translator would ascribe a secondary or alternative definition of this sort as an approved bible translation.

    Luke 22:15:

    [New American Translation] He said to them, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer, ….

    [King James Version] And he said unto them, With desire I have desired to eat this passover with you before I suffer: ….

    [Revised Standard Version] And he said to them, “I have earnestly desired to eat this passover with you before I suffer; ….

    [Good News Translation] He said to them, “I have wanted so much to eat this Passover meal with you before I suffer!

    How is the biblical definition of lust different from the modern day?

    Jesus’ desire was good and lawful. The word used in Luke 22:15 can be rendered as “eagerly desired.” This is not the sin of lust. It is no more lust than is the lawful passion between a husband and wife. Lust is differentiated in the Bible as a strong NEGATIVE or FORBIDDEN desire. Your inference that Jesus could have such would indeed be blasphemy. The Old Testament often associates it with idolatry. The New Testament connects it with obstinate sinners who are enslaved by their lustful desires (i.e. Ephesians 2:3; 4:22; Colossians 3:5; Titus 2:12; etc.).

    As for ἐπιθυμία it is a word defined by context. Find me even one Bible translation that uses the word LUST in the citation from Matthew. You do understand that words can be multivalent, right? Here in reference to Jesus it would be defined as an “eager desire” or as a “passionate longing.” Lust as a disordered desire or passion is inherently immoral.

    Lust as we understand it here reflects a desire to go beyond the boundaries. I am not denying that there might be archaic expressions like “lust for life” that points to living with “gusto.” However, that is not how the word is being used in reference to sexual sin.

  15. kryptonian51 argues:

    You reference Matthew 5:27-28… This actually is a very common text to try and prove that masturbation is a sin, but it fails as well! Let us put aside for a moment that the biblical definition of the word lust is different from our modern day definition. (I will get back to that one in a moment.) But, did you notice that the word “masturbation” is not spoken of in Matthew 5, either directly or indirectly? In order to prove that masturbation is a sin you have to have a verse that specifically mentions it, and you haven’t been able to so far.

    Father Joe responds:

    What part of adultery in the heart in “lusting” over a woman did you not understand in the quote from Matthew’s Gospel?

    Certainly, reasonable people can delineate between those who are self-absorbed and addicted hedonists and the young person who is going through puberty and has yet to integrate his or her sexual identity with a changing body. Youth are fascinated by changing bodies, their own and those of the opposite sex. The transition from child to adult means self-discovery, missteps and changes in how one understands himself (or herself) in the world. Young men and women may even stumble, not out of malice but out of ignorance and anticipation. Young men might ruminate about the joys that await them as husbands and fathers. Young women might fantasize about the intimacies of married life and motherhood. This is as it should be.

    You have impugned my character and motivation in this discussion. I do not know you but given the bad fruits from such tactics I would remind you of 2 Peter 2:2: “Many will follow their licentious ways, and because of them the way of truth will be reviled.”

    I really do not want to get into a word game argument. Such apologists would insist that unless the word is directly mentioned, or at least translated into KJV English, then the topic is irrelevant and cannot be discussed. Such a posture is silly. Notable members of cults use this strategy to discount many topics of importance for Christians: the pope and the papacy, the Eucharist and the Mass, the Trinity, the word Catholic, purgatory, etc. Unlike such apologists, you apply the word game to sexual morality. Indeed, you even attempt a justification for lust in your convoluted arguments. Since the word “masturbation” does not appear in Scripture, according to you, even a graphically-described instance cannot be associated with a banning of the practice. I suppose you would use the same distorted discrimination in regards to the word “pornography.” If it does not appear (in English) then you seem to promote an “anything goes” mentality.

    The devil has perverted hearts and minds. While there can be no denying of the lust behind pornography, the latter is also immediately associated with masturbation. All together, they become the doorway to other sexual transgressions.

    It may be that you offer an argument on behalf of the sin of masturbation for more than academic reasons. If you are a slave to such sin, do not despair, but invoke divine help in combatting this addictive bondage.

    1. Catholics are asked to take the sin to the sacrament of penance. However, given that you do not share our faith, there should still be a confession of your sin to our loving and forgiving God.

    2. Catholics express a genuine sorrow for sin, receive absolution and the graces of the sacrament. Outside this context, you can still beseech God to make you brand new and to give you his mind and heart. Ask him to forgive you and to make you clean.

    3. It is not enough to ask for washing or cleansing. The devil loves a vacuum. Find a pure love that delights to fill the space where lust once reigned. Many couples find this in holy matrimony. Others live out a celibate love that prizes the dignity of persons. Both mandate breaking the cage of self-absorption so that we can look outside ourselves in service and charity.

    4. Even as you appreciate human weakness and the struggle, surrender your body in to the Lord. You were made for God. As a temple of the Holy Spirit, the baptized believer is made holy as God is holy. God shares his life with us so that we might be ever transformed more and more into the likeness of Christ.

    5. Instead of resisting the moral exhortations from Scripture and the Church, end the word games and any deliberate incongruity that would allow sin to be redefined and permitted. Seek the high ground. Allow no openings in your mind (rationalizations) or actions that would compromise the truth. This would also include practical elements to help exclude pornography from the home.

    6. Bring this matter to prayer, not merely alone, but with the guidance and support of prayer partners. God answers prayer. God will give his spirit to all those who call upon him and humbly want to walk with him.

    Verses for spiritual reflection…

    “I say, then: live by the Spirit and you will certainly not gratify the desire of the flesh. For the flesh has desires against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; these are opposed to each other, so that you may not do what you want. But if you are guided by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are obvious: immorality, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, hatreds, rivalry, jealousy, outbursts of fury, acts of selfishness, dissensions, factions, occasions of envy, drinking bouts, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. In contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. Now those who belong to Christ [Jesus] have crucified their flesh with its passions and desires. If we live in the Spirit, let us also follow the Spirit. Realize that if you walk in the Spirit, you will not fulfill the lusts of the flesh (Galatians 5:16-25).

    “I am speaking in human terms because of the weakness of your nature. For just as you presented the parts of your bodies as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness for lawlessness, so now present them as slaves to righteousness for sanctification” (Romans 6:19).

    “Avoid immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the immoral person sins against his own body. Do you not know that your body is a temple of the holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been purchased at a price. Therefore, glorify God in your body” (1 Corinthians 6:18-20).

  16. kryptonian51 argues:

    Even if we allow for the preposterous argument that spilling his seed on the ground is a reference to masturbation, when it clearly is not, you will have to deal with the fact that it is NOT a capital offence deserving death….The bible is very specific here, seminal emissions, at the very most make oneself ceremonially unclean for 12 hours, but it was NEVER classified as a sin needing a sacrifice, all it required was awash in water… see Leviticus 15:16. I hope you can see that I have completely demolished your argument from Genesis 38.

    Father Joe responds:

    I would not want to associate the death sentence with masturbation any more than I would with deviant sexual acts. However, the Old Testament often portrays great severity on such issues.

    Onan is not liable for the death sentence under the disciplinary laws of his own people. However, it is not his people who execute him but God directly. God does so as a sign in the very first book of the Bible that none should seek to evade or circumvent their participation with him in the act of creation. The human sexual organs were not fashioned for cheap entertainment, but for the fidelity of spouses and the generation of new human beings. Anything else is an affront to God as the Creator. Thus the traditional view that this passage condemns both masturbation and contraception still applies.

    I am sorry to hurt your sense of personal pride and accomplishment, but not only have you failed to overthrow traditional Christian morality, you have made no really tenable argument at all.

  17. kryptonian51 argues:

    Let us proceed with your first reference in Genesis 38 with the case of Onan. I cannot believe you would even attempt to use that verse as a proof text against masturbation. First off, the sin of Onan was he didn’t want to raise seed to his brother, when the LAW specifically made certain that if a husband died and the widow is childless, the husband’s brother has the right to go in unto her to bare seed. Onan’s sin was that of fraud because he knew the seed wouldn’t belong to him. To be quite honest it is intellectual dishonesty and biblical ignorance to try and use Genesis 38 to refute masturbation, when it’s got nothing to do with masturbation at all. You can try and con your flock with such an argument, but those who know their bible like me, will not fall for such chicanery.

    Father Joe responds:

    While certain Scripture exegetes assert that Onan was executed by God, not for spilling his seed but for his refusal to raise-up a child for his dead brother, this explanation strikes me as too simplistic. I am unfamiliar with any scholarly exegetes who would argue as you do that the sin was one of fraud. The more ridiculous among them posit the crime as a lack of hospitality. But all renderings until the present day associated the crime with the spilling of his seed and the corollary sins of masturbation and contraception.

    The traditional Catholic and Jewish estimation would be that Onan was punished for placing his lust over the need to propagate the human race. He misused the sexual organs that God had given him. But the punishment seems overly severe, on a par with the death penalty once commanded for homosexual acts. Note, however, we are referencing the book of Genesis which emphasizes creation and the command to go out and to multiply. Onan’s “wasting the seed” is spelled out while Scripture usually resorts to euphemisms to target sexual acts. This in itself signals God’s judgment upon the physical act. Onan’s act is viewed as sterile and in conflict with the divine mandate of creation and man’s stewardship. Onan disobeys God, spurns the rights of his brother and disrespects Tamar with his unnatural sex act. God would strike him dead for his obstinacy and self-absorption.

    While you can charge me with ignorance, your insinuation of duplicity and intellectual dishonesty are personal attacks that I do not take well. Failing in your argument, you attack the person instead. If such is your attitude then you are welcome to keep your opinions to yourself and need not comment here. I suspect that your general belligerency is a major reason why many Catholic sites would not respond to you.

  18. kryptonian51 argues:

    I can make a convincing argument using reason and logic that it is sinful for a man to have sex with his wife if it’s not for procreation purposes… We of course know from scripture that it is not a sin… see 1st Corinthians 7:5. This herein lies the huge error in trying to use reason instead of scripture as our foundation.

    Father Joe responds:

    Here you confuse what might appear to be a logical argument with reasoned truth. The discussion was not about procreation but about celibacy and marital intimacy as lived out in the early Christian community.

    “The husband should fulfill his duty toward his wife, and likewise the wife toward her husband. A wife does not have authority over her own body, but rather her husband, and similarly a husband does not have authority over his own body, but rather his wife. Do not deprive each other, except perhaps by mutual consent for a time, to be free for prayer, but then return to one another, so that Satan may not tempt you through your lack of self-control. This I say by way of concession, however, not as a command” (1 Corinthians 7:3-6).

    Paul preferred celibacy as an eschatological sign, but rightfully would not deny the goodness of the marital act between married couples. There is evidence that many of the married presbyters or priests in the early Church would practice perfect continence. However, this was a free decision made by couples. The Scripture citation aside, the Jews and later the Christians regarded fecundity and procreation as fundamental elements of married love. It was for this reason that early converts to the faith (first few centuries) had to give up pagan contraceptive practices as promoted by sorcerers. The use of crocodile dung was one such primitive measure that Christians and Jews both repudiated as an offense to God’s providential role as the author of life. The marital act must always be that type of act that is open to the generation of new human life. However, because of age and illness, this element may not always be operative. Nevertheless, the marital act also promotes the unity and fidelity of the spouses.

  19. Father Joe, Thank you for getting back to me… I honestly didn’t expect you to. (lol)

    I notice that the entire basis on which your argument against masturbation flows is from human reasoning and not scripture specifically. It is extremely foolhardy to base our moral stance on what we perceive as reasonable a priori arguments for or against any particular moral because it is flawed, so I will not attempt to refute your “human reason” arguments.


    Catholicism would not view Scripture as a morals manual. God’s Word not only makes direct stipulations about certain values but also offers basic principles by which thinking people can make conclusions. Similarly, the rabbinic tradition would also take God’s law and make reasoned assertions on particular matters, albeit based on basic laws as in the Decalogue. You seem to imply that any sort of reflection upon God’s Word is an unwarranted intrusion of “human reason” over divine revelation and this is just not the case. Indeed, such a perspective would do damage to our understanding of the human person and how God communicates with his children. We are neither animals responding to blind instinct nor preprogrammed automatons. God would have us use our intellect and will in our access of his truths. Reason is not capricious, but rather based upon the truth that comes down to us through the sources of revelation and the natural order. While there are deontological aspects to our approach to the laws of God, Catholicism has always preferred a teleological assessment, soberly reflecting upon means, goods and ends. A refusal to address the so-called “human reason” arguments is not only a denial of certain revelatory truths but sidesteps any possibility of a coherent discussion. It becomes less a discussion about what does God teach and what specific words can be found in the biblical texts. It is not dissimilar from the rejection of the “Trinity” by certain cults because the word is not found in Holy Writ. You make no apology about such semantics in reference to Matthew 5:27-28. Indeed, you confuse the usual manner by which the word LUST is defined with the more generic DESIRE. Not denying limited literary use of the word in expressing robust desire, as in “a lust for life,” the viewing of lust as inherently disordered is not a modern reinterpretation. Desire can be both properly ordered and disordered. Obviously, such a mentality as you express in playing word games would silence Christians regarding new moral questions, such as about the abortifacient elements of in vitro fertilization and gender-change operations. Fortunately, the Church understands both Scripture and the natural law in a fashion that permits faith-based resolutions of such contemporary questions, as well as older ones like self-pollution.

  20. My bible tells me in 1st John_3:4  Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the LAW: for sin is the transgression of the LAW.

    Also see Rom 4:15  Because the law worketh wrath: for where no LAW is, there is no transgression

    The catechism, the Magisterium, Priests, councils, edicts etc DO NOT determine what constitute sin, it is the BIBLE that defines what sin is…..so in saying that, could you show me a verse condemning masturbation in the LAW?

    Never before has this verse been more true: Mat 15:9  But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.


    Onan, however, knew that the offspring would not be his; so whenever he had intercourse with his brother’s wife, he wasted his seed on the ground, to avoid giving offspring to his brother. What he did greatly offended the LORD, and the LORD took his life too. (Genesis 38:9-10)

    “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you, everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one of your members than to have your whole body thrown into Gehenna. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one of your members than to have your whole body go into Gehenna. (Matthew 5:27-30)

    Avoid immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the immoral person sins against his own body. Do you not know that your body is a temple of the holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been purchased at a price. Therefore, glorify God in your body. (1 Corinthians 6:18-20)

    Masturbation is closely aligned to lust, fornication and adultery. Masturbation is not oriented to the good of spouses but rather toward self-absorption. It often signifies adultery in the heart. There is nothing fruitful about it. Indeed, it can become a destructive habit. Sexual addiction is not the freedom in Christ about which St. Paul preaches. Masturbation does not give glory to God but rather acts as a conduit or handmaid to other sexual sins. The person desires ever greater thrills— without lasting responsibility, without human intimacy. Can those who are slaves to masturbation really say that they do not imagine human bodies and that these bodies are not persons they know, married and single? Today, masturbation is intimately connected to the pornography industry. Anything that devalues human persons is morally wrong and sinful.

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