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Prolife Forum: Why is masturbation a sin?

by Catherine Frakas 10 Jun 2002

Why is masturbation a sin? QUESTION from Sharon Hughes October 10, 2001 I believe that sex outside of marriage is a sin, and understand why. However, I don't really understand why masturbation is a sin, or why it is, potentially, as grave a sin as sex. Also, is it equally as sinful for women as it is for men? Thanks.

ANSWER by Mr. Troy Martz on October 16, 2001 Dear Miss Hughes:
Thank you for your question. I will answer the second part first -- sin is sin whether you are male or female, God is not a respector of persons.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church deals with this topic directly under Offenses against chastity, right between Lust and Fornication. Here is the quote:

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 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.
Basically, the reason why it is wrong comes from the same understanding why contraception is wrong. Both try to extract the pleasure of the sexual act from its proper context: a loving and total gift of self between husband and wife that images the life-giving gift of Christ to His Bride (the Church) and her life-receiving gift to Him.
When you alter the context, you distort the image. Since we were created in the image and likeness of God, maintaining a proper image is the primary way we experience God in daily life. Satan tempts us into denying the image and becoming false images of Christ and his Church, in effect, we become anti-Christs and anti-Church when we distort the image. Contraception creates the false image that Christ is not life-giving and the Church is not life-receiving. Adultery creates the false image that Christ is not faithful to his covenant. Prostitution and rape create the false image that Christ will force himself upon the Church by coercion or force. Masturbation creates the false image that Christ seeking his own glory rather than giving his glory to the Church.
When we destroy the image, we are destroying ourselves. The Church, as our Mother, teaches us morality for the same reason biological mothers teach their children not to touch the stove. It is not intended to take away our fun, rather she keeps us from causing ourselves harm. Sexual sins of isolation (my term for lust, masturbation, and pornography) damage our souls by building habits that lead us away from the proper understanding and exercise of our sexuality as a holy gift from God to be shared in a marital union that images Christ and the Church.
If the temptation comes (and it will), we can offer the urges to Christ in prayer and ask him to undo Satan's lies and show us the truth of what we should be seeking. That Truth is that we can only be satisfied with Christ -- as St. Augustine says: We have a God-shaped hole in our hearts that only God can fill. When Satan convinces us to try to fill the hole with other things, we only end up more miserable than before because the hole becomes more pronounced but never filled unless we turn to God.
Always remember that God's mercy is greater than any sin. When we fall in sin we need to pick ourselves up and fall to our knees in the confessional and seek God's merciful forgiveness. Be sure that the priest acknowledges the reality of the sin -- many have been deceived into dismissing sexual sins as minor. A good confessor can help guide you into a proper direction to find the fulfillment you are REALLY looking for.
Pax Christi, Troy Martz
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