Why Not Masturbation?
Because there's a better way (chastity). Also because masturbation is a selfish action and God never allows selfishness. The sex act is good only within the confines of marriage; it entails the 100% mutual self-donation of spouses wherein nothing is kept back in a union that is open to life and blessed by God. Masturbation falls very short of this ideal: it is not truly self-donating, it is not open to life and it is not blessed by God. Masturbation is 200% selfish because it is closed in on itself. Nothing is being shared when a person masturbates. Sex is an action that has been designed for sharing in marriage. Masturbation is an abuse of sex. It is a wrong action. There is never a right time to masturbate. Masturbation weakens self-control by offering the body instant sexual gratification. But to make love the way God wants is to be selfless. Masturbation is a lie to the body because in it one makes love to one's own self and therefore uses the sexual faculty in a manner against its intended purpose.
"Are you serious?"
Yes. Of course, masturbation should not be confused with nocturnal emissions (wet dreams) because they are not intentional, but the deliberate stimulation of the sex organs when carried out in freedom and consent is definitely a sinful action. Our sexual organs are not playthings for sexual gratification, they are intended for sexual relations between spouses to express and share mutual self-donating love and for the procreation of children. Masturbation is often called self-abuse precisely because the person who masturbates abuses his or her body. Masturbation is also unnatural, which makes it a sin against nature, which was designed and given order by God. It is pleasure alone that becomes the end-goal in masturbation, not the joy found in doing something truly loving. Masturbation can also make someone a selfish spouse, only concerned about his or her own sexual pleasure, because it turns the person inward and makes them self-absorbed.
"What does the Catholic Church actually teach about masturbation?"
Section 2352 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church quotes section 9 of Persona humana, a document producedby the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. It reads: '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.' For a Scriptural basis see: Genesis 38: 9-10 where Onan's deliberate activity of 'spilling seed' is condemned by God; and Romans 1: 24 where dishonouring God with our body is condemned. Masturbation is an example of dishonouring God because it is an activity that does not use the sexual power of loving and procreating according to God's purpose.
"The Church just wants people to be sexually frustrated."
Everyone is free to act. The Church does not have a secret police that monitors our every move. We can do what we want. The Church has been given to us by God to help us make the right decisions in life. To engage in masturbation is a wrong choice. Certainly, one ensnared in the habit of masturbation will experience frustration if a genuine effort is made to stop masturbating, but the frustration is not God's or the Church's fault; the fault lies in the first fault committed by our first parents. When Adam and Eve committed the Original Sin they weakened the free will of all subsequent humans (with the exception of the Immaculate Virgin Mary). Ridding ourselves of vice is difficult, but it is NOT IMPOSSIBLE because nothing is impossible for God (Matt 19:26).
"No-one believes the Church's teaching on masturbation today."
Certainly the Church's teaching on masturbation is very much ignored or ridiculed these days by psychologists, sociologists, and those who use the media to dispense advice on sexual matters. But hasn't the Church always been a sign of contradiction, a stumbling block to the false ideologies of the world? The teachings of the Church are the teachings of Christ. The Church has always taught that masturbation is 'an intrinsically and gravely disordered action' no matter what the world has thought about this issue.
"The Church's teaching on masturbation is unrealistic."
Sections 2352 and 1735 of the Catechism prove that the Churchis most certainly not unrealistic regarding masturbation. In both sections the Church recognises that many factors are involved when judging the degree of guilt of any individual who engages in a wrong action such as masturbation. Although masturbation is fundamentally sinful, the personal guilt of someone may not be present due to immaturity, the widespread sexual messages in the media, a lack of proper religious education and the force of habit. This should not, however, give someone license to sin. No-one should be their own judge. Masturbation is, objectively at least, a serious wrong; it should always be discussed with one's confessor. Even habit does not totally destroy the voluntary nature of our acts.
"How can you possibly expect people to be chaste these days?"
It's God who expects us to be chaste according to our state in life. Certainly, our sex-saturated society does not foster sexual purity, but it can be done because God never gives us a cross we cannot carry (1 Cor 10: 13). There are natural and supernatural helps which age-long Christian ascetical experience recommends for curbing passion and making progress in virtue. A list of helpful hints is included below:
Â- SUPERNATURAL - Pray for sexual self-control. The grace necessary WILL be given if your request is sincere and CONTINUAL. Take full advantage of the Sacraments of Confession and Holy Eucharist as often as possible. Pray to the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of Purity. Wear a Scapular, Miraculous Medal or other blessed object as a constant reminder of purity. Pray the Rosary to fight temptation and to develop strength of character. God will not let you down if you try. Beating vice takes time. Self-denial (eg fasting from food) is an excellent help because over-eating is the forerunner of impurity. Examine your conscience every night. A good spiritual director who is faithful to the teachings of the Church can teach contemplative prayer or a Christian form of meditation centred on Christ that will calm the agitation of our busy lives and so make self-mastery easier. This approach helps enormously where masturbation is concerned. Have frequent recourse to your Guardian Angel. At times of extreme temptation pray: "Jesus, mercy. Mary, help." Jesus loves you. His Church is understanding and forgiving.
Â- NATURAL â€" Try to avoid people, places, occasions, conversations or materials that will put you into a situation where you will be tempted beyond your own capacity to resist. Channel your energies into other pursuits such as community service, sport, hobbies. Fill your day with wholesome activities. Be routined. Don't sit up late watching TV or reading trash. Life is too short to fill your head and heart with junk. Avoid being bored. Do not give up, no matter how often you fall. Jesus knows you.
"It's not worth all the effort."
The peace of mind that comes from sexual purity is worth all the effort. Heaven is worth it. Jesus promises Heaven to anyone who lives in a state of sexual purity:
"Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God." (Matt 5: 8)
See also Harvey, J., "The Pastoral Problem of Masturbation", Linacre Quarterly 60 (May 1993): 32
* Please note that this text should be read in the context of the whole work and in recognition of the appropriate paragraphs of the Catechism of the Catholic Church highlighted in the index.