A hard, but very serious and vague, question for all Catholics


#1

I was in a debate with a protestant friend of mine recently and I was arguing the necessity of chasity according to ones marital state, etc…and they brought up a good point…something I was not able to give an objective answer to. They brought up the topic of chasity as opposed to masturbation…they wanted to know, if it is more sinful to have pre-marital sex or to masturbate…I was dumbfounded by their question and I couldn’t give an honest response…so I ask you all. Is it more evil to masturbate or to have pre-marital sex…or are they both intrinsically evil?


#2

It’s a false dichotomy, why do you have to compare and contrast these two sins? Let’s just agree that they are both wrong. I would’ve been tempted to turn things around and question them as to what they were proposing. Were they trying to defend sin? That’d get um reeling.


#3

One is not worse than the other, they’re both deadly sins.


#4

I say it’s a fair question to ask Catholics, because Catholics in particular are known for classifying sin into varying degrees.

Sin is sin; it all separates us from God. That said, I would have no problem answering the Protestant, or you, my brothers and sisters, that I’d consider premarital sex worse than masturbation.

Not all sin has the same temporal effects. For example, from a spiritual point of view, committing murder and being angry with one’s brother are similar sins, according to Jesus. That said, I would rather one of my sons was angry at the other than for one to kill the other – even if accidentally. Call me worldly, but if someone wants to play the “which is worse” game among two evils – as if I get to choose which one that I or a loved on was participating in – the temporal effects are a high consideration. One can receive forgiveness for the spiritual effects and receive complete healing, and in fact one who is forgiven the most loves the most. OTOH, temporal effects often cannot be changed.

With all that in mind, I say premarital sex is more problematic temporally, and therefore more undesirable, than masturbation. Does that mean it’s “more sinful?” Since “more sinful” is a word game anyway (don’t get me going about mortal and venial) then sure, why not? Let me put it this way; I would be saddened a greater degree if I learned my son was coming home after visiting his girlfriend and “play acting” than if he were actually “doing it” physically.

By the same token, I would rather my wife lust after some guy in her heart than to actually physically commit adultery. So maybe my thoughts aren’t yet the same as Jesus’. What are ya gonna do?

No doubt Jesus would have avoided the question entirely, by coming up with some remark that transcends the question.

Alan


#5

That’s what I wondered, whether by saying one’s worse they would conclude the other is therefore “better” and you must have endorsed it.

If they wish to play that game, you can use the worldly example that just because one crime is a misdemeanor and the other a felony doesn’t mean that a misdemeanor is OK to commit because it isn’t as bad as the felony, just that the felony has stronger temporal consequences.

Alan


#6

St. Thomas Aquinas identifies masturbation (along with bestiality, homosexual acts, etc.) as “unnatural vice” and argues that “unnatural vice” is “the greatest sin among the species of lust”.

His conclusion is based on the premise that “it is most grave and shameful to act against things as determined by nature.” The nature and purpose of sex is procreation. Procreation is possible in pre-marital sex, while it is impossible in masturbation. Therefore, masturbation is worse than pre-marital sex.


#7

[quote=dumspirospero]I was in a debate with a protestant friend of mine recently and I was arguing the necessity of chasity according to ones marital state, etc…and they brought up a good point…something I was not able to give an objective answer to. They brought up the topic of chasity as opposed to masturbation…they wanted to know, if it is more sinful to have pre-marital sex or to masturbate…I was dumbfounded by their question and I couldn’t give an honest response…so I ask you all. Is it more evil to masturbate or to have pre-marital sex…or are they both intrinsically evil?
[/quote]

They ar both equally evil acts, but if you have premarital sex you are dragging someone else into your sin and you are participating in sin with them. So in a way you may be corrupting them.


#8

[quote=dumspirospero]Is it more evil to masturbate or to have pre-marital sex…or are they both intrinsically evil?
[/quote]

Masturbation is an abomination, so in the degrees of evil defined by God, it ranks up there in seriousness. Pre marital sex is also a mortal sin but not an abomination.

It is curious that in OT and especially Leviticus, seriousness is proportional to the mores of that time. For instance it goes to great pains, almost half a page in fact, to declare rules as to who you should not have sex with, and in order to make it’s point, it sets aside the blanket rule of no sex before marriage. If it was not a practice to have PM sex, then the list would state who not to marry. So it is no surprise that people are confused when this example of double standards is written in as a guide to future man.

In regards to naturalness of the act, I believe it is common in primates, which probably has a lot to do with having physical charcteristics enabling them to do so.

Carried further, if we regard these animals as belonging to pure nature, and we regard masturbation has intrinsically unatural, then we must also determine what is naturally wrong with nature, ad infinitum.

Andy


#9

[quote=Vincent][St. Thomas Aquinas’s] conclusion is based on the premise that “it is most grave and shameful to act against things as determined by nature.” The nature and purpose of sex is procreation. Procreation is possible in pre-marital sex, while it is impossible in masturbation. Therefore, masturbation is worse than pre-marital sex.
[/quote]

While Aquinas is indeed worth listening to, the one counter to the above that I can think of this: Masturbation is definitely a sin, but it is a sin that involves only oneself. Premarital sex is also definitely a sin, but it is a shared sin that imperils the spiritual well-being of the partner as well.

It’d be bad enough endangering my own soul, but to endanger the soul of another as well is surely worse.

Now, taking all of this as a given, it hardly makes masturbation a virtuous act. Masturbation remains a sin, and anything to the contrary is a self-serving rationalization (pun intended).

– Mark L. Chance.


#10

[quote=AndyF]Carried further, if we regard these animals as belonging to pure nature, and we regard masturbation has intrinsically unatural, then we must also determine what is naturally wrong with nature, ad infinitum.
[/quote]

“Natural”, as used in this discussion, refers to natural law (the rational creature’s participation in the eternal law) rather than “what the animals do”.


#11

[quote=mlchance]While Aquinas is indeed worth listening to, the one counter to the above that I can think of this: Masturbation is definitely a sin, but it is a sin that involves only oneself. Premarital sex is also definitely a sin, but it is a shared sin that imperils the spiritual well-being of the partner as well.

It’d be bad enough endangering my own soul, but to endanger the soul of another as well is surely worse.

[/quote]

Ditto.

Premarital sex also affects the potential child, whether born live or aborted.

Sometimes I’ll take good old fashioned common sense above all sorts of intellectual ruminations on the theology of a matter. It goes like this: how many other parents of teenage daughters would accept the explanation that their boyfriends are having sex with them because the boys were compelled to choose between that and a greater evil? Jesus had a way of cutting through this kind of B.S. that the Pharisees were able to come up with using strange application of the law and “multiple choice” questions. This is exactly why, as stated in another thread, the Catholic Church is often accused of being legalistic. Using legalistic interpretations can take us away from the truth, or at least hide the truth from us.

After I posted this it occurred to me that perhaps an apology is in order to those who said masturbation is worse. Perhaps you thought a legalistic answer was all that was called for, devoid of personal opinion, and that’s OK. Maybe it was, and maybe you are right. Nor do I presume to know the mind of God. If it is your personal opinion as well as your theological derivation, though, then let’s talk before your sons consider dating any of my daughters.

Here’s a quiz. You have perhaps heard it said that, technically speaking, bees cannot fly. Although I have not personally done the calculations, I believe that. Yet we see them flying, or so it seems. What gives?

Alan


#12

couple things real quick -

alan - so what do you do with the verses in the epistles where it’s stated ‘sin that leads unto death’ and ‘sin which does not lead unto death’? this is, i think, very strong Biblical support of the church’s teachings on mortal vs venial sins.

two - as has been alluded, i think this question is more a test than a seeking after knowledge. it’s kind of a trap, like the pharisees asked Jesus. ‘did this man sin or his father?’ ‘a woman had seven husbands…’ etc.

the answer is that both are grave sins. they both require confession. they both take us away from God. they’re both to be avoided, not one chosen over another.


#13

“Is it more evil to masturbate or to have pre-marital sex…or are they both intrinsically evil?”

For the unmarried is not masterbation pre-marital sex with yourself?


#14

They brought up the topic of chasity as opposed to masturbation…they wanted to know, if it is more sinful to have pre-marital sex or to masturbate…

There is venial sin and mortal sin. One weakens us and the other kills us spiritually. I don’t think there are multiple degrees of being spiritually dead - it’s yes or no. Both masturbation and pre-marital sex involve serious matter and all involved in the discussion know both are wrong. The only remaining criteria for mortal sin is, did the sinner willfully commit the sin? Only the sinner and God can know that. I don’t think either is “worse”, since either could land us in Hell.


#15

Oh yeah, those. Well, I don’t know. I keep forgetting about those. I’m still carrying baggage about this, I guess, so I tend to see this with tunnel vision.

Certainly I can concede that there is scriptural corroboration on the practice of categorizing sins, but I think that for practical purposes it is more a theological argument and training issue than it is a recipe for judgment of any given concrete case.

For example, the exact same outward behavior can either constitute a mortal or venial sin depending on subtle distinctions in the mind and will of the perpetrator. The Church, in emphasizing the severity differences and in creating rules that depend on whether our sins are mortal or venial, creates legalistic confusion and anxiety, IMO, in the minds of Catholics who want to follow the letter of the Church rules as well as the spirit due to the omnipresent uncertainty over whether, at any given time, we are in the state of grace.

Maybe sometime soon I’ll get over my personal issues with this “mortal/venial” thing and have an objective opinion!

Alan


#16

[quote=AlanFromWichita]…For example, the exact same outward behavior can either constitute a mortal or venial sin depending on subtle distinctions in the mind and will of the perpetrator. The Church, in emphasizing the severity differences and in creating rules that depend on whether our sins are mortal or venial, creates legalistic confusion and anxiety, IMO, in the minds of Catholics who want to follow the letter of the Church rules as well as the spirit due to the omnipresent uncertainty over whether, at any given time, we are in the state of grace.
[/quote]

I can see your point, but would simply say the solution is to go to confession more often, accept the Graces God bestows to avoid sin (mortal or venial), and trust in His Mercy . :wink:


#17

It is true that there is a hierarchy of sinful acts. We know this through the church and scripture ie wounding and killing sins. The problem that is before us is that both sins mentioned are discernable as killing sins ie grave sins or said another way, mortal sins worthy of the punishement of hell.

The pyschological circumstances etc may way mitigate on the judgement but there is never any moral justification to masturbate or to have an affair. Both are what we call intrinsiclly evil acts because at their core they represent a reasoned rejection of the Good in favor of some other earthly imagined goods.

Your friend seems to want to spend his time examining which way of death is more deadly and as such he serves only a fools philosphy and not the Truth.

God Bless


#18

The question that particular protestant poses to you is dumb at best. As someone has said on this thread, you cannot compare both sins because they are both mortal sins. In short, DON"T compromise between these two evils.

Your friend might probably be doing one or the other and wants to justify it. It’s better to say to him, “you pick which one is the hottest sin.”

Pio


#19

[quote=hlgomez]The question that particular protestant poses to you is dumb at best. As someone has said on this thread, you cannot compare both sins because they are both mortal sins. In short, DON"T compromise between these two evils.

Your friend might probably be doing one or the other and wants to justify it. It’s better to say to him, “you pick which one is the hottest sin.”

Pio

[/quote]

You may want to ask your friend if he considers masturbation a sin at all. Many Protestants don’t. I have a close “bible-only” relative who insists that his church teaches that masturbation is not sinful because it is not specifically condemned in the bible (no, the Onan incident does not involve masturbation). Besides, he is “saved” and therefore incapable of offending God. :eek:
Paul


#20

I still say, if you’re going to let him pick which sin to commit, then he darn well better pick the right one or he’s not going to date my daughters.

Perhaps the distinction would be more clear if I asked a related question: which sin is worse? For a priest to masturbate or for a priest to molest a young boy?

By the logic of several posters on this thread, could we not say that these are both grave sexual disorders and therefore equally evil? Don’t the temporal effects of sin count when determining which is “worse?” Doesn’t the fact that one sin involves one person alone and the other one involves more than one count?

Alan


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