Do these factors determine whether masturbation is a mortal sin?

I’m not here trying to justify masturbation, I’m simply asking a theological question. Now, of course masturbation is grave matter, and, if done willingly and knowingly, is also a mortal sin. However, one cannot deny that masturbation seems to get a special treatment among grave sins, perhaps due to the common practice of it (especially with adolescents). For example, the Catechism terms it a “gravely disordered action” (don’t get me wrong: I realize this means grave matter, but it certainly has a more ambiguous tone than “grave sin” or “grave offense”), and gives a list of mitigating factors not described for other grave sins. There’s also the fact that this sin is especially a struggle for adolescents, and, even though gravity isn’t magically taken away for youth (since that after all, it is intrinsically evil), adolescent immaturity is listed as a mitigating factor in Persona Humana, showing that this is a venal sin for many teens. The subject I need your answers on is some teachings I’ve seen from theologians on masturbation and when it’s a mortal sin: I was reading about the subject in “Christian Ethics, Volume 2” by Karl H. Peschke and it listed a quote from Fr. Hans Rotter SJ that stated “One can certainly speak of a grave sin only if a morally defect attitude of substantial nature is brought about by deliberate and often practiced masturbation. Ordinarily this cannot be assumed.” From what I’ve seen, he seems like a pretty orthodox source, but I would also appreciate your opinions. Next, I found this quote from Fr. John F. Harvey OSFS:

Lastly, the website (which is also pretty orthodox) expresses a similar sentiment in which they state

[quote=] BUT is it a mortal sin? Does the act in itself condemn one to ‘hell’ and eternal separation from God? Let’s be just as clear: masturbation is not necessarily a “mortal sin.” For most, masturbation is a “venial sin” yet even venial sins demand repentance.

NOT all sin is the same. Some sinful acts have greater destructive effects than other sins hence the Church’s distinction of mortal [deadly] sin and venial [not deadly] sin. Venial sin is some act that partially damages our relationship with God and others. Such sin does not “kill” the love of God that exists in my heart. This love of God grows each time I call upon the mercy of God. Mortal sin is of such grave and serious nature that it destroys completely my relationship with God (and therefore destroys my relationships with others) and “kills” the love of God in my heart and spirit. With that in mind, one cannot judge all masturbatory acts to be mortal [deadly] sins that completely destroy my relationship with God and others. Each act must be seen in the “big picture” (totality) of a person’s life. Persona Humana makes this assertion in Chapter IX:

Masturbation can become a “mortal sin” when it is practiced in total defiance of the Church’s teaching and in total disregard of God’s love.


These quotes seem to imply that the nature of one’s practice of masturbation depends largely on attitude and the context of it within one’s overall moral life. If someone could explain these things to me that would be great. And please don’t just dismiss these quotes without reasoning, as from what I’ve seen they’re all good sources. The last thing thing I’m going to add is this one interesting post on this forum that I can identify with:

Please help me with this.
Pax Christi

I think once you’ve got the mind and know-how to read deep into this like you have? It’s a mortal sin to give in. Each and every time. Because the understanding of things is too deep. It’s impossible to imagine a guy could still just shrug after all that and say he didn’t know better. Right?

Peace Illmatic.


Wrong! I think the OP’s entered quotes are only stating that the people in question are still dealing with a habit. Certainly it is no excuse in not doing one’s best to stop. There is room for improvement for every soul on the planet.

Think about it … if another person over-indulges one’s self with food (beyond his control) thus committing another grave sin, " gluttony", but otherwise lives a loving, giving & honorable Christian life, would he likely be totally separated from God? There is an awful lot that plays into this. It isn’t simply black & white.

My advice would be to speak personally to a trusted priest. He will ask you the necessary questions & help you with a game plan to rid the habit.

When it comes to matters such as this, which are potentially mortal sins, I think it would be best if you talked this over with a priest.

I do of course recognize masturbation as a sin, but how are we supposed to endure our life-time without it?
Some would say, well go get married. That is not that easy, and like 99% of today’s partners would demand pre-marriage sex, so that’s even worst than masturbation. xD

When the catechism.mentions the word “grave matter” or “grave sin” or “gravely disordered action”
It means it’s one of the preconditions of mortal sin.

So yes, masturbation is grave matter. Which if done deliberately, in freedom and full knowledge (even with regards to ones conscience), is a mortal sin.

It’s not impossible for God to give you a single or celibate life of purity.

Jesus, Mary, Joseph, were chaste.

The Bible says, “The pure in heart will see God.”
That also implies that those who die in unrepentant lack of purity according to their states in life, don’t get to Heaven.

If you pray for 5 to 30 mins each day, meaning the words, and focusing on love of God.
That sin will disappear.

As the Bible says; “You cannot serve two masters.”

When a person starts daily prayer, one of two things will happen,
Either they will continue to pray daily, or they will stop certain mortal sins in.their life.

Prayer and sin oppose each other.
The Holy Spirit fills you when you pray, and fights your battles with you.
Are you fighting alone?

What are your triggers?
Don’t watch impure scenes on TV, in books, newspapers, movies, music, or go to nightclubs.

If you do that much, Satan cannot tempt you externally through these things.

Next, keep your thoughts chaste.

Pray 3 Hail Marys each day for purity.
Wear a blessed brown scapular and miraculous medal.

Bless your room with Holy water daily.

Start praying the St Michael prayer daily.

And: start reading a Catholic book, every day or every second day. God will teach you through this.

Any addiction has triggers that aren’t so obvious:

Are you lonely, do you have good friends, do you make.time for your hobbies and talents, are you hopeful about your future,. Do you enjoy your career, . Are there people who are not nice to you in life,

Any negative thought or thing can cause a person to escape the pain through something like drink, drugs or sin

Sin is an addiction like any of those things.

If you work for balance in your life, that also fights sin,
God wants you to have good friends, time for your hobbies, talents, rest, sociality (that is okay for Catholics), etc…

What is the gap in your life you are trying to fill with sin?

Figure out what it is and fill it with prayer, and good things that you can do in life.
Make a list of all your life’s dreams, big and little ones, and how you can achieve these.

Do you feel called to single life, marriage or religious life?
Those called to marriage abstain until marriage.
Those called to single life or religious life use their free time of not having a spouse/family, for God and their mission on earth.

Masturbation can occur by a person’s free will becoming limited by the mind becoming very narrowed where the person is only aware of the very powerful sexual desire that they unwittingly have to release. It’s as if they are in a trance-like state of mind when the “sin” occurs.

I think a lot of factors can determine when masturbation is a sin or not. The Catechism is not very clear on exactly when masturbation is a sin.

sigh…this is NOT a personal question. I’m simply asking a question about a moral theology topic; this isn’t about me, so stop saying to talk to a priest. All I’m asking for is some comments about the quotes I posted, especially from Hans Rotter and John Harvey. I want to find out how correct they are because I’ve seen this factor brought up, and I’m not totally sure what to make out of it. What they are saying is that one’s culpability for masturbation depends on one’s attitude concerning it or the context of it within one’s overall moral life. I find this analysis interesting but I want to find out more. I want to know the truth of the matter. And once again, please don’t just dismiss these quotes outright, because they both seem to be respected, orthodox priests, and they might know something that you don’t.

@TridentH: Even if someone has full knowledge/sufficient reflection, it is still not a mortal sin unless one has full consent, and these priests seem to be implying that one doesn’t have complete consent under conditions like the ones they listed. And once again this isn’t a question about me specifically, but about the sin in general.

@Jaguar: Yeah, that seems to be the sentiment these priests have. Again though, this question isn’t about me.

@Abiding in Love: Thank you, but this question is not about me, and this isn’t related to what I’m actually asking.

@Oktava: I understand where you’re coming from, but it’s definitely possible. Simply self-control can work, but the temptation will still be there. I believe a key to destroying lust is having a change of mind, a revolution of the heart where we realize that persons are not objects for pleasure, but subjects for love. After all, St. Augustine said “Love and do what you will”. If we live by love and conform all of our desires to love, lust will lose its appeal.

@MaryHelp777: I already mentioned in the OP that masturbation is a grave sin. And I appreciate your concern and advise, but this question is NOT about me.

@Robert Sock: This does sound like a situation where culpability could be lessened, as in where emotion takes over the will. However, this is not what I’m asking about.

Thank you all for your answers. Peace.

I don’t know. I’m glad that the Catechism lists mitigating factors, but it could be a little more clear on the issue. I think they’re trying to leave some room for confessors to decide whether or not one has sinned mortally. Either way, all of these mitigating factors have to fall under a lack of full knowledge or complete consent, and there could very well be more factors.

However the catechism clearly states it is a mortal sin if deliberate, done in complete freedom, and in full knowledge.

No one is presumably possessed by an evil spirit and forced to commit that sin. Each person has free will to say yes or no to sin.

The saints in their writings argued it was actually incredibly difficult to actual sin and not be culpable. The law of God is written on our hearts/ consciences.

“If someone has a certain attitude, then it can’t be a sin.”

Incorrect. Then we could all pick what morals suit ourselves.

Hitler believed killing people and taking over the world was good.

Having an attitude about something doesn’t mean it’s not a sin for that individual to commit.

As it says in St Thomas aquinas writing, every single sin, to be committed, requires the sinner to lie to himself and believe that the sin is in fact good.
Every sin requires the sinner to lie to themselves and believe the sin is good.

Oh, no I didn’t assume it was. I used “you” only as a general term meaning anyone.

My apologies!

What if puberty makes you masturbate? What if it is a part of God’s plan?

I know what he was doing. All I was saying is anyone reading up that deep into it already has enough brains to know it’s wrong. I mean what are they doing? Looking for loopholes? :shrug:

Maybe. I don’t know. I think it’s a bit of hair splitting. I mean I think I knew well enough what I was doing when I was 14. Didn’t you?

Is it a real thing now that just because something’s hard it means it’s not a sin anymore? Because if so what’s really a sin? Something you don’t really have a problem not doing but do anyway? :shrug:

The question was not about whether it is wrong or not, but whether it is still a mortal sin under the conditions that are in the quotes he provides, and if they would mitigate the seriousness of such a sin.

I think they very well might, but would have to be more acquainted with the persons, history, etc.

If one’s sees an overweight individual (as most Americans now are), would you automatically assume that they are guilty of the mortal sin of gluttony? Or, that they may have mitigating factors in their life that attribute to over-eating?

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