Hello I am a teenager and I have a question about mortal sin. I have recently found out that masturbation is a mortal sin and I have been guilty of this and now I can’t stop. Is it still a mortal sin if you have started to masturbate and can’t stop? If so how would I confess this during confession?
This has become common for many, what we have to look to first are the effects of sin: the dumbing of the intillect (rationalization of the sinful act) and the weakening of the will (the habit of sin that forms). Understanding that we must next focus on forming corrective habits that are virtuous and counter to the specific sin, for example if someone is gluttonous they must develope a habit of fasting. In this case, masturbation is countered by the virtue of chastity. When you feel the onset of lust you can try something such as beginning to pray while doing some push-ups. I suggest praying the rosary each day and asking God to cleanse your mind, memories and imagination. You could also wear a rosary bracelet, there are many styles available for both men and women, and use that to begin praying while perhaps walking. The point of both these suggestions are that you refocus your mind from lust to something holy and your body from habit to something productive that uses the pent up energy.
This is not easy, the breaking of any habit, it may take even months to stop but do not become discouraged! Pray, and know that God is listening, be patient also because God works in His time so that we may come to depend on Him and grow in our prayer lives while being compassionate to the personal struggles of others.
In confession, you can mention that you have had thoughts of lust and have acted on them through masturbation and it has become a habit that you are trying to break. Priests have heard everything in confession, this will not shock them or make them think less of you so please do not worry about that. Your priest may have some constructive suggestions for prayer or ask you to try focussing your energy on serving others, like cleaning up the house, doing dishes or raking leaves. I pray God will grant you peace and mercy as you work through this habit, Pax Christi!
Masturbation is grave matter.
It is a mortal sin if performed with full knowledge and deliberate consent.
If you have developed a habit, perhaps associated with something else that triggers it, you want to tell your confessor (ideally keep the same priest) that you have an addiction. This lowers your culpability.
Also you need to address the root causes (what triggers it? what situations cause it? what precedes it?) and avoid them. One can’t simply stop masturbating (unless you go the Origen route, which I sincerely discourage).
You also need to replace a vice with the opposing virtue, namely chastity. Learn more about it. Engage people who live chaste lives and reject promiscuity and dirty talk or dirty websites and movies. Read spiritual books and watch spiritual movies. There is a direct link between action, horror, and sex, so try to avoid the two if you don’t want to land on the third one. Laugh, watch funny things. And remember that it’s a normal part of life. Even the holiest saint went through puberty and felt sexual struggles.
The Catechism speaks of “a long apprenticeship in self-mastery”. It’s like becoming an Olympian, or an elite soldier. It does not happen overnight, it requires a strong will, and support from the Church (especially through the Sacraments, Adoration, and the Rosary). And above all, you must remind yourself that
- you are only trying to stay chaste for this one day
- you are powerless to do so, but there is a higher power, God’s power, that will enable you if you cooperate
These are principles at the root of many 12-step anti-addiction programs.
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