Mortal sin?

Is masturbation a mortal sin for a teenage boy? I have had two priests tell me it most likely is not.

Is it likely that a teenage boy might lack the self-control and appreciation of the gravity of the sin for masturbation to be a mortal sin? A confessor would know. That is not to say (and I am sure they are not saying) that it cannot become a pernicious habit that can enslave someone, especially a young someone, before he knows it, not to mention a habit that leaves him vulnerable to commission of other serious sexual sins in the future.

IOW, a teen ought to be told masturbation is a serious moral failure and yet also be encouraged to keep up the good fight until he (or she) gains the self-control to avoid the sin entirely. These are the distinctions that a physician of the soul needs to make in order to apply both moral guidance and mercy to a soul who comes to him with a self-inflicted wound.

These were my thoughts. If this is the case then, and in most cases it is indeed not mortal, then reception of the Eucharist should be encouraged, right? Not discouraged?

Yes.

You already knew that. Otherwise why on earth would you have come here to ask?

If it is not a mortal sin at 19 then when is it a mortal sin? At what age is it considered mortal? 20? 40? When you are married? 90 when you don’t want to do it that often?

An 18 year old has self control enough to be given a loaded machine gun and only kill enemy combatants but not to stop masturbating?

I know that this is just my opinion but I think that it probably is a mortal sin. A teenage boy can be eighteen years old. What are we going to do tell him it’s not a serious sin and hope that it is something he will be able to overcome some day. It’s not something that is easy stop. As a matter of fact it is darn hard. I think his priest did him a big disservice telling him what he did. I would have told him it is a serious sin that can lead to other sexual sins and to stop right now. We have too many young people in the Church that don’t take the Church’s teaching on morality serious. By my count I think there are as many Catholic youth shacking up as there are marrying.

Confession ought to be encouraged, followed by reception of the Eucharist. Priests who say it *might not *be a mortal sin mean that teen boys should not lie awake at night afraid that they are going to go to Hell for a sin for which they already feel contrition. They do not mean that these young men should make it a habit to be cavalier about their culpability. It would not harm them to refrain from receiving the Eucharist until they have gone to confession. If it is extremely difficult for them to refrain from this sin from confession on Saturday until whatever Sunday Mass they attend, that is a situation they ought to discuss with their confessor.

I will attempt to bring some Biblical and Ecclesial authority to this question.

**SIRACH 23

Concerning Sexual Sins

16
Two sorts of men multiply sins,
and a third incurs wrath.
The soul heated like a burning fire
will not be quenched until it is consumed;
a man who commits fornication with his near of kin[e]
will never cease until the fire burns him up.

17
To a fornicator all bread tastes sweet;
he will never cease until he dies.

18
A man who breaks his marriage vows
says to himself, “Who sees me?
Darkness surrounds me, and the walls hide me,
and no one sees me. Why should I fear?
The Most High will not take notice of my sins.”

19
His fear is confined to the eyes of men,
and he does not realize that the eyes of the Lord
are ten thousand times brighter than the sun;
they look upon all the ways of men,
and perceive even the hidden places.

20
Before the universe was created, it was known to him;
so it was also after it was finished.

21
This man will be punished in the streets of the city,
and where he least suspects it, he will be seized.**

Sirach 23:16 cites three types of sexual sin (seemingly of increasing severity). The first is masturbation. The second fornication. The third adultery.

Adultery is singled out in greater emphasis than the first two as provoking God’s wrath and public punishment of the transgressor. Numerically, Sirach 23 devotes the most verses to the condemnation of adultery (verses 18 through 21).

Adultery is specifically singled out in the Ten Commandments:

Exodus 20:14
Thou shalt not commit adultery

1 Corinthians 6

Glorify God in Body and Spirit

12 “All things are lawful for me,” but not all things are beneficial. “All things are lawful for me,” but I will not be dominated by anything. 13 “Food is meant for the stomach and the stomach for food,”[e] and God will destroy both one and the other. The body is meant not for fornication but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. 14 And God raised the Lord and will also raise us by his power. 15 Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Should I therefore take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never! 16 Do you not know that whoever is united to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For it is said, “The two shall be one flesh.” 17 But anyone united to the Lord becomes one spirit with him. 18 Shun fornication! Every sin that a person commits is outside the body; but the fornicator sins against the body itself. 19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple[f] of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God, and that you are not your own? 20 For you were bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church 2352

Masturbation is defined…then **“Both the Magesterium 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.”

“The deliberate use of the sexual faculty, for whatever purpose, 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.”

To form an equitable judgment about the subjects’ moral responsibility and to guide pastoral action, one must take into account the affective immaturity, force of acquired habit, conditions of anxiety, or other psychological or social factors that lessen or even extenuate moral culpability. ** (italics added)

Thus, aside from the pure and Magesterial viewpoint, the Church, in it’s wisdom recognizes the complexity of this sexually disordered action…which may even result from psychiatric illness or social conditions “that lessen or even extenuate moral culpability.”

However…

Matthew 5:28
But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

In Matthew 5:28 Jesus’ statement about visual arousal raises the question of whether masturbation combined with viewing pornographic images (as is, sadly, all-too-often the modern case) actually constitutes the apparently graver sins of FORNICATION (unmarried persons) or even ADULTERY (married persons)?

This is ridiculous, he is a teenager (in other words, is conscious of his acts and is obviously consenting during the act).

All sins against chastity are mortal sins. They are of grave matter.

CCC:

1857 For a sin to be mortal, three conditions must together be met: “Mortal sin is sin whose object is grave matter and which is also committed with full knowledge and deliberate consent.”

1858 Grave matter is specified by the Ten Commandments, corresponding to the answer of Jesus to the rich young man: “Do not kill, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and your mother.” The gravity of sins is more or less great: murder is graver than theft. One must also take into account who is wronged: violence against parents is in itself graver than violence against a stranger.

1859 Mortal sin requires full knowledge and complete consent. It presupposes knowledge of the sinful character of the act, of its opposition to God’s law. It also implies a consent sufficiently deliberate to be a personal choice. Feigned ignorance and hardness of heart do not diminish, but rather increase, the voluntary character of a sin.

CCC:

Offenses against chastity

**2351 Lust **is disordered desire for or inordinate enjoyment of sexual pleasure. Sexual pleasure is morally disordered when sought for itself, isolated from its procreative and unitive purposes.

**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 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.” “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.”

To form an equitable judgment about the subjects’ moral responsibility and to guide pastoral action, one must take into account the affective immaturity, force of acquired habit, conditions of anxiety or other psychological or social factors that lessen, if not even reduce to a minimum, moral culpability.

2353 Fornication is carnal union between an unmarried man and an unmarried woman. It is gravely contrary to the dignity of persons and of human sexuality which is naturally ordered to the good of spouses and the generation and education of children. Moreover, it is a grave scandal when there is corruption of the young.

2354 Pornography consists in removing real or simulated sexual acts from the intimacy of the partners, in order to display them deliberately to third parties. It offends against chastity because it perverts the conjugal act, the intimate giving of spouses to each other. It does grave injury to the dignity of its participants (actors, vendors, the public), since each one becomes an object of base pleasure and illicit profit for others. It immerses all who are involved in the illusion of a fantasy world. It is a grave offense. Civil authorities should prevent the production and distribution of pornographic materials.

2355 Prostitution does injury to the dignity of the person who engages in it, reducing the person to an instrument of sexual pleasure. The one who pays sins gravely against himself: he violates the chastity to which his Baptism pledged him and defiles his body, the temple of the Holy Spirit. Prostitution is a social scourge. It usually involves women, but also men, children, and adolescents (The latter two cases involve the added sin of scandal.). While it is always gravely sinful to engage in prostitution, the imputability of the offense can be attenuated by destitution, blackmail, or social pressure.

2356 Rape is the forcible violation of the sexual intimacy of another person. It does injury to justice and charity. Rape deeply wounds the respect, freedom, and physical and moral integrity to which every person has a right. It causes grave damage that can mark the victim for life. It is always an intrinsically evil act. Graver still is the rape of children committed by parents (incest) or those responsible for the education of the children entrusted to them.

A very wise post.

No, not all sins against chastity are mortal sins. There are venial sins against chastity just as there are venial sins against every other virtue–although venial sins against chastity are so winked at as to be considered the standard of what is “normal”! We are in an age when the virtue of chastity is considered somewhere between quaint and unattainable. To studiously avoid even a venial sin against chastity is to open oneself to taunts and indictments for being a “prude” or a “Puritan.” Chastity is under such constant assaults of the most grave sort that venial sins against chastity are hardly recognized as sins!

More to the point of this thread, I think we all know teens who seem to have lost the good sense they had when they were ten. This is an actual biological phenomenon that compounds the dangers faced by an adolescent in our times. Some people have poorer impulse control at 17 than they had when they were much younger. Couple this with the intense pressure to indulge in sexual gratification prior to marriage, and a young person’s odds of resisting serious offenses against chastity get slimmer and slimmer.

Again, however:
a) culpability is a diagnosis best left to a confessor, a physician of the soul. To judge someone’s culpability from our standpoint is worse than making a medical diagnosis over the internet.
b) someone who is not culpable is not free to commit the sin but is rather in need of development of greater self-control, because they are enslaved to their impulses or immature in their capacity in that particular area. They are like a sheep in a tar-pit: to be pitied, yes, but true caring will not even consider leaving them stranded in the tar!!
c) A teen in a condition where he cannot refrain from this sin for even one night a week has a serious enslavement. He needs to take this seriously and take it to a confessor.

**Habitual masturbation is not a weakness of virtue that will resolve by the passage of time. **IOW, it is not just a sign of immaturity, but a habitual vice. There needs to be a positive program of rehabilitation that ought to be presumed to be a work requiring great perseverance. The more people who can be preserved from this mire, the better. It is not inevitable that a young person will fall into this pit, nor is recovery from the malady inevitable. Neither possibility ought to be treated as such.

If it is not a habit? Treat it as a mortal sin. Implore the help of the Holy Spirit–*the Spirit too comes to the aid of our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit itself intercedes with inexpressible groanings, and the one who searches hearts knows what is the intention of the Spirit, because it intercedes for the holy ones according to God’s will *(Rom. 8:27-28)–make the closest thing to a perfect act of contrition you can manage, and get to confession soon. If your culpability was only venial, your serious hatred of sin and fear of offending God will still serve you in good stead.

If we beat on sinners or give ourselves permission to presume on the mercy of God, Heaven will hold it against us. This is only right. If we compassionately try to help others out of sin or if we struggle to avail ourselves of the grace offered to conquer sin, Heaven will count it in our favor, even if we are not 100% victorious right away. This is the mercy of God.

ccc

II. THE VOCATION TO CHASTITY

2337 Chastity means the successful integration of sexuality within the person and thus the inner unity of man in his bodily and spiritual being. Sexuality, in which man’s belonging to the bodily and biological world is expressed, becomes personal and truly human when it is integrated into the relationship of one person to another, in the complete and lifelong mutual gift of a man and a woman.

The virtue of chastity therefore involves the integrity of the person and the integrality of the gift.

The integrity of the person

2338 The chaste person maintains the integrity of the powers of life and love placed in him. This integrity ensures the unity of the person; it is opposed to any behavior that would impair it. It tolerates neither a double life nor duplicity in speech.

2339 Chastity includes an apprenticeship in self-mastery which is a training in human freedom. The alternative is clear: either man governs his passions and finds peace, or he lets himself be dominated by them and becomes unhappy. “Man’s dignity therefore requires him to act out of conscious and free choice, as moved and drawn in a personal way from within, and not by blind impulses in himself or by mere external constraint. Man gains such dignity when, ridding himself of all slavery to the passions, he presses forward to his goal by freely choosing what is good and, by his diligence and skill, effectively secures for himself the means suited to this end.”

2340 Whoever wants to remain faithful to his baptismal promises and resist temptations will want to adopt the means for doing so: self-knowledge, practice of an ascesis adapted to the situations that confront him, obedience to God’s commandments, exercise of the moral virtues, and fidelity to prayer. “Indeed it is through chastity that we are gathered together and led back to the unity from which we were fragmented into multiplicity.”

2341 The virtue of chastity comes under the cardinal virtue of temperance, which seeks to permeate the passions and appetites of the senses with reason.

2342 Self-mastery is a long and exacting work. One can never consider it acquired once and for all. It presupposes renewed effort at all stages of life. The effort required can be more intense in certain periods, such as when the personality is being formed during childhood and adolescence.

2343 Chastity has laws of growth which progress through stages marked by imperfection and too often by sin. “Man . . . day by day builds himself up through his many free decisions; and so he knows, loves, and accomplishes moral good by stages of growth.”

2344 Chastity represents an eminently personal task; it also involves a cultural effort, for there is “an interdependence between personal betterment and the improvement of society.” Chastity presupposes respect for the rights of the person, in particular the right to receive information and an education that respect the moral and spiritual dimensions of human life.

2345 Chastity is a moral virtue. It is also a gift from God, a grace, a fruit of spiritual effort. The Holy Spirit enables one whom the water of Baptism has regenerated to imitate the purity of Christ.

The integrality of the gift of self

2346 Charity is the form of all the virtues. Under its influence, chastity appears as a school of the gift of the person. Self-mastery is ordered to the gift of self. Chastity leads him who practices it to become a witness to his neighbor of God’s fidelity and loving kindness.

2347 The virtue of chastity blossoms in friendship. It shows the disciple how to follow and imitate him who has chosen us as his friends, who has given himself totally to us and allows us to participate in his divine estate. Chastity is a promise of immortality.

Chastity is expressed notably in friendship with one’s neighbor. Whether it develops between persons of the same or opposite sex, friendship represents a great good for all. It leads to spiritual communion.

The various forms of chastity

2348 All the baptized are called to chastity. The Christian has “put on Christ,” the model for all chastity. All Christ’s faithful are called to lead a chaste life in keeping with their particular states of life. At the moment of his Baptism, the Christian is pledged to lead his affective life in chastity.

2349 "People should cultivate [chastity] in the way that is suited to their state of life. Some profess virginity or consecrated celibacy which enables them to give themselves to God alone with an undivided heart in a remarkable manner. Others live in the way prescribed for all by the moral law, whether they are married or single."Married people are called to live conjugal chastity; others practice chastity in continence:

There are three forms of the virtue of chastity: the first is that of spouses, the second that of widows, and the third that of virgins. We do not praise any one of them to the exclusion of the others. . . . This is what makes for the richness of the discipline of the Church.

2350 Those who are engaged to marry are called to live chastity in continence. They should see in this time of testing a discovery of mutual respect, an apprenticeship in fidelity, and the hope of receiving one another from God. They should reserve for marriage the expressions of affection that belong to married love. They will help each other grow in chastity.

Did you have a point to make?

Thanks EsterJoy. Allow me correct that.

All sins against chastity are always of grave matter. It becomes mortal sin when you do it with full knowledge and with deliberate consent.

Yes. To give the OP more information.

Even if some mitigating circumstance reduces the culpability of a mortal sin so that it is only venial, we can’t have perfect knowledge that such is the case. We should always err on the side of NOT committing sacrilege. Ergo, the reception of Holy Communion should never be recommended for such a person until they have gone to confession.

Such a permissive theology leads to numerous errors. If 7 is no longer the age of reason, what age is it? If they can’t sin mortally, they can’t have true contrition, nor can they resolve to go forth and sin no more. So is there any use for them in going to confession? No, not really.

While it is important to consider the gravity of this sin at a particular age, we shouldn’t loose sight of what can be done to prevent it.

I once heard an entire sermon on how certain types of sin (including this one) can become habitual. So in these cases it was not the actual sin itself but the habit of sinning that made them dangerous. The sooner it is broken the better. It is best to focus on the fundamental causes and to always invoke Jesus’s help (through prayer and confession) on the road to recovery.

My response to your question would be that if you are unsure, then always go to confession before receiving the Eucharist.

No, I meant that not everything one can do in the realm of chastity is OK up until the moment one strays into mortal sin. It is possible to be immodest to a point that is wrong, but venially wrong, to indulge passion to a point that is wrong, yet still venially wrong, and so on.

This is easily seen when you think of the things someone might do with someone else’s wife or that someone married might do with someone not their spouse. The contact a man might have with a woman not his wife does not go immediately from permissible things that are nothing to repent of and straight to mortal sins. He can commit a venial sin with someone else’s wife. He can sin against his wife with another woman to a venial degree. He hasn’t committed mortal adultery, but his wife has reason to feel hurt and betrayed, and he has offended against chastity enough to have something to confess. His wife, likewise, can go flirting with other men and making a spectacle of herself, and while it is not a mortal sin, it is also not morally permissible. There is a lot of behavior that is neither virtuous–modest and pure–nor yet a mortal sin, but an offense with a seriousness that is in-between.

I meant that it is a good idea to be more selective, so that we will know which information you are pointing out in particular and perhaps to explain why you chose it and what instructive thoughts you’d have to offer to explain it.

For instance:
*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 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.” “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.”

To form an equitable judgment about the subjects’ moral responsibility and to guide pastoral action, one must take into account the affective immaturity, force of acquired habit, conditions of anxiety or other psychological or social factors that lessen, if not even reduce to a minimum, moral culpability.*

I am very guilty of placing posts that are so long that they deter readers. Learn from my mistakes!

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