"sexual matter" and mortal sin

Dear Forum Members

There is something that I have more thna once read in this forum that has sometimes fed into to my scrupulosity.

I am now on a pretty good way conquering scruples, even though I have backslides sometimes, like one this weekend. I have come to realize that often, when I have a scruple and don’t ask ANYWAY (my pastor has agreed with me that in my specific case, it is ok to take the rsik to not ask, because as soon as I doubt that something is a sin, it already IS a scruple… I have such a sensitive conscience)… so, if I bear the fear and don’t ask anyway, usually, as in a miracle, it goes away!!! I go on with my life, maybe pray to God to take the fear away… and it ceases. :slight_smile:

So that is really good.

Now, something HAS come up a couple times and right now I am struggling with it again. It is something that has to do with something I have read here, so I allow myself to ask here.

That is, it has been said here: If something is sexual matter, it is AUTOMATICALLY “grave matter”.
That would mean, if something is sexual matter (even a small thing, or even just borderline sexual matter?) and one does it with full awareness, full freedom etc… it would automatically be mortal sin?

What if it is not really sexual in the sense of seeking sexual gratification, but… something that just has to DO somehow with sexuality?
Like a thought comes to you that has to do with those body parts, and you think about it for a while, but not in a sexual way, but… well, it is an interesting thought.

I had a thought like that in realtion ith something holy :blush:… a little bit a childish though, but still intersting in a stupid way. Now looking back I feel it was wrong to have allowed it, as the thing it had to do was holy… but I dobt that it would immediately be a mortal sin just because it had to do with those bady parts which after all are natural?

Really wodnering how far this “sexual matter is grave matter” thing really goes. Have asked myself this before.

Actually this would go under “I am not sure so it is probably scrupulous” but since I have read this here (that is, the fear that it might be mortal stems from something I have read on this forum)… and ehem… maybe othe rpeople have asked themselves rhe same thing… ha ha justifying my asking… :wink: I allow myself to ask this here.

you know I was still working on this posr, editing it, thinking about whether I should maybe even delete it… and then we had a short power outage and since my laptop has almost no battery well… now too late :rotfl:

You are basically right in your intuition.

When we speak of Catholic morality we are not speaking simply of external visible actions. Its a bit more subtle than that. We are really speaking of “human acts” …which are inferred (using reason/common sense) rather than what is seen with the eyes.

You seem to understand that the “matter” is the third font of a moral act - it is the objective one whose nature doesn’t change regardless of circumstance (eg coercion) or intention (one’s purpose for doing this thing).

But its sometimes hard for outsiders to know what it is that a moral agent is actually objectively doing.

I may work in a Pharmacy and sell a contraceptive prescription to a woman in my parish.
Does that mean she is objectively contracepting when she takes them before having relations with her husband? Possibly. But if she does so for a medical condition…then, objectively, she is not actually engaging in a moral act of contraceptive sex.

Masturbation is defined as taking in pleasure in genital stimulation. If such stimulation is a unwanted consequence of a one off horse-riding event…this would not seem to be the grave matter of masturbation (or anything grave sexually)… though obviously it looks to the eyes of witnesses like grave sexual matter.

Dear Blue Horizon

I am not sure which intuition you mean that I am right with… ;).

Hm, since I must leave now and will probably be going to mass before I go online again (if I go in town I’d have to pay :-// and my budget is tight… I will have to decide whether or not to go to communion this time without seeing the answers here…


Ok in this specific case, as it was just TOO hard to bear it, I did call my pastor at the office and talked to him about it.
Admit it.
So I am at peace about it now.

Hi Kathryn,

I struggle with the exact same type of thoughts. Sometimes I feel like I do consent to them for a few seconds. I take no pleasure in them - they are intrusive thoughts.

I have asked the exact same question and am still not fully clear about it. It is possible to allow yourself to think about something and remain neutral.

I am under the impression that it’s the “enjoyment” of the thought that makes it a mortal sin.

However - believe me I am no expert on any of this.

Well this specific case was not really an intrusice thought (well in a way it may have been, also I was very tired and my mind weakened because of this)… more like something interesting that came up in my mind, but really childish … but yes, it was not “sexual” in a “wrong enjoyment in sexual matters” kind of way, or whatever that is called… just something more neutral, as you call it, or even something natural, as I think about it now, maybe not even really involving “sexual matter” in that strict sense.

I think it is wonderful that you asked your pastor for help.

Did he give you any practical advice for controlling your anxiety? Like regular exercise, breathing exercises, meditation, journaling, listening to music or drawing?

You have already said that he has helped you diagnose that you have scrupulosity. You can identify it. Now take the next step in learning how to control it.

Okay, so I think you need to focus less on the idea that “sex is your ticket to hell!”, and more ask yourself… what is the point of sex? Why do we have the emotion of sexual power and attraction?

Sex exists for you to
a) Enjoy it with your marriage partner, and use to bond to one another
b) Create kids

Sex in any other circumstance or for any other purpose is ultimately just wasting your time, and harming yourself. Take for example the modern concept of “friends with benefits”, “**** buddies”, or whatever other colourful names exist for this form of relationship. These relationships provide sexual satisfaction to both parties. But they also:
a) Very often involve one partner developing feelings for the other, which further leads to the heartbreak of at least one of the party
b) Stop both individuals from spending their time, sexual desire, and vitality on finding good, compatible marriage partners, and instead waste all those powerful energies on something with no purpose or future

So what do we carry away from this?
Its that I wouldnt get too hung up if you get passing sexual feelings or desires. You’re built in with these drives, and you have to accept they are there.
But try to avoid wasting those energies and feelings on masturbation, casual sex, or uncommitted relationships. Because all you’re doing is wasting your energy; energy that could have been spent having amazing sex with a partner you dearly love partner in a valuable marriage. And thats worth ten times anything you might be tempted to do instead :cool:

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