All of the sudden I started thinking back to an old Confession and started worrying/wondering whether or not the priest understood what I meant by the term “self-abuse” (masturbation). I most certainly wanted the priest to know what I meant–I just wanted to soften the term b/c I had to repeat it over and over in the explanation of my past history. Also, I was embarrassed b/c I was confessing to my pastor. This was an older priest–in his early '60s I’d say–so I hope he understood what I meant. I used it in the context of “daily habit of self-abuse since the age of 12”. Do you think he understood what I meant? Now I worry that he might have thought I meant “self-harm” (like cutting behavior or something).
Yes, he understood perfectly.
I feel confident that the priest knew to what you were referring. The term is used to describe the act in many catholic books for laity, so I’m sure that in seminary the same term is taught. Besides if the priest had a question about what you were referring to, then he probably would have asked for you to clear it up for him. Plus, you are confessing to Jesus when you are in there. A priest just stands in His place. If you were not trying to trick God or hold back something from God, then you did no wrong. I see no reason to worry… but if it makes you feel better, you can bring it up in the next confession.
By the way, I think its smart to soften the term. St. Paul said that he did not even want the lips of Christians to speak in a rough manner. The term is used rightly as it is a misuse of the human body. So is ‘cutting’.
If the priest needs more information he can ask.
I’m sure he knew exactly what you meant.
If he thought you meant self-harm as in cutting etc, I think it likely he would have encouraged you toward appropriate help for that condition.
The term self-abuse is well understood in a catholic context.