Catholics, masturbation, and porn

Ok, let me say, straight off, that I am not an expert on Catholicism.  I am an expert on the human condition and I know the Bible thoroughly, however, I easily get lost in the Jesuitan toils of Vatican II, the magisteriam, and the different Veritas pronouncements of John Paul II.    So if anyone can help me out and correct any misunderstanding’s on  my part, please comment.

I am indebted to the really good Wikipedia article on this subject


But, unlike most evangelicals, I will avoid the cheap shots about priests and their sex life.

There are, as far as I can tell, two huge differences between Catholics and Protestants when it comes to sex.  The first is that Protestants can only preach against things that the Bible says, while Catholics use logic and philosophy.   So, the Bible is silent – in fact it is conspicuously silent about masturbation even in places where it is being explicit about other sins that are closely related.   So, protestants have been more reticent to rail against it as a great sin.

The second difference is the “purpose of sex.”    To a Catholic, the purpose of sex is reproduction – having babies.   To have sex when not trying to make babies is, by definition, to be fulfilling lust.

To a Protestant, sex is about intimacy with having babies a close second (or maybe the other way around, anyway, intimacy is way, way up there).  The married couple has sex even when using birth control because the closeness and intimacy of the marriage, itself, is the good being sought.

Therefore, to the Catholic church, any sexual behavior, at all, that does not have a possibility of producing children is lustful.

I had a widower friend who was almost 80 years old.  He married a widow who was a long-time friend and also of advanced age.  This was during the gay marriage debate.  Someone asked the gentleman if this marriage was intended to produce children.  He replied, “Well, brother, I plan to do my part.”

So, by nature, the Catholic position on masturbation is uncompromising.  Even a married couple cannot masturbate together or each other if they are doing so for the purpose of birth control.

Monty Python does a great job of mocking this position in their skit “Every sperm is sacred, every sperm is great, if a sperm is wasted, God gets so irate.”  They immediately mock the protestants also, so it is equal opportunity satire.

But there is one area where the Catholics are absolutely an improvement on Protestants: the Artistic Nude.  The Catholic church is not ashamed to show the Virgin Mary’s breast.  They are not afraid to show the naked human form in the Sistine Chapel or anywhere else.  They are not ashamed of the statue of David.

So, having understood the Catholic position that masturbation is a (at least venial) sin, what do I say to my Catholic friends about jacking it to porn.

I’m afraid I’m going to have to say that this is just where the sainted John Paul and I disagree.   The church has done extreme harm to itself and to its members by treating sex as if it were lustful.   This insistence on an unnatural abstinence has caused a lot of problems through the years.  I promised I wouldn’t bring up the priest scandals and I won’t take any cheap shots, but demanding that people become asexual is simply asking for these sorts of problems.   When you demand that a married couple not have sex so much of the time, are you surprised when Catholic men have affairs?

Let me propose an alternate philosophy.  Sex is given by God in order to produce and protect children.  In order to protect that children that are produced, God wanted to make a strong partnership and marriage.  So he made men different from the animals.  A dog only mates during the female’s fertile time, but humans wish to have sex all month long.  This is not sinful, but rather part of God’s plan.   Married couples who are having frequent sex (preferably multiple times a day) are better able to partner together for the protection and encouragement of their children and even their grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Masturbation, mutual and solo, is a natural part of the constant sexual desire.  Some theologians have made the point that solo masturbation is selfish and causes the participant to lose his desire for a closer relationship with his current or future partner.  But this is simply not so.  The more sex a person has, the more they want to have.   Jerking it to porn does not cause a man to want women less, but rather to want them more.  Sex actions produce more sexual desire and vica-versa.

If Catholic men and women were taught that erotica and masturbation were normal, holy, and desirable, then I believe that their marriages would be strengthened.  Another benefit would be that the children would see that their parents were living according to the Church’s teaching and not hypocritically.

More discussion of Rick Warren’s wife’s confession

Several months ago, I linked to an article about Rick Warren’s wife’s confession that she had looked at porn.   I also commented upon the article at the Catholic site that wrote it.

I recently got this reply.

Your link refers to 1 Tim 4. However, 1 Tim 4 warns against those whose cheapen marriage, and that warning seems to me about you as well. Because pornography how it made, who makes it, and how its treats sex, in OUR CULTURE has no redeeming features. Therefore pornography in our culture must be rejected in every way.

Also in the same passages, Paul preaches for ‘purity’. It can only refer to sexual purity.

I also don’t see how Warren’s experience cheapens what you are trying to do. That is a straw man argument. I agree with you that erotica is a very good thing, but I also believe the teachings of the Catholic Church that masturbation is a sin– with the same questioning as Peter who asked. ‘then how can anyone be saved?’. When Paul refers to thanksgiving, he is referring the the Catholic view, he is not in any way supporting porn that was very prevalent in the Roman culture.

I agree that some of your reflections are warranted in that it reflect the view in Protestantism that regards sex as fundamentally dirty. This comes from Luther’s teaching that the physical world is fundamentally corrupted, versus the Cathol ic teaching that matter is good but our relationship to it is tarnished but re-storable, healed by santifying grace (also rejected by Luther).

My site is mainly about evangelical opposition to erotica.  As this writer makes clear, Catholicism teaches even against masturbation.  Now if a man can’t rub one out, then he obviously shouldn’t be looking at porn.  Masturbation and erotica are closely linked.  I talk about this here.

He has two points.

  1. Porn cheapens marriage because of the evilness of the porn industry

This is currently true.  The porn industry considers itself sinful and it treats women as objects to be used and discarded.  Even though at I attempt to only import high quality romantic couples erotica, I often link to videos produced by SinfulXXX and LustHD .   What is so strange about these videos is that they are not displaying things that are sinful or lustful.  A couple is perfectly can engage in perfectly holy sex without it being lust.  It is probably true that the couple portrayed are not married or even in a committed relationship, there is nothing about the act or the erotica, itself, that is sinful or lustful.

The problem is that Christians have, in recent decades, turned sex over to the sinners.  This is wrong.  Sex was created by God and is wonderful, holy, and lovely.    Naked women are beautiful and were created by God in his own image (not that God is a woman.  The explanation of this is left as an exercise for the reader).    Erotica should have been – as it was by Solomon and as the Renaissance artists  – done by and about Christians and holy people about holy sex and nudity.  See here, and here, and here.

I remember when I was taking my High School senior picture I saw in the artist’s studio a picture of a nude pregnant wife.  I was horrified and embarrassed.    How could a woman allow herself to be displayed to the public that way?   You see, I had been convinced that nudity was sinful.  I had fallen for the sinful pornographer’s trick.

There is a wonderful post about this by a catholic at

2) Masturbation is a sin and so therefore porn is evil.

For a faithful Catholic, I suppose, this is an easy one.  The pope says masturbation is wrong.  We are done.  But, maybe it isn’t quite so simple.  It is, after all, only a venial sin.  A trip to confession and a few Hail Mary’s and all is well.

But for those of us who don’t have to take the Pope’s word for it, the subject isn’t that difficult.  Presumably the New Testament writers (who were all men) knew how to jerk it.    In all of their very specific lists of sins. (Adultery, fornication, lasciviousness…murder, drunkeness…)  they never seem to get around to “wanking.”

“Well they don’t mention smoking either.”  Really?  Is that your argument.  Smoking is new and the biblical authors had never heard of it, but I am confident that Cain and Able knew all about playing with their little peters.  The Bible has time to forbid sex with your aunt, with your cousin, with your step-mother, but never mentions sex with yourself.

Actually it does mention it.

Leviticus 15:16 And if any man’s seed of copulation go out from him, then he shall wash all his flesh in water, and be unclean until the even.
17 And every garment, and every skin, whereon is the seed of copulation, shall be washed with water, and be unclean until the even.
18 The woman also with whom man shall lie with seed of copulation, they shall both bathe themselves in water, and be unclean until the even.

In other words, sex with your wife and masturbation with yourself are mentioned in the same passage, and the same instruction is given for both circumstances.  Take a bath!