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.