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By masturbation is to be understood the deliberate stimulation of the genital organs in order to derive sexual pleasure.

CCC 2352

So does this mean I need to buy extra gold bond medicated powder to avoid jock itch (and mortal sin), or is that just excessive scrupulosity?

The real question is, is the 'grave matter' involved in masturbation always involve ejaculation or does the offense against chastity lie in your intentions? And the source of consternation in this is that in conjugal sex, ejaculating outside of your wife is considered the 'grave matter' so I'd have to imagine the rationale for that being bad is totally different than the rationale for masturbation being sinful but I don't know why.

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I agree with Richard; the Catholic Church provides about as clear a recipe as one can imagine: deliberate, genitals, sexual pleasure. –  Chelonian Sep 23 '11 at 18:14
    
@Chelonian: Also, as the great moral theologian St. Alphosus di Liguori wrote in his Theologia Moralis, even touching oneself to produce venereal pleasure is sinful; one needn't touch the genitals directly. In the context of foreplay to vaginal intercourse, however, the wife may touch herself to arouse herself, before and/or after the husband ejaculates into her vagina (or vas, as St. Alphonsus calls it). See my translation of the relevant passages. –  Geremia May 21 at 3:17
    
Peter, this was a long time ago, but touching on your 'grave matter' sentence, I suspect your are referring to Onan. This is what Wikipedia says : "Onan's death was retribution for (...) being unwilling to father a child by his widowed sister-in-law". So yes, totally different rationale. –  Benjol May 21 at 5:11

2 Answers 2

up vote 7 down vote accepted

I must preface this with the fact that I'm not an expert on this subject (meaning the Catechism, not masturbation).

However, the text itself seems to show very clearly that it's the intention that matters ("in order to derive sexual pleasure."). Clearly, ejaculation isn't required, merely the act of beginning (or continuing) something that is pleasurable.

It seems clear that "deliberate stimulation" is the sin. Meaning that it has to be deliberate and it has to be stimulating. If you unintentionally stimulate yourself, it's not a sin. Also, if you intentionally do something but it's not stimulating, that's also not a sin (that would just be weird).

The definition seems obvious to me.


Having said this, the culminating sentence of this section states:

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.

So while the definition is obvious and clear (per the question), there is some leniency given to this situation.

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I didn't want to post an answer, but I just really can't see any way around this; I can't see any loopholes or misinterpretation. –  Richard Sep 23 '11 at 18:37
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I get that, the reason I ask the question is because I want to be sure. If I've got to help teenage boys examine their consciences, I want to be prepared with legit answers - mainly because I don't think masturbation has so loose a definition in pop culture. –  Peter Turner Sep 23 '11 at 18:46
    
I'll give you that. Teens can be... less than logical at times. (Well, at least we were when I was growing up!) But I think the text here holds its own. It's hard to argue around that definition. –  Richard Sep 23 '11 at 18:54
    
I'll leave me own views out of it other than to implore you not to forget to pay special attention to the final sentence of the section you quoted. –  Chelonian Sep 23 '11 at 18:58
    
@Richard No, sorry, I was referring to the section of the Catholic Cathechism that Peter quoted. The last line of that part, that I implore him to heed, is this: "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." –  Chelonian Sep 23 '11 at 19:50

Here's my contribution to Wikipedia on this subject:

St. Thomas Aquinas, the most prominent Doctor of the Roman Catholic Church, writes that masturbation is an "unnatural vice," which is a species of lust like bestiality, sodomy, and pederasty, and that "by procuring pollution [i.e., ejaculation apart from intercourse], without any copulation, for the sake of venereal pleasure … pertains to the sin of 'uncleanness' which some call 'effeminacy' [Latin: mollitiem, lit. 'softness, unmanliness']." [Summa Theologica II-II q. 154 a. 11 co.]

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