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This says:

Smoking in moderation is not a sin at all (CCC 2290).

The statement "Smoking in moderation is not a sin at all" can be found elsewhere like here and somewhere there.

I have two concerns on that statement.


First concern: But what about CCC 2291?


Second concern: The Catholic Church is against masturbation.

My opinion is that smoking is worse than masturbation so if the Catholic Church will not allow even a single instance of masturbation, how can it allow even a single instance of smoking?

The Catholic Church believes that action that lead to good effects or no bad effects does not mean the action is good. But an action that has a lot of bad effects and serious risks and little good effects to justify the bad effects and serious risks, how can such an action be anything but bad?

Does the Catholic Church really consider masturbation to be more harmful or a graver offense than smoking? Does the Catholic Church consider non-excessive smoking to be not an offense or not harmful at all?

I find would it quite absurd if either is the case. All of the Catholic Church's arguments against masturbation apply to smoking as well.

From the Catechism:

2352 By masturbation is to be understood the deliberate stimulation of the genital organs in order to derive sexual pleasure. "Both the Magisterium of the Church, in the course of a constant tradition, and the moral sense of the faithful have been in no doubt and have firmly maintained that masturbation is an intrinsically and gravely disordered action."138 "The deliberate use of the sexual faculty, for whatever reason, outside of marriage is essentially contrary to its purpose." For here sexual pleasure is sought outside of "the sexual relationship which is demanded by the moral order and in which the total meaning of mutual self-giving and human procreation in the context of true love is achieved."139

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, if not even reduce to a minimum, moral culpability.

So why can't we say anything like this?

By smoking is to be understood the deliberate stimulation of the lungs in order to derive pleasure. "Both the Magisterium of the Church, in the course of a constant tradition, and the moral sense of the faithful have been in no doubt and have firmly maintained that smoking is an intrinsically and gravely disordered action."138 "The deliberate use of the respiratory faculty, for whatever reason, that causes harm to anyone is essentially contrary to its purpose." For here respiratory pleasure is sought at the cost the health of one's self or others which is demanded by the moral order and in which the total meaning of health and human breathing is achieved."

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, if not even reduce to a minimum, moral culpability.

I found a thread related to this topic on a Catholic forum, but the matter doesn't seem to have been resolved.

First post in the thread (I added the bold):

Now, how can we compare masturbation to anything else by allegory? I compare it to eating nutrition-less foods, or smoking. We consider a bit of absolutely-unhealthy chocolate now-and-again to be acceptable, or even a pack of cigarettes on a Sunday. These are not considered grave sins, only disordered pleasures! Nutrition, however is the very point of the digestive faculty, and proper-breathing is the very foundation of the lungs. By comparison, masturbation is an abuse of the sexual faculty; so, all faculties in a human body being equal, masturbation can only be a disordered attachment, not a grave sin. The parallel is complete.

If you can eat a big chocolate cake once a year, why can't you masturbate once a year? Smoking? Red wine? Fatty foods? How far can this stretch? We cannot deny everything to our bodies, like gnostics. This is very frustrating because I see no problem whatever, yet my conscience has been formed entirely around avoiding masturbation.

A later post:

Can someone explain why that is not just as disordered as masturbation? Smoking is purely for one's own pleasure (just like masturbation) and it uses a part of the body in a way that is at odds with its intended purpose (just like masturbation).

A later post:

Why is the deliberate over-stimulation of the glottis, tongue, pleasure-receptors, etc. only "potentially" a (venial) sin, whereas the deliberate over-stimulation of the glands-penis or clitoral faculty always "actually" a mortal sin? This seems very odd and dualistic.


Below I have listed some arguments for my opinion that smoking is worse than masturbation. I hope I won't come across as someone trying to justify masturbation. I believe it is immoral but that smoking is immoral as well and I am trying to argue my case that smoking is immoral based on the fact smoking is more harmful than masturbation.

I find it quite absurd that the Catholic Church would not mind if their followers smoked and taught their children to smoke since that seems to be the logical conclusion if non-excessive smoking is deemed not sinful. (Just imagine a priest visiting his (adult) nieces or nephews for Christmas and giving them a pack of cigarettes)

Some points about smoking and masturbation:

  1. If smoking and masturbation are harmful recreational activities, smoking is artificial and therefore more harmful.

  2. Smoking introduces a new substance or substances into the body while masturbation has little physical difference from sex in terms of what the body releases or takes in. Smoking of course is of a higher category than eating junk food.

  3. Smoking can cause "vascular stenosis, lung cancer,[46] heart attacks[47] and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease." Masturbation has no such physical health risks. Masturbation can be argued to have mental health risks but so does smoking. "No causal relationship is known between masturbation and any form of mental or physical disorder."

  4. "The medical consensus is that masturbation is a medically healthy and psychologically normal habit.". I don't think there's any such medical consensus for smoking. I mean just look at this section on smoking health risks on Wikipedia. Smoking during pregnancy can cause fetuses to have mental illnesses. If masturbation during pregnancy has greater risks to fetuses to have mental illnesses far more than smoking, I'll sell my possessions and give to the poor.

  5. Smoking is harmful to the environment. The release of semen into toilet bowls or trash cans may be harmful, but it's no more harmful than sex is. There are zones for smoking, but there aren't any signs in bathrooms or airplanes that say "no masturbating". Airplanes have smoke detectors, but they don't have semen detectors.

  6. Generally, people are significantly more concerned when hearing of a 12-year old boy who smokes but not of one who masturbates. Generally, cigarettes are not allowed to be sold to minors while babies have been reported to stimulate their genitals instinctively.

  7. Tell me honestly, would you rather have a smoking addiction or a masturbation addiction? If you were a parent and hypothetically had to choose between having any of your kids with a masturbation addiction and any with a smoking addiction, you would choose masturbation. It hasn't been shown to have high risk of cancer or organ damage compared to smoking.

  8. We don't hear news about masturbation addicted husbands beating their wives and children but we do hear news about (legal) drug addicted husbands beating their wives and children.

  9. You can't donate blood if you've masturbated in the last day, but you can donate blood if you've smoked :D

  10. When you are hospitalized, doctors don't care if you do or used to masturbate. But they do care if you do or used to smoke.

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    Smoking appears to be worse than masturbation as smoking is something that has been invented by humans while masturbation has been done since before humans evolved -- This is a logically invalid statement. Brick buildings were invented by humans, volcanoes are natural. Does that mean it's safer to walk into a volcano than a brick building? – Flimzy Nov 12 '15 at 9:33
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    I think this is a good question, but I agree with @Flimzy - the "bad because it was invented by humans" part is nonsense. – ThaddeusB Nov 12 '15 at 15:48
  • @Flimzy I said "appears". It's not an argument. It's motivation. Smoking is artificial. Much like condoms. Natural family planning is natural. – Red Rackham Nov 24 '15 at 1:03
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    @RedRackham: Your explanation doesn't help matters. You're still falling for the Appeal to nature logical fallacy. Your statement is invalid. Nothing is better or worse because it is natural (never mind the fact that neither smoking nor masturbation, is necessarily inherently "bad"). – Flimzy Nov 24 '15 at 10:29
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    Probably because its kind of a long quasi-question, not terribly interesting, and is easily answered with a Google search. The Church teaches that masturbation is a mortal sin, which means there is an active turning away from God. Smoking on the other hand may be bad for your body, but is not inherently bad for your soul. – 3961 Jan 30 '16 at 20:38
2

The very first requirement for something to be a mortal sin is what is called "grave matter":

For a sin to be mortal, three conditions must together be met: "Mortal sin is sin whose object is grave matter and which is also committed with full knowledge and deliberate consent."

(Catechism of the Catholic Church paragraph 1857; the quote is from the apostolic exhortation Reconciliatio et paenitentia of Pope St. John Paul II)

The very next paragraph defines "grave matter": "Grave matter is specified by the Ten Commandments". In other words, in order for a sin to be mortal, it must be (among other things) a violation of one or more of the Ten Commandments.

The Church considers masturbation to be a violation of the sixth commandment:

You shall not commit adultery. [Exodus 20:14]

You have heard that it was said, "You shall not commit adultery." But I say to you that every one who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. [Matt. 5:27–28]

(Catechism of the Catholic Church, before paragraph 2331)

The Magisterium of the Church - in the course of a constant tradition - and the moral sense of the faithful have declared without hesitation that masturbation is an intrinsically and seriously disordered act. ...

A person therefore sins mortally not only when his action comes from direct contempt for love of God and neighbor, but also when he consciously and freely, for whatever reason, chooses something which is seriously disordered. For in this choice, as has been said above, there is already included contempt for the Divine commandment: the person turns himself away from God and loses charity. Now according to Christian tradition and the Church's teaching, and as right reason also recognizes, the moral order of sexuality involves such high values of human life that every direct violation of this order is objectively serious.

(Persona Humana, Declaration on Certain Questions Concerning Sexual Ethics, Declaration of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith; section 9, emphasis added)

For this reason, masturbation is always grave matter. (Whether it is a mortal sin in any given circumstance depends on the other requirements for mortal sin, a matter for pastoral judgment.)

Smoking, on the other hand, does not typically seem to be a direct violation of any commandment. You do refer to smoking in the Catechism, paragraphs 2290 and 2291. Here they are:

The virtue of temperance disposes us to avoid every kind of excess: the abuse of food, alcohol, tobacco, or medicine. Those incur grave guilt who, by drunkenness or a love of speed, endanger their own and others' safety on the road, at sea, or in the air.

The use of drugs inflicts very grave damage on human health and life. Their use, except on strictly therapeutic grounds, is a grave offense. Clandestine production of and trafficking in drugs are scandalous practices. They constitute direct co-operation in evil, since they encourage people to practices gravely contrary to the moral law.

These paragraphs are part of a broader discussion of respect for one's own health, which in turn falls in a discussion of the fifth commandment:

You shall not kill. [Exodus 20:13]

You have heard that it was said to the men of old, "You shall not kill: and whoever kills shall be liable to judgment." But I say to you that every one who is angry with his brother shall be liable to judgment. [Matt. 5:21–22]

(Catechism of the Catholic Church, before paragraph 2258)

It thus appears that smoking in excess may be a mortal sin. On the other hand, by the time one smokes "in excess", one may already be addicted to nicotine; and addiction, insofar as it reduces a person's ability to act with "deliberate consent", may reduce the severity of the wrong, even to the point that it is no longer a mortal sin.

Thus, if the Church were to say (and it has not, to the best of my knowledge) that "Masturbation is worse than smoking", what it would mean by that is "Masturbation is a more serious sin than smoking, generally speaking; more likely than smoking to 'destroy charity in the heart of man' and 'turn man away from God, who is his ultimate end and his beatitude'" (Catechism paragraph 1855). It is in that sense—the only one relevant to the Church—that masturbation can be "worse" than smoking.


Note: Since I wrote this answer, it appears, you've edited your question to add a number of arguments to support your thesis that smoking is more harmful than masturbation. Let's go through those:

  • As others have noted, your point (1) states (whether you mean it to or not) that given any two harmful activities, one "natural" and one "artificial", the "artificial" one is necessarily worse. This is not so; your "therefore" part doesn't follow from your "because" part. You need to either provide more support for your "therefore" ("smoking is ... more harmful") or else rephrase your point.
  • Points 2–5 and 9 appear to address the physical perils of smoking as compared with those of masturbation. There are two points to be made here:
    • The physical dangers of smoking develop not with smoking itself, but with repetition of smoking. That is, it is not the inhaling of a single puff, one time, that produces these ill effects, but repeating that activity many times a day, over the course of days, weeks, months, or longer. The mere activity of smoking is not necessarily in itself harmful.
    • Although certainly the Church will pay attention to the possible physical ill effects of an activity in deciding how morally serious it is, it's not those ill effects which make something immoral, but rather the effect of the activity on one's relationship with God.
  • Points 6 and 7 appear to be arguing that masturbation is less harmful because it is regarded in society as less harmful. This is a fallacy again. Two hundred years ago, smoking was considered less harmful than masturbation—but its physical and moral effects were doubtless the same. One can't conclude that something is (relatively) harmless simply because society considers it so.
  • Finally, point 8 implies that those who are addicted to drugs are more dangerous to society than those who masturbate. Even if this can be extended to those who smoke (it's a stretch at best), again it's true that the morality of a behavior doesn't depend on the risk a person poses to society because of it.

The Church's approach simply says this:

  • It's possible to smoke without significantly harming one's health. Someone may be able to take for example one puff, from one cigarette, once in their life, without harming themselves.
  • On the other hand, choosing to masturbate requires one to think in a certain way about sex. How one thinks about sex is intimately tied to how one thinks about the love between two humans; and this love in turn (as Catholics believe) is designed to reflect the love of God for people and vice versa. Thus it's simply not possible in Catholic understanding to masturbate—even once—without revealing that one has at best a severely distorted view of what God's love is like, which leads to an inability to receive God's love as it truly is. It's this inability which makes the deliberate choice to masturbate always a mortal sin in the Church's eyes.
  • "the morality of a behavior doesn't depend on the risk a person poses to society because of it." Irrelevant claim. I am saying that smoking has worse risks than masturbation to both the smoker and to society. If masturbation is sinful, smoking is sinful. Aren't you just trying to rationalize smoking? Where are you sources for your refutations? – Red Rackham Jan 30 '16 at 17:30
  • "The mere activity of smoking is not necessarily in itself harmful." This violates CCC2291 because nicotine is addictive and can never be prescribed to treat an illness. Nicotine unnecessarily harms the body and the environment. Smoking has less benefits and more risks than masturbation. If masturbation is sinful, I would find it quite absurd to say smoking is not sinful. Anything else you have to say, please add a source and not just your biased rationalizations of smoking – Red Rackham Jan 30 '16 at 17:32
  • "The use of drugs inflicts very grave damage on human health and life. Their use, except on strictly therapeutic grounds, is a grave offense. " Is nicotine therapeutic? – Red Rackham Jan 30 '16 at 17:35
  • Matt Gutting are you saying society should be more concerned about its masturbation problems than its smoking problems? So toilets should have semen detectors? There should be no masturbation signs? Parents should consider smoking a rite of passage for their children who turn 18? Parents should encourage their children to smoke and drink upon reaching 18? – Red Rackham Jan 30 '16 at 17:37
  • On what grounds would you consider something sinful? I have given an accurate description of why the Church considers the two differently sinful. Have you voted me down because you disagree? – Matt Gutting Jan 30 '16 at 21:41

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