Q. 4: Can Catholic Spouses use Masturbation in the Context of Natural Intercourse?

No, they cannot. First, masturbation is intrinsically evil and always gravely immoral.

The CCC defines masturbation as: “the deliberate stimulation of the genital organs in order to derive sexual pleasure.” [1] This sexual act is non-marital, non-unitive, and non-procreative. It has three grave deprivations in its moral object, making the act intrinsically evil and certainly always a grave sin.

Does masturbation become moral when used with another purpose or motive, other than “to derive sexual pleasure”? No, for intrinsically evil acts are immoral regardless of the intention that motivates the act.

CDF, Persona Humana: “masturbation is an intrinsically and seriously disordered act. The main reason is that, whatever the motive for acting this way, the deliberate use of the sexual faculty outside normal conjugal relations essentially contradicts the finality of the faculty.” [2]

Although the CCC mentions the most common motive for masturbation (sexual pleasure), the Magisterium does condemn this type of sexual act, regardless of “the motive for acting this way”. Therefore, the motive of preparing for the natural marital act does not justify masturbation, nor does the motive of helping the wife reach climax after marital relations.

Moreover, the Magisterium has condemned “the full exercise of the sexual faculty” (any sexual act to climax) outside of natural marital relations, for the wife as well as for the husband. [3] Neither the husband, nor the wife, may stimulate her to climax outside of the natural act. Such an act is morally a grave sin, just as is a solitary act of masturbation.

As an intrinsically evil act, masturbation is not justified by any purpose or motive, nor by any circumstance. An intrinsically evil act never becomes justified by being done about the same time as a good act. So it is not true that an act of masturbation on the husband or on the wife, becomes moral by being done before or after the natural marital act.

What if the act of masturbation is not completed in climax? The USCCB defines masturbation as “deliberate, erotic stimulation often to the point of orgasm…. masturbation is always gravely contrary to chastity and the dignity of one’s body.” [4] The USCCB says “often to the point of orgasm” because climax is not essential to the definition of masturbation, nor to the definition of a sexual act.

Masturbation is still the same type of grave sin when used without climax, or when used in marriage, or when it occurs about the same time as the natural marital act.

Endnotes:
[1] Catechism of the Catholic Church 2352.
[2] CDF, Cardinal Seper, Persona Humana IX.
[3] Pope Pius XII, Address to the Second World Congress on Fertility and Sterility, 1956.
[4] USCCB, “Create In Me A Clean Heart”, III. Pornography’s link to other sins.

by
Ronald L. Conte Jr.
Roman Catholic theologian and translator of the Catholic Public Domain Version of the Bible.

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12 Responses to Q. 4: Can Catholic Spouses use Masturbation in the Context of Natural Intercourse?

  1. Anonymous says:

    I did not realize my comment would cause such controversy. I suffer from impure thoughts infrequently, and Confession, the Rosary, and the Holy Mass have done a great deal to keep many of these thoughts out of my mind. But sometimes, the impure thoughts do happen, usually when I’m tired. I’m not trying to excuse my behavior, but I am authentically concerned about what constitutes mortal sin, for obvious reasons. I just want to know the Truth.

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