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Diversity of Roman Catholic beliefs about masturbation:

Part 3: Loss of virginity? Implications of
church teachings. During medical procedures.

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This topic is continued from the previous essay

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Can a person lose their virginity as a result of masturbating?

According to the Catholic Encyclopedia's entry under "Virginity:"

"There are two elements in virginity: the material element, that is to say, the absence, in the past and in the present, of all complete and voluntary delectation, whether from lust or from the lawful use of marriage...Virginity is irreparably lost by sexual pleasure, voluntarily and completely experienced." 1

Participants at Catholic Answers Forums debated whether a voluntary act of masturbation would represent "sexual pleasure" and thus result in a loss of virginity from a theological perspective. There was a general consensus that:

"....sexual pleasure, intentionally felt, is loss of virginity according to the traditional catholic definition. Still, that is not what "virginity" means socially or culturally." 2

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Implications of the church's teaching on masturbation:

If the Church's teaching is true, then there are a number of implications associated with masturbation:

Timing: This is of paramount importance. If a person experiences three events on a single day:

  • Masturbation under conditions that make it a mortal sin, and

  • Going to confession and having all prior mortal sins absolved, and

  • Dying,

the church teaches that they will almost certainly go to either Purgatory or Hell. Direct transfer to Heaven is restricted to very few individuals who have led exemplary lives.

If the events happen in the above order, then the individual would go to Purgatory for a finite interval of torture. Eventually they will be sufficiently purified to enter Heaven and the presence of God. But if the order of events is altered, such that they go to confession, commit a mortal sin and then die, they would go to Hell to be tortured without any hope of release or mercy. This would result in torture for an infinitely long interval as punishment for a single sinful act lasting a few minutes or less. Thus if a person is planning to engage in masturbation, they might delay the act until they believe that they are in little danger of dying until they can confess the act.

Medical implications: Studies have shown that frequent masturbation during youth and young adulthood by males lowers the chance that they will develop prostate cancer later in life. Thus, Roman Catholic men who follow the church teachings on masturbation can expect to experience a greater chance of death from this form of cancer and a shortened life expectancy on average. The church's ban on masturbation appears to be in opposition to its normal pro-life position. The Catholic Church's "culture of life" becomes a culture of death.

Salvation implications for non-Catholics: Surveys show that about 95% of male adults and 65 to 70% of female adults masturbate. If we assume that the rate of masturbation is more or less equal across all religions, then these data will hold for non-Catholics as well as Catholics. So if even one incidence of masturbation during a person's lifetime rises to the level of a mortal sin, their eternal fate is threatened. Fortunately for Catholics, they have access to confession and absolution that can restore their salvation. The fate of non-Catholics is less certain. Since Vatican II (1962 to 1965 CE) the Church has taught that salvation is possible for non-Catholics. But the church is very short on specifics.

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Masturbation as part of a medical procedure:

About one in eight opposite-sex couples are infertile. The percentage appears to be growing. Most can be helped by fertility clinics who use various techniques such as intrauterine insemination (IUI) -- popularly called artificial insemination -- and in vitro fertilization (IVF). Both normally require the husband to masturbate in order to produce a sperm sample to evaluate his fertility. If IUI or IVF are performed, he is required to masturbate a second time. He must sin twice, according to the Church.

An article in This Rock magazine, a Catholic periodical, states:

"By and large, Protestant theologians agree that infertility procedures that are homologous or exclusive -- using only the husband's sperm and/or his wife's eggs -- are biblically defensible. Because of its profound understanding of the dignity of the human person, though, the Catholic Church holds that no form of artificial insemination or [Assisted Reproductive Technology] (ART) is permissible."

"The primary reason the Church opposes IUI and IVF is that these techniques frustrate the unitive aspect of the marital act....the unitive end of marriage encompasses the personal and spiritual good of the spouses themselves. One indication of this breach in unity is that artificial interventions (excepting a tubal ovum transfer with sperm) always require masturbation."

"...babies produced through IUI and IVF are just as cute, loved, and wonderful as any other children. The joy they bring to their parents is also just as real, if not more intense. This happiness, though, comes at the expense of the babies who have been denied the right to be conceived through a personal act. Needless to say, children created through artificial techniques are persons; they have eternal souls. Once conceived they also have a right to be loved and protected by their parents and society. Still, no one would say that every act that results in the conception of a child is morally licit. Rape, for instance, may also result in the conception of a child. 3

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This topic is continued on the next essay

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. "Virginity," Catholic Encyclopedia (1912), at: http://www.newadvent.org/
  2. "Masturbation = Lost Virginity?," Catholic Answers Forums, at: http://forums.catholic.com/
  3. Jameson and Jennifer Taylor, "Babies Deserve Better. What You Need to Know If You're Struggling with Infertility," This Rock, 2006-APR, at: http://www.catholic.com/ This URL is part of an archived section of Catholic.com and may be deleted at any time.

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Copyright © 1997 to 2011 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Expanded and rewritten: 2011-DEC-27
Author: B.A. Robinson

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