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Diversity of Roman Catholic beliefs about masturbation:

Part 4: Overcoming masturbation.
Can it be acceptable? Position of the laity.

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This topic is continued from the previous essay

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Overcoming masturbation:

Catholic Answers makes a number of suggestions to its followers who wish to reduce or eliminate masturbation activity from their life:

  • Pray to God frequently, asking him for the grace "to be pure."

  • Attend Mass often.

  • Pray three Hail Mary's each day for purity of mind, body, and heart.

  • Frequent the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

  • Read Scripture.

  • Pray the Rosary.

  • Make the Stations of the Cross.

  • Develop a devotion to Saint Joseph.

  • Confess their sin after every masturbation.

  • Eliminate pornography or erotic images, music with sexual overtones, etc from their home.

  • Reduce the amount of TV watching; increase exercise or some similar diversion.

  • Set an intermediate target -- say to not masturbate for a few days or a week, etc. After each success, increase the time interval.

  • "The prize of true love awaits those that are truly free, because they are the only ones capable of giving and receiving." 1
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Masturbation may be acceptable to the Church under specific conditions:

Articles by theologians Roberto Beretta and Elisabetta Broli appear regularly in the Italian Bishops' magazine, Avvenire. They have written a controversial sex guide titled: "It's a Sin Not To Do It." It gives readers answers to "everything you wanted to know about sex but the Church (almost) never dared to tell you." The guide encourages married members of the church to make love more often to avoid "impotence and frigidity." An article in the Telegraph states:

"Another chapter likely to raise eyebrows unearths theological justification for post-coital masturbation for women who fail to achieve orgasm during intercourse. Beretta told The Telegraph: 'The Church is not against sex. Something needed to be done about the cliches and stereotypes. The Church is not only about forbidding the use of contraception and warning against the sins of the flesh....The Vatican has not raised any concerns about the tone and style of the book,' he said. 'Some people might find it a little direct. But at least after reading this book, they will have a balanced picture of what the Church actually thinks about sex'." 2

A woman masturbating to orgasm after unprotected sexual intercourse will likely have a greater probability of conception.

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The position of the laity:

Novelist and sociologist Fr. Andrew Greeley suggests that the reforms of the The Second Vatican Council, (1962 - 1965) were modest, yet were "too much for the rigid structures of 19th-century Catholicism to absorb." Using a biblical analogy, he wrote that new wine burst the old wineskins. He believes that the changes triggered a paradigm shift in attitude by many Catholics laity -- what Fr. Greeley called the "Catholic revolution." 1,3,4,5 He perceives that the Church's leadership is now in conflict with the lower levels of the clergy and the laity.

A second major event in the Church during the 1960s added fuel to the fire. This was the issuance of Pope Paul VI's 1968 encyclical "Humanae Vitae." It reinforced the Church's ban on artificial methods of birth control. Many of the laity rejected this ban and subsequently started to question the Church's teachings on many other matters relating to human sexuality.

From surveys of family size, it is obvious that Roman Catholic couples are using artificial methods of birth control at approximately the same rate as non-Catholics. Ignoring the church's ban on masturbation also appears to be near universal, although we have not seen firm data to verify this.

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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. Catholic Answers at Derived from Jason Evert's book "If You Really Loved Me: 100 Questions on Dating, Relationships and Sexual Purity," Catholic Answers, (2003). Read reviews or order this book safely from online book store
  2. Julian Coman, "Vatican sex guide urges Catholics to do 'it' more often,", 2004-OCT-31, at:
  3. Andrew Greeley, "The Catholic Revolution: New Wine, Old Wineskins, and the Second Vatican Council," University of California Press, (2004). Read reviews or order this book
  4. "Sour wine in new wineskins," Book review, This Rock, 2004-DEC, at:
  5. Publishers Weekly book review of "The Catholic Revolution," at:
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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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