I am a 13 year old, and I masturbate. I know this is "normal" for someone my age, but I love God, and I hate to sin. Now, I found your site through "Ask Jeeves", because I was looking for answers to my question "Is Masturbation a sin". I got one.
I've always felt masturbation's a sin, but I always said "I'm not hurting anyone", and said it was no sin. As my New Years Resolution, I told myself I would quit. I've hardly done this. As the end of January approaches, I've probably masturbated 7-9 times. Now, back in November, I probably did it every day. I've been cutting back recently- probably only 11 times in December. Now, the fact that I'm "cutting back" is good, in theory... but this isn't like smoking, and the number doesn't matter, in theory- just the fact that I do it. But I don't want to do it.
And in January, since I did it the second to last time, I've wondered if this is a Mortal sin, and I have absolutely demolished my link with God. But, since reading letters to you and your opinions, I have decided this- this is a venial sin, but it is a sin. I understand that something like gluttony doesn't hurt anyone, and by my method would then be a Venial Sin- but I understand why it's a Deadly Sin (to a certain extent), and don't think that applies to Masturbation.
(Continuing on, I've decided to just stop in February. I detest doing this, and I detest sinning. I'm a good person, I think. I avoid making fun of my peers, because I know how horrible it makes them feel. I pray all the time, because it give me a feeling of security, love, and support that I feel that I lack otherwise. I obey whatever my parents tell me to do, and I love them dearly. I don't steal, and so on.. I live my life around the ten commandments and Jesus's teachings and, most of the time, am able to obey them).
To sum up what I'm writing you about, basically I have to ask a couple questions:
1) By continually promising God, and myself, that I'd stop doing this, and breaking that promise, have I broken my link with God? Or will he always forgive me?
2) Would the best strategy to quit masturbation just be prayer and bible reading?
3) In every letter where someone asks you this question, you avoid a direct answer- In one word, please answer this: Is Masturbation a mortal or venial sin?
I'm 13, and looking for guidance in my life, so please answer these questions. I find it hard to talk to my elders, priests, and even my peers (other than making a joke of it, which is the way society in general handles it) about it, so please could you write back about this?
I am sorry to be so slow in responding your questions. My mom died on Jan. 27. Even tho she was 81 and has been getting weaker and weaker because of a stroke seven years ago, still her death came quicker than any of us expected. I do find it helps to get back to a routine, so I am glad to try to answer your letter and give some guidance.
Regarding your first question about coming back to God after repeated failure, St. Therese of Lisieux said it best:
"We would like never to fall. What an illusion! What does it matter, my Jesus, if I fall at every moment? I come to recognize by it how weak I am and that is gain for me. You see by that how little I am able to do and You will be more likely to carry me in your arms. If you do not do so, it is because you like to see me prostrate on the ground. Well, then, I am not going to worry, but I will always stretch out my suppliant arms toward You with great love. I cannot believe You would abandon me." (Letter to Celine, April 26, 1889)
When I was a teenager, I remember the advice of wise priests: try to crowd sin out by other activities, certainly as you mention prayer and Bible reading, but also healthy diversions like hobbies, exercise, reading good books, having good friends, including girls. St. Paul says, "Be transformed by the renewal of your mind." (Rom 12:2) That is the constant struggle because we are surrounded by a culture tells us we are ultimately no different from any other animal.*
Masturbation is a mortal sin,** as is any use of our genital sexuality apart from marriage and its sacred purposes. That includes adultery, pre-marital sex, birth control and homosexual activity. I have perhaps avoided such a direct statement because I am afraid someone might read it and fall into despair. The misuse of the holy gift of sexuality is common, but no one really feels comfortable about that fact. The joking you mention reflects that uneasiness, as does the deep hurt and anger people feel because it always involves objectification - and betrayal - of others.
Before we sin, the devil tells us, "It's no big deal. Everyone does it." But afterwards he hisses, "It is a big deal - and you are all alone." Both statements are lies. That is why Jesus said the devil is "a liar and the father of lies." (Jn. 8:44) Jesus on the other hand tells us the truth about sin, but also says that he has not come to condemn, but to save. (Jn 3:17)
One final quote: Archbishop Flores said, "In the final analysis the only sin is despair." The great challenge for us is, in spite of our weaknesses and failures, to not fall into cynicism and to keep trusting is God's love and help. I encourage you not to give up in this struggle. Often it is when we feel at the breaking point that God sends reinforcements.
I hope this has been some help. Please feel free to ask any further question.
Fr. Phil Bloom
*The question arises: Even tho other animals seem quite unembarrassed about sex, do any of them masturbate?
**Of course to truly be a mortal sin, it requires knowledge of its seriousness and the full consent of the will. Please see nuanced article by Fr. Mateo: "In itself, masturbation is a mortal sin because it negates the whole purpose of one of our most sacred powers, the power to fashion family and procreate human life. But as Archbishop Borders writes: Immaturity and habit can be serious factors which interfere with an individual's freedom, thus lessening SUBJECTIVELY the moral responsibility of a person ..."
From Grace MacKinnon at Catholic Exchange: Masturbation: Mortal Sin?
Reflection on Overcoming Masturbation
Sexual Fantasies and Masturbation (a normal way to release tensions?)
About the Sacrament of Confession
See also: An Eternally Unbridgeable Chasm
The Fiery Furnace
Jesus Teaching Concerning Heaven
Some Good News on Teen Pregnancy and Abortion
Hitler's Pope: Comic Book Approach to Church History
He Approached the Victim: "It's much more likely one of your relatives will lose his life by surgical abortion than by heart attack."
Germaine Greer on Birth Control
Human Cloning: A Catholic Perspective (How the Unthinkable Became Inevitable)
Boston Globe's Misleading Article on Catholic Church
Deflating Darwin's Dangerous Idea
Stephen Jay Gould: Gorbachev of Darwinism?
Erickson vs. Bartell Drugs
Call No Man Father
What is Original Sin of Sex?
Bicentennial Man (Hidden Assumptions)
Bogus Knights of Columbus Oath
Ossuary of James, Son of Joseph, Brother of Jesus