Is Touching Yourself A Mortal Sin?
“But I’m just touching myself - how could that be wrong?”
You may have wondered this as you’ve felt guilty after spending time touching yourself. This is a common question for Catholic people; many are worried and unsure whether this is a venial sin or a mortal sin.
Interacting with your own body in general is, of course, not an issue, but the type of self-touch referred to here is that of touching yourself sexually, otherwise known as masturbation.
Based on the Word of Our Lord, and teachings of Saints, touching yourself is indeed a mortal sin, for Catholics and for all people. However, mortal sins have been committed by all people - even most Saints! - and through the intercession of Christ, we can be healed and avoid the danger of hellfire.
Why Touching Yourself Is A Mortal Sin
Touching Yourself Is a Serious Matter
In true Catholic doctrine, touching yourself in a sexual manner is deemed a serious matter, falling under the category of mortal sin. This viewpoint is rooted in the belief that our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19-20) and should be respected and used in accordance with God's plan. The act of self-gratification, contrary to this divine design, is a distortion of our sexuality and a violation of the sanctity of our bodies.
The gravity of this sin is highlighted in the words of the apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 10:31, where he urges believers, "So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God." Sexually touching yourself goes against the principle of glorifying God in all that we do. It prioritizes self over reverence for our bodies as temples of the Holy Spirit and disrupts the harmonious relationship between body, mind, and soul that God intended.
Pope Pius XII said, “Perhaps the greatest sin in the world today is that men have begun to lose the sense of sin.” This is especially true for touching yourself, as most people in the modern age believe it is healthy and good. While it is indeed natural, as we are carnal and fallen from the first sin and prone to concupiscence (see CCC 2515), that does not mean that touching yourself is good - in fact, it is a very grave and serious matter to be dealt with, and as such, meets the first requirement for a mortal sin.
Touching Yourself Is Intentional
For a sin to be considered mortal, it requires sufficient knowledge and intentional consent. Regarding touching oneself, individuals are generally aware of the moral teachings of the Catholic Church. The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC 2352) clearly states that “masturbation is an intrinsically and gravely disordered action.” This knowledge is reinforced by passages like Romans 13:14, in which St. Paul instructs believers to "put on the Lord Jesus Christ and make no provision for the desires of the flesh." By consciously engaging in self-gratification, we know that our actions deviate from the path of righteousness. The guilt resulting from such actions is proof of that awareness.
Beyond this, touching yourself is also a self-motivated act. While many children discover from a young age that touching themselves in certain areas stimulates a feeling they identify is good, the fulness of masturbation is very much intentional, often involving evil images and fantasies. This separates masturbation from “wet dreams”, an unintentional form of sexual release. Hebrews 10:26 clearly explains that “sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth” — intentional sin — is mortal sin.
Touching Yourself Is Consensual
Finally, to count as a mortal sin, an act must be consensual; we must consent to give up our righteousness, and not have sin forced upon us. Touching yourself clearly falls into this category.
This consent includes our understanding that such acts go against the teachings of Christ. In Matthew 5:28, Our Lord gives clear direction, "But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart." This teaching encompasses not just looking but also engaging in touching yourself, as it stems from the same root of lustful desire. By deliberately giving in to such desires, we choose to prioritize our own fleeting pleasure over our commitment to Christ and the call to purity.
Touching Yourself Defiles Marriage
In Catholic teaching, marriage is considered a sacred covenant instituted by God. Pope Benedict XVI called marriage, “the icon of the relationship between God and his people.” But touching oneself in a sexual way outside of marriage defiles this holy bond. The Bible emphasizes the importance of marital faithfulness and the exclusive nature of the marital relationship. Hebrews 13:4 commands us to "let marriage be honored among all and the marriage bed be kept undefiled." Touching yourself disrupts the integrity of this sacred union, introducing impurity and a distorted understanding of sexuality.
Additionally, the Catholic Church has always recognized the importance of procreation and sexual expression only within the marital union. Psalm 127:3 affirms, "Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb a reward." By engaging in self-pleasure, we separate the sexual act from its natural purpose, disregarding the potential for the gift of life. This distortion of the marital act undermines God's design for the sanctity of marriage and diminishes the significance and even the sanctity of sexual intimacy.
Touching Yourself Can Be Addictive
Another concern regarding touching yourself is how habit-forming we know it can become. The pleasure experienced through touching yourself can create a cycle of dependence and hinder spiritual growth. The Church recognizes the importance of self-control and the cultivation of virtues in aligning oneself with God's will, as taught in the Word of God; for example, St. Paul’s epistle to the Galatians (Galatians 5:22-23) teaches about the fruits of the Spirit, which include self-control, emphasizing the need to overcome addictive behaviors that enslave us.
The CCC also addresses the issue of addiction and excess (CCC 2290), recognizing its debilitating effects and the need for compassion towards those struggling with it, including ourselves. By acknowledging the addictive nature of touching yourself and seeking repentance and spiritual guidance, you can break free from the chains of evil and redirect your desires towards virtuous and God-centered pursuits.
Repent From Touching Yourself
Understanding the gravity of touching oneself, the Church emphasizes the necessity of repentance and seeking God's forgiveness. Psalm 51:10 provides a prayerful plea for transformation, saying, "Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and steadfast spirit within me." Through sincere repentance, we acknowledge our sins, seek sacramental confession, and receive God's merciful forgiveness. The sacrament of confession provides the opportunity for us to reconcile with God, regain sanctifying grace, and receive guidance and strength to overcome temptation.
In addition to, or as a part of, confession, God and His servants ask us to do more than reciting our sins - we are to take action to resolve them. This can include such steps as fasting and prayer, attending support groups or Christian therapy, and even finding apps or programs that will help to overcome your habit of touching yourself.
Repentance requires a firm resolve to amend one's life and actively strive for holiness. This transformative journey is supported by the intercession of Our Lady, who embodies purity and serves as a role model for all believers. By placing our trust in Our Lord and seeking the intercession of Our Lady, individuals can find solace, forgiveness, and the grace necessary to lead lives of virtue and purity.
Touching yourself in a sexual manner is a mortal sin in Catholic teachings. It is a serious matter that goes against the sanctity of our bodies, involves intention and consent, defiles the sanctity of marriage, and can lead to addiction.
However, the Church also emphasizes the importance of repentance and seeking God's forgiveness. Through sincere repentance, the sacrament of confession, taking action to resolve our sin, and a commitment to holiness, we can find healing, restoration, and the grace to resist temptation.
May we all strive to live in accordance with God's plan, cultivating purity, and seeking to glorify Him in all that we do.
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There is help available to you if you or a loved one has a physical dependence or psychological dependence on pornography, masturbation, or sex. These urges and compulsive behaviors can control your life, but you can take back control. Relay's addiction recovery program provides a comprehensive, outpatient approach to behavioral change - at home, at your own pace. To each new program member, we provide a personalized recovery plan, a peer support group, progress tracking, journaling, and intelligent insights about your behavior patterns, all within a simple and secure mobile app Our proven approach helps program members achieve the best chance at long-term recovery without the time or expense of rehab or therapy. Try the Relay program for free here; if you need help as you get set up, contact us now at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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