I have been spending a lot more time with Catholics recently. Catholic women who are roughly the same age as me. They are involved in the pro-life movement. The issue of sex reared it’s (catholically ambiguous) head over coffee last week and led me to a lot of soul searching. I was told that masturbation was wrong which I was sure wasn’t the Catholic view. I don’t think I’d be criticised in church for something that can’t be helped, but I did some digging and technically that’s correct, but the issue isn’t as black and white as that. The same goes for pre-marital sex, homosexuals and a variety of other stuff.
My personal view
With maturity my views have changed. Sex should only be done with love. Without love it is meaningless. It doesn’t matter if two people are married or not. It’s a soul enriching thing.
When it comes to things like homosexuality or masturbation, I’ve always been of the opinion that the Catholic view is that there are so many things that people can do that are good or bad, that God really doesn’t concern himself with what we do with our bits. If a homosexual volunteers at a soup kitchen, helping to feed, clothe and support the homeless, on the day of judgement, I don’t think God is going to turn around and say “Oh well, I was impressed with all the social good you’ve done but since you spent your evenings in the arms of another man… Sorry, but it’s straight to hell with you.”
I’ve always taken a relaxed attitude to sex.
The strict Catholic view
The Orthodox view is that any sex outside marriage is wrong. I disagree. It comes down to four things within the Catholic sphere as it were. First and foremost, is natural law, and this gets forgotten. In other words, if you were stranded on a desert island and you weren’t married then natural law dictates that you procreate. The second thing to go on is Catholic scripture, that is to say, the bible. What is written in the Bible is black and white, but, so much of it contradicts each other. One part might vaguely say that it is wrong, other parts might vaguely say it is right. The third is Catholic tradition. Most of this is contained in the catechism. When it comes to some things like homosexuality it says “They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided.” which is Article 2358 of the catechism. This, Catholics take to mean that homosexuality is ok. The fourth and final one is the
magisterium. This is what the pope lays down. It’s important to the integrity of the church as it is what separates us from other denominations of Christianity. It teaches that “Masturbation constitutes a grave moral disorder” is what one pope has said once.
My view now
One thing that I took from the discussion was that I had entered into sex blindly. It is all about context. I know that now. The in depth view of it taught me that. Contemporary Catholics and Catholic doctors teach that masturbation is necessary. Rather it escape in a controlled rather than an uncontrolled manner. Masturbation does constitute a disorder when it causes a person to become introverted, but it’s generally fine if it doesn’t.
The conflict with faith
A conflict arises with faith. Natural Law says masturbation and sex out of wedlock is fine, because it’s natural. The bible doesn’t really say anything against it. Tradition doesn’t really comment on it either but the magisterium says it’s wrong.
I therefore maintain that the church has no issue with masturbation, or indeed my sexual practices. In the end it all comes down to what is in your heart. If you have a pure heart and enter into sex in the right context and situation, I don’t think it matters. Regardless of views, I think the Catholic church and it’s teachings aren’t black and white, they are shades of grey, like humans and there views on morality.