been struggling with the problem of compulsive masturbation since I was about
13. I started fueling this with pornography when I was about 18 after I obtained
use of the internet at home. This is something I still struggle
with. . . .
. . . I
see [my current confessor] . . . maybe twice a week
(he said to call him anytime I need to) to confess my failing in relation
to the issue of impurity and he gives me absolution after a decent chat.
I am a little bit confused about the theological nature of his advice, though.
He has advised that I should still frequent Communion if I should masturbate
how ever many times and do not have time to see him beforehand, the rationale
being that it is a compulsive habit. Something about this just doesn’t
sit right with me (I used to get this advice a lot
elsewhere). . . .
we have been getting fairly close recently, such as by visiting one another
at our homes. He tells me that he loves me very much which I feel is pretty
genuine. Sometimes, we may hug each other after an emotionally-charged confession
on my part. Now, this priest has a bit of a drinking issue. I feel hypocritical
in saying this, but it’s a fact. I don’t have a lot of close friends
at the moment, and I don’t think this particular priest has either.
When it comes to sexuality, he also seems a little immature and ignorant
which can be a little frustrating for someone in my position.
I think we are becoming a little too close, and that we may be using confession
as a way of making up for a lack of close friendships. I also question the
theological integrity of his advice about impurity. I mean, my soul is at
I want to back out of this “relationship,” but I then think it
would affect this priest in a big way if I stopped going to him for confession
and spending time with him. I sometimes feel this might be judgmental—after
all, the priest is a sinner, just like me. He seems to be a very holy man,
but sometimes what he says it out of kilter with what he does.
Do you think this priest’s advice is theologically sound, and do you
think my current relationship with this priest is getting unhealthy? I feel
somewhat guilty in asking you this question, but I feel as though I am caught
in some kind of a bind. Am I being unreasonable?
t’s plain common sense, not
judgmental, to see warning signs in a priest
and decide that you do not want to entrust the welfare of your soul to his
So, to answer your questions,
I find the priest’s advice theologically incorrect, and yes, the
relationship is in danger of becoming unhealthy. In what follows, I will
Now, as for those warning signs,
you describe four. The problem with alcohol,
the hugging after confession, the willingness to be available
“anytime,” and the personal meetings in a private home all point
to the priest’s unresolved conflicts about his childhood emotional needs.
Just on the surface level, these signs warn of the danger of a personal
attachment that can obscure sound theological guidance, but they are also
warning signs of the possibility of his sexually abusing
The advice about not abstaining
from Communion after
masturbating most likely derives from the
priest’s psychological attempts to minimize the guilt of his own addiction.
But taking Communion while in a state of mortal
and before Confession is like throwing the Blessed
Sacrament into a
It’s just one more insult for Christ to bear—and from one of His
own anointed, no less—on top of the insults of the Passion.
As for your own psychology, the
best clue can be found when you say, “Sometimes I want to back out of
this relationship’, but I then think it would affect this priest
in a big way if I stopped going to him for confession and spending time with
him.” This points to your psychological issues about
and your false belief that you are responsible for the salvation of another person.
Origin of Guilt in Childhood
You fail to mention your childhood
history, but I can guess that you experienced many
failures of your parents to meet your emotional
needs. Your childhood pain could have been some form of abuse—most likely
emotional rather than physical or sexual—or it could have been the result
of the “normal” lack in most parenting
today, such that parents manipulate children to do the parents’ will, rather
than seek to understand and teach the children.
However the emotional lack in
your childhood occurred, it would have developed in a three-step process
by which you progressively
Felt injured by
angry about it
Then felt shame and guilt
about being angry about it
In other words, children feel
because of the injury of feeling unloved, but, even worse, children feel
because of the inevitable thoughts and fantasies
that signify the anger (“I hate you!” “I wish you were
off Guilt-inducing Thoughts
These guilt-inducing thoughts
and fantasies are commonly warded off in one of two ways:
them inward. You repeat self-negating
beliefs to yourself (“I don’t deserve to be loved,” or “I don’t deserve to be here,”
or “I don’t deserve to be alive”), which results in
neutralize them. You attempt to keep
your guilt secret and to resolve it through your own
superstitious efforts, which results in
And then, on top of all this
self-punishing behavior, as a further way to absolve themselves from guilt,
children take on the false belief that they are responsible for the feelings
of those who injured them in the first place! Thus they end up trying to
protect the very persons who are (or have been) injuring them. Eventually,
they will get trapped in repeating irrational thoughts such as, “But I
can’t leave him! He needs me!”
Once you understand how
psychologically complicated the guilt-producing process can be, you can then
realize that healing the guilt takes some deliberate effort and hard work.
Endeavor, therefore, to focus on an examination
of your childhood emotional wounds so that you can understand the guilt that
prevents you from acknowledging your emotional needs. Then focus on changing the
self-defeating false beliefs that shape your
As long as you cling to the
self-created false belief that you are unlovable (as a
psychological defense against admitting that
your parents failed you in love) you won’t be able to tolerate
real love. You will crave it, and yet, at the same
time, you will push it away in the belief that you are unworthy of it—and
believing yourself unworthy of the real thing, you will unconsciously seek
out imitations of love. Separated from true love, you will seek out
“relationships,” even if the relationship is with nothing more
than a bottle of alcohol, your own body, or the
fantasy of another person’s acceptance of
This is a serious psychological
and spiritual mess, because if you can’t tolerate real love, how can
you accept God’s love for you?
And if you can’t accept
God’s love for you, how can you heed His call to
repent and change your behavior?
You see? That priest is stuck
in the same mess himself.
ASKED the LORD, “O LORD,
why is it that we are so troubled with genital arousal and erotic desires?
Why does our sexuality have to be this difficult?”
He replied, “No one enters My Kingdom who has not resolutely
chosen the Spirit over the Flesh. Let your genitals be a constant reminder
of this, in every moment, with every breath you take.”
1. To be culpable for a grave (i.e., mortal) sin,
you must commit the sin willfully.
Masturbation, by definition, is willful.
By the same reasoning, an alcoholic who drinks
is drinking willfully; even if his bodily biochemistry makes it difficult
to stop drinking once started, the drink that starts the process is willful.
And it’s the same for any addiction. That’s why Christ said, “And if
your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better
for you to lose one of your members than to have your whole body go into
Gehenna” (Matthew 5:30). By this metaphor He meant to do anything it
takes—even “cutting off” an addiction with total
abstinence—to avoid sin.
2. Some persons, however, avoid
Communion because of scruples
about their venial sins, and that is a mistake.