Dear Pope: Support Life, Support Masturbation

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The Pope has stepped forward to talk about the pain inflicted by priests who sexually exploited young parishioners, calling it “a wound on the body of Christ.”

“No words of mine could describe the pain and harm inflicted by such abuse,” Benedict said today in Boston, vowing to eliminate such behavior from the priesthood.

This, of course, is an important step. But with all due respect to the thousands of lives damaged by molesting priests, what about the tens of millions of lives damaged by the OTHER Catholic Church sex scandal—the profound condemnation of masturbation?

This is the first sexual activity of most humans, and the primary sexual activity of most Western adults—far more than intercourse or even passionate kissing.

Despite the lack of clear Scriptural reference (masturbation appears NOWHERE in the Old Testament, and there’s one ambiguous, POSSIBLE reference in Matthew), the Church has reaffirmed and again reaffirmed the sinfulness of this sexual activity. How can that be? Masturbation does not destroy life, exploits no one, involves no adultery, expresses no “perversion.”

The Church has a lot to answer for in its handling of priests who sexualized children. But it has way, way more to answer for in its meticulous creation of guilt, shame, anxiety, and fear of Divine punishment—for the most simple, genuine, life-affirming sexual activity of all.

If the kids molested by priests are worth so many papal tears, how about the brothers, sisters, cousins, and neighbors of those kids—who, not molested by priests, are nevertheless ravaged by the Church’s inhumane condemnation of their sexuality. Every adult who started as a Catholic child faces life with this handicap.

When will the Pope—any Pope—step up and end this ongoing catastrophe?

Outraged that I would mention molestation and guilt about masturbation in the same breath? Consider the TYPICAL results of this guilt:

* sexual dysfunction (lack of desire, erection, or orgasm)
* inability to have a meaningful relationship
* feeling so dirty that you invite sexual misuse as an adult
* depression because God hates you
* bulimia and anorexia
* disgust about others’ sexuality and sexual choices
* teaching your own kids to be ashamed of their sexuality
* using violence to prove to yourself you’re a real man

Such damage is NOT trivial next to being molested—in fact, the effects are quite similar. Learning to feel guilty and disgusted over your masturbation as a child is just a different way of having your sense of self eroded, your ability to relate damaged, your access to your divine sexuality stolen.

Masturbation is life-affirming, and the Church claims it wants to affirm life. Ending priest-child sex is one step. Stopping the inhumane assault on masturbation is another.

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