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Father Hermann BackhausDiocese of Muenster

(LifeSiteNews) — The official news website of the Catholic Church in Germany published an interview with a priest-psychologist who suggested that there are benefits to pornography and masturbation for celibate clergy. 

The psychologist Hermann Backhaus, who is also a Catholic priest, told that “[w]ith regard to celibate people, the consumption of explicit sexual depictions can have a relieving effect – this cannot be denied.” 

Backhaus works as a psychologist in a counseling center of the diocese of Münster that provides psychological support for people employed by the Church. 

The German psychologist was asked about Pope Francis’ latest comment about pornography. Francis said in an address to seminarians that “[p]riests and nuns also have the vice of porn on the web. Beware: the devil enters from there and weakens the soul.” 

Backhaus responded that “to bring the devil in connection with pornography is a very strong statement. I don’t know if Francis is not rather working against his intention than promoting it.” 

While Backhaus did warn against pornography addiction, he did not condemn pornography per se. Instead, the priest suggested that it has positive effects.  

“As a psychologist, I do not judge or condemn porn consumption,” Backhaus stated. 

He said that “[w]e should be careful with the term ‘pornographic’ because it is always also perceived as ‘dirty.’” He added that a “certain explicit presentation of sexuality in relationships can lead to love life becoming livelier.” 

“So there are definitely also positive effects of explicit sexuality in relation to partnership and lived sexuality,” Backhaus stated. 

“Almost everyone has sexual needs, but as priests and religious we are used to not noticing them, or at least not talking about them. This is a great danger,” Backhaus said. “But we are in the process in the Church of breaking down this behavior and recognizing it: Priests and religious are normal people with sexual desires. We have to deal with that.” 

Backhaus said that he wished the Church would “de-sensationalize” talking about consuming pornography since it is “something that is normal in our society.” 

“We can and must find a good way of dealing with it,” Backhaus said. 

READ: Head of German bishops’ conference says Vatican synod document is ‘encouragement’ for Synodal Way


READ: Swiss bishop fails to correct sex abuse prevention officer who endorsed legal pornography 

When confronted with the fact that the Catholic Church has condemned the use of pornography, Backhaus did not affirm the Church’s teaching but rather gave a lengthy reply about the supposed psychological effects of masturbation: 

 I not only have a degree in psychology, but also a postgraduate degree in moral theology. But in our institution, I work as a psychologist who is also a priest – and not the other way around. Once again, we start from real life, that is, reality. An example of this is the subject of masturbation. Almost all of them, that is, about 95 percent of men and 90 percent of women, admit during counseling that they have had experiences with masturbation. And we also learn here that masturbation is much more common among young people than among older people. 

 It is important to look at the psychodynamics of these processes: I may masturbate more often when I feel lonely or under stress. It is important to recognize the connection here. If, for example, I am having trouble in the parish and then masturbate particularly often, this is relevant feedback for possibly changing my own behavior and dealing with stress better. is the official news outlet of the Catholic Church in Germany and is owned by the “The Association of the Dioceses of Germany,” which is itself headed by the president of the German bishops’ conference. 

Pornography and masturbation have been explicitly condemned by the Catholic Church because they are contrary to the natural end of human sexuality. The New Catholic Encyclopedia Supplement sums up the Church’s teaching on sexuality like this: 

The Church understands the purposes of sexuality to be the begetting [of] children and the mutual pleasure for building the couple’s unity. Therefore, any deliberate activation of the sexual function outside the proper state of marriage and the purposes noted is seriously inordinate; if done voluntarily and knowingly, it is sinful. Within marriage such self- or mutual-stimulation is moral only when in some way it prepares for or completes a natural act of sexual intercourse. 

The Catholic Church also universally condemns all forms of pornography in no uncertain terms. The Catechism of the Catholic Church, for instance, states the following:  

Pornography consists in removing real or simulated sexual acts from the intimacy of the partners, in order to display them deliberately to third parties. It offends against chastity because it perverts the conjugal act, the intimate giving of spouses to each other. It does grave injury to the dignity of its participants (actors, vendors, the public) since each one becomes an object of base pleasure and illicit profit for others. It immerses all who are involved in the illusion of a fantasy world. It is a grave offense. Civil authorities should prevent the production and distribution of pornographic materials. (CCC 2354) 

Likewise, the Catechism (CCC 2352) condemns masturbation as an “intrinsically and gravely disordered action:” 

By masturbation is to be understood the deliberate stimulation of the genital organs in order to derive sexual pleasure. “Both the Magisterium of the Church, in the course of a constant tradition, and the moral sense of the faithful have been in no doubt and have firmly maintained that masturbation is an intrinsically and gravely disordered action.” [Persona humana 9] 

“The deliberate use of the sexual faculty, for whatever reason, outside of marriage is essentially contrary to its purpose.” For here sexual pleasure is sought outside of “the sexual relationship which is demanded by the moral order and in which the total meaning of mutual self-giving and human procreation in the context of true love is achieved.” [Persona humana 9] 

After LifeSiteNews journalist Dr. Maike Hickson tweeted about the scandalous article on, Bishop Joseph Strickland of the diocese of Tyler, Texas strongly condemned the suggestion that pornography may be beneficial: 

We must object to this ongoing spiral deeper into sin & evil. To intimate that pornography is somehow beneficial is devastating on a multitude of levels.”

This is not the first time in recent history that clerics have seemingly endorsed or at least failed to condemn the evil of pornography. In October, Bishop Joseph Bonnmain of the Swiss diocese of Chur failed to correct one of his employees, a laywoman, who claimed in an interview that “legal pornography” should not be “blanketly demonized.”