In a surprising development, the Roman Catholic church has moved to officially endorse masturbation. The result of an intense theological debate, the decision is seen by progressives in the Vatican as a major step forward in bringing Catholicism into the twenty first century. “Whether we like it or not, masturbation is fast becomin’ the preferred method of sexual activity in today’s society,” opines Bishop Brendan O’Fugh, one of the leading pro-masturbation campaigners. “With people increasingly turnin’ away from matrimony and choosin’ to live on their own, whacking off represents the one form of sex outside marriage which doesn’t involve sodomising another man, commitin’ adultery or havin’ to pay for it! We’ve no choice but to embrace it!” For many years Catholic orthodoxy had put masturbation on a par with abortion and contraception in the scale of sinning. “The thought was that all that sperm bein’ ejaculated represented potential unborn babies – by denying them the chance to fertilise an egg, the masturbator was as good as performing an abortion,” explains the fifty five year old Irishman, who has served as Bishop of Skibbereen for the past ten years. “But the new thinkin’ is that unlike when a condom is used in intercourse, the sperm are able to swim free when they’re ejaculated, so their fate is in their own hands, absolving the masturbator of any moral responsibility!” However, whilst the Catholic church might now be embracing onanism, O’Fugh is keen to emphasise that it is not endorsing any kind of monkey spanking free-for-all. “We’ll be laying down strict rules as to what will constitute church-approved shank crankin’,” he says. “For a start, self-manipulation will only be given the blessin’ of your local priest as an alternative to matrimonial sex where it is likely to result in an avoidance of adultery. Similarly, single men will only be allowed to indulge where such activity might avoid the commitin’ of sex offences or lapses into homosexuality!” Only conventional masturbation by hand will be approved – no mechanical devices or intervention by outside parties will be allowed. “Bein’ pulled off by someone else will remain a sin, as will the so-called ‘tit wank’, where the man’s penis is rubbed between a woman’s breasts” explains O’Fugh. “God intended female breasts for the purpose of providin’ nourishment to babies, not sexual gratification. As for the ‘posh wank’, where a condom is worn during masturbation, that will be deemed as bad as usin’ contraception during normal intercourse.”

Cynics have suggested that far from being part of a modernisation process, the Vatican’s sudden conversion to the cause of hand relief, is simply a way for otherwise celibate priests to enjoy at least some of the pleasures of the flesh without risking eternal damnation. “They’ve got the equipment and feel the urge like all other men,” says leading atheist Professor Steven Lovesteak. “You can guarantee that there’s a stiff broom handle lurking under many a cassock. Unfortunately, in the cloistered patriarchal world of the Catholic church with its homoerotic imagery of naked men on crosses and cherubic looking angels, this sexual energy is inevitably misdirected. I’ve no doubt that by allowing their priests a quick one off the wrist, the church is hoping to see a significant reduction in choir boy buggerings.” Women’s groups have noted that the church’s endorsement only extends to male masturbation. “As usual, the Catholic church is choosing to treat half its congregation as second class citizens, denying women an equal right to sexual relief,” says leading feminist writer Jocelyn Wazz. “Apparently the satisfaction of our urges still remains dependent upon inclination and capability of a man – and even then, only if we’re in wedlock!” O’Fugh rejects the notion that his church is reducing women to the status of mere sexual chattels, unable to practice self-relief, insisting that the continued prohibition of female masturbation is a purely theological matter. “It is well known that female masturbation is irredeemably evil. We’ve all seen The Exorcist and know that the lack of a penis means they’ll inevitably turn to abusin’ the Holy cross for the purposes of sexual satisfaction,” he declares. “Besides, any carnal urges felt by a woman are inspired by Satan himself – we all know that the only form of sexually-related gratification a good Catholic woman needs is that derived from producin’ the God-given miracle of life! Conception and birth should be all the pleasurin’ they need!”

Church conservatives are also suspicious of this new development, believing in the aptness of masturbation’s traditional description by Catholicism as ‘shaking hands with the devil’. “Everyone knows that masturbation is usually just the first step on the slippery road to total sexual depravity,” claims Monsignor Don Horry. “A quick chong on the schlong might seem relatively harmless, but before you know it young men will be moving from pulling their own puds to experimenting with water sports, rimming and skull buggery!” Horry and his supporters also fear that by approving masturbation, the church will also be encouraging the use of pornography. “There’s a limit to how much depravity the average imagination can conjure up when going mingo,” he says. “Consequently, masturbators will be forced into using ever more powerful pornography to stimulate their sexual fantasies! We could be unwittingly fuelling an explosion in top shelf filth!” Responding to such criticisms, O’Fugh is careful to emphasise that, for Roman Catholicism, masturbation will be about sexual relief rather than mere gratification. “There’ll be strict rules laid down regardin’ the nature of masturbatory fantasies,” assures the Bishop. “Ideally, whilst doin’ the solitary rhumba, you should be contemplatin’ the glory of God’s creation – that way you’d be turnin’ the sin of sexual desire into a form of worship.” Nevertheless, the church is well aware that many masturbators will not be able to resist the lure of the sexual fantasy. “If people really must indulge in fantasies, then any imagined sexual intercourse must only be carried out in the missionary position, and the rhythm method will be observed,” says O’Fugh. “Further more, we don’t want good Catholic boys to be whackin’ off over sluts an’ whores like that Britney Spears, or Paris Hilton, so we have a list of approved objects of desire for ‘em. They’re all good wholesome women of God, plain enough to guarantee the killin’ of any joy they might otherwise have gained from the act!” In attempt to gain support, O’Fugh and his followers are emphasising the social benefits of encouraging masturbation amongst young men. “It’ll inevitably lead to a decrease in the incidence of sexually transmitted diseases, without havin’ to resort to the use of condoms,” he enthuses. “Not to mention a drop in under age pregnancies!” O’Fugh is also pressing the Vatican to create a patron saint for masturbation. “We were hopin’ for the late Pope John Paul II to be anointed in this role,” he says. “The discovery of several stuck together tissues in his bedroom after his death raised our hopes that he might have been a sympathiser, but a recent investigation has shown that it was snot, rather than jism holdin’ ‘em together.”