Friday, November 19, 2010

Catholic Teaching on Concupiscence: Further Information in Consideration of TOB, part 2

Following is my second comment on Dawn's blog (May 25, 2009).

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And so by the teaching of the Church as given above, I wanted to point out that concupiscence can be present at the same time as continually increasing holiness. In fact, striving against concupiscence with the help of grace is one of the primary ways that one grows in holiness.

[another commenter] said . . .
"grace CAN thoroughly exempt one from temptations or disordered tendencies in the area of sexuality"

In my reading of the teaching of the Church, this notion is specifically excluded in Catholic doctrine. This is because the Church teaches specifically that temptation itself is not sin. Jesus Himself was tempted by Satan, yet did this did not mean that He sinned.

And also, recall this famous passage of St. Paul:

Because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me--to keep me from exalting myself! Concerning this I implored the Lord three times that it might leave me. And He has said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness " Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. [2Cor 12:7-9]

Finally, I would like to remark that concupiscence (which covers sensual desires and pride) is one of several forms of temptation to commit sin. It is specifically a result of original sin. Other temptations to sin may arise from the devil (satan or his demons can tempt us) or from our own human weakness in the form of vice.

Certainly, even putting aside concupiscence for a moment, great Saints are tempted by the devil in no less measure even as they increase in holiness. Think of St. John Vianney or Padre Pio. Indeed, they were probably attacked more via demonic temptation even as they grew in sanctity. The devil knows who his greatest adversaries are. So, we can conclude that being tempted--even being tempted with greater and greater severity--does not necessarily correspond to souls with little sanctity. One can be hugely tempted and yet in part (by a grace-enabled struggle against it) because of this very temptation, become a great Saint.

Purity of heart can be had to an ever-increasing degree by ongoing cooperation with grace. But this is not the same thing as being free from all temptation. (Lust, for example, is not merely sexual temptation, but a sinful engagement in--grabbing hold of--willing deliberation upon--what was initially suggested to one's mind by temptation.)

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[Part 3]

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