This Body of Ours

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Human Being/Person
(A Unity (1) of Body and Soul)

Body/Inferior Will/
Psychosomatic Powers
Sensory Appetite/

Superior Will/
Infused Knowledge/
(Dominant Partner)



This Body of Ours - Some of Its Problems

by Father Paul A. Duffner, O.P.

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We know from the Basics of our Catholic Faith that Man is a Creature composed of Body and Soul, and made to the Image and Likeness of God. During Life on this Earth, Body and Soul are so Interdependent, that One of them cannot function without the Other. Without the Soul, the Body is a Corpse. Without the Body, the Soul cannot function, for all that the Soul knows on the Natural Level comes through the Senses of the Body. The Body is not merely an Instrument of the Soul, for both were made for each other and each is Incomplete without the other. Together they make a Single (1) Living Person.

Death = Separation of Body and Soul

The Soul can and does operate without the Body after the Death of the Body, and It will continue to do so until the General Resurrection at the End of the World, when the Body will be brought-back by the Power of God and Reunited with the Soul. However, it is the Body, the living Body Animated by the Soul, on which we will be mainly focusing our attention, examining how Its Actions and Reactions have an impact on the Activity of the Soul and Its Spiritual Growth.

The Soul and Its Condition is more important than that of the Body, since our Eternal Welfare will depend on the State of the Soul at the Moment of Death; yet, the Person that I am, must Act and Operate in and through this Body that is mine. This Body can be an Instrument of Spiritual Growth, or an Impediment of Spiritual Growth, depending on whether or not It is under the Control of Reason Enlightened by Faith.

Human Being/Person
(A Unity (1) of Body and Soul)


(Dominant Partner)

Supernatural Grace/Infused Virtues and Gifts of the Holy Spirit

Angels are Persons also, made in the Image and Likeness of God.

The Supernatural Order is the Ensemble of Effects exceeding the Powers of the Created Universe and Gratuitously produced directly by God for the purpose of raising the Rational Creature above its Natural Sphere to a God-like Life and Destiny.


We are made to God's Image by Reason of the Soul, a Spiritual Being having the Powers of Reason and Free-Will, along with the Capacity of Loving in a way far superior to Brute Animals. The Soul has the Capacity of being Elevated by Grace to a Supernatural Order/Level (i.e. Sanctifying Grace), receiving an Infused Knowledge and Love that is a sharing in the very Life of God. However, as we will see, the growth of that Supernatural Life of Grace, or the lack of It, will depend on the extent that the Body is the Servant of the Soul, and not Its Master.

Consequently, we will not be considering the Body as the Scientist would, examining Its wonderful composition; nor as the Physician concerned about Its health; but as the Theologian seeing the Body in Its relation to the Christian Life.


Dependence of the Soul on the Body

Human Body

Inferior Will
(Subordinate partner)

Five External Senses
Hearing; Smell; Sight; Touch; Taste

Four Internal Senses (Brain)
Sentient Consciousness; Imagination;
Sentient Memory; and Estimation

Love/Hatred, Desire/Aversion,
Joy/Sorrow, Hope/Despair,
Fear/Courage, Envy/Lust/Anger,


Philosophers tell us that the Soul, when It comes from God, is like a "Clean Slate", with no Impressions whatever, no Knowledge of any kind. Little-by-little, however, It begins to receive Impressions through the Five (5) Senses of the Body. In the beginning Its Knowledge is purely on the Sense Level. After some Maturing of the Body, from these Sense Impressions the Soul can Abstract Ideas. Gradually the growing Person begins to Know, in a way proper to Man. Since the Soul is so dependent on the Body in Its attainment of Knowledge, it will be helpful to understand how the Body and Its Reactions can have a decided influence on the Choice of the Will, and therefore, on Christian Behavior.

A Man does not Think, Reason, Judge, with his Brain; he does these things with the Supra-Organic faculty of Mind or Intellect, a Soul-Faculty.

scaleslg.gif (10895 bytes) It is a fact of experience that the more the Bodily Appetites and Desires are Indulged and Gratified, the less the Soul is disposed for Spiritual Endeavor. Body and Soul are meant to work in-Harmony, but that Harmony will be the Fruit only of a Well-Disciplined Life. Before the Fall of our First Parents that Harmony existed. Man enjoyed a Perfect-Balance of his Powers and Faculties, the Body being a Perfect-Partner and Docile-Instrument of the Soul. But After the Fall, the Balance of Man's Nature was Upset. Where before the Fall Man's Lower Nature (the Appetites and Inclinations of the Body) was Perfectly Subject to his Higher Nature (the Dictates of Reason and the Command of the Will); after the Fall, Man's Lower Nature Rebelled against the Limitations set by Reason, and Demanded and often Attained Satisfactions contrary to the Law of God. In that Historic Fall our Human Nature lost a Precious Gift, resulting in the Conflict we all experience within us in our efforts to live the Christian Life. Of this Conflict Saint Paul testifies: "The Flesh Lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the Flesh; for these are opposed to each other, so that you do not do what you would".

Definition of Appetite

The Faculty of Appetite is sometimes referred to as Desire or Concupiscence. It refers to the fact that each individual feels a lack-of-something within himself. To address this Emptiness, he turns elsewhere for Fulfillment. When he turns to the World, his Hunger is said to be Misdirected, and he goes Unsatisfied. But when he turns to God, his Faculty of Appetite realizes its God-given Function.

In this Present Life, the Body must be Properly-Cared-for and Properly-Nourished in order that It be an Aid to the Soul in Its Activity. However, It also must be Restrained when It becomes a Hindrance to that Activity. Not infrequently, Proper-Care of the Body will require Denying the Body what It Seeks. As long as the Soul (Dominant Partner) is the Master and the Body is the Servant (as God and Nature intends), a Man will lead a Peaceful and Fruitful Life. All too often Today, however, the Body is the Master and the Soul the Servant, with the result that Man is neither at Peace within Himself, nor with His Neighbor, nor with his God. In other words, the Body is meant to be an Instrument of Spiritual Growth, and It will be for the True Christian; but It can be an Impediment to that Growth in the measure that a Worldly Spirit Rules one's Life.

Notre Bene: Satan attacks the Psychosomatic Powers of the Body already weakened by Original Sin.

In His Human Nature, Christ had no Concupiscence. Like Adam, Christ (the Second Adam) endured Temptation only from Without, inasmuch as His Human Nature was free from all Concupiscence; but unlike Adam, He withstood the Assaults of the Tempter on all points, thereby affording His Mystical Members a Perfect Model of Resistance to their Spiritual Enemy, and a Permanent Source of Victorious Help. By Special Privilege, the Blessed Virgin Mary also had no Concupiscence.


Like Two Different Persons

We, at times, can Act and Think like Two (2) Different Persons. In our Moments of Right Thinking we can clearly see that something should be done or not done. It might be a matter of Over-Eating, or watching too much Television, or the Wrong kind of Programs, or the Wrong Company, or Abuses of Alcohol or Drugs, etc. However, when one is exposed to the Actual Situation, the Actual Temptation, his thinking changes considerably. The Satisfaction not only seems Legitimate, but in a sense Needful at the moment. And the greater the Attraction to this particular Satisfaction, the easier it is to Justify It. Saint Thomas Aquinas explains why this is so:

    "Inordinate Self-Love is the Source of all Sin and darkens the Intellect; for when the Will and Sensibility are ill-disposed (i.e. when they tend to Pride and Sensuality) everything that is in conformity with these inclinations appears as Good".

The same Truth was expressed by another Doctor of the Church, Saint Catherine of Siena:

    "You know that every Evil is grounded in Selfish Love of Oneself. This Love is a Cloud that blots out the Light of Reason. It is in Reason that the Light of Faith is held, and one cannot lose One without losing the Other . . . This Selfish Love so dazzles the eye that it neither Discerns nor Sees anything but the glitter of these things. Such is their glitter that the Intellect sees them, and Affection (the Will) Loves them, as-if their Brightness comes from Goodness and Loveliness. Were it not for this glitter, people would never Sin, for the Soul by her very nature cannot desire anything but Good. But Vice is Disguised as something Good for her, and so the Soul Sins. Her eyes cannot tell the difference because of her Blindness . . ."

This explains how the clear Knowledge and Conviction that we have at Other Times, can be completely overshadowed by the Sense Impression or Emotion that overwhelms us when the Object or Temptation is Present, and we are confronted with the decision to-do or not-to-do, to-indulge or not-to-indulge. This Conflict between what a True Conscience says, and what the Body wants (i.e. the Blinding Influence of our Bodily Emotions on our Judgment) is One (1) of the Consequences of Original Sin. It has, as we have pointed out, Robbed us of the Balance between Body and Soul, that is, of the Docile Submission our Lower Nature (Body Appetites and their Demands) to our Higher Nature (Intellect and Will), Obscuring the Light of Reason as to True Good, and Weakening the Will as to the choosing of it. Saint Paul complained of this Inner Conflict: "I am delighted with the Law of God according to the Inner Man, but I see another Law in my Members, warring against the Law of my Mind and making me a Prisoner to the Law of Sin that is in my Members" (Romans 7:22,23). That is why so often the Appetites of the Body Rule-the-Day, instead of the Light of Reason Enlightened by Faith.

States of Man from Adam/Eve (Original Justice) >>> Final Judgment (Glorified Nature)

States of Man >>

Original Justice

After the Fall

After Christ's Redemption


Grace: >
Intellect: >

Infused Grace > Knowledge >

Lost Grace -

Grace Restored -
Ignorance Remains

Beatific Vision
of God

Will: >

Loving Obedience

Tends to Malice

Tends to Malice

Love Perfected

Emotions: >

Spontaneous Virtue



Perfect Joy

Body: >

No Bodily Suffering or Death

Yes - Bodily Suffering/Death

Yes - Bodily Suffering/Death


Concupiscence = The Loss of the Harmony or Balance between Body and Soul. The Emotions of the Body are not Docile Servants of the Soul, but often Rebel against the limitations which Reason enlightened by Faith impose as the Norm of Action.

* Concupiscence remained in Man after Christ's Redemption, however Copious Grace was now available by which he may obtain the Victory over Rebellious Sense and deserve Life Everlasting.

One might say: "My Soul, not my Body, rules my Life, because I follow my Conscience; and my Conscience allows me to indulge in this or that Satisfaction". We have dealt with Conscience at length in previous issues. We will only say now that Conscience is a True Guide only when Its Dictates are in-line-with God's Revealed Word, as handed down by the Church. In the measure that one's Conscience puts up little objection when Inordinate Desires and Appetites of the Body are Satisfied, in that measure Conscience is Distorted, and is Leading One Astray.

littlegoldcross.gif (962 bytes) "Conscience is a Judgment of Reason whereby the Human Person recognizes the Moral Quality of a Concrete Act that he is going to perform, is in the process of performing, or has already completed". (CCC, 1778)

littlegoldcross.gif (962 bytes) "Moral Conscience, present at the Heart of the Person, enjoins him at the appropriate moment to do Good and to avoid Evil. It also Judges particular Choices, approving those that are Good and denouncing those that are Evil . . . When he listens to his Conscience, the Prudent man can hear God speaking". (CCC, 1777)


How The Passions Affect Our Judgment

Because Man is composed of Body and Soul, he has Two (2) Sets of Appetites:

littlegoldcross.gif (962 bytes) The Sense Appetites (the Inferior Will) the Movements of which can cause Emotional changes in the Body called Passions which are usually listed as the following: Love or Hatred, Desire or Aversion, Joy or Sorrow, Hope or Despair, Fear or Courage, and Anger.

littlegoldcross.gif (962 bytes) The Rational Appetite (the Superior Will) which seeks the Good apprehended by the Light of Reason. But, as we have seen, because of Original Sin the Appetites of the Body are not Docile Servants of the Soul, but often Rebel against the Limitations which Reason Enlightened by Faith impose as the Norm-of-Action. Thus the Conflict between the Two (2) Sets of Appetites. Yet, it is up to the Superior Will to Control the Whole Man.

Conflict of Appetites (2) and Wills (2)
arrow_down.gif (1323 bytes) The Superior Will of Man is made to Lovingly serve the Divine Will of God

littlegoldcross.gif (962 bytes) Solely motivated by Love god_is_luv_ani.gif (9754 bytes)

Rational Appetite/
Superior Will

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Interior Battle of Wills

littlegoldcross.gif (962 bytes) Man's Superior Will being placed, as it were, Mid-Way between the Divine Will, which is above It - and the Inferior Will, or Will of the Senses, which is beneath It, is continually Assaulted in an Interior Battle of Wills by both Appetites and Wills; each seeking in turn to Attract and Subdue, and Bring It into Obedience.
arrow_up.gif (1330 bytes) Because of Original Sin, the Sensual Appetites and Inferior Will tend to serve their own Desires littlegoldcross.gif (962 bytes) Commonly described by the Words: Body-Appetite, Flesh, Five-Senses, and Passion.

However, as we have seen, Saint Thomas Aquinas points out that the Movement of the Passions can be so intense (e.g. Anger, Envy, Hatred, Lust, etc.) that it can Gravely Obscure the Light of Reason, or even suppress it altogether. In such cases the Will Chooses not the True Good which the Light of Reason Proposes, but the Apparent Good which the Body Appetites are Demanding, and which could be Against the Law of God.

The Basic Reason why this happens is the Unity of the Soul's Powers. All the Powers of the Soul - those that are Purely Spiritual (Intellect and Will), and those that operate in and through the Body (e.g. Sense Appetites) are all rooted in One and the Same source. And all Energy is Weakened when it is Divided. This is especially true of the Powers of the Soul. In the Operations of the Soul, a certain Attention is Requisite, so that if one’s Attention is closely fixed on One Thing, less Attention is given to Another. In this way, when the Movement of the Body Appetites is intensified with regard to any Passion whatever, the Light-of-Reason is Obscured and the Freedom-of-the-Will is Lessened or altogether Impeded.

This is because the Appetites of the Body clamor loudly for Attention, since they are directed at Visible, Pleasurable and Attractive things that appeal to the Senses, and can be had At-Once. In support of this the Imagination, an Internal Sense rooted in the Body, keeps before the Mind Images of the Pleasurable Things the Body Desires. In contrast with this, the Objectives of the Higher Faculties of the Soul - such as Growth in Virtue and Salvation, although More Important, are Less Obvious and More Distant as regards Attainment, and consequently are easily Obscured. Because of this, those who experience strong Emotional Reactions, says Saint Thomas,

    "do not easily turn their Imagination away from the Object of their Emotion, the result being that the Judgment of Reason often follows the Passions of the Sensitive Appetite, and consequently the Will’s Movement follows it also, since it has a Natural Inclination always to follow the Judgment of Reason".

Now, the obvious question that comes to mind is this: If Reason can be Gravely Obscured, or even Entirely Suppressed under the Influence of Passion, is one Morally Responsible for Actions performed under the Influence of Passion?


The Morality of the Passions

There are, deep in Human Nature, strong Desires for Satisfactions of the Body, such as the Satisfactions of Food, of Drink, of Rest, of Sexual Activity, etc. These Desires have been planted in Human Nature by the Creator, and are necessary for the Welfare of the Individual and of the Human Race. It would be Wrong, therefore, to think of these Innate Desires or Inclinations as Evil, just because they often lead Man to Sin by seeking their Satisfaction Excessively, or when not Lawful. The Disorders or Unbalance between Body and Soul are Man's doing, not God's. Our First Parents started it all, and we can enlarge on that Disorder by repeated Failures which increase the Difficulty by forming Habits in regard to those Satisfactions.

The Loss of the Inner-Harmony or Balance between Body and Soul, of which we have been speaking, is called "Concupiscence", or an "Inclination to Evil". Concupiscence is not something Sinful, as some of the founders of Protestantism claimed. Rather, as the Council of Trent pointed out, it is a "Tendency to Sin", which "has no power to injure those who do not consent and who, by the Grace of Jesus Christ, manfully resist". The Human Nature of Christ had the same Emotional Reactions as we have, but not the Concupiscence. He was Angry when He drove the Money Changers from the Temple. He was Saddened unto Tears at the Death of Lazarus.

Giordano Luca's depictions of Jesus' Cleansing of the Temple, and the Raising of Lazarus (Click to Enlarge)

In themselves, the Passions are neither Morally Good nor Evil, because (in general) they are independent of Reason and Will, and are the Movements of the Sense Appetites. Yet, as Saint Augustine comments, they are "Evil, if our Love is Evil; Good, if our Love is Good".

That an Act to be Morally Good or Evil, both of the Main Powers of the Soul (the Intellect's Judgment of Reason and the Free-Exercise of the Will) must enter-in. That is, the Action must be performed Knowingly and Willingly. Yet, as we have seen, Passion tends to obscure the Power of Reason and can even eliminate It entirely, so that the Responsibility and Guilt can be diminished. So we ask again, does this mean that Actions performed under the influence of Passion always lessen the Guilt or Sinfulness of the Action? To answer that, Theologians make a Distinction between Passion which comes before (Antecedent) the Act-of-the-Will, and Passion which follows (Consequent) It:


Antecedent Passion: when the Flare-up of Passion occurs before the Act-of-the-Will, Moral Guilt or Responsibility is diminished. For example:

littlegoldcross.gif (962 bytes) One Flares-up suddenly in a Rage of Anger and loses Self-Control, and utters Cutting and Degrading things of another, something he would not have done otherwise . . .

littlegoldcross.gif (962 bytes) One striving to repel Strong and Persistent Temptation regarding Sins of the Flesh, to which he eventually Succumbs.

In such cases as these, Moral Responsibility is lessened in the measure that Reason is Obscured. However, we do not want to convey the idea that one can simply let the Passion or Anger or Lust, etc. take over so that his Guilt will be Lessened. We have an obligation to flee Temptation insofar as we can. Not to do so would be Presumptuous, would invite Disaster, and any Passion that followed would be indirectly Voluntary, and therefore would not lessen one's Responsibility.


Consequent Passion: When the Emotional Reaction follows the Act of the Will, so that it is either Directly or Indirectly Voluntary, the Moral Responsibility and Guilt is not lessened. For example:

littlegoldcross.gif (962 bytes) One sets out to get a Hated Enemy . . . or one sets up a date with Impure Motives in Mind.

In such cases, regardless of how much Passion might Obscure Reason, his actions are at least Indirectly Voluntary, and Responsibility and Guilt is not lessened.


We have touched on just a few of the Problems that all of us have to contend with in striving to live our Christian Vocation. The Christian Life, in a sense, is a striving to restore the Order Lost by our First Parents, that is, to bring our Body with its Unruly Tendencies to be a Faithful Servant of the Soul, and to bring-to the Soul to be a Faithful and Obedient Servant of God. That, of course, implies a lifelong Struggle against the Selfish Tendencies of our Fallen Nature, and the constant Assistance of Divine Grace sought through Persevering Prayer and Faithful Reception of the Sacraments.



The Devil knows how to exploit our Instincts and Passions, the Weakness of our Flesh and our Pride. A Demonic Temptation generally affects the Psychosomatic Powers; viz., the Imagination, Memory, and Sensory Appetite, which are important for using and controlling our Emotions. By Tempting these Powers, Demons disturb the Sensory Appetite and indirectly affect the Intellect and Will. The Devil can only act on the human Mind through Natural, Physical, and Psychological causes; conversely, all Natural, Physical, and Psychological causes can be Instruments of Diabolic purposes and, as the Church Militant, we should clearly Understand How the Devil can and will Attack our Body and Soul. Our Weapons are Prayer, Knowledge, God's Grace, Gifts of the Holy Spirit, Sacraments and Sacramentals, Fasting, Freely Accepted Suffering, Alms Giving, Good Works, Holy Angels, Church Triumphant, et al.