When I am read spiritual works, I inevitably come across a word that makes me pause. Usually, I have a sense of what it means but do not really understand the full meaning.
So with that in mind, I decided to open up the Catholic Dictionary and actually check out what the definition is. Today's word is concupiscence.
Concupiscence according to St. Thomas is the appetite which tends to the gratification of the senses ("bonum delectablile absens").A Catholic Dictionary y William E. Addis and Thomas Arnold, 17th Edition, Routledge & Kegan Paul Limited, London, 1960
This tendency is in itself neither good nor evil, because the object may be either lawful or unlawful.
The desire of eating and drinking in moderation is good: that of eating and drinking to excess is evil; but in the one case and in the other we have an instance of concupiscence.
However, the word concupiscence is constantly used for that appetite which exists in fallen man and is an incentive to sin, because it seeks forbidden objects or permissible in an forbidden way.
St. Paul, in Rom. vii, speaks of it as "The flesh," and again as the "law of sin that is in my members."
Such concupiscence, in rebellion against reason and against the commandments of God, did not exist in Adam till he had fallen from original justice. From him it has passed to all his descendants; it remains even in those who have been born again by baptism, so that the saints themselves have had to fight against this tendency in the sensual appetite to forbidden pleasures, without being able to eradicate it.
We now come to the difference on this mater between Catholic doctrine and the tenets of the Reformers. The latter taught that concupiscence, even if the will did not consent to harbour or encourage it, had the nature of sin.
Catholic doctors on the other hand, following the principle of St. Thomas that no action can be moral or immoral except so far as it depends on the free-will of the agent, deny that concupiscence which remains, in spite of the efforts made by the will to subdue it, is to be considered sin.
It is plain that the Catholic doctrine is the only one consistent with belief in the moral freedom of man.
It is moreover, the only one consistent with experience and the common sense; for who can believe that a man engaged in heroic struggle with the temptations of the flesh is all the while offending God?
The Council of Trent lays down the doctrine of the Church with great clearness, in the following words:
"This holy synod confesses that concupiscence of the fuel of sin (fomes peccati) remains in the baptized; but since it is left that they may strive against it, it cannot hurt those who give no consent, but resist manfully by the grace of Jesus Christ; nay, more, he who strives lawfully will be crowned. The holy synod declares that this concupiscence, which the Apostle sometimes call sin (Rom. vi. 12, vii 8) has never been understood by the Catholic Church to be so called because it is truly and properly sin in the regenerate, but because it is from sin and inclines to sin. But if any man hold a contrary opinion, let him be anathema."...