Good evening Father Angelo,
I constantly and passionately follow your column, and I thank you for your enlightening answers that manifest God’s love.
I wanted to ask why before the original sin Adam and Eve, still having an incorrupt nature, and living in a state of grace, were given the preternatural gift of exemption from concupiscence?
Since their nature was not yet wounded by sin, was it not already naturally free from concupiscence? Why a further preternatural gift, given that even if they had not committed sin, concupiscence would not have wounded them?
I thank you in advance for your answer and I pray that the Lord and Our Lady will always bless your work.
I ask you for a prayer.
Answer of the priest
1. Concupiscence is the attraction towards what is pleasant.
Thus teaches St. Thomas, following in this the pagan philosopher Aristotle (cf. Summa theologiae, I-II, 30, 1).
2. Before original sin everything was well harmonized in man.
The tendencies of the senses were perfectly subjected to reason and reason was subjected to God.
After the original sin the balance was broken.
Having become rebellious against God, man began to experience rebellion in himself as well.
The senses began to want to be satisfied on their own and the will of man began to rebel against reason, from which it should be governed.
3. The doctrine of the Church, speaking of exemption from concupiscence before original sin, does not at all mean that man was devoid of attraction towards what was agreeable to him.
Nor that he was devoid of the disorder caused by original sin.
Instead, it intends to affirm that man enjoyed a certain integrity or perfection of nature for which the attraction to what is agreeable would not have occurred through the convulsion of the senses that we see when they now naturally join.
Saint Augustine says that before sin the senses would have moved at a sign of the will and would have serenely reached their purpose without exercising any arrogance (cf. De Civitate Dei XIV, 26).
4. The biblical foundation for this exemption was found in the fact that both our progenitors before original sin were naked and were not ashamed of it (Gen 2:25).
Everything was therefore perfectly rectified in man.
5. St. Thomas says that before sin the deformity that we now see when the senses join was completely absent because “the lower powers were entirely subject to reason” (Summa theologiae, I, 98, 2) and that “continence would not have been praiseworthy in the state of innocence, whereas it is praiseworthy in our present state, not because it removes fecundity, but because it excludes inordinate desires. In that state fecundity would have been without lust” (Ib., Ad 3).
6. The tendency to arrogance broke out after original sin and remains even in those who receive Baptism.
In this sense, the Council of Trent “confesses and perceives that concupiscence or passion remains in the baptized; although this is left to be wrestled with, it cannot harm those who do not consent, but manfully resist by the grace of Jesus Christ. Nay, indeed, “he who shall have striven lawfully, shall be crowned” (cf. 2 Tim 2:5). This concupiscence, which at times the Apostle calls sin (cf. Rom 6: 12-15; 7: 7,14-20) the holy Synod declares that the Catholic Church has never understood to be called sin, as truly and properly sin in those born again, but because it is from sin and inclines to sin. But if anyone is of the contrary opinion, let him be anathema” (DS 1515).
7. This is why, therefore, among the preternatural gifts there was also the exemption from concupiscence, that is, from that reality to which I have given the name of convulsion, which in itself is natural in the senses when they reach their purpose.
Thank you for the much appreciated prayer, which I reciprocate.
I wish you well and I bless you.
Translated by Chiara P.
Reviewed by David