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74. The Subject of Sin

1. The principle of human acts is the will, and sins arehuman acts; hence the will is the principle of sin. Now, theprinciple of sin is called the subject of sin. Hence thewill is the subject of sin. St. Augustine says (Retract.i): "It is by the will that we sin, and by the will that welive righteously."

2. The will elicits some of its acts (completingthem within itself) and commands others (which are carriedout by subordinate powersof mind or body or both). Hence thetotal subject of sin includes, with the will itself, all the powerswhich can be put into operation, or restrained from operation, bythe will.

3. Therefore, even sensitive or sensual powers may be thesubject of sin inasmuch as their exercise is voluntary, that is,willed.

4. Yet mortal sin is never, properly speaking, in thesensitive part of man, but in reason which disposes the order ofhuman acts in accordance with sensual bent or tendency.

5. Sin is in the reason (that is, the intellectuallyenlightened and counseled will) when the sin results from ignoranceof what the sinner could and should know and has neglected to know,and also when reason commands inordinate movement in the lowerpowers, or fails to check such movement.

6. When reason permits the lower powers or appetites tomove inordinately, and dwells upon the pleasure of their avoidablemovement, without, however, carrying into action what is thus dweltupon, it is guilty of the sin of morose delectation. Onecommits the sin of morose delectation by dwelling pleasurably orconsentingly upon unlawful movements or imaginings of lust,revenge, envy, covetousness, or other vice.

7. St. Augustine draws a distinction between thehigher reason which contemplates eternal truths, and thelower reason which deals with temporal things. Now, theconsent which sinful reason gives to a sinful act is of the higherreason, for it is the higher reason which knows the divine andeternal law against which the sin offends.

8. Delight in the thought of what is gravely sinful isitself a grave sin when reason consents to this delight,envisioning and tending towards the sin itself. In a word, it isgravely sinful to consent to the inclination to grave sin.

9. Consent to the sinful act is a sin of the higherreason. It is mortally or venially sinful, according as the actconsented to is mortally or venially sinful.

10. In its own domain, the higher reason may be guilty ofvenial sin as well as of mortal sin. We say "in its owndomain," to indicate the excluding of the pull of lowerappetites. For example, a sudden movement of unbelief might be avenial sin if it came from a momentary carelessness of the higherreason itself.

"Whom do you seek, friend, if you seek not God? Seek him, find him, cleave to him; bind your will to his with bands of steel and you will live always at peace in this life and in the next."
St Alphonsus de Liguori

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"The greatest glory we can give to God is to do his will in everything."
St Alphonsus de Liguori

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"The Lord has always revealed to mortals the treasures of his wisdom and his spirit, but now that the face of evil bares itself more and more, so does the Lord bare his treasures more."
St John of the Cross, OCD - Doctor of the Church

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