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77. The Sensitive Appetites as the Cause of Sin

1. Sense-passion or appetite cannot directly move the willto sin, but it can work indirectly upon the will. For the judgmentof reason sometimes follows sense-tendency, and the will'schoice follows this judgment.

2. When passion is so intense that a person loses the useof reason,the consequent act is not a human act at all, andthe person who performs the act is guilty only in so far as heknowingly permitted the wild passion to take hold on him. But,short of this insane excess, a person is responsible for his act,although this responsibility is lessened by high passion. It ispossible for a person, in responsible acts performed under stressof passion, to allow reason to be so strongly swayed that he actsagainst his knowledge of what is right and sane. Thus a man, in anoutburst of wild temper, will say and do things that he knows"at the very moment" are futile and foolish. And a man,well aware of a truth, may, through passion, fail to recognize orapply it in a particular case, and thus may deny what he reallyknows to be true.

3. Therefore, a sin committed through passion is a sin ofweakness. As the body is weak because of disorder in its parts, sothe soul is weak when passion disorders the right rule ofreason.

4. Sin comes from loving or willing a temporal good asthough it were the eternal good. And back of the desire for such agood lies the inordinate love of self. For the sinner wants to havehis own way; he wants to please himself. Hence, every sin is trulythe fruit of inordinate self-love.

5. The influences which bear upon reason to induce it tosin are rightly set forth in Sacred Scripture (I John 2:16) asfollows: (a) the concupiscence of the flesh, that is, passionatedesire for bodily delights; (b) the concupiscence of the eyes, thatis, inordinate desire for wealth and temporal goods; (c) pride oflife, that is, the soul's hunger for honors, praise, and powerto rule.

6. Passion that precedes sin (that is, antecedentpassion) not only brings urgency upon the will, but also obscuresthe judgment of the thinking mind that guides the will; hence,antecedent passion diminishes sin. But consequent passion,that is, passion stirred up by the will itself (as in one whodeliberately works himself into a rage, or nerves himself to do anevil thing) rather increases a sin than diminishes it, for suchpassion shows the intensity of the will's determination tosin.

7. Passion so great as to destroy free choice excuses fromsin. But if this great passion comes from the will's faultyneglect to prevent it, it does not wholly excuse from sin.

8. In serious matters sins committed through passion, eventhrough passion that diminishes responsibility, are mortal sins.For as long as passion does not render a man temporarily insane, itcan be allayed. A man can work to banish the passionate urge, andcan prevent it from having its sinful effect. If he fails to dothis, he sins, and, in serious matters, he sins mortally.

"A man should keep himself down, and not busy himself in mirabilibus super se."
St Philip Neri

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"Shun too great a desire for knowledge, for in it there is much fretting and delusion. Intellectuals like to appear learned and to be called wise. Yet there are many things the knowledge of which does little or no good to the soul, and he who concerns himself about other things than those which lead to salvation is very unwise. "
Thomas á Kempis

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"The essence of perfection is to embrace the will of God in all things, prosperous or adverse. In prosperity, even sinners find it easy to unite themselves to the divine will; but it takes saints to unite themselves to God's will when things go wrong and are painful to self-love. Our conduct in such instances is the measure of our love of God."
St Alphonsus de Liguori

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