St. John distinguishes three kinds of covetousness or con
cupiscence: lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes, and pride of life.
the Catholic catechetical tradition, the ninth commandment forbids
carnal concupiscence; the tenth forbids coveting another’s goods.
Etymologically, “concupiscence” can refer to any intense
form of human desire. Christian theology has given it a particular
meaning: the movement of the sensitive appetite contrary to the
operation of the human reason. The apostle St. Paul identifies it
with the rebellion of the “flesh” against the “spirit.”
cence stems from the disobedience of the first sin. It unsettles man’s
moral faculties and, without being in itself an offense, inclines man
to commit sins.
Because man is a
composite being, spirit and body,
already exists a certain tension in him; a certain struggle of tenden
cies between “spirit” and “flesh” develops. But in fact this struggle
belongs to the heritage of sin. It is a consequence of sin and at the
same time a confirmation of it. It is part of the daily experience of
the spiritual battle:
For the Apostle it is not a matter of despising and condemn
ing the body which with the spiritual soul constitutes man’s
nature and personal subjectivity. Rather, he is concerned
with the morally
works, or better, the permanent
dispositions—virtues and vices—which are the fruit of
submission (in the first case) or of
(in the second
the saving action of the Holy Spirit.
For this reason the
Apostle writes: “If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by
The heart is the seat of moral personality: “Out of the heart
come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, fornication. . . .”
struggle against carnal covetousness entails purifying the heart
and practicing temperance:
5:16, 17, 24;
3:11; Council of Trent: DS 1515.
304 John Paul II,