I know concupisence in itself is not sinful, but Jesus says in Matt 5:28 “But I say to you, everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”

What is the difference between concupisence and lust?

From the Senior Apologist of Catholic Anwsers…this can be useful for you.

I think you might be misunderstanding Jesus’ quote. Speaking as a guy, I can tell you that not all “looks” are the same. Concupiscence is when you are walking down the street and notice that an oncoming woman has a low cut blouse and is, err, well endowed! It’s no sin if after the initial thought arises, you catch yourself, look up and don’t dwell on that. Lust is when you put on the tinted sunglasses so she can’t be sure that you’re staring at her endowment as long as possible! Sanctity is when you were busy smiling at her and never noticed that she was showing off. :wink:

Sanctity is difficult, concupiscence is typical of fallen humans and lust is an act of sin.


2515 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.” Concupiscence 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.

1264 Yet certain temporal consequences of sin remain in the baptized, such as suffering, illness, death, and such frailties inherent in life as weaknesses of character, and so on, as well as an inclination to sin that Tradition calls concupiscence, or metaphorically, “the tinder for sin” (fomes peccati); since concupiscence “is left for us to wrestle with, it cannot harm those who do not consent but manfully resist it by the grace of Jesus Christ.” Indeed, “an athlete is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules.”

2520 Baptism confers on its recipient the grace of purification from all sins. But the baptized must continue to struggle against concupiscence of the flesh and disordered desires. With God’s grace he will prevail

  • by the virtue and gift of chastity, for chastity lets us love with upright and undivided heart;

  • by purity of intention which consists in seeking the true end of man: with simplicity of vision, the baptized person seeks to find and to fulfill God’s will in everything;

  • by purity of vision, external and internal; by discipline of feelings and imagination; by refusing all complicity in impure thoughts that incline us to turn aside from the path of God’s commandments: “Appearance arouses yearning in fools”;

  • by prayer:

    I thought that continence arose from one’s own powers, which I did not recognize in myself. I was foolish enough not to know . . . that no one can be continent unless you grant it. For you would surely have granted it if my inner groaning had reached your ears and I with firm faith had cast my cares on you.

1426 Conversion to Christ, the new birth of Baptism, the gift of the Holy Spirit and the Body and Blood of Christ received as food have made us “holy and without blemish,” just as the Church herself, the Bride of Christ, is “holy and without blemish.” Nevertheless the new life received in Christian initiation has not abolished the frailty and weakness of human nature, nor the inclination to sin that tradition calls concupiscence, which remains in the baptized such that with the help of the grace of Christ they may prove themselves in the struggle of Christian life. This is the struggle of conversion directed toward holiness and eternal life to which the Lord never ceases to call us.

One can also use the term Concupiscence in a different sense …in the “sinful way” …which may be what is throwing you off…


2514 St. John distinguishes three kinds of covetousness or concupiscence: lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes, and pride of life. In the Catholic catechetical tradition, the ninth commandment forbids carnal concupiscence; the tenth forbids coveting another’s goods.

Now what is Lust?


2351 Lust is disordered desire for or inordinate enjoyment of sexual pleasure. Sexual pleasure is morally disordered when sought for itself, isolated from its procreative and unitive purposes.


In my humble opinion…

Concupiscence is a healthy sexual desire. To desire somebody sexually is natural. If we didn’t have concupiscence we would never reproduce. e.g. “Yes, she is beautiful and I am aroused in her presence.”

Lust is an unhealthy sexual desire. e.g. "Yes, she’s beautiful and I am aroused in her presence. I will now imagine myself mating with her. "

Such is not the theological (Catholic) meaning of the term.

You are correct, Bookcat. I may have misunderstood. I thought he was asking about the Webster’s meanings. :slight_smile:

right…the term can just mean “desire”…

in theology and the spiritual -moral life…it means more than just that…it is part of the disorder left over from Original Sin.

The Dominican theologian Fr. Brian Mullady has well summed up a key danger in the erroneous interpretations being made of Pope John Paul II’s teaching.

“Some proponents of the theology of the body have made the illogical leap from the fact that the body is good and expresses this communion of hearts to the conclusion that by grace man returns to a kind of original justice in which he need not worry about the enticements of pleasure or concupiscence of the flesh.

"The Pope is clear that one can never return to this state, that the scriptural condemnation of lust refers not to the body or the passions as such, but to the will.

"One can never act as though one can be free from temptation in this life.

"Though spousal love is an important part of the healing of the spirit in this regard, it does not entirely do away with our weakness. A proper understanding of the body and marriage gives us hope but not presumption.” (New Oxford Review, March 2009, p. 28).


Just to clarify - I was listening to a Scott Hahn tape on Romans and he mentioned that although Baptism removes original sin, concupiscence remains. He gave the example of a teenager confessing that he had seen a woman and was aroused but did not let the thought go further. Th priest said he could not forgive him because no sin was committed. I was trying to reconcile this with Matt 5:28. I guess this is the fine line between arousal and lust.

I guess the protestant would say that the mere arousal is sinful as part of the depraved state of man?

“Arousal” per se is not “concupiscence”. Concupisence though effects us and arousal since the fall. There is that “tinder box” …the inclination towards sin…towards say using the person…etc…there is “disorder” present…

If one consents to arousal outside of the spousal relationship…or if one seeks it…etc then sin enters in. (or if say a person puts himself into an near occasion of sin without necessity etc).

The mere fact that some unsought etc spontanous arousal “happened to him” does not mean there was necessarily any sin…

Of course one can already sin mortally in ones thoughts or desires…such was part of what Jesus was saying…

Dr. Hahn is meaning that just cause some “thought happens” …some “temptation” comes…does not mean that there was any sin. Temptations do not equal sin.

Also see the link to Jimmy Akin above.

(from previous posts of mine)

Regarding thoughts

while Jesus makes it clear that one can sin in ones thoughts…just cause some lustful thought happens does not mean that one sinned…

(and one can have a sufficiently good reason to think about sexual matters…for instance studying moral theology…but care must be taken to avoid things that would be a problem…but that is another question)

What should we do with* unwanted* sexual thoughts or other bad thoughts…thoughts against God etc? Those pesky temptations that can come …even though we are not seeking them etc…

(there are of course some things we should avoid that cause them…and there can be sin if it is something one should reasonably avoid…but often they come uninvited)

First…Relax. Do not worry.

Now are they mortal sins?

For a mortal sin one needs a grave matter …full knowledge AND deliberate consent!!!

A. If you do not want the thought…it the thought displeases you: it can be a sign actually that you did not give consent or do not give full consent.

B. Even if you felt a temptation for the thought – and were drawn to it —but rejected it and maybe even turned to God : again a sign not full consent.

C. But what if one has a tempting thought --say of a sexual nature and even hesitated for a moment…but then rejected it for one did not want to sin? : it can be partial consent perhaps (and thus a venial sin)-- or it may be no sin at all but rather a strong temptation that drew you but then you saw what was happening and turned away.

D. A temptation can even be very strong or the thoughts very often – but this does NOT mean one has consented! so worry not…even it they go on for a long time…

remember --for it to be mortal there must be that deliberate consent!

What to do? on the spiritual side–relax first of all and remember the above.

Next – know that the more one fears the thoughts the more likely they are to come… or said another way --the more a person seeks to avoid the thoughts the more likely he will have a problem with them. (but do not worry about this either!)

for example: for the next 10 seconds try NOT to think of an apple.

tick tock …

tick tock…

Ok what did you think of? Most likely an apple.

So it is best to ignore them and just not consent and then turn your attention to some other good thing…for instance whatever you are doing. Simply do not consent and move on. and do not worry.

Of course we need to certainly avoid the near occasion of sin…we can be responsible for putting ourselves there…and there can be sin in so doing…so we need to take reasonable care and reasonable custody of the eyes…

another point – thoughts can just happen --they are the stuff with which we think…it is up to us to consent and take them further or not. and just because they are REAL VIVID and almost “think themselves” does not mean per se that one has given ANY consent.

they can be annoying…but need cause no actual harm …

Another help…is the distinction between “first thoughts and emotions” (as Baur calls em) what they call the prima of the prima…“the first of the first” (as one of my Professors called em…he was a Dominican)…these are involuntary things that just come up…such are not sins. They can tempt one of course to sin…or one can then proceed to some sin…but they are the stuff of the mind and emotions which “happen to one” …and really the are opportunities for growing in virtue etc as well…

How to deal with these? First of relax…don’t scruple…don’t fear them…to try to swat them all as the come…just simply turn to other things…or the thing you are doing…or to God…(of course do not consent)…but if you are too defensive against them…they may get worse actually…and confuse you more…instead turn to God or again other good things…accept that hey…somethings wild thoughts will come to you…

(and these can happen to all of us by the way…)

There is a story from the desert of the early Centuries of the Church where a younger hermit when to an older one with the problems of thoughts happening to him all the time…the older hermit told him to go outside open his cloak and catch the wind.

The younger hermit said such is not possible…

the older hermit replied --neither is it possible to stop all the thoughts that can come to you…your choice is to say “yes” or “no”.

So relax about “unwanted thoughts”…sometimes they just come…you know like unwanted phone calls from politicitians and salepersons etc…but you can always say “no thank you” or just ignore the call and go about your business

I’ve just started up a blog for the scrupulous/OCD/ and sexually addicted or formally sexually addicted. Its called

feel free to submit your questions and comments.

OLD thread

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit