Integrity, Gift of

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Throughout its history the teaching Church has maintained that Adam and Eve were created not in a state of pure nature but rather were richly endowed with free gifts from God, among which was sanctifying grace. Possession of a nature fully in tune with the perfection of its grace could be had only were there to be granted an exemption from the inherent weaknesses of human nature. Such exemption was the "negative" side of a preternatural harmony between nature and supernature and has been called the gift of integrity.

Generally the gift of integrity is said to be immunity from concupiscence, where concupiscence means an appetite for a sensible good contrary to the dictates of reason. This may cause confusion in the face of the modern understanding of concupiscence as the natural, indeliberate desire arising in the sense faculty when confronted with its object. Integrity simply is the subjection of body to soul and lower powers to reason.

Such a harmonious unity could not come from man's natural principles, for the objects of his powers being varied and disparate, it is natural that what is pleasing to one faculty may be opposed to the perfection of the whole man. Reason, having only political control over the sense appetite, would sometimes be uppermost; at other times the sense appetites would be. Hence, in the primeval state God bestowed a perfect order of subjection.

Not created in a state of pure nature, man was not endowed with just natural rectitude. He was predestined to a supernatural end, a destiny attainable only by means of a gift utterly surpassing all exigencies and powers of nature (see destiny, supernatural). This gift was sanctifying grace, and the common teaching of theologians, following St. Thomas Aquinas, is that Adam was created in sanctifying grace. Yet, if the body and the sensible nature were to be left in their own natural condition, they would (as seen previously) be a hindrance, in some sense, to the principal activity of the soul. Because of his composite nature, man could be gifted with another supernatural help, viz, the proper subjection of his powers one to the other.

Given to Adam as head of the human race, sanctifying grace, integrity, and the other gifts would have been the treasure of all men born of his seed. In committing original sin, Adam lost grace and integrity both for himself and his posterity. In the present state, because of the redemptive sacrifice of the God-Man, Christ, man may again be granted sanctifying grace, but now only as a personal gift and without integrity. The latter will be perfectly restored only at the resurrection of the body although, as grace and the infused virtues grow during life, along with their corresponding natural virtues, the power of man's rectified will gains more and more control over the disordered powers, which gradually lose their harming effects.

See Also: elevation of man; original justice; preternatural; pure nature, state of.

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[m. m. schanen]

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Integrity, Gift of

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