The Sensitive Appetites and Passions

Dr. Patrick J. DiVietri OCDS, Ph.D., CPC, AAPC: Fellow



“Appetite is an active tendency or faculty which inclines toward a given object or end; the conscious striving for an end known either spiritually or sensorially.[1] The appetite is moved by the presence of its object.[2]

At the heart of the complex understanding of man’s psychological constitution is the relationship of the appetites to the intellect and will and how they affect each other’s operation. “Since mental health is concerned about the intellect of man, it is essential for psychology to know how the appetites, reason and will affect one another.”[3]

St. Thomas describes that there are concupiscible and irascible appetites.[4] As we saw earlier in the definitions in chapter two:

Concupiscible appetite- the sensitive appetite that seeks what is suitable to the senses and flees what is evil to the senses.

Irascible appetite- the sensitive appetite by which the sentient being resists the attacks that hinder its good or inflict harm on it. Thus, the concupiscible seeks the good and to avoid evil and the irascible is concerned with the obstacle to fight or flight.


“A passion is motion of an appetitive power.”[1] Passion is “a movement of the sense appetite, which follows the apprehension of the senses, and is accompanied by a bodily transmutation.”[2] The name is derived from the Latin word “pati” which means to suffer or undergo, or literally to bear. “Passion refers an appetites reception of something in some way and the reception is an actual inclining or motion toward or away from some object. The “motion” of the appetite, brought us to the term “e-motion.” Passions occur with a bodily transmutation, i.e., the sensitive object causes some bodily change in the one undergoing the action.”[3] This motion causes “bodily transmutation, i.e. chemical and biological changes which we identify as “feelings. A passion is the same thing as a feeling or emotion. The three terms are synonymous.

There are eleven passions altogether, which fall under the heading of these two types. The concupiscible is divided into three couples: love and hate, desire and aversion (or flight), delight (or joy), sorrow (or sadness). The irascible, which arises from the concupiscible, has three groups: hope and despair, fear and daring (audacity), and anger.

We are going to consider some of the passions as they relate to pastoral counseling.

As we begin it is helpful to keep in mind that passions are stimulated by the imagination. Without any impression upon the imagination or senses there is no passion. They are in essence “blind” to anything but their one object. This will be discussed, as it is imperative to understand for many pastoral issues.


[1] III Sent., d. 26, q. 1, a. 1 and De malo, q. 10, a. 1, ad 1.

[2] Aquinas, Summa Theological, (I-II, Q. 22).

[3] Ripperger, Introduction to the Science of Mental Health, Vol. 1, p. 146.

[1] Fr. Chad Ripperger, FSSP, Introduction to the Science of Mental Health, (Sensus Traditionis Press: Denton, NE, 2007) p. 800.

[2] Fr. Chad Ripperger, FSSP, Introduction to the Science of Mental Health, (Sensus Traditionis Press: Denton, NE, 2007) p. 130.

[3] Ripperger, Introduction to the Science of Mental Health, Vol. 1, p. 188, See chapters 8 and 9, pp. 140- 216 for a necessary and sufficient discussion of the passions. What is contained has a bearing on every counseling situation.

[4] Summa Theologica, 1st part of the 2nd part, Q. 23, Art. 4.

Maturity Involves the Struggle to Gain Personal Integrity

Dr. Patrick J. DiVietri OCDS, Ph.D., CPC, Fellow: AAPC

“A virtue is an habitual and firm disposition to do the good. It allows the person not only to perform good acts, but also to give the best of himself. The virtuous person tends toward the good with all his sensory and spiritual powers; he pursues the good and chooses it in concrete actions.” CCC 1803

The habits whereby the human will and sensual appetites are under the control of reason to thus enable the person to act accordingly are called moral virtues. Simply, the human person has to be the master of his lusts.


1. Animals have organic powers
2. Only man has spiritual powers
3. All want the Truth since the intellect is made for the Truth.
Man at times does not want the cost the truth brings such when it reveals his sin or demands sacrifice of some good that he desires.
4. All love the good because the will is for choosing the good.
5. We know that a passion is “an intense movement of the sensitive appetite accompanied by noticeable organic change, as in anger or fear”
6. The passions are not the deepest truth. They are simply desires, feelings and emotions.
7. Right reason reveals the deepest truth
8. Passions may work against right reason. Virtues enable one to overcome passions and direct them to what right reason dictates.


Look to the following chart and we find it demonstrates the powers of the human soul, which are common in animals (organic powers) and those, which are unique to the human soul (spiritual powers). The struggle for sanctity and happiness involves the struggle to unite the two powers. It is the ability to act according to right reason that principally determines a man’s character. The intellect’s object is to know the truth and left unimpeded will seek to know what is real and rightly ordained. However, it’s capacity to perceive the truth and reason has been obscured by original sin. The will can only choose good. However, the will is able to ignore one good in the favor of another or not consider a thing at all. Thus those goods of the senses such as pleasure or love may be contrary to right reason and yet still chosen because right reason is essentially ignored.

spiritual powers



The Naturally Good Listener


Dr. Patrick J. DiVietri, OCDS, Ph.D. CPC, Fellow: AAPC

Many people are naturally good listeners at least when they want to be. The naturally good listener has an active mind that summarizes what is being said.   This common sense process may center on three simple questions that are very helpful to anyone who wants to be a better listener. This approach is a synthesis of the keys to attentive listening because they are contained in the attitude necessary to sincerely ask these questions.

When listening, ask yourself:

“What is he/she communicating or telling me?”

  • This question moves the focus from the listener to the speaker and what is being said versus what the listener would like to say.

“What feelings might be involved?”

  • “Are the feelings what the speaker wants me to address?” The more the feelings are involved the more patience and understanding are required before a response can be made. The speaker must somehow come to know that these feelings are understood.

What response does he/she want from me?

  • This is the critical question that needs to be kept in mind because it involves the reason that the person is speaking to you in the first place.

What do you want from me?

People speak to us for a number of reasons and many communication problems stem from the listener’s failure to recognize what the speaker wants from them. The listener’s response might be quite true and good but it may not be what the speaker is looking for. Experience shows us that when speaking to another person people generally want one or a combination of the following responses.   The speaker generally may want the listener to do the following:

  • Just listen and understand
  • Console and support
  • Help Clarify
  • Confirm
  • Agree
  • Solve a problem
  • Act upon self or another

Just Listen and Understand

People always want to be listened to and to be understood.   This must happen for other things to follow. It is the most important response to give. When both parties feel mutually understood tension and discord are diminished. This is true even when the two do not agree. The likelihood of anger erupting is greatly diminished. A priest used to tell the story of how his parents never got angry at each other. At first I thought him to be naïve. However, he proceeded to describe how they conducted their conversations. He said that his parents did something that he had learned to do during his courses in philosophy. One of the rudiments of philosophical discourse is obviously debate. A basic component of debate is that the first party states a position. Before the responding team could offer a rebuttal they had to first state the position of the first party clearly and faithfully. The first party would then acknowledge whether the second team was able to express the essential elements of the first position. Also, in debate, the first cross-examination can only contain clarifying questions. These are the questions that allow the first party to elaborate on points that the listener needs to better understand. After this process is done, the first party confirms the proper understanding and then the rebuttal or opposing position can be presented.

It so happened that this young priest’s parents naturally did this. They always made it a point to understand each other before responding and making sure that their own understanding was consistent with what their spouse intended. As a result, even when they disagreed upon any point, neither party felt insulted because the other did not take the time to sufficiently understand them.

Console or support

People often want consolation and support. A burden seems lighter when shared by someone who cares. This combines with being understood to establish most of what people want most of the time that they speak about anything that is important to them.

Help clarify

People sometimes want to get things out so they can see them more clearly. In this case people simply want to bounce things off of someone else. They come to get some order so that they can make a decision or get their thinking straight.

Agreement or confirmation

People sometimes want someone to confirm that they are right. Sometimes people just want others to agree with them. However, understanding does not mean that one agrees. E.g. “I understand you feel like punching your spouse, but I do not agree you should do it.”

Help solve a problem

People sometimes want you to solve the problem. They want solutions and directions. This is the dynamic that causes the most trouble when someone tries to solve someone else’s problem when the person doesn’t want that kind of help. We will address this next, in “When solving a problem becomes a problem.”

Act upon myself or someone else

When someone wants you to change your behavior or to perform some action then they will know you understand because they see the action. They may want you to act upon someone else. E.g. A wife who wants her husband to do something to change the behavior of their son.   She will know that her husband understands when she sees that he has talked to his son.

A person may want you to do something about your own behavior. E.g. A wife wants her husband to be more attentive or to do things around the house. She will know that her husband understands when she sees that he starts picking up after himself, doing the dishes, cooking, helping with the laundry and whatever other tasks may be on the list.

Music and Contemplation (1)

Dr. Patrick J. DiVietri, Ph.D., MA, CPC, OCDS

It is in consideration of the relationship between music and contemplation that we can more clearly see the role of music as a means to expresses things so difficult for words alone and aid in the formation of human beings. Music and morals are allied in principle. To listen to music is to contemplate something beautiful ….something eminently true since it mirrors the infinite beauty of God, Himself.[2] The happiness which comes from true contemplation is often defused in art that is beautiful.

The art of composing possesses a value in exciting devotion and prayer. Cole holds that music can reach into the depths of personality, change men’s hearts, and express the law of nature within the soul.[3] For him, the true purpose of music is to express the external proportions of God’s universe which transcends mere sense impressions. It can do what words alone cannot do. Cole states:

“Might one listening to the inner relationships of a work by a Mahler or a Stravinski, to use some modern examples, exercise and strengthen the intellect to more easily contemplate the divine? Likewise, might not the beautiful as contemplated dispose one to realize that there is more to life than simple or exclusively the goods of the senses? Could not a sonata or concerto suggest through the intricacies of a well written melody joined to harmony and rhythm dispose one to desire a life of greater virtue, indeed a life of perfection? Would not such a life contribute to one’s ultimate happiness?…To the extent that music brings one to the taste and joys of contemplative activity and life, it leads one to the purpose of the virtuous life, for moral virtues anticipates and disposes one to the contemplative life, naturally and supernaturally.”[4]

With music man can boldly give glory to God,[5] not as the mystic who stands in silence before the dark majesty of God, but rather as the musician who stands in the light and sound of music. The musician stands as Hezekiah stood before God knowing what fate he truly deserved but knowing the mercy God had shown and would continue to show. He stood in the pit of the grave and sang out:

“You have preserved my life from the pit destruction, when you cast behind your back all my sins. For it is not the nether world that gives you thanks, nor death that praises you; neither do those who go down into the pit await your kindness. The living, the living give you thanks, as I do today. Fathers declare to their sons, O God, your faithfulness. The Lord is our savior; we shall sing to stringed instruments in the house of the Lord all the days of our life.”[6]

It is this boldness that lives in the song of the musician. The boldness to sing out to God and demand that God respond in like form. At his best, the musician sings to God for his entire life in hopes that he might hear Our Lord’s sweet voice sing to him on the day of his death. But in truth God does not keep the artist only for that day but allows him to hear something of the melodies that await us all.

[1] DiVietri, Patrick J. Ph.d., A COMMENTARY ON THE CANTATA CARMELITUM, Dissertation presented to the Graduate School of the Humanities, American Commonwealth University, San Diego, 1997, Pp. 15-16.

[2] In Boethius. de Trinitas, 5,1, ad 3, De institutione musica, in Source Readings in Music History, selected and annotated by Oliver Strunk, (New York: W. W. Norton and Co., 1950), cited by, Cole, p. 74.

[3] Cole, Basil OP. Music and Morals. (New York: Alba House, 1993,) p. 59.

[4] Ibid. p. 87

[5] Ibid. p. 85

[6] Isaiah 35:17-20

Contingency, Entelechy and Teleology

Dr. Patrick J. DiVietri, Ph.D., MA, CPC, OCDS[1]

Just prior to the life of Teresa of Avila (March 28, 1515 to October 15, 1581), according to R. S. Peters, the success of the sciences led to an overemphasis on mathematics and a rejection[2] of the Aristotelian system of entelechy.[3] Aristotle held that within the nature of being all human action moves towards an end. The final end is union with God which brings happiness after death. Another Aristotelian principle which was brought into peril was with the contingency of all creation. F. J. Sheed explains contingency when he discusses how everything exists because of something else which preceded it. The child exists because the parents married. The parents married because they met. They met because he got off the bus at the wrong stop and bumped into her, etc. Everything therefore existed because of God and only God exists independent of any other being, for He is the source of all being, the Prime Mover as the Pre-Renaissance Man would say. “Therefore the reason for His existence must be in Himself…there is something in His nature that demands existence…God must exist. This, then is the primary Truth about God. It was the crowning achievement of Greek philosophy in the fifth century before Christ.”[4] The conclusions that all things are contingent upon God for existence and all human actions are predicated upon man’s essential nature moving to a specific end or good which ultimately is life in God provides the greatest insights of natural reason.

By the 16th century, however, although God remained as philosophically tenable, the principle of all things moving towards Him did not. We will find that this is the essential goal of Teresa of Avila. She sought nothing else but union with God at all costs to herself. It was a movement of her total person from the core of her soul.[5] She also saw that all things were dependent upon His grace. In the mansions of the mystical life this contingency is absolute. For Teresa the discernment, guidance and protection of these movements toward God and all human activity were dependent upon the Church.

[1] DiVietri, Patrick J. Ph.d., A COMMENTARY ON THE CANTATA CARMELITUM, Dissertation presented to the Graduate School of the Humanities, American Commonwealth University, San Diego, 1997, Pp. 25-26.

[2] R. S. Peters, Ed. C. A. Mace, The Encyclopedia of Philosophy (New York: Macmillan Publishing Co. & the Free Press, 1972), Vol. 7 p. 6.

[3] Entelechy is “the internal specifying principle that actively directs a nature to its specific good or end; hence, substantial form.” Bernard Wuellner, S.J., Dictionary of Scholastic Philosophy (Milwaukee: Bruce Publishing Co., 1956), p. 41.

[4]Frank J. Sheed, Theology and Sanity (Huntington: Our Sunday Visitor, 1978), pp. 23-25.

[5] It is interesting to note that Antonio Moreno, in his critique of Freud points out that his psychic dynamism lacks finality for only efficient forces are accepted by Freud. The dynamic theory of psychoanalysis, however, demands teleology…since it cannot be explained without finality. Antonio Moreno, Lecture: Criticism of Freud, Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology, 1987.

Orientation on the Goods of Marriage: FAITHFULNESS

Dr. Patrick J. DiVietri, Ph.D., MA, CPC, OCDS

“I promise to be true to you in sickness and in health, for richer or for poorer, in good times an bad . . .”

Fidelity is living out a life-long promise to God and to each other to give yourself only to your spouse.     The issue of trust it addresses, “If I give you myself, will you be faithful to your word?”          Attentiveness to the beloved is the primary activity of fidelity. This counteracts self-absorption by turn one towards the beloved and seek the good for them more than themselves.

Intrinsic within the good of fidelity is the unconditional statement, “no matter what you do I will be faithful.” When a bond is formed in marriage, infidelity does not break the bond. It is intrinsic in the vow that the intended fidelity is unconditional no matter what the person does. The witness of those who have been abandon and yet a life of fidelity is important to support and to point to for inspiration.

The fidelity is within the exclusivity of the marriage bond. It means one will not allow anyone else into the exclusive qualities aspects that are only granted to the rite of marriage. The actions of the spouse do not free one of the obligation of this vow. It must also be understood that this does not mean that there are not reasons for “separation while the bond endures.” Canons 1151-1155 address the circumstances under which a separation may be allowed or even required. However, once the reason for the separation is removed or remedied, “the innocent spouse can laudably readmit the others spouse to conjugal life.” Can. 1154


Couples should be asked:

  1. Do you know of a married couple who divorced because one of them was unfaithful? If so, what do you think of what took place?
  2. If you were ever tempted to give up on the marriage because your spouse was unfaithful, what would you do?
  3. The vow states that such things as infidelity will be forgiven. How difficult would that be to do? What would be the greatest difficulty? How could counseling with a priest or marriage counselor help?

Keys to Listening


Dr. Patrick J. DiVietri Ph.D. CPC, OCDS

Listening is a simple and natural skill that can be very easy for some people and at times very difficult for many people. The more carefully we listen the better our chance to understand. Distractions, bias, impatience and our own personal frailty may make it more difficult to listen well at times. A good disposition for listening contains at least some of the following qualities:


Nothing communicates love like ones full attention to another or the attentiveness, which notices a person’s needs and disposition.

Willingness to understand

Understanding is always preempted in time and importance by the willingness to understand. One may not understand but their will to listen helps them to be attentive and make efforts, which edify the speaker.


Open-mindedness is an important part of prudence and one must keep an open mind while listening even when disagreement is likely or already present. Without it the listener tends to close out the speaker and understanding becomes very difficult.


One must control one’s own mind while listening in order to stay with the person’s reasoning. This means keeping emotions in check as well as not thinking about a response while waiting for a breath in order to interject. When we think about our response we tend to stop listening to the speaker. We think we understand because the words are familiar but the meaning may be different for the speaker than for ourselves.


It is difficult at times for someone to find the words to express themselves. They may also be saying something that annoys us and patience helps us to listen.


We must watch the face and body of a person while they are speaking. Much can be expressed physically that does not show in the words alone. It is not only what is said but also how it is said. Emotions may play a part and we have to consider the feelings that might be involved.

Orientation on the Goods of Marriage: Permanence

  Patrick J. DiVietri. Ph.D., CPC, OCDS

“Will you love and honor each other as man and wife for the rest of your lives?”  “I will love and honor you all the days of my life.”

No matter what you do, I will remain married to you till death. I promise always to forgive you.  There is a radical difference between couples who contemplate divorce and those who do not see it as an option.  Those dedicated to preserve the marriage will recover far quicker then those whose purpose is weakened by indecisiveness of possible escape hatches. The mistaken notion that many suffer from is that “God wants me to be happy and therefore I will leave this painful situation to find happiness somewhere else.”  My professional counsel to those who say this is, “God wants you to be happy in this life and the next.  However, the suffering of this life may be part of the happiness in the next life.  We also know that suffering is a part of deepening the capacity for happiness even in this life.”  In light of Faith we may also say that “you may not be happy with this spouse but you will not find happiness with another spouse.”  The only avenue for that happiness is through the vocation to the spouse to whom you have been bound.        It is important to explain to couples the situations where pain might be intolerable and a separation may be required because of grave circumstances.   The two situations that best fit this description are:

  1. Physical abuse of spouse or children that is ongoing and not being remedied
  2. Flaunted infidelity such that the children are aware of it and will be given the message that such behavior is acceptable if separation did not take place.  The separation is for the sake of reconciliation.

Cultural Influences against permanence

There is a need to discuss the problem of the Catholic approach to divorce.  I.e. We don’t get divorces per se so when there is a crisis in the marriage we say, “There wasn’t any marriage in the first place.”  One immediately assumes that there wasn’t a valid marriage in order to justified the civil divorce.

These days, we hate the idea of pain and suffering. We don’t see it as redemptive. We don’t see any value in it. But people who know what love is understand suffering. People who love know that suffering has value. When you love someone, there isn’t anything you wouldn’t endure for that person, including the cross. In the end we know that love conquers all things, because love conquered all things when Christ conquered death on the cross.

One must also address the issue of parental divorce and the effect upon the engaged couple.  One must ascertain the circumstances of the divorce and how the engaged person/couple views the divorce.  They need to consider how they intellectually view permanence and what their experience and emotional development might be.  For example, a common dynamic is as follows:

  1. “I am against divorce.”
  2. “My parents divorced and I don’t want to do that.”
  3. “They divorced because they said it was too painful to be together any longer and that they were better off apart.”
  4. “I love both my parents and I accept their decision.  They really were hurting each other too much and it’s better.”

What’s the experiential message?  “Marriage is permanent but if the pain is too much, divorce is better.”  What will happen when things get really painful?

The individual has to confront this idea and think through how they will make their life different.

What would the couple do?

  1. Do you know of a married couple who gave up on their marriage because their jobs and personal interests pulled them apart?
  2. What would you be willing to do with your own spouse to make your marriage work?
  3. How could you safeguard the permanence of your marriage?

Orientation on the Goods of Marriage: Partnership

Patrick J. DiVietri Ph.D. CPC, OCDS


“The family is an intimate community of life and love, whose mission is to guard, reveal, and communicate love” (From Familiaris Consortio, #31).

“Have you come here freely . . .?”

At the time of matrimony between a man and a woman in the Catholic Church there is an opening interrogation prior to the proclamation of the vow itself.  It contains this question, “Have you come here freely to give yourselves to each other in marriage?”  This question is to clarify that there is no impediment or coercion to their entrance into forming the bond of marriage.  It is in that bond that a partnership for the whole of life takes place.  The vow will a partnership of goods that will permeate the marriage.

This partnership is revealed in how the couple carries out their life activities, decisions and responsibilities.  Any marital or family problem is a matter for the partnership.  Maintaining civility and mutual respect and cooperation is the critical practical dynamic.  When these are lost restoring them becomes the primary objective before anything else can be accomplished because they are pre-emptive to the expression of trust.  Partnership is practically expressed in paying bills, raising children, religious practice in and outside the home, family relations, decision making, handling all chores and family operations etc.

It is important for the couple to have some clear objective of what they will do if the partnership is threatened.  The disposition that is desired looks like, “I will do whatever it takes to preserve the partnership of this marriage.”  That attitude, in mutual cooperation and the grace of God will weather and overcome any obstacle when combined with perseverance.  It behooves the couples to ask the questions of themselves that will provide some focus on what they might do to preserve the marriage.

  1. Have you talked about decision making and sharing of a mutual life together?
  2. Have you ever talked about what you will do if you become unhappy in marriage?
  3. Would you be willing to seek counseling with a priest or a professional and do whatever is necessary to strengthen your partnership in the marriage?
  4. Do you know other couples who did or did not do this and how things worked out for them?

Four Phases of Listening Well


Dr. Patrick J. DiVietri Ph.D. CPC, OCDS

1)      Understand what the speaker is saying

This applies to the literal content and the personal intentions or meaning on the part of the speaker.  Listen intently to what is being said.  Taking notes will help capture the literal expressions and enable clarification of meaning.  One can then ask clarifying questions.

When as student takes notes in school they focus upon what is being said by the other person.  They are intent on understanding.  They are not concerned with giving the teacher/superior direction.  They are careful to be exact to grasp to meaning that is intended by the speaker.  They would ask questions to clarify their understanding.  They would reflect upon the implications of the information and how it relates to other things that they know.  They would study it later and draw conclusions. This is the exact same process for understanding someone who seeks counsel. 

2)      Clarify the speakers meaning

On page 157 we referred to an aspect contained in parliamentary debate, during the first cross-examination, at which time there are no rebuttal arguments presented.  Rather, one may only ask questions which help to clarify the affirmative speakers meaning.  There is often a confirmation question, which solidifies the understanding.  This is the essence of good listening skills and is at the heart of 95% of counseling interventions.  In a relationship this will greatly reduce anger because each person will feel that the other person is listening and understanding them even if they do not agree. 

The ability to express the speaker’s meaning in reasonable terms and manner fosters the feeling of being understood in the speaker.

3)      Ascertain desire of the speaker

The next critical point is to ascertain what the speaker wants before responding.  The first two phases are the most important and will have the greatest impact upon the speaker.  It will bring the majority of healing and consolation.  However, the most common practical problem lies in responses by the listener, which are inconsistent with the desires of the speaker.  People often understand what the other person is saying but fail to grasp why it is being said and what is wanted.  As a result the response causes problems and produces a sense of misunderstanding.  E.g. Husband, “I understand you.”  Wife, “If you understood what I was saying, you wouldn’t respond that way.”  There are many wonderful and loving responses that are frustrating because they are unnecessary.  Thus the point here is to ask the speaker to state what they want and why they are saying what they have said.  Until this is clear, it is usually unwise to offer a response.  

4)      Respond in conformity with the desire

Once it is understood, one may respond appropriately.  If it is not possible to respond as the speaker desires some discussion or explanation would follow.  A prudent step in this case would be to ask for some time to reflect on the matter.