According to Rev. S. D. F. Salmond's English translation, John of Damascus wrote,(1)

For since man’s nature is twofold, consisting of soul and body, He bestowed on us a twofold purification, of water and of the Spirit: the Spirit renewing that part in us which is after His image and likeness, and the water by the grace of the Spirit cleansing the body from sin and delivering it from corruption, the water indeed expressing the image of death, but the Spirit affording the earnest of life.

Does Roman Catholicism teach that a human consists of body and soul, or body, soul, and spirit?


(1) Exact Exposition of the Orthodox Faith, Book IV, Chapter IX.


3 Answers 3


Under II. "BODY AND SOUL BUT TRULY ONE", from the Catechism of the Catholic Church, 365, the Church teaches that:

365 The unity of soul and body is so profound that one has to consider the soul to be the "form" of the body:1 i.e., it is because of its spiritual soul that the body made of matter becomes a living, human body; spirit and matter, in man, are not two natures united, but rather their union forms a single nature.

Therefore according to Catholic teaching, man's one nature is the union of spirit and matter, soul and body.

The section mentioned above continues

367 Sometimes the soul is distinguished from the spirit: St. Paul for instance prays that God may sanctify his people "wholly", with "spirit and soul and body" kept sound and blameless at the Lord's coming.2 The Church teaches that this distinction does not introduce a duality into the soul.3 "Spirit" signifies that from creation man is ordered to a supernatural end and that his soul can gratuitously be raised beyond all it deserves to communion with God.4

Therefore the Church teaches that while the soul is sometimes distinguished from the spirit, the distinction does not introduce a duality into the soul.

1. Cf. Council of Vienne (1312): DS 902.
2. 1 Thess 5:23.
3. Cf. Council of Constantinople IV (870): DS 657.
4. Cf. Vatican Council I, Dei Filius: DS 3005; GS 22 § 5; Humani Generis: DS 3891.

Further reading:

The section The soul in Christian thought in the article Soul | New advent.

Addendum after reading @PeterTurner's answer.

In the New Testament the word spirit and, perhaps, even the expression spirit of God signify at times the soul or man himself, inasmuch as he is under the influence of God and aspires to things above; more frequently, especially in St. Paul, they signify God acting in man[.] - Holy Ghost | New Advent.


One addendum to the highly referenced answer from FMS I'd like to make is that at Mass in the several times in which we say "and with your spirit" we are talking about the spirit in which the priest was ordained.

Therefore sometimes when we talk about a person's spirit what we're really talking about is the in-dwelling of the Holy Spirit.

I think you might also refer to it as The Kingdom of God within you.

  • Considering that "and with your spirit" is the response to "the Lord be with you," it would seem that your answer implies that we're asking the Lord to be with the Holy Spirit. Of course, the Lord is with the Holy Spirit, since they are two Persons of the Holy Trinity, but are we really expressing a wish for this togetherness between those two Persons? Dec 5, 2014 at 3:19

If the "or" in the question is exclusive, it is a loaded question, as spirit "spirit" (spiritus) and "soul" (anima) are really two aspects of a human soul, which is one and undivided:

  1. soul (anima): giving life to the body
  2. spirit (spiritus): the intellectual aspect

As St. Thomas Aquinas writes in Summa Theologica I q. 97 a. 3 c.:

…rational soul is both soul and spirit. It is called a soul by reason of what it possesses in common with other souls—that is, as giving life to the body…But the soul is called a spirit according to what properly belongs to itself, and not to other souls, as possessing an intellectual immaterial power.

Also, man is made in the image of God because of his intellectual soul. St. Augustine says in Gen. ad lit. vi, 12 (cf. Summa Theologica I q. 93 a. 2 sed contra):

Man's excellence consists in the fact that God made him to His own image by giving him an intellectual soul, which raises him above the beasts of the field.

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