Does Catholicism consider spiritual pleasures greater than carnal/sexual/bodily pleasures?

1 Answer 1


Spiritual pleasures ⋙ carnal pleasures.

Yes, intellectual and especially spiritual pleasures are greater than carnal/sexual/bodily/sense pleasures, St. Thomas shows in Ia IIae, q.31, a.5. This explains what attracts the religious to leave the world by taking vows of poverty and chastity/celibacy.

Spiritual pleasures more enduring

Fr. Garrigou-Lagrange, O.P.'s Life Everlasting (pt. 1, §3 "Soul Immensity and Beatific Vision"):

Following St. Gregory the Great, St. Thomas writes: Temporal goods appear desirable when we do not have them; but when we do have them, we see their poverty, which cannot meet our desire and which therefore produces disillusion, lassitude, and often repugnance. In spiritual goods the inverse is true. They do not seem desirable to those who do not have them and who desire especially sensible good. But the more we possess them the more we know their value and the more we love them.⁴ For the same reason, material goods, the same house, the same field, cannot belong simultaneously and integrally to many persons. Spiritual goods, on the contrary, one and the same truth, one and the same virtue, can belong simultaneously and completely to all. And the more perfectly we possess these goods, the better we can communicate them to others.⁵ This is especially true of the sovereign good.

  1. Ia IIae, q.31, a.5; q.32, a.2; q.33, a.2.
  2. Ia IIae, q. 28, a.4 ad 2; IIIa, q. 23, a. 1 ad 3.

Only God can make us truly happy.

See also SCG III qq. 26-44, where he addresses questions like "That human felicity does not consist in pleasures of the flesh," "That ultimate felicity does not lie in the act of prudence," "That felicity does not consist in the operation of art," ending with (q. 37) "That the ultimate felicity of man consists in the contemplation of God." But he goes further, arguing "That human felicity does not consist in the knowledge of God gained through demonstration" and even that "Human felicity does not consist in the knowledge of God which is through faith"!

  • Very good. It is worthwhile to note that the soul's good is as proportionally better than the good of the body as the soul is better than the body. And we all acknowledge the soul to be way better than the body, the body is merely temporal, the soul is eternal. Therefore, the good of the soul is very much above the good of the body.
    – user96931
    Commented May 16, 2019 at 16:01
  • 2
    @user96931 "the body is merely temporal, the soul is eternal" Both are created at conception, and the soul and body will be reunited in the resurrection of the body. (Humans are body+soul composites.) The human intellectual soul > body because it is how we are created in God's image and most like God.
    – Geremia
    Commented May 16, 2019 at 17:31

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