The Seven Deadly Sins

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The Seven Deadly Sins - by BOSCH, Hieronymus - from Museo del Prado, Madrid . . . . . . The Seven Deadly Sins is a painted rectangle with a central image of the eye of God with Christ watching the world. The Seven Deadly Sins, depicted through scenes of worldly transgression, are arranged around the circular shape. The circular layout with God in the centre represents God's all seeing eye: No sin goes unnoticed. In the corners of the image appear the "Four Last Things" (the last four stages of life) mentioned in late medieval spiritual handbooks: Deathbed, Last Judgment, Heaven, and Hell, all of which are favorite themes of separate Bosch panels. In the centre, fanned out around the figure of Christ, appear seven scenes each illustrating one of the Seven Deadly Sins, bearing the appropriate inscription and composed with the painter's usual vivacity and sense of the fantastic. (1) Anger presents a scene of jealousy and conflict; (2) in Pride, a demon presents a woman with a mirror; (3) in Lust, two sets of lovers speak within the confines of an open tent, entertained by a buffoon, while on the ground outside lie various musical instruments, including a harp which will reappear in the 'Garden of Earthly Delights'; (4) Idleness is represented by a woman dressed up for church and trying to wake a man deep in slumber; (5) Gluttony shows a table spread with food and around it figures eating voraciously; (6) Avarice displays a judge allowing himself to be bribed; and (7) Envy depicts the Flemish proverb 'Two dogs with one bone seldom reach agreement'.

 

The Seven Deadly (Capital) Sins never occur as a formal list in the Bible: "Vices can be classified according to the Virtues they oppose, or also be linked to the Capital Sins which Christian experience has distinguished, following Saint John Cassian and Saint Gregory the Great. They are called "Capital" because they engender other Sins, other Vices. They are Pride, Avarice, Envy, Wrath, Lust, Gluttony, and Sloth or Acedia". (CCC-1866)

 

The Seven Deadly Sins

from the Catholic Encyclopedia

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Pride

Pride is the Excessive Love of one's own excellence, for which Satan was Damned. It is ordinarily accounted one of the Seven Vices (Capital Sins). rebel_angels3.jpg (14276 bytes) Saint Thomas, however, endorsing the appreciation of Saint Gregory, considers it the Queen of all Vices, and puts Vainglory in its place as one of the Deadly Sins. In giving it this pre-eminence he takes it in a most formal and complete signification. He understands it to be that frame of Mind in which a Man, through the Love of his own worth, aims to withdraw himself from Subjection to Almighty God, and sets at naught the Commands of Superiors.

It is a Species of Contempt of God and of those who bear His Commission. Regarded in this way, it is of course a Mortal Sin of a Most Heinous sort. Indeed Saint Thomas rates it in this sense as one of the Blackest of Sins. By it the Creature refuses to stay within his Essential Orbit; he turns his back upon God, not through Weakness or Ignorance, but solely because in his Self-Exaltation he is minded not to submit. His attitude has something Satanic in it, and is probably not-often verified in Human Beings.

A less Atrocious kind of Pride is that which Impels one to make much of oneself Unduly and without Sufficient Warrant, without however any disposition to cast off the Dominion of the Creator. This may happen, according to Saint Gregory, either:

littlegoldcross.gif (962 bytes) because a man regards himself as the source of such advantages as he may discern in himself,
littlegoldcross.gif (962 bytes) or because, whilst admitted that God has bestowed them, he reputes this to have been in response to his own Merits,
littlegoldcross.gif (962 bytes) or because he attributes to himself Gifts which he has not;
littlegoldcross.gif (962 bytes) or, finally, because even when these are real, he unreasonably looks to be put-ahead of others.

Supposing the conviction indicated in the First Two Instances to be seriously entertained, the Sin would be a Grievous One and would have the added Guilt of Heresy. Ordinarily, however, this Erroneous Persuasion does not exist; it is the Demeanor that is Reprehensible. The Last Two cases, generally speaking, are not held to constitute Grave Offences. This is not true, however, whenever a Man's Arrogance is the occasion of Great Harm to another, as, for instance, his undertaking the Duties of a Physician without the Requisite Knowledge. The same Judgment is to be Rendered when Pride has given rise to such Temper of Soul that in the pursuit of its Object, one is ready of anything, even Mortal Sin.

Vainglory, Ambition, and Presumption are commonly enumerated as the Offspring Vices of Pride, because they are well-adapted to serve its Inordinate Aims. Of themselves, they are Venial Sins unless some Extraneous Consideration puts them in the ranks of Grievous Transgressions. It should be noted that Presumption does not here stand for the Sin against Hope. It means the Desire to Essay what exceeds one's Capacity.

 

Avarice

Avarice (from Latin avarus, "greedy"; "to crave") is the Inordinate Love for Riches. Its special Malice, broadly speaking, lies in that it makes the getting and keeping of money, possessions, and the like, a Purpose in-itself to live for. It does not see that these things are valuable only as Instruments for the conduct of a Rational and Harmonious life, due regard being paid of course to the special Social Condition in which one is placed. It is called a Capital Vice because it has as its Object that for the gaining or holding of which, many other Sins are Committed. It is more to be Dreaded, in that it often Cloaks itself as a Virtue, or Insinuates itself under the Pretext of making a Decent Provision for the future. In so far as Avarice is an Incentive to Injustice in acquiring and retaining of wealth, it is frequently a Grievous Sin. In itself, however, and in so far as it implies simply an excessive desire of, or pleasure in, riches, it is commonly not a Mortal Sin.

 

Envy/Jealousy

Jealousy is here taken to be Synonymous with Envy. It is defined to be a Sorrow which one entertains at another's well-being, because of a view that one's own excellence is in consequence lessened. Its distinctive Malice comes from the opposition it implies to the Supreme Virtue of Charity. The Law of Love constrains us to 'Rejoice', rather than to be Distressed at the Good Fortune of our Neighbor. Besides, such an Attitude is a Direct Contradiction of the Spirit of Solidarity which ought to characterize the Human Race and, especially, the Members of the Christian Community. The Envious Man Tortures himself without cause, Morbidly holding as he does, the Success of another to Constitute an Evil for himself. The Sin, in so far as it defies the Great Precept of Charity, is in general Grievous, although on account of the Trifling Matter involved, as well as because of the Lack of Deliberation, it is often reputed to be Venial. Jealousy is most Evil when one repines at another's Spiritual Good. It is then said to be a Sin against the Holy Ghost. It is likewise called a Capital Sin because of the other Vices it begets. Among its Progeny Saint Thomas (II-II:36) Enumerates Hatred, Detraction, Rejoicing over the Misfortunes of one's Fellow, and Whispering. Regret at another's success is not always Jealousy. The Motive has to be Scrutinized. If, for instance, I feel Sorrow at the news of another's Promotion or Rise to Wealth, either because I know that he does not deserve his Accession of Good Fortune, or because I have founded Reason to Fear he will use it to Injure me or others, my attitude, provided that there is no excess in my Sentiment, is entirely Rational. Then, too, it may happen that I do not, properly speaking, Begrudge my Neighbor his Happier Condition, but simply am Grieved that I have not imitated him. Thus if the subject-matter be praiseworthy, I shall be not Jealous but rather Laudably Emulous.

 

Anger/Wrath

The Desire of Vengeance. Its Ethical Rating depends upon the Quality of the Vengeance and the Quantity of the Passion. 7deadly.gif (73246 bytes) When these are in-conformity-with the Prescriptions of Balanced Reason, Anger is not a Sin. It is rather a Praiseworthy Thing and Justifiable with a Proper Zeal. It becomes Sinful when it is sought to wreak Vengeance upon one who has not Deserved it, or to a greater-extent than it has been Deserved, or in Conflict-with the Dispositions of Law, or from an Improper Motive. The Sin is then in a general sense Mortal as being opposed to Justice and Charity. It may, however, be Venial because the Punishment aimed at is but a Trifling one or because of Lack of Full Deliberation. Likewise, Anger is Sinful when there is an Undue Vehemence in the Passion itself, whether inwardly or outwardly. Ordinarily it is then accounted a Venial Sin unless the excess be so great as to go counter seriously to the Love of God or of one's Neighbor.

 

Lust

The Inordinate Craving for, or Indulgence of, the Carnal Pleasure which is experienced in the Human Organs of Generation.

The Wrongfulness of Lust is reducible to this: that Venereal Satisfaction is sought for either outside Wedlock or, at any rate, in a manner which is contrary to the Laws that govern Marital Intercourse. Every such Criminal Indulgence is a Mortal Sin, provided of course, it be Voluntary in itself and Fully Deliberate. This is the Testimony of Saint Paul in the Epistle to the Galations 5:19:

"Now the Works of the Flesh are manifest, which are Fornication, Uncleanness, Immodesty, Luxury, . . . Of the which I foretell you, as I have foretold to you, that they who do such things shall not obtain the Kingdom of God".

Moreover, if it be true the Gravity of the Offences may be measured by the Harm they work to the Individual or the Community, there can be no doubt that Lust has in this respect a Gravity all its own. Transgressions against the Virtues other than Purity frequently admit of a Minor Degree of Malice, and are accounted Venial. Impurity has the Evil Distinction that, whenever there is a direct Conscious Surrender to any of its Phases the Guilt incurred is always Grievous. This Judgment, however, needs modifying when there is question of some Impure Gratification for which a Person is responsible, not immediately, but because he had Posited its Cause, and to which he has not Deliberately Consented. The Act may then be only Venially Sinful. For the Determination of the amount of its Wickedness much will depend upon the Apprehended Proximate Danger of giving way on the part of the Agent, as well as upon the known Capacity of the thing done to bring about Venereal Pleasure. This Teaching applies to External and Internal Sins alike: "Whosoever shall look on a woman to lust after her, hath already committed Adultery with her in his Heart" (Matthew 5:28). However the case may stand as to the Extent of the Obligation under which one lies to refrain in certain circumstances from Actions whose net result is to excite the Passions, Moralists are at One as to the Counsel they give. They all emphasize the Perils of the situation, and point out the practical Dangers of a Failure to Refrain. It matters not that there is not, as we suppose, an initial Sinful Intent. The sheerest Prudence and most rudimentary Self-Knowledge alike demand Abstinence, where possible, from things which, though not Grievously Bad in themselves, yet easily fan-into-flame the Unholy Fire which may be smoldering, but it is not extinct.

Lust is said to be a Capital Sin. The reason is obvious. The Pleasure which this Vice has as its Object is at once so Attractive and Connatural to Human Nature as to whet-keenly a Man's Desire, and so lead him into the Commission of many other Disorders in the pursuit of it. Theologians ordinarily distinguish various forms of Lust in so far as it is a Consummated External Sin, e.g., Fornication, Adultery, Incest, Criminal Assault, Abduction, and Sodomy. Each of these has its own specific Malice -- a fact to borne in mind for purposes of Safeguarding the Integrity of Sacramental Confession.

 

Gluttony

(From Latin Gluttire, to swallow, to gulp-down), the Excessive Indulgence in Food and Drink. The Moral Deformity discernible in this Vice lies in its Defiance of the Order Postulated by Reason, which prescribes 'Necessity' as the Measure of Indulgence in Eating and Drinking. This De-ordination, according to the teaching of the Angelic Doctor, may happen in Five (5) Ways which are set forth in the Scholastic Verse: "Prae-propere, laute, nimis, ardenter, studiose" or, according to the Apt Rendering of Father Joseph Rickaby: Too soon, Too expensively, Too much, Too eagerly, Too daintily. Clearly one who uses Food or Drink in such a way as to Injure his Health or Impair the Mental Equipment needed for the Discharge of his Duties, is Guilty of the Sin of Gluttony. It is Incontrovertible that to Eat or Drink for the mere Pleasure of the Experience, and for that exclusively, is likewise to Commit the Sin of Gluttony. Such a Temper of Soul is equivalently the Direct and Positive Shutting Out of that Reference to our Last End which must be found, at least Implicitly, in all our Actions. At the same time it must be noted that there is no obligation to Formerly and Explicitly have before one's Mind a Motive which will immediately relate our Actions to God. It is enough that such an Intention should be Implied in the apprehension of the thing as Lawful with a consequent Virtual Submission to Almighty God. Gluttony is in general a Venial Sin in so far forth as it is an Undue Indulgence in a Thing which is in itself neither Good nor Bad. Of course it is obvious that a different estimate would have to be given of one so wedded to the Pleasures of the Table as to Absolutely and Without Qualification live merely to eat and drink, so minded as to be of the number of those, described by the Apostle Saint Paul, "whose god is their belly" (Philippians 3:19). Such a one would be Guilty of Mortal Sin. Likewise a person who, by Excesses in Eating and Drinking, would have greatly impaired his health, or unfitted himself for duties for the performance of which he has a Grave Obligation, would be justly chargeable with Mortal Sin. Saint John of the Cross, in his work "The Dark Night of the Soul" (I, vi), dissects what he calls Spiritual Gluttony. He explains that it is the Disposition of those who, in Prayer and other Acts of Religion, are always in-search-of Sensible Sweetness; they are those who "will feel and taste God, as if He were palpable and accessible to them not only in Communition, but in all their other Acts of Devotion". This he declares is a Very Great Imperfection and Productive of Great Evils.

 

Sloth/Idleness

In general it means Disinclination to Labor or Exertion. As a Capital or Deadly Vice Saint Thomas (II-II:35) calls it Sadness in the face of some Spiritual Good which one has to achieve (Tristitia de bono spirituali). Father Rickaby aptly translates its Latin Equivalent Acedia (Greek Akedia) by saying that it means the Don't-Care Feeling. A Man apprehends the Practice of Virtue to be beset with Difficulties and Chafes under the Restraints imposed by the Service of God. The Narrow Way stretches Wearily before him and his Soul grows Sluggish and Torpid at the thought of the Painful Life Journey. The idea of Right Living inspires not Joy but Disgust, because of its Laboriousness. This is the notion commonly obtaining, and in this sense Sloth is not a specific Vice according to the Teaching of Saint Thomas, but rather a Circumstance of all Vices. Ordinarily it will not have the Malice of Mortal Sin unless, of course, we conceive it to be so utter that because of it one is willing to bid Defiance to some Serious Obligation. Saint Thomas completes his definition of Sloth by saying that it is Torpor in the presence of Spiritual Good which is Divine Good. In other words, a Man is then formally Distressed at the prospect of what he must do for God to Bring-About or Keep-Intact his Friendship with God. In this sense Sloth is directly opposed to Charity. It is then a Mortal Sin unless the Act be lacking in Entire Advertence or Full Consent of the Will. The Trouble attached to maintenance of the inhabiting of God by Charity arouses Tedium in such a Person. He Violates, therefore, expressly the First and the Greatest of the Commandments: "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart, and with thy whole soul, and with thy whole mind, and with thy whole strength" (Mark 12:30).

 

Links to other Pages on Virtues and Vices

Three (3) Theological Virtues

Four (4) Main Moral Virtues

Faith

Hope

Charity

Prudence

Justice

Temperance

Fortitude

Species of
Faith

Species of
Hope

Species of
Charity

Species of
Prudence

Species of
Justice

Species of
Temperance

Species of
Fortitude

No Species exist for the
Three (3) Theological Virtues

Wisdom Religion
Piety
Gratitude
Liberality
Affability
Abstinence
Sobriety
Chastity
Continence
Humility
Meekness
Modesty

Patience
Munificence
Magnanimity
Perseverance

Vices

Pride Avarice Envy Wrath Lust Gluttony Sloth Inordinate
Self-Love