The Seven Deadly Sins
from the Catholic Encyclopedia
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).
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:
because a man regards himself as the source of such advantages as he may discern in himself,
or because, whilst admitted that God has bestowed them, he reputes this to have been in
response to his own Merits,
or because he attributes to himself Gifts which he has not;
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
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 (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.
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.
The Desire of Vengeance. Its Ethical Rating depends upon the Quality of the
Vengeance and the Quantity of the Passion.
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.
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.
(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.
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
Three (3) Theological Virtues
Four (4) Main Moral Virtues
No Species exist for the
Three (3) Theological Virtues