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In the Old Testament sin is set forth as an act of disobedience (Genesis 2:16-17; 3:11; Isaiah 1:2-4; Jeremiah 2:32); as an insult to God (Numbers 27:14); as something detested and punished by God (Genesis 3:14-19; Genesis 4:9-16); as injurious to the sinner (Tobit 12:10); to be expiated by penance (Psalm 1:19). In the New Testament it is clearly taught in St. Paul that sin is a transgression of the law (Romans 2:23; 5:12-20); a servitude from which we are liberated by grace (Romans 6:16-18); a disobedience (Hebrews 2:2) punished by God (Hebrews 10:26-31). St. John describes sin as an offence to God, a disorder of the will (John 12:43), an iniquity (1 John 3:4-10). Christ in many of His utterances teaches the nature and extent of sin. He came to promulgate a new law more perfect than the old, which would extend to the ordering not only of external but also of internal acts to a degree unknown before, and, in His Sermon on the Mount, He condemns as sinful many acts which were judged honest and righteous by the doctors and teachers of the Old Law. He denounces in a special manner hypocrisy and scandal, infidelity and the sin against the Holy Ghost. In particular He teaches that sins come from the heart (Matthew 15:19-20).
While no list of the seven deadly sins appears as such in the Bible itself, each of the sins is condemned at various points in the text. A list of seven sins that God hates is found in Proverbs 6:16-19:
There are six things the LORD hates,
seven that are detestable to him:
a lying tongue,
hands that shed innocent blood,
a heart that devises wicked schemes,
feet that are quick to rush into evil,
a false witness who pours out lies
and a person who stirs up conflict in the community.
In the 4th-century, further elucidation of the sins was provided by the poet Prudentius (ca. 348-ca. 405 A.D.) in his descriptions of battles between the Virtues and Vices in the Psychomachia ("The Contest of the Soul"). Additionally, Evagrius of Pontus (349-399 A.D.), a Greek theologian, introduced the concept of eight offenses and passions that a human could fall victim to while on earth. They were the result of an abnormal obsession with self. The cure for each of these was an adoption of selfless attitudes towards the world.
It has also been suggested that the original classification may have been monastic in origin (cf. Cassian, Collationes Patrum, vs. 10).
In the later part of the 6th-century A.D., St. Gregory the Great (d. 604) in his work Moralia on Job (esp. XXXI.45), introduced the seven deadly sins and has given us the classical exposition on the subject. The goal of the seven deadly sins was to illustrate for laypersons of the church the need to be mindful of capital sin, or sin which requires punishment in Hell. Capital sin is graver than venial sin, which can be forgiven through confession.
Pope Gregory's list of Seven Deadly Sins was different from the one found today, and his ranking of the Sins' seriousness was based on the degree that they offended against love. From least serious to most, were: lust, gluttony, sadness, avarice, anger, envy, and pride. Sadness would later be replaced by acedia (sloth), putting off or failing to do what God asks of you.
Church members around 1000 A.D. began to view the capital sins as not seven equal sins, but rather each sin having its own weight based on its grievousness. This began with an interpretation of 1 John 5:16-17, which states, "If you see any brother or sister commit a sin that does not lead to death, you should pray and God will give them life. I refer to those whose sin does not lead to death. There is a sin that leads to death. I am not saying that you should pray about that. All wrongdoing is sin, and there is sin that does not lead to death."
Their interpretation of this chapter leads to the notion that some sins (those resulting in death or harm to others) are more grievous than others.
Several of these sins interlink and various attempts at causal hierarchy have been made. For example, pride (love of self out of proportion) is implied in gluttony (the over-consumption or waste of food), as well as sloth, envy and most of the others. Each sin is a particular way of failing to love God with all one's resources and to love fellows as much as self. The Scholastic theologians developed schema of attributes and substance of will to explain these sins.
However, the highly influential theologian and philosopher Thomas Aquinas (1225-1273) contradicted the notion that the seriousness of the capital sins should be ranked. In medieval scholasticism the Seven Deadly Sins were the focus of considerable attention.
Beginning in the early 14th-century, the popularity of depicting the Seven Deadly Sins by artists of the time ingrained them in western popular consciousness. The Italian poet Dante Alighieri (1265-1321 A.D.), wrote three epic poems (known collectively as the Divine Comedy) titled Inferno, Purgatorio, and Paradiso. In his book Inferno, Dante recounts the visions he has in a dream in which he enters and descends into Hell. According to Dante, he is told by his guide that a soul's location in Hell is based upon the sins that they commit when they are alive. In each 'ring' of hell, a specific punishment is doled out. As they descend lower and lower, the punishments (and consequently sins) become worse and worse until he reaches the bottom and discovers Satan. In Inferno, Dante encounters these sins in the following order (canto number): Lust (5), Gluttony (6), Avarice (7), Wrath (7-8), Heresy (10), Violence (12-17), Blasphemy (14), Fraud (18-30), and Treachery (32-34).
The table below lists The Seven Deadly Sins (vices) in the traditional order with the virtues against which they are sins. The history of this list goes back at least to Pope St. Gregory the Great and St. John Cassian.
Pride is excessive belief in one's own abilities, that interferes with the individual's recognition of the grace of God. It has been called the sin from which all others arise. Pride is also known as Vanity. Envy is the desire for others' traits, status, abilities, or situation.
Greed is the desire for material wealth or gain, ignoring the realm of the spiritual. It is also called Avarice or Covetousness.
Envy is the desire for others' traits, status, abilities, or situation.
Anger is manifested in the individual who spurns love and opts instead for fury. It is also known as Wrath.
Lust is an inordinate craving for the pleasures of the body.
Faith and Temperance
Gluttony is an inordinate desire to consume more than that which one requires.
Sloth is the avoidance of physical or spiritual work.
Since the 6th century St. Benedict’s monasteries established Catholic culture on the ruins of the crumbling empires of paganism. St. Benedict gave his monks detailed instructions to lead a life that is centered around the celebrations of the sacred liturgy and based on the precepts of charity: his rule allows a life in the harmony of nature and grace. St. Benedict’s rule includes all aspects of the life as a monk, even instructions of what to eat, how much to eat, how often to eat and how to eat with guests – who had to be received as Christ Himself.
“… We believe that for the daily meal, both at the sixth and the ninth hour, two kinds of cooked food are sufficient at all meals … And if there be fruit or fresh vegetables, a third may be added. Let a pound of bread be sufficient for the day … If, however, the work hath been especially hard, it is left to the discretion and power of the Abbot to add something, if he think fit, barring above all things every excess … For nothing is so contrary to Christians as excess …”
“The capital sin of gluttony is an inordinate love of the pleasures attached to the eating of food.”
St. Thomas explains that in matters of eating food, “the appetite is twofold. There is the natural appetite, which belongs to the powers of the vegetal soul. On these powers virtue and vice are impossible, since they cannot be subject to reason … Besides this there is another, the sensitive appetite, and it is in the concupiscence of this appetite that the vice of gluttony consists.”
There Are Two Elements To Eating
Eating as a natural desire has two elements, St. Thomas calls them appetites: The desire to eat at all and the desire of the pleasures attached to the eating of food. The first desire, the natural appetite, can not be controlled by us, since our body needs a certain amount of food to continue to live. The second desire, or sensitive appetite – St. Thomas calls it also here concupiscence – is what gives us pleasure in tasting food, what satisfies our palate and makes us like to eat. Both desires belong necessarily together, but only the second appetite can be and must be subject to our reason. It is in this part that we exercise virtue – by controlling the concupiscence of our senses by acts of moderation.
Protestant and Jansenist error teaches that the concupiscence which remains after baptism is a true and proper sin, which is simply not reckoned for punishment.
Catholic teaching guides us to understand that there is no sin in us after baptism, and what we know as man’s desires – often inordinate ones – which are called “concupiscence”, is left in us for our moral betterment and proving.
St. Benedict’s monks were given two choices each day, they were not forced against their will to eat – like animals are forced to eat by nature.
The Church teaches that there are different ways to commit the sin of gluttony:
Eating when there is no need, eating between meals and for no other reason than that of indulging food.
Seeking delicacies or “daintily prepared meats”.
Going beyond either appetite or need, with danger to health.
Eating with greed, after the manner of animals.
Gluttony is a capital sin because it generates, so to say, easily other sins, especially sins related to the body. He who eats too much, easily lets his guard down and falls into other weaknesses. If these weaknesses are grave sins, even gluttony can be a mortal sin.
“On the other hand, says St. Thomas, if the inordinate concupiscence in the vice of gluttony be found to affect only such things as are directed to the end, for instance when a man has too great a desire for the pleasures of the palate, yet would not for their sake do anything contrary to God’s law, it is a venial sin.”
Who teaches us how to eat?
As in all other aspects of our life our ability to master our desires and to protect them from being inordinate depends on the health of our soul. “Fasting is instituted by the Church in order to bridle concupiscence, yet so as to safeguard nature”, explains St. Thomas. To eat well our soul needs strength and health – fasting well helps us to eat well.
The Church teaches us everything, even how to eat:
St. Alphonsus Liguori wrote the following when explaining gluttony:
"Pope Innocent XI Odescalchi has condemned the proposition which asserts that it is not a sin to eat or to drink from the sole motive of satisfying the palate. However, it is not a fault to feel pleasure in eating: for it is, generally speaking, impossible to eat without experiencing the delight which food naturally produces. But it is a defect to eat, like beasts, through the sole motive of sensual gratification, and without any reasonable object. Hence, the most delicious meats may be eaten without sin, if the motive be good and worthy of a rational creature; and, in taking the coarsest food through attachment to pleasure, there may be a fault."
Wouldn’t it help all of us to avoid the sin of gluttony better if we eat carefully, well prepared food, food that is healthy, food that is able to sustain us well without making us eating more and more of it? And to keep the meal-time, to fast rather than to eat before the meal-time? “Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatsoever else you do, do all to the glory of God.” God’s grace allows us to return to virtue and strength which alone allows us to eat as Christians – and that is as truly human beings in all moderation.
St. 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 Communion but in all their other acts of devotion." This he declares is a very great imperfection and productive of great evils.
Not in bread alone doth man live, but in every word that proceedeth from the mouth of God.
Proverbs 23:20-21 warns us, “Do not join those who drink too much wine or gorge themselves on meat, for drunkards and gluttons become poor, and drowsiness clothes them in rags.” Proverbs 28:7 declares, “discerning son heeds instruction, but a companion of gluttons disgraces his father.” Proverbs 23:2 proclaims, “and put a knife to your throat if you are given to gluttony.”
Physical appetites are an analogy of our ability to control ourselves. If we are unable to control our eating habits, we are probably also unable to control other habits, such as those of the mind (lust, covetousness, anger) and unable to keep our mouths from gossip or strife. We are not to let our appetites control us, but we are to have control over our appetites. (See Deuteronomy 21:20, Proverbs 23:2, 2 Peter 1:5-7, 2 Timothy 3:1-9, and 2 Corinthians 10:5.) The ability to say “no” to anything in excess—self-control—is one of the fruits of the Spirit common to all believers (Galatians 5:22).
God has blessed us by filling the earth with foods that are delicious, nutritious, and pleasurable. We should honor God's creation by enjoying these foods and by eating them in appropriate quantities. God calls us to control our appetites, rather than allowing them to control us.
Avarice (from Latin avarus, "greedy"; "to crave") is the inordinate love for riches. And it’s important to know that it is defined by an inordinate desire not by an ordinate possession. For the poor, when desiring something inordinately, are avaricious. In order to understand avarice, we need to understand that all made things are made to serve God. When they do not serve God they become disordered. And so it’s necessary for us to use certain things in order to keep our lives going. It’s necessary for us to buy food and use transportation, and to have housing and clothing and so forth. These things are necessary and we have a legitimate right in acquiring these things. Although Our Lord lived in a state of perfect poverty in which He owned virtually nothing, not even a home or a bed, He does not require His followers to follow in that same state of perfect poverty. However, He does require us to have a spirit of moderation regarding the use of the things of this world. We call this the spirit of poverty. Now, the spirit of poverty requires us to desire only those goods of this world which pertain to necessity, or to convenience according to our state in life. It also requires us to be unattached even to those things. To be ready at a moments notice, to give up not only the more expensive things of this life, but even the necessities of this life if the Law of God should demand it.
Now, the following question is the one that most people want to know about when it comes to avarice is: what conveniences, or what extras may I legitimately desire and obtain without crossing the line into excess? Beside the food, transportation, housing, clothing, we want to know what extra things can I have? What comfortable things can I use? What luxuries are legitimate for me to use? The answer is simple in principle but difficult in application. The principle is this: one may desire and possess the conveniences of this world, which are in accordance with one’s state in life. I’ll give you an example that helps us understand this: Let us take the President of the United States (whoever it may be at any time). Is the President avaricious because he lives in the White House with all its splendor and preface? He could easily be protected from the elements, some might say, just as efficiently in a log cabin. Yet the rich and lush appointment of his house are necessities of his state in life, since the dignity of his office requires these things. So, he legitimately can acquire and possess them. Yet, if a maid who works in the White House desired these things and then envied for such things, then she would sin because such things are beyond her state in life – beyond both the requirements of her necessities and her legitimate conveniences. This is the difficult part: the application. We know that we can have depending on our state in life, so that means that we have to look at our lives and look at who we are, what we possess, what kind of money we make, and depending upon that we know whether or not we are being avaricious because (like I said at the beginning) a poor person can be very avaricious because they desire things that are not appropriate for their state in life. They desire things that they cannot have. And so this is perhaps the easiest way to understand: that the poor can be avaricious, they can suffer from this sin precisely because they want those things which are outside the realm of their state in life. We need to recognize that principle.
Now, avarice makes us cold-hearted and makes us mean-spirited and worldly and unspiritual, envious and dishonest, because avarice is based on lack of confidence in the providence that God has for us. So how can we root out avarice from our life? There are two ways, or the remedy is two-fold: the first thing is for us to meditate on our death. The second way is alms-giving. If we meditate on our death, recognizing that we are but administrators, who must one day render an account to the Sovereign Judge, then we will remember that we cannot take along the goods we have with us into the next world (because we are not made for this world — we are made for the next world). And so thinking about our death helps us to fight the desire of having things that are beyond our state of life. The most effective way of detaching ourselves from riches is to invest in heavenly treasures and we do this by giving generously to the Church, to the poor, to those most in need and when we give alms, when we share that which we possess we are making sure that avarice doesn’t take root in our heart. So we have those things: to meditate on our death frequently, and alms-giving — to give to the Church, to the poor, to those most in need. These gifts yield a hundred fold in this world and the next.
Like all sin, Sloth is an excess of something good. That something good is leisure and recreation…rest, time off. St. Thomas Aquinas tells us that we take time off in order to be able to work better and we understand from that principle that the purpose of leisure is to enhance our ability to work. And if we ever take too much leisure, to the extent that it impairs our ability to work or the quantity of time we give to work, it becomes sinful…and that is sloth. Like all the capital sins, it is in all of us to a certain extent — that willingness to take too much free time. If we let it go, it can have devastating effects. The most important effect of sloth is in our spiritual lives. Sloth in the spiritual life leads to lukewarmness -- leads to giving God the absolute minimum in order to stay out of mortal sin. And this of course is a sin itself. So how serious is sloth as a sin?
It can be very serious: first it makes one neglect the principle purpose of life which is salvation; and a sin against charity towards himself. The slothful trades his spiritual duties for cheap and passing pass times of this life. It is directly opposed to God’s commandment that we love him with our whole heart, whole mind, whole strength and our whole soul — the slothful give God only half heartedly all these things. Unlike pride, envy and anger, sloth is easy to detect. The other three can be hidden in many other actions, under many other vices: pride in particular. Sloth, however, is easy to detect. First: you’re slothful if you avoid as much as possible all manual labor or physical effort; if you have an abhorrence of physical exertion you have a problem with sloth. For example: not making your bed in the morning, letting the dishes stack up in the sink, letting your yard turn in to a pasture. The second way is the excessive seeking of bodily ease and comfort: am I comfortable or if you are totally horrified at being uncomfortable — that is sloth. Thirdly, if you put off things that must be done: procrastination. The slothful man says: why do today what you can put off until tomorrow. His life becomes depressing because he goes to bed every night with that horrid feeling that his work is not done. He’s not happy with himself — he knows he’s neglectful. A fourth way is to give up a task before it is completed. If you have the habit of starting things and not finishing them you are a slothful person. Picking up a book, reading 20 pages and putting it down, never again to look at it. Projects begun all around the house, things half done — this is a sign of sloth. The worst form of this is quitters in regards in the spiritual life. For example: resolving to say the rosary everyday and then quitting after a few days, or resolving to do a special Lenten fast and then quitting….that is a sign of sloth. Another way is habitual tardiness. If you are late for everything: late for work, appointments, meals, assignments, if you’re late for Mass constantly — it is a sign of sloth. Another sign is wasting time on useless activities. The lazy person does not want to face the burden of work and looks for distraction. Now notice, the lazy person is not necessarily sleeping or lying on a couch, he might be involved in some feverish activity but it is not the activity that he should be doing. That’s the key to laziness: when you are doing something that you should not be doing, and you are not doing what you should be doing.
The first victim of sloth is your spiritual life: the rosary goes, frequent confession goes, you develop a dislike for lengthy ceremonies because you don’t want the spiritual life, it’s distasteful or a pain. Sloth suffocates the soul — it makes the soul neglect prayer, the sacraments, and the works of mercy. The second effect is that it causes cowardice in meeting the problems and difficulties of life. Whenever the slothful person sees work staring him in the face he becomes cowardly. Sloth causes a person to waste his talents, opportunities, time and effort: the very things that will help us to get to heaven. God has given us a challenge of effort to get to heaven. It is God’s providence; it is the cross that we must imitate and involves effort. It doesn’t come easy — and sloth destroys this will to effort. Finally, it turns man to dangerous pastimes: bad company, drinking, carousing, gambling, etc. If you want to stay out of sin, stay busy!
How can we remove sloth? What is the remedy? First, examine your conscience. Apply these signs of sloth to your life and ask yourself: are you guilty. We all have some sloth in our lives. Especially in these times when there is a cult of leisure: the weekend, my time, etc. The second thing is to be faithful to your duties: if you’re a husband, a wife, a child, etc. Children should be given definite chores and responsibilities, teaching that that life is not some big game. Thirdly, start your day on your knees: do the morning offering. “O my God, I offer unto Thee all my thoughts, works, joys, and sufferings of this day.”
Let the vision of the veiled crucifix move you to a sincere examination of conscience — and resolve by God’s grace to dispel sloth from your life. Let neither sinful habits, nor the cares of life, nor the fear of confessing your sins hold you back from a true amendment of life.
Sloth is one of the seven capital sins. In general it means disinclination to labour or exertion. As a capital or deadly vice St. 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 (Gr. 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 St. 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. St. 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).
Anger is both a passion and a movement of the will. As a passion it has a good purpose. In other words, God has given us anger as something holy; as something that can be virtuous. So for example, anger is used to overcome evil which assails us. In a very common example: a mosquito is causing you evil, then it is in a little bout of anger to get rid of it – we push or stamp it out of the way. We then are angered upon persons, animals and things since they all from time to time cause us some kind of evil. Now, the sentiment of anger, which proceeds from the will, consists of a strong desire to repel and punish that which is being aggressive towards us. Therefore, we can say that there is a lawful sentiment of anger. A righteous indignation which is strong but rationed. Which is strong, but seeks just retribution upon the guilty. This is why for example we can say that a judge put someone in jail for life because of the crime that was committed – the judge is exercising society’s just anger and righteous indignation because of what the person did. We see this kind of justified or righteous wrath in Our Lord’s expulsion of the money changers from the temple, if you recall that passage from scripture.
In order for anger to be righteous, to be justified, it has to meet three criteria. First, it has to be just. It has to be just, objectively. It must seek to punish only those who deserve punishment. We can’t be angered for example because of an unjust cause. Second, it has to be tempered by moderation in its execution. It can’t be overdone. This is why it is possible, for example, to have a just cause but have excessive anger over the just cause. There has to be a balance between the crime and the punishment so to speak. And third, it must be motivated by charity. Anger must not be animated by hatred, but must animated by a zeal for good and for the conversion and the amendment of the person that’s guilty. When these three conditions are lacking, whenever there is no objective just reason, when it’s not tempered by moderation and when it’s not animated by charity, if any of the three are lacking, then there is moral guilt in our anger. That’s what we call anger as a virtue — because God gave it to us, to protect us.
Now, let’s talk about wrath, or anger, as a capital vice. As a capital vice anger is a violent and disordered desire for punishing others. And often this anger is accompanied by hatred, which goes with the often mere removal of aggression and seeks revenge, seeks to inflict evil for evil. It’s one thing, for example, to take away the aggressor, but it’s another thing for us to inflict evil back upon him. The first movement, or the first sign we could say, of simple anger is impatience. Impatience is a form of wrath. And this gives rise to a show of temper and from this flows agitation then violence and finally fury. And anger can degenerate into hatred which sometimes can even go to the point of desiring the death of one’s adversary or desiring something really bad to happen to a person.
So then, we ask ourselves: how sinful is it to be angry or to experience wrath? When anger is merely a passing impulse of a passion, because we all get angry, then it is a venial sin. This is true even when you lose your temper. The usual family battles: where husbands and wives may yell at each other from time to time, are ordinarily venial sins. But they can become mortal if our anger has a serious effect, in other words, if we greatly insult someone (words beyond what is necessary), or if we cause serious injury to them. So, for example, if you say something horrible; if you offend your wife or your husband; if you call them horrible names, or worse yet, even strike them — then this a mortal sin because it is beyond just a passing thing; it’s deliberate and willful. Even so if you merely wish this in your heart and doesn't make any physical act.
This is what Our Lord means when He says to us in Holy Scripture: But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother [without a cause] shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.
If the impulse of hatred is not deliberate, in other words, we don’t want to do this, then it is a venial sin because we know that mortal sins require deliberation. Sometimes, when we are angry a feeling of hatred will well up inside of us but if we don’t consent to that feeling and if in our calmer moments we don’t want to have that feeling, then we have sinned venially. However, if we cultivate the feeling, we think about it, we consent to it, if we sort of plan how we are going to inflict evil on a person, then we have sinned mortally.
Now what are the effects of anger, or what are the effects of wrath? Anger causes many evils in both family and society. It is responsible for murder. It is responsible for civil wars; for wars between nations. All of this is fed by anger. It is a cause of divorce; of misery in the family. Whenever someone is angry, there is unhappiness. Some families live in perpetual unhappiness because someone in the house is always angry. Typically the husband will raise his voice in an unjustified and immoderate display of his passion. He’ll say cruel things to his wife and children. He will slam doors and smash things and sometimes even become violent with his family. On the other hand, sometimes the wife will be screaming. She will incessantly criticize everyone. She will whine about the work she must do and barks at everyone as they pass by. She becomes the opposite of what she should be — the source of love and gentleness and peace. She becomes many times, someone to avoid because of her anger. Children display their anger by tantrums, when they are young, and later through rebellion and murmury against their elders. This anger is the cause of the gruff attitude that we often see in teenagers. They feel they are oppressed by their parents. They have a disordered desire to want to be independent and to be adults right away and they are angry inside because they feel that any kind of authority is an oppression. And they go around in perpetual unhappiness: with sour looks and scowling and murmury and everyone around them is unhappy.
Anger also blocks our spiritual progress because we lose our good judgment. We can’t think straight when we’re angry. It makes us lose our gentleness. It makes us blind to the rights of others and it destroys our interior peace which makes us lose our spirit of recollection.
So what can we do to root out this capital sin? Or what are the remedies against anger? The first one is what we call recollection. And recollection is paying attention to the presence of God in our souls. What stops the flow of passion and anger is calling to mind that our souls are the temple of God. And we have to think about this often. The second remedy is humility. People who are given to anger are almost always prideful. Their pride makes them excessively sensitive about themselves and how others treat them. They are moved to anger for false causes. The injuries that they feel are truly just made up. It’s all in their head but they move them to anger. Their pride seeks only their own good and despises the good of others. The humble person on the other hand, cares little about himself and bears patiently the wrongs that are done. The third remedy of course is prayer. We must daily pray to overcome anger and to make resolutions to avoid it. No supernatural virtue can be acquired by natural means anymore than you can go to the moon, for example, in a car. Supernatural virtues require supernatural means and the supernatural mean is prayer. And the last remedy is what we call meekness. Meekness is an attitude or a quality of the heart, according to the first letter of Peter, whereby a person willingly accepts and submits without resistance to the will and desires of someone else. The meek person is not self-willed. Not continually concerned with self, or his own way, or his own ideas, or his own wishes. He is willing to put himself in second place and submit himself to achieve what is good for others. This is a sign, not of weakness of character, as some people think, but of strength because it requires great courage — great self control to put yourself in second place.
Sacred scripture has some very moving passages about anger. In the book of Proverbs we hear: A fool immediately showeth his anger, but he that dissembleth injuries is wise. In Ecclesiastes: Be not quickly angry: for anger resteth in the bosom of a fool. In Ecclesiasticus: Anger and fury are both of them abominable, and the sinful man shall be subject to them. Again in Ecclesiasticus: Be not as a lion in thy house, terrifying them of thy household, and oppressing them that are under thee. And in the letter of St. James: That every man be swift to hear, but slow to speak, and slow to anger.
This capital sin is named envy which is related to avarice and it's the tendency to be sad by another’s good. And many time, the sadness actually causes the person who is experiencing it to desire that the other person be deprived of the particular good in question. We know that we are being envious when we feel uncomfortable when we hear someone else being praised. Perhaps you’ll remember yourself in a group of people at a dinner or get-together where someone is saying something good about someone else and if you become uncomfortable by hearing this, that is a sign that you are being attacked by envy. A sure sign that this is happening is being in this situation and someone criticizes the person being praised with “oh yeah but” (if there really aren't any good reason to criticize). That is a sure sign of envy. When a person is envious, they try to bring the other person down from those who are praising him or her by criticizing him or her. Envy by its very nature is a mortal sin because it is directly opposed to charity (which would require us to rejoice in the good of others). St. Thomas Aquinas tells us that the greater the good we envy, the graver our sin is. This means therefore that when we are envious of someone’s spiritual goods, then this is the most grievous kind of sin of envy. When, for example, we are envious because somebody else has a good prayer life, or someone else does spiritual reading, or someone else is very charitable and does lots of works of charity for others — then we have committed a very grievous sin.
So how do we remedy envy in our life? On the one hand, we need to crush these feelings as soon as we notice them. So as soon as you get that feeling in your heart; of feeling uncomfortable because someone else is being praised, or you hear that someone else is being praised and in your mind you start thinking of all the bad things this person is — immediately crush it, because that is envy trying to come forward; trying to rear its ugly head. The other thing we need to do is practice emulation. We emulate the saints. The saints are held up because of their virtue and their good works. We try to imitate them. Well, we could do the same with the goods that others have: if someone is an honest person, if someone is loyal, we can strive to imitate them in these good things. That is what emulation is: a desire to imitate to equal and, if possible, to surpass the good qualities of others.
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 neighbour. 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 St. 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 neighbour 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 seven capital sins are seven principal ways in which we sin. They are all not necessarily mortal sins but they are fountainheads of many other sins. The first and most important of them is the sin of pride. Every now and then you hear pride talked about in a sermon, but pride is like weeds in a garden: you can go out one day and take out all the weeds, but because they are so resilient, you go out a few days later and it looks as if you haven’t done any weed pulling. That’s why it’s so important for us to be reminded about this capital sin — pride.
According to St. Thomas Aquinas, pride is a spiritual sin and is therefore less shameful and defacing than sins of lust or gluttony. However, it’s more grievous considering itself. Usually sins of pride are venial sins and usually sins of lust are mortal sins. But again, when we consider pride in itself, pride is worse because it turns us away from God, more than do sins of lust. Pride is the root of all sin. The first sin of man was a sin of pride. He desired to have the knowledge of good and evil. He desired to be his own guide and not to have to obey anyone. St. Thomas tells us that pride is the inordinate love of our own excellence, and St. Augustine defines it as a perverse love of greatness — in that it leads us to imitate God in the wrong way.
St. Gregory describes four different types of pride. The first one is when we think that we have, through our own efforts, what we have received from God: when we think that what we have is somehow something that we did, when it really is a gift from God. The second kind, St. Gregory says, is when we have earned it when in fact what we have received from God is a free gift — when we think that we deserve something, and we realize we don’t deserve anything, that it’s all a gift that God gives us freely. Another type that St. Gregory points out is when the pride takes us to attribute to ourselves a good that we lack. We say that we have something, say honesty or virtue, when we don’t have it. The last one that St. Gregory points out is when we wish to be preferred to others and we run down others by destructive criticism. Now, the most common kind of pride is to love ourselves excessively by seeing our qualities as something which comes from us and not from God. This is why the man that is full with pride is blind to his defects and actually the person who suffers from pride will turn their defects into virtues. For example, lets pretend that there is a man, who through laziness, is careless about details. His pride will have him convince himself that he has good judgment. And his good judgment is able to discern what is important from what is unimportant — so he justifies his lack of attention to detail.
Sins of pride, again, are often venial but they can become mortal. They can lead us into acts which are seriously reprehensible. For example, children. Children commit venial sins of disrespect to their parents when they are very young. But as the child grows these sins can can become mortal sins when, as an adolescent or young adult, they show serious disrespect and disregard for their parents. There are just so many other kinds of pride. Intellectual pride, for example, is a disease we could call of the mind, by which someone takes delight of his intelligence or his learning, and then disparages the Church’s dogmas — because he pridefully believes and understands them according to his own thinking.
Pride often grabs hold of people who are just beginning the spiritual life. Because they see themselves praying and fulfilling their obligations and they think they have achieved a great holiness. We should also distinguish the different kinds of pride. For example, there is pride of superiority and the pride of timidity. The pride of superiority is probably the one we notice the most because it expresses itself by highness or aloofness; it expresses itself by criticism of others and anger, and it’s prone to arguments and it’s also the person that we would call annoying. The pride of timidity is manifested by the other extreme, by shyness and by cowardice. This pride seeks to hide our weakness from ridicule. This kind of pride is characterized by a slavish fear of what other people will think of us. It gets into everything that we do. Our daily activities, when we are infected with this kind of pride, are based upon fear of what other people will say and this is why some people, for example, will go through great pains just to choose what they’ll wear in the morning to go to work, because they are concerned of what other people will say about them. This is a fear of being humiliated and it’s pride.
Then there is the pride of sensitiveness. When we have the pride of sensitiveness, then we have a self love that constantly fears being hurt or being wounded. Whenever a person who has this kind of pride is hurt or offended, they typically exaggerate the effects. These kinds of people will misjudge and misinterpret what people say or do. They carry grudges and they are cold to those who have offended them and many times this coldness lasts for a long time. They are convinced that people don’t like them. They perceive their superior as unjust, their teachers as unjust, companions as uncharitable, they are typically moody and they brood and they plot revenge. People who are sensitive are easily offended. They are always suspicious and distrustful and they carries grudges and they imagine themselves as unwelcome. This is pride of sensitiveness.
What is the remedy for pride? How can we root out pride from our souls? The way we can do this, is to recognize in practice, the majesty of God. It’s easy to recognize God’s majesty in theory, because we can say that God is great and we can pray, for example “in the name”, and talk about God’s greatness and in theory it’s easy to do, but in practice we have difficulty recognizing the majesty of God, because we consider many times ourselves as the ones that are truly majestic. St. Thomas tells us since God’s love is the cause of goodness in things, no one would be better than another if God did not will a greater good for one than for another. So we know that God is the source of goodness, therefore if one thing is better than another thing — it is because God has made it that way. So if we can say to ourselves objectively, “I have certain qualities”…”I have certain virtues”….”I can do certain things and the person next to me can’t” this is no reason for us to glorify ourselves, even if it is true, because the only conclusion that we can draw from this, according to St. Thomas, is that God (not because I deserve it, but through His goodness and mercy) has given me more than the person sitting next to me. So we have to recognize the majesty of God in order to root out pride. We have to be humble. We have to remind ourselves that we are sinners and that as sinners we deserve scorn and humiliation.
St. Philip Neri had a short phrase that can help us to root out pride in our lives. St. Philip Neri used to tell his sons: “love to be unknown”. LOVE TO BE UNKNOWN. And so let us pray that God help us remedy PRIDE. We can listen to these words of Thomas A. Kempis, in The Imitation of Christ: God protects and delivers the humble man. He loves and comforts the humble man. To the humble he inclines Himself. On the humble He bestows great grace and when he is cast down, He raises them to glory. To the humble He reveals His secrets and sweetly draws and invites him to Himself.
Lust in us is an unfortunate tendency more or less violent especially from the age of puberty (or adolescence), to indulge in this pleasure within and even outside of marriage. This is the tendency that is called lust and which is condemned by the sixth and the ninth commandments: Thou Shall Not Commit Adultery and Thou Shall Not Covet Thy Neighbor’s Wife.
Lust not only concerns exterior actions, but also interior ones. All interior actions with ourselves or with others are forbidden by the Law of God. All thoughts, fantasies, or desires, are forbidden, except those that are lawful within the limits in the state of Holy Matrimony. It is important for married spouses to realize that no kind of lewd kisses or sexual fore or after play may ever be done, and neither may spouses masturbate each other during the act of marriage. Masturbation is always a mortal sin, and it does not cease with being a mortal sin just because the spouses are married. Lust is as much a mortal sin within a marriage as outside of marriage. The only thing that is allowed by the Church is the marital act itself; all above this is sin. You must fight against the attacks of lust from the devil, or you will soon join him in Hell in a while. To entertain sexual thoughts outside of the marital act or to unnecessarily put oneself in sexual temptations when there is no need to, is a clear mortal sin. You may thus not entertain sexual thoughts culpably, even about your own wife, outside of the marital act, but must resist these thoughts or temptations as you would resist the thought of adultery. For example, it would be quite sick not to resist sexual thoughts about your wife (or to continually entertain such thoughts) while at work, or while on a trip etc. For at work or while on a trip, there's no chance for you to lawfully quiet your concupiscence with her; so to culpably dwell on such thoughts, then, will only distract you and could even lead you into committing other sins, such as masturbation or adultery (in thought as well as in deed). You must thus resist sexual thoughts and temptations, and may not entertain them in anyway. It is one thing to be tempted to have relations with your spouse, and another thing to have sex with him/her in your mind. You can have temptations about your spouse and consent to the thought of wanting to quiet your concupiscence with her, whenever the opportunity arrives - for that is lawful - but you may not and cannot consent to the thought of having sex with her in your mind outside of the marital act, — i.e., you may not think about her or consent to sexual thoughts about her in such a way that it gives you sexual pleasure or arousal outside of the marital act. This is not to be understood in the sense that you can think about sinful or bad (lustful) thoughts within the marital act. No, all bad and impure thoughts are forbidden; however, but you may let yourself be aroused in thought, of course, lawfully and without sin while having marital relations.
Various Errors on Moral Subjects, Condemned in a decree of the Holy Office, March 4, 1679: “THE ACT OF MARRIAGE EXERCISED FOR PLEASURE ONLY IS ENTIRELY FREE OF ALL FAULT AND VENIAL DEFECT.” (Denz. 1159) -Condemned by Pope Innocent XI.
Pope Alexander VII, Various Errors on Moral Matters #40, September 24, 1665 and March 18, 1666: “It is a probable opinion which states that a kiss is only venial when performed for the sake of the carnal and sensible delight which arises from the kiss, if danger of further consent and pollution is excluded.” – Condemned (Denz. 1140)
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What are the effects of lust? The first effect, and perhaps the most serious effect of lust is the formation of strong habits of sin. Inclination is so strong and intense that young people easily fall into habits of impure thoughts and impure actions. And these habits establish themselves in the soul as a kind of tyranny. People become slaves to this impurity and sometimes they take this slavery to impurity throughout their whole lives and are never able to overcome it. Even in their old age they commit grave sins of impurity. When the habit of impurity has overtaken the soul, the soul loses any desire for prayer. Prayer becomes difficult for the soul and it is addicted to sins of impurity. A person who is addicted to impurity, a person whose soul is ravaged by lust, is unable to pray — is unable to set time aside to pray; unable to pray the holy rosary; unable to read scripture; unable to do any of these things because the soul becomes incapable of self-sacrifice and unselfish motives. There is but a single thing in life, and that is to have pleasure of lust — that’s what happens to those who become addicted to this. Men become soft interiorly. They become incapable of courage and uprightness. Women lose their sweetness and their innocence. They’re no longer demure, but they dress shamelessly — many times just to be able to catch a boyfriend. Through the selfishness that accompanies lust, the soul loses interest in everything it once loved.
People who find themselves enslaved by impurity of lust will do things such as stop loving their parents and friends because they only know the pursuit of their lust. We see this very often in cases of adultery. What happens? The adulterer turns on their parents, turns on their family, turns on everybody around them. People around him will tell them, “you need to get out of that relationship...”, “you need to stop...”. Yet the people involved, because lust has overtaken their soul and their heart, will turn on them. They will turn on them. They hurt those who they have loved for many years because of lust — because lust gives you a cold heart. We can think of all the politicians over the years that we’ve seen that hurt their family members; those involved in the scandal of pedophilia; all this hurt because of this capital sin.
Interior peace in the soul is destroyed by lust. The pleasures makes us like animals, St. Thomas Aquinas says. It must constantly seek distraction in order to pull away from the interior shame that’s caused by it. This can lead even to people having some mental issues and other times it even becomes a physical problem. Lust makes us lose taste for higher things. The intellect becomes dull and weak. Students do poorly in school because they can only think of one thing — the satisfaction of their lust. The lustful man is also angry. He lashes out at everyone whom he perceives to be in his way. Vanity takes hold of the soul and there is an obsession with one’s own appearance. So we can see that lust takes a toll on us.
What are the remedies to lust? How can we root this capital sin out of our lives? The very first thing, is a conviction that it must be avoided and a conviction that it is possible to be pure. That’s the very first way to root lust out of your heart: be convinced to avoid it and be convinced that you can be pure. So many of our youth today are taught that they are incapable of being pure. But it is possible. With God’s grace it is possible to be pure: where you can retain your body as a vessel of purity, because God’s grace is stronger than any emotion that might well up in you; is stronger than Satan; is stronger than anything — and you have to have confidence in that. You have to have confidence that you can be pure. We are temples of God, St. Paul tells us. Who would defile the house of God? Secondly, we have to avoid the occasion. We have to flee from any kind of dangerous entertainment; flee from any kind of friends that will lead us into these kinds of sins; flee from visits, or meetings, or literature, or tv, movies, surfing on bad sites on internet or anything at all so long as we can get away from these things — we avoid them. There is also prayer and spiritual reading. We have to include in prayer, the frequency of the sacraments: the frequency of Confession, receiving Holy Communion with frequency. Making a point, setting aside time everyday, for prayer and spiritual reading. To fast, and make penance in other ways, such as abstinence from delicate foods, etc. No doubt the use of these means of defense, requires courage and earnestness and repeated effort. But with prayer and the sacraments and a determined will we can surmount all obstacles. We can be pure. We can root lust out of our hearts.
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 St. Paul in the Epistle to the Galatians, v. 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 smouldering, 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.