I am Catholic
Collected by Pat Miron
From the Catholic Encyclopedia and Wikipedia.
What are the Seven Capital Sins?
In the early centuries of the Church, the formal list of the capital sins took a few different forms. The earliest predecessor to the list that has been accepted for the past millennium was penned in the 4th century by a monk named Evagrius Ponticus, who listed eight “evil thoughts.” Seven of these evil thoughts were first listed formally by Pope Gregory the Great and later were enumerated by Thomas Aquinas in the Summa Theologica: vainglory (pride), avarice (greed), gluttony, lust, sloth, envy, anger (I-II:84:4). Since that time, theologians have retained the list.
Pride – Pride is an unrestrained and improper appreciation of our own worth. This is listed first because it is widely considered the most serious of the seven sins; pride often leads to the committing of other capital sins. Pride is manifest in vanity and narcissism about one’s appearance, intelligence, status, etc. Dante described pride as “love of self perverted to hatred and contempt for one’s neighbor.”
Greed – Greed, which is also known as avarice or covetousness, is the immoderate desire for earthly goods, as well as situations such as power. It is a sin of excess. The object a person is greedy about need not be evil, but the issue lies in the way one regards the object, placing inappropriate value on it. Greed can further inspire such sinful actions as hoarding of materials or objects, theft and robbery, trickery, and manipulation.
Gluttony – Gluttony, which comes from the Latin gluttirei – to gulp down or swallow, refers to the sin of over-indulgence and over-consumption of food and drink. The manners in which gluttony can be committed, as first mentioned by Pope Gregory the Great and later reiterated by Thomas Aquinas, are eating too soon, eating too expensively, eating too much, eating too eagerly, eating too daintily, and eating wildly.
St. Alphonsus Liguori explained that “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” (The True Spouse of Jesus Christ).
Lust – The sin of lust refers to impure desire of a sexual nature. Sexuality is a gift from God, and not inherently impure in itself. However, lust refers to the impure thoughts and actions that misuse that gift, deviating from God’s law and intentions for us. Indulging in the sin of lust can include (but is not limited to) fornication, adultery, bestiality, rape, and incest and can lead to such things as sexual addiction.
Sloth – Sloth is often described simply as the sin of laziness. However, while this is part of the manifestation of sloth, the central problem with sloth as a capital sin is spiritual laziness. The sin of sloth means being lazy and lax about living the Faith and practicing virtue.
The Catholic Encyclopedia explains: “In general [sloth] means disinclination to labor or exertion. As a capital or deadly vice St. Thomas calls it sadness in the face of some spiritual good which one has to achieve. . . 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.”
Envy – The sin of envy or jealousy is more than merely one person wanting what someone else has; the sin of envy means one feels unjustified sorrow and distress about the good fortune of someone else. The law of love leads us to rejoice in the good fortune of our neighbor – jealousy is a contradiction to this. Envy is named among the capital sins because of the other sins to which it leads.
Anger or Wrath – From the Catholic Encyclopedia:
“[Anger is] 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.”
Because anger can be just, and due to the common usage of the word anger, this capital vice is often referred to as wrath or rage, emphasizing the unbalanced and improper motives which result in anger being a mortal
The Seven Virtues
(Also called the Seven Contrary Virtues or Seven Heavenly Virtues)
The concept of the seven capital virtues has been an aspect of Catholic Faith for several centuries, having gained recognition and popularity in the middle ages. This list of seven virtues is a set of virtues which are to counter the temptation to succumb to the seven capital sins. For this reason, they are sometimes also called the seven contrary virtues; they represent the opposite of the seven sins.
The list of seven capital virtues stems from the subject matter of an epic poem written by an early Christian poet, Aurelius Prudentius Clemens, at the end of the 4th century. The poem, Psychomachia (meaning Battle of Souls), is an allegory which describes seven virtues defeating seven vices.
The seven contrary or capital virtues are as follows:
Humility – Humility is the virtue that counters pride. As pride leads to other sin, true humility clears a path for holiness. Pride is a sin based on undue and inappropriate appreciation of one’s self worth. Conversely, the virtue of humility is about modest behavior, selflessness and the giving of respect.
Liberality – Liberality, or generosity, is the virtue that is counter to greed – the sin of immoderate desire for earthly things. The virtue of liberality is focused not merely on the appropriate concern regarding one’s earthly things, but furthermore on generosity and a willingness to give, freely and without request for commendation.
Chastity – Chastity is the counter-virtue to the sin of lust. Chastity embraces moral wholesomeness and purity, and in both thought and action treats God’s gift of sexuality with due reverence and respect.
Meekness – Meekness, or patience, is the virtue that counters the sin of unjust anger, also called wrath or rage. Where the sin of wrath is about quick temper and unnecessary vengeance, the virtue of meekness focuses on patiently seeking appropriate resolution to conflicts, and on the ability to forgive and show mercy.
Temperance – The virtue of temperance or abstinence counters the sin of gluttony. To be gluttonous is to over-indulge. On the opposite hand, the virtue of temperance is centered on self-control and moderation.
Kindness – Kindness, or brotherly love or love for one’s neighbor, is the virtue which counters the sin of envy. Envy, in contradiction to God’s law of love, is manifest in a person’s sorrow and distress over the good fortune of another person. Conversely, kindness and brotherly love is manifest in the unprejudiced, compassionate and charitable concern for others.
Diligence – Diligence, or persistence, is the virtue which acts as a counter to the sin of sloth. Sloth, as a capital sin, refers to laziness in matters of Faith. Diligence in matters of the spiritual combat laziness and this virtue is manifest in appropriately zealous attitudes toward living and sharing the Faith.
Satan leads us to Sin and God to Virtue. No surprise there. What is the SHOCK is that God does not inhibit our choice. He does however offer GRACE to those who seek it. So seek GRACE where it may be found and merited. The Seven Sacraments are the GREATEST source of Grace available to humanity. BUT it is up to us to avail ourselves, to protect ourselves, and to make frequent and worthy use of them.