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The Seven Deadly Sins of the Catholic Church

The Catholic Church maintains that seven vices in particular lead to breaking one or more of the Ten Commandments. These particular bad habits are called the seven deadly sins because, according to Catholicism, they’re mortal sins — sins that kill the life of sanctifying grace.

Pope Gregory the Great made up the list in the 6th century, and in the 14th century, Geoffrey Chaucer popularized them in his Canterbury Tales.

The seven deadly sins are

  • Pride: The inordinate love of self — a super-confidence and high esteem in your own abilities also known as vanity. Pride fools you into thinking that you’re the source of your own greatness.

    Liking yourself isn’t sinful. In fact, it’s healthy and necessary, but when the self-perception no longer conforms to reality, and you begin to think that you’re more important than you actually are, the sin of pride is rearing its ugly head.

    Pride is the key to all other sins, because after you believe that you’re more important than you actually are, you compensate for it when others don’t agree with your judgment. You rationalize your behavior and make excuses for lying, cheating, stealing, insulting, ignoring, and such, because no one understands you like you do. In your mind, you’re underestimated by the world.

    Humility is the best remedy for pride. Catholicism regards humility as recognizing that talent is really a gift from God.

  • Envy: Resenting another person’s good fortune or joy. Catholicism distinguishes between two kinds of envy:

    • Material envy is when you resent others who have more money, talent, strength, beauty, friends, and so on, than you do.

    • Spiritual envy is resenting others who progress in holiness, preferring that they stay at or below your level instead of being joyful and happy that they’re doing what they’re supposed to be doing. Spiritual envy is far worse and more evil than material envy.

    The Church maintains that meekness or kindness can counter envy.

  • Lust: Looking at, imagining, and treating others as mere sex objects to serve your own physical pleasures, rather than as individuals made in the image and likeness of God.

    The Catholic Church believes that it’s normal and healthy to be attracted to and to appreciate the opposite sex. That’s not lust, and it’s not considered a sin.

    Chastity, the virtue that moderates sexual desire, is the best remedy for lust. Chastity falls under temperance and can help to keep physical pleasure in moderation.

  • Anger: The sudden outburst of emotion — namely hostility — and thoughts about the desire for revenge. You have no control over what angers you, but you do have control over what you do after you become angry. Even if someone does you wrong — robs you, for example — to avoid the sin of anger, you don’t go after the thief yourself, you desire for the police to catch the thief and for a court to sentence her to a fair punishment.

    Patience, the virtue that allows you to adapt and endure evil without harboring any destructive feelings, is the best countermeasure for anger.

  • Gluttony: Choosing to over-consume food or alcohol. Enjoying a delightful dinner isn’t sinful, but intentionally overeating to the point where you literally get sick to your stomach is. So, too, having an alcoholic beverage now and then (provided that you don’t suffer from alcoholism) is not sinful in the eyes of the Church. But drinking to the point of drunkenness is.

    Legitimate eating disorders, such as anorexia and bulimia, aren’t gluttony. They’re medical conditions that require treatment and care. Gluttony is voluntary and merely requires self-control and moderation.

    Periodic fasting, restricting the amount of food you eat, and abstinence, avoiding meat or some favorite food, are the best defenses against gluttony.

  • Greed: The inordinate love of and desire for earthly possessions. Amassing a fortune and trying to accumulate the most stuff is greed, sometimes called avarice. Next to anger, envy, and lust, more crimes have been committed due to greed than any other deadly sin.

    Generosity, is the best weapon against greed. Freely giving some of your possessions away, especially to those less fortunate, is considered the perfect antithesis to greed and avarice.

  • Sloth: (sometimes called acedia) is laziness — particularly when it concerns prayer and spiritual life. Sloth is always wanting to rest and relax, with no desire or intention of making a sacrifice or doing something for others. It’s an aversion to work — physical, mental, and spiritual.

    The Church says that the evil habit of being inattentive at religious worship services and being careless in fulfilling your religious duties is also a sin of sloth.

    Spiritual laziness can only be overcome by practicing the virtue of diligence, which is the habit of keeping focused and paying attention to the work at hand — be it the work of employment or the work of God.

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