The Seven Capital Sins - Part 2
Basic Catholic Morality I Fall 92
92M-#4 Part 2 10-25-92
by Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J.
Our next capital sin is, to follow my own sequence I am going to have to shift
around, where is anger? What number is anger? Number 98. I put together that
memory scheme post factum. It helps to remember the names of the seven
capital sins. Number 98, what is anger? Again, the inordinate desire to remove
obstacles or difficulties so as to avenge oneself for real or apparent injuries.
And we all naturally, now watch this, is it a sin to become angry? (No, no.)
You mean you can become angry without sinning? (Justifiable anger, Father.)
Yes, Yes. And not only are you justified on occasion to become angry, you should
also if you become angry, you may also be justified in showing your anger.
In fact, it might be useless. You have a child thats misbehaving, and youre
burning inside, would you smile on the outside? Well, you havent done the
child much good. We have, as we say, a temper. I tell people we have a temper
for a good reason, to use it, not to lose it. Use it. The lugs in the back
of the room, that I was teaching in high school before my ordination, not paying
attention. Big hulk on the football team, you dont stop reading that book
and dont pay attention to me, Ill smash your dumb head through the back wall
Do you hear me? I recommend, I mean it, it is as good spiritual pedagogy
to get into some, some dramatics, six years on the stage have helped immensely.
In playing our character, there supposed to, well, as the director says, look,
its too artificial-be more natural. Or youre supposed to show sorrow or whatever.
And this is not putting on, theres a mastery of our emotions that is not only,
I mean this, not only controlling our emotions, but we need it showing them.
But showing them in the degree and proportion of the situation before me requires.
Am I making sense? Anger is a great asset. Did Christ become angry? Did he
show his anger? It cost the money dealers well, some money, yeah. No problem
getting angry. We sin by not controlling our urge to anger called irascibility.
Were all naturally irascible meaning what? This may be darker. Ira
is spelled as you know with an -ible but irascible means able to have ira
which is the Latin word for anger. Our ability to get angry is not under
control. May I repeat, we are to use it. And the two ways that we can sin
by anger as either becoming angry over what we should not become angry. Or
secondly, that we may be justified in becoming angry, but we do not control
the degree or the manner of manifesting our anger. A person, as you know, in
an angry mood can do some pretty crazy things. Angry people while they are
angry do not think. The secret is to think beforehand. And I mean it, Im
not exaggerating, to plan Im going to become angry, I repeat six years on the
stage have taught me a lot. You turn it on just so far and then time is out
now, cool off.
Number 100. How should anger be overcome? My prayer for patience, especially
when your temper is being tried. My frequent reflection on Christs teaching
that we shall be forgiven by God if we are patient and forgiving towards others.
Question: Can I be angry and even show my anger and not lose my patience? Patience
is the voluntary endurance of pain. And of course, I may love and even deeply
love the very one with whom Im angry, is that possible? I know over the years
how often my mother spanked me. She kept telling me, I do this because I love
you. I didnt appreciate that kind of affection. And now, I be called avarice
above which in my memory scheme I called covetousness.
Avarice, number 85, I just thought Id follow the sequence that I gave you
so as to you can catch up with the logic of these pages. Thats covetousness
or avarice. Actually, I would distinguish covetousness as generic and avarice
as more specific. Covetousness is the inordinate love of possessing anything,
any creature. Theres only one being we can love and not love excessively.
Who is that? (God). Can we love creatures inordinately? (Yes) Yes. And whos
the one creature that were constantly prone to love inordinately? (Ourselves)
Oh, sometimes youre embarrassed of having the same name as the person about
whom we know so many nasty things.
There it is. Avarice, more commonly therefore, refers to the inordinate love
of material possessions. In other word, three words that are used in English
almost synonymously, they are not quite synonymous, and that is greed. So covetousness,
avarice, and greed in English which you know is the most confused language in
the world. Youre never quite sure what people mean. But theologically, covetousness
is generic. Inordinate desire for creatures possessing creatures. Avarice
rather material, physical possessions. And greed is avarice that has become
an uncontrollable passion. Never absolutely uncontrollable, but greed then
is extreme avarice. Notice what Ive said: A greedy person loves material
possessions but he wants to acquire, accumulate, pile up in an avarice that
has become an addiction.
Greed lacks any reasonableness; greed is extreme avarice. And, hear it; it
took me years in the priesthood to learn this, dealing with thousands of souls,
that unless a sin or a sinful tendency is controlled, it becomes more impulsive,
becomes stronger. And thus, you got to be constantly on our guard regarding
say, material possessions. Not to possess anymore than we really need. And
the more we possess, the more wealthy we are, the more prone we are to being
greedy. I may have told the story of my friend, Terrytown, NY. His brother
and his sister lived next door to the provincial residence in Oakpark, IL.
I was working with our Jesuit provincial for some six years. The sister especially
she was asking if I could ever visit her brother: become a multimillionaire
but lost his faith in the process. Finally, mainly to please the sister, I
got myself to give her a retreat somewhere in the neighborhood, community of
nuns, and then on the last day of the retreat called up this wealthy tycoon,
can I come over? And because his sister asked him to talk, he talked to anybody,
even a Jesuit priest. Well, went through three secretaries to reach him. Finally,
allowed me to talk to him. So we talked. I think Ive told this story at least
to some of you. But the first time we met, he asked me, Do you believe in
Hell? I sure do. Well, I dont. They tell me nobody gets out of hell.
Well, so what. I wouldnt be here in this hot, July sun. They want to keep
you out of hell. In other words, accumulation of wealth becomes, and Ive dealt
with enough wealthy people, becomes, except for supernatural grace, uncontrollable.
On more and more and more and that is true of all the seven capital sins. The
more sex pleasure a person gets, they want more. They want more. And they
do commit some awful crimes to get more pleasure. Pleasure, they get pleasure
from killing people say whom theyve raped. They get pleasure out of it. Ive
talked to them lifetime prisoners.
Back to avarice and greed. And this is our Lord went out of His way, remember,
in telling us how hard it is for rich people to enter Heaven. Oh what stories
I could tell. A retreat only to multimillionaires. I told them on one condition.
All I want is my transportation from New York to Milwaukee and back. When I
got my check, little note on the bottom of the check, $10 besides my travel
fare for incidental expenses. But as I was trained to do, I let those millionaires
have it. Lest you men use your money, not just throw it away, use your money
wisely, for charity, youre all going to go to Hell. You didnt have to call
me in the first place.
Places G, E- Envy. Some could help me find the number. What number is Envy?
(91) 91 (p25) 91. What is envy? You see why Im doing this; I want to keep
up with the memory scheme that I gave you. What is envy? Envy is sadness that
another person has something which is considered detrimental to ones own reputation
or self esteem. And let me tell you, its self-esteem that is so dangerous.
Somebody has something that I lack; somebody has succeeded when I have failed.
Envy, Pope St. Clement, I recommend to all of you, get a copy, maybe Ann Arbor
has a copy, maybe your library has a copy, there must be a copy somewhere in
some library in greater Detroit. It is St. Clement I, pope, did about 95 A.D.
a letter that he wrote to the Corinthians, Clements Letter to the Corinthians.
It must be in a standard edition, I would say about forty or more pages long
thats quite a letter and its all about envy. The people of Corinth had
been evangelized but they were in trouble. Why? Because the lay people envy
the priests and the priests envy the bishops. And over the centuries the single
main source of division of the Catholic Church was that bishops envy the Pope.
Im saying more than you think. Twenty-two years in working for the Holy See,
oh, what I havent learned that is not publishable. Says St. Clement I, this
is the one vice that, has over the centuries from the dawn of the human race,
destroyed more societies, more families than anything else-envy. A perfect
synonym for feminism is envy. Perfect. And in the church today, how well I
know, envy of those who have power, have authority.
I began reading Carl Marx at the age of 14, much too soon. But it taught me
a lot about Communism. At the root of Communism is envy. But note, if you
know Carl Marx, no Communism in the world except for envy. And the media, just
feeding and feeding that of what others have that you lack. That God is master
of His gifts. And I know what Im saying, these are holy souls, cloistered
contemplatives but not only they, people spending hours in prayer. Can we envy
another persons gift of prayer? I did tell you, didnt I, about the fellow
novice we had during meditation, remember? When the visitor came always unannounced
during our hours of meditation to see what posture we had during our mental
prayer, remember? You sitting, that was all right. Standing, that was all
right. Kneeling, that was all right. But supine, he reported. Well, Dom, that
was his name, he could stand, erect, sound asleep. I must say we elevate him.
His nickname was Dale. Dale how do you do it? Its a gift. But I am serious.
People have the gift of prayer, the gift of contemplation, the gift of easy,
almost constant communion with God. And others, 5 minutes of undistracted prayer
is an achievement. And the most subtle and dangerous form of envy is spiritual
envy. No two of us are equally gifted, no two. And the secret is to thank
God that others have what I lack. And maybe ask myself, why dont I have it?
Maybe Im lazy.
Envy and Emulation
Two words go together: envy and emulation. We are not to envy people but
we should emulate them. Meaning what? Imitate their good qualities. And maybe
found out, find out, how do you do it. People have asked me, Father, how
do you become an author? By writing. Oh, of course, but how do you become
author? By writing. Will you please be serious? I tell you by writing.
That means writing everyday. And writing is humiliating unless you dont read
your own writing. If you read your own writing, you cant believe it. What
kind of numbskull put this together? What are some of the remedies for envy?
Practicing fraternal charity, accepting humiliations, controlling thoughts
especially comparing oneself unfavorably with others, thank God for what graces
others have. Oooh, thank God for what graces others have. The joy of a mother.
I know my own mother, happy she was that, well, that I had certain things.
That can be spontaneous in a mother and for some of us you got to work on it
to be happy that somebody has what we obviously lack. And finally, praying
for those who are envied.
Ever tell you the story of the homily that one of our scholastics gave to a
crowded Jesuit dining about 200 of us. Months of training to give these practice
homilies. We sat down to the meal and after the grace, while the dishes were
being distributed. Heres this Jesuit scholastic getting up and he said, My
dear brothers in Christ, who do you think is the most unpopular girl on a college
campus? And we thought to ourselves, this lug, to a community full of celibate
Jesuits and he asks, Who do you think is the most unpopular girl on campus?
Well, we didnt forget what he asked, we stopped eating even to see what he
was going to say. Ill never forget his answer. The girl who has just won
the popularity contest. Does that make sense? Success breeds envy. Nobody
envies a failure. And the one thing that you better learn, you better learn
do not advertise, do not publicize your gifts-hide them. Pardon me, as even
good business. Am I making sense?
PLACES G: S is sloth. Who knows where that is? (101) 101. What is sloth?
The more familiar term, of course, is laziness. Sloth is sorrow regarding the
means of salvation conferred on us and prescribed by God. Father, I didnt
see that in the Websters dictionarythats why I put things in writing to you
to teach people the Catholic faith. Sorrow regarding the means of salvation
conferred on us and prescribed by God. Think I should read the commentary.
Whatever we do in life requires effort. Even getting up in the morning, did
you know that? Everything we do is a means of salvation. Pardon me, everything
we do is meant to be a means of salvation. The slothful person is reluctant
to do what God wants him to do. There is weariness in well-doing. Father Favor,
the great oratorian, British convert weariness in well-doing. Sloth is a
sin because it slows down and sometimes brings to a halt the effort we must
make in using the means of salvation. I think I should say this, I was in Chicago
doing some video taping, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, at a wedding yesterday
afternoon in Chicago. Earliest flight I could take was 9:30 from Chicago.
Got home at midnight, wasnt 11:00 yet because still, had to get my meal. I
ate. Then I had to prepare class. Takes hours to prepare a class. There were
telephone calls. Honestly, you want to do Gods will, you got to work and
love it. I think Ive given you the, the cynics definition of work: work
is that which Id rather not be doing if I could be doing something else. And
billions of dollars are spent in advertising doing something else rather in
that which people call work. Sloth is the bad mood to which all of us are prone
when it comes to doing what were supposed to do. Sloth is entirely psychological
honest. Theres no sin in getting tired, or getting exhausted. There is
sin in being lazy. Sloth and laziness are not quite the same thing as fatigue
we need a break in recreation. Sloth is a sin because it really means that
we are reluctant to use the means that God has given us to reach heaven. And
part of that means is using our muscles, but I must add, our voluntary muscles.
And finally, there is gluttony. (95) Please? (95) 95. What is gluttony?
Gluttony is the inordinate desire for food or drink. As such therefore it is
a sin against the virtue of temperance. Unfortunately again in English, the
word temperance has become associated almost exclusively with gluttony in drink.
But there is, oh, is there ever, gluttony in food. And food, not only as well
see in the amount eaten but in the kind of exotic food that is eaten. Lets
read the commentary: it is not the desire that is wrong, it is the desire to
that gets out of control. The desires we have, if used according to Gods will,
make virtuethe opposite of sin. Happy are those who hunger and thirst for
what is right. And that right means the right amount of food, the right kind
of food and drink. How sinful is gluttony? Of itself, it is a venial sin;
but may become mortal by reason of its evil effects on the gluttonous person,
on others, or on society.
Without reading the long commentary, let me just tell you this, there are two
ways in which we can sin against the virtue of temperance whose opposite is
gluttony. We can sin either by how much we eat or drink quantitatively, we
can sin against the virtue of temperance by not how much, but by what we eat
and drink. Families have been ruined because there was not the control of this
virtue. And of course the advertising industry, which I keep coming back to,
knows, knows our desires, our urges, and they exploit them. You can almost
define modern advertising as the science of exploiting the seven capital sins.
And they have psychiatrists, psychologists, doctorates with these companies,
training the personnel what to put into the food, how to bottle or wrap it,
anything and everything to get people to eat either more or more expensive,
or more exotic food or drink, than before God, they either should or can afford.
America is the most gluttonous nation in the world. That, by the way, is the
verdict of sociologists in other countries. Oh, they use other kind of words,
but thats us. I must of told you about my French Jesuit companion in Rome,
when we were in graduate studies after ordination. Our economists have studied
the consumption of food and drink in America and this is in print, in our textbooks,
the whole France, all the people can be substantially nourished every year on
the amount of food and drink that you Americans waste. Have any of you read
the book by Vance Packard, must have been published 30 years ago, called The
Wastemakers, find a copy in some library. The Wastemakers, Vance
Packard, The Wastemakers its an embarrassing book to read. We are the
most wasteful society in America. We even have the word wastepaper, waste baskets.
For example, and I do on occasion go outside the country, take the Missionaries
of Charity, see in Rome or Mexico when I am there, no wastebaskets around.
Many homes have no waste basket, theres no waste. Theres huge, we call them
sanitation trucks, in a given year millions of tons. As you see I am examining
our own collective conscience. So, gluttony is not some exotic sickness that
some people maybe, among the royalty might perhaps be guilty of, oh no.
What is the remedy? Prayerful reflection on the bad example it gives. And
that begins, my dear parents it begins in the home with your youngest children.
Then you wonder, what happened. Oh how few parents realize how theyre teaching
their children by the example that child comes into the world. Reflecting,
prayerful reflection of the bad example it gives, the harm it causes to oneself
and others. And of course theres another whole industry that is developed
to cope with the consequences of gluttony. That means more money. One of my
favorite definitions of an affluent society is the pastry has replaced bread.
And Ive eaten over the years in enough restaurants; usually somebody else pays
for the meal, to know many times Ive had to ask for bread. They dont even
give it to you. Theres a whole science of titillating the human appetite.
And the appetite, Im told by those who know the subject, is tempting not only
by the taste, but by the sight, by the smell, and even the arrangement. And
its not just what you eat but say, the plate from which you eat. And Ive
paged through enough magazines over the years to see the price of some chinaware.
All of this is deeper than we think; because an affluent society is wide open,
wide open to all other temptations of the seven capital sins. So the part of
the mortification at the table case of drink, total abstinence. Before my
ordination, I had seen enough people have problems with drink, including some
priests that I knew. And since my patron is St. John the Baptist, and from
childhood I read that he did not take, well, strong drink. Which I found out
was alcoholic beverages. Decided not to take it, except of course at Mass,
when its consecrated. And, oh the extremes I had to go to in social gatherings.
So I pour some ginger ale, then drop either an olive or a cherry. That, by
the way, is not deceit. Thats what we Jesuits call a broad mental reservation.
And, I think we get a 50 minute break dont we? So, shall I make the sign
of the cross? In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, Amen.
I believe we resume at what time? 20
Copyright © 2005 Institute on Religious Life
Conference transcription from a talk
that Father Hardon gave to the Institute on Religious Life
Institute on Religious Life, Inc.
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