The Real Presence Eucharistic Education and Adoration Association Home Page
The Real Presence Eucharistic Education and Adoration Association Home Page

Father John A. Hardon, S.J. Archives



Return to:  Home > Archives Index > Sin Index

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 that’s misbehaving, and you’re burning inside, would you smile on the outside? Well, you haven’t 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 don’t stop reading that book and don’t pay attention to me, I’ll 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, it’s too artificial-be more natural. Or you’re supposed to show sorrow or whatever. And this is not putting on, there’s 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. We’re 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, I’m not exaggerating, to plan I’m 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.

Overcoming Anger

Number 100. How should anger be overcome? My prayer for patience, especially when your temper is being tried. My frequent reflection on Christ’s 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 I’m 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 didn’t 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 I’d follow the sequence that I gave you so as to you can catch up with the logic of these pages. That’s 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. There’s only one being we can love and not love excessively. Who is that? (God). Can we love creatures inordinately? (Yes) Yes. And who’s the one creature that we’re constantly prone to love inordinately? (Ourselves) Oh, sometimes you’re 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. You’re 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 I’ve 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 I’ve 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 don’t. They tell me nobody gets out of hell.” Well, so what. I wouldn’t be here in this hot, July sun. They want to keep you out of hell. In other words, accumulation of wealth becomes, and I’ve 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 they’ve raped. They get pleasure out of it. I’ve 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, you’re all going to go to Hell. You didn’t 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 I’m 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 one’s own reputation or self esteem. And let me tell you, it’s 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, Clement’s Letter to the Corinthians. It must be in a standard edition, I would say about forty or more pages long – that’s quite a letter and it’s 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. I’m saying more than you think. Twenty-two years in working for the Holy See, oh, what I haven’t 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 I’m saying, these are holy souls, cloistered contemplatives but not only they, people spending hours in prayer. Can we envy another person’s gift of prayer? I did tell you, didn’t 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? “It’s 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 don’t I have it? Maybe I’m 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 don’t read your own writing. If you read your own writing, you can’t 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. Here’s 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 didn’t forget what he asked, we stopped eating even to see what he was going to say. I’ll 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 didn’t see that in the Webster’s dictionary—that’s 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, wasn’t 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 God’s will, you got to work and love it. I think I’ve given you the, the cynics’ definition of work: work is that which I’d 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 we’re supposed to do. Sloth is entirely psychological – honest. There’s 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 we’ll see in the amount eaten but in the kind of exotic food that is eaten. Let’s 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 God’s will, make virtue—the 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 that’s 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 it’s 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, there’s no waste. There’s 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 they’re 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 there’s 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 I’ve eaten over the years in enough restaurants; usually somebody else pays for the meal, to know many times I’ve had to ask for bread. They don’t even give it to you. There’s a whole science of titillating the human appetite. And the appetite, I’m 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 it’s not just what you eat but say, the plate from which you eat. And I’ve 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 it’s 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. That’s what we Jesuit’s call a broad mental reservation.

And, I think we get a 50 minute break – don’t 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.
P.O. Box 410007
Chicago, Illinois  60641

search tips advanced search

What's New    Site Index

Home | Directory | Eucharist | Divine Training | Testimonials | Visit Chapel | Hardon Archives

Adorers Society | PEA Manual | Essentials of Faith | Dictionary | Thesaurus | Catalog | Newsletters

Real Presence Eucharistic Education and Adoration Association
718 Liberty Lane
Lombard, IL 60148
Phone: 815-254-4420
Contact Us

Copyright © 2000 by
All rights reserved worldwide.
No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval
system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic,
mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior
written permission of