EWTN Catholic Q&A
7 Deadly Sins
Question from Valerie on 04-02-2001:

Could you please list the 7 Deadly Sins for me and explain to me exactly what they are? Are they the worst sins you could commit or what?

Answer by Fr.Stephen F. Torraco on 04-02-2001:

The seven deadly sins are as follows:

1)Sloth is often equated with laziness; but the kind of laziness that sloth is is often misunderstood. Sloth is fundamentally a sadness in the presence of eternal or spiritual goods, and ultimately God Himself. Sloth is often disguised by "workaholism," or by a "busy-ness" about temporal things that is actually a means of avoiding eternal and spiritual things, and ultimately God. Sloth is often manifested by "boredom" about attending Mass or praying, for example. Saint Thomas Aquinas calls sloth the "sin against the Sabbath."

2)Envy is a sadness in the presence of the goodness of others. Rather than move us to emulate the goodness of others, envy leads us to find a way to justify the fact that we lack the goodness that others possess. A manifestation of envy today is ethical relativism, which denies that there are any objective moral norms. This denial is intended to subvert the objective status of the goodness of others.

3)Covetousness is a disordered and excessive desire to control persons, places, or things. Contrary to generosity, covetousness manifests itself today especially in the contraceptive mentality. The contraceptive mentality is the distorted attempt to control one's own as well as another's body, including the human capacity for sexual loving and procreation. The tragic result of the contraceptive mentality -- the "sexual holocaust" of the past twenty-five years -- is the reduction of one's own and another's body to "mere dress." The contraceptive mentality has reduced woman to a merely passive receptacle of male predatory tendencies.

4)Vainglory or pride is respecting oneself or others for the wrong reasons. Pride today is often manifested in the news media when, for example, a Catholic legislator who consistently promotes a so-called "pro-choice" position is praised by the Catholic media for his or her position on welfare reform.

5)Gluttony is the excessive preoccupation with our bodies at the cost of becoming forgetful of our souls, not only in terms of excessive eating and drinking, but also in terms of excessive preoccupation with physical fitness and physical beauty.

6)Lust is the vehement disorder of sexual desires, as in the case of the so-called "homosexual lifestyle" or the widespread phenomenon of "living together." Lust reduces human sexuality to genitality. As a result, lust tends to distort human sexual genital activity into a form of recreation. Ironically and tragically, lust leads to a fear of fertility and to an animosity for children, as expressed in practices such as rape, sterilization, contraception, abortion, pornography, child molestation, adultery, and divorce.

7)Finally, anger is a mixture of sadness and hatred in the presence of what is true. (Don't be confused by the fact that "anger" is the name of a spirited emotion as well as the name of the distortion of that emotion.) An example of this sin of anger is the radical feminist movement and the so-called "gay rights" movement. Radical feminists are very unhappy about the objective meaning of the dignity and vocation of women, just as a members of the "gay rights" movement are unhappy about the objective meaning of masculinity and femininity.

It is important to notice that five of the seven deadly sins latch onto a "part" or dimension of the soul called desire or eros, the home of the central emotion of love and the dimension of soul where we are usually "located" on a daily basis. In light of this fact, it is extremely easy to drift into sloth, envy, covetousness, gluttony, or lust.

Anger is the "cancerous growth" on the dimension of the soul called spiritedness or thumos, the home of the secondary emotions such fear. Vainglory or pride is the distortion of the dimension of the soul called mind or logos, the home of intellect and will.