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Seven Deadly Sins

First read this article. I find it interesting that Msgr. Giertych thought it necessary to write this in the first place since the observations in it are fairly obvious. While personally disagreeing with religion I do respect the academic nature of the Catholic Church’s releases. Some may call it a corporation, but the people at the top tend to know what they are doing and have the ability to communicate it fairly well. That probably comes from their shared background in Latin.

Despite that, this whole list looks like it was compiled after an all night drinking session by standup comedians, “did you ever notice that women tend to be overly proud…” or “do you know how men are horny…”

The thing about the seven deadly sins is that some are only really a sin if expressed in excess. Take pride, being self-confidant takes a certain amount of pride, a complete lack of this would be an individual that is constantly self-effacing and would be just as annoying to be around as someone full of bravado. I know this sounds a bit Aristotelian but one cannot accomplish anything without a smidgeon of pride. These “deadly sins” more often than not are sins of effect, they are not transgressions by essence.

What I mean is that certain wrongs are wrong because of their consequence. Lying can be held to be morally neutral in this case, despite what that bastard Immanuel Kant says. The classic example comes from Plato, who in the Republic, gives us the example of someone who wants his borrowed knife back. The person asking is drunk and angry, and you are sure that he wishes to harm himself or someone else. Instead of handing over the knife you keep while telling the man that you don’t have it. Telling the truth in this case would cause more harm than good. Again, lying is only immoral because of the effect that it could have.

Pride, Gluttony, Envy, Wrath, Lust, and Greed seem to be “deadly” only in the result that they have on the outside world. Envy is one of those things that one might seem to have no control over. If I see a person walking around with the newest cell phone gadget, I may feel a bit envious of that person. Is that necessarily wrong? Or better put, am I immoral because I have that thought? I don’t think so. If my envy turns me to actions in which I am willing to either destroy the person’s phone or steal it, then yes I could be judged as immoral.

The only one of the seven that seems to be in essence is Sloth because by definition if it were to have an effect it wouldn’t be sloth. A person would be hard pressed to come up with a situation where doing nothing hurt another being. There is the obvious retort of child neglect, but I would say that example is not an expression of laziness it is an expression of pride. Too much pride where they cannot deign to care for another person, where as the chronically lethargic are just “unable” to do so.

The list is interesting. Especially to see on the male side that Gluttony is in second place. Maybe the confessions that Fr. Busa heard were from a church near a frat house, as eating dares are common place among guys, and we know that we just can’t back down. The philosopher St. Augustine said that all wrong doing was the result of excessive self-love, but in men that’s only in fifth place, though it’s easy to see his point.

Although I am an unrepentant humanist I like lists like this for the same reason that I loved the Divine Comedy: they are intrinsically interesting because of their clarity. Say what you want about the Catholic Church, when they take a stand on something they draw a clear line. Two years ago it was unclear as to how/whether pollution was a sin, now we know.

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