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What are the Seven Deadly Sins?

Q. What are the "seven deadly sins"?

A. The “seven deadly sins” are more accurately known as the “seven capital vices.” A vice differs from a sin in that it’s a sinful habit, a repeated act that causes a kind of “rut” in the soul inclining us to fall into that particular sin more and more. These particular vices are called “capital” (from the Latin word for “head”) because they are, so to speak, the “fountainhead” vices from which others flow. They are pride, covetousness (or avarice or greed), lust, anger (or wrath), gluttony, envy, and sloth.Note that not all anger is sinful; there is such a thing as “righteous anger,” such as the kind Jesus sometimes demonstrated (see Lk 19:45-46). Anger only becomes sinful under certain conditions, such as when it is unjustified or out of proportion to the offense.Covetousness differs from envy in that the former is an inordinate love of possessions, while the latter is a sadness or resentment over another person’s good — his possessions, relationships, fame, popularity, power, or whatever. Envy usually entails a feeling of animosity toward the person envied.Sloth is not mere laziness, but rather the unwillingness to “pay the price,” so to speak, of doing what is right and good — the cost of holiness. The motto of the slothful: “It’s just too much trouble for me to be good.”Lust is a disordered appetite for sexual pleasure. Gluttony is a disordered indulgence in food and drink.St. Thomas points out that pride — understood as an excessive love of one’s own excellence — is the most deadly and devastating of all the vices. It plays a role in every kind of sin.

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