The term “seven deadly sins” really means “seven deadly vices”–seven bad habits that could, individually or in combination, kill the soul. The seven capital vices are pride, lust, envy, sloth, greed/avarice, gluttony, and anger/wrath. I don’t know why the traditional lists leave out despair, but let’s look at them, particularly in a rough correspondence to the theological and cardinal virtues. Here’s a good summary article that attempts to parallel the “seven virtues” with the seven deadly sins by grouping them into two categories each: three spiritual and three corporal. It also suggests the “remedial” approach to the virtues, and here is another.
What disturbs me most about the “Progressives” is how everything has become about “Pride.” Lust is one thing, but pride quite another. Certainly, neither side of the Culture Wars has a monopoly on anger, greed, or gluttony, but that people who profess to be Christians are not only falling for but promoting a message of “pride” is horrifying.
St. Thomas Aquinas addresses “Pride” in Question 162 of the Second Part of the Second Part of the Summa Theologica.
Article 6. Whether pride is the most grievous of sins?
Objection 1. It would seem that pride is not the most grievous of sins. For the more difficult a sin is to avoid, the less grievous it would seem to be. Now pride is most difficult to avoid; for Augustine says in his Rule (Ep. ccxi), “Other sins find their vent in the accomplishment of evil deeds, whereas pride lies in wait for good deedsto destroy them.” Therefore pride is not the most grievous of sins.
Objection 2. Further, “The greater evil is opposed to the greater good,” as the Philosopher asserts (Ethic. viii, 10). Now humility to which pride is opposed is not the greatest of virtues, as stated above (Question 61, Article 5). Therefore the vices that are opposed to greater virtues, such as unbelief, despair, hatred of God,murder, and so forth, are more grievous sins than pride.
Objection 3. Further, the greater evil is not punished by a lesser evil. But pride is sometimes punished by other sins according to Romans 1:28, where it is stated that on account of their pride of heart, men of sciencewere delivered “to a reprobate sense, to do those things which are not convenient.” Therefore pride is not the most grievous of sins.
On the contrary, A gloss on Psalm 118:51, “The proud did iniquitously,” says: “The greatest sin in man ispride.”
I answer that, Two things are to be observed in sin, conversion to a mutable good, and this is the material part of sin; and aversion from the immutable good, and this gives sin its formal aspect and complement. Now on the part of the conversion, there is no reason for pride being the greatest of sins, because uplifting whichpride covets inordinately, is not essentially most incompatible with the good of virtue. But on the part of the aversion, pride has extreme gravity, because in other sins man turns away from God, either through ignoranceor through weakness, or through desire for any other good whatever; whereas pride denotes aversion from Godsimply through being unwilling to be subject to God and His rule. Hence Boethius [Cf. Cassian, de Caenob. Onst. xii, 7 says that “while all vices flee from God, pride alone withstands God“; for which reason it is specially stated (James 4:6) that “God resisteth the proud.” Wherefore aversion from God and Hiscommandments, which is a consequence as it were in other sins, belongs to pride by its very nature, for its actis the contempt of God. And since that which belongs to a thing by its nature is always of greater weight than that which belongs to it through something else, it follows that pride is the most grievous of sins by its genus, because it exceeds in aversion which is the formal complement of sin.
Reply to Objection 1. A sin is difficult to avoid in two ways. First, on account of the violence of its onslaught; thus anger is violent in its onslaught on account of its impetuosity; and “still more difficult is it to resistconcupiscence, on account of its connaturality,” as stated in Ethic. ii, 3,9. A difficulty of this kind in avoidingsin diminishes the gravity of the sin; because a man sins the more grievously, according as he yields to a less impetuous temptation, as Augustine says (De Civ. Dei xiv, 12,15).
Secondly, it is difficult to avoid a sin, on account of its being hidden. On this way it is difficult to avoid pride, since it takes occasion even from good deeds, as stated (5, ad 3). Hence Augustine says pointedly that it “liesin wait for good deeds“; and it is written (Psalm 141:4): “In the way wherein I walked, the proud [Cf. Psalm 139:6, ‘The proud have hidden a net for me.’] [Vulgate: ‘they’] have hidden a snare for me.” Hence no very great gravity attaches to the movement of pride while creeping in secretly, and before it is discovered by thejudgment of reason: but once discovered by reason, it is easily avoided, both by considering one’s own infirmity, according to Sirach 10:9, “Why is earth and ashes proud?” and by considering God’s greatness, according to Job 15:13, “Why doth thy spirit swell against God?” as well as by considering the imperfection of the goods on which man prides himself, according to Isaiah 40:6, “All flesh is grass, and all the glory thereof as the flower of the field”; and farther on (Isaiah 64:6), “all our justices” are become “like the rag of a menstruous woman.”
Reply to Objection 2. Opposition between a vice and a virtue is inferred from the object, which is considered on the part of conversion. On this way pride has no claim to be the greatest of sins, as neither has humility to be the greatest of virtues. But it is the greatest on the part of aversion, since it brings greatness upon othersins. For unbelief, by the very fact of its arising out of proud contempt, is rendered more grievous than if it be the outcome of ignorance or weakness. The same applies to despair and the like.
Reply to Objection 3. Just as in syllogisms that lead to an impossible conclusion one is sometimes convinced by being faced with a more evident absurdity, so too, in order to overcome their pride, God punishes certainmen by allowing them to fall into sins of the flesh, which though they be less grievous are more evidently shameful. Hence Isidore says (De Summo Bono ii, 38) that “pride is the worst of all vices; whether because it is appropriate to those who are of highest and foremost rank, or because it originates from just and virtuousdeeds, so that its guilt is less perceptible. on the other hand, carnal lust is apparent to all, because from the outset it is of a shameful nature: and yet, under God’s dispensation, it is less grievous than pride. For he who is in the clutches of pride and feels it not, falls into the lusts of the flesh, that being thus humbled he mayrise from his abasement.”
From this indeed the gravity of pride is made manifest. For just as a wise physician, in order to cure a worse disease, allows the patient to contract one that is less dangerous, so the sin of pride is shown to be more grievous by the very fact that, as a remedy, God allows men to fall into other sins.
Article 7. Whether pride is the first sin of all?
Objection 1. It would seem that pride is not the first sin of all. For the first is maintained in all that follows. Now pride does not accompany all sins, nor is it the origin of all: for Augustine says (De Nat. et Grat. xx) that many things are done “amiss which are not done with pride.” Therefore pride is not the first sin of all.
Objection 2. Further, it is written (Sirach 10:14) that the “beginning of . . . pride is to fall off from God.” Therefore falling away from God precedes pride.
Objection 3. Further, the order of sins would seem to be according to the order of virtues. Now, not humilitybut faith is the first of all virtues. Therefore pride is not the first sin of all.
Objection 4. Further, it is written (2 Timothy 3:13): “Evil men and seducers shall grow worse and worse”; so that apparently man’s beginning of wickedness is not the greatest of sins. But pride is the greatest of sins as stated in the foregoing Article. Therefore pride is not the first sin.
Objection 5. Further, resemblance and pretense come after the reality. Now the Philosopher says (Ethic. iii, 7) that “pride apes fortitude and daring.” Therefore the vice of daring precedes the vice of pride.
On the contrary, It is written (Sirach 10:15): “Pride is the beginning of all sin.”
I answer that, The first thing in every genus is that which is essential. Now it has been stated above (Article 6) that aversion from God, which is the formal complement of sin, belongs to pride essentially, and to othersins, consequently. Hence it is that pride fulfils the conditions of a first thing, and is “the beginning of allsins,” as stated above (I-II, 84, 2), when we were treating of the causes of sin on the part of the aversion which is the chief part of sin.
Reply to Objection 1. Pride is said to be “the beginning of all sin,” not as though every sin originated frompride, but because any kind of sin is naturally liable to arise from pride.
Reply to Objection 2. To fall off from God is said to be the beginning of pride, not as though it were a distinctsin from pride, but as being the first part of pride. For it has been said above (Article 5) that pride regards chiefly subjection to God which it scorns, and in consequence it scorns to be subject to a creature for God’ssake.
Reply to Objection 3. There is no need for the order of virtues to be the same as that of vices. For vice is corruptive of virtue. Now that which is first to be generated is the last to be corrupted. Wherefore as faith is the first of virtues, so unbelief is the last of sins, to which sometimes man is led by other sins. Hence a glosson Psalm 136:7, “Rase it, rase it, even to the foundation thereof,” says that “by heaping vice upon vice a manwill lapse into unbelief,” and the Apostle says (1 Timothy 1:19) that “some rejecting a good conscience have made shipwreck concerning the faith.”
Reply to Objection 4. Pride is said to be the most grievous of sins because that which gives sin its gravity isessential to pride. Hence pride is the cause of gravity in other sins. Accordingly previous to pride there may becertain less grievous sins that are committed through ignorance or weakness. But among the grievous sins the first is pride, as the cause whereby other sins are rendered more grievous. And as that which is the first incausing sins is the last in the withdrawal from sin, a gloss on Psalm 18:13, “I shall be cleansed from the greatest sin,” says: “Namely from the sin of pride, which is the last in those who return to God, and the first in those who withdraw from God.”
Reply to Objection 5. The Philosopher associates pride with feigned fortitude, not that it consists precisely in this, but because man thinks he is more likely to be uplifted before men, if he seem to be daring or brave.