The Theological Virtue of Charity – Part 4 of 5

Father Pegues continues his exposition of the virtue of charity by discussing the vices opposed to charity. First, there is the vice of hatred, which is directly opposed to charity. Then, there is scandal, which is opposed to kindliness. Next, there is spiritual laziness and envy, which are opposed to the joy that flows from charity.

Hatred is the greatest of all the vices opposed directly to the principal act of charity, which is an act of love of God and of one’s neighbour.” Since God is the Infinite Good from whom comes all good, how can He be hated by one of His creatures? “It is explained by the moral depravation of some of His creatures, who no longer consider God as the Infinite Good and the source of all good things, but as the Legislator who forbids the evil one loves, or as the judge who condemns and punishes the evil one commits.”

“One never has the right to hate evildoers; but one should detest the evil they do.” One may never wish a person on earth eternal damnation, for “this would be an act directly opposed to the virtue of charity, which makes us wish for all in the end the happiness of God.”

Scandal is that sin which through some word or deed offers to another an occasion of sinning; or the fact of taking occasion to sin because of what is said or done by another: in the first instance one gives scandal; in the second, one is scandalized.” Virtuous souls are incapable of giving scandal, and only spiritually weak souls are capable of being scandalized. Lest the weak be scandalized, the virtuous are sometimes obliged to forego certain things, provided those things are not necessary for salvation.

Spiritual laziness is a distaste for spiritual things. It is a capital sin because “on its account men do many evil things and commit numerous sins either to avoid and get rid of it, or because its oppressiveness makes them take refuge in evil acts.” Some sins it leads to are despair, pusillanimity, sluggishness as regards precepts, spite, malice, and a wandering of the mind to unlawful things.

Envy is sadness because of the good of another, not because this good is a cause of evil to us, but merely because it is another’s and not ours. . . . Spiritual laziness is opposed to the joy of the divine good in so far as this good is in God and ought to be in us; whereas envy is opposed to the joy of the divine good in so far as this good belongs to our neighbour.” Envy is a capital sin, for it leads to other sins, such as calumny, detraction, rejoicing in the adversities of another, and harboring sadness at another’s prosperity.

Quotations from Thomas Pegues, Catechism of the “Summa Theologica” of Saint Thomas Aquinas, trans. Aelred Whitacre (New York: Benziger, 1922).

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