The Moral Virtue of Temperance – Part 5 of 5

We conclude Father Pegues’ exposition of the virtue of temperance by discussing humility, which is the species of modesty that regulates the desire of one’s own excellence.

The virtue of humility “makes man repress or regulate whatever touches his own worth in such wise that he does not seek more than is in accordance with the degree of his excellence as fixed by God. It follows that man does not esteem anything as due to him considered in himself, but that all he has and is comes from God; for of himself he has nothing at all, except sin; as regards his neighbours, he esteems that their worth is due to them according to the state of perfection in which God has placed them; and as regards the rest of creation, he wishes only that things should have the place and order such as God has disposed.”

The sin opposed to humility is pride, which is “that special and in some sort general sin which, in despisal of God and of the order He has established in His work, strives to dominate all and to make one place oneself before all others by esteeming oneself superior to all.” This “leads man to commit all manner of sins.” Pride is a capital sin and the first of all sins because “there can be no grave sin that does not presuppose the sin of pride. . . . It is pride, by reason of the contempt it implies for God, that completes as it were the essence of other sins in so far as they make man turn away from God.”

The sin of the fallen angels was pride. The first sin of Adam and Eve was not the sin of gluttony, or of disobedience, or of an empty curiosity with regard to knowledge, or of a lack of faith in the word of God; rather, it was the sin of pride, “without which no other sin could exist at all.” The reason why pride was their first sin is because “their state of integrity made all within them to be perfectly under control so long as their mind remained subjected to God; but their mind could only turn away from God for some motive of pride by wishing themselves some excellence which was not their due.”

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

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