Posted by: dacalu | 28 June 2014

Anti-Virtues

As my friends well know, I have a rather medieval mindset at times.  I have a preference for ordered lists and hierarchies, quite popular in Medieval (scholastic) theology which favored exactly 7 sacraments, 9 ranks of angels, and 7 orders of ministry. [1] Thus I learned early the 7 deadly sins and the 7 human virtues. [2] It always puzzled me that the one did not mirror the other.

The more I reflected on them, the more I realized that the 7 deadly sins [3] were more sensationalist than helpful.  They make for popular art (from Garth Nix’ children’s books, Keys to the Kingdom, which I recommend, to the Brad Pitt movie, Se7en, which I am just as happy to have not seen).  They do not, I think, make for good meditations as focusing on what not to do rarely helps.  I would suggest that instead of thinking about these, it is far more practical to think about the seven virtues and the want of of them.

There are two ways to be in want of a virtue: to lack it all together and to have it’s opposite.  For instance, one who does not love might hate or simply be apathetic.  It’s hard for me to say which is worse, for hatred leads to antagonism, but it also requires some interest in the object of your hate, thus love can turn to hate (and vice versa) more easily than it can turn to apathy.  There is so much more I could say, but for now, I’d just like to give you list to see what you make of it. Note that the virtues are all related to love of God, neighbor, self, or creation, while the lacks are all forms of apathy.

 

Virtue (Anti-Virtue, Lack of Virtue) [4]

Love (hate, apathy)

Hope (despair, carelessness)

Faith (distrust, ignorance about persons)

Fortitude or Courage (recklessness, cowardice)

Temperance or Self-Control (scrupulosity, impulsiveness)

Prudence or Wisdom (foolishness, ignorance about things)

Justice (injustice, isolation)

 

 

[1] In case you are wondering, that would be Sacraments: Baptism, Reconciliation, Confirmation, Eucharist, Marriage, Holy Orders, and Unction; Ranks among the heavenly hosts: Angels, Archangels, Principalities, Powers, Virtues, Dominions, Ophanim, Cherubim, Seraphim; Orders: Porter, Lector, Exorcist, Acolyte (minor orders), Sub-Deacon, Deacon, and Priest (major orders).

[2] In the Middle Ages, they were known as the princely virtues, but the Roman Catholic church renamed them in the 20th century in a fit of political correctness.

[3] The seven deadly sins have been mentioned in multiple versions, but the ones I am familiar with are Sloth, Wrath, Envy, Gluttony, Avarice, Lust, and Pride.  Due to a diminishing vocabulary, some moderns may be unaware of the distinction between Envy (wanting more than your neighbor) and Avarice (wanting to accumulate stuff). Alternate lists include vainglory and despair.

[4] The first three or “theological” virtues come from I Cor 13:13.  The second four “cardinal” virtues come from Wisdom of Solomon 8:7. A number of other popular and historical lists exist as well.

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Responses

  1. Yeah, if one really wants to focus on something like the seven deadly sins it’s probably better to go back to their roots and reflect on the 8 thoughts the Desert Fathers talked about, thoughts about sex, food, money/possesions/security (the natural thoughts), anger, jealousy, the restlessness that strikes in the middle of a long bit of work (reaction thoughts), vainglory, and pride (called the spiritual thoughts probably because they led the monks to focus on what their spiritual status was or could be).


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