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Discussion 1 to Reflections on Ethics 53
On the Deadly Sins

by Will Petillo

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Something which most people -- the writer of "The New Deadly Sins" included -- seem to be unaware of is that the traditional seven deadly sins were chosen not for their inherent sinfulness, but rather for their tendency to lead to sin.[1] For example, lust is one of the traditional seven in part because it leads to adultery--which, incidentally, is on the new list. Likewise, Pride can lead one to all sorts of horrible actions, but is not a bad thing in itself (it is often considered a good thing to have pride in oneself or in one's work).

Who is harmed is irrelevant in the traditional ordering of the deadly sins; what is important is knowing what traits one should be most careful to guard against an excess of. For this reason, I believe that the traditional ordering of the seven deadly sins is far more useful than "The New Deadly Sins" proposed in Reflection 53.


  1. According to St. Thomas "a capital vice is that which has an exceedingly desirable end so that in his desire for it a man goes on to the commission of many sins all of which are said to originate in that vice as their chief source". It is not then the gravity of the vice in itself that makes it capital but rather the fact that it gives rise to many other sins. Catholic Encyclopedia