Formation

Vices: know what they are and how to fight them

The concupiscent tendency is universal, that is, it is present in every human being as an inheritance from original sin. However, we must not forget that it is only a tendency.

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You will now follow a Special Series about vices. We will also show you the virtues necessary to combat them.

How about changing your life from now on?

But what is a vice after all?

The term vice comes from the Latin vitium, meaning “failure” or “defect”. This “fault” refers to a person’s unavailability in relation to his nature and the end in which he orders himself.

Man was created for good, and vice is a disposition to evil, so man with vice has a fault or defect in relation to the realization of the end for which he was created according to his nature.

For this reason, St. Thomas affirms in the Summa Theologica: “call what you see as lacking in the perfection of nature a vice” (ST I-II q. 71, a.1. Page 291).

A very common doubt that occurs when speaking of vices is their identification. What is a vice and what is not?

To answer this question, two things are fundamental.

First, we must be clear about moral good and evil, that is, we must be clear about what is good or bad, or what is convenient or not for man to do according to the will of God and, consequently, his holiness and happiness.

Secondly, we must make the difference between the tendency to evil, the evil act and the evil habit.

Inheritance of original sin

The first is what the Church’s Tradition called concupiscence. It makes man want to satisfy his appetites in a disordered way.

The concupiscent tendency is universal, that is, it is present in every human being as a legacy of original sin. However, we must not forget that it is only a tendency.

The second is the evil act, which we well know as sin, a term which means “to get off the path”, “to miss the target. The key word to understand this point is “consent”.

For there to be sin, the consent is necessary. St. Augustine is clear in stating that “every sin is so voluntary that not being voluntary is not sin.”

Freedom of choice

In the face of desire, disordered by concupiscent tendency, man has the option to consent or resist it.

When he chooses evil and transgresses the law of God to satisfy his appetites, we are in the presence of a sinful act. It is not fitting here to list the grave consequences of sin.

The third is the evil habit, which is generated by the repetition of the evil act and is called vice.

It teaches the Catechism:

“Sin leads to sin; it generates vice, by the repetition of the same acts. The result is perverse inclinations, which obscure the conscience and corrupt the concrete appreciation of good and evil. Thus sin tends to reproduce and reinforce itself, although it cannot radically destroy the moral sense”. (CIC 1865)

We discussed the theme of the habit in the book Virtues: the path of imitation of Christ1, in which we pointed out that the Latin term habitus indicates dwelling, residence, permanence, and how this predisposes to the realization of acts, both good and bad, as St. Thomas Aquinas indicates.

Dispositions

Vices are dispositions to evil.

They consist not only of a fall, that is to say, a sinful act in isolation, which could have been caused by a particular circumstance, but of a state of true internal decomposition, which influences customs and affections.

We are talking about a terrible and disturbing state. There are some vices that are called “capital” because they generate many other sins and vices.

The Church’s Tradition lists seven: pride, avarice, envy, wrath, impurity, gluttony and laziness or acedia (cf. CCC 1866).

St. Thomas also defines capital vices as “those whose ends have certain primary reasons for moving the appetite” (ST I-II q. 85, a. 4. Page 455).

Also, Friar Patricio Sciadini, using the mystical Carmelite tradition, defines them as “a destructive presence of the values of gratitude and love and, from the beginning, the beginner in the spiritual path must overcome and overcome them”.2

The fullness of life is possible

It’s them we’ll reflect on. By identifying them, it will be easier to remove them from our lives.

As we follow this series, let us remember the words of the author of the Imitation of Christ, Thomas of Kempis:

If each year we eradicated only one vice, we would soon be perfect.

 

Translation: Sérgio Godoy Jr.

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¹ LÉNIZ, Juan José. Virtudes: caminho de imitação de Cristo, p. 40-41. Edições Shalom, 2020.

SCIADINI, Patricio. Os vícios capitais e seus remédios, p.11. Edições Shalom, 2007.


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