The Diabolical Sin…


Giotto di Bondone

Giotto di Bondone

….is not voting Leave or Remain, depending on who exactly is casting nasturtiums.

Saint Augustine, the penitent sinner, described envy as the diabolical sin [De catechizandis rudibus 4,8:PL 40,315-316].

Saint Gregory the Great judged: 

“From envy are born hatred, detraction, calumny, joy caused by the misfortune of a neighbour, and displeasure caused by prosperity.” [Moralia in Job 31,45:PL 76,621]


Hendrick Goltzius

Hendrick Goltzius



The Catechism of the Catholic Church describes envy as both a capital and, potentially, a mortal sin, should it lead one to harm a neighbour.  The Catechism describes envy as born of sadness and as constituting a ‘refusal of charity’.  To counter envy’s malign effects, the Christian should rejoice in another’s good fortune and practice humility.

The reference to envy arising from sadness echoes the tenets of the strange world of the Law of Attraction – devotees of the same might see envy and its ill-effects arising from ‘lack’.  In this instance they would probably be correct. ‘Lack’, in this philosophy, breeds ‘lack’.

The classical depiction of Envy derives from the tale of Aglauros in Dante’s Purgatorio – a story itself taken from Ovid. The goddess Minerva becomes angry and envious at the actions of Aglauros, daughter of King Cecrops, founder of Athens; she determines to seek revenge. Minerva commands Envy to harm Aglauros; Envy poisons Aglauros’ mind until she begins to waste away, eaten up with her own envy at her sister’s happiness and good fortune –  ultimately Mercury destroys her. Envy’s vile touch and her ‘pestilential breath’ infect Aglauros: even Minerva cannot look at her directly.

Note how the classical artists show Envy as something that consumes itself and others, just as a person might become consumed by their own malign passion. Envy does not simply wish harm to another –  if you are a sufferer, envy will consume you.


Jacques Callot

Jacques Callot


So Be Careful.


This entry was posted in Allegory, Art, Catechism, Catholic Writers, Sin and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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