That Which Goeth Before Destruction
By A Simple Man
As far as Americans are concerned, the month of June has
become synonymous with a certain something known as Pride Month, wherein
deviant sexualities are celebrated, various corporations put rainbows into
their logos to commemorate them, and the attitude of “Celebrate, or else!” is
imposed writ large on popular society. (That June is also the month dedicated
to the Sacred Heart of Jesus adds a touch of blasphemy to these proceedings.)
With that being said, the connection of ‘pride’ with deviant sexualities seems
unfounded at first glance, at least in a moral sense; it is only thanks to the
Stonewall riots of 1969 (and the subsequent marches and parades on the
anniversaries thereafter) that pride became a buzzword inextricably linked with
gay and lesbian groups (which, as time has gone on, has accrued more and more
aberrant sexualities, to the point where it’s become a joke at how long the old
LGBT acronym has become). To cite a quote from the National
Historic Landmark Nomination for Stonewall (which it certainly is, but for
all the wrong reasons): “Up
to 1969, this movement was generally called the homosexual or homophile
movement…in June 1969, New York police raided the Stonewall Inn, a bar on
Greenwich Village's Christopher Street that was popular with male homosexuals.
The bar's clientele took umbrage, and for the first time in history homosexuals
fought back. The police were stunned....Word spread of the spontaneous
rebellion and immediately the movement acquired a grass-roots appeal and began
to burgeon. Many new activists consider the Stonewall uprising the birth of the
gay liberation movement. Certainly it was the birth of gay pride on a
massive scale.” (Italics is emphasis mine.)
Since then, the association of June with ‘Pride Month’ has
only increased, especially after civil recognition was given by Bill Clinton as
far back as 1999 (Presidential
Proclamation 7203 — Gay and Lesbian Pride Month, 1999), and by Barack Obama
during each year of his presidency. Without a doubt, the very concept of pride in
this sense has been inculcated into the popular culture as a modern civic
‘virtue’; if one dares dispute its status, castigation as a civil heretic
awaits you from the secular orthodoxy. Woe to those who call good, evil; and
Introibo has already published a
post on the sheer statistical evidence regarding the physical and mental
problems associated with the deviant behaviors and lifestyles of the LGBTQ+
movement; however, it would behoove us to investigate the lessons of moral
theology with regards to pride, since it is a commonly held sentiment in many
other aspects beyond the inherently impure manner of Pride Month (such as pride
in one’s accomplishments, being proud of one’s family or country, and so
forth). After all, Pope St. Gregory the Great famously labelled pride the “queen and mother of all the vices,”
so we should be especially on guard against it.
What is pride? Per the Catholic Encyclopedia,
it is “the excessive love of
one’s own excellence.” It does not take long to see how this definition
applies to the modern celebrations of Pride Month, given the bombastic parades
and in-your-face behavior of those who proclaim their sexual proclivities with
such effusive gusto. But how does pride manifest in our own lives, wherein the
temptation to boast of one’s works may rear its ugly head?
First, we turn to the Angelic Doctor, St. Thomas Aquinas.
Per Question 162 of the
Second Part of the Second Part of the Summa Theologiae, which deals with
pride exclusively (all punctuation and spelling is as cited, save for certain
citations which have been truncated for the sake of readability):
- From Article 1, Whether pride is a sin, St. Thomas lists an objection with regards to how God promised to make Jerusalem an “everlasting glory, a joy unto generation and generation” (Isaiah 60:15 from the Douay-Rheims, rendered as “[Jerusalem] shalt be the pride of ages, the joy of succeeding generations” in the Knox Bible), so how then could pride be bad? Likewise, there is the objection that it is not a sin to want to be like unto God, and is not pride merely the imitation of exaltedness, where God is the most exalted over all? St. Thomas answers: “right reason requires that every man's will should tend to that which is proportionate to him. Therefore it is evident that pride denotes something opposed to right reason, and this shows it to have the character of sin…Pride [superbia] may be understood in two ways. First as overpassing [supergreditur] the rule of reason, and in this sense we say that it is a sin. Secondly, it may simply denominate "super-abundance"; in which sense any super-abundant thing may be called pride: and it is thus that God promises pride as significant of super-abundant good. Hence a gloss of Jerome on the same passage (Isaiah 61:6) says that "there is a good and an evil pride"; or "a sinful pride which God resists, and a pride that denotes the glory which He bestows." It may also be replied that pride there signifies abundance of those things in which men may take pride. […] Reason has the direction of those things for which man has a natural appetite; so that if the appetite wander from the rule of reason, whether by excess or by default, it will be sinful, as is the case with the appetite for food which man desires naturally. Now pride is the appetite for excellence in excess of right reason. Wherefore Augustine says…that pride is the "desire for inordinate exaltation": and hence it is that, as he asserts…"pride imitates God inordinately: for it hath equality of fellowship under Him, and wishes to usurp Hi. [recte His] dominion over our fellow-creatures."”
From Article 2, Whether pride is a special
sin, he answers: “…it may
be considered as having a certain influence towards other sins. On this way it
has somewhat of a generic character, inasmuch as all sins may arise from pride,
in two ways. First directly, through other sins being directed to the end of
pride which is one's own excellence, to which may be directed anything that is
inordinately desired. Secondly, indirectly and accidentally as it were, that is
by removing an obstacle, since pride makes a man despise the Divine law which
hinders him from sinning, according to Jeremiah 2:20, "Thou
hast broken My yoke, thou hast burst My bands, and thou saidst: I will not
serve." It must,
however, be observed that this generic character of pride admits of the
possibility of all vices arising from pride sometimes, but it does not imply
that all vices originate from pride always. For though one may break the
commandments of the Law by any kind of sin, through contempt which pertains to
pride, yet one does not always break the Divine commandments through contempt,
but sometimes through ignorance. and sometimes through weakness: and for this
reason Augustine says…that "many things are done amiss
which are not done through pride."“
From Article 6, Whether pride is the most
grievous of sins, he answers: “…on
the part of the aversion, pride has extreme gravity, because in other sins man
turns away from God, either through ignorance or through weakness, or through
desire for any other good whatever; whereas pride denotes aversion from God
simply through being unwilling to be subject to God and His rule. Hence
Boethius…says that "while all vices flee from God, pride alone
for which reason it is specially stated (James 4:6) that "God
resisteth the proud."
Wherefore aversion from God and His commandments, which is a consequence as it
were in other sins, belongs to pride by its very nature, for its act is the
contempt of God. And since that which belongs to a thing by its nature is
always of greater weight than that which belongs to it through something else,
it follows that pride is the most grievous of sins by its genus, because it
exceeds in aversion which is the formal complement of sin.”
The remainder of Question 162 is well worth reading in its
entirety. A good companion piece to also review is Question 132 of the Second
Part of the Second Part on Vainglory, since such is a daughter of pride.
Secondly, we shall turn to the Doctor of Moral Theology, St.
Alphonsus Liguori. Per Volume I of his Theologia Moralis (version cited
is the 2017 publication from Mediatrix Press, translated from the Latin by Ryan
Grant; all citations referred to by St. Alphonsus are redacted for the sake of
readability; all other punctuation, formatting, and spelling is as cited), from
a mortal sin by its genus if it is consummated and carried out, i.e. if
someone so desired to excel that he refused to be subject to God, superiors,
and their laws. Nevertheless, it is imperfect in a case where someone that does
not refuse to be subject to those whom he ought, only magnifies himself in his
own emotions, and it is only venial, as Cajetan and others teach…without
contempt of God and of others, to raise himself more than the just, it is not a
grave disorder: still it would be grave if it were done with notable contempt
of others, by being pleased with the abjection of others.
daughters of pride are three: 1) Presumption [ASM’s Note: Not to be confused with
the sin of presumption which hopes for salvation without doing anything to
deserve it due to an improper and badly regulated hope in God’s mercy], which is the appetite for
undertaking something beyond one’s strength. It is commonly only a venial sin;
still it becomes mortal if it causes injury to God or neighbor, e.g. if
one were to presume ecclesiastical jurisdiction, the power of Holy Orders;
likewise if one were to presume the office of a doctor, a defense attorney, a
confessor, etc. without due experience…2. Ambition, which is a disordered desire
for dignity and honor that is not due, or due to one greater, such as if one
were to solicit a benefice or office for which he was not worthy, or illicit in
the mode and measure; e.g. by simony. It is a venial sin per se,
but it becomes mortal either by reason of the matter, from which, or by reason
of the means, by which an honor is sought, or by reason of the loss which is
inflicted on one’s neighbor. […] 3. Vainglory, viz. desire for inane glory, has
its end in the disordered manifestation of a proper excellence, whether true or
false. It is called vain, when it is sought for an evil, false, or fictitious
thing, or something that is not worthy of glory…such as from riches, trifles,
etc., or among those who do not judge rightly about a matter, or without a due
purpose. It is a venial sin of itself, but is often a mortal sin per
Pusillanimity corresponds to these three daughters of pride, whereby someone
lacking in confidence would detract honors, glory or a duty from himself for
which he is worthy. It is venial of its nature; and it becomes mortal if one
were to detract from something to which he is held under mortal sin.
the following are resolved:
1. Hearing praise for himself or another on a matter that is mortally evil, one
sins mortally if he would approve it, support, or admire it as worthy of praise.
[…] Disparaging another on account of vengeance not taken up, or some other
grave evil, or a sin that was omitted…he sins mortally because it is a species
of boasting and it is with approbation of sin, and the occasion to commit it.
[…] To exonerate oneself too much from a spirit of levity or vanity, in itself
is only a venial sin. […] To feign holiness with a will to not really have
it…is a mortal sin. […] To feign wickedness is a sin (because it is a lie and
certainly scandalous; it can also be mortal)…”
Lastly, we turn to McHugh, O.P. and Callan, O.P.’s Moral
Theology from 1958 (hosted in the
public domain by Project Gutenberg), and shall quote paragraphs 2557
through 2561 in their entirety (all punctuation is as cited):
2557. Pride.—Pride is an inordinate desire of one's own personal excellence.
is a desire, for the object of pride is that which is pleasing and yet not easy
desire is concerned with excellence, that is, with a high degree of some
perfection (such as virtue, knowledge, beauty, fame, honor) or with superiority
to others in perfection.
excellence sought is personal; that is, the object of pride is self as exalted
on high or raised above others. Ambition seeks greatness in honors and
dignities, presumption greatness in accomplishment, and vanity greatness in
reputation and glory; pride, from which these other vices spring, seeks the
greatness of the ego or of those things with which the ego is identified, such
as one's own children, one's own family, or one's own race.
(d) The desire is inordinate, either as to the matter, when one desires an excellence or superiority of which one is unworthy (e.g., equality with Our Lord), or as to the manner, when one expressly desires to have excellence or superiority without due subjection (e.g., to possess one's virtue without dependence on God or from one's own unaided merits). In the former case pride is opposed to greatness of soul, in the latter case to humility. The contempt which is proper to pride is a disdain for subjection, and the contempt which belongs to disobedience is a disgust for a precept; but pride naturally leads to contempt for law and for God and the neighbor (see 2367).
2558. The Acts of Pride.—
his intellect, the proud man has an exaggerated opinion of his own worth, and
this causes his inordinate desire of praise and exaltation. But pride may also
be the cause of conceited ideas, for those who are too much in admiration of
themselves often come to think that they are really as great as they wish to
will of the proud man worships his own greatness, and longs for its recognition
and glorification by others.
(c) In his external words and works, the proud man betrays himself by boasting, self-glorification, self-justification, by his haughty appearance and gestures and luxurious style, by arrogance, insolence, perfidy, disregard of the rights and feelings of others, etc.
2559. The Sinfulness of Pride.—
pride, which turns away from God because it considers subjection detrimental to
one's own excellence, is a mortal sin from its nature, since it is a manifest
rebellion against the Supreme Being (Ecclus., x. 14). Such was the pride of
Lucifer, but it is rare in human beings. Complete pride may be venial from the
imperfection of the act, when it is only a semideliberate wish.
(b) Incomplete pride, which turns inordinately to the love of created excellence but without disaffection to superiors, is in itself a venial sin, for there is no serious disorder in the excess of an otherwise indifferent passion. But circumstances may make this pride mortal (e.g., when it is productive of serious harm to others).
2560. Pride Compared with Other Sins.—
pride is less than hatred of God, for the former has as its object personal
excellence, the latter separation from God. But after hatred of God complete
pride is worse disloyalty than any other mortal sin; it separates from God
directly, since it abjures allegiance to the Supreme Being, while other sins
separate from God only indirectly, since they offend, not from contempt, but
from ignorance, or passion or excessive desire.
was the first sin, because by it the angels and our first parents fell, the
angels desiring likeness to God in beatitude, Adam and Eve likeness in
knowledge (Ecclus., x. 15; Prov., xviii. 11; Tob., iv. 14).
(c) Influence.—Pride is called the queen and mother of the seven capital vices—namely, vainglory (2450), gluttony (2473), lust (2494), avarice (2426), sloth (1322), envy (1342), and anger (2549)—not in the sense that every sin is the result of pride (for many persons sin from ignorance, passion, etc.), but in the sense that the inordinate desire of personal excellence is a motive that can impel one to any kind of sin, just as covetousness offers a means that is useful for every temporal end (I Tim., vi. 10). Pride is also most dangerous, since it steals away the reward of virtue itself (Matt., vi. 2); and, as humility is the first step towards heaven, pride is the first step towards hell.
2561. Abjection.—The other extreme of pride is abjection.
a turning away from these higher things to which one should aspire, this sin is
the same as littleness of soul, and it is opposed to greatness of soul (see
a turning to lower things or to a submission to others which is unreasonable,
this vice is directly opposed to humility. Examples are persons of knowledge
who waste their time on menial labor when they should be more usefully employed
in other pursuits, or who permit themselves to be corrected and guided by the
errors and false principles of the ignorant.
[ASM’s Note: In this sense of lowering oneself for improper reasons or for false pretenses, abjection can be considered an example of “false humility.”]
To summarize, the following general principles can be taken from the prior citations on the matter of pride:
Pride is rightly called the mother of vices because,
of its nature, it is rooted in aversion to being subject to anyone else,
be it God or one’s lawful superiors.
A given manifestation of pride may be either
venial or mortal dependent on the matter which it relates to, the means by
which it occurs, and the effects it has on oneself and others in terms of
damage or proportionality.
A given manifestation of pride is a sin either directly
(due to being related explicitly to the matter which one is expressing pride
in, e.g. boasting of one’s accomplishments vaingloriously) or indirectly
(due to one’s pride resulting in a defect or vice that leads to a sin of a
different stripe, e.g. through pride in one’s will, one is discordant
with one’s neighbor on a matter in which they should be in harmony).
As such, with regards to the modern examples of pride
discussed previously, we can conclude as follows:
Pride, in the sense of those who speak of Pride
Month, is a mortal sin. For those who are not LGBTQ+
themselves yet still celebrate Pride Month, it is sinful due to expressing
approval and approbation for objectively impure behavior. In addition, for
those who are themselves LGBTQ+, the celebration of Pride Month is an objective
expression of their refusal to be subject to the natural law and the moral law
of God, as well as an inordinate desire to glory in their impure lifestyle
(notwithstanding their identification of such behavior as integral to their
very being, as though such impurity were an immutable part of their very
Pride, in the sense of being proud of one’s
accomplishments (or the accomplishments of one’s family, one’s friends, and so
forth), can be sinful to the degree in which one treats such
accomplishments with undue proportion (e.g. crowing to
one’s co-workers about getting the Employee of the Month award instead
of, for example, accepting it humbly and without any fuss…or perhaps even
turning it down) and to the degree in which one treats such accomplishments as
being solely due to one’s own talents without regard to what God has given them
(whether it be natural gifts or supernatural graces).
3) Pride, in the sense of being proud of one’s country (i.e. patriotism), can be sinful to the degree in which one treats the ideals and actions of the nation in relation to the rights of God (e.g. the difference between the natural desire to protect one’s homeland vs. seeking undue glory by means of martial or ideological conquest; or, the difference between celebrating objectively good ideals promoted by one’s country vs. celebrating all of its cultural mores, even if they be at variance with the moral law of God).
In conclusion, the antidote to all manifestations of
pride is the virtue of humility: recognizing our total dependence upon
God without debasing ourselves unduly (e.g. by comparing ourselves to mere
animals, and therefore becoming like irrational beasts); restraining our
passions, and not letting inordinate desire and ambition inform our conduct;
aiming at higher things without thought to our own powers, but with confidence
in God’s help; duly esteeming our fellow man rather than ourselves, subjecting
ourselves accordingly without vainglory; and lastly (but not exhaustively),
understanding the duties which we are called to perform, according to our state
Armed with such virtues, what attraction can the false
gospel of Pride Month have, which glories in the false identification of sexual
deviancy with human nature? None whatsoever, I dare to say! For, as the Book of
Proverbs teaches in verse 2 of chapter 11, “where
pride is, there also shall be reproach: but where humility is, there also is