Under Pontius Pilate

The phrase “Under Pontius Pilate” reminds us that the crucifixion of Jesus Christ was an historical event. It is an event that can be corroborated by non-gospel sources. So it is not just a story made up later by the faithful.

Monsignor Knox contrasts that when you tell a fairy tale, you open it with a phrase such as “Once Upon a Time.” But the gospel says when Pilate was procurator in Judea. And that means we can pretty much mark in history when these things happened.

And Monsignor Knox discusses why it would have been at the time of Pontius Pilate. This is a little bit of Western Civ history, so I apologize in advance. Alexander the Great was a very successful empire builder around 330 BC, and his Empire stretched from North Africa all the way to India. He spoke Greek, and so the Greek language was spread across the empire at that time. He didn’t last very long, but his empire was divided and remained established so long that the entire world came to know the Greek language in much the same way that the entire world knows the English language today.

The Roman Empire eventually followed Alexander’s and came to dominate all the way from Great Britain to Persia. The Roman civil wars ended around 30 BC, so the entire Mediterranean area was at peace. And the Temple of Jerusalem was destroyed around 70 AD. Monsignor Knox explains that that means we have about a hundred year period when the entire world understood the Greek language and the entire world was relatively peaceful and safe under the Roman Empire. This is the fullness of time when God chose to send his son to a remote corner of the Roman Empire but with a message that would change the world. And that’s why “Under Pontius Pilate” is in our Creed.

He Suffered

The next phrase is “he suffered.”

We are familiar with the agony in the Garden of Gethsemane that Jesus endured on the night before his passion, but there are other times in the gospel stories where it’s clear that our Lord is suffering. After his 40 days in the desert, he is hungry. And hunger is a kind of suffering. He is also hungry when he comes to the fig tree that does not bear fruit. And when he meets the woman at the well, the woman with the irregular marriage situation, he is tired and thirsty. That’s why he stops at the well and asks for water.

These are important things for us to remember as part of our faith because they confirm our teaching that Jesus was fully human. Except for sin, he was human in all things like us. And it helps us make sense of suffering a little bit when we know that our Lord suffered with some regularity before the end of his life. Being hungry, being tired, or being thirsty are all things that all of us have experienced in our lives and expect to experience in our lives. And Jesus experienced them as we do.

Continue reading “He Suffered”

Born of the Virgin Mary

The next phrase from the Apostles Creed is, “conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary.” Monsignor Knox points out that the title Our Lady is not an ancient title that we see from the early days of the Church, but it seems to come perhaps in the Middle Ages and perhaps it’s connected to the tradition of the troubadours who sang epic songs of heroes and of a courtly love for the beautiful noble maiden. If you’re familiar with Dante’s Comedy, the woman Beatrice is one of these beautiful noble maidens for whom Dante has a chaste and courtly love.

Monsignor Knox then gets to his main point about this phrase. Mary was really the mother of Jesus. Like a true mother, she gave birth to the boy. It was a real live birth. Jesus was not some kind of a phantom; he was a real human baby. So when we refer to her as the mother of God, we are saying he was his true mother. When we say that Mary is the mother of God, we are also saying that Jesus is truly God.

And this brings Monsignor Knox to focus on the word “virgin.” Mary was truly a virgin. Jesus had no earthly father. And Mary remained a virgin the rest of her life. You might have heard of the objection that elsewhere in the scriptures people refer to Jesus’s brothers, and you might have heard of the explanation which is that in those languages, there was no distinction among close relatives. We know that John the Baptist was Jesus’s cousin because we know that his mother Elizabeth was a close relative of Mary, but those languages did not have differentiation between brother and cousin the way our English language does. So when we read the word brother in the scriptures, we need to mentally substitute the phrase close relative. Jesus had no brothers or sisters in the way we mean the word today, for Mary remained ever virgin.

And Monsignor Knox argues that it is fitting, indeed, it is appropriate, that the son of God should be born in a miraculous way. It seems right that the Son of God would be born to a virgin who would remain one. Certainly if you put yourself in the shoes of Joseph, you might realistically choose not to insist upon natural marital rights with a woman about whom an angel came and visited you in the middle of the night, a woman whose birth was in a stable attended by the animals, but then shepherds showed up saying that Angels had sung to them from the heavens about the birth of this boy. And then three foreigners who are some kind of philosopher / magicians come to pay homage to your son and offer gifts of frankincense, gold, and myrrh. Joseph can tell that something miraculous is going on with this boy who was born of the Virgin Mary.

Monsignor Knox notes that for some reason people stumble more over this claim that Mary was a virgin before and after and always more than they stumble over the claim of the Resurrection. And it does seem that if believers are willing to say that a man was killed on Friday and then rose by his own power from death on Sunday, then it takes no greater leap of faith to say that he was born of a virgin who remained a virgin after his birth. But for some reason, people do struggle over this teaching.

Why a Virgin Birth

And Monsignor Knox offers an answer as to why this is the case. And I’ve put it here on the screen because I think it’s so well said. “The resurrection, through which our Lord passed out of his mortal life, is meant to assure us that life is a bigger thing than death. The Virgin birth, by which he entered into mortal life, is meant to assure us that spirit is a bigger thing than body.”

He then offers this explanation: After the fall in the Garden of Eden, therefore a consequence of original sin, our passions can dominate our will — our bodily desires and urges can overwhelm our intellect and choosing functions — so that the body can seem more important or more powerful than the spirit or the soul. And Monsignor Knox argues that we see this confusion complicates important things such as Love and Marriage.

Born of the Virgin Mary

His conclusion, which I have on the screen, is: “The word was made flesh in order that we, creatures of the flesh, might be brought, once more, under the power of the spirit.”

And in Jesus Christ Our Lord

The next phrase from the Apostles Creed is and in Jesus Christ his only son.

Jesus is just the Aramaic form of the word that we see in the Old Testament Joshua. So it’s a relatively familiar name for a boy, and as is the case with so many Hebrew names, it means something. In this case it means “he who saves, savior.” It’s also a noble name in that it connects to Joshua, who led his people across the Jordan into the promised land completing the Exodus. So the name Joshua or Jesus is automatically a powerful and impressive name for a person.

But Monsignor Knox focuses more on the next term, Christ, for that is the weightier term. Calling somebody the Christ is calling somebody the Messiah. You might remember the scene from the gospels when Jesus asks his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” And there are answers that suggest people think he’s a prophet like Elijah, and others think he might be John the Baptist. When Jesus asks, “But who do you say that I am,” that’s when St Peter has one of his greatest moments and blurts out, “You are the Christ.” And Jesus confirms how important this is because he says, “Blessed are you Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father.” [Mt. 16:17]

The Christ is the Messiah and the anointed one, for that’s what they all mean. Christ is just the Latin word for anointed one, and Messiah is the Hebrew word for anointed one, so we’re all talking about the same thing no matter which word we use.

Continue reading “And in Jesus Christ Our Lord”

The Creed in Slow Motion Pt 1.


Ronald Knox was an Anglican whose conversion was partly due to his relationship with G.K. Chesterton, a famous public Catholic intellectual at the time. Having gone through the English upper-class education system and been ordained as an Anglican priest in 1912, he was brought into the Catholic Church in 1917 and quickly ordained a priest in the Catholic Church.

Recognized for his scholarship and his writing, the English bishops tasked him with translating the Vulgate into English. The English translation everyone used was called the Douay-Rheims Bible and was translated about the same time as the King James version in the early 1600s.

Msgr. Knox was sent to a rural convent so he could work undistracted, but soon after the War started, many urban girls were sent there for safety, and he became the chaplain to this impromptu school for girls. After three years together, he decided to use his sermon time in a different way. He chose to lead them through the Apostle’s Creed – the one we say at the beginning of the Rosary, not the one we say at Mass. At that time, the Mass was prayed in Latin, and all the girls would know the Latin prayers, which is why his commentaries are full of bits of Latin.


Msgr. Knox starts with the first word of the Creed: Credo. (This is why we call it the Creed, for it is a profession of faith and the first word is the Latin word for the phrase “I believe” in English.

As we go through the Creed, I will try to provide you with the Latin, the English words translated faithfully, and then the English written out as we would write English.

He asks the question, “Why ‘I believe’ instead of ‘we believe’ in the middle of Mass, which is our great communal celebration. Think about the opening rites of our Mass, in which we confess our sins and then sing the Gloria. Sometimes we pray the prayer in the group setting but emphasize the singular – as in the Credo and the Confiteor – while other times we pray in the group but emphasize the collective – as in the Gloria: we praise thee (laudamus te), we bless thee (benedicimus te), we adore thee (adoramus te), we glorify thee (glorificamus te).

So, what is going on here? What is significant about the use of the first person singular or the first person plural?

When we sing the Gloria, we are like the glorious company of the Apostles in Heaven losing ourselves in our song of praise to God. We join in the chorus of praise and adoration of the Almighty.

When we recite the Creed – alone or in a group – we are declaring our personal belief in the doctrines of the Church. The “I” is critical, for we are personally responsible for our declaration of faith. The Creed is what the Church believes in a very distilled form. I am declaring myself in union with the Church when I recite the Creed. I may not understand the fullness of each doctrine, but I am declaring my faith in each one.

And the same personal responsibility applies when it comes to confessing our sins. We just completed a long examination of moral questions so that we could prepare well for the Sacrament of Reconciliation. When we walk into the confessional, the priest expects us to confess our sins, not the sins of others. (Wouldn’t that be so much more fun!)

If I find there are parts of the Creed I do not believe, then I should consider studying and seeking some help from a qualified person to help my grow in my understanding to the point that I do believe. Or, perhaps, I should be honest about my lack of belief, my lack of faith, and stop reciting it.

Once a year at Easter, we substitute a Profession of Faith for the Nicene Creed, so that the doctrines are posed as questions and the people answer “I do.” If you have been to a baptism, you have heard the same format. Each time we pray the Creed, we are renewing our commitment to the faith, and this personal statement is critical if we are to have a personal relationship with our Lord.

Msgr. Knox points out that the belief embedded in the Creed is not the same thing as the belief that credulous or gullible people believe. He says:

The difference between being a credulous person and being a sensible person isn’t a question of HOW MANY things you believe; it’s a question of whether you believe the RIGHT things; that is whether you demand the right kind of evidence before you believe a thing or not. (p.4)

He cites newspaper reports of the Loch Ness Monster, but we could talk about people who believe what they see on Tiktok or Twitter. We should not believe it just because we read about it on social media. But, on the other hand, if you get persistent and similar reports from multiple sources you regard as sensible and truthful, then it is foolish not to believe it – even if you also saw it on social media.

Many of the historical items in the gospels are confirmed by non-religious sources. That Pilate was there is confirmed by Jewish sources. That crucifixion was a means of execution at the time was confirmed by many other examples of Romans using it.

Knox then points out that to believe a thing is not the same as not denying it. It means focusing your mind on it until you care about it enough to want to really know whether it is true or not. If you really believe a thing, it becomes part of the make-up of your mind. In the case of the Creed, our faith becomes the framework for how we interact with the world and the lens through which we see the world.

More Logic

One of the bases for belief in the Creed is the reliability of the Catholic Church. The Church will be mentioned directly later in the Creed, but as we have already seen in earlier sessions, the Church has the job of protecting the deposit of the faith, and it is protected from error in matters of faith and morals by the Holy Spirit, which is something we get directly from the mouth of Jesus in the gospels.

Msgr. Knox then points out that some things don’t have to be believed entirely on the authority of the Church, and he pivots to some of the ways that St. Thomas Aquinas proved the existence of God on the basis of reason alone.

A prerequisite of reason and logical thinking is the principle of non-contradiction. It means that two statements that are opposite cannot both be true. One cannot truthfully say, “I am a man” and also declare “I am a woman.” One cannot be both; one must be either male or female. This fundamental truth is under assault today, and many self-declared smart people endorse what is called “gender fluidity,” but all of this is illogical thinking because it violates the principle of non-contradiction. In our study of the moral life, we learned what a sin is. Well, if murder is a sin, then murder cannot not be a sin. When somebody confesses to murder but does not see it as an immoral act, then he has departed from rationality. He is declaring as true something that cannot be true.

A second important concept is the idea that logic cannot end in a dead end. We cannot end up in self-contradiction, nor can we end up in falsehood. And more commonly, we cannot end up in an endless repetition of the same premise over and over. This one is very common for anyone who has talked with inquisitive young boys, for they love to ask “why” to the answer of every question. There always seems to be something that came before the last thing we listed. If every event has a cause, then we will be stuck in an endless circle of causes. And that is reduction to the absurd. In order to not end up there, we must consider that there is a First Cause, something that does not have a prior cause. That first cause is God, according to St. Thomas Aquinas and Msgr. Knox. 

Knox then walks the girls through the proof based on intelligent design. Seeing the order of the universe, logically one can conclude there was a designer, for otherwise we would see randomness and chaos but we do not. That designer is God.


The desire for glory when glory is due to God alone, hence vain (empty) glory.

St. Thomas’ three ways glory can be vain

  1. the things for which one seeks glory are vain or petty – WRONG THINGS
  2. the persons from whom one seeks glory are uncertain or lacking in judgment – WRONG PEOPLE
  3. the end for which glory is sought is not to magnify God – WRONG REASONS

It is requisite for man’s perfection that he should know himself; but not that he should be known by others. Vainglory is stated to be a dangerous sin, not only on account of its gravity, but also because it is a disposition to grave sins, in so far as it renders man presumptuous and too self-confident.

Just as by the glory which is in God’s sight man acquires honor in Divine things, so too by the glory which is in the sight of man he acquires excellence in human things. Hence on account of its close connection with excellence, which men desire above all, it follows that it is most desirable.


  • “Let nothing be done through contention, neither by vainglory.” Philippians 2:3
  • “Vanity of vanities, all is vanity.” Ecclesiastes 1:1
  • “Vainglory is the glory that we give ourselves; either for what is not really in us, or for what is in fact in us but not owing to anything we did, or for what is in us and owning to us but which does not deserve to be the cause of a boast.” St. Francis de Sales


  • disobedience: a man refuses to carry out the command of his superiors
  • boastfulness: speaking in such a way as to obtain more glory
  • hypocrisy: manifesting one’s own excellence through falsehoods
  • contention: a man quarrels noisily with another; always have to have it/do it my way
  • obstinacy: intellectual pride, unable to be seen as less than excellent in intellectual areas, a man is too much attached to his own opinion; failing to yield a point well made but not mine?
  • discord: a man is unwilling to give up his own will and agree with others; always against things, never for anything
  • love of novelties: glorifying man’s deeds when they are truly excellent

Self-examination from Episcopalian St. Augustine Prayer book (not exactly Thomistic, but useful)

PRIDE: Pride is putting self in the place of God as the center and objective of our life. It is the refusal to recognize our status as creatures, dependent on God for our existence, and placed by him in a specific relationship to the rest of his creation.


  • Deliberate neglect of the worship of God every Sunday in his Church, or contentment with a perfunctory participation in it.
  • Failure to thank God or to express our gratitude adequately. 
  • Disrespect for God or holy things by deliberately treating the, in thought, word, or deed, in a profane, contemptuous or over-familiar manner, or the attempt to bribe or placate God by religious practices or promises.


  • Dependence on self rather than God, with the consequent neglect of the means of grace – sacraments and prayer. 
  • Dispensation of ourselves from ordinary duties on the grounds that we are superior persons. 
  • Satisfaction or complacency over our spiritual achievements. 
  • Unwillingness to surrender to and abide in Christ, to let him act in and through us. 
  • Failure to offer to God regularly in intercession the persons or causes that have, or should enlist our interest and support.


  • Refusal to recognize God’s wisdom, providence and love. Worry, anxiety, misgivings, scrupulosity, or perfectionism. 
  • Attempts to discern or control the future by spiritualism, astrology, fortune-telling or the like. 
  • Over-sensitiveness: expectation that others will dislike, reject or mistreat us; over-readiness so to interpret their attitude, or quickness to take offense, or unfounded suspicions. 
  • Timidity in accepting responsibility, or cowardice in facing difficulty or suffering. 
  • Surrender to feelings of depression, gloom, pessimism, discouragement, self-pity, or fear of death, instead of fighting to be brave, cheerful and hopeful.


  • Rejection of God’s known will in favor of our own interests or pleasures. 
  • Disobedience of the legitimate laws, regulations or authority of the Church, state, etc., or slow and reluctant obedience. 
  • Failure when in authority to fulfil responsibilities or to consider the best interest of those under us. 
  • Refusal to learn God’s nature or will as revealed in Scripture, expounded in instructions or expert advice, or discernible through prayer, meditation or the reading of religious books. 


  • Refusal to search out and face up to our sins, or to confess and admit them before God. 
  • Disregard of our sins or pretense that we are better than we are. 
  • Self-justification or discounting our sins as insignificant, natural or inevitable. 
  • Self-righteous comparison of ourselves with others. 
  • Refusal to accept just punishment or to make due reparation when possible. 
  • Deceit or lying to escape the consequences of our sins, or allowing another to suffer the blame for our faults. 
  • Shame (hurt pride), sorrow for ourselves because our sins make us less respectable than we like to think we are, or because we fear punishment or injury to our reputation, rather than sorrow for what sin is in the eyes of God. 
  • Refusal to admit we were in the wrong or to apologize, or refusal to accept forgiveness from God or others. 
  • Unwillingness to forgive ourselves.


  • Crediting to ourselves rather than to God our talents, abilities, insights, accomplishments, good works. 
  • Refusal to admit indebtedness to others, or adequately to express gratitude for their help. 
  • Hypocrisy, pretense to virtues we do not possess, or false humility. 
  • Harsh judgments on others for faults we excuse in ourselves. 
  • Boasting, exaggeration, drawing attention to ourselves by talking too much, by claiming ability, wisdom, experience or influence we do not have.
  • Seeking, desiring or relishing flattery or compliments.


  • Insisting that others conform to our wishes, recognize our leadership, accept our own estimate of our worth. 
  • Being overbearing, argumentative, opinionated, obstinate.


  • Pride over race, family, position, personality, education, skill, achievements, or possessions.


Sloth seeks undue rest in so far as it spurns the Divine good

Sloth is not an aversion of the mind from any spiritual good, but from the Divine good, to which the mind is obliged to adhere.

He is sorry to have to do something for God’s sake.

Evil in itself (sadness in reaction to the highest goods – God’s good) and evil in its effects (keeps us from performing acts of good).


  • St. John Damascene (De Fide Orth. ii, 14) is an oppressive sorrow, which, to wit, so weighs upon man’s mind, that he wants to do nothing.
  • “A paralysis of the soul, a slackness of mind, a neglect of religious exercises, a hostility to vows taken.” St. John Climacus


  • malice: The struggle against spiritual goods that cause sorrow sometimes extends to the spiritual goods themselves, when a man goes so far as to detest them. Not happy about the spiritual goods.
  • spite: The struggle against spiritual goods that cause sorrow is sometimes with men who lead others to spiritual goods. Not happy about those who lead others to spiritual goods, or the means to the spiritual goods. A kind of indignation.
  • faint-heartedness: avoidance of those goods which are the means to the end, in matters of difficulty which come under the counsel
  • despair: the result of avoiding spiritual goods
  • sluggishness in regard to the commandments: keeping the Sabbath holy, honoring father and mother
  • wandering of the mind after unlawful things: when a person has recourse to eternal objects of pleasure; so apathetic about spiritual goods I am easily distracted 

Self-examination from Episcopalian St. Augustine Prayer book (not exactly Thomistic, but useful)

SLOTH: Sloth is the refusal to respond to our opportunities for growth, service or sacrifice.


  • Indolence in performing spiritual, mental, or physical duties, or neglect of family, business or social obligations.
  • Procrastination of disliked tasks.
  • Busyness or triviality to avoid more important commitments.
  • Devotion of excessive time to rest, recreation. or amusement.


  • Unconcern over injustice to others, especially that caused by currently accepted social standards; or unmindfulness of the suffering of the world.
  • Failure to become adequately informed on both sides of contemporary issues or on the Christian principles involved.
  • Ignoring the needy, lonely or unpopular person in our own or the parish family, or in the neighborhood; or unwillingness to minister to them.
  • Insufficient attention to the religious and other needs of our family.


Unreasoned anger, willing injury or damage to the object of one’s anger, unreasoned either due to the object of the anger or the mode of the anger.


  • “Let all indignation and anger be put away from you.” Ephesians 4:31
  • St. Gregory: “zealous anger troubles the eye of reason, whereas sinful anger blinds it.”


  • quarreling: anger leading to deeds, injuries inflicted on one’s neighbor through anger
  • swelling of the mind: the growing of the idea to take vengeance; calm and rational thoughts are overwhelmed by growing thoughts of revenge
  • contumely: injurious words towards one’s neighbor; purposely insulting or reviling another person
  • clamor: anger expressed towards his brother in disorderly and confused speech; thoughtless, vulgar words of rage
  • indignation: the anger from deeming another unworthy of acting in a certain way towards oneself
  • blasphemy: the injurious words against God that proceeds from anger

Self-examination from Episcopalian St. Augustine Prayer book (not exactly Thomistic, but useful)

ANGER: Anger is open rebellion against God or our fellow creatures. Its purpose and desire is to eliminate any obstacle to our self-seeking, to retaliate against any threat to our security, to avenge any insult or injury to our person.


  • Refusal to discern, accept or fulfil God’s vocation.
  • Dissatisfaction with the talents, abilities or opportunities he has given us.
  • Unwillingness to face up to difficulties or sacrifices.
  • Unjustified rebellion or complaint at the circumstances of our lives.
  • Escape from reality or the attempt to force our will upon it.
  • Transference to God, to our parents, to society, etc., the blame for our maladjustment; hatred of God, or anti-social behavior.
  • Cynicism.
  • Annoyance at the contrariness of things; profanity or grumbling.


  • Attack upon another in anger.
  • Murder in deed or desire.
  • Combativeness or nursing of grudges.
  • Injury to another by striking, curing or insulting him; or by damaging his reputation or property.
  • Quarrelsomeness, bickering, contradiction, nagging, rudeness, or snubbing.


  • Vengeance for wrongs real or imagined, or the plotting thereof.
  • Harsh or excessive punishment.
  • Hostility, sullenness or rash judgment.
  • Refusal to forgive, or to offer or accept reconciliation.
  • Unwillingness to love, to do good to, or to pray for enemies.
  • Boycotting or ostracizing another for selfish reasons.
  • Spoiling others’ pleasure by uncooperativeness or disdain, because we have not got our way.


Sorrow for another person’s good. (Looking at things the wrong way.) A spirit of competitiveness rather than brotherly love. The object of both charity and envy is our neighbor’s good, but by contrary movements, since charity rejoices in our neighbor’s good, while envy grieves over it.


  • “self-inflicted pain wounds the pining spirit, which is racked by the prosperity of others” St. Gregory the Great
  • “Sorrow for another’s good” St. John Damascene
  • “Envy slayeth the little one.” Job 5:2
  • “Let us not be made desirous of vainglory, provoking one another, envying one another.” Galatians 5:26
  • “My steps had well nigh slipped, for I was envious of the wicked, when I saw the prosperity of sinners” Psalm 72:2-3


  • hatred: the result of the sorrow at the other’s prosperity
  • tale-bearing: striving to lower another’s reputation secretly; “he’s not really all that”
  • detraction: striving to lower another’s reputation openly (on his face, in front of him to others)
  • joy at our neighbor’s misfortunes (schadenfreude): being able to defame another
  • grief at our neighbor’s prosperity: being unable to defame another

Self-examination from Episcopalian St. Augustine Prayer book (not exactly Thomistic, but useful)

ENVY: Envy is dissatisfaction with our place in God’s order of creation, manifesting in begrudging his gifts and vocation to others.


  • Offense at the talents, success or good fortune of others.
  • Selfish or unnecessary rivalry or competition.
  • Pleasure at others’ difficulties or distress.


  • Ill-will, false accusations, slander, backbiting.
  • Reading false motives into others’ behavior.
  • Initiation, collection or retailing of gossip.
  • Arousing, fostering or organizing antagonism against others.
  • Unnecessary criticism, even when true.
  • Deliberate annoyance of others, teasing or bullying.


  • Scorn of another’s virtue, ability, shortcomings, or failings.
  • Prejudice against those we consider inferior, or who consider us inferior, or who seem to threaten our security or position.
  • Ridicule of persons, institutions or ideals.


Inordinate love of possessing external goods that are useful for an end but are not ends in and of themselves. “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s goods.” (Ex 20:17) It is excessive love of possessing riches. Remembering that the goodness of things relates to a due (just) measure, evil results from either an excess or deficiency of that measure.


  • “Being filled with all iniquity … covetousness. They who do such things are worthy of death.” Romans 1:29-32
  • “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s goods.” (Ex 20:17)
  • “Lust for money brings darkness on the soul” St. John Chrysostom
  • Judas’ betrayal of Jesus for 30 pieces of silver
  • “A covetous man shall not be satisfied with money.” Ecclesiastes 5:9
  • “A covetous man sets his own soul to sale because while he lives he has despised his bowels to make money.” Sirach 10:10


  • treachery: betraying others in order to acquire possessions
  • fraud: taking deceitful action in order to acquire possessions
  • falsehood: lying in order to acquire possessions
  • perjury: employing an oath in lying in order to acquire possessions
  • restlessness: excessive anxiety about his possessions
  • violence: sometimes the path to acquiring more possessions

insensibility to mercy: won’t help the needy since he would be deprived of his possessions

Self-examination from Episcopalian St. Augustine Prayer book (not exactly Thomistic, but useful)

COVETOUSNESS (AVARICE): Avarice is the refusal to respect the integrity of other creatures, expressed in the inordinate accumulation of material things; in the use of other persons for our personal advantage; or in the quest for status, power or security at their expense.

Inordinate Ambition

  • Pursuit of status, power, influence, reputation, or possessions at the expense of the moral law, of other obligations, or of the rights of others.
  • Ruthless or unfair competition.
  • Putting self or family first.
  • Conformity to standards we recognize as wrong or inadequate in order to get ahead.
  • Intrigue or conspiracy for self-advancement.


  • Seeking to use or posses others; imposing our will on others by force, guile, whining, or refusal to cooperate.
  • Over-protection of children; refusal to correct or punish lest we lose their affection; insistence that they conform to our ideal for them contrary to their own vocation.
  • Over-readiness to advise or command; abuse of authority.
  • Respect of persons, favoritism, partiality, flattery, fawning, or bribery to win support or affection.
  • Refusal to uphold the truth to fulfil duties, to perform good acts, or to defend those wrongfully attacked, because we fear criticism or ridicule, or because we seek to gain the favor or approval of others.
  • Leading, tempting or encouraging another to sin.


  • Inordinate pursuit of wealth or material things.
  • Theft, dishonesty, misrepresentation, or sharing in stolen goods.
  • Cheating in business, taxes, school or games.
  • Making worldly success the goal of our life or the standard for judging others.


  • Waste of natural resources or personal possessions.
  • Extravagance or living beyond our income, to impress others or to maintain status.
  • Failure to pay debts.
  • Unnecessary borrowing or carelessness with others’ money.
  • Expenditure on self of what is needed for the welfare of others.


  • Undue protection of wealth or security; stinginess.
  • Refusal to support or help those who have a claim on us. 
  • Sponging on others rather than paying one’s own fair share.
  • Failure to give due proportion of our income to Church and charity, or of our time and energy to good works.