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8 Deadly Sins?

Wednesday, September 19, 2007
The Catholic Truth Society has just published another booklet by Fr Vivian Boland, the master of students at Blackfriars. Once again the booklet originated in talks given to the students, this time during Michaelmas 2006 and Hilary 2007. Yes, he knows that the tradition came to settle on '7' but read what Evagrius, John Cassian and Gregory the Great have to say about them and why they think there are 8. The scriptural texts in the background (understood allegorically) are Deuteronomy 7:1 which names the seven nations the Hebrews are to drive out of Canaan (and don't forget the Egyptians from whose land they have just escaped!) and Luke 11:26 which tells of an unclean spirit driven out of a man who returns to the tidied house with seven spirits more evil than himself (but he comes back with them!).

The booklet consists of an introduction - why 7 or 8? what does it mean to speak of them as 'deadly'? - and continues with individual chapters on each in turn, covetousness, envy, sloth, gluttony, lust, anger, pride and vainglory. Fr Vivian concludes:

A first step in countering their influence is to understand their psychological and spiritual roots in human experience. This is what this booklet has tried to do. If we stand, humbly, in the truth about ourselves, we will appreciate the power of God's love to heal and strengthen our nature, for love is not jealous or boastful, not arrogant or rude, not irritable or resentful. If we understand the origins and nature in us of these 'generic thoughts', these 'phantasies' or 'demons', we are already in possession of a truth that sets us free. For that understanding assures us, in case we are tempted to doubt it, that our wellbeing and our salvation consists only, and always, in love. This will then sustain us in the discipline and practices of the spiritual life.


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