I have just finished my retreat (last year in Manila) so I gave myself a treat by watching a movie. I went to one of the malls where they have a least 12 movie houses in one floor. Choosing one from this wide selection I excitedly went to a ticket booth and got myself a ticket. I entered the theater and after ten minutes discovered that I entered the wrong one and am watching a movie I never intended to watch. The title of the movie was “Seven.” It was a psycho thriller, a movie I really never enjoyed watching (I prefer science fiction movies). The story line tells of a soon to be retired cop introducing his rookie partner to the ways of police work in a big city. Seven days before his retirement he and his partner were assigned to work on a serial killer who patterned his brutal killings to the punishment of the damned described in Dante’s Inferno (translate this as gruesome). The reason for the torture and killings was of all things - the psycho killer played God and his victims committed the Seven Capital sins.
As I went out of the theater I thought to myself, “What a way to end a retreat - a reflection on the seven capital sins and their punishment. Thank goodness it was the work of a psychopath and not of God.” The movie however got me interested on the subject of the seven capital sins. I Knew I once studied them when I was a high school seminarian but as I went up the ladder of learning where the simple things in life get sophisticated, this simple and clear age-old guide to sinfulness and its opposing virtues were lost in my memory. True enough when I got home and examined my books I could not find anything which dealt with them exhaustively. The Catholic Catechism referred to them in passing calling them capital because they “engender other sins, other vices.” Another is a high school text entitled “My Catholic Faith” writing quite extensively on the subject but lacks the luster and the attraction of the contemporary way of presenting them. And the third and last book I have on the subject is a little book I intended to give as a gift to a nephew who received his first communion. It is entitled “The Seven Capital Sins” a book complete with drawings of weeping angels and devils with a devilish grin, tempting little children to commit the said sins. I believe my sources will not be much for a series on the said sins and its opposing virtues. But little by little I came to realize that indeed it is precisely because of its simplicity that this method of catechizing people from different ages to grow in holiness was made effective. Following the spirit in which they were made - in simplicity that is - we would like to serialize the seven capital sins as real everyday stories in comic form and their opposing virtues in prayer form for the next two months. We hope that our readers will learn from them so that this age-old method may once more make saints in our dire condition of sinfulness.
To start with we ask: Why are they called capital sins. Capital comes from the Latin word caput meaning head. They are called capital because they are the heads or the sources of all sins. As stated from a quotation from the Catholic Catechism these sins engender other sins, other vices. They are the origin of every sin because all other sins arise from them as their source.
By calling them “capital” however does no mean that they are necessarily grave sins in themselves. Rather they are leading tendencies towards other sins. This fact however should not be taken as a belittlement of such sins. Sin as we may well experience creates a proclivity or an inclination to sin. It is like smoking - one stick leads to another, and the more one smokes the harder it is for him to kick out the habit. By the mere repetition of the same sinful act we create a habit which we call vices. When this habit fully formed through repeated acts it needs a great struggle to overcome it. The longer we indulge in a vice, the harder is the struggle to get ourselves rid of it because by now they have produced permanent disorders in our souls. Capital sins are such and they are dangerous because they produce a permanent inclination in us like a desease which slowly erodes us unto death and unhappiness.
Traditionally these capital sins are seven in number and enclosed in parenthesis are their corresponding capital virtues which is also the source of all other virtues and goodness in Christian life: They are pride (humility), avarice (liberality), lust (Chastity), anger (meekness), gluttony (temperance), envy (brotherly love), sloth (diligence).