SPLIT: Envy a mortal sin?

Oh dear, is this a mortal sin? [edited] if this is a mortal sin I’m doomed.

ENVY is a grave sin. The question to discuss with your Priest, when does jealousy become envy.

The CCC is a good place to begin your study:



2535 The sensitive appetite leads us to desire pleasant things we do not have, e.g., the desire to eat when we are hungry or to warm ourselves when we are cold. These desires are good in themselves; but often they exceed the limits of reason and drive us to covet unjustly what is not ours and belongs to another or is owed to him.

2536 The tenth commandment forbids greed and the desire to amass earthly goods without limit. It forbids avarice arising from a passion for riches and their attendant power. It also forbids the desire to commit injustice by harming our neighbor in his temporal goods:
When the Law says, “You shall not covet,” these words mean that we should banish our desires for whatever does not belong to us. Our thirst for another’s goods is immense, infinite, never quenched. Thus it is written: "He who loves money never has money enough."321
2537 It is not a violation of this commandment to desire to obtain things that belong to one’s neighbor, provided this is done by just means. Traditional catechesis realistically mentions “those who have a harder struggle against their criminal desires” and so who “must be urged the more to keep this commandment”:
. . . merchants who desire scarcity and rising prices, who cannot bear not to be the only ones buying and selling so that they themselves can sell more dearly and buy more cheaply; those who hope that their peers will be impoverished, in order to realize a profit either by selling to them or buying from them . . . physicians who wish disease to spread; lawyers who are eager for many important cases and trials.322
2538 The tenth commandment requires that envy be banished from the human heart. When the prophet Nathan wanted to spur King David to repentance, he told him the story about the poor man who had only one ewe lamb that he treated like his own daughter and the rich man who, despite the great number of his flocks, envied the poor man and ended by stealing his lamb.323 Envy can lead to the worst crimes.324 “Through the devil’s envy death entered the world”:325
We fight one another, and envy arms us against one another. . . . If everyone strives to unsettle the Body of Christ, where shall we end up? We are engaged in making Christ’s Body a corpse. . . . We declare ourselves members of one and the same organism, yet we devour one another like beasts.326
2539 Envy is a capital sin. It refers to the sadness at the sight of another’s goods and the immoderate desire to acquire them for oneself, even unjustly. When it wishes grave harm to a neighbor it is a mortal sin:
St. Augustine saw envy as "*the *diabolical sin."327 "From envy are born hatred, detraction, calumny, joy caused by the misfortune of a neighbor, and displeasure caused by his prosperity."328
2540 Envy represents a form of sadness and therefore a refusal of charity; the baptized person should struggle against it by exercising good will. Envy often comes from pride; the baptized person should train himself to live in humility:
Would you like to see God glorified by you? Then rejoice in your brother’s progress and you will immediately give glory to God. Because his servant could conquer envy by rejoicing in the merits of others, God will be praised.329


The best advice would be to go to confession and talk to the priest. As you know for a sin to be mortal it must be of grave matter and committed with full knowledge and deliberate consent. Hope this helps.

Also, do not confuse capital sins with mortal sins.

Capital sins are foundational. Envy may range from slight to grave, but it is called a capital sin because can be foundational to so many other sins: gossip, calumny, rash judgement, small-heartedness, choosing to do things out of spite, encouraging or failing to prevent evils that will lead to competitive advantage, and so on.

Thank you so much for this important clarification.


Post #4 is the most accurate one. It is also, however, a good idea to mention it as operative when disclosing sins in confession, if it applies.


Think of your other sins as shortness of breath, easy fatigue, dizziness, pain radiating down your arm, and so on. Maybe you have a few, maybe all, and maybe the symptoms can come from more than one possible source. Think of the capital sins as the heart disease. No matter how troublesome the symptoms, and even if those need direct treatment, the physician will be most interested in diagnosing the major underlying disease.

That’s what the capital sins are. They are fundamental defects in overall perception and motivation. They are always a refusal of the virtues, which come from fundamentally opposed perceptions and motivations.

Speaking of, I have heard it suggested that there are two that might easily be added to the seven: deceit and fear. Deceit in this sense means the desire to put up a false front to make yourself look good. (As opposed to pride, which is the perception that you really are better and deserve to be treated differently than everybody else.) Fear is meant when the basic desire to avoid dangers is given priority, such as avoiding taking a stance that marks yourself out from the group, even when the good calls you to it. In other words, being afraid isn’t a sin any more than being angry is a sin.

At any rate, you face a foundational problem when fear, a desire to look good, or any of the other cardinal sins, rather than the virtues, call the shots. When we become aware that this is the case, that we have chosen an entire motivational system other than the will of God to guide us, we ought to confess it.


Almost at the very time I posted earlier my question about envy, what should be in the mail (my own snail mail) but Father Emmerich Vogt’s 12 Step Review newsletter 12-step-review.org/index.html with the topic of ENVY. I relished the coincidence and remembered one of Alcoholics Anonymous’s slogans --> “Coincidence is God’s way of remaining anonymous.”

With permission (this newsletter’s not on the internet or I would’ve just put the URL here), I’ve got some quotes from this newsletter, which helped clarify for me what truly is envy and what isn’t:

"…Saint Thomas Aquinas said of Envy: ‘Envy according to the aspect of its object is contrary to charity, whence the soul derives its spiritual life…Charity rejoices in our neighbor’s good, while envy grieves over it’ (2,36, and 3).

Some think envy is a feeling of jealousy for what others have. Rather, envy is sadness over our neighbor’s good which is regarded as evil, inasmuch as it lessens our own excellence."

Then the newsletter went on to say:

“When we speak of envy we are not speaking of the feeling of jealousy we may experience because of another person’s excellence that we wish we had. IT MUST BE REMEMBERED THAT SIN LIES IN OUR WILL, NOT IN HOW WE FEEL AS SUCH.(my caps) We may recognize feelings we wish we didn’t have, but the mere feeling isn’t sin. What we do about our feelings is where sin or virtue lie.”

Boy was this a relief to hear! For a while there I thought I was going to the bad place for sure. … and some more helpful info from the newsletter:

“…charity rejoices in the good of another. The envious person strives to ruin another person’s reputation by detraction, and if the person is successful in defaming the person who is the object of envy, then the envious one rejoices. If the envious person is not successful, he is sorrowful at the others prosperity. Envy often ends in hatred.”

“The offshoots of envy are: hatred, detraction, joy at another’s misfortune, and sadness at his success. A person envies someone towards whom he has ill will because of that person’s success, achievements, etc. He envies something that belongs to someone else and to which he has no right or claim.”

This part helped too:

“…Some people will confess envy, but when the priest questions them, it becomes clear there is no ill will involved but rather a feeling about another person – perhaps a feeling of sadness over another’s good. That is not the deadly sin of envy. This misconception is often given in philosophical treatments of envy (see, for example, the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy). The truly envious person purposely nourishes the envy, and thus his will is involved in the sin of envy. But the feeling alone is no sin.”

also from the newsletter, some further distinctions about envy from St. Thomas Aquinas:

" 'Now it may happen that another’s good is apprehended as one’s own evil, and in this way sorrow can be about another’s good. But this happens in two ways: first, when a man is sorry about another’s good, in so far as it threatens to be an occasion of harm to himself, as when a man grieves for his enemy’s prosperity, for fear lest he may do him some harm: such like sorrow is not envy, but rather an effect of fear…

Secondly, another’s good may be reckoned as being one’s own evil, in so far as it conduces to the lessening of one’s own good name or excellence. It is in this way that envy grieves for another’s good: and consequently people are envious of those goods in which a good name consists, and about which people like to be honored and esteemed.’

(Father Emmerich points this out->) It is this second sorrow that speaks of envy. We can imagine a joy at the defeat of Snow White’s wicked stepmother, or deep sorrow at her triumph. That is not envy’s sorrow, nor is it contrary to charity."

And then Father Emmerich points out:

"Another distinction we want to make is when we grieve over another’s good, not because he has it, but because the good which he has, we don’t have: and this, St. Thomas notes, is zeal. 'And if this zeal be about virtuous goods, it is praiseworthy, according to 1 Cor. 14:1: ‘Be zealous for spiritual gifts.’ ’ But true envy, St. Thomas explains, ‘is when we grieve over a person’s good, in so far as his good surpasses ours; this is envy properly speaking, and is always sinful because to do so is to grieve over what should make us rejoice, viz. our neighbor’s good.’ "

“It is interesting to note that the object both of charity and of envy is our neighbor’s good, but by contrary movements, since charity rejoices in our neighbor’s good, while envy grieves over it, …making it sinful because it is contrary to love.”

Anyway, after I read this newsletter I felt very comforted about what’s and what isn’t envy.

Thanks for letting me share.

Well of course - we are all doomed. The Gospels (remember the eye of the needle) tell us it is impossible for man to enter into the Kingdom, but not for God. Christ makes it possble for us.

So, don’t despair - one thief was saved. On the other hand, don’t presume - one thief was doomed. Forgive others and love God with you whole heart, mind and soul. Beyond that, trust in the Lord.
Pax te cum

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