Why is 'Envy of other's spiritual good' considered a sin against the Holy Spirit?

envy of a brother’s spiritual good, i. e. of the increase of Divine grace in the world,

Sins against the Holy Spirit are the big ones. Some refer to them as the “unpardonable sins” because the sins in themselves have an un-repentant nature.

Envy of another’s spiritual good doesn’t really have that though. You can be envious and still be open to repentance, unlike the other sins. I don’t understand why this is on the list.

Could anybody shed some context on this?

I think part of the answer is that the giving of spiritual goods is appropriated to the Holy Spirit, the Sanctifier (cf. Rom. 15:16; 1 Cor. 12:8 ff).

As to why it is associated with the unpardonable sin, perhaps it has to do with the envy of Lucifer.

I am absolutely guessing here, but I have a couple of thoughts about it.

If you think about what “envy of a brother’s spiritual good” actually means, it’s pretty bad. It doesn’t just mean that you want what someone else has. According to the Catholic Encyclopedia envy means, “a sorrow which one entertains at another’s well-being because of a view that one’s own excellence is in consequence lessened.” It doesn’t mean that you want to have what they have, but that you want them not to have it.

Now if you’re doing that about some material good like money, it’s pretty bad. But if you’re doing it about someone else’s holiness, that means that you would be happier if the world had less holiness in it. I have no idea whether it is unpardonable or not (I suspect not) but it is certainly a sin against the Holy Spirit to wish Him to be less active in the world. It’s like if I wanted fewer people to go to Heaven because then I would be more special, be part of a more “elite” team, when I get there myself (which, if this is my attitude, I should by no means count on).

Anyway, as I say, I’m just guessing, but it doesn’t seem too extreme to me.


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Just set that aside.

No sin is “unpardonable” if one repents. Period.

First, let’s note that the Catechism (1864), following St. Augustine, says that the unforgivable sin is final impenitence, and we can rest in that.

As to why some theologians have considered envy of another’s spiritual good as a form of that sin, the answer turns out to be rather complicated. The short version is that it is connected with malice (as opposed to ignorance or weakness) and hardness of heart.

revert_jen already answered why it has been considered a sin against the Holy Ghost (cf. St. Thomas, S.T. IIb, Q. 36, a4). As to why some theologians have considered it unpardonable, see St. Thomas, S.T. IIb, q. 14. It’s too lengthy to quote here, and really needs to be read in its entirety, but here are some key excerpts:

God’s gifts whereby we are withdrawn from sin, are two: one is the acknowledgment of the truth, against which there is the “resistance of the known truth,” …] while the other is the assistance of inward grace, against which there is “envy of a brother’s spiritual good,” when, namely, a man is envious not only of his brother’s person, but also of the increase of Divine grace in the world.

In other words, it entails resisting divine grace. To elaborate further:

According to the various interpretations of the sin against the Holy Ghost, there are various ways in which it may be said that it cannot be forgiven. …]

…this may be understood to refer to the guilt: thus a disease is said to be incurable in respect of the nature of the disease, which removes whatever might be a means of cure, as when it takes away the power of nature, or causes loathing for food and medicine, although God is able to cure such a disease. So too, the sin against the Holy Ghost is said to be unpardonable, by reason of its nature, in so far as it removes those things which are a means towards the pardon of sins. This does not, however, close the way of forgiveness and healing to an all-powerful and merciful God, Who, sometimes, by a miracle, so to speak, restores spiritual health to such men.

Note that this is only one of several theories on what it means. The Church Fathers were not unanimous on this matter, and St. Thomas lists and expounds the major theories in the Summa passage linked above.

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