Sacred Heart

Catholic Church

Imlay City, Michigan  Tel: (810) 724-1135

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Fr. Paul Ward

Sat. & Sun., Sep. 3 & 4, 2016
23rd Sunday in Ord. Time, Cycle C


Social Doctrine (4/7):
Envy, and the Inciting of the Poor Man’s Envy of the Rich



   The scriptures today tell us, “he who does not renounce all his possessions cannot be my disciple.” This gives us an opportunity to continue our study of the social doctrines of the Catholic Church, today focusing on envy.

   As you remember, for seven Sundays we are examining the social doctrines of the Church. Our method is to consider first one of the capital sins, then see how it has impact on us not just individually but as a society, and then discover those social doctrines of the Catholic Church which show sinful man a way out. In this way I hope each person can proceed with a better formed conscience to vote later in the fall.

   Just a reminder to look at today’s parish bulletin for the many things happening in our parish, but especially, for those who are interested, see the sheet regarding the soccer tournament we’ll hold during next week’s parish picnic which starts after the Sunday Mass.

   Let us begin, then with considering what envy is. Envy is the willful sadness one feels at another person’s goods or success.
[1] If I feel bad because my neighbor won the lottery, or the guy at work got a promotion, or a sibling became rich, or a friend became famous, that bitterness is envy. The CCC calls it the resentment felt “at the sight of another’s goods, and the immoderate desire to acquire them for oneself, even unjustly” (CCC 2539). Pope St. Gregory the Great, whose feast is today [yesterday], writes, “From envy are born hatred, detraction, calumny, joy caused by the misfortune of a neighbor, and displeasure caused by his prosperity” (M. in Iob, 31, 45).

   St. Augustine calls it “the diabolical sin” (cf. De cat. rud. 4, 8). He says this, and his doctrine is corroborated by scripture. The book of Wisdom says, “Through the devil’s envy death entered the world” (2:4). That is, Satan saw the gifts, happiness and grace of Adam and Eve before the fall, and the love they had for each other and for God, and it simply angered him – that’s the envy, right there. So he led them to sin. He wanted to wreck all they had, even though he gained nothing from it. Envy, therefore, is a sin that produces nothing for the sinner, and, like pride, is purely interior and spiritual; for which it is the diabolical sin.

   Envy plays a huge role in the social evils of our times. It is the number one motivation of socialism, in all its variants: communism, fascism, and so on. Why so? I begin by referring to an encyclical by the great Pope Leo XIII. Written in 1891, it is amazingly actual for our times. It is called Rerum novarum, and is one of the milestones in the social doctrine of the Catholic Church, to which almost every Pope has referred, at one point or another, ever since. He points out the lot of the poor laborer, which was the vast majority of men on earth – was and still is – and among other causes, there is that cause which is the abuse of rich and influential men. The Pope writes, “that a small number of very rich men have been able to lay upon the teeming masses of the laboring poor a yoke little better than that of slavery itself” (RN, 3). Now let us note that he does not condemn all rich men or rich companies; in fact, wealthy individuals and business ventures provide employment, opportunity, invention and many other things that can lift the poor man out of his misery. He condemns only a certain segment of very rich men, those who have acted in the way he has stated. For unjust conduct towards one’s neighbor is condemned.

   And in light of so many social evils in our times, this one as well, here he continues, “To remedy these wrongs the socialists, working on the poor man’s envy of the rich, are striving to do away with private property, and contend that individual possessions should become the common property of all, to be administered by the State or by municipal bodies” (RN 4). See once again a Papal condemnation, directly and by name, of socialism. Elsewhere Popes and other scholars have noted that socialism not only wishes to do away with private property, but also with God, with religion, with the believe that man has a soul; to do away with the family and any other institution that would impede the socialist tyrant’s use and manipulation of the poor laborer’s life and property.

   See also how the Pope says that socialists work “on the poor man’s envy of the rich.” Do we not hear this today from many American politicians, especially from one particular party? “Look at those rich people. They have a large piece of the pie, and that isn’t fair! How dare they! Down with the rich!” And this kind of manipulative language plays with the feelings and sufferings of the poor man, moving him to even violence and truly unfair play to obtain power and strike down the wealthy man or wealthy business. The result is not that wealthy people vanish; indeed, that would be a horrible thing for the whole world. The result is that the only wealthy people left are the politicians, who have a police force, taxation and a military at their disposal, all of which they use to further stomp on the poor laborer, who now has less recourse than ever.

   It’s the endless lie of the socialist, appealing to envy – we’ll take everything from everyone, especially those evil rich people (can someone please tell me again why they’re evil?), and then we’ll make sure everyone have everything; only with this result, that nobody has anything, except the high political elites, and everyone else suffers in misery. This is the only possible conclusion from the socialist logic, and it is also their track record for more than a century. And yet Catholics again and again fall for it, saying, “But they say they’re for the poor, and will help the poor.” When did any politician, much less a socialist one, ever lift a single man out of poverty, or make someone rich?

   Give us the schools, and we’ll educate everyone; and no one is educated, but everyone is indoctrinated. Give us the hospitals, and we’ll cure everyone; and state hospitals are horror shops, and the abortions and euthanasia go on and on. Give us your phone system, and we’ll keep everyone safe; and no one is safe, but everyone is spied on by the government, its agents and its supercomputers. Give us the health care system, and we’ll make it affordable and universal; and fewer people are covered, only at greater expense than ever. Give us marriage, and we’ll promote sodomy; and the family is in accelerated decay, and everyone is isolated, alone before big government. Give us the press, and we’ll make sure the truth gets told; and the truth is harder to find than ever, and everyone has political ideology shoved down their throats. All in the name of envy. Countless further examples could be given, but you get the idea.

   Didn’t Satan do this in the Garden? He lied to Eve, stirring her envy. “Listen, Eve, you want that fruit, but you can’t have it. God lied to you; you won’t die when you eat it. ‘God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God’ (Gen 3:5). God won’t share his glory, divinity, beauty and nature with you, he doesn’t love you, that’s why he won’t share that fruit.” And so Satan used envy to get Eve to fall. Satan is the world’s first socialist.

   The pattern is simple: find one in duress, tell them that it is someone else’s fault because he took that good from him, and use that envy against that person.

   The Church then warns her children against this kind of antagonism. While all the goods of the world are for all men, not all goods can be possessed by each individual person, or even any single one, it’s impossible. Nature therefore dictates that there be this thing called private property, by which one disposes of some goods with ownership. There are two commandments to protect this principle, “Thou shalt not steal,” and “Thou shalt not covet – be envious – of your neighbor’s goods.” And a society where men can use their goods, in a way that is just, to enrich themselves and others, without swindling, lying or stealing for example, is a society that is free and best for human development.

   Let us, then, hear the admonitions of the Popes, especially Pope Leo, and avoid the pitfall of striving to build a society on envy. Let us build a society of justice for each, and Christian charity for all, which no human society can attain on its own, but only by the grace of God available to the world through the Catholic Church. Let us pray to Jesus and Mary that God’s will prevail, and that each man can live in justice and peace. Amen.

[1] Cf. St. Thomas Aquinas, De malo, 10, a. 1, c.












Compendium of Social Doctrine of the Church, from the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, Librevia Editrice Vaticana








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