Presumption as a Form of Laxity unto Spiritual Sloth

For many years it has been noticeable to me as a Roman Catholic layman that the deadly sin of presumption and the related sin of sloth are seldom mentioned, much less more deeply and even individually discussed. Consequently, neither is there much discussion of the largely unexpected interrelationship between prideful presumption and spiritual sloth: the former being one of the two sins against hope and the Holy Ghost, and the latter being the root of despair and a preparation for final despair.

Therefore, I have decided now to attempt presenting with clarity some of those important things I have harvested (or gleaned) over the years from my teachers concerning presumption and sloth as deadly sins. To honor more adequately some of my own formative teachers, I thus propose especially to consider the insights and the writings of men such as Evelyn Waugh, G.K. Chesterton, and Josef Pieper. Some of these insights I have already presented above in the three introductory Epigraphs to this essay; and I encourage the reader to read and savor them, also sequentially and even more than once, during any reading of this intentionally challenging essay.

Click here to download the PDF file.

  • Brian D Kelly

    A masterpiece. This essay reads like a review, with new insights, of what I have learned from you in the past. Evelyn Waugh’s thoughts are always so profound. Indeed this was a “challenging essay” and very good for Lent. There are so many things to ponder in what you have written about Sloth and the sins against Hope. Waugh saw so well how modern society has no understanding of the serious evil (a capital sin) of sloth, how deadly it is. In the end, as it grows, it fills the tepid soul with a “disgust” for the supernatural life. And it affects even the religious who lapse into its joyless and melancholic allure of dark anesthesia, i.e., slackness. I was caught by your insight that only in the supernatural order is hope a virtue, an infused virtue, given to us by the grace of God. And, as a virtue, it is a habit that must be exercised, not only to chase away the “noon-day” demon of despair and acedia, but as a positive virtue, for the true fear of the Lord is in hope. It elevates. Interesting, too, is your point that outside of grace, hope is a passion of the natural order, not a virtue. Waugh’s recollections of the hopelessness of the soldiers in the war, not laziness, but just disdain for the cause and command, was so defeatist. This only demonstrates the need for the higher hope that is God’s gift. His words (I don’t have the text before me) about that man being a “poor Christian” whose sole aim is to avoid hell, like the soldier whose sole aim was to avoid capture by the Germans was poignant. I wrote down this definition of his regarding slackness (pigratia): “It is a deflection from, if not an outrage against, the divine order of things.” Remarkable, too, are his observations of this acedia, as he saw it in the “busy people” of England gazing out the window watching the idleness of the construction navvies “at work outside.” People who are always too busy for higher things. Like those cows you used to compare your students to, watching the cars go by. So apropos are your applications to the Vatican II humanistic focus and the “restless novelties” of the Novus Ordo. Finally, I was shaken up by Waugh’s warnings about “the burden of longevity” which, even before old age, can be the “final temptation” setting a path for worse slackness when we ought to be rowing harder with the shore in view, no?

    I especially love every insight of Dr. Pieper that you included. I understood much better what you were stressing about the sins against hope (presumption and despair) in the reflections of Pieper. And, even Chesterton, how he was moved by these two considerations that undermine hope, which I copied for keeping: “And they [these two doctrines] specially affected one idea; which I hope it is not pompous to call the chief idea of my life; I will not say the doctrine I have always taught, but the doctrine I should always have liked to teach. That is the idea of always taking things with gratitude, and not taking things for granted.”

    Pieper says that these vices make us incapable of “reposing with our minds in God.” Living as Viators, in the “not yet (Hope) rather than the “not” of despair or the “already” of presumption. I love the relation Dr. Pieper offers (from St. Thomas) concerning hope begetting magnanimity and holy joy. Was it he, whom you often quote, that hope is like to flower opening itself to God. Hope is the opposite of acedia. Noting that acedia is a sin against the Third Commandment because it destroys true rest in God was brilliant, or was that St. Thomas. It is, he writes, a “perverted humility” that “will not accept supernatural goods” for they are a burden to the sluggard, rather than a “delectatio boni divini”. Finally, the Filiae acediae from St.Thomas merit memorization. Pieper’s final chapter “On the Gift of Fear” is a must read, as is the book itself, which I have read and have somewhere. “THose who fear the Lord, trust in the Lord” from the Psalms.

    Even Our Lord had the Gift of the Fear of the Lord. I thought about this and wondered, as it is such a mystery. How did He, with His soul in the Beatific Vision from Conception, have fear of the Lord, I mean even filial fear, for He could not fear of offending the Good God, He was God. I may be off here, but I thought that as Man, Jesus could fear the “power of God” as in awe of His own divinity. Many thanks for a great article..

  • Brian D Kelly

    Great essay! It reads like a review, with new insights, of what I have learned from you in the past. Evelyn Waugh’s thoughts are always so profound. Indeed this was a “challenging essay” and very good for Lent. There are so many things to ponder in what you have written about Sloth and the sins against Hope. Waugh saw so well how modern society has no understanding of the serious evil (a capital sin) of sloth, how deadly it is. In the end, as it grows, it fills the tepid soul with a “disgust” for the supernatural life. And it affects even the religious who lapse into its joyless and melancholic allure of dark anesthesia, i.e., slackness. I was caught by your insight that only in the supernatural order is hope a virtue, an infused virtue, given to us by the grace of God. And, as a virtue, it is a habit that must be exercised, not only to chase away the “noon-day” demon of despair and acedia, but as a positive virtue, for the true fear of the Lord is in hope. It elevates. Interesting, too, is your point that outside of grace, hope is a passion of the natural order, not a virtue. Waugh’s recollections of the hopelessness of the soldiers in the war, not laziness, but just disdain for the cause and command, was so defeatist. This only demonstrates the need for the higher hope that is God’s gift. His words (I don’t have the text before me) about that man being a “poor Christian” whose sole aim is to avoid hell, like the soldier whose sole aim was to avoid capture by the Germans was poignant. I wrote down this definition of his regarding slackness (pigratia): “It is a deflection from, if not an outrage against, the divine order of things.” Remarkable, too, are his observations of this acedia, as he saw it in the “busy people” of England gazing out the window watching the idleness of the construction navvies “at work outside.” People who are always too busy for higher things. Like those cows you used to compare your students to, watching the cars go by. So apropos are your applications to the Vatican II humanistic focus and the “restless novelties” of the Novus Ordo. Finally, I was shaken up by Waugh’s warnings about “the burden of longevity” which, even before old age, can be the “final temptation” setting a path for worse slackness when we ought to be rowing harder with the shore in view, no?

    I especially love every insight of Dr. Pieper that you included. I understood much better what you were stressing about the sins against hope (presumption and despair) in the reflections of Pieper. And, even Chesterton, how he was moved by these two considerations that undermine hope, which I copied for keeping: “And they [these two doctrines] specially affected one idea; which I hope it is not pompous to call the chief idea of my life; I will not say the doctrine I have always taught, but the doctrine I should always have liked to teach. That is the idea of always taking things with gratitude, and not taking things for granted.”

    Pieper says that these vices make us incapable of “reposing with our minds in God.” Living as Viators, in the “not yet (Hope) rather than the “not” of despair or the “already” of presumption. I love the relation Dr. Pieper offers (from St. Thomas) concerning hope begetting magnanimity and holy joy. Was it he, whom you often quote, that hope is like to flower opening itself to God. Hope is the opposite of acedia. Noting that acedia is a sin against the Third Commandment because it destroys true rest in God was brilliant, or was that St. Thomas. It is, he writes, a “perverted humility” that “will not accept supernatural goods” for they are a burden to the sluggard, rather than a “delectatio boni divini”. Finally, the Filiae acediae from St.Thomas merit memorization. Pieper’s final chapter “On the Gift of Fear” is a must read, as is the book itself, which I have read and have somewhere. “Those who fear the Lord, trust in the Lord” from the Psalms.

    Even Our Lord had the Gift of the Fear of the Lord. I thought about this and wondered, as it is such a mystery. How did He, with His soul in the Beatific Vision from Conception, have fear of the Lord, I mean even filial fear, for He could not fear of offending the Good God, He was God. I may be off here, but I thought that as Man, Jesus could fear the “power of God” as in awe of His own divinity. Well, I have to get going. Ciao! Many thanks.

  • Brian D Kelly

    Masterpiece of an article. It reads like a review, with new insights, of what I have learned from you in the past. Evelyn Waugh’s thoughts are always so profound. Indeed this was a “challenging essay” and very good for Lent. There are so many things to ponder in what you have written about Sloth and the sins against Hope. Waugh saw so well how modern society has no understanding of the serious evil (a capital sin) of sloth, how deadly it is. In the end, as it grows, it fills the tepid soul with a “disgust” for the supernatural life. And it affects even the religious who lapse into its joyless and melancholic allure of dark anesthesia, i.e., slackness. I was caught by your insight that only in the supernatural order is hope a virtue, an infused virtue, given to us by the grace of God. And, as a virtue, it is a habit that must be exercised, not only to chase away the “noon-day” demon of despair and acedia, but as a positive virtue, for the true fear of the Lord is in hope. It elevates. Interesting, too, is your point that outside of grace, hope is a passion of the natural order, not a virtue. Waugh’s recollections of the hopelessness of the soldiers in the war, not laziness, but just disdain for the cause and command, was so defeatist. This only demonstrates the need for the higher hope that is God’s gift. His words (I don’t have the text before me) about that man being a “poor Christian” whose sole aim is to avoid hell, like the soldier whose sole aim was to avoid capture by the Germans was poignant. I wrote down this definition of his regarding slackness (pigratia): “It is a deflection from, if not an outrage against, the divine order of things.” Remarkable, too, are his observations of this acedia, as he saw it in the “busy people” of England gazing out the window watching the idleness of the construction navvies “at work outside.” People who are always too busy for higher things. Like those cows you used to compare your students to, watching the cars go by. So apropos are your applications to the Vatican II humanistic focus and the “restless novelties” of the Novus Ordo. Finally, I was shaken up by Waugh’s warnings about “the burden of longevity” which, even before old age, can be the “final temptation” setting a path for worse slackness when we ought to be rowing harder with the shore in view, no?

    I especially love every insight of Dr. Pieper that you included. I understood much better what you were stressing about the sins against hope (presumption and despair) in the reflections of Pieper. And, even Chesterton, how he was moved by these two considerations that undermine hope, which I copied for keeping: “And they [these two doctrines] specially affected one idea; which I hope it is not pompous to call the chief idea of my life; I will not say the doctrine I have always taught, but the doctrine I should always have liked to teach. That is the idea of always taking things with gratitude, and not taking things for granted.”

    Pieper says that these vices make us incapable of “reposing with our minds in God.” Living as Viators, in the “not yet (Hope) rather than the “not” of despair or the “already” of presumption. I love the relation Dr. Pieper offers (from St. Thomas) concerning hope begetting magnanimity and holy joy. Was it he, whom you often quote, that hope is like to flower opening itself to God. Hope is the opposite of acedia. Noting that acedia is a sin against the Third Commandment because it destroys true rest in God was brilliant, or was that St. Thomas. It is, he writes, a “perverted humility” that “will not accept supernatural goods” for they are a burden to the sluggard, rather than a “delectatio boni divini”. Finally, the Filiae acediae from St.Thomas merit memorization. Pieper’s final chapter “On the Gift of Fear” is a must read, as is the book itself, which I have read and have somewhere. “THose who fear the Lord, trust in the Lord” from the Psalms.

    Even Our Lord had the Gift of the Fear of the Lord. I thought about this and wondered, as it is such a mystery. How did He, with His soul in the Beatific Vision from Conception, have fear of the Lord, I mean even filial fear, for He could not fear of offending the Good God, He was God. I may be off here, but I thought that as Man, Jesus could fear the “power of God” as in awe of His own divinity. Well, I have to get going. Ciao! Many thanks.

  • Brain Kelly

    A masterpiece of an article It reads like a review, with new insights, of what I have learned from you in the past. Evelyn Waugh’s thoughts are always so profound. Indeed this was a “challenging essay” and very good for Lent. There are so many things to ponder in what you have written about Sloth and the sins against Hope. Waugh saw so well how modern society has no understanding of the serious evil (a capital sin) of sloth, how deadly it is. In the end, as it grows, it fills the tepid soul with a “disgust” for the supernatural life. And it affects even the religious who lapse into its joyless and melancholic allure of dark anesthesia, i.e., slackness. I was caught by your insight that only in the supernatural order is hope a virtue, an infused virtue, given to us by the grace of God. And, as a virtue, it is a habit that must be exercised, not only to chase away the “noon-day” demon of despair and acedia, but as a positive virtue, for the true fear of the Lord is in hope. It elevates. Interesting, too, is your point that outside of grace, hope is a passion of the natural order, not a virtue. Waugh’s recollections of the hopelessness of the soldiers in the war, not laziness, but just disdain for the cause and command, was so defeatist. This only demonstrates the need for the higher hope that is God’s gift. His words (I don’t have the text before me) about that man being a “poor Christian” whose sole aim is to avoid hell, like the soldier whose sole aim was to avoid capture by the Germans was poignant. I wrote down this definition of his regarding slackness (pigratia): “It is a deflection from, if not an outrage against, the divine order of things.” Remarkable, too, are his observations of this acedia, as he saw it in the “busy people” of England gazing out the window watching the idleness of the construction navvies “at work outside.” People who are always too busy for higher things. Like those cows you used to compare your students to, watching the cars go by. So apropos are your applications to the Vatican II humanistic focus and the “restless novelties” of the Novus Ordo. Finally, I was shaken up by Waugh’s warnings about “the burden of longevity” which, even before old age, can be the “final temptation” setting a path for worse slackness when we ought to be rowing harder with the shore in view, no?

    I especially love every insight of Dr. Pieper that you included. I understood much better what you were stressing about the sins against hope (presumption and despair) in the reflections of Pieper. And, even Chesterton, how he was moved by these two considerations that undermine hope, which I copied for keeping: “And they [these two doctrines] specially affected one idea; which I hope it is not pompous to call the chief idea of my life; I will not say the doctrine I have always taught, but the doctrine I should always have liked to teach. That is the idea of always taking things with gratitude, and not taking things for granted.”

    Pieper says that these vices make us incapable of “reposing with our minds in God.” Living as Viators, in the “not yet (Hope) rather than the “not” of despair or the “already” of presumption. I love the relation Dr. Pieper offers (from St. Thomas) concerning hope begetting magnanimity and holy joy. Was it he, whom you often quote, that hope is like to flower opening itself to God. Hope is the opposite of acedia. Noting that acedia is a sin against the Third Commandment because it destroys true rest in God was brilliant, or was that St. Thomas. It is, he writes, a “perverted humility” that “will not accept supernatural goods” for they are a burden to the sluggard, rather than a “delectatio boni divini”. Finally, the Filiae acediae from St.Thomas merit memorization. Pieper’s final chapter “On the Gift of Fear” is a must read, as is the book itself, which I have read and have somewhere. “THose who fear the Lord, trust in the Lord” from the Psalms.

    Even Our Lord had the Gift of the Fear of the Lord. I thought about this and wondered, as it is such a mystery. How did He, with His soul in the Beatific Vision from Conception, have fear of the Lord, I mean even filial fear, for He could not fear of offending the Good God, He was God. I may be off here, but I thought that as Man, Jesus could fear the “power of God” as in awe of His own divinity. Well, I have to get going. Ciao! Many thanks.

  • Brain Kelly

    This a masterpiece of an essay. It reads like a review, with new insights, of what I have learned from you in the past. Evelyn Waugh’s thoughts are always so profound. Indeed this was a “challenging essay” and very good for Lent. There are so many things to ponder in what you have written about Sloth and the sins against Hope. Waugh saw so well how modern society has no understanding of the serious evil (a capital sin) of sloth, how deadly it is. In the end, as it grows, it fills the tepid soul with a “disgust” for the supernatural life. And it affects even the religious who lapse into its joyless and melancholic allure of dark anesthesia, i.e., slackness. I was caught by your insight that only in the supernatural order is hope a virtue, an infused virtue, given to us by the grace of God. And, as a virtue, it is a habit that must be exercised, not only to chase away the “noon-day” demon of despair and acedia, but as a positive virtue, for the true fear of the Lord is in hope. It elevates. Interesting, too, is your point that outside of grace, hope is a passion of the natural order, not a virtue. Waugh’s recollections of the hopelessness of the soldiers in the war, not laziness, but just disdain for the cause and command, was so defeatist. This only demonstrates the need for the higher hope that is God’s gift. His words (I don’t have the text before me) about that man being a “poor Christian” whose sole aim is to avoid hell, like the soldier whose sole aim was to avoid capture by the Germans was poignant. I wrote down this definition of his regarding slackness (pigratia): “It is a deflection from, if not an outrage against, the divine order of things.” Remarkable, too, are his observations of this acedia, as he saw it in the “busy people” of England gazing out the window watching the idleness of the construction navvies “at work outside.” People who are always too busy for higher things. Like those cows you used to compare your students to, watching the cars go by. So apropos are your applications to the Vatican II humanistic focus and the “restless novelties” of the Novus Ordo. Finally, I was shaken up by Waugh’s warnings about “the burden of longevity” which, even before old age, can be the “final temptation” setting a path for worse slackness when we ought to be rowing harder with the shore in view, no?

    I especially love every insight of Dr. Pieper that you included. I understood much better what you were stressing about the sins against hope (presumption and despair) in the reflections of Pieper. And, even Chesterton, how he was moved by these two considerations that undermine hope, which I copied for keeping: “And they [these two doctrines] specially affected one idea; which I hope it is not pompous to call the chief idea of my life; I will not say the doctrine I have always taught, but the doctrine I should always have liked to teach. That is the idea of always taking things with gratitude, and not taking things for granted.”

    Pieper says that these vices make us incapable of “reposing with our minds in God.” Living as Viators, in the “not yet (Hope) rather than the “not” of despair or the “already” of presumption. I love the relation Dr. Pieper offers (from St. Thomas) concerning hope begetting magnanimity and holy joy. Was it he, whom you often quote, that hope is like to flower opening itself to God. Hope is the opposite of acedia. Noting that acedia is a sin against the Third Commandment because it destroys true rest in God was brilliant, or was that St. Thomas. It is, he writes, a “perverted humility” that “will not accept supernatural goods” for they are a burden to the sluggard, rather than a “delectatio boni divini”. Finally, the Filiae acediae from St.Thomas merit memorization. Pieper’s final chapter “On the Gift of Fear” is a must read, as is the book itself, which I have read and have somewhere. “THose who fear the Lord, trust in the Lord” from the Psalms.

    Even Our Lord had the Gift of the Fear of the Lord. I thought about this and wondered, as it is such a mystery. How did He, with His soul in the Beatific Vision from Conception, have fear of the Lord, I mean even filial fear, for He could not fear of offending the Good God, He was God. I may be off here, but I thought that as Man, Jesus could fear the “power of God” as in awe of His own divinity. Well, I have to get going. Ciao! Many thanks.

  • A masterpiece. I read it just 2 hours ago. It reads like a review, with new insights, of what I have learned from you in the past. Evelyn Waugh’s thoughts are always so profound. Indeed this was a “challenging essay” and very good for Lent. There are so many things to ponder in what you have written about Sloth and the sins against Hope. Waugh saw so well how modern society has no understanding of the serious evil (a capital sin) of sloth, how deadly it is. In the end, as it grows, it fills the tepid soul with a “disgust” for the supernatural life. And it affects even the religious who lapse into its joyless and melancholic allure of dark anesthesia, i.e., slackness. I was caught by your insight that only in the supernatural order is hope a virtue, an infused virtue, given to us by the grace of God. And, as a virtue, it is a habit that must be exercised, not only to chase away the “noon-day” demon of despair and acedia, but as a positive virtue, for the true fear of the Lord is in hope. It elevates. Interesting, too, is your point that outside of grace, hope is a passion of the natural order, not a virtue. Waugh’s recollections of the hopelessness of the soldiers in the war, not laziness, but just disdain for the cause and command, was so defeatist. This only demonstrates the need for the higher hope that is God’s gift. His words (I don’t have the text before me) about that man being a “poor Christian” whose sole aim is to avoid hell, like the soldier whose sole aim was to avoid capture by the Germans was poignant. I wrote down this definition of his regarding slackness (pigratia): “It is a deflection from, if not an outrage against, the divine order of things.” Remarkable, too, are his observations of this acedia, as he saw it in the “busy people” of England gazing out the window watching the idleness of the construction navvies “at work outside.” People who are always too busy for higher things. Like those cows you used to compare your students to, watching the cars go by. So apropos are your applications to the Vatican II humanistic focus and the “restless novelties” of the Novus Ordo. Finally, I was shaken up by Waugh’s warnings about “the burden of longevity” which, even before old age, can be the “final temptation” setting a path for worse slackness when we ought to be rowing harder with the shore in view, no?

    I especially love every insight of Dr. Pieper that you included. I understood much better what you were stressing about the sins against hope (presumption and despair) in the reflections of Pieper. And, even Chesterton, how he was moved by these two considerations that undermine hope, which I copied for keeping: “And they [these two doctrines] specially affected one idea; which I hope it is not pompous to call the chief idea of my life; I will not say the doctrine I have always taught, but the doctrine I should always have liked to teach. That is the idea of always taking things with gratitude, and not taking things for granted.”

    Pieper says that these vices make us incapable of “reposing with our minds in God.” Living as Viators, in the “not yet (Hope) rather than the “not” of despair or the “already” of presumption. I love the relation Dr. Pieper offers (from St. Thomas) concerning hope begetting magnanimity and holy joy. Was it he, whom you often quote, that hope is like to flower opening itself to God. Hope is the opposite of acedia. Noting that acedia is a sin against the Third Commandment because it destroys true rest in God was brilliant, or was that St. Thomas. It is, he writes, a “perverted humility” that “will not accept supernatural goods” for they are a burden to the sluggard, rather than a “delectatio boni divini”. Finally, the Filiae acediae from St.Thomas merit memorization. Pieper’s final chapter “On the Gift of Fear” is a must read, as is the book itself, which I have read and have somewhere. “THose who fear the Lord, trust in the Lord” from the Psalms.

    Even Our Lord had the Gift of the Fear of the Lord. I thought about this and wondered, as it is such a mystery. How did He, with His soul in the Beatific Vision from Conception, have fear of the Lord, I mean even filial fear, for He could not fear of offending the Good God, He was God. I may be off here, but I thought that as Man, Jesus could fear the “power of God” as in awe of His own divinity. Well, I have to get going. Ciao! Many thanks.