When is greed a mortal sin?
#1
This is something that's puzzled me for a while. Greed is a cardinal sin, and it seems implied that greed can land a person in Hell. However I'm not sure what it would look like, or when you had to confess an act of greed.

Any thoughts?
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#2
Fr. Hardon's dictionary gives one take on when it is venial vs. mortal.

Catholic Dictionary Wrote:AVARICE

Definition

An excessive or insatiable desire for money or material things. In its strict sense, avarice is the inordinate holding on to possessions or riches instead of using these material things for some worthwhile purpose. Reluctance to let go of what a person owns is also avarice.

Of itself, avarice is venially sinful. But it may become mortal when a person is ready to use gravely unlawful means to acquire or hold on to his possessions, or when because of his cupidity he seriously violates his duty of justice or charity. (Etym. Latin avaritia, greediness, covetousness, avarice.)

The CCC has some helpful descriptions of this sin in general:

CCC Wrote: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

321 Roman Catechism, III,37; cf. Sir 5:8.
322 Roman Catechism, III,37.
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#3
I was thinking about this question a little more, and generally a sin is mortal when it is incompatible with charity--love of God or love of neighbor (see CCC 1856).  So I think avarice becomes a mortal sin when we put the acquisition of goods above our love for God or our neighbor.  Like in the CCC's example, a doctor who desires the spread of disease so that he can make more money would be violating charity by wishing harm on people (even if he then cured the harm for money).
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#4
I would be sort of interested to see if and how moral theology has developed here. It's been pointed out, for instance, that in the Middle Ages usurers were generally regarded as enemies of the community and were often placed on the same level as witches. Today, in contrast, many conservative and trad Catholics tell us that greed leads to economic growth and that St. Thomas and all the others didn't really understand economics anyway. For them, lust is the reason that all of those souls are falling into hell like snowflakes, and yet if Dante is to be taken to be illustrative, lust was for medieval Catholics one of the less offensive species of sin.
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#5
(12-14-2015, 02:11 PM)Crusading Philologist Wrote: I would be sort of interested to see if and how moral theology has developed here. It's been pointed out, for instance, that in the Middle Ages usurers were generally regarded as enemies of the community and were often placed on the same level as witches. Today, in contrast, many conservative and trad Catholics tell us that greed leads to economic growth and that St. Thomas and all the others didn't really understand economics anyway. For them, lust is the reason that all of those souls are falling into hell like snowflakes, and yet if Dante is to be taken to be illustrative, lust was for medieval Catholics one of the less offensive species of sin.

I think, while both were capital sins, lust seemed at least a more common problem of human weakness and at least led to the continuation of the human race.  Sodomy and masturbation were the exceptions, though, because they removed the possible good being brought out of the sin.  Usury and other forms of greed, especially how it was (is?) often practiced, takes deliberate advantage of someone's desperate need in the present in order to profit and ultimately oppress the person more in the long run. Really, it seems any transaction that deliberately makes one person better off at the expense of the other person being made worse off would be sinful in this regard (this is what usury, as the Church has defined it, ultimately amounts to).

The Catechism of Trent, quoted in the CCC, lists those at high risk for this sin, and those risks are certainly present in our economic system.
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