Pride is the excessive love of one’s own excellence. It is ordinarily accounted one of the seven capital sins. St. Thomas, however, endorsing the appreciation of St. Gregory, considers it the queen of all vices, and puts vainglory in its place as one of the deadly sins. In giving it this pre-eminence he takes it in a most formal and complete signification. He understands it to be that frame of mind in which a man, through the love of his own worth, aims to withdraw himself from subjection to Almighty God, and sets at naught the commands of superiors. It is a species of contempt of God and of those who bear his commission. Regarded in this way, it is of course a mortal sin of a most heinous sort. Indeed St. Thomas rates it in this sense as one of the blackest of sins. By it the creature refuses to stay within his essential orbit; he turns his back upon God, not through weakness or ignorance, but solely because in his self-exaltation he is minded not to submit. His attitude has something Satanic in it, and is probably not often verified in human beings. A less atrocious kind of pride is that which impels one to make much of oneself unduly and without sufficient warrant, without however any disposition to cast off the dominion of the Creator. This may happen, according to St. Gregory, either because a man regards himself as the source of such advantages as he may discern in himself, or because, whilst admitting that God has bestowed them, he reputes this to have been in response to his own merits, or because he attributes to himself gifts which he has not or, finally, because even when these are real he unreasonably looks to be put ahead of others. Supposing the conviction indicated in the first two instances to be seriously entertained, the sin would be a grievous one and would have the added guilt of heresy. Ordinarily, however, this erroneous persuasion does not exist; it is the demeanor that is reprehensible. The last two cases generally speaking are not held to constitute grave offenses. This is not true, however, whenever a man’s arrogance is the occasion of great harm to another, as, for instance, his undertaking the duties of a physician without the requisite knowledge. The same judgment is to be rendered when pride has given rise to such temper of soul that in the pursuit of its object one is ready for anything, even mortal sin. Vain-glory, ambition, and presumption are commonly enumerated as the offspring vices of pride, because they are well adapted to serve its inordinate aims. Of themselves they are venial sins unless some extraneous consideration puts them in the ranks of grievous transgressions. It should be noted that presumption does not here stand for the sin against hope. It means the desire to essay what exceeds one’s capacity.
JOSEPH F. DELANY