Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

Generally, an unreasonable desire for what we do not possess. In this sense, it differs from concupiscence only in the implied notion of non-possession, and thus may cover all things which are sought after inordinately. Classified under this general head, we may have covetousness of honours, or pride ; of the flesh, or concupiscence properly so called; of riches, or covetousness proper ( Latin avaritia ), or avarice. When covetousness of the flesh or of wealth has for its object that which is already the lawful possession of another, it falls under the ban of the Ninth or Tenth Commandment of God ; and such desires, wilfully indulged, partake, as we are told by the Lord ( Matthew 5 ), in their malice, of the nature of the external acts themselves. For he who deliberately desires the possession of another manUs lawful wife or goods has already in his heart committed the sin of adultery or theft. In its specific meaning, covetousness looks to riches in themselves, whether of money or of property, whether possessed or not, and pertains less to their acquisition than to their possession or accumulation. Thus defined, it is numbered among the sins which are called capital, because it is, as St. Paul says ( Timothy 6 ), a radix omnium peccatorum.

The capital sin of covetousness is in reality rather a vice or inclination to sin, which is sinful only in that it proceeds from the unholy condition of original sin in which we are born, and because it leads us into sin. And so far is the desire--natural in us all--to acquire and hold possessions from being reproved as offensive by God, that, if kept within the bounds of reason and justice and resisted triumphantly in its inordinate cravings, it is positively meritorious. Even when indulged, covetousness is not a grievous sin, except in certain conditions which involve offence of God or the neighbour, e.g. when one is prepared to employ, or does actually employ, illicit or unjust means to satisfy the desire of riches, holds to them in defiance of the strict demands of justice or charity, makes them the end rather than the means of happiness, or suffers them to interfere seriously with oneUs bounden duty to God or man. Nourished and developed into an unrestricted habit, it becomes the fruitful mother of all manner of perfidy, heartlessness and unrest.


More Encyclopedia

The Catholic Encyclopedia is the most comprehensive resource on Catholic teaching, history, and information ever gathered in all of human history. This easy-to-search online version was originally printed in fifteen hardcopy volumes.

Catholic Encyclopedia

Designed to present its readers with the full body of Catholic teaching, the Encyclopedia contains not only precise statements of what the Church has defined, but also an impartial record of different views of acknowledged authority on all disputed questions, national, political or factional. In the determination of the truth the most recent and acknowledged scientific methods are employed, and the results of the latest research in theology, philosophy, history, apologetics, archaeology, and other sciences are given careful consideration.

No one who is interested in human history, past and present, can ignore the Catholic Church, either as an institution which has been the central figure in the civilized world for nearly two thousand years, decisively affecting its destinies, religious, literary, scientific, social and political, or as an existing power whose influence and activity extend to every part of the globe. In the past century the Church has grown both extensively and intensively among English-speaking peoples. Their living interests demand that they should have the means of informing themselves about this vast institution, which, whether they are Catholics or not, affects their fortunes and their destiny.

Copyright © Catholic Encyclopedia. Robert Appleton Company New York, NY. Volume 1: 1907; Volume 2: 1907; Volume 3: 1908; Volume 4: 1908; Volume 5: 1909; Volume 6: 1909; Volume 7: 1910; Volume 8: 1910; Volume 9: 1910; Volume 10: 1911; Volume 11: - 1911; Volume 12: - 1911; Volume 13: - 1912; Volume 14: 1912; Volume 15: 1912

Catholic Online Catholic Encyclopedia Digital version Compiled and Copyright © Catholic Online

Newsletters

Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Revelation 18:1-2, 21-23; 19:1-3, 9
1 After this, I saw another angel come down from ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 100:2, 3, 4, 5
2 serve Yahweh with gladness, come into his presence ... Read More

Gospel, Luke 21:20-28
20 'When you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for November 27th, 2014 Image

St. James Intercisus
November 27: James was a favorite of King Yezdigerd I of Persia and a ... Read More

Inform, Inspire & Ignite Logo

Find Catholic Online on Facebook and get updates right in your live feed.

Become a fan of Catholic Online on Facebook


Follow Catholic Online on Twitter and get News and Product updates.

Follow us on Twitter