(Greek hypo , under, and krinesthai , to contend — hence adequately "to answer" on the stage, "to play a part", "to feign or pretend".)
Essentially its malice is identical with that of lying ; in both cases there is discordance between what a man has in his mind and the simultaneous manifestation of himself. So far as the morality of the act goes, it is unimportant that this difference between the interior and the exterior be set out in words, as happens in formal lies, or be acted out in one's demeanour, as is true of simulation. It is deserving of notice that the mere concealment of one's own sin, unless one be interrogated by legitimate authority, is not straight-way to be accounted hypocrisy. With the purpose of measuring the degree of sinfulness attributable to this vice, St. Thomas Aquinas teaches that we must carefully differentiate its two elements: the want of goodness, and the pretence of having it. If a person be so minded as definitely to intend both things, it is of course obvious that he is guilty of grievous sin, for that is only another way of saying that a man lacks the indispensable righteousness which makes him pleasing in the sight of God. If, however, the hypocrite be occupied rather with successfully enacting the role he has assumed, then, even though he be in mortal sin at the time, it will not always follow that the act of counterfeiting is itself a mortal sin.
To determine when it is so, cognizance must be taken of the motive which prompts the sinner to adopt his hypocritical bearing. If the end he has in view be such as to be incompatible with the love of God or one's neighbour, for example, if his purpose were thus to spread abroad false doctrine more unimpededly and more thoroughly, he must clearly be considered to have commited mortal sin. When, on the other hand, his animus does not involve such opposition to the supreme law of charity, the sin is esteemed to be venial, as, for instance, when one finds satisfaction in the completeness with which he carries off his part.
The portrait of hypocrisy is drawn with appalling vividness by Christ in His denunciation of the Pharisees in Matthew 23:23-24: "Woe to you scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites; because you tithe mint, and anise, and cummin, and have left the weightier things of the law ; judgment, and mercy, and faith. These things you ought to have done, and not to leave those undone. Blind guides, who strain out a gnat, and swallow a camel."
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.
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