A study on sloth

Time to examine your favorite tv show
Monsignor Charles Pope (photo: The Personalist Project)

Monsignor Charles Pope (photo: The Personalist Project)

The following comes from a July 1 Community in Mission article by Monsignor Charles Pope: 

In daily Mass this week, we have been reading through Genesis. Tuesday’s reading highlights a significant spiritual problem: sloth, one of the seven deadly sins. Sloth is a sorrow, sadness, or aversion to the good things God offers. Rather than being joyful and zealous to obtain these gifts, the slothful person sees them as too much trouble to obtain and is averse to the changes such gifts might introduce into his life. This is clearly the case with Lot, who resists the attempts of God to rescue him and his family from the sinful city of Sodom, which is about to be destroyed. Let’s examine his struggle in several steps.

I. Roots – Lot’s personal troubles were many, but for our purposes his problems began when he “pitched his tent toward Sodom” (Gen 13:12). Abraham and Lot had grown very rich (almost never a good thing in the spiritual life) and realized that their flocks were so large that one part of the land could not sustain them both. Thus they agreed to live in different sectors. Abraham left the choice of areas to Lot, who (selfishly?) chose the better part for himself. The area where Sodom was is now a deep desert, but at that time the whole plain of the Jordan toward Zoar was well watered, like the garden of the Lord, like the land of Egypt (Gen 13:10). And thus it was that Lot took his family and pitched his tent toward Sodom.

II. Risks – But Sodom was a wicked city, filled with false worship, greed, insensitivity to the poor, and the approval and practice of homosexuality. I will not be writing on that in detail in this post, as I have already done so in previous ones.

But here is the risk that Lot takes: he turns his face toward Sodom and willingly exposes his family to the grave moral threats there. And it does indeed affect them. Ultimately, his wife cannot bear to leave, looks back, and is lost. His daughters escape, but later engage in the grave sin of incest. Lot, too, will find it hard to flee Sodom, finding God’s offer to save him to be too much trouble. He’d rather stay, whatever the risk.

If you’re going to swim in muddy water, you’re going to get muddy. And that mud gets in your ears and in your soul. This is what Lot risks and what results when he pitches his tent toward Sodom.

Many of us, too, think little about the risks that television, the internet, music, and culture pose to us and our children. Too easily we risk our eternal salvation and that of our children by pitching our tent toward Sodom through easy commerce with a world that is poisonous to our faith. Even if some things are troublesome, many of us make little effort draw back and limit, even in little ways, the influences that are contrary to our faith.

III. Resource – Lot has only one resource in his favor: Abraham is praying for his ne’er-do-well nephew. He asks God’s destroying angel to spare Lot and his family (Gen 19). God agrees to this and acts to save Lot in spite of himself. Really, it’s the only thing that saves Lot.

It is true that Lot was just, in the sense that he did not approve of the sin around him. But neither did he act to really protect himself or his family from it. Something about Sodom appealed to him. Perhaps he thought he could make money there (or perhaps the trains ran on time). Whatever the benefits, Lot weighed them more heavily than the risks.

And so, too, for many today, who leave the TV on no matter the risk because it entertains or has some other perceived benefit that outweighs the obvious risks. Or those for whom it’s just too much trouble to monitor the websites their children visit or the music they listen to.

It really is only Abraham’s prayers that save Lot, who would live with sinners, from dying along with them. Thus, don’t forget the power of prayer for some of the “ne’er-do-wells” you may know. God may act to save them before the Day of Judgment simply because you prayed for them.

IV. Root Sin – But here comes the heart of the story: sloth. The angel warns, “Flee!” But Lot hesitates. Fleeing is hard work; it means leaving things behind that you like. Perhaps Lot thinks, “Maybe the warnings of destruction are overblown; maybe it won’t really be so bad.” Here is what the story says:

As dawn was breaking, the angels urged Lot on, saying, “On your way! Take with you your wife and your two daughters who are here, or you will be swept away in the punishment of Sodom.” When he hesitated, the men, by the LORD’s mercy, seized his hand and the hands of his wife and his two daughters and led them to safety outside the city. As soon as they had been brought outside, he was told: “Flee for your life! Don’t look back or stop anywhere on the Plain. Get off to the hills at once, or you will be swept away!” “Oh, no, my lord!” Lot replied, “You have already thought enough of your servant to do me the great kindness of intervening to save my life. But I cannot flee to the hills to keep the disaster from overtaking me, and so I shall die. Look, this town ahead is near enough to escape to. It’s only a small place. Let me flee there–it’s a small place, is it not?– that my life may be saved.” “Well, then,” he replied, “I will also grant you the favor you now ask. I will not overthrow the town you speak of. Hurry, escape there! I cannot do anything until you arrive there.” That is why the town is called Zoar (Gen 19:15-21).

Wow, this is sloth with a capital “S”! So lazy and settled in with sin has Lot become, that he’d rather accept death than expend the effort to flee. Not only that, he can’t even manage to rouse himself in order to save his family. It’s all just too much trouble. Sloth is sorrow, sadness, or aversion.

Thanks to Abraham’s prayers, the angels literally drag Lot and his family out of the city and repeat the warning: “Flee!” God who made you without you, will not save you without you. So Lot must cooperate. But still, Lot sees it as all just too much trouble. In effect, he says, “Man, those hills look far away. And they’re not nearly as nice as this valley. It’s going to take a lot of effort to get there. Do I really have to go that far?”

And here is another aspect of sloth: compromising with evil despite knowing the danger. Even if it occurs to many that some things in their lives need to change, they try to minimize those changes. The Lord tells us that we cannot serve two masters, that we cannot serve both the world and Him. In other words, we must decisively choose God over the demands of this world whenever there is a conflict. But many, realizing that this may introduce uncomfortable situations or have financial impacts, begin to negotiate with their conscience, saying, “I’m basically serving God … well, at least mostly. Maybe it’s enough if I do a few holy things and serve God for the most part. And then I can still serve the world and enjoy its fruits, too. Maybe I’ll serve God 80% and the world 20%. Hmm … well, maybe that’s a little too ambitious. After all I have a career and I don’t want to risk that promotion. How about if I serve God 60% and the world 40%? Is that enough?”

V. Results – But note this: grace and mercy need to have their effect. We cannot go on in sloth forever. We have to allow God to heal this deep drive of sin in us or we will be destroyed. Lot is saved for now, but great tragedy is still in store for him. His wife will turn back in longing for Sodom and be lost. His daughters cannot get Sodom out of them and will later turn to incest (Gen 19:30ff). And from this incest will be born the ancestors of the enemies who will later afflict Israel: the Moabites and the Ammonites.

Many think to themselves, “I know my favorite television show has bad scenes, but I like the story line and I want to find out what happens at the end of the season. I know I should be clearer and firmer with my children, but that leads to conflict and I hate conflict, and besides they’ll complain if they can’t have a smart phone. And it’s so much trouble trying to monitor their Internet activity. And … and … and …”

What happens when we do this, when we slothfully reject God’s offer of a better, less-compromised way? Well, we don’t have look far; we know what happens. We and the people we love get lost, wounded, corrupted, confused, and even die, both physically and spiritually.



  1. http://St.%20Christopher says

    This is a profound piece. Too bad the Church ruling clergy fail to heed its advice. What could be more slothful than “Laudato Si”? Demanding that all Catholics become 1970’s hippies and earth movement types, it surrounds Gaia-Faith in a Catholic wrapper.

    Yes, Catholic Reader, throwing out a few Catholic-sounding things here and there, and then spouting Marxist jargon and goals does not sit well with the Faith. Too bad the Pope did not look at the nature of sin and not the nature of (allegedly) evil capitalism and individualism. Just like singing yet another verse of “Kumbaya”. Sloth, indeed.

    • http://JonJ says

      The reason you don’t like Laudato Si is that you might have to change your habits. You might have to conserve energy, stop driving an SUV, or pay more for electricity. Rather than make painful economic choices, you’d rather reject the science out of hand so you can justify your established habits.

      Instead, you attack a Pope you don’t like, and reject everything he has to say rather than understand he is — like all of us — a flawed individual through whom God can work. The theological point of Laudato Si is sound. The idea we have a custodian duty toward creation is hardly theologically radical. Rather than mine Laudato Si for value, you reject all with ridicule and abuse.

      • http://Canisius says

        JonJ Yes lets all make economic situation worse just so the Pope and people like you are happy. I say no, I accuse you and him to your faces….

    • http://JonJ says

      It is, of course, morally acceptable to question Laudato Si’s science and the Pope’s proposed political solutions, because neither fall within the particular competence of the Church, or the Pope (faith and morals).

      But to dismiss the faith and morals teaching out of hand because of personal contempt for Pope Francis is nothing but pride. You also cannot tolerate that liberals might actually have some points to make with respect to pollution, the environment, and resource use.

      Failing to believe those you despise might have some points to make mean you cannot learn, cannot grow, and you cannot draw closer to God.

    • http://Anonymous says

      While this is not the subject of the article, I must stand up against these lies. Laudato Si does not demand that all Catholics become 70s hippie and earth movement types. It calls all people to live in a way that is humble, understanding ones relationship with God, other people and all of creation. It does not throw out Marxist jargon or goals. It is profoundly Catholic.. It is all about how to live in a way that pleases God. Individualism is the source of many sorrows and sufferings both for God and man. Individualism is why there is abortion and same sex marriage, divorce, adultery etc. The Pope said absolutely nothing about capitalism.

  2. http://Bob says

    Did you read Laudata Si…or were you too lazy to do so? Pope Francis is calling us to take action. Hopefully, we will not respond as Lot did!

  3. http://The%20Other%20Rose says

    What a really excellent read this morning! Very helpful to me.

  4. http://Anonymous says

    Click the link and read the comments and Monsignor Pope’s responses, if you have more interest in this.

  5. http://Bob%20One says

    Wouldn’t sloth also include not reading the Pope’s letter, or not trying to change what he asks us to change in our habits or the way we treat the earth. Would sloth not include trying to come to grips with the teachings of the Church with which we disagree?

  6. http://St.%20Christopher says

    “Bob One” and “JonJ” and “Anonymous”: The Zombie-Liberal and Pro-Sodomite Brotherhood all together! Well, let’s see, no, “Laudato Si” is neither correct, nor binding, in any respenct. Not space to debate the obvious. Nice piece in “The Remnant” does this well. See, Chris Jackson’s June 19, 2015 piece. And see the very powerful interviews with Ann Barnhardt in “Creative Minority Report”.

    No, the A/C remains on and the car(s) remain driven. And, No, per paras. 83 and 243, Mankind is not some Dr. Doolittle to peacefully shepard all animals toward Heaven (perhaps dogs do get in, though). Man is unique, and is the sole object of Christ’s sacrifice (and, yes, you will be individually judged based on what is sinful; not…

  7. http://St.%20Christopher says

    (Continued) “whether you littered; but try not to, as a courtesy).

    You have to be willfully blind to ignore the anti-capitalist tone of the LS. But then, you are likely in good company. Just look at how the leaders of the Church are almost all silent after the Supreme Court’s pro-sodomy decision. They will now pile on “polluters” because the notion of sin and its public proclamation requires courage (and embracing collectivism does not). Enjoy the show!!

    • http://Anonymous says

      Ahh yes, Pope Francis the anti-capitalist. The one who returned after his election as Supreme Pontiff to personally pay for his hotel room. That deadbeat anti-capitalist pontiff!!

    • http://Catherine says

      “Just look at how the leaders of the Church are almost all silent after the Supreme Court’s pro-sodomy decision.” Thank you, St. Christopher!

      “The road to hell is paved with the skulls of erring priests, with bishops as their signposts.” – St. John Chrysostom

      “But, when necessity compels, not those only who are invested with power of rule are bound to safeguard the integrity of faith, but, as St. Thomas maintains: ‘Each one is under obligation to show forth his faith, either to instruct and encourage others of the faithful, or to repel the attacks of unbelievers.’” – Pope Leo XIII

    • http://Anonymous says

      Catheine, you fell for that one.
      I started to write the links to bishops who have spoken out but there is not room.
      This has the USCCB statement and links to 112 bishops statements-some of which represent more than 1 bishop..

      • http://St.%20Christopher says

        No one said, “Anonymous” that “no one” in the Church issued a statement after Obergefell; but it is correct to say that few did. For example, unless he very recently did so, Cardinal Dolan has been silent, as has the Vatican.

        Further, Bill O’Reilly (Fox) said that the Catholic Church would not respond to him in putting together a commentary on the S. Ct. decision. Why not? Because they are cowards, and lack faith.

        Lastly, many of the bishops comments you note are pathetic. Whiny, and virtually pro-sodomite, they presage the coming expected Synod. Take a look at the drivel put out by Abp. Cupich, which spends most of the time talking about not discriminating against homosexuals. Was this even an issue? It makes one ashamed…

        • http://St.%20Christopher says

          (Continued) “of the Church leadership. But, then, they will very likely not care at all, complaining about the “negativity” among “conservative” Catholics and the like.

          Well, many Catholics are feed up. The voice of the Faithful is coming from true men, like Cardinal Burke, and Archbishop Athanasius Schneider. They are willing to tell the truth of the Faith. Time for a Catholic revolution!!

          • http://Anonymous says

            The voice of the faith is supposedly coming from a demoted Cardinal and an auxiliary bishop of a small docese. Really?!? What about the faith being taught from the Bishop of Rome, the Supreme Pontiff? Why have you strayed so far from the faith that you seek truth in distant voices?

        • http://Anonymous says

          Cardinal Dolan did not issue a specific statement. Neither did Cardinal Burke. They may be still working on it.
          Cardinal Dolan did say:
          To restore this nobility, this romance, this mystery and meaning of marriage, as a lifelong, life-giving, loving, faithful bond between a man and a woman, is a pastoral priority for the Church, because the world seems to have rejected it.

      • http://Catherine says

        “Catheine, (Catherine) you fell for that one.” = The USCCB NEVER publicly apologized for initially scandalously promoting the movie Brokeback Mountain. The USCCB only took their good rating promotion back when enough outraged Catholic voices were heard. Their initial support and promotion of Brokeback Mountain spoke volumes regarding a great loss of faith and was only one of the many promotions that enabled the Supreme Court to now legally promote the fantasy of so-called “gay marriage.” Where were those 112 bishop statements to initially condemn a brother bishop’s public support of Brokeback Mountain? The handful of consistently faithful bishops know who they are and so does God. Our Lady of Akita called this…

        • http://Anonymous says

          So it is OK for you to lie as long as it is about people who did something you disapprove of…Strange moral standards. Did you make them up yourself?

      • http://Catherine says

        “Catheine, you fell for that one.” = No sir, YOU fell for it, and you still want others to not be prepared. The USCCB initially promoted the Hollywood movie Brokeback Mountain. This spoke volumes on the great loss of faith. The USCCB only took back their initial attempt to promote this movie when faithful Catholics held their feet to the fire. Where were the 112 bishop statements condemning the agenda that this movie promoted? Our Lady of Akita called this “Compromise.” You cannot help to roll a crushing boulder to the very edge of a soft cliff and then later pretend to be shocked by it’s predictable downfall. The handful of consistently faithful bishops know who they are and so does God and His Blessed Mother.

    • http://Bob%20One says

      St. C, some, like you, have read the letter and concluded that the Pope is anti-capitalist. I read it and came to the conclusion that he was not against capitalism, but against unfettered capitalism. Well, what is that? Capitalism is the most effective economic system known in the history of man. That doesn’t mean, however, that it cannot be abused by the few. In our country, today, the top 1% (a few hundred people) own more wealth than the bottom 40% of our people. Companies send jobs overseas where they exploit cheap labor and unsafe working conditions to make a few more bucks. Banks sold unsustainable mortgage instruments that cause a world financial collapse. We need capitalism, but we need some mechanisms that will sustain…

      • http://Anonymous says

        It really is not about capitalism.
        The People’s Republic of China has an incredible pollution problem.
        It is about, whatever economic and political system exists, acting responsibly.
        Sometimes people don’t realize the problem they are causing for others. Sometimes they are just doing whatever they can get away with.
        Remember jellyfish babies? Product dumping? Thalidomide? There are still babies being born with severe birth defects because of the drug. Not in America, of course.

      • http://St.%20Christopher says

        Your post is ridiculous, and suggests that it is being written by a local Democratic Party staffer. The only abuse that comes from “capitalism” is that it is not available to enough people in the world. From economic freedom comes personal and political freedoms.

        Then-Representative Barney Franks (D-MA-4) is more responsible for the ocean of loans being made to unqualified borrowers than banks (which were afraid of hinted legal actions or regulation). And, so what if the top 1% own a bunch? The “rich” pay an inordinate amount of taxes; no one should be free of taxes, or feel that they have a “right” to public gifts forever. We need to create more truly wealthy, not less.

        • http://JonJ says

          How pathetic. Being a faux capitalist, and fawning over capitalist ideology, doesn’t make you superior to the Pope.

          What makes me laugh, St. C, is I’m a real-life entrepreneur. I’m one of seven co-founders of a health care IT firm. I’ve worked for startups most of my working life.

          Anyone who thinks capitalism is an unqualified good hasn’t been inside the lodge where decisions get made.

      • http://Canisius says

        Bob One always spouting leftist talking points, there has not been “unfettered” capitalism in nearly 100 years. ” Banks sold unsustainable mortgage instruments that cause a world financial collapse.” Ha.. these banks were ordered by the government under the community reinvestment act to issue mortgages to people who were financially incapable of repaying it. The Pope knows as much about capitalism as he does about the far side of the moon. He is a south American leftist which sums it up pretty well. He believes that the poor are virtuous by default. I know for a fact they are not…

        • http://Anonymous says

          If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts!

        • http://Bob%20One says

          Canisius, who owns the United States? It is not the middle class anymore. It is a few hundred people. Look at the wealth of the Walton family, more than some countries, etc. What was when you and I grew up is no more. When you lose the middle class, you lose your country. Some change is needed. I wish I knew how to do it. But for sure I know that our Congress isn’t doing anything about it. They have all been bought off by the super rich contributions to their campaigns.

          • http://St.%20Christopher says

            “Bob One”: Completely incorrect (assuming that you are a single person). No, the “rich” do not “own” America, a land where true economic opportunity remains available for those willing to work, and to invest in it.

            Where do you find such absurdities as, “a few hundred people” now “owns” the USA? Of course, the daily Democratic Party missive, or the complete mis-information given by the NY Times/Etc. Happy that you did not say the “Koch Brothers”, at least.

            And few spend more on misinformation the Democratic Party allies, such as unions (SEIU, NEA come to mind) and other entities (AARP) that dump huge dollars into achieving goals like abortion-rights, homosexual sex rights, pornography rights, and all the rest.

        • http://JonJ says

          Canisius, what do you and St. C know about capitalism? How many companies have either of you founded?

  8. http://Abeca%20Christian says

    I enjoyed this article. Very well written. A good one for all to reflect. Often times we are too busy to reflect and acknowledge. Now this piece can slow us down and take notice if should one is heading that path. Often times, modern conveniences are enablers, creators of too many comforts that lead many virtue deficient. May God open our eyes. God have mercy.

  9. http://Bruce says

    My understanding of the sin of sloth is our unwillingness to learn more about our rich and wonderful Roman Catholic faith, not the definition that is given by the author. Sloth is a terrible sin that the modern church is guilty of committing. It essentially erased the old Roman Catholic Catechisms and replaced them years later with a Book on Etiquette. The modern priests and laity and parents don’t do much if any teaching from my experience. Of course, they can’t teach what they don’t know. Sad story sloth no doubt but true!

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COMMENTS POLICY: Comments are limited to 750 characters and will be truncated at 750. Comments should not contain offensive or libelous language. Please strive to be civil. All comments are subject to approval by our moderator and to editing as the moderator deems appropriate. Inclusion of your email address is optional.