Vices and Temptations in the Catholic Church

Vices and virtues balance one another. For every virtue an an individual possesses, they most likely have an opposite vice (Kristjánsson, 2013). Vices can be categorized as traits or weaknesses that might lead an individual to make poor ethical decisions. Everyone is guilty of possessing vices or weaknesses, but temptations are what lead us to indulge in those vices and ultimately make poor ethical decisions (PSY 533 L02). 

Figures of religion are often viewed as virtuous individuals. However, we all fall victim to vices. It was recently reported by a grand jury that more than 300 priests of the Roman Catholic Church in Pennsylvania abused victims over 70 years, all the while convincing the victims not to report the abuse to law enforcement. This absurdly vile violation of ethics has caused quite the controversial uproar across platforms of the media. A New York Times article released August 14th by Laurie Goldstein and Sharon Otterman detail the event. 

The report issued by the grand jury uncovered more than 1,000 victims from just six of Pennsylvania’s eight catholic dioceses. The report detailed that there are likely thousands of other victims of this horrific sexual abuse whose records might have been misplaced or who might have been too afraid to come forward (Goldstein and Otterman, 2018). The sex scandal in the Catholic Church has been a hot button topic for a number of years. This scandal uncovering several decades of sexual abuse has further enforced the negative reputation that Catholic Priests have acquired. 

This very vivid example displays the idea of vices and virtues very colorfully. Figures of power, especially those we are thought to trust such as priests and other religious figure heads, are viewed as virtuous, kind, pure, and all over good. At least this is what my perception of someone in that position of power is. The vice in this example would be the sexual drive that these individuals have so clearly exemplified. Among most individuals a need for human connection is very prevalent. In these select few individuals the need for intimacy has been translated into a vice that causes them to make the ethically horrific decision to commit acts of sexual abuse. It is morally and ethically corrupt. 

The vast majority of religious figure heads, or humans in general, do not outwardly display this vice that would cause an individual to commit a crime like this against another human being. The report detailed in the New York Times article focused on Catholic priests in pennsylvania alone. There are thousands of religious figure heads that do not act in this way. In no way should we fear religious figure heads because of the actions of the corrupt. That being said, this example of temptations leading to vices that, in turn, cause an individual to make morally and ethically corrupt decisions is pretty clear cut. My thoughts go out to the families of the effected and I hope that everyone does their best to practice the golden rule that we were taught as children. Treat everyone else the way you want to be treated. That is how I learned how to make my moral and ethical decisions as a child. It seems very simple, unfortunately human beings are not quite as clear cut as such a rule, but we can only hope for the best in people.



Goodstein, L., & Otterman, S. (2018, August 14). Catholic Priests Abused 1,000 Children in Pennsylvania, Report Says. Retrieved September 21, 2018, from

Kristjánsson, K. (2013). Virtue and vices in positive psychology: A philosophical critique. Cambridge, MA: Cambridge University Press.

McAfee. A. (2010, August 2). Rising above tech’s temptations (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.. Retrieved from

PSU. (2018). PSY 533: Lesson 02: Vices and Temptations. (Lecture Notes). Retrieved from 

One Comment

  1. Racquel Antoinette Roy September 22, 2018 at 7:05 PM #

    As a Catholic, I have found the recent allegations regarding approximately 300 Roman Catholic priests most disturbing. The mere existence of sexual abuse is upsetting enough as it brings a certain human darkness to the surface which most struggle with identifying with the perpetrator and shutter at the horror or the experience of the victim. But there is a something especially deviant when the perpetrator is someone expected to be the epitome of virtue.

    There is a book about the Catechism of the church, which is a book that contains the summary of principles for those who wish to follow the Catholic faith. As a priest, these principles are at the core of what they study along with other religious and philosophical ideologies and theologies. There is a section of Catechism which specifically addresses the church’s view on “The Human Virtues” (Vatican, n.d.) and it states, “The goal of a virtuous life is to become like God” and “Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious” these are the definitions of “virtue” defined in the Catholic faith. Most people would agree with this definition and it most closely aligns with The Divine Command Approach where “God’s will is seen as the very definition of what is ethical” (Bonde et al., 2013). What kind of God would want children harmed at the hands of those who are supposed to serve Him? And how do we address those who are in a position of power who seek to feed their vices and/or human temptations? The priests who act upon these predilections aren’t judged solely on the unethical acts, they are judged additionally because they are the ones who teach but fail to act in accordance with the virtues their position is supposed to represent.

    To me this goes far beyond workplace conflict. This is a systemic issue that has gone on far too long and has victimized too many individuals. Beyond the victims themselves, the members of the Catholic faith are impacted as well. “Destructive leadership is also negatively related to followers’ attitudes” (Northouse, 2018, p.344) which in this case, is the 1.28 billion Catholics worldwide (Wooden, 2017). The breakdown of ethical leadership in the church begins at the highest level in dealing with this matter and if the effects can be examined by reviewing the toxic triangle that “focuses on the influences of destructive leaders, susceptible followers, and conducive environments” (Northouse, 2018, p. 345). The people with power are the priests, cardinals, bishops, and the Pope. These men who are abusing their positions are using their power to coerce for personal gain (vice) and the leaders around them who turn the other way are colluders or conformers who go along with the leaders to satisfy their unmet needs of esteem” (Northouse, 2018 p. 345) children are the susceptible followers who are placed in the conducive environments (i.e. class, church, etc.) where the abuse can happen.

    So much needs to be addressed in this very serious matter ethically, morally, and legally.


    Bonde, S., & et al. (2013, May). A Framework for Making Ethical Decisions. Retrieved from

    Catechism of the Catholic Church. (n.d.) Article 7. The Virtues. Retrieved from

    Northouse, P. (2018). Leadership: Theory and Practice. Thousand Oaks. Sage Publications.

    Wooden, C. (2017, April). Global Catholic Population Tops 1.28 Billion; Half are in 10 Countries. National Catholic Reporter. Retrieved from

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