This Dark Age

A manual for life in the modern world.

By Daniel Schwindt

Wealth as a ‘necessary occasion of sin’

Leo XIII warned that “those whom fortune favors are warned that riches do not bring freedom from sorrow and are of no avail for eternal happiness, but rather are obstacles.”[1] In saying this, he expressed the traditional attitude of Christianity toward wealth, which is that it represents a “necessary occasion of sin.”

Occasions of sin are “external circumstances—whether of things or persons—which either because of their special nature or because of the frailty common to humanity or peculiar to some individual, incite or entice one to sin.”[2] By calling wealth a “necessary occasion,” it is acknowledged that wealth has a valid role to play and that to be wealthy is not, in itself, sinful. Yet wealth does confer a degree of responsibility. It is best to return here to Leo XIII and quote him at length on this aspect of the problem:

Therefore, those whom fortune favors are warned that riches do not bring freedom from sorrow and are of no avail for eternal happiness, but rather are obstacles; that the rich should tremble at the threatenings of Jesus Christ—threatenings so unwonted in the mouth of our Lord—and that a most strict account must be given to the Supreme Judge for all we possess.[3]

[1] RN, 22.

[2] Delany, Joseph. “Occasions of Sin.” The Catholic Encyclopedia, Vol. 11. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1911. 19 Dec. 2014.

[3] RN, 22.

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