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Pope Francis at audience: Gluttony is perhaps the most dangerous vice

Pope Francis greets pilgrims at his Wednesday general audience on Jan. 10, 2024. / Credit: Vatican Media

Rome Newsroom, Jan 10, 2024 / 09:45 am (CNA).

In the third installment of his catechetical series on vice and virtue, Pope Francis on Wednesday focused on the sin of gluttony, noting that the vice is not about “food in itself, but on our relationship with it.” 

Framing Wednesday’s general audience on the social and psychological impact of this vice, the 87-year-old pontiff underscored that “gluttony is perhaps the most dangerous vice, which is killing the planet.”

“The sin of those who succumb before a piece of cake, all things considered, does not cause great damage, but the voracity with which we have been plundering the goods of the planet for some centuries now is compromising the future of all,” Pope Francis said to the faithful gathered in the Paul VI Audience Hall on Jan. 10. 

Pope Francis delivers a message at his Wednesday general audience Jan. 10, 2024. Credit: Vatican Media

Building on the socioeconomic dimension of this vice, Francis noted that “we have grabbed everything, in order to become the masters of all things, while everything had been consigned to our custody. This is why the fury of the belly is a great sin: We have abjured the name of men, to assume another, ‘consumers.’” 

“We were made in order to be ‘eucharistic’ men and women, capable of giving thanks, discreet in the use of the land, and instead the danger is that we turn into predators; and now we are realizing that this form of ‘gluttony’ has done a great deal of harm to the world.” 

The pope noted that part of the danger of gluttony arises from the fact that it is a vice “that latches onto one of our vital needs, such as eating.” He related this to the grave psychological consequences that arise from an unhealthy relationship with food, “especially in supposedly comfortable societies where many imbalances and pathologies manifest themselves.” 

Pope Francis greets pilgrims at his Wednesday general audience on Jan. 10, 2024. Credit: Vatican Media

Lamenting that eating disorders such as “anorexia, bulimia, obesity” have become all too prevalent, the pope said that these diseases, which are “extremely painful,” are typically “mostly linked to sufferings of the psyche and the soul.”

The pope went on to note an unhealthy relationship with food “is the manifestation of something internal.” 

Focusing on the interiority of these pathologies, the Holy Father said that when thinking about gluttony — and our broader relationship with food — we have to ask whether it is “a predisposition to balance or immoderation; the capacity to give thanks or the arrogant presumption of autonomy; the empathy of those who share food with the needy, or the selfishness of those who hoard everything for themselves.” 

Swiss Guards stand in the middle of Paul VI Hall during Pope Francis’ general audience on Jan. 10, 2024. Credit: Vatican Media

“This question is so important. Tell me how you eat, and I will tell you what kind of soul you possess. In the way we eat, we reveal our inner selves, our habits, our psychological attitudes.”

The pope pointed to the miracle of the wedding at Cana, where Jesus turned water into wine, as an example that “reveals [Christ’s] sympathy toward human joys” but also as an event that shows us that Jesus “eliminates the distinction between pure and impure food.” 

The pope noted that “although Jesus’ attitude toward the Jewish precepts reveals his full submission to the law, he nonetheless shows himself to be sympathetic toward his disciples. ”

In this way, the pope observed, ”this serene relationship that Jesus established with regard to nutrition should be rediscovered and valorized.”

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