Vainglory is the sin or vice of one who immoderately desires renown, prestige, or the praise and respect of others. The desire of these things is not necessarily sinful, but becomes so when it is immoderate and disordered. It is vitiated by immoderateness when glory is sought in wrong objects, from the wrong people, or in a wrong manner: in wrong objects, for example, when renown and esteem are desired for a perfection one does not truly possess or is not worthy of esteem; from the wrong people, when one glories in the esteem of those whose judgment is perverse or of little value; or in a wrong manner, when the glory is desired on its own account, as an end in itself, rather than as a means to a suitable goal such as the honor of God or the welfare of neighbor. When immoderate for one or another such reason, the desire is vain, or foolish.
The sinfulness of vainglory is clear from the Scriptures (e.g., Mt 6.1; 1 Cor 4.7; Phil 2.3) and from the constant teaching of the Fathers of the Church and theologians. It is directly opposed to the virtue of mag nanimity, the potential part of fortitude that prompts one to works worthy of honor and glory. Thus magnanimity should moderate or govern the desire for glory, and vainglory is directly opposed to this virtue. Of itself vainglory is not mortally sinful, although in certain circumstances it can become such. One would, for example, sin seriously if he were to seek renown for a deed that was gravely sinful or if he were to prefer his glory to the commands of God or the good of his neighbor.
Vainglory is related to many other sins and vices. Some authors classify it as one of the sins that come from pride, a "daughter" of pride. Others, such as John Cassian and St. John Damascene, consider it an eighth capital sin. St. Thomas Aquinas, following St. Gregory the Great, thought that pride, because of its universal influence, transcended the category of capital sins, and in its place put vainglory as one of the seven sins that can most properly be classified as capital. The chief "daughters" of vainglory according to SS. Thomas and Gregory, are disobedience, boasting, hypocrisy, contention, stubbornness, and an inordinate love of novelty.
See Also: deadly sins.
Bibliography: gregory i (the Great), Moral, 31.45.87–89, in Patrologia Latina, ed. j. p. migne, 217 v., indexes 4 v. (Paris 1878–90) 76:620–622. thomas aquinas, Summa theologiae, 2a2ae, 132; De malo 9.1. francis de sales, Introduction to the Devout Life, 3.4,7. a. michel, Dictionnaire de théologie catholique, ed. a. vacant et al., 15 v. (Paris 1903–50; Tables générales 1951–) 6.2:1429–32.