Seven New Deadly Sins

Things like this are coming between me and God. Yesterday, the Vatican published a new list of deadly–that is, mortal–sins. Believing that the usual (but informal) deadly sins are too “individualistic” in nature, these were selected for their “social resonance” according to Bishop Gianfranco Girotti.

The new deadly sins include polluting, genetic engineering, being obscenely rich, drug dealing, abortion, pedophilia and causing social injustice.The Catholic Church divides sins into venial, or less serious, sins and mortal sins, which threaten the soul with eternal damnation unless absolved before death through confession and penitence.

It holds mortal sins to be “grave violations of the Ten Commandments and the Beatitudes,” including murder, contraception, abortion, perjury, adultery and lust.

Pollution, a waste product of higher standards of living is now a mortal sin? Genetic engineering that could feed millions or prevent disease will land us in Hell?

Once again I have to tell my Church to fuck off. I’m really getting tired of that.


(1) Many have noted that this list is not an statement of doctrine from the Vatican, but rather a Vatican bishop who was giving an interview about sin and the sacrament of confession in the 21st century. CWN’s article on the subject went so far as to call Archbishop Girotti, the regent of the Apostolic Penitentiary, a “second-tier Vatican official,” as if to play down his position or the importance of his words.

The Apostolic Penitentiary is an important administrative arm of the Church. And an archbishop is nothing to sneer at. If you think that American priests and bishops, parishioners and deacons are not listening closely when members of the Apostolic penitentiary are speaking then you haven’t been paying attention at Mass. I worked for a church for five years and watched the creeping change. I read the “reminders” from the diocese about matters of ceremony and faith.

So when another Vatican bishop starts talking about “new sins,” I take notice. (And yes, those are his words.) Because I absolutely guarantee that I will be subject to a lecture on genetic engineering from a well-meaning but close-minded priest or deacon in the near future. And I’m tired of it. That’s why I posted this.

(2) As noted above, the seven deadly sins are not an official part of Church doctrine. That’s why I called them “informal.” The article I linked clarified more, noting that there is no definitive list of deadly sins. Instead, the Church defines mortal sins as grave violations of the Ten Commandments committed with full knowledge and deliberate intent.

To some extent, it is obvious that pollution, or genetic experimentation, or social injustice can rise to the level of a mortal sin. But it seems to me that not all polluters are guilty of a grave violation, nor for that matter are all genetic researchers. The archbishop argues that modern Catholics do not understand sin, but does himself an injustice by lumping these actions which are matters of degree together with things like drug dealing and abortion which are more a binary state when it comes to sin (setting aside abortions of medical necessity).

And his comment about “obscene wealth” is particularly troubling to me because I have known people who are terribly concerned that their souls are in danger because they married hard-working people who ended up making bundles. In fact, I’ve seen people dissolve in tears when Matthew 19:24 or like passages in the other gospels come up at Mass. Their major fear is that they don’t know how much wealth is too much wealth, and they don’t know if their giving to charity and tithing is going to make a difference. Their fears are not put to rest by the good archbishop.

(3) Also, one commenter referred to L’Osservatore Romano as “the Enquirer of the Vatican.” That is inaccurate. CWN recognizes it as the “semi-official” paper of the Vatican and L’osservatore publishes on the Vatican’s own webpage.

(4) On equating “my Church” with the bishops in Rome I made a glaring error. Yes, the Church is more than just the bishops. In fact, it is much more. But those are the folks who have the authority and responsibility to shepherd the Church on Earth. For that reason, when they speak, I listen.

(5) Finally, this is probably the most divisive problem with posting anything relating to religion. There are instant victims:

“If this were a report about the AGW cult, or a Marine throwing a dog off a roof or a new “atrocity” in Iraq, this gang of morons would be parsing it seven ways to hell and back dissecting the bias and trying to come to a reasonable judgement as to whether there was anything truthful to the story. But here’s some half-assed story about “new sins,” and you people swallow it faster than Jenna Jameson. I just love this Catholic bashing, especially from a few of you who haven’t got the faintest fucking idea what real Church teaching is.”

I’m sorry folks, but it is not out of bounds to discuss the pronouncements of bishops and how they affect everyday parishioners. If you think the Church is being treated unfairly or if you want to rise to the occasion and actually educate others about the teachings of the Church, this is your chance to shine (and I appreciate those commenters who are actually doing some educating). Or you could just throw a hissy-fit about people not using “reasonable judgment” and then accuse others of not knowing what they’re talking about.

You make the call.


~ by Gabriel Malor on March 11, 2008.

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