March 10, 2008
"New Sins"
Posted by Gordon Smith

If you are keeping track, the traditional seven deadly sins are Pride, Envy, Gluttony, Lust, Anger, Greed, Sloth. Their counterparts, the seven holy virtues, are Chastity, Abstinence, Temperance, Diligence, Patience, Kindness and Humility. Now this from the Vatican:

Bishop Gianfranco Girotti, head of the Apostolic Penitentiary, the Vatican body which oversees confessions and plenary indulgences, said ... that priests must take account of "new sins which have appeared on the horizon of humanity as a corollary of the unstoppable process of globalisation." Whereas sin in the past was thought of as being an individual matter, it now had "social resonance."

"You offend God not only by stealing, blaspheming or coveting your neighbour’s wife, but also by ruining the environment, carrying out morally debatable scientific experiments, or allowing genetic manipulations which alter DNA or compromise embryos," he said.

Bishop Girotti said that mortal sins also included taking or dealing in drugs, and social injustice which caused poverty or "the excessive accumulation of wealth by a few."

He said that two mortal sins which continued to preoccupy the Vatican were abortion, which offended "the dignity and rights of women," and pedophilia, which had even infected the clergy itself and so had exposed the "human and institutional fragility of the Church."

Maybe I am old-fashioned, but I prefer the old list. Notice that the original seven are dispositions, inclinations, predilections .. whatever the right word. The so-called "new sins," by contrast, are the external expressions of those internal infirmities. As technology has advanced, the capacity to do harm has increased, but the severity of the sin is not measured by the effect of the action. Is Claude Frollo less sinful because Phoebus does not die from the stabbing?

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