New Sins for a New Century.

Stephen WellingtonMormon 17 Comments

Monsignor Gianfranco Girotti, the head of the Apostolic Penitentiary of the Catholic Church, was asked by the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano what, in his opinion, are the “7 deadly sins of the 21st Century.” Here is what he had to say:

pollution Bloomberg News parsed his remarks into a clip-n-savable list and here they are:

1. “Bioethical” violations such as genetic modification.
2. “Morally dubious” experiments such as stem cell research.
3. Drug Abuse
4. Polluting the environment
5. Contributing to the widening divide between the rich and poor.
6. Excessive wealth
7. Creating poverty.
Greed He cited violations of the basic rights of human nature through genetic manipulation, drugs and the imbalance between the rich and poor as some of the biggest sins of our time.

John Paul, also dedicated much of his long papacy to condemning the gap between have and have-nots in speeches in his travels throughout the world as well as in writings.

“The poor are always becoming poorer and the rich ever more rich, feeding unsustainable social injustice,” Girotti said in the interview published Sunday.

Anyone feeling guilty?🙂

How do you feel about these “new sins”?

Comments 17

  1. I’ll take these one at a time:
    1. “Bioethical” violations such as genetic modification.

    No. Not a sin in and of itself. The form of it may become a sin, and some forms of it may be sinful, but genetic modifications? Not on your life will I lump all genetif modification as bad. There are too many life-saving medical treatments that we have uncovered through genetic modification to consider this a sin. Of course, there are some portions of this that I would consider potentially dangerous, but I consider this an area where treating all life as sacred a guiding rule. If you treat all life as sacred, and work with an eye of protecting all life (not just human life), then I don’t think you will generally go wrong.

    2. “Morally dubious” experiments such as stem cell research.

    Of course, it depends on how you acquire the stem cells, in my own estimation. Stem cell research has such potential that I personally consider it morally criminal to not be actively funding it. Embryonic stem cell research in which human fetuses are harvested from abortions? Well that is something that I have a problem with, because again I am holding that it may be forgetting that all life is sacred. It all depends on why those fetuses are aborted (remember, even the LDS church in the general handbook of instructions allows for abortions in certain circumstances under the guidance of a bishop). Generally speaking, however, I feel that stem cell research has such potential that we need to be engaged in looking at the benefits VERY closely. If we can get there without the use of embryonic stem cells, even better. I rather suspect that we can. I would favor the ban of use of embryonic stem cells deriving from elective abortions.

    3. Drug Abuse

    Well, I’ve got no problems saying that abusing drugs is a sin: but the Word of Wisdom has been around for while, now hasn’t it? He’s a bit late to the party on that one…

    Nevertheless, he’s still welcome to join with his Mormon cousins in decrying the use of addictive substances.

    4. Polluting the environment

    While I’m not a big fan of the human-induced global climate change (isn’t that what we’re calling the movement now, I can’t keep up?), I still think it’s pretty much obvious that when God told Adam and Eve to take care of the Earth, and till the ground, he meant for them and their posterity to keep it clean. One of the big lessons I have always taken away from the temple is that we are supposed to be taking care of the planet. I may not be much of an environmentalist in the ‘hop-on-the-bandwagon’ sense, but I seriously disklike big-time idiots who think its okay to pollute just because they can. Pollution==bad, mkay?

    5. Contributing to the widening divide between the rich and poor.
    6. Excessive wealth
    7. Creating poverty.

    I’ll tackle all these at once: why he had to list them separate is beyond me, especially since they are really all the same. By listing them together he could have listed another two sins! Honestly though I take exception to the idea of excessive wealth. Rather, I think that wealth is a tool. Rather than excessive wealth, the real sin is having wealth that is not being used to help the poor, which always means that you are creating poverty. It stands to reason that if you have wealth and are not using it actively to help the poor then you are both creating poverty and widening the divide between the rich and the poor. However, just because you are a billionaire doesn’t mean that you are creating poverty. It may actually mean that you are quite capably working hard to raise as much money as possible in order to lift as many others as you can out of their circumstances by setting up charities, soup kitchens, education programs and whatnot.

    While this sounds nice, in reality this is seldom the case. Most billionaire do use their money for considerable charity, but by comparison to what they make, their donations are paltry. Warren Buffet admitted as much. He said in an interview (which I can’t remember the source for, now, unfortunately) that he’s never really felt put upon by his charitable activities. C.S. Lewis would argue that he’s never really been charitable if that’s the case. I would counter-argue that if a man uses his considerable wealth for good, then it is no sin to have it. Even if it means that he can leave great amounts of it to his children.

    Actually I would argue that making sure that you have enough to leave your children in a position where they can become wealthy and do just as much good as you have done (or more) is a really good thing. Teaching them to do that is an even better thing.

    But that’s just my take.

    Overall, a decent list, but I’m really not certain I agree with much of it. Frankly, I would have liked to have seen ‘Fanatacism’, ‘Intolerance’, and ‘Raging Certainty’ as items on the list, as they seem to be biggest problems I seem to be seeing right now.

  2. Does Monsignor Gianfranco Girotti offer any kind of rationale for his choice of new sins? And how about the evils of pornography? Oh wait, he’s a celibate priest…er…in the Catholic Church…

    or is that too harsh of a judgment on the man?

  3. Most of these sins are things the Catholic Church has been decrying for quite a while. It’s interesting to see that the new pope is continuing the line of his predecessor in decrying social inequality and pollution. A good sign.

  4. I agree that #3 through #7 are sins, but the first two I’m not convinced. He doesn’t offer any explanation of why genetic modification is inherently evil, and #2 is just to vague and circular all at the same time.

    Personally, I’d come up with a much different list if I’m being capped at 7 sins. I don’t think he hit the most important sins, with the exception of the world’s neglect of the poor and reasonably-avoidable pollution. Here’s my list:

    1. Love of God has been replaced with pride and materialism.
    2. Love of neighbor has been replaced with selfishness and contention-as-the-norm.
    3. Devaluation of human life.
    4. Neglect of the poor and those who cannot provide for themselves.
    5. Neglect of children, elderly, and those who can’t care for themselves.
    6. Devaluation and commercialization of the human body.
    7. Devaluation and unnecessarily wasteful consumption of God’s other creations.

  5. I find some of these sins mutually exclusive.
    For instance, preventing developing contries from using their oil and coal as energy sources, due to fear of poluting the enviroment, keeps those contries and their people in poor and destitute conditions. This leads to all kinds of problems like starvation, and war.

    Genetically engineered food would be a sin according to #1. However, these technologies allows us to feed over 2 billion more than we could if we did not have them. By preventing these kinds of technologies, we are going to create poverty, make the poor poorer, and starve over 2 billion people to death.

    Check out the work of the greatest man alive, Norman Borlaug, who has saved over a billion people from starvation.

  6. Addressing: Benjamin #1’s WoW point:
    The LDS Church’s Word of Wisdom is a product of the nineteenth century temperance movement. If the modern church wanted to actually take some leadership on matters of health, beyond merely using the WoW as a measuring stick of one’s own (and one’s neighbor’s) orthopraxy, I might have more respect for its vision and so-called modern revelatory process. Still the church harps on about tea and coffee, when moderate consumption is anything but unhealthy except in a minority of cases and pro-health for many, while the record is silent on any preemptive canonized modern revelatory guidance on dangers of trans-fats, obesity, prescription and elicit drug abuse, HFCS consumption, etc. They won’t even address the abuses of meat consumption, and that’s right in there! It’s about time for Mormons to just let go the pride in “inspired” health norms; if it weren’t for tobacco avoidance Mormons have nothing statistically impressive to claim as visionary health leadership (and actually health results) over that of the general population.

    Re: Andrew #5:
    Would you like an apostolic post? 🙂 Your list is better-defined on a meta-level to the extent “7 deadly sins” must be lumped into distinct categories. Still the list is not really that unique to modern life. Perhaps in that sense, to update the matter to the modern age, it helps, I think, as the Monsignor did, to commit oneself to identifying more uniquely modern issues that represent such sin such as amoral (or a-ethical were that a word) scientific research; environmental decline and climate change; globalization and the widening divide of wealth distribution; the failures or limitations of the “God-inspired” American republican democracy-cum-capitalistic enterprise; moral failures inherent in modern warfare where “enemy” is more ambiguously defined; etc.

    Is it fair for me to follow the “C”hurch’s modern revelatory lead and at least take up one of the seven spots to include multiple piercings and tattoos? 😛

  7. Some of these are really just political expediencies right now. Sins seem to me to be more on an individual level, not corporate or country level, although countries and corporations can have practices that are unethical and should be stopped.

    This argument reminds me of an argument they have in India a lot: Was Gandhi a good man? Most of us would say yes because of what he did for India as a nation. The counter argument is that he was considered to be a bad father, neglectful of his family and not allowing his children to learn to read despite his own high education levels. So, which is more important, caring for the world or caring for one’s family? Does his work for India erase his failures at home?

    Why are these sins “deadly”? We are all going to die. Is a sin’s deadliness really the measure of its sinfulness? I too can think of 7 “sinfuller” sins:
    1 – gluttony (AND it’s deadly, too)
    2 – pornography
    3 – holy war (inclusive of all religious-based antagonism)
    4 – casual promiscuity
    5 – oppressive regimes
    6 – child abuse
    7 – human neglect

  8. I disagree with the premise that the poor are getting poorer. Economies and standards of living in 3rd world countries have been steadily improving. Note especially the rise of middle class people in India and China. The poor getting poorer seems to be happening only in totalitarian countries such as North Korea.

    The two countries most noted for their prior famines, China and India, are prospering, with a burgeoning middle class in each.

    Misery in the African continent is generated mostly by local African despots, not by rich outsiders. Throwing money at Africa’s problems has only empowered the despots who steal it and use it to solidfy their power.

    Girotti seems to be promoting a (communist) revolutionary-theology that has long been discredited.

    Also, the worst polluters are 3rd world countries, not developed countries. Let China implement the United States’ EPA regulations, and then see how cheap their goods are.

  9. Bookslinger,

    “Misery in the African continent is generated mostly by local African despots, not by rich outsiders.” Couldn’t agree more (see my #5 above: Oppressive regimes). For crimes against humanity, do you think it should be addressed by 1) volunteerism, 2) political might, or 3) something else?

    “Let China implement the United States’ EPA regulations, and then see how cheap their goods are.” I totally agree, and yet I further stipulate that if American companies refused to buy substandard products these violations would be greatly reduced; which means they would sell their shoddy products to countries with poorer economies and lower standards. I am not a “buy American” person by any stretch, but I would pay more (and be willing to pay more) for products that don’t kill children. I say this as a total free-market capitalist.

  10. hawkgrrl:

    Your qualifying adjectives are interesting. Is secular war better than holy war? And in any kind of war, if one side is the agressor/bad-guy and the other side is the defender/good-guy (which I know isn’t 100% black/white in all cases, but just suppose) is the war a sin on the part of the good-guys?

    Is serious or formal promiscuity better than casual promiscuity?

  11. Good points, hawkgrrrl.

    I think the common perspective is to define good behavior as opposite of sin. But your comment about Gandhi makes me recall the book “Lila” by Robert Persig. In it he explores the difference between Native American concept of “good” and Western notions of “good.” If I say, “You’re a good girl” the Native American extension is that your nature is good, whereas the Western extension is that I am speaking to your behavior primarily. I think this alternative notion, as raised by Pirsig, is enlightening to think upon, but hard to reconcile when you live in a Judeo-Christian culture that preaches “the natural man is an enemy to God” or “Man is of a sin nature eternally separated by God were it not for the Grace of Jesus Christ.”

    I will say, though, since I do (albeit sometimes with reluctance) accept that Man is fallen, I like to hear preaching on the matters of sin that draw me beyond myself, to feel more a part of the greater whole of humankind, when the focus is on things we must (and can) collectively do better. While it can always be a challenge to distill that down to the effect one can personally have on that, I find it a noble role of church and society to keep us looking that direction.

    However I will grant your criticism of political expediency. And I agree personal behavior matters. However, one thing alienating to me about Mormonism was/is the personal emphasis of cleanliness from sin gets down to the most unimportant of behavioral minutae like one’s ear piercings, sandals at church, color of shirts, hairstyles, and etc.

  12. Bookslinger,

    My qualifying adjectives are probably a byproduct of multi-tasking when I wrote this.

    “Is secular war better than holy war?” IMO, yes, secular war is a lesser evil. Either way people are killed, but holy war sullies all religions by exemplifying self-righteous intolerance. If you must kill, don’t do it in the name of God. Do it in your own name, or under a flag.

    “Is serious or formal promiscuity better than casual promiscuity?” Hee hee – actually “casual promiscuity” sounds redundant, but if serious or formal promiscuity means prostitution, then yes. Yes, I just said that prostitution is less of a spiritual threat than casual (unpaid) sex. To paraphrase E.M. Forster, casual sex “just means the workers weren’t paid properly.” (OK, he wasn’t talking about casual sex really).

  13. What are the modern seven deadly sins?

    1: Lust
    2: Greed
    3: Pride
    4: Wrath
    5: Envy
    6: Gluttony
    7: Sloth

    Notice that they are the same old sins as in the past? Just everybody pretends that they aren’t the “real” problems in the world. After all, opposing fornication and sodomy is so old fashioned, and who dares point out that people today are just plain lazy. Nobody works as hard as our grandfathers, and yet people moan about how unfair life is that they have to work so hard and can’t get the stuff they want (usually motivated by envy of others).

    Every single one of the old deadly sins is a major problem today, and yet people make these lists of “modern sins”. I have to suspect it is partially motivated by the fact that nobody wants to give up any of the old deadly sins, but if they can come up with a new list of deadly sins that they won’t mind giving up- well, that will be just great.

  14. #8 “if it weren’t for tobacco avoidance Mormons have nothing statistically impressive to claim as visionary health leadership (and actually health results) over that of the general population.”

    It’s interesting that even tobacco abstinence is a product of the nineteenth century temperance movement. I did a search on Mormon Parallels and found dozens of of examples.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *