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pope: new “deadly sins” include pollution, wealth, social injustice

March 10th, 2008 · 6 Comments


The Vatican has doubled the number of “deadly sins” from 7 to 14, expanding the 6th-century list to include pollution, genetic engineering, accumulating enormous wealth, dealing drugs, abortion, pedophilia and “social injustice.” The move comes as a surprise, and opens up all kinds of movie sequel possibilities for Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman.

From the Times of London:

“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”.

I have to say, I’m a little concerned that “morally debatable” science would make the list. The science of Galileo and Copernicus was morally debatable once, and the wording at least makes it seem like a ban on all potentially contentious experimentation. Isn’t debate a good thing?

The swipe against polluters is nice to see, and refreshingly progressive, though the inclusion of wealth as a sin may have some critics saying that for someone who’s taken a vow of poverty, the Pope seems to do pretty well for himself.

Incidentally, the Times article also outlines the Church’s former punishments for the original “seven deadly sins”:

Pride: Broken on the wheel
Envy: Put in freezing water
Gluttony: Forced to eat rats, toads, and snakes
Lust: Smothered in fire and brimstone
Anger: Dismembered alive
Greed: Put in cauldrons of boiling oil
Sloth: Thrown in snake pits

Compared to the others, envy is looking pretty good.

UPDATE: This post has been picked up by Buzzfeed. (Thanks!)

Tags: darn tootin\' · news · religion · sustainability

6 responses so far ↓

  • 1 B // Mar 10, 2008 at 12:12 pm

    Is this one of those situations where the paradox leads the party (in this case the Catholic Church) to implode and/or annihilate itself?

    Because –forgive me if I’m wrong– but I believe the Catholic Church is guilty of two (possibly three) of the new sins. (How does one come up with “new” sins anyhow?)

    1. “social injustice”: debatable, depending on the definition (ie. not always giving aid to people in Third World countries unless they first agree to convert)

    2. pedophilia: I make no claims that the Church endorses this. That would be an immature argument and I cringe every time I hear someone make it. But what is someone’s position after committing a “deadly” sin? Most of the priests that were called to the Vatican those few years ago were essentially given a stern talking to and then were sent home. What is their position now that these new sins have been established?

    3. accumulating enormous wealth: Isn’t the Catholic Church one of the wealthiest institutions in the world? Obviously a great deal of the money goes to charity work, but the accumulated part doesn’t.

    I also find “carrying out morally debatable scientific experiments” to be negligently ambiguous. Especially if the premise is that individuals are supposed to live by this new information.

    One part I *was* ‘happy’ to read was “[not] allowing genetic manipulations which alter DNA or compromise embryos”. I am, perhaps naively anticipating that the specific references to DNA and embryos means that stem-cell research is now allowable. There is a LOT of good that can be done, and since the cells can be extracted from the umbilical cord which would normally be discarded anyhow. But I fear that that might fall under the vagueries of “morally debatable.”

    An interesting development nonetheless. I’ll add it to the file on “trying to make sense of the Catholic Church.”

  • 2 mark // Mar 10, 2008 at 2:45 pm

    If I had to pick a religion, it wouldn’t be this one. That said, you can’t hold all of Catholicism responsible for the actions of a few priests and bishops – any organization this size is bound to have its bad apples. On the “social injustice” fronts, there are some pretty questionable policies, but they don’t invalidate the other admittedly good things that the Church is doing in terms of international aid.

  • 3 B // Mar 10, 2008 at 11:01 pm

    Amnesty International has become an increasingly questionable organization. I may not entirely agree with the position represented i the link you provided, but I have no serious qualms about anyone discouraging people from donating to that organization.

  • 4 Nobody // Mar 10, 2008 at 11:59 pm

    Yes, there can be no doubt that the pope lacks effectiveness because he can’t rain fire and brimstone from the sky. And of course, no one cares about what he says because they all want to get up on their soap boxes about how women who wear make-up are whores and how politcians who lie are scum. No one needs moral instruction because talk shows and synthetic hormones in their bloodstream tell them what’s right and that they are qualified to tell everyone to moooooooove out of their way!

  • 5 mark // Mar 11, 2008 at 8:52 am

    Wow – this post is bringing a lot of traffic to the site. Thanks for helping make it the third Google hit from the top for the search terms “pope deadly sins.” (The first two are the Times article I source from.)

  • 6 Barney // Nov 15, 2009 at 6:10 pm

    Accumalation of vast wealth is a deadly sin announced The Pope, sitting on a solid marble Gold hammered throne in the centre of a vast city of stupendous wealth.

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