- WHAT THE PRESS REPORTED: Recycle or go to Hell, warns Vatican, by Malcome Moore. The Daily Telegraph [UK] March 10, 2008:
Failing to recycle plastic bags could find you spending eternity in Hell, the Vatican said after drawing up a list of seven deadly sins for our times.
The seven, which include polluting the environment, were announced by Monsignor Gianfranco Girotti, a close ally of the Pope and the head of the Apostolic Penitentiary, one of the Roman Curia’s main court.
The “sins of yesteryear” – sloth, envy, gluttony, greed, lust, wrath and pride – have a “rather individualistic dimension”, he told the Osservatore Romano, the official Vatican newspaper.
The new seven deadly, or mortal, sins are designed to make worshippers realise that their vices have an effect on others as well.
- WHAT WAS ACTUALLY SAID: the original text of the interview with Monsignor Gianfranco Girotti, in Italian – courtesy of Fr. John Zuhlsdorf.
- Translation of the pertinent paragraph by Zadok the Roman:
[L’Osservatore Romano]: According to you, what are the new sins?
[Monsignor Gianfranco Girotti]: There are various areas within which we recognise sinful attitudes concerning individual and social rights. Above all, in the area of bioethics, we must denounce certain violations of the fundamental rights of human nature, by means of experiments and genetic manipulations, the results of which are difficult to predict and regulate. Another area, properly social, is the area of drugs by means of which the psyche is weakened and the intelligence is clouded, leaving many young people outside of the ecclesial circuit. Again, there is the area of social and economic disequilibriums in which the poorest become ever more poor and the rich become ever richer, aggravating an indefensible social injustice; the area of ecology which is of ever more relevant interest today.
- From The Acton Institute: an English translation of the entire interview [PDF format].
- THE LESSON LEARNED: Not “new sins” but an old media blind spot, by Phil Lawler. Catholic World News March 11, 2008:
When a second-tier Vatican official gives a newspaper interview, he is not proclaiming new Church doctrines. Archbishop Girotti was obviously trying to offer a new, provocative perspective on some enduring truths. The effort backfired– but in a very revealing way. . . .
Sin is an objective wrong: a violation of God’s law. What is sinful today will be sinful tomorrow, and a deadly sin will remain deadly, whether or not Telegraph editors recognize the moral danger. The traditional list of deadly sins remains intact; nothing has replaced it. Greed, gluttony, and lust are as wrong today as they were a day or a year or a century ago. If Archbishop Girotti referred to “new” sins, it is because some of the offenses he named (such as genetic manipulation) were impossible in the past, and others (such as international drug trafficking) are much more prevalent today, in a global society. Insofar as people could have engaged in these activities a century ago, they would have been sinful then as well.
A sin is not a sin because simply an archbishop proclaims it so. Sin, the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches us, “is an offense against reason, truth, and right conscience…” The precepts of “reason, truth, and right conscience” do not shift in response to political trends, nor do they change at the whim of Vatican officials.
The fundamental point of the L’Osservatore Romano interview was that Catholics need to recover a sense of sin, make use of the sacrament of Confession, and receive absolution for their offenses. Sin, the archbishop insisted, is a reality that man cannot escape.
Archbishop Girotti said that the modern world does not understand the nature of sin. With their coverage of the interview, the mass media unintentionally underlined the prelate’s point.