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The sin of pollution?
A Vatican official this week spelled out an unofficial modern update for the Catholic church's list of seven deadly sins, said Manya Brachear in a Chicago Tribune blog, and by focusing on "evil deeds with social consequences" the Vatican is reaf
W

hat happened
Monsignor Gianfranco Girotti, in the Vatican office that oversees sins and penance, this week laid out an unofficial update of the Roman Catholic Church's seven deadly sins. The modern-era additions reflect communal transgressions more than personal ones. “You offend God not only by stealing, blaspheming or coveting your neighbor’s wife,” Girotti told the official Vatican paper L’Osservatore Roman, “but also by ruining the environment.” (CNN) Along with pollution, the new batch includes making people poor; excessive wealth; social injustice; drug abuse; “morally dubious” experiments, as with stem cells; and birth control and other “bioethical” sins. (Bloomberg)

What the commentators said
“The Vatican is trying to take the 'I’ out of sin,” said Manya Brachear in the Chicago Tribune’s Seeker blog. And by focusing on the idea that “evil deeds have social consequences,” the Vatican is reaffirming its push for “environmental stewardship” under Pope Benedict XVI.

But including poverty and birth control is casting the net a bit too wide, said Klaus Rohrich in Canada Free Press. "Every human being would likely be guilty of at least one of these sins." And if creating poverty is a sin, "does it mean that governments whose badly thought-out policies result in a depression will go to hell?"

The “earnest moral language of Catholicism” can lend itself “easily to caricature,” said Timothy Lavin in The Atlantic’s Current blog. But that doesn’t mean that we can’t learn from these “categories of impropriety.” Girotti is right that “loving your neighbor as you love yourself was never easy, but it used to be more straightforward.” Your neighbor today is “the factory worker in Shenzhen who makes your laptop” or the flood victim in Dhaka whose life is ruined by your “carbon footprint.” The Vatican isn’t replacing the original seven sins, it is just “asserting that the old moral language says something important about the new world.”

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