Monday, 24 March 2008

7 Deadly Sins Just Aren't Enough

Ah, the good old days, when there were only 7 deadly sins according to our friends at The Vatican — lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, envy and pride — regularly practices by governments, corporations and individuals alike. Life was so simple then.

Now, for the first time in 1,500 years, The Vatican has provided an updated list. After all, sin is a slow moving target and needs proper reflection and consideration. I'm not an expert, but here is my take on The New Deadly Sins.

  1. Genetic Modification. You don't have to look too far past animal husbandry and agronomy to find that, as a species, we are all guilty of this one. And the edict that Catholics can only marry Catholics hasn't helped here. Of course, this probably refers to the kind that they object to, not the other kinds.
  2. Carrying Out Experiments on Humans. Well, this one is a bit of a No Brainer. You'd be hard pressed to find anyone of good reputation who would actually advocate that. Unless, of course, they mean social experimentation which is a common theme for Church and State alike. Or polluting the local environment about an oil field or nuclear power plant or large industrial complex for years and years and then coming back in a couple of generations to see what's happened to the locals. But that, again, probably isn't the kind they object to.
  3. Polluting the Environment. Let's not take the easy way out and refer back to New Sin #2. You gotta admire their claiming the high moral ground on this one. I probably missed the announcement that the Church has completed a review of its rather diverse and extensive financial portfolio of investments around the world and moved away from financially lucrative but ecologically destructive investments into a rather impressive green portfolio. I really should pay better attention.
  4. Causing Social Injustice. I am reminded of the line from Fawlty Towers: "Don't mention the war. I did, but I think I got away with it." While there have been areas where The Church has been a strong, and sometimes lone, advocate of social justice. But their efforts are not always consistent and their record is by now means unstained. Aside from their rather questionable activites during World War II, they have supported a number of repressive governments over the years and missed opportunities to promote and reward social justice. Pretty much like the rest of us, actually.
  5. Causing Poverty. I found this one interesting because there isn't really agreement on the underlying causes of poverty, even among Catholic charities who work with the poorest of the poor. And I doubt that there will ever be agreement because that would mean that someone (government, corporation or institution) would have to take responsibility for their contribution to the problem. I do like this New Sin, because it provides a nice symmetry with the next New Sin.
  6. Becoming Obscenely Wealthy. I'm guessing that the trick here is to already be obscenely wealthy and that the sin is in the 'becoming' part. It appears that even The Church doesn't have the cajones to claim that obscene wealth is a sin. Their spin doctors get full marks for this one. You do realise that, by committing the sin of becoming obscenely wealthy, you could buy a really big indulgence from The Church and your soul would once again be as clean as the day you were born. A win-win really.
  7. Taking Drugs. I'm am, once again, reading between the lines here, but guess that they mean illegal drugs and not medicines or legal drugs like tobacco, coffee and alcohol. Again, I gotta wonder who, in their right mind would advocate taking drugs unless they were going to reap the financial rewards from drug taking. Which would bring about New Sins #2, 4, 5 and 6. And result in some of those Old Sins coming back to the fore. Maybe we needed this one to make up the numbers.
And they say that The Catholic Church doesn't have a sense of humour ...

You could argue that these New Sins are really just the present day expression of our old favourites — lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, envy and pride — with a slightly self-serving spin. I guess in 1,500 hundred years, we haven't really changed all that much. And our institutions (governments, corporations and religious bodies) will never be any better than we are.