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.Gah! 'The Vatican' said this? That tells us nothing... Plus, you can be sure that Failing to recycle plastic bags could find you spending eternity in Hell represents a huge over-simplification/misrepresentation of what was actually said.
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.Announced? Why is this made to sound like an official act? I don't have the Osservatore Romano to hand, but I'm willing to bet that this was an interview or a homily or an article written in a private capacity rather than the 'announcement' of anything remotely official.
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.
"The sins of today have a social resonance as well as an individual one," said Mgr Girotti. "In effect, it is more important than ever to pay attention to your sins."Now, these three paragraphs are actually worth reading. As long as one realises that Archbishop Girotti isn't for a moment suggesting that 'the sins of today' somehow replace or supercede the 'sins of yesteryear', this all makes perfect sense.
According to Roman Catholic doctrine, mortal sins are a "grave violation of God's law" and bring about "eternal death" if unrepented by the act of confession.
They are far more serious than venial sins, which impede a soul's progress in the exercise of virtue and moral good.
Mgr Girotti said genetic modification, carrying out experiments on humans, polluting the environment, causing social injustice, causing poverty, becoming obscenely wealthy and taking drugs were all mortal sins.Again, one can agree with that. Needless to say, some qualifications would need to be made. For example, wealth in itself isn't bad, but we'll assume that 'becoming obscenely wealthy' implies a misuse of wealth and a sinful attitude to money. Again, polluting the environment is certainly sinful - but again, it would need to involve grave matter for it to be mortally sinful.
That's what's objectionable about the headline and the opening of this piece. I find it hard to believe that a failure to recycle plastic bags is grave matter. However, ignorant reporting is used to make the Curia and the Papacy look both ridiculously trendy and simultaneously 'out of touch' by threatening hell-fire for something relatively minor. Mgr Girotti is a senior member of the curia and, as Regent of the Apostolic Penitentary, what he has to say about sin is worth listening to. If it were reported properly.
However, it's not. And therefore, people who have legitimate concerns about the excesses of the environmentalist movement are given reason to believe that the Vatican has adopted an untenable position.
Is it ignorance or malice that's responsible for the poor standard of religous reporting?