Monday, March 10, 2008

New Sins? Huh?

Sometimes the media makes me laugh, sometimes they make me cry. Today there was a little of both.

Imagine my shock when I found out that the Catholic Church considers abortion, contraception, and drug dealing to be sins. Oh and not just sins, they are NEW sins. Yep, that is what the Fox News headline said.

If you haven't heard of this before, you must be living under a rock because the media is eating it up. In reality, it is sheer foolishness. The things mentioned have always been sins, especially contraception and abortion.

Also, the portrayal of this as being an official Vatican proclamation seems to be the exaggeration of the year. It is not an official proclamation, and it does not come from the Pope. It was a simple interview which for some reason has exploded into a firestorm. The message of the interview is nothing new!

As for the ecological sins, when the world was created God entrusted humanity with the responsibility of caring for it. So yes, abusing and destroying the earth is a sin...and always has been.

Want the real story? CNS has a good article.

Catholic World News has an even better one. Emphasis mine.

When he finished his interview with L'Osservatore Romano, Archishop Gianfranco Girotti probably thought that his main message had been an appeal to Catholics to use the sacrament of Confession. Little did he know that the English-language news media would play the interview as a newly revised list of sins.

Archbishop Girotti, the regent of the Apostolic Penitentiary, spoke to the Vatican newspaper about "new forms of social sin" in our era. He mentioned such transgressions as destructive research on human embryos, degradation of the environment, and drug trafficking. Within hours, dozens of media sources were suggesting that the Vatican had radically revised the Ten Commandments, issuing a list of "new sins."


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.

An ordinary reader, basing his opinion only on the inane Telegraph coverage, might conclude that a "sin," in the Catholic understanding, is nothing more than a violation of rules set down by a group of men in Rome. If these rules are entirely arbitrary, then Vatican officials can change them at will; some sins will cease to exist and other "new sins" will replace them. But that notion of sin is ludicrous.

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.

Update: Welcome to everyone coming from the CNN link.


Brian Michael Page said...

NEW sins! Leave it to the secular media to screw that one up!

Watch out - they might consider missing Sunday Mass a NEW sin.

Anonymous said...

Oh, wow.

My friend showed me this, and as I chuckled, I was surprised and annoyed. Of course the media would somehow change the words around.

Kind of sad, really.