While it’s by no means official, it appears that the Vatican is advocating an updated list of the “Seven Deadly Sins”. These expound on the first seven, and should not be considered a replacement.
1. “Bioethical” violations such as birth control
2. “Morally dubious” experiments such as stem cell research
3. Drug abuse
4. Polluting the environment
5. Contributing to widening divide between rich and poor
6. Excessive wealth
7. Creating poverty
While a return to the socially conscious origins of Christianity is heartening, the exact contents of this list are rather puzzling. According to Catholic dogma, a “deadly” sin is one which will get you sent straight to hell if you die before repenting and/or being remorseful. A venial sin will not. But what exactly determines the difference between them?
The original deadly sins were codified by Pope Gregory around the 6th century:
1. Luxuria (extravagance, later lust)
2. Gula (gluttony)
3. Avaritia (greed)
4. Acedia (sloth)
5. Ira (wrath)
6. Invidia (envy)
7 Superbia (pride)
(Pope Gregory also decided catholic officials must be celibate…nice guy, huh?)
For a modern westerner this list seems a little arbitrary, but it is anything but. Even “Sloth”; in the Old Testament, to enter the temple without following proper ceremony was grounds for instant death. Laws surrounding the handling of bodies, food, and menstrual fluids were numerous and complex.
Ritual and Spiritual Purity were extremely important Jewish values, and this continued into the Gospels, Acts, and into Paul’s letters. There are explicit recordings of these big debates in the early church, makes for interesting reading. According Peter, the important purity laws were 1) not eating food offered to idols, 2) not going with whores, and 3) not consuming strangled or meat or blood. (Acts 15). You might consider this the first list of Deadly sins, although it is certainly incomplete.
It might forget about the poor, but at least this list and the original Seven Deadly Sins were based on firm Biblical traditions. It would be difficult to claim the same for this new list. You would be hard pressed to find more than the odd obtuse scripture that discusses Bioethics, genetics, birth control, Drug abuse, or pollution! I mean, why is Drug Abuse on this list but eating strangled meat is not? Are you saying Peter was wrong?
And even when the list deals with poverty, it’s redundant about it. Anyone who is excessively wealthy could be accused of “creating poverty”. Anybody creating poverty could be accused of “widening the divide between rich and poor”. And it would be easy to assume that those widening the divide are probably trying to make themselves excessively wealthy.
Here’s a Jesus based substitute: “take care of each other. Period.” Do you actually believe in the Bible? Is someone your enemy? You must take care of him. A homeless mentally deficient bum? Take care of him. Your weird next door neighbor? Yup…this is a radical, impractical, and amazing moral stance, but it is soundly based on scripture, unlike commandments against pollution or rubbers.
A question for the church as a whole; if you’re going to start accepting moral beliefs that aren’t soundly based on ancient scripture (and I highly encourage you to do this), might I suggest the “Universal Declaration of Human Rights“? And if you are going to continue focusing on ancient scriptures, can you please cherry pick and choose even more than you do right now? And finally, can you stop claiming that G-d always agrees with you, even when you’re constantly changing your mind?