VATICAN CITY - In olden days, the deadly sins included lust, gluttony and greed. Now, the Catholic Church says pollution, mind-damaging drugs and genetic experiments are on its updated thou-shalt-not list.
A faithful holds the cross during a mass at a Catholic church on the outskirts of Changzhi, Shanxi province in North China, December 23, 2007. The Vatican has told the faithful that they should be aware of "new" sins such as causing environmental blight. [Agencies]
Also receiving fresh attention by the Vatican was social injustice, along the lines of the age-old maxim: "The rich get richer while the poor get poorer."
In the Vatican's latest update on how God's law is being violated in today's world, Monsignor Gianfranco Girotti, the head of the Apostolic Penitentiary, was asked by the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano what, in his opinion, are the "new sins."
He cited "violations of the basic rights of human nature" through genetic manipulation, drugs that "weaken the mind and cloud intelligence," and the imbalance between the rich and the poor.
"If yesterday sin had a rather individualistic dimension, today it has a weight, a resonance, that's especially social, rather than individual," said Girotti, whose office deals with matters of conscience and grants absolution.
It's not the first time that the Vatican has sought to put a modern spin on sin. Last year, the Vatican took on the problem of highway accidents, issuing a kind of "Ten Commandments" for drivers against the sins of road rage, alcohol abuse and even rudeness behind the wheel.
Vatican officials, however, stressed that Girotti's comments broke no new ground on what constitutes sin.
On the environment, both Pope Benedict XVI and the late Pope John Paul II frequently expressed concern about the fate of the Earth. During Benedict's papacy, Vatican engineers have developed plans for some Holy See buildings to use solar energy, including photovoltaic cells on the roof of the auditorium for pilgrims' audiences with the pontiff.
John Paul also dedicated much of his long papacy to condemning the gap between have and have-nots in speeches in his travels throughout the world as well as in writings.
"The poor are always becoming poorer and the rich ever more rich, feeding unsustainable social injustice," Girotti said in the interview published Sunday.
Closer to home, Girotti was asked about the many "situations of scandal and sin within the church," in what appeared to be a reference to allegations in the United States and other countries of sexual abuse by clergy of minors and the coverups by hierarchy.
The monsignor acknowledged the "objective gravity" of the allegations, but contended that the heavy coverage by mass media of the scandals must also be denounced because it "discredits the church."
Benedict has been leading the Vatican's campaign against abortion, and Girotti was asked about the "widespread perception" that the church doesn't consider the "difficult" predicament for women.
Girotti rejected that view, saying that Catholic organizations help unwed mothers, educating "their children who come into the worth because of their lack of foresight" and facilitating adoption.