Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Sins, Great, Small, and New

One of my favorite movies is the 1995 thriller Se7en (no, that's not a typo), which starred Morgan Freeman and Brad Pitt as a pair of detectives tracking a serial killer who preys on people guilty of the Seven Deadly Sins: Gluttony, Greed, Sloth, Envy, Wrath, Pride, and Lust. The film is moody, atmospheric, and graphically terrifying, with one of the most shocking twist endings in memory.

The traditional Seven Deadly Sins which for centuries have identified the ultimate condemned actions have now been updated. The Holy See has announced a list of seven "new" deadly sins for the modern era:

Environmental pollution;

Genetic manipulation;

Accumulating excessive wealth;

Inflicting poverty;

Drug trafficking and consumption;

Morally debatable experiments; and,

Violation of fundamental rights of human nature.

I think this new list represents a fundamental change in the Church's approach to what constitutes a "deadly" sin, moving away from what might be considered "personal" sins toward those which reflect an emphasis on social justice and protection of the earth and humanity at large. This is an interesting and, perhaps, overdue update of actions worthy of condemnation, although it raises some questions which require clarification: What are the "fundamental rights of human nature?" What constitutes "excessive wealth?" "What sort of experiments are "morally debatable?"

The issues of genetic manipulation and environmental pollution in particular are ones about which I have long been concerned. The fact that we can modify the genetic structure of organisms and even create new forms of life is truly amazing - but do we know and understand what we're doing and what its long-term implications are? And the pollution of the earth is a terrifying reality: when we can't drink our water and breathe our air, how can we live? Across the United States and in many other parts of the world, recent tests have shown the presence of antibiotics and prescription drugs, not to mention industrial chemicals and other pollutants, in our drinking water. China is finding it necessary to resort to draconian measures to clean up its air so that Olympic athletes will be able to breathe. And the landscape in many parts of the world has been devastated by unregulated mining, logging, and other mineral extraction activities.

So perhaps it's time that the Church updated its teachings and moral standards to account for sins that perhaps were never imagined centuries ago. Whether the seven new sins are as fundamentally "deadly" as the original seven is a matter for debate. That they are worthy of our attention and condemnation is beyond doubt.

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.



The Mistress of the Dark said...

I like those deadly sins better. I'm less likely to commit those!

Amanda said...

I've learnt something new from your blog again. Didn't realise that there was an updated version.

The immediate thought that came to my mind was that 'Accumulating excessive wealth' seemed ambiguous and I can't see this as sinful. What if the person did good things with the money? This is probably because I dream about becoming insanely wealthy ha ha ha!

Overall though, these 'sins' do provide a good framework for a better world, from all angles. I'm glad to see the Catholic church updating itself.

zero_zero_one said...

Se7en is one of my absolute favourite films; the script, dialogue, performances - it's fantastic, and none of the films that have followed in its footsteps have come close to achieving what it does.

One of my favourite quotes from the film (in a film full of memorable lines and thoughts) comes from John Doe:

"Wanting people to listen, you can't just tap them on the shoulder anymore. You have to hit them with a sledgehammer, and then you'll notice you've got their strict attention."

Bilbo said...

I agree about the large number of memorable lines and thoughts in the movie "Se7en." My personal favorite was the doctor's line: "He's experienced about as much pain and suffering as anyone I've encountered, give or take, and he still has Hell to look forward to." Now that's a skin-crawling line if there ever was one.

Jean-Luc Picard said...

Does that mean the old sins are not sins any more?

Thoughtful update.

John said...

Saw this info on another blog today, too. Since the Bible says that the wages of sin is death, I take that to mean that all sin separates us from God. Seems that there is a danger in classifying only some sins as deadly. But then again, it was the Catholic Church that let you buy forgiveness at one time. Maybe putting a price on sin is still in vogue.