Last week, there was a big story (quickly shoved to second place by yet another sex scandal) about the Vatican “updating the seven deadly sins” for the modern age. I read the article from the first link I was sent, and then made the mistake of reading some of the comments. They were sarcastic, withering, and dismissive, and they came from atheists, Bible Christians and everyone in between.
I had to remind myself that the Catholic Church is a big target—the single biggest religious target out there. Still, it baffled me then, and it baffles me now, how anyone can object to what was published in L’Osservatore Romano. Bishop Gianfranco Girotti emphasized that sin is not just an offense between you and God; it has social and global ramifications. Who can argue with that?
The Church’s trouble is that its teachings, its structure, are very complex, and today’s world is all about oversimplification—about sound bytes. Facts are only significant in total context. They cannot be understood in a 7-second sound byte.
That’s not to say that the Church is perfect. It is a human institution, divinely inspired, but as long as people are involved, there will always be problems. But the nature of contemporary society is that you’re always making value judgments without knowing all the context. Even all the facts.
But what I love about my Church is the way that it is so radical in telling off both sides of the political spectrum. For instance:
–Genetic research. Abortion. Belittling the sexual act (by contraception, extra-marital sex, divorce)—the favorite targets of the right.
–Pollution. Greed. War.—the favorite targets of the left.
To the Church’s anti-religious detractors, I ask: Are not all human political and social issues based on a fundamental respect for the human person? Are not all those issues connected? Are they not, in fact, all the same issue? What in this list of sins do you see that is contrary to a fundamental respect for the human person?
To the Church’s fundamentalist Christian detractors, I ask: Which came first—the Church or the Bible? The stories in the Pentateuch were told around fires generation after generation before they were ever written down. Haven’t you ever played “telephone”? How can you espouse a word-for-word literal understanding of a book that has been translated from Hebrew to Greek, to Latin, to German, to English, to newer English, to newer English, and always by people with their own agendas and biases….need I go on? Tradition created the Bible. Inspired by God? Yes. True? Yes. But written word for word by a cosmic hand? No.
One last point to make. The article I read never listed the new seven deadly sins—my guess is because they knew the list hit too close to the mark. Instead, they finished up with a list of the original seven deadly sins “and their punishments,” drawn from “The Picture Book of Devils, Demons, and Witchcraft.” In some ways that offended me most of all. How was that even relevant? It only served to make the Church look ridiculous. It is as if there is a rule among journalists that no respect can be shown for an institution that does great good in the world.
And there I will stop for tonight.