To the 1,342 readers (give or take a few) who sent us variations on the "Seven Deadly Sins" stories being published everywhere -- we heard you. It looks like the entire brouhaha started with a remarkably bad story in the Times of London. Headline: Seven new deadly sins: are you guilty? Richard Owen, reporting from Rome, wrote:
Drug pushers, the obscenely rich, environmental polluters and "manipulative" genetic scientists beware -- you may be in danger of losing your mortal soul unless you repent.
After 1,500 years the Vatican has brought the seven deadly sins up to date by adding seven new ones for the age of globalisation.
Yes, that is right drug pushers. You used to be considered totally fine but now the Catholic Church has deemed your behavior suddenly unacceptable. And how is condemnation of "obscene wealth" different, exactly, from the old deadly sin of avarice? Who writes this stuff?
It seems that L'Osservatore Romano, the Vatican newspaper, ran an article yesterday about modern social sins: embryonic-destroying stem cell research, environmental pollution, drug abuse, poverty, excessive wealth, etc. One of the British papers invented the Seven Deadly Sins angle and the rest of history.
The Times, by the way, ends its article with a list of punishments for the seven traditional deadly sins, including dismemberment for the angry and snake pits for the slothful. I could be wrong, but it sounds like the reporter confused Vatican punishments with those listed in Dante's Inferno. The article includes a list of seven virtues which I don't think are accurate but do share an uncanny resemblance to a Wikipedia entry.
The problem is that so many of the stories are so bad, that I'm having a really hard time figuring out what's right. It's really a shame that "shoddy, sensationalist news reporting" didn't make the list of seven deadly sins.
Here's a doozy from The Telegraph (U.K.):
Failing to recycle plastic bags could find you spending eternity in Hell, the Vatican said after drawing up a list of seven deadly sins for our times.
The Telegraph is paying Malcolm Moore money to report the rubbish from Rome. I think any random GetReligion reader could do better than this.
The BBC coverage is also horrible:
Those newly risking eternal punishment include drug pushers, the obscenely wealthy, and scientists who manipulate human genes. So "thou shalt not carry out morally dubious scientific experiments" or "thou shalt not pollute the earth" might one day be added to the Ten Commandments.
What does that even mean? The only decent article I read on the matter came from Reuters' Philip Pullella:
Modern times bring with them modern sins. So the Vatican has told the faithful that they should be aware of "new" sins such as causing environmental blight.
The guidance came at the weekend when Archbishop Gianfranco Girotti, the Vatican's number two man in the sometimes murky area of sins and penance, spoke of modern evils.
Asked what he believed were today's "new sins," he told the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano that the greatest danger zone for the modern soul was the largely uncharted world of bioethics.
"(Within bioethics) there are areas where we absolutely must denounce some violations of the fundamental rights of human nature through experiments and genetic manipulation whose outcome is difficult to predict and control," he said.
The Vatican opposes stem cell research that involves destruction of embryos and has warned against the prospect of human cloning.
Pulella's piece is a breath of fresh air after much of the other coverage.