Vatican Includes Drugs and Wealth in New Sin List In an effort to keep up with the modern world, the Vatican has announced a list of seven new mortal sins. Some of the new don'ts: thou shalt not pollute and thou shalt not have too much money. Father James Martin, acting publisher of the Jesuit magazine America, discusses the importance of updating the 1,500-year-old list.
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Vatican Includes Drugs and Wealth in New Sin List

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Vatican Includes Drugs and Wealth in New Sin List

Vatican Includes Drugs and Wealth in New Sin List

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This is DAY TO DAY. I'm Anthony Brooks.


I'm Madeleine Brand.

Coming up, modern day slavery writer Ben Skinner found that in some countries buying a child slave is as easy as buying a used stereo.

BROOKS: But first, calls continue for New York Governor Eliot Spitzer to resign. There are many reports now that he will do so, but no word from the governor himself.

BRAND: Financial transactions by the governor led federal investigators to a call girl ring, and wiretaps caught someone identified as Client 9, apparently Governor Spitzer, arranging for an assignation.

Republicans in the state assembly say they will move to impeach the governor if he doesn't resign within 48 hours, although the assembly is controlled by Democrats. So it's not clear how successful the Republicans will be.

BROOKS: Spitzer, in his first term as governor, made his reputation as a corruption-busting attorney general, focusing mostly on Wall Street. But he also did go after prostitution rings. In this case he may face actual criminal charges. But the major - charge against him is political; it's hypocrisy.

BRAND: We are all sinners, at least according to Catholics. There are the seven deadly sins: gluttony, lust, greed, envy, sloth, pride and wrath, and a host of lesser sins. Now add pollution, mind-damaging drugs, and genetic experiments. The Vatican announced these new sins this week.

And joining us now is James Martin, a Jesuit priest. Welcome back to DAY TO DAY.

Father JAMES MARTIN: Thanks a lot.

BRAND: Would these be considered venial or mortal sins?

Father MARTIN: Well, hard to say. I mean, I think it depends on how serious they are. I mean, I think if you, you know, dropped a piece of paper on the sidewalk, it's probably a venial sin. If you manage a company that pollutes the environment, it's probably a mortal sin.

BRAND: So why issue these updates?

Father MARTIN: Well, I think it's to remind people that sinfulness is not just sort of a personal, individualistic thing. You know, the seven deadly sins you talked about are mostly personal sins that sort of influence a person's individual behavior.

But there's also what the Vatican calls a social sin, which are sins that affect the community at large and also sins that an organization or an institution can engage in. So an institution can be racist or sexist or, you know, a polluter that sort of transcends the boundaries of just personal sin.

BRAND: Well, what does it mean though for the Vatican to come out and identify these actions as sinful?

Father MARTIN: Well, I think it means that they're, you know, recognizing that in a changing world there are different sinful things that we could be doing. And I think it's, you know, reminding us that it's not just about - especially for lent, whether or not we give up chocolate or stop using the name of the Lord in vain. But are we violating human rights? Are we being economically just? Are we being responsible for the environment?

I guess what they're trying to do is trying to broaden our sense of what it means to be an ethical person, which I think is good in a changing world.

BRAND: Mm-hmm. And the Vatican also said that these sins break no new ground on what actually constitutes sin. So how would you identify or define what sin is?

Mr. Martin: Well, I think the traditional idea is that sin is something that seriously ruptures your relationship with God. As one theology professor said to me in theology, that sin is in a sense of failure to bother, a failure to sort of bother to do something good. So it's not just sins of commission, which would be something evil that we do, but it's also sins of omission.

And you know, what the Vatican is doing is saying, once again, it's not just something that is between me and God. These are things that happen in the community. We have to be really careful about saying that sin is just about, you know, me saying a bad word or something like that, that it really has an effect that's beyond just our own relationship, you know, with God.

BRAND: So what would the repercussions be? Would you, for instance, go to hell if you took drugs or engaged in genetic experiments?

Father MARTIN: Well, I'd be reluctant to say who's going to hell and who's not going to hell. But I would say that - let's say someone who works in an - in a large corporation that is engaging in what you will call economic injustice, that's not paying up their wage, that's polluting the environment, and that's, you know, engaging in sexual harassment or sexist or, say, anti-Semitic or racist business practices. It gives this person pause. I think when the Vatican says that this is something that needs to be taken seriously, I think what it does in terms of repercussions is it would make that executive think twice about doing something that might be economically efficient or even legal but that might be immoral.

So I think it's great. I think what the Vatican is doing is saying in a different time we need different understanding or a more broad understanding of what constitutes sinful behavior.

BRAND: Father Martin, thanks again.

Father MARTIN: My pleasure.

BRAND: That's James Martin. He's a Jesuit priest and author of "A Jesuit Off-Broadway: Center Stage with Jesus, Judas, and Life's Big Questions."

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