Pubdate: Mon, 24 Mar 2008
Source: Bangor Daily News (ME)
Copyright: 2008 Bangor Daily News Inc.
Note: by BDN Staff


Apparently, the Ten Commandments, Golden Rule and Seven Deadly Sins weren't 
enough. Earlier this month the Roman Catholic Church upped the stakes by 
issuing its list of Seven Social Sins. And it's not about social failings 
such as wearing white after Labor Day or telling your sister her new baby 
is ugly.

These sins, courtesy of the Vatican, are the new measures of the morality 
of our society. Way overdue, some might say. The sins environmental 
pollution, genetic manipulation, excessive wealth, inflicting poverty, drug 
trafficking and abuse, morally debatable experiments and violation of the 
fundamental rights of human nature sound more like they were lifted from a 
Ralph Nader speech than from Sister Mary Catherine's Catechism class.

The reviews, judging by news reports sampled from around the 
English-speaking world, have been mixed. Is the new list a marketing-driven 
ploy to make the church more relevant in these post-modern times? Or is it 
a sincere effort to use the church's moral authority to affect a culture 
facing difficult public dilemmas? Giving the church the benefit of any 
doubt about its motives, or about its moral authority in the wake of priest 
sex abuse scandals, the list seems well crafted for our times.

Churches long have advocated agendas that are outside the scope of an 
individual's struggle to live a godly life, and often they've been panned 
by nonfollowers. The Catholic Church has consistently supported candidates 
for elected office who want to make abortion illegal. And the late Rev. 
Jerry Falwell and 700 Club founder Pat Robertson have used their church 
organizations to support Republican policies that curtail gay rights.

But this list  or at least components of it  could be embraced by both 
the right and left. Evangelical Christians, who have been the backbone of 
the Christian right in the U.S., have recently begun accepting the liberal 
idea that caring for the natural environment is part of their call to be 
good stewards of God's creation. The warnings about seeking excessive 
wealth and about "inflicting poverty" there's an interesting phrase  may 
fly in the face of conservatives faith in market principles, but they 
correctly reflect Jesus teachings about the temptations faced by the rich.

The phrase "genetic manipulation" recalls President Bush's opposition to 
stem cell research, and "morally debatable experiments" suggests cloning, 
also opposed by the religious right. But the phrase "violation of the 
fundamental rights of human nature" seems ambiguous enough to be 
appropriated by both the left and right.

It has been 15 centuries since the church named the Seven Deadly Sins: 
pride, envy, gluttony, lust, anger, greed and sloth. The somewhat amorphous 
nature of the new list reflects the moral relativism of the times, but it 
can be used as a moral reality check. Or as a means of judging presidential 
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