Tuesday, April 1, 2008
What The Vatican Didn't Say About The New Deadly Sins by Austin Dacey
You may have heard that the Catholic Church recently released an upgrade to the Seven Deadly Sins. Appropriate to the age of globalization and biotechnology, the new list includes such supposed social vices as contributing to extreme poverty, accumulating extreme wealth, trafficking in or consuming hard drugs, despoiling the environment, and engaging in "morally debatable experiments" or "genetic manipulation." I applaud the move insofar as it signifies that the moral imagination of the Catholic leadership is finally moving beyond concupiscence. Everyone I know has been angry, proud, envious, greedy, lustful, gluttonous or slothful at least once in the last month. But most of us have not trafficked in hard drugs or modified a genome. So by doubling the number of sins, the Church may have inadvertantly made most of us 50 percent less sinful overnight! The episode also illustrates one of the main themes of my book, The Secular Conscience, that morality cannot be equated with any list of "Shall"s and "Shall Not"s since a list cannot anticipate future moral quandries, and a list cannot tell you why you should follow it rather than some other list. For that we need conscience.