From America, h/t Jeffrey Smith who says, wisely, "It's the only sensible words that have been written about Bishop Girotto's interview in L'Osservatore Romano. Both the press and the usual suspects in the blogosphere are, as usual, distorting some good comments on social sin.
Admittedly, the press really mangled this one, but bloggers aren't far behind. How many statements from the Holy Father and Vatican officials will it take before the irresponsible bloggers, who put their so-called "conservative principles" above Catholic principles, admit that the Church teaches respect for the environment?
As an example of how the media sometimes can get a story wrong, or at least confuse things unnecessarily, witness the story from the March 8 issue of L'Osservatore Romano, which included an entirely sensible interview with Bishop Gianfranco Girotto, an official at the Apostolic Penitentiary, on the subject of social sin. Contrasting an older understanding of sin as more individualistic in nature, Bishop Girotto noted that sin "today...has an impact and resonance that is above all social, because of the great phenomenon of globalization." He pointed to a number of "social sins" (by now a familiar term to Catholics accustomed to hearing it applied to racism, sexism and anti-Semitism). Among those he mentioned were economic injustice, environmental irresponsibility, accumulation of excessive wealth and genetic experimentation with unforeseen consequences.
The media's reporting, however, transmogrified this into something different. "Seven New Deadly Sins," wrote the Times Online, mistaking the main point of the interview, which was that these new social sins were in fact different in nature for those more individualist "deadly sins," which focused more on regulating a variety of human passions. "Vatican Lists New Sinful Behavior," wrote the Associated Press, as if accumulating excessive wealth hadn't been already condemned by the church for centuries, and, before that by--well, Jesus for one.
The Vatican's intent seemed to be less about adding to the traditional "deadly" sins (lust, anger, sloth, pride, avarice, gluttony, envy) than reminding the world that sin has a social dimension, and that participation in institutions that themselves sin is an important point upon which believers needed to reflect.
In other words, if you work for a company that pollutes the environment, you have something more important to consider for Lent than whether or not to give up chocolate.
James Martin, SJ