How many sins are in your mission statement?

posted by Stan Ran

The Vatican, in an effort to modernize the Catholic Church, has revised the list of mortal sins. Even those of us who fell asleep in the pews could recite the old list thanks to its archaic but charismatic words (sloth, wrath, avarice, etc.) but the new list has a decidedly contemporary character:

  1. Genetic modification
  2. Human experimentation
  3. Polluting the environment
  4. Causing social injustice
  5. Causing poverty
  6. Obscene wealth
  7. Taking drugs

I’m not a Catholic, so I didn’t know that there’s a whole department of the Catholic Church put in charge of managing sins (the Apostolic Penitentiary) but Monsignor Gianfranco Girotti says that these are really more of an update than brand new sins. Pollution is a new form of gluttony, for instance.

If yesterday sin had a rather individualistic dimension, today it has an impact and resonance that is above all social, because of the great phenomenon of globalization.

Rev. John Wauck from Rome’s Pontifical University of the Holy Cross explains it further:

We’re seeing now that the kinds of sin that have an impact not on particular individuals—I stole my neighbor’s property or I damaged his property—but I polluted in a way that damaged the entire environment, which doesn’t belong to me … it’s a sin in a certain sense against all of us.

The Vatican is walking the talk, as well, having committed to installing over 1000 solar panels, printing prayerbooks on recycled paper, and starting a reforestation program.

What struck me most about the list was that many companies, and not just the targets of RAN, now have mortal sins as their explicit mission statement. In fact, their charters are often the combination of two or more Seven Deadly Sins, like “Become Obscenely Wealthy by Polluting the Environment through Genetic Modification”.

We’re in the middle of Lent and Father James Martin, acting publisher of the Jesuit magazine America, notes this fact as well:

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.

It seems our targets have an authority greater than RAN they need to watch out for now.