If you’re looking for the latest on how “Sensationalist Reporting Muddles Catholic Social Teaching”, check out these recent contributions:
Yesterday, the New York Times ran a perceptive op-ed, noting the negative consequences of relaxed strictures on items such as sex and eating meat on Fridays. The author uses economic thinking to justify more traditional mores:
Larry Iannaccone, an economist at George Mason University who has studied religions, notes that some of the most successful, like Jehovah’s Witnesses or Pentecostal Christians, which have very fervent congregations, have strict requirements. Religions relax the rules at their own peril.
“Religions are in the unusual situation in which it pays to make gratuitously costly demands,” Mr. Iannaccone said. “When they weaken their demands they make on members, they undermine their credibility.”
So it is perhaps unsurprising that the church has been pushing the other way. Pope Benedict XVI has brought back rites abandoned after Vatican II and reasserted the church’s hold on truth.
In this context, it could be tricky to update sins in a way that could de-emphasize individual trespasses and shift the focus to social crimes bearing a collective guilt. New sins might be a better fit for the modern world, but they risk alienating the membership.
On a lighter note, The Weekly Standard‘s P.J. O’Rourke has some fun at Bishop Girotti’s expense:
Not to argue theology with the Vatican, but environmental pollution is hardly among Satan’s strongest temptations. Pollution is not a passion we resist with an agony of will for the sake of our immortal souls. I’ve been to parties where all seven of the original deadlies were on offer in carload lots. Never once have I heard a reveler shout with evil glee, “Let’s dump PCBs in the Hudson River!”
If all environmental pollution were stopped forthwith–as any proper sin ought to be–wouldn’t this result in “causing poverty”? Eschewing New Deadly Sin #3 forces us to commit New Deadly Sin #4. And New Deadly Sin #5 as well, since “social injustice and inequality” cannot be eliminated without global economic progress. Furthermore, that progress depends in part on New Deadly Sin #6, the genetic manipulation entailed in the bioengineering of new
high-yield crop varieties to feed the hungry. Here we have Bishop Girotti, who is supposed to be leading us to God, leading us instead to a hopeless paradox and the unforgivable sin against the Holy Ghost, despair.
Speaking of which, modern economists despair of any way to quit causing poverty except by accumulating excessive wealth–the excess supplying the capital needed for global economic progress. Also the Right Reverend should get out more and take a walk around Vatican City. A Mother Teresa leper hospital it ain’t.
And don’t forget to examine your conscience against O’Rourke’s own new deadly sins as well …