A Vatican official has listed drugs, pollution and genetic manipulations as well as social and economic injustices as new areas of sinful behavior.
Monsignor Gianfranco Girotti said in an interview published on Sunday by the Vatican's daily newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano, that known sins increasingly manifest themselves as behavior that damages society as a whole.
Girotti, who heads the Apostolic Penitentiary, a Vatican body that issues decisions on matters of conscience and grants absolutions told the paper that whilst sin used to concern the individual mostly, today it had a mainly a social resonance, due to the phenomenon of globalization.
Catholic teaching distinguishes between lesser, so-called venial sins, and mortal sins.
When asked to list the new areas of sinful behavior, Girotti denounced "certain violations of the fundamental rights of human nature through experiments, genetic manipulations."
He also mentioned drugs, which weaken the mind and obscure intelligence; pollution; as well as the widening social and economic differences between the rich and the poor that "cause an unbearable social injustice."
Girotti said the Catholic Church continued to be concerned by other sinful acts, including abortion and pedophilia.
He said Church authorities had reacted with rigorous measures to child abuse scandals within the clergy, but he also claimed that the issue had been excessively emphasized by the media.
His comments came at the end of a week-long Vatican conference on confession.
A recent survey said that 60 percent of Italian Catholics do not go to confession.
Traditionally the Catholic church has had a list of seven deadly sins, that of lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, envy, and pride established by Pope Gregory the Great in the 6th century.
The terms entered the popular vocabulary after the publication of Dante's "Divine Comedy."
The deadly sins are in contrast with venial sins - relatively minor sins that can be forgiven.
A person that commits a mortal sin risks burning in hell unless absolved through confession and penitence.
Now the Vatican says it is time to modernize the list to fit a global world.
On hearing the Girotti's suggestion, some priests thought it was a good idea.
Father Antonio Pelayo, a Spanish priest and Vatican expert noted that it is time for both sinners and confessors to get over their obsession with sex and think about other ways humans hurt each other in the world in which they live.
"There are many other sins that are perhaps much more grave that don't have anything to do with sex - that have to do with life, that have to do with the environment, that have to do with justice," he told AP Television.
Father Greg Apparcel, a local priest said that the Pope may have been talking About this aspect of sin as a response to the recent "Italian confession" survey.
Apparcel also hinted that the announcement may have a wider agenda ahead of the Holy Father's trip to the United States and his speech to the United Nations.
"There is some sound going around that perhaps he is going to speak about ecology and environment, and if he does, this is kind of preparation for that," he said
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