Thou shall not pollute, Vatican decrees

Tarnishing the environment, and becoming ridiculously wealthy while doing so, are two of the new deadly sins by the Vatican.

Polluting the environment, and becoming ridiculously wealthy while doing so, are two of the new deadly sins unveiled by the Vatican.

Aiming to update morality for modern times, the Pope's top lieutenant on matters of sin and penance, Bishop Gianfranco Girotti, promulgated the new list of capital vices over the weekend.

The new list is designed to make the faithful take into account how their lives impact others in a globalized world. It includes:

  • "Bioethical" violations such as birth control.
  • "Morally dubious" experiments such as stem cell research. 
  • Drug abuse. 
  • Polluting the environment.
  • Aggravating social injustice by contributing to the widening gap between rich and poor.
  • Excessive wealth. 
  • Creating poverty.

"You offend God not only by stealing, taking the Lord's name in vain or coveting your neighbour's wife, but also by wrecking the environment, carrying out morally debatable experiments that manipulate DNA or harm embryos,'' Girotti said.

Within bioethics, "there are areas where we absolutely must denounce some violations of the fundamental rights of human nature through experiments and genetic manipulation, whose outcome is difficult to predict and control," he said.

In the past, the Vatican has cautioned about the prospect of human cloning, and opposes stem-cell research that destroys human embryos.

And in recent months, Pope Benedict XVI has launched various appeals to protect the environment. To cut down its greenhouse gas emissions, the Holy See has installed solar panels on several of its buildings.

Pope Gregory the Great came up with the original deadly sins in the sixth century, when they included:

  • Lust.
  • Gluttony.
  • Greed.
  • Envy.
  • Wrath.
  • Pride.
  • Sloth, which replaced sadness in the 17th century.

The deadly or "cardinal" sins, according to Roman Catholic belief, can only be expiated through confession or total contrition by the sinner — otherwise, she or he risks eternal damnation.

Less important "venial" sins can be expunged via any of the church's seven sacraments, such as communion or matrimony.

As part of its effort to modernize its moral guidelines, last June the Vatican announced 10 commandments for drivers, including "support the families of accident victims" and "on the road, protect the more vulnerable party."