Benedict has issued some new mortal sins. Being a not so good convent girl, and regarding the seven deadly sins more as a list to be worked through than activities that would imperil my eternal soul (not that I think I have one, anyway), I was intrigued to see what he proposed to add. Could I have some more fun?
Alas, no. It’s no longer just lust, gluttony, avarice, sloth, anger, envy and pride; now we have some new sins:
- environmental pollution
- genetic manipulation
- accumulating excessive wealth
- inflicting poverty
- drug trafficking and consumption
- morally debatable experiments
- violations of fundamental rights of human nature
Whatever. Personally, I’m only involved in a few of those, and then only because I happen to live in a wealthy Western liberal democracy, and through the machinations of a market society, I am inevitably complicit in at least some of them.
There’s been plenty of commentary on them around the web, so I thought I would add my bit too. To those last two sins.
They’re just fundamentally incoherent. “Morally debatable” experiments? WTF does he mean by that? Just being morally debatable doesn’t make something morally wrong. Benedict, or his advisors, or his PR flunkeys, is engaging in a neat little dodge here. It’s clear that morally bad experiments are sinful (if you believe in sin, that is). That’s just what a sin is – something that is morally bad. And a morally good experiment is clearly not sinful. In between, we have to make judgements. These are not easy judgements to make – those in-between experiments are tricky. But according to the Vatican chief honcho, if something is dubious, it’s bad. No ifs, not buts, no maybes. If you can argue about its moral worth, it must be bad.
The clear message – DON’T THINK FOR YOURSELF! If you have to think for yourself, it must be dubious, and therefore it’s bad.
And a violation of the fundamental rights of human nature? Sure, that might be immoral, but what exactly are the fundamental rights of human nature? In order to commit this sin, I need to know what the fundamental rights of human nature are. Very poorly defined, Mr Pope. One (meaning me) would think that if you are to go about opining on how people should live their lives, then you should at least spell out exactly what you mean.
Push it all far enough, and it turns out that the fundamental rights of human nature are not to do with human rights, like freedom from oppression, but rights of human nature – a different beastie. Human nature is DNA – genetic manipulation is impermissible. Benedict slips into the naturalistic fallacy, beloved of environmentalists everywhere – if it’s “natural”, it must be good. (Quick- think of five counter examples before lunch!)
Nothing about real human rights, like freedom from oppression. That’s real sin, through action, or inaction, denying the fundamental equal moral worth of every human being. Of course, Benedict couldn’t consider adding sexism to his list of mortal sins – the Catholic Church is far too involved in oppressing women to consider that it might be sinful to deny them access to contraception. Nor could he consider that covering up paedophilia might be just as bad as engaging in paedophile rape of children. Far better to wuss around with weasel words about it being a stain which has “even infected the clergy itself” (see the Times online article).
But he might just have made a bit of an effort with racism. Unless of course, he thinks that the Church is racist too, so he better not name that as a sin.
I know, from the inside, that sexism is pervasive in contemporary Western societies. And so too is racism.
And there’s been a simply stunning example of it in Australia in the last few days. The Haven Backpackers Resort Hotel, in Alice Springs, asked a group of Aboriginal women and their children to leave, because of their skin colour.
They checked into the Haven Backpackers resort, but a short time later the manager told them that guests already staying there had complained of being scared.
The group included several young mothers and a three-month-old baby. Most were young leaders, chosen specially for their standing in the Yuendumu community.
The resort manager told Bethany Langdon from the Yuendumu Young Leaders program the group would have to leave.
That’s right. Aboriginal women and children were asked to leave a hotel because they were Aboriginal.
It’s shocking, and disheartening, and utterly banal. It’s the ordinary everyday racism that black people in Western liberal democracies face, everywhere and everyday. And it’s a sin.
The Hoydens have asked people to blog about this, so that in future, if tourists search or google the Haven Backpackers Resort Hotel in Alice Springs, they will find this story, and know that the Haven Backpackers Resort Hotel in Alice Springs is racist.
If you too have a blog, perhaps you might care to do the same.