The seven social sins

The Vatican recently released a list of seven social sins.

They are:

1. ”Bioethical” violations such as birth control
2. ”Morally dubious” experiments such as stem cell research
3. Drug abuse
4. Polluting the environment
5. Contributing to widening the divide between rich and poor
6. Excessive wealth
7. Creating poverty

The church loves listing sins in sevens. I feel like maybe they only had five good ones this time, but they had to tack on two more for marketing reasons. Yes, I’m looking in your direction “Contributing to the widening divide between rich and poor” and “Creating poverty.” You’re on this list for historical symmetry. Don’t get all chesty.

Personally, I like the original seven deadly sins better: lust, glutton, greed, sloth, wrath, envy and pride. One word each. Two syllables at most. Easy to remember. Easy to picture the same guy doing all seven – Ted Kennedy.

The seven deadly sins are so wonderfully concise that writer Andrew Kevin Walker and director David Fincher were able to make them into the movie “Seven.” In that film, two police detectives investigate ritual murders that copy the seven deadly sins. For example, the killer forces a gluttonous fat man to eat himself to death inside what appears to be my freshman year dorm room.

When I read the Vatican’s new list, I immediately thought three things.

1. I am in favor of five things on that list. Dang.

2. No matter how much you love it, Joe, you have to stop creating poverty. You’re only making it harder on the World Bank.

3. A sequel to the movie “Seven” would be called “Seven: Another Seven.”

So let’s get to the nut of this thing. Do these seven social sins make sense? Are they necessary? Why? Why not? How? Wither? Betwixt? Let’s explore.

The seven social sins can be broken down into two groups. Sins 1-4 deal with science and its weird cousin exploration. Sins 5-7 deal with money and its rich uncle ownership.

The implication behind sins 1-4 is that God made you and the world perfect, so don’t touch anything. If you believe this is true, then you accept what I call Front Living Room Theory. This theory is named after my aunts’ front living rooms, which were meant to be looked at – and that’s pretty much it. No TV or anything. This is a doily-dominated universe with precision-raked carpets.

(For the record, I love my aunts and their houses. But the images of their perfect front rooms are imprinted forever in my brain, like the carpet indentation of a couch that has never been moved.)

If you’re OK with just looking at nature’s ottomans and never sitting on God’s plastic-covered davenports, you are in the clear with the Catholic Church. If you have ever looked in on The Front Living Room and thought, “We could have an awesome game of Nerf baseball in here,” these sins will present a problem for you.

On to the money sins. The implication behind nos. 5-7 is that you don’t have a right to own any of the stuff you own. If you believe that everyone has a right to all possessions, then you subscribe to what I call Mooninite Theory.

(Above: Typical Mooninites.)

The Mooninites are two-dimensional pixilated aliens from the cartoon “Aqua Teen Hunger Force.” In one episode a Mooninite takes a portable stereo (called a jambox) from one character (Meatwad) and gives it to another character (Master Shake) to pay for rent. When Meatwad accuses the Mooninite of stealing his jambox, it responds, “Your jambox is now his, by way of our actions.”

If you’re OK with someone taking your jambox and giving it to someone else by way of their actions, then you should be perfectly fine with sins 5-7. If you believe that a man works hard to earn his jambox, and should be allowed to own a gigantic jambox, and has the right to fire people in order to maintain the quality of his jambox, then sins 5-7 will be a problem for you.

The original seven deadly sins were not only a list of sins, they also provided good advice on how to live. Don’t cheat. Don’t be fat. Live within your means. Exercise. Don’t punch people in the face. Jealousy is stupid. Stop being a jerk.

The new seven are tougher to follow. Don’t have safe sex. Curing disease is wrong. Three beers is too many beers. Driving is bad. Being rich makes other people poor. Never own a jet ski. Military strongmen who steal land and kill freedom fighters and have untraceable Swiss bank accounts are bad.

I’m actually OK with that last one.

Joe Donatelli
Joe Donatelli is a writer in Los Angeles

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