Apparently, the Vatican has been busy getting itself up to date. Bishop Gianfranco Girotti, head of the department that oversees confessions, has made a stab at a new list of the seven deadly sins, which he published in the Vatican’s daily newspaper.
Lust and gluttony are out, apparently quashed by one of those European Commission regulations. Instead, one gets a list that casts an embarrassing light into the shallow pool of Europe’s right-thinking class.
What is the most pressing problem in Italy today? Lack of procreation. Italians are too busy enjoying la dolce vita to share it with progeny. A country needs 2.1 children per mother just to reproduce the current population. In 2007, the fertility rate for Italy was 1.29. By 2055, if the trend continues, there will be half the number of child-bearing women than there were in the Sixties — too few to reverse the decline.
Surely the Church can help. How about “Selfish childlessness” as a sin for our times? The process of ending childlessness is actually enjoyable, the reappearance of endangered bambini is surely as welcome as that of the bald eagle — and Bishop Girotti wouldn’t even have to read past the first page in the Bible, where it says, quite distinctly, “be fruitful and multiply,” to get his inspiration.
But no. Instead, we get “Environmental pollution,” “Causing poverty,” “Accumulating excessive wealth,” and the like from the good bishop. Not mortal sins — social and political concerns. Secular stuff. For sins such as these, we don’t need the Church to chide us — Al Gore and Michael Moore can do the job far better.
The bishop’s new sins aren’t even temptations of the flesh. P.J. O’Rourke, in the Weekly Standard, is scratching his head over that one. “Pollution,” he writes, “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!'”
O’Rourke proceeds to list his own candidates for an updated list of sins, which (it goes without saying) is far superior to, and — same thing — more hilarious than, Bishop Girotti’s.
1. Celebrity. This is far and away the besetting sin of the 21st century. Note that the root of the word is “celebrate.” What evil, pentagram-enclosed, goat-heinie-kissing ceremony are we celebrating with Kevin Federline?
2. Communication. In former days just Adam and Eve ate of the fruit of the tree of knowledge, and only one time at that. Now everybody’s a know-it-all 24/7 thanks to Google, Wikipedia, Facebook, YouTube, email, cell phones, text messages, and so on. A cherubim with a flaming sword is expelling us from the office cubicle of Eden, or would be if he could tear us away from the Internet. (And you, young man in the reading audience, take those ear buds out when your elders are addressing you!)
3. Youth. Talk about worshiping false gods; why would anyone pray–or pay!–for youthfulness? The young are spotty, sweaty, chowder-headed, and woefully lacking in wisdom, experience, or control over anything, especially themselves. Yet we bear witness to the eternally babyish baby boom. Men in their sixties are on Harleys and snowboards and basketball courts, from which they will proceed to damnation by way of the emergency room. The women go to and fro in the earth, mutton dressed as lamb, with liposuction well-applied to tummy, butt, and brain. And they all come to Mass, when at all, in shorts, T-shirts, and shower flip-flops.
4. Authenticity. Please do your best to be someone better than who you truly are. Deep down inside we’re ravening beasts. This is the meaning of original sin. Everyone’s authentic self is horrid. God’s message to man has always been, “You can’t really be good, but you can fake it. Really.”
5. Caring. This takes so much time and effort that it necessarily results in the opposite of doing something. And notice that when someone says, “I care about the war in Iraq,” he almost always means, “I want to lose it.” Also there’s a bullying logic among those who care. I care more about diddledydum than you do. Therefore I’m a better person than you are. Because I’m a better person than you are, I have the right to order you around. And vote for Hillary on November 4th.
6. Opinion. It’s the reverse of fact. Listen to NPR or AM Talk Radio if you don’t believe me, or, better yet, read the opinion page of the New York Times. (I’m talking about you, Paul Krugman.) Some people have facts, these can be proven. Some people have theories, these can be disproven. But people with opinions are mindless and have their minds made up about it. The 11th Commandment is, “Thou shalt not blog.”
7. To Spend More Time With the Family. Alas, I couldn’t get this into a single descriptive term, but it might as well be all one word. And when people say it we know that they’ve been doing something at least as bad as the former governor of New Jersey, his wife, their chauffeur, and Eliot Spitzer in a hot tub together. “We need to move on,” is a similar phrase but with the implication of, “And I won’t quit doing it until I’m actually behind bars.”
In the spirit of Bishop Girotti, overseer of confessions: I confess in shame to succumbing, repeatedly, to O’Rourke’s sixth deadly sin. Will so do again, too.