In an honest and open effort to increase dwindling numbers in the confessional, the Vatican has released a new set of modern sins titled “The Seven Mortal Sins” to roundly complement and update the “Seven Deadly Sins” of old.

The new list consists of the following:

  • Environmental pollution
  • Genetic manipulation
  • Accumulating excessive wealth
  • Inflicting poverty
  • Drug trafficking and consumption
  • Morally debatable experiments
  • Violation of fundamental rights of human nature
  • This is a serious press release by the Vatican, read by Archbishop Gianfranco Girotti at the end of a training seminar for priests in Rome. Now, as noble as the general subject matter of the list might be, I think the pope and his lot have finally lost the plot.

    Remember, engaging in any of these new sins means eternal damnation into the fires of hell upon death — should the Catholics in fact turn out to be right, God help us all! As unpleasant as that sounds and at the risk of probably insulting a good number of you, I would like to state what an absolute pile of blatant, unashamed, insulting, inane, festering rubbish this list is. In fact, if the Catholic Church were looking for a singly brilliant way to inform people of what man-made, ludicrous fear-mongering it peddles, this would probably be it.

    The first thing that strikes me as obviously dubious is that the Vatican has freely admitted that the new list was decided right here on Earth by a stuffy collection of repressed, aged, single men in a conference hall. It is worth remembering that these are the same men who normally have their hands full trying to convince the world that they are not molesting children and protecting the seemingly endless stream of balding, churchly child molesters across the globe. In their infinite wisdom, they have now decided to tell the millions of Catholics around the world exactly what God will or will not do to them after death based on a new and modernised list that they have compiled all on their own. Did He delegate the task to them because He was busy? The arrogance displayed in publicly presuming to know what God thinks and how He will judge you, should He, She or It even exist at all, is staggering.

    Secondly, our men of the cloth also openly admit their frankly commercial reason for producing the list. Attendance is down 60% in Italy; after 1 500 years people have finally seen through the lies and are happily trying to live guilt-free lives. The only way to bring them back in line is to invent a few new, completely vague and scary sins. In the past, at least we were led to believe that the process of compiling such lists involved a little communing with God atop a mountain by a prophet, normally sent down for that express purpose. Now it seems the methods form part of a strategic marketing plan. In the absence of any real demand, demand must be brought forth. The church can then supply the heavenly product to meet the new and vigorous spiritual demand. Good for turnover, good for profit, market share regained, bonuses for the marketing department and guaranteed wings upon death.

    Now luckily I am no guilt-ridden Catholic, but if I were, I would be literally wringing my hands in terror. This list of mortal sins is leagues more vague than the original and leaves way more questions asked than answered.

    For example, how would I know if I am committing the sin of environmental pollution? Am I guilty by buying foods with plastic wrappers or perhaps by having a braai on the weekend and sending smoke upward? Driving a car or taking a flight pollutes the air and should land me in very hot, sulphurous water. No doubt tossing out the garbage and not recycling is a one-way ticket to eternal damnation. Is modern life not stressful enough for these people?

    Genetic manipulation? Are the good doctors in their little coats going to fry at an unholy temperature for trying to feed the world with genetic crops or finding a cure for Parkinson’s? “Yes,” according to the Vatican. God does not want you to play God. That’s his gig and He is actually pretty annoyed that you have figured it out this far and he will burn you for meddling. That’s right, your loving Father in heaven is going to burn you and listen to your screams and say it was your fault for not listening when the Vatican nailed its latest list to the church door. Right. Pity about those who have been meddling and died before the list was pinned up. Sorry guys, bad timing. And since the same group had a conference to cancel Limbo, you really are in deep trouble.

    What about excessive wealth? At what point does my accumulation of wealth turn from being acceptable to damnable? Presumably the Vatican’s all-new audit department will troop into each Catholic’s home once a year with an environmentally friendly calculator and portable confessional. After assessing said Catholic’s affairs, they will pronounce him safe or about to be burnt to a crisp. Do developed countries get a bigger allowance for higher living standards? Is tax heavenly deductible? Ridiculous? You bet!

    It also gets tricky with wealthy philanthropy. What about Bill Gates and Warren Buffet? They have excessive wealth no matter what definition you apply, yet are doing way more than the Catholic Church to benefit the poor and needy. They are trying to stop Aids while the church is inadvertently spreading it. In fact, while we are on the topic of excessive wealth, the Catholic Church itself is by all estimates an excessively wealthy organisation. Who burns now? The priestly employees of said church? The paying clients who keep it going? Perhaps even the owner/founder himself? That’s right; God may have to burn Himself for holding 100% interest in an excessively wealthy enterprise. It is His church, after all, and He calls the shots, doesn’t He? The works of art alone are priceless. The bulletproof pope-mobile must have cost millions. The church owns more real estate than Donald Trump could hope to accumulate in his entire lifetime. Did these guys even think this through or are they that confident that people will soak it up because of whom they claim to represent?

    And so we move along to inflicting poverty. Right, who gets it here? Again, the Catholic Church gets my vote for its stance against birth control, leading to huge families that are just too large for poor people to look after, and for making the poor pay 10% to the church when they can ill afford to do so. Sure, we may catch a few nasty, corrupt politicians in the net and perhaps a few greedy executives of major corporations. Well, maybe they all deserve to bake with each other, come to think of it.

    Drug trafficking and consumption is one of my firm favourites. What will God classify as a drug on our big day and did these wine-toting old fellows from Italy draw up a banned-substance appendix so we can make sure we are safe? If alcohol makes the cut, hell is going to be full to the brim with every Irish Catholic I have ever met and most of the rest of us too.

    Marijuana? Well, He made the damn stuff, according to the creationist Catholics, and since there were no labels on the plants stating what to do with what, how the hell are we supposed to know what is a drug and what is not? Panado, Disprin, Grandpa? Can you frizzle now for popping a pain pill or flying to London with a bottle of good South African Amarula for your buddy?

    Morally debatable experiments are up next. Hallelujah for the vaguest sin of the whole motley lot! Notably the phrasing includes the word “debatable”. Now if it is debatable, then it can’t be a clear case of wrong, otherwise it should have read “morally unjustifiable experiments” or perhaps “morally reprehensible experiments”.

    Not so?

    The experiment that you and the lovely lady are about to perform only needs to be morally debatable, and only a prostrate admission of guilt by both of you might buy you salvation. I am guessing that if you have escaped so far, this one will get you. Got a tattoo? Oops. Masturbate as a teenager? Sorry, but you are in for a sweaty afterlife because we all know that masturbation is surely morally debatable experimentation in the eyes of the church. Going to be tough to break this one to your struggling, messed-up, pubescent, spotty teenage kid. You touch it and fire will burn it off!

    So if, by some reason, you are still confident that you are off to heaven to learn the harp and float about in a state of timeless peace, serenity and profound boredom, let’s see if you might be nabbed at the gates by “violation of fundamental rights of human nature”. The wording of this one has me totally stumped. I can only assume we are encountering a Babel-esque glitch after translation from the Italian version. Human nature is very different to human rights and includes a whole bunch of weird stuff that society tries hard to keep under control. Are they saying we have a right to go with the raw human instinct that is our nature? If so, then they have just endorsed absolute anarchy. As fun as that sounds, perhaps the learned sages need to check their wording.

    If they meant “violation of fundamental human rights”, however, most white South Africans are clearly in for the high jump, as are millions of Americans. Hell must be full of Brits from the empire days and probably full of church leaders and their stake-burning henchmen from the past two millennia as well. And what Bill of Human Rights exactly are we using as a yardstick to ensure our clearly critical compliance? I must confess to being a little perplexed by this one.

    So if sloth, lust and the other originals don’t get you, booze and pollution probably will. The sticky web has been spun. There is no way out. You are going to burn and scream for all eternity unless you rush off to church in your droves and repent. The Vatican’s plan is perfect. Dry-clean your suit for Sunday and dust off those Bibles.

    I think not.

    These prescriptive, religious men have spent their protected lives holed up studying a religion consisting chiefly of one tired book. They are, as a result, by far some of the least qualified mammals on this planet to be advocating rules pertaining to modern life and its very real challenges. It is beyond laughable and misguided. It is cruel, evil, manipulative and desperate. This list reeks of supreme arrogance and tyranny of truly biblical proportions, and is nothing more than a desperate thrust for power and control over vulnerable, indoctrinated people. If indeed there were a hell, I would look forward to meeting all of them there.

    Just before you pen your indignant answers, dear Catholics and other sympathetic religious types, ask yourself if you truly, truly accept the swill you have just been dished up by these learned members of the church. If the answer is a blessed “no”, then please question the validity of all that came before it for it is simply more of the same. If the answer is “yes”, then you must truly belong to the flock and walk to a different bleat, and good luck to you.

    Oh, and I am happily far beyond saving, so please don’t even try.


    • The human brain is made of atoms. Atoms consist primarily of empty space. It is fair to say, therefore, that my head is basically empty. That will please those of you who disagree with what I say until it dawns on you that your head is empty too. So, based on the undeniable fact that our heads are fundamentally comprised of emptiness, is anything we think or say of any real value? Probably not. Remember that next time you are fuming at some point of view contrary to your own. There is no debate that is not worth having. No subject should ever be off limits.


    Grant Walliser

    The human brain is made of atoms. Atoms consist primarily of empty space. It is fair to say, therefore, that my head is basically empty. That will please those of you who disagree with what I say until...

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