“This is not a new Vatican edict..”

The blood-crazed ferret Telegraph blogger, and editor-in-chief of The Catholic Herald, Damian Thompson, provides a useful corrective to the recent wide-spread coverage of the story that “the Vatican has brought up to date the traditional seven deadly sins by adding seven modern mortal sins”. Local media outlets, and not so local, including otherwise excellent bloggers [Adds who adds his own corrective] – and here – also carried the story. Damian Thompson’s Holy Smoke blog notes the Catholic Communications Network statement

The statement adds: “This is not a new Vatican edict. The story originated from an interview that Monsignor Gianfranco Girotti gave to the L’Osservatore Romano in which he was questioned about new forms of social sins in this age of globalisation. Monsignor Gianfranco Girotti is not the head of the Apostolic Penitentiary; he is the regent (official). The Major Penitentiary is Cardinal James Francis Stafford.”

There is still a story there, but it’s not necessarily the reported one.It’s worth noting that whilst the current RTÉ online article reports it straight, that’s not what happened in the archived radio report on the day.

The item which stands out in the supposed list of new ‘mortal sins’, in particular, is “Genetic manipulation”

Michael White, indirectly, points out why that’s significant

But MPs are gearing up for another battle in the shape of a bill that mingles a host of distinct and complex issues, practical, ethical and religious. That formidable alliance, the Catholic church and the Daily Mail, is on the warpath, seeking to use the human fertilisation and embryology bill to curb abortion rights, from 24 to 20 weeks.

The less grabby issues in headline terms range from parental rights arising from same-sex marriage (social), to rules on donor consent on the use of embryo material (legal) and pressure (scientific) to create “inter-species” embryos such as human DNA injected into empty cows’ eggs to create a hybrid, albeit one which is 99.9% human in genetic terms.

Scientists have demanded this right since 2006, and the regulator, the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority, gave the go-ahead in January, to the annoyance of politicians who believe voters want parliament to decide such matters. It is in the bill.

And as Michael White also points out

The bill, which updates the 1990 act in the light of evolving science and public attitudes, has already had a little-reported passage through the Lords, where science and faith slugged it out more gently than ministers led by Lord Darzi had feared.

Complaints were heard and Lord Darzi sent out a conciliatory letter, but few changes were made. When the Lib Dem Catholic peer David Alton moved to curb hybrid embryo research, he was defeated by 268 to 96. Only the Tories narrowly backed him, by 52 to 42. The Lib Dems were 42 to nine against, Labour 136 to eight against, and crossbenchers 45 to 24 against. Even the bishops backed science two to one.

Time for a ‘mortal [sin]’ intervention, then?

It ties in with a comment I made in Mick’s seemingly unrelated post here

It’s all part of [Benedict’s] wider campaign..

Which could be characterised as an attempt to re-assert the imperial influence of Constantine’s over-rated medieval entity.

Adds Sound advice from Crooked Timber’s Jon Mandle

As far as I can tell, in an interview Bishop Gianfranco Girotti commented: “If yesterday sin had a rather individualistic dimension, today it has a weight, a resonance, that’s especially social, rather than individual.” And he gave some examples (although I admit to being a little unclear about how they are social in a new way). But it doesn’t seem that he gave seven examples. And, frankly, I can’t even tell if he intended his examples to be of mortal sins. My advice: avoid anything that is “morally dubious” until the situation is clarified.

  • Brendan J

    Pete, get off your high horse. You’re slagging off newspapers and blogs for covering this story. The real issue is why the vatican communications team dropped the ball! They have now put out this corrective to the story published in their own official newspaper! It’s a joke that they had to do this. Then when they put the correction out, they put out the original interview in italian, even though most of the coverage has been in the english speaking world and most journos dont speak italian. Disaster.

  • Steve

    Sad Pete really sad

    Hey mick does your much vaunted ball not man rule apply to groups attacked by your hand picked pet bloggers or do they get a pass because he only attacked the catholics

  • The__Raven

    Oh *please*! Can we skip this and someone blog the Deppity First Minister’s launch of Sesame Tree.

    Bloody Sunday Enquiry – £181m

    Cost of bottled water at Stormont – £30,000

    Picture of a Republican Puppet sitting with two others from the Children’s Television Workshop?


  • Steve

    I thought the DFM has been sharing an office with a muppet for months now

  • Gréagóir O’ Frainclín

    More of the usual old shite from the Vatican & Co. The recent utterances regarding purgatory, hell etc…were laugable, and now this.

    “My advice: avoid anything that is “morally dubious” until the situation is clarified.”

    “Morality” itself can be a fickle thing for yesterdays “vices” can be todays acceptions.

  • Ulsters my homeland

    [i]”causing poverty and accumulating excessive wealth at the expense of the common good of society.”[/i]

    Talk about the pot calling the kettle black!

  • Rory

    “…they put out the original interview in italian…most journos dont speak italian.”

    One would think, Brendan J, that an understanding of Italian might be pretty useful for the Rome correspondents of the various news outlets. I believe even some English travellers abroad, contrary to former practice, now take the trouble to bone up on the languages of the countries they intend to visit. For a journalist not to bother is simply appalling and should perhaps be added to the list of modern sins.

    I am reminded of the unfortunate London policeman, Jack Slipper (“Slipper of the Yard” who was undoubtedly the inspiration for Private Eye’s “Inspector Knacker” (Knacker of the Yard!)who on returning from Rio glum-faced and empty handed after going out in a fanfare to “bring back Ronnie Biggs” blamed the “incompetent” Brazilian police noting especially that “they didn’t even speak English”. The idea that he might have either learnt a little Portugese or at least obtained the services of an interpreter was simply alien to his mindset. But we forgive him all that for the endless amusement he has provided ever since as the epitome of the Little Englander lost among the natives.


  • joeCanuck

    I haven[‘t read the details, but surely the old fashioned way of breeding barnyard animals and plants is nothing less than genetic manipulation?

  • Brendan J

    Rory, I wasn’t talking about rome correspondents. They speak and write Italian. In fact they speak it so well that they aer the source of the worldwide news blitz on the dodgy new list of sins that’s not really a list. I meant that the Catholic news service has sent out a clarification around the world in italian. My point, if you’d bother to read it, is that the offending news organisations are mostly in the US, UK, Australia and other english-speaking countries. Wouldn’t the Catholic news service have been better advised to release an authorised english translation with their clarification? Otherwise, what are they spending their 0.3 Billion pound budget on?

  • Rory

    Wouldn’t the Catholic news service have been better advised to release an authorised english translation with their clarification?

    The answer to that question, Brendan, is a resounding “No!”. They most certainly would not have been better. The original interview was conducted in Italian, it was not conducted in a stream of Italian thought communicated in English. Only by issuing the transcript in the language in which the interview was conducted could its integrity and accuracy have been preserved.

    The journalists are then free to make (or have made) translations into their own languages, including of course languages other than English which are spoken by a few people around the world, including Spanish, Portugese, French, Mandarin and Spanish to name but a few.

    Any misunderstandings in translation may then be picked up and corrected by the Vatican agency.

  • Best comment, so far, in today’s Guardian letters page:

    All these new sins promulgated by the Vatican seem to me to be a modern reinterpretation of existing ones. When will they come up with an original sin?

    It’s signed Tony Stowell, Tetbury, Gloucester. So there’s someone of of wit and intelligence there to compensate for HRH, the village idiot.

  • Rory

    Best comment, so far, in today’s Guardian letters page…”

    Is this an attempt to damn the poor fellow with faint praise, Malcolm?

    His observation first rings with poetic truth but then, on closer scrutiny, like so much bad poetry (which means, alas, so much of all poetry) seems simply to be quite silly.

    “Best – so far…” is however sweet, insofar as it invites the hope that better might yet appear while somehow subtly warning how folorn would be such hope if invested in The Guardian.

  • what is this??


    Did you actually get the joke in that Guardian letter?

    As far as I can decipher from that nightmarishly chaotic blog, which seems to substitute most of its actual content for other peoples blogs and pages, we’re talking about somehow redefining the old “mortal sins” for our age. Which is pretty irrelevant really, just an intellectual game for bored dilettantes.

    And in that respect I’d hold Pete Baker as culpable as the Church. Only more so for writing such an abstruse impenetrable mess that it makes Catholic doctrine seem transparent and logical. In another life, he’d be a Jesuit.

    The priest comments about sin moving from an individual to a collective phenomenon is probably accurate enough though, if sin is the word you choose to employ. It seems to me it’s just another consequence of increased population, from which rise all the monsters of mass activity, from totalitarianism to football fans.

  • Rory

    Yes I did get the joke, What is this ??, and his play on original sin I find both clever and amusing. I was simply reflecting upon my own low opinion of The Guardian which is rarely either.